"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 N379, May 29, 2016
Elephant Cage Radio and Other Interesting Radio Stories on the Island of Guam
Elephant Cage Radio on the island of Guam! There are no elephants on Guam, and no need for a cage to contain them. Let's go back to the middle of last century so that we can find out about the beginning of this strange phenomenon, Elephant Cage Radio.
During the early part of the European War in the middle of the last century, German radio personnel erected a huge new antenna system that would enable the reception of long distance shortwave stations and that would also enable accurate direction finding of these stations. Under the direction of Dr. Hans Rindfleisch and with the participation of the German radio manufacturing company, Telefunken, a large circular array of receiving antennas was constructed at Skibsby in Denmark.
The outer ring of this circular antenna system with a diameter of 390 feet was made up of 40 vertical radiator elements based on true North. An inner circle of reflectors was suspended on wooden poles, and the electronic receiving equipment was installed in a specially constructed building at the center of the circle. This new and unusual radio receiving antenna system was given the code name Wullenwever.
After the end of the European war, British radio personnel studied this Skibsby radio receiving antenna system and then had it demolished. However, soon afterwards, Telefunken constructed a new Wullenwever antenna system in Germany itself at Langenargen/Bodensee. Soon afterwards, the Americans disassembled this new Wullenwever antenna system, transported it to the United States, and re-erected it in Illinois.
Then a similar though considerably larger station was constructed near Bondville, a little to the south east of Champaign in Illinois. This new American station with a diameter of 1,000 feet consisted of 120 wide band vertical monopoles that could tune shortwave signals from 2 MHz right up to 20 MHz. Even though this station was long ago dismantled, the extended circle can still be seen quite readily on Google Earth.
A large number of these circular antenna systems, now known under the adjusted name of Wullenweber, have been constructed by many different major countries around the globe. The cost for each installation can be as high as $20 million, and the largest seems to be a German facility with a diameter of 1350 feet.
Over a period of time, the United States has installed a score of these stations in North America, as well as in Europe, Asia and the Pacific. Russia installed 30 of these Krug antennas as they were known in their language, Canada had two, and Japan a couple also. At Sugar Grove in West Virginia there were two of these Wullenweber antenna stations side by side; they became operational in 1969 for maritime communication, though they were demolished thirty or more years later.
The total number of these massive electronic structures throughout the world is thought to have been around one hundred; and somewhere less than a dozen are still active. The satellite era finally brought an end to the half century Wullenweber era.
On the island of Guam, the American Wullenweber receiving station was located towards the north of the island. The empty and abandoned circle can be seen on Google Earth at the end of Howth Street, though on Google Maps, you can see the station at the time when all of its equipment was still standing.
Originally, the Germans named this massive antenna system, Wullenwever; the Americans changed the name to Wullenweber, though officially they were known as Circularly Disposed Dipole Arrays (CDDAs); the Russians called them Krug; though most people knew them colloquially as Elephant Cages, due to their massive size.
While we are still on the island of Guam, we are reminded that back during the two year period in 1945 and 1946, the naval radio station NPN, under the tactical callsign KU5Q, often carried the relay of radio program inserts that were fed into the mediumwave networks in the United States. These program relays consisted of news reports, news commentaries, feature programs and local music that were received from China, Japan and the Philippines and they were relayed onward to Honolulu and California. On many occasions, these program inserts were spliced into the worldwide English language broadcasts from the Voice of America.
In addition, during the Operation Crossroads atomic tests in the Bikini Islands in the same era, station NPN-KU5Q operated as a co-ordinating point for program relays to the Voice of America in California.
Somewhere around the year 1980, the Voice of America gave consideration to the possibility of erecting additional relay stations at strategic locations in different parts of the world. One of the possible locations that was investigated was the island of Guam, though nothing further came from this initiative.
Then, back some forty years ago, the mediumwave station KUAM at Agana, Guam announced that they planned on installing a shortwave transmitter that would relay their mediumwave programming throughout the island and to other islands in the Marianas and beyond. Radio station KUAM was the first fully licensed commercial mediumwave station on Guam, and it was inaugurated on March 14, 1954.
At 5:55 pm on that same day, Sunday, March 14, the AFRTS station at Nimitz Hill signed off, for what they stated was the last time. Then 5 minutes later on this the official opening day, that is at 6:00 pm on that same March 14 (1954), the new KUAM signed on with 1 kW on 610 kHz as the island's first regular commercial broadcasting station.
The AFRS station had been on the air for nearly 10 years under the consecutive callsigns WXLI, WVTG and FEN Guam, and it was then closed "forever", giving way to the new commercial station KUAM. However, as time went by, this was not at all the end of AFRTS stations in Guam. Over a period of time, several new low powered AFRTS stations were subsequently installed on Guam, initially on mediumwave and later on FM.
In 1975, the WRTVHB listed a new 100 kW shortwave station as a future plan for mediumwave KUAM on Guam. However, this projected station was never installed on Guam, but instead, the entire shortwave project was transferred to the nearby island of Saipan, and the station was inaugurated 7 years later under the callsign KYOI.
More about the shortwave scene in the Marianas islands in coming editions of Wavescan.
Australian Shortwave Callsign VLI - Pt. 2
In summary, as mentioned in a previous edition of Wavescan, the callsign VLI was first allocated to the Scottish built ship SS Aorangi, which flew the maritime flag for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand back around a century ago. This ship was deliberately scuttled in Scapa Flow off the north coast of Scotland in 1915 to deter enemy submarines from entering the waterway. Five years later the ship was refloated, but soon afterwards sold for scrap in Europe.
The second ship to be allotted the callsign VLI was the SS Ladywood, which was built in England in 1907. It was taken over also by the Union Steamship of New Zealand and renamed the SS Kaitangata. This ship was later sold to Hong Kong and in 1937 it was destroyed by a fire in the South China Sea while carrying a load of gasoline.
The third occasion for the usage of the callsign VLI was a two year period during World War 2. The shortwave transmitters at the AWA station in Pennant Hills, an outer suburb of Sydney in New South Wales, were carrying a relay of programming on behalf of Australia Calling. At the time, four different shortwave transmitters were available for this relay of the early programming service from Radio Australia, each rated at 10 kW.
The primary callsigns for each of these transmitters were VK2ME, VLK, VLM and VLN. These units carried the Australia Calling programming under the callsign VLI from January 1943 until November 1944.
On this occasion, we now we look at the fourth usage of the shortwave callsign VLI, in greater detail. In December 1948, a small 2 kW transmitter built by STC, Model No 4SU148, was installed in the ABC-PMG radio station located near Liverpool, on the southern edge of suburban Sydney.
This large ABC-PMG facility located at Liverpool was established in 1938 for mediumwave coverage of Australia's largest metropolis, Sydney. At the time, two mediumwave stations were on the air at Liverpool: 2FC operated with 10 kW on 610 kHz and 2BL operated on 740 kHz with just 3 kW. These days, though, both services are on the air at 50 kW each; the callsign 2FC has been replaced with the generic callsign 2RN Radio National on 576 kHz, and 2BL with New South Wales State Program is now on 702 kHz.
The shortwave unit VLI was installed for coverage of coastal areas beyond 200 miles north and south of Sydney where mediumwave coverage was poor at the time. The shortwave transmitter nestled almost against one of the larger 50 kW transmitters; the long open wire twin feeder line was supported on short wooden poles, all painted in a gleaming white; and the antenna system was a half wave dipole aimed at 20 and 200 degrees.
The first test broadcasts from this new VLI were observed in November 1948, though no specific announcements identifying this unit were noted. At the time, PMG personnel took field strength measurements in the two main target areas, north and south of Sydney. The opening ceremony for VLI took place at 8:30 pm on Wednesday, December 22, 1948 with official speeches and messages of welcome.
Initially, two shortwave channels were in use, VLI2 on 6090 kHz during the hours of darkness and VLI3 on 9500 kHz during the daytime. On June 1, 1951, the callsigns were adjusted to reflect the MHz band, and the callsign VLI2 on 6090 kHz was amended to VLI6, and VLI3 now on 9540 kHz became VLI9. However, the 9 MHz channel was dropped in October 1952, leaving just the 6 MHz channel, 6090 kHz.
Then quite suddenly and unexpectedly, at 1402 UTC on October 7, 1983, the VLI transmitter left the air abruptly. The official cause was said to be the failure of the main transmitting valve. Soon afterwards the transmitter was removed, as were the line feed poles and the antenna system.
The small 2 kW shortwave transmitter, VLI, was never replaced, and instead the ABC announced that six new medium stations would be installed in the areas previously covered by the shortwave signal. However, that expectation was never completely fulfilled either. Instead, over a period of time, several local FM stations were installed in those same coastal areas.