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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 N409, December 25, 2016

Christmas Radio in Hawaii: The KWHR Story

During the past century and more, it is evident that very few radio stations have been inaugurated on a Christmas Day. We have chosen one important shortwave station that was indeed inaugurated on a Christmas Day, and that is the story for our opening feature here in this edition of Wavescan, on Christmas Day 2016. The shortwave station we refer to was KWHR, and it was located at a lonely, isolated spot almost at the very bottom tip of the Hawaiian Islands.

We begin our story back in October 1989 when LeSea Broadcasting in South Bend Indiana applied to the FCC for a license to establish a new shortwave station in Hawaii. This new Hawaiian station would become their second shortwave station, following in the footsteps of their already established station WHRI, a little north of Indianapolis.

The location for this new shortwave station was almost at the very southern tip of the island of Hawaii, the Big Island as it is known affectionately. The new KWHR was installed just 8 miles due north of South Point/South Cape and half a mile from the synchronous transmitter site of KIPA AM/FM. This territorial area was grass and tree covered, on top of the lava flow that had erupted from nearby Mt. Kilauea in 1868.

Construction work for the new shortwave station began two years later (1991), at a total cost around $2 million. Four antenna towers were erected, two at 270 feet high for the slewable TCI curtain at 270o and two towers at 180 feet high for the fixed net style log periodic. All the towers and the transmitter building were constructed to withstand wind speeds up to 150 mph.

A high voltage power distribution line from the nearby wind farm actually ran quite close to station KWHR, but it is understood that the station generated its own power.

Electricity was first applied to the 100 kW Harris 100B shortwave transmitter on December 16, 1993; and three days later, test transmissions began at 0500 UTC on 9930 kHz. Then, according to the noted shortwave historian Jerome Berg in suburban Boston, this new LeSea shortwave station KWHR on the recovered lava fields on the big island of Hawaii was formally inaugurated six days later on Christmas Day (1993).

Around the turn of the century, shortwave KWHR was off the air for many months, and only WHRI near Indianapolis was on the air, with programming beamed to Latin America. Sometime after KWHR returned to the air, it carried program relays on behalf of the American operated AFRTS, Armed Forces Radio TV Service, AFN and Radio Free Europe (Asia), and also three different organizations in the Vietnamese language. These syndicated relays were on the air for around three years, with listings in the WRTVHB for the years 2003 through 2005.

An additional 100 kW transmitter, a Continental Model 419F, was installed nearly four years after the station was officially opened, and this additional unit was inaugurated on October 10, 1997. Transmitter KWHR1, identified as Angel 3 in LeSea terminology, was permanently connected to the log period antenna for coverage into Asia, and KWHR2, or Angel 4, was permanently connected to the curtain antenna for coverage into the Pacific Rim countries.

Programming for the two shortwave transmitters was assembled in the LeSea radio and TV facilities a little to the south of South Bend in Indiana with satellite delivery to Hawaii. Initially, KWHR2 carried a program relay from Pulse FM, a local contemporary Christian program service in South Bend.

However, changes were on the horizon, and in October 2008 the station was closed and dismantled, and the two transmitters were shipped to another LeSea shortwave station, T8WH on the island of Palau.

Over the years, LeSea has verified listener reception reports to KWHR with at least three different colorful QSL cards, including the introductory limited edition First Day QSL. Their QSL cards have depicted a Hawaiian map, and a collage of Asian peoples.

About all that remains these days of the twenty year tenure of shortwave station KWHR on the big island in Hawaii is the sturdy transmitter building, still in very good condition, which is readily visible in the satellite imagery on both Google Earth and Maps.