"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.
Wavescan N336, August 2, 2015
The Radio Scene on the Happy Hula Island - 2: The Radio Story on the Island of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands
In this our second topic regarding the radio scene on the Hawaiian island of Molokai out there in the central Pacific, we pick up these interesting historic events with the story of the only mediumwave broadcasting station ever erected on the island. It all began this way.
Back in the year 1953, a Protestant Christian organization installed an FM station in the Honolulu suburban area of Kaimuki, just behind the famous extinct volcano Diamond Head. This new radio broadcasting station, an FM only facility, operated on 95.5 MHz with 5.6 kW under the callsign KAIM. This new FM station was an equal first FM station in Hawaii, and the callsign KAIM incorporates the first four letters of its suburban location, Kaimuki.
Then, nearly three years later, a mediumwave sister station was inaugurated at the same location on August 31, 1956 with 1 kW on 870 kHz. The KAIM AM & FM programming was duplexed into the KOHO mediumwave antenna tower which had been installed quite nearby a few years earlier. The KAIM FM antenna elements were side mounted on the same tower. A few years later, the power level for KAIM mediumwave was raised to 5 kW.
The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association bought this mediumwave and FM station KAIM in Honolulu in 1978 with the intent of increasing the power on mediumwave for wide area coverage in the Pacific, including the Philippines. They obtained a CP, Construction Permit, to transfer the mediumwave station from Honolulu on Oahu Island into a country location on the nearby island of Molokai, some 25 miles distant. The desired location on Molokai was quite near to the isolated Western Beach, just off Kaluakoi Road.
Three years later they activated their new station with its 50 kW Harris transmitter Model MW50 at its new location on the same mediumwave channel 870 kHz. A two tower configuration gave protection to another 50 kW station on the same channel, WWL in distant New Orleans in the mainland United States, and it gave coverage over the Hawaiian Islands, though not really into the desired Philippines.
Programming was prepared in the KAIM production studios at the same original location, and it was transferred via an STL studio-to-transmitter link on 950 MHz at Kaimuki up to nearby Koko Head, and then onward to the KAIM transmitter on Molokai with another STL on the same channel 950 MHz. This two hop STL link was described as very reliable, with an excellent audio quality.
However, electricity was very expensive on the island of Molokai and it cost KAIM $150,000 a year for power to their mediumwave transmitter. In addition, there were so many power outages that it often became necessary for KAIM to use their standby generator.
In fact, as an economy measure, KAIM began to depend upon its own generator, but on the occasion when it got overheated and blew up, the owners decided it was time to take KAIM back to a more economical location, around Honolulu itself.
In view of the high costs involved, the difficulty of maintaining a transmitter station at a lonely isolated location, and the fact that its performance was inadequate for what the Billy Graham Association desired, they sold the entire facility to Salem Communications in 1999. Give two more years, and Salem Communications closed the 50 kW mediumwave station on the island of Molokai, on December 1, 2001, in favor of a lower powered station in the Honolulu area.
Six years later, as workmen were felling the two antenna towers no longer in use on Molokai, a brush fire broke out, and it burned an area of 120 acres, though very little real damage was done.
And before we leave the mediumwave scene on the island of Molokai, we are reminded that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced plans back then to establish a shortwave station in the Hawaiian Islands. We would presume that they intended to co-locate this projected station for trans-Pacific coverage with their mediumwave station on the island of Molokai. However, this project never eventuated.
Then too, the well known Gospel station in Ecuador, South America, HCJB, also announced their interest in a shortwave station in Hawaii. Perhaps this would have been a joint project with KAIM. Who knows; it just never happened.
However, at one stage there really was a shortwave station on the island of Molokai and this was on the air for a period of nearly 20 years. Back in the early 1990s, Globe Wireless was expanding its international maritime radio network for communication with shipping worldwide.
Globe Wireless bought several shortwave stations around the world that were already on the air at suitable locations, and they built others in needed areas. They required a station for central Pacific coverage and no shortwave station was readily available for this purpose, so they constructed their own station.
They chose a location at the northwest quadrant on the island of Molokai, and there they constructed a transmitting station and a few miles distant, a receiving station. Their Hawaiian business office was located in Honolulu itself, on the nearby island Oahu.
The transmitter station was installed nearby to Kahalelani on Molokai at an elevation of 640 feet. A total of 5 short-wave transmitters were installed for their SITOR electronic communication service, each a 2 kW unit manufactured by the Henry company. These five transmitters were fixed connected to five quarter wave vertical antennas. The receiver station operated a bevy of TCI 8074 receivers, each attached to the one omni-directional cone antenna.
This maritime shortwave communication station with the callsign KEJ was in continuous usage for a little less than 20 years, and it was closed last year when Global Radio sold out to Inmarsat which implemented satellite communication for shipping, not shortwave radio.
And finally, yes, there is an FM radio broadcasting station on the island of Molokai. In November 2004, this station won the rights to establish their station on the island, and they paid the FCC getting towards a half million dollars for this privilege.
The new FM station, KMKK, was inaugurated in 2006 with 1.9 kW on 102.3 MHz with studios in the island town Kaunakakai and transmitter out nearby. They identified themselves somewhat dubiously as the "first" radio broadcasting station on Molokai. Since then, the station has changed hands a couple times but it is still on the air to this day.
As far as QSLs are concerned, it is known that the 50 kW mediumwave station KAIM has issued a few QSL letters as well as a few listener prepared QSL cards from their office in suburban Honolulu. And yes, Global Radio KEJ also verified with a very attractive full color picture QSL card to confirm the reception of their shortwave station on Molokai Island.