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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 N375, May 1, 2016

The Story of a Mediumwave Radio Station That Was Built So That It Could Be Deliberately Destroyed

It was back in the middle of last century that the United States developed a nuclear capability, and live bombs were exploded in the mainland United States, over Japan, and in island territories in the Pacific. During the early part of the year 1955, a complete small town was constructed near the temporary town of Mercury in the American state of Nevada, specifically for a series of experimental test explosions.

This small artificial town was named Survival Town, and it was constructed specifically so that it could be destroyed in the explosion of an atomic bomb. This town contained 10 fully furnished houses, food stores, power lines, transformer station, and gas tanks.

In addition, there was also a radio station installed in a bunker in Survival Town, with a closed window facing the atomic bomb explosion area. This mediumwave radio broadcasting station was licensed with the FCC under the experimental callsign KO2XDN.

Radio station KO2XDN radiated 250 watts on 1240 kHz with two antenna towers; one tower guyed, and the other self-standing. Programming was on an endless tape, and it was simply a pre-recorded message indicating the purpose of the station, together with some of its technical details. Beginning on April 26, 1955, the station was on the air for a few hours each evening in advance of the atomic explosion.

Actually, the first intended atomic explosion at this location was a failed event, on March 29. However, the second test, under the project title Operation Cue Apple 2, was successful, and this was staged at 10 seconds after midday on May 5 (1955).

At the immediate time of the explosion, the radio station KO2XDN was silenced, the self-standing tower was destroyed, and the guyed tower took a forward bend at the top section. Other buildings and structures were also damaged or destroyed due to the massive force emitted by the exploding atomic bomb. Some of the regular electronic equipment in the radio station was dislodged.

Actually, the radio station was preprogrammed to return to the air just three minutes after the explosion, but instead it remained silent. Subsequent investigation revealed that the electric power cable to the station was severed in the atomic blast.

Next day when the power cable was reconnected, and the dislodged electronic equipment was re-installed at its correct position, the radio station returned to the air, for its final broadcasts. The station was then dismantled and removed.

And what about QSL cards? Interestingly, several international radio monitors did receive a QSL response from this unusual short term radio broadcasting station. Form letters giving full details of the station and its associated events were prepared, and these were address individually for each reception report they received. These QSL letters were posted from Battle Creek in Michigan, and it is known that at least half a dozen astute listeners were fortunate enough to receive a permanent reminder of their monitoring of a truly unusual radio broadcasting station.

Here now is a recording of a re-enactment of what short term experimental radio broadcasting station KO2XDN with 250 watts on 1240 kHz may have sounded like.

Australian Shortwave Callsign VLI - Part 1

In this our ninth presentation in the series of topics in which we present the outline history of Australian Shortwave Callsigns, we come to the sequential alphabetic letter I, with the story of the callsign VLI. During the past three quarters of a century, the callsign VLI has been applied to four different radio units in the South Pacific; two ships flying the maritime flag of the sister dominion New Zealand, and two landbased shortwave broadcasting services in Australia.

We begin this sequence with the story of the two ships. The SS Aorangi, a cargo/passenger ship with bulk refrigeration, was built in Glasgow, Scotland for the New Zealand Shipping Company in 1883. It was named Aorangi in honor of a mountain in South New Zealand, and that name in the Maori language means Cloud in the Sky. When wireless was first installed by the United Wireless Telegraph Company, the ship was allocated what looks like a Marconi callsign, MGA.

During World War I, the Aorangi was taken over by the navy, and in August 1915, it was deliberately sunk at Scapa Flow off the northern coast of Scotland, as a block ship to deter the incursion of submarines. However, five years later, the ship was raised, salvaged, refloated and fitted out as a storage vessel for use in the Mediterranean, and it was taken over by the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand. The callsign for this resurrected ship was now VLI.

However, the usage of the Aorangi as a floating storage container was limited, and four years later in 1925 the Aorangi was sold for scrap over there in Europe.

The second ship to be identified with the radio callsign VLI was also another New Zealand vessel, the SS Kaitangata. This ship was built in England in 1907 as the Ladywood, but when it was purchased in the same year by the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, it was renamed the Kaitangata.

This ship was named Kaitangata in honor of a small town in the South Island. This Maori name is a figure in Polynesian mythology, and it can also refer to the cannibal feasts they held after tribal fighting in pre-colonial days.

Anyway, back in the 1920s the radio call for the Kaitangata was VLI; in 1930 the ship was sold to a shipping company in Hong Kong; and then seven years later while the ship was carrying a load of gasoline, there was an onboard fire and an explosion, and she sank, in the South China Sea.

The third known occasion for the application of the radio callsign VLI was during the original era when Radio Australia was known as Australia Calling, and the AWA communication facility was on the air at Pennant Hills in outer suburban Sydney. The original callsign for the transmitters at Pennant Hills when taken into use with Australia Calling, Radio Australia in late 1939 was VLQ. At the time, three transmitters at 10 kW each were available, and these had been on the air previously under the callsigns VK2ME, VLK and VLM.

In January 1943, there was a re-alignment of shortwave callsigns in Australia. The call VLQ was transferred from AWA Pennant Hills near Sydney in New South Wales to Bald Hills near Brisbane in Queensland and applied to a new ABC regional shortwave transmitter for coverage of underpopulated outback areas.

The new call for the AWA transmitters at Pennant Hills when in use with Australia Calling was VLI, and the earliest known usage was observed by Mr. L. J. Keast of Sydney on January 18, 1943. He heard VLI3 on 15315 kHz, and he noted that previously the call on this channel had been VLQ10.

At this stage, four shortwave transmitters at 10 kW were available at Pennant Hills, VK2ME, VLK, VLM and VLN, though the secretive AWA did not divulge which units were in use for the various services from Australia Calling. An analysis of their scheduling at the time would indicate that all of the daily services from Pennant Hills for Australia Calling could possibly be carried by just one transmitter.

However, during the two year period under the callsign VLI, a score of different shortwave frequencies were utilized ranging from 7200 kHz to 15320 kHz. It would be suggested technically that no single transmitter at the AWA shortwave station in Pennant Hills could operate for this spread of frequencies together with the various antenna beams for worldwide coverage.

In April 1943, an international radio monitor in the United States noted callsign VLI on the air with a 15 minute bulletin of news from the BBC in London beginning at 9:00 am on 9615 kHz. The transmitter in use for this international program relay from half a world away was the original 10 kW VLK which was also in use as VLQ before the callsign change to VLI.

The last day for Australia Calling under the callsign VLI at Pennant Hills was November 7, 1944. International shortwave programing had already been transferred to the new 50 kW RCA unit VLC at Shepparton in Victoria.

Various radio magazines in Australia, New Zealand and the United States reported back then that international radio monitors were receiving QSL cards and letters identifying the callsign VLI. However, it was not reported back then what type of QSL cards were issued by Australia Calling for the relay of their programming under this particular callsign and no known copies were ever printed in a radio magazine.

The fourth usage of the callsign VLI in the South Pacific was for a small 2 kW STC transmitter that was installed in the ABC-PMG transmitter base at their outer suburban location near Liverpool, south of Sydney. And that's our story next time!