"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 N363, February 7, 2016
Two VOA Radio Stations in the United States: Gone and Forgotten
Back in the year 1949, consideration was given to the implementation of a massive project for reliable worldwide coverage on behalf of the Voice of America. This huge expansion project was identified as the Ring Plan, and it called for large new shortwave relay stations to be located in several countries overseas, and also for a total of six large new shortwave stations in the continental United States.
The six new home based shortwave stations were to be developed under six Project names: Baker 1 East, Baker 2 West, King, Tare, Uncle and Victor. Electronic equipment was purchased and work was begun on the two separate sites for Project Baker East and Project Baker West, though the four remaining Projects were deleted completely when work on the two Baker Projects was cancelled in March 1953.
This is the story of the two projected Baker stations which we present in Wavescan today, under the title: Two Voice of America Radio Stations in the United States: Gone and Forgotten.
The intention in the Ring Plan was for the two stations under Project Baker to be established, one somewhere on the east coast of the United States and the other somewhere on the west coast. Each station would contain six shortwave transmitters at 500 kW and two at 100 kW, though subsequently the power rating of the 100 kW units was changed for 250 kW. Several of these high powered shortwave transmitters, Continental 500 kW Model 420A and GE Model 4BT250A, were already procured and placed in storage in Brooklyn, New York.
The twin purposes for establishing these two new shortwave stations was to improve direct reception for listeners across the Atlantic and across the Pacific, and also to provide a reliable off air program relay to the VOA relay stations that were already providing coverage in the desired target areas. In addition, the two home based shortwave stations could be called upon to provide auxiliary coverage to listeners in target areas if a relay station out there was for some reason taken off the air.
Three major organizations were commissioned to produce site studies for these two new home based international radio stations: The National Bureau of Standards (WWV), RCA, and the American Army Signal Corps. Several locations along the eastern seaboard were given serious consideration as possible sites for the shortwave station under Project Baker East, and an initial report suggested the suitability of Puerto Rico, and either Maine or Florida.
A subsequent report in May 1951 settled upon two suitable options, one in Puerto Rico and the other at Cape Hatteras in the outer banks of North Carolina. However at the end of that same year (1951) the Voice of America announced that the new location for Baker East would be near East Arcadia [North Carolina], 25 miles north east of Wilmington, due mainly to the difficulties in local logistics at Cape Hatteras in the Outer Banks.
The Wilmington Morning Star of January 29 in the New Year (1952) announced proudly on its front page that this new VOA radio station, one of the most powerful in the world, would be located in Carver's Creek township, in Bladen County, on the south side of Highway 87. The federal government had taken out an option on 4-1/2 square miles, and all 2828 acres had already been procured. The whole project would cost a mighty $7 million.
Work began almost immediately clearing the afforested area, draining and leveling the land, and carving a good quality dirt road into the property. Construction work for the antenna systems began with the pouring of cement for the base pilings.
Then on January 18, 1953, work came to an abrupt halt on preliminary site preparation for the big new radio station near East Arcadia at a summary cost of $460,000.
Meanwhile, similar events were taking place over on the Pacific coast for the big new station under the Baker West Project. Initially three sites were recommended for serious consideration, Seattle in Washington state, Alaska, and southern California, and it was stated that Seattle would be better than somewhere in the Los Angeles area.
In December 1951, VOA stated that their attention had been narrowed down to two possible locations: Copalis on the Washington coast, a few miles north of the inlet known as North Bay, and Dungeness Point opposite Victoria on the Canadian Vancouver Island. Ultimately Dungeness was chosen and the federal government State Department began immediate proceedings to acquire more than 1,000 acres from a total of thirteen owners, a property a little larger than the East Arcadia property for Baker East.
Work began quite quickly in removing buildings and fences, and in clearing and leveling the land for the big new radio station. Then, at the beginning of the New Year 1953, work on preliminary site preparation for this big new radio station near Dungeness Point also came to an abrupt halt, at a summary cost of $350,000.
These two projected VOA shortwave stations fell victim to the machinations of the infamous Senator Joseph McCarthy and his now berated Congressional hearings. The twin Projects, Baker East and Baker West were officially cancelled in March 1953.
So what happened to all of the procured equipment still in storage? And what happened to the two transmitter sites that were under active preparation?
Six of the high powered 500 kW Continental transmitters were later installed at the subsequent and even larger shortwave station at Greenville, South Carolina; two of the 100 kW transmitters were shipped out to the Philippines and installed at the VOA relay base at Poro Point; and the remaining units, 2 @ 500 kW and 2 at 100 kW were sold off.
The VOA Baker East property near East Arcadia was sold off and it is now just open farm land. It is probable that this site can be viewed on Google Earth at 34 22 04 29 N & 78 21 28 05 W.
The VOA Baker West property at Dungeness Point was offered for buy back to its original owners, some of whom accepted the opportunity. Today, part of this property is in use as an open housing estate, and another part was taken over as a tourist attraction, the Dungeness Wildlife Refuge. This site can also be viewed on Google Earth at 48 08 18 19 N & 123 11 08 39 W.
Entrance to this site is memorialized in the name for the access roadway. This road, running into the northern edge of the property, is named Voice of America Road, a tribute to what might have become one of America's largest shortwave broadcasting stations.
Australian Shortwave Callsigns: VLG - The Mystery of the Missing Island
Back one hundred and one years ago, the three letters VLG were listed in a wireless publication as the callsign for a wireless transmitter aboard the passenger/cargo ship Maunganui. This ship was built in Glasgow, Scotland for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand in 1911, it was named in honor of a high hill in the North Island of New Zealand, and it was in service between North America and the South Pacific.
During World War 1, the Maunganui served as a troop ship; and during World War 2, it served as a hospital ship. This veritable liner was sold to Greece in 1948, and then just nine years later, it was broken up for scrap in Savonna, Italy.
The callsign VLG was allotted to the Maunganui around the beginning of the First World War, and it was still in use thereon into the early 1920s. However in 1924, this same callsign was then applied to a new wireless station that was installed onto the small island of Mangaia in the Cook Islands.
The island called Mangaia, the most southerly in the Cook Island archipelago in the South Pacific, was discovered by the English Captain James Cook in 1777. It is an almost circular island with a total area of around 20 square miles. This island, with its central volcanic plateau, is ringed with a 200 ft. high circle of fossilized coral and there is also a fresh water lake towards the south of the island.
The total population these days is shown as less than 700; and their Polynesian language is very similar to the Maori of New Zealand.
Quite near to the island of Mangaia was another island known as Tuanaki. Back in the early 1840s, this mystery island was shown on some maps of the South Pacific, and it was located about one day of sailing, south from Mangaia.
It is reported that an English sailor visited Mangaia in 1842, and that he stayed on the island for almost a week. The island was known and reported by European administrators who were serving on other Pacific islands. Whalers during that period also reported their visits to the island.
It was also reported historically that there was occasional trade between the two islands, Mangaia and Tuanaki, and that the languages of the two islands were almost identical. However, Christian missionaries who made subsequent visits to the area were never able to relocate this mystery island. There are some people living on Mangaia, and on other islands in the Cook archipelago also, who claim ancestry to Tuanaki, that at least one of their ancestors migrated from Tuanaki in earlier years.
So what happened to the mystery island known as Tuanaki? Did it really exist, or was it simply a matter of mis-identification of Mangaia itself, or of another island out there somewhere? Geologists and historians consider that if the island did indeed exist a couple of hundred years ago, then it simply disappeared beneath the waters of the ocean in some unidentified cataclysmic event, maybe a seismic collapse with an underwater landslide.
Going back to Mangaia itself, we find that the local wireless station installed in 1924, VLG, was operated for just a few years by local personnel who had an aptitude for practical workmanship.
The next known usage of the callsign VLG was for a new 10 kW shortwave transmitter that was installed at the regional shortwave station located near Lyndhurst in Victoria, Australia. At the time, the building in use at Lyndhurst was the second structure, dating from 1935.
The new transmitter at Lyndhurst was originally intended for use as a replacement for the quite old and low powered VLR, with just 2 kW at the time. However, because of wartime exigencies, the new unit was taken into service as an additional shortwave transmitter for both the ABC and Radio Australia.
The new VLG was inaugurated on June 21, 1941 under the callsign VLR. However, because of confusion due to the fact that there were now two transmitters on the air under the same callsign, often simultaneously but with different programming, the new transmitter was allotted a new callsign, VLG. Thus the new 10 kW VLR3 on 11880 kHz became VLG5, and the new VLR4 on 15230 kHz became VLG6; and the date for this change in callsign was August 24, (1941).
On June 1, 1951, the numeric designator, the suffix number, was changed to identify the MHz band. Thus for example, VLG2 on 9540 kHz was redesignated as VLG9. Then ten years later again, Radio Australia discontinued the usage of callsigns and the callsign VLG, or just G, became a line callsign for the program feed from the studios in Melbourne to a transmitter at Lyndhurst.
In the late 1950s, a new building was constructed over the old, and then the old was removed. Three new transmitters were installed, one for each of the ABC program services VLR, VLG and VLH. These three transmitters, manufactured by RCA in the United States, were originally intended for installation in battleships, but after the end of the war, they were declared surplus.
In 1966, eight new transmitters at 10 kW each were installed progressively at Lyndhurst, and any transmitter could be activated for any of the broadcast services. In this way a rolling daily schedule was maintained with usually six transmitters on the air at any one time, on behalf of the ABC Home Services, Radio Australia, and the chonohertz VNG time signals.
In 1970, the ABC dropped the usage of VLG as a shortwave program relay of their mediumwave programming, thus leaving VLG, or G, for sole use by Radio Australia.
The Lyndhurst radio station was closed on June 12, 1987, and three of the youngest transmitters were removed and re-installed at the mediumwave transmitter site for 4QN at coastal Brandon in Queensland. When the shortwave transmitters at Brandon were taken into service two years later in 1989, the VLG program feed from Melbourne was fed into one of the transmitters for coverage of New Guinea and the Pacific.
Many are the varieties of QSLs that shortwave listeners received from VLG, the ABC Home Service and the Radio Australia Overseas Service at Lyndhurst, and also from VLG at Brandon.