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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 N400, October 23, 2016

On the Air from Boston Harbor


Ask a patriotic Canadian what is the most famous boat in the history of Canada, and he will tell you without hesitation that it was the Bluenose. The famous Bluenose was depicted on a postage stamp (1929 50 cent), it was emblazoned upon a Canadian coin (1937 10 cent), it was honored by the Royal Canadian Air Force (World War 2 Squadron 434), it was inducted into the Canadian Hall of Fame (1955), it was pictured on a Canadian motor vehicle license plate (2016 Nova Scotia), other replica ships have taken the same design and the same name, and you can buy a small do-it-yourself kit model of the original Bluenose ship, even radio controlled.

The original Bluenose schooner was designed and built as a twin masted sailing ship at Lunenberg, Nova Scotia in 1921. It was designed as a regular fishing vessel and also for racing and to its credit, the Bluenose made record hauls of fish, and it also won almost every open ocean sailing contest that it ever entered.

The good ship Bluenose (the nickname for a Nova Scotian) was 161 feet long by 26 feet wide and it was launched with great fanfare on March 26, 1921. In order to enter a subsequent competitive speed contest, the Bluenose participated in a regular mid-year fishing season in the Grand Banks off Newfoundland with a resultant nice haul that aided their financial circumstances.

The International Fishermen's Trophy was a new speed contest for regular fishing boats that was organized by the Halifax Herald newspaper in 1920, and on that first occasion, an American vessel, the Esperanto was the winner. On the second occasion for the staging of this international fishing schooner race, the Canadian Bluenose competed against the American boat Elsie and won.

The 1921 event took place again in the same large Halifax Harbour, Nova Scotia, and the event was held from October 22-24 (1921). Two exciting, competing races were held, and the Bluenose outran the Elsie on both occasions.

In order to provide immediate radio coverage of this 1921 race, radio transmitters and receivers were placed on board the press boat, the Tyrian, and in the office of the Halifax Herald. Progressive news of this International boat race was flashed in Morse Code to the newspaper office on the nearby mainland, and it should be remembered that radio broadcasting at this stage was not yet two years old.

Again, the Bluenose was the winner in the International Fishermen's Races that were held in 1922, 1923 and 1931; and again, it is evident that progressive coverage was maintained by radio on each occasion from accompanying boats carrying media personnel. The 1923 race was held in the waters off Boston against the American ship Columbia.

The final staging of the International Fishermen's Trophy took place in October 1938. By that time, sailing ships had given way to diesel powered fishing boats, the international political scene across the Atlantic in continental Europe was becoming uncomfortable, and the Bluenose was now getting quite old. Nevertheless, the Bluenose was repaired and modified for one final occasion, the last staging of the International Fishermen's Trophy.

The final challenge in the International Fishermen's Trophy took place between the Canadian Bluenose and the American Gertrude L. Thebaud and it was made up of five separate races twice around an 18 mile triangle off the coast of Gloucester, a little north from Boston. These events were spread out over a period of two and a half weeks running from October 9 to 26, 1938. True to form, Bluenose won three of these five racing events.

Widespread radio coverage was achieved with transmitters on three different ships. On board the Bluenose were two personnel from CBC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation; news reporter Edward Briggs and radio operator Fred (Frank) Willis. Onboard the Gertrude L. Thebaud was an NBC crew with Bob Evans from Boston mediumwave WBZ-WBZA; and on board the US Coastguard ship Chelan was a radio crew with their own transmitter providing live commentaries for mediumwave stations and networks in Boston.

Available evidence would suggest that the special transmitter on board the Thebaud was the 100 watt W10XH, which was in use on the same ship for Arctic exploration during the previous year (1937). The CBC in Canada issued a regular 1938 QSL card for the reception of their transmitter on the Bluenose which operated with 40 watts on 2264 kHz. The callsign for the occasion was VE9ID, and the location was given on the QSL card as Boston Harbor.

The Bluenose was sold into the Caribbean in 1942; it was accosted by a German submarine during the War; and it struck a reef off Haiti and was abandoned with its load of bananas in 1946. However, as one historic report states: One thing is absolutely certain, the Bluenose legacy lives on in the hearts and minds of many Canadians!


And before we leave the radio scene in Boston Harbor, we present the story of the radio broadcast from the British navy vessel HMS Newcastle. This ship arrived in Boston Harbor for repairs on September 20, 1941. The lengthy repair work was completed in December, and before the ship left port for the return voyage across the Atlantic to England, shortwave station WRUL in Boston seized the opportunity to make a goodwill remote broadcast to England and to British ships at sea.

Life magazine for December 15 (1941) shows a picture of the WRUL program crew on board the HMS Newcastle that was taken during the actual broadcast itself. At the time, WRUL was on the air at Hatherly Beach with two shortwave transmitters, one at 100 kW and another at 50 kW.