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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 N386, July 17, 2016

Cook Islands Radio Tour - 6

On this occasion here in Wavescan, we pick up our radio tour of the Cook Islands in the cluster of islands known as the South Cook Islands. Let us bypass the uninhabited island of Takutea, which has never known a permanent population.

Takutea is just a small island covering only half a square mile and it is a reserved Natural Wildlife Sanctuary. When Captain James Cook visited this island on April 4, 1777, he noted that there were several huts on the island, though no people. The island is covered with coconut palms, and copra cutters visit there each year. Back in the year 2004, one episode of the American TV Discovery Series, Survivorman, was filmed on Takutea.

As we voyage further south, we come to the island Atiu with a population of some 500 people, though very few tourists visit this island. This island is famous for its Topeka Bird which has developed the capability of flying in a dark cave in the same way that bats fly, by listening to the reflection of its own sounds.

A wireless receiver was installed on Atiu Island in 1925, and an accompanying small valve transmitter was installed three years later. Apparently there was at one stage a small low powered mediumwave relay transmitter on this island, carrying a slave relay from Radio Cook Islands on the capital city island. This mediumwave unit was replaced by an FM facility on 92.2 FM soon after the turn of the century, and it is still on the air to this day. In addition, Atiu Island for half a dozen years also operated its own local FM station on 105.0 MHz, a facility that was installed around the same time as the Radio Cook Island station.

Next in line as we journey down south in the Cooks Islands is Mitiaro Island, with its surrounding belt of fossilized corral, reaching as high as 40 feet. Mitiaro has a resident population of around 200, though during the summer this is considerably increased when hundreds of former residents make a return visit. Again, very few tourists visit Mitiaro, and there are not even ten cars on the island.

FM radio on 89.0 MHz came to Mitiaro more than 15 years ago; and this unit, a downlink satellite relay from Radio Cook Islands, apparently replaced an earlier low powered mediumwave unit.

Next in line as we take this radio tour of the Cook Islands is Mauke Island with its unique large jagged ring of fossilized corral up to half a mile wide. This island boasts the world's largest banyan tree covering a whole acre, and a village church with two separate entrances. Originally there was a dividing wall on the inside of this unique church building due to the fact that the two congregations from each of the two nearby villages could not agree on the interior design of the sanctuary.

Mauke Island apparently also had its own low power mediumwave station carrying a relay of programming from Radio Cook Islands on Rarotonga before the changeover to FM on 93.8 MHz.

Next on our southward journey in the Cook Islands is the capital city island, Rarotonga. Much of the radio scene on the capital city island has been presented here in Wavescan on three previous occasions, though we should now mention the FM scene there.

The first FM station in the Cook Islands was an informal irregular station that was set up by Mr. Gordon Brereton in the 1970s so that he could demonstrate FM reception for the benefit of customers in his duty free shop in Avarua. There was no other FM station on the air anywhere in the Cook Islands at the time.

This unofficial music service became quite popular with the local residents, and thus this irregular radio station grew into a regular FM station which ultimately was granted a license as Radio Ikurangi, which was named accordingly after a nearby mountain. The new Radio Ikurangi with the official callsign ZK1ZD has always operated on 103.3 MHz, and over a period of time, repeaters have been installed at different locations, including suburban Avarua, Mt. Tekou in the center of the island, and on distant Aitutake Island.

These days, there is a total of ten FM stations on the air in Avarua on Rarotonga Island and these are operated by Radio Cook Islands as well as by commercial and community organizations. Among the FM stations on the air in Avarua are two Christian stations; Radio Maranatha on 97.9 MHz, and Adventist Radio on 98.7 MHz which is affiliated with Adventist World Radio.

We conclude today's Cook Islands Radio Tour with a quick visit to Mangaia Island, which we mentioned on a previous occasion. Their first wireless station, VLG, was installed in 1925 by a Mr. Reid; and in 1939, the electronic equipment was changed to a battery operated low powered shortwave radio facility. In the 1980s, there was a low powered mediumwave relay station on the island, and a score of years later this small facility was replaced by a satellite downlink FM unit on 96.0 MHz.

The most southerly island in the Cook Islands was Tuanaki, but historians tell us that this island disappeared beneath the waves of the Pacific more than 1-1/2 centuries ago. More about the fascinating story of radio on the northern islands in the exotic Cook Islands on another occasion here in Wavescan.