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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 N412, January 15, 2017

AIR Chennai I

Cyclone Vardah temporarily silences AIR Chennai shortwave

In a series of email dispatches from Jose Jacob VU2JOS in Hyderabad, India, he gives the onward progress of the recent Cyclone Vardah and its impact in India, including the mediumwave and shortwave complex of All India Radio at Chennai. Beginning on December 3, Cyclone Vardah began as a weak low pressure weather pattern off the west coast of the Malay Peninsula and it developed into a major Cyclone that came ashore in India a little north of Chennai. However, it is described as the worst cyclone to ever hit the city of Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamilnadu.

The Indian navy rescued 1400 tourists from the Andaman Islands, and 16,000 people were evacuated from southeastern coastal areas of mainland India. 12,000 trees were uprooted, 10,000 electricity poles were mangled, 800 power transformers were damaged or destroyed, 5,000 poultry were killed, 224 roads were blocked, all schools and the city airport were closed, and all train services were suspended.

The name Vardah was given to this weather pattern by the weather authorities in Pakistan, and it is the name of a red rose found in Southern Asia.

The Radio Scene at Avadi

The major mediumwave and shortwave station of All India Radio at Chennai is located at Avadi, some 15 miles from the city center, and in actual reality, there are three separate transmitter stations at this location.

Let's take a look now at the shortwave radio scene in Chennai, as researched and written by Jose Jacob himself. He titles his topic as: A visit to AIR Chennai.

The Indian city of Chennai, which was earlier known as Madras, is located on the southeastern coast of India. It is a metropolitan city and it is the capital in Tamilnadu State. The local language is Tamil. I had the pleasure of visiting the AIR Chennai transmitting station located at Avadi by prior appointment in 2004.

All India Radio-Madras as it was known then was inaugurated on June 16, 1938. Its studios were near the beach in suburban Mylapore. These days the mediumwave and shortwave transmitters are located at Avadi, about 15 miles away from Chennai on a 275 acre site. Its peripheral wall is about 5 miles long! The staff quarters are also located here. One has to pass through security checks at three different places before entering the main transmitter building.

There are three transmitter buildings at this site, and in our program today we make a visit to the first building, which houses the shortwave transmitters.

Avadi Transmitter Complex: Building 1, Shortwave

In the first building, which is almost a mile away from the main entrance, are two shortwave transmitters. On the way we can see their large antennas.

In the first room is the 50 kW BEL HHB 144 transmitter made by Bharat Electronics, Bangalore and commissioned in 1994. It is used for the A channel programs on 4920 and 7380 kHz.

Again, back in earlier times, in this building there used to be two other shortwave transmitters. One was a 10 kW Philips KVFH10/12A shortwave transmitter which was commissioned on 16 June 1938. It used to operate on 4920, 6085, 7160 and 9575 kHz under the callsign VUM2. However, it was dismantled after 1994 when it was replaced by the 50 kW BEL transmitter. A workshop now functions in that room.

In this same room, a 100 kW Marconi BD253 (Players) shortwave transmitter was inaugurated on March 22, 1957. From October 3 (1957), it was on the air with the popular Vividh Bharati programs on 6115, 7235, 9750, 15125 kHz etc. It was also used for the External Service to S.E. Asia on 15335 kHz and for the programs for the Indian Peace Keeping Forces in Sri Lanka on 7205, 7340, and 9910 kHz in the mid-1980s.

This large transmitter was dismantled around 1992 and in its exact place the BEL 50 kW transmitter was installed. There is a standby studio also here.

In the next room is a 100 kW BBC SK 51F3 transmitter made by Brown Boveri and commissioned on February 19, 1985. Currently it operates on 7270 kHz with AIR FM Gold programs, and External Services in Tamil, English and Sinhala to Sri Lanka.

In earlier times, this transmitter used to operate on 4790, 4990, 7270, 7275 kHz, etc with External Services to Sri Lanka and Vividh Bharati programs on 10330 kHz etc in the Home Service. This transmitter can in fact operate from 3900 to 26100 kHz. It is identified as M5, with the M standing for Madras and the 5 as the transmitter number.

During the cyclone emergency, two shortwave antenna towers were demolished and this affected the usage of both the 50 kW and 100 kW transmitters. For a couple of days, the 50 kW Home Service relay on 7380 kHz was off the air, and likewise the 100 kW External Service on 7270 kHz was also off the air.

More from Jose Jacob on the radio scene in Madras-Chennai on a coming occasion.