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"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 N347, October 18, 2015

The Radio Scene on the Island of Black Sand

The island of Maui out there in the Central Pacific is the second largest in the Hawaiian chain, with a current population of 150,000 inhabitants. These days, some two million tourists visit the island each year, mostly from North America.

The island itself is 40 miles by 25 miles, and it is made up of two dormant volcanoes, side by side, that are joined by a narrow verdant isthmus. The eastern volcano, Haleakala, rises five miles from the sea floor to the uppermost summit. In the original Polynesian language of Hawaii, the volcano name Haleakala means "House of the Sun", apparently in reference to the red hot lava flow in earlier centuries.

The original Polynesian settlers came from Tahiti and the Marquesas Islands a couple of thousand years ago, and the island of Maui was named in honor of the son of the original Polynesian discoverer of the island.

At the eastern tip of the island of Maui and just a little north, lies the Black Sand Beach, a major tourist attraction. The black sand at this beach is in reality hardened volcanic lava that has been ground into small granules by wind and wave.

The first European explorer to sight the island of Maui was the English navigator Captain James Cook in 1778, though he never went ashore. The first man ashore was the French Admiral, Jean-Francois de la Perouse, just eight years later. English missionaries from continental New England arrived in 1823; and during the 1800s, as many as 100 ships were anchored in Lahaina Bay at any one time.

In 1898 the Hawaiian Islands were annexed by the United States; and two years later, these islands, including Maui, were organized politically as a territory of the United States. Statehood was achieved in 1959.

During the early 1900s, the sugar cane industry was introduced into Maui Island, and it was stated at the time that it took a total of one ton of water to finally produce one pound of sugar. Maui is still the largest producer of sugar cane in the Hawaiian Islands. During the Pacific War in the middle of last century, as many as 100,000 American servicemen were in training on Maui at any one time.

Wireless came to Maui very early, and in mid-year 1900, the first wireless station on Maui was installed at Makena, almost at the southern tip of the island, as part of the original network of Marconi wireless stations. Initial tests were unsatisfactory, though when the station was moved down to the waterfront, successful communication was obtained with a similar new station on nearby Lanai Island. However, early in the next year (1901), the usage of the Makena Maui station was discontinued.

Eight years later (1909), the Mutual Telephone Company attempted again to establish a workable wireless station on the island, and this was on the air under the callsign KHL. In 1930, a completely new wireless telephone system was installed throughout the Hawaiian Islands, and the new facility on Maui was located at Ulupalakua, around the center of the island on the western edge. This station was on the air under three different channel callsigns, KGXH, KGXI and KGXH, on the air all around the 6 MHz shortwave band.

For a period of 23 years there was indeed a shortwave broadcasting station located on the island of Maui. This station was a chronohertz facility that was radiating time ticks and a standard tone under the callsign WWVH, which is reminiscent of the other well-known station on mainland continental United States, WWV.

It was on November 22 in the year 1948 that this first WWVH was inaugurated with three transmitters, all at 1 kW, and they radiated the time signal service on exactly 5, 10 and 15 MHz. The antenna systems beamed the signals from this new Hawaiian shortwave station towards the west for the benefit of American interests in the Pacific.

The location for this station was against the coastline near Kihei on the lower west side of the island of Maui. At the time, three simple antenna systems were in use, one for each transmitter.

Interestingly back at that era, the station WWVH in Hawaii was turned off twice each day, around 0700 and 1900 UTC, so that the staff could check the transmissions from the mother station, WWV, which was located at Beltsville in Maryland at the time. In this way, the accuracy of the transmissions from WWVH in Hawaii could be checked against the infinitely accurate transmissions from WWV in the continental United States. The time distance between the two stations was just 27 milliseconds.

In July 1964, voice time announcements were introduced over WWVH, and these announcements conveyed the standard time in Hawaii itself.

Eight years after its inauguration, the power level at each of the three transmitters in the Hawaiian station was doubled, to an output of 2 kW each, still on the same three channels, 5, 10 and 15 MHz. Ten years later again, another channel was taken into regular usage, this time 2.5 MHz, with a power output of just 1 kW.

However, at about this time, it was becoming very evident that a new station would be required. Over the years, the shoreline had been eroded by 75 ft. and the ocean waters were encroaching upon the station. In fact, the ocean was now quite close to the main building, and also to the antenna mast in use for the 15 MHz transmissions. In addition, there was no air conditioning in the transmitter building and corrosion from the tropical salty air was taking its toll on the electronic equipment.

During the year 1968, Congress in Washington, D.C., gave approval for the allocation of funding for a completely new chronohertz station in Hawaii. This new WWVH station was installed into a new building located near Kekaha on another island, the island of Kauai. The original old station on Maui was progressively closed down, and the new station on Kauai was progressively brought into operation, fully by July 1971.

The Maui property of the original WWVH was taken over by NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and the original two-story transmitter building is now the administrative office and Welcome Center for the Humpback Whale Watching Service of the National Marine Sanctuary. The location is quite clearly shown on Google Earth at 726 South Kihei Road, Kihei, on the island of Maui.

The first mediumwave station on Maui was KMVI which was inaugurated at Wailuku on March 17, 1947, with 1 kW on 550 kHz. This station is still on the air under the same callsign to this day, though now with a power level of 5 kW. These days, there are 6 mediumwave stations and 17 FM stations on the air on the island of Maui.

That then, is the story of radio broadcasting on the Island of Black Sand, the island of Maui out there in the Hawaiian Islands.