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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 N398, October 9, 2016

Cook Island Radio Tour: The Island of Beautiful People

This is now the eighth occasion in which we have made a visit to the picturesque Cook Islands in the exotic South Pacific. In each of these feature presentations, we have examined the fascinating radio scene on each island, and also throughout this entire islandic nation as a whole.

In our program today, we make a radio tour of three more of the exotic Cook Islands, one of which has been described as the Island of Beautiful People. We begin today’s program with a quick glimpse at the radio scene on the island of Manihiki.

Manihiki Atoll, known as the Island of Black Pearls, is also the top of an underwater mountain, with a central lagoon 2-1/2 miles across, surrounded by a string of 43 small islets. More than a hundred underwater pearl farms are operated in the lagoon.

Back in the colonial era, there was an unsuccessful attempt on the part of the Polynesian people in Tahiti to annex Manihiki for the French. Over a lengthy period of more than 1-1/2 centuries, the United States laid claim to Manihiki Island under its all-embracing Guano Island Act. However, due to the fact that the island was already inhabited by its own resident population, the American claim was relinquished in 1980 in favor of the Cook islands administration.

In advance of an approaching disastrous wind storm, Cyclone Martin, 400 people on the island of Manihiki were airlifted out to safety in November 1997.

A small communication radio station was installed on Manihiki in 1937, though it was significantly larger in fact than the one on Pukapuka Island. Then, around 2009, a small downlink FM transmitter was installed, replacing a small mediumwave transmitter for the relay of programming from Radio Cook Islands on the capital city island.

It was on March 2, 1606 that the Spanish explorer Pedro Fernandes de Queirós visited Rakahanga Island. He was the first European to set foot upon any of the islands in the Cook archipelago, and he stated that 500 people assembled on the beach to greet him. The population these days is just 77. The Catholic Friar Fray Martin de Munilla, voyaging with de Queirós, described this island as the Island of Beautiful People.

This island of Rakahanga in the Northern Cook Islands has a downlink FM relay station operating on 90.6 FM. This low powered FM station replaced an earlier small mediumwave relay station, and the newer FM unit was first noted in the WRTVHB in 2009. The island also operates a communication station on shortwave, and the Resident Agent representing the national government is also the operator of this important communication link.

We visit next Penrhyn Atoll which is the northernmost island in the Cook Islands, and it is our final destination in today’s radio tour of the Cook Islands. Penryhn is the largest atoll in the Cook Islands, larger than all other Cook islands combined, and it is surrounded by a 50 mile circle of fossilized coral. The lagoon at Penrhyn Atoll is described as one of the largest in the world.

Penrhyn Island was named on August 8, 1788, in honor of the transport ship Lady Penrhyn which was one of the 11 ships that sailed from England’s Isle of Wight to found the first European colony on the continent of Australia. At the time of the discovery of Penrhyn Island, the Lady Penrhyn was supposed to be en route from Australia to China to take on a cargo of tea destined for sale in England, but it was considerably off course. The word Penrhyn is a Welsh word meaning peninsula.

In 1864, it is stated that as many as 1,000 men, women and children from Penrhyn Island were transported to Peru in South America, where they were forced into manual labor in the mining and guano industries. It is also reported that none of these Polynesian people ever returned to their homeland after Peru abolished slavery.

A small communication radio station was officially opened on Penrhyn on June 2, 1937 for communication with the New Zealand administration on the main Rarotonga Island. Give three more years, and the first American service personnel arrived as part of the Pacific War. The first contingent were Signal Corp personnel who arrived in December 1941 and they installed a radio station for communication with airplanes and with headquarters back in the United States.

In November 1942, Penrhyn Island was flooded with new people when 1,000 Americans arrived for the construction and support of an army and navy airfield. During the war, an American Liberator plane crash landed on Penryhn after it was damaged during a bombing run in the Pacific. Part of one engine is about all that is now left from this once proud airplane. The last American forces personnel left Penrhyn on September 20, 1946.

We find the first listing for a downlink FM relay station on Penrhyn in the WRTVHB for 1990. This low powered slave relay station on 95.3 MHz likewise replaced a similar low powered mediumwave transmitter.

For those who are avid stamp collectors, Penrhyn Island has issued three different types of postage stamps during the past more than one century: