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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 N464, January 14, 2018

Famous Broadcasts from KDKA Shortwave

On this occasion here in Wavescan we pick up the story of the prestigious KDKA once again, and this time we investigate some of their famous shortwave broadcasts that were beamed to various parts of the world. On many notable occasions, their programming was received in different countries with sufficient clarity that it was relayed on distant local radio stations.

Actually, today's story begins way back on the evening of Friday, October 17, 1919, nearly one century ago. It was on that date that Dr. Frank Conrad broadcast his first music program on his own longwave amateur radio station 8XK after the end of World War 1.

A little over a year later, on the evening of Tuesday, November 2, 1920, the new 100 watt 8ZZ-KDKA signed on with its now legendary broadcast on 545 kHz which contained the voting results in the presidential general election. On May 19 in the following year 1921, KDKA began the daily broadcast of commodity market prices; fresh fruits and vegetables, and farm animals.

On April 5 of the next year again (1922), announcer Harold Arlin was on the air with a regularly scheduled KDKA broadcast on mediumwave containing music, news and information. Up in the town of Hespeler near Toronto in Canada some 225 miles distant, Mr. W. W. Weaver tuned in to this programming and he recorded what he heard on a Dictaphone wax cylinder and he posted it back to KDKA as a very interesting form of reception report.

A few months later in August of the same year (1922), a new 1 kW shortwave transmitter 8XS was installed on the roof top of Building K at the Westinghouse factory at East Pittsburgh, and this unit usually carried the same programming as co-sited mediumwave station KDKA. From this time onwards, almost all of the long distance reception from KDKA was via the shortwave unit rather than via the mediumwave unit. One of the earliest reception reports for this new transmitter came from a shipboard radio officer, Frank Reb, aboard the ship Santa Luisa in port at Iquique in Chile in South America.

In September 1923, the Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company at Trafford Park in Manchester England received the shortwave signal from 8XS-KDKA and they rebroadcast the programming for local listeners via their mediumwave station 2ZY on 793 kHz. At the time it was stated that both KDKA mediumwave and 8XS shortwave were audible, though the shortwave signal was far superior.

The Metropolitan-Vickers Electrical Company in Manchester was in reality the English equivalent of the American Westinghouse company. Interestingly, Metro-Vickers was so impressed with the superiority of shortwave coverage that they installed their own shortwave transmitter that was tuned to 100 metres (3 MHz).

The first reported reception of KDKA shortwave on land in South America came from a British Army officer, Major Roland Raven-Hart, high up in the Andes Mountains at a new railway siding known as Los Andes, on the border between Argentina and Chile. The date for this long distance radio reception was October 30, 1923 and the major heard KDKA-8XS on 60 metres on his amateur station 9TC. This record long distance radio reception was reported in radio publications at the time.

Station KDKA beamed a Christmas program to England on Christmas Eve of the same year (1923), and it was heard also in Hawaii. Then, just a week later on January 1, 1924, KDKA beamed a New Year's Day program to England, and this was heard also in Africa and India. Reception was good in England, and Metropolitan-Vickers rebroadcast the programming over their own mediumwave station, which was now on the air under a new call at a new location, 2AC at 57 Dickenson Street, Manchester.

Many notable broadcasts were made during the year 1924, and the KDKA programming was rebroadcast by local mediumwave stations in many different countries on several occasions, including in South Africa, Australia and nationwide across the United States.

In March (1924), there was an MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) Alumni Dinner at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York City, and this event was given wide area coverage over KDKA-8XS, as well as over other shortwave stations in the United States also. During the same month, KDKA also prepared a special program entirely in Spanish for the benefit of listeners in South America.

A large international conference was held mid-year in London, and both Frank Conrad from KDKA and David Sarnoff of RCA were present. In advance, Conrad had arranged that KDKA-8XS would broadcast progressive baseball scores on shortwave and he invited Sarnoff to his hotel room for a demonstration of shortwave reception.

With the use of a metal curtain rod as the antenna, Conrad tuned in 8XS on his own home made one tube shortwave receiver, much to Sarnoff's surprise. This simple event changed the direction of international radio broadcasting forever and it highlighted the usefulness of shortwave broadcasting for international radio coverage.

On October 11 (1924), the Heinz food company staged a series of anniversary banquets in 62 cities in the United States, Canada and England, which attracted a total of 10,000 banqueters in the three countries alone. The main banquet venue was Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and the entire international event was given wide coverage over 8XS shortwave. A special landline was installed between the White House and radio station KDKA and President Calvin Coolidge was able to present a special re-election campaign speech for the occasion.

A KDKA program was rebroadcast locally on mediumwave in Johannesburg, South Africa on December 12 (1924). Then two days later, a special program was beamed to Australia on 63 metres (4760 kHz) and for the first time it was rebroadcast locally on mediumwave. This December 14 broadcast was actually a preliminary test for a more ambitious project, a special broadcast to Australia six weeks later on Australia Day next year (January 26, 1925).

On that auspicious date, 8XS was on the air on 4760 kHz using a hollow copper tube as the transmitting antenna. The program was broadcast to the Melbourne Herald newspaper and to the Listener In weekly radio publication.

In addition, the programming was received by the AWA radiotrician, Mr. R. Pringle, who operated an AWA callsign at his own home in suburban Melbourne. The receiving antenna was strung from the roof of his house to the rear of the roof on the nearby church building.

Apparently there were a few unofficial and insignificant attempts to rebroadcast the KDKA programming locally in Australia on December 14 (1924) and again on January 26 (1925). However, in May (1925) there was indeed a successful relay of KDKA programming on mediumwave by an amateur station in Hobart on the Australian island of Tasmania. Young Mr. Trevor Watkins rebroadcast the 8XS shortwave signal on mediumwave 1305 kHz over his amateur station 7AA.

In July 1925, KDKA broadcast a series of programs for the benefit of the visiting American Fleet while it was in Australian waters. In October of the following year (1926), KDKA presented four evenings of special programming for the benefit of listeners in Australia.

During the years running from 1928-1930, they made many special broadcasts to the Byrd Antarctic Expedition, usually via relays in Australia and New Zealand. Then on November 6, 1932, they participated in a special round the world radio broadcast. All of this was on shortwave.

However, there was another series of KDKA special programs on shortwave that were beamed north to the Canadian Arctic. That's our story here in Wavescan on another occasion.

Ancient DX Report 1914

A little over one hundred years ago, a series of tragic events in continental Europe escalated into the beginning of what was subsequently described as the Great War, an international conflict that some said would ultimately be the war to end all wars. On June 28, 1914, His Royal Highness the 50 year old Archduke Franz Ferdinand, Heir Presumptive to the throne of the ailing Austro-Hungarian Empire, was assassinated during a state visit to Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia. His wife, Her Highness Sophie, the 46 year old Duchess of Hohenberg, was also killed at the same time.

The Royal Couple arrived by train in Sarajevo, Bosnia from the nearby tourist town Ilidza on Sunday morning June 28, 1914, a bright sunny summer day. They transferred to the back seat of a luxury motor car, the second in a motorcade of 6 vehicles, for a short journey which ultimately ended at the downtown City Hall building. The sixth car in this royal parade was empty, simply as a standby for any of the others if they failed.

En route, there was a failed attempt at assassination by grenade, though some personnel in the cavalcade and a few bystanders were injured in the event. The car behind the royal couple in the official motorcade was damaged by the explosion of the grenade, and it no longer participated in the official events.

After the official welcome at the City Hall, the cavalcade of cars, now numbering only five, left with the intent of traveling to the hospital so that the royal couple could visit those who were wounded in the failed assassination attempt. At this stage, the car that the royal couple traveled in was now the third in the cavalcade.

The vehicle in which they traveled was a 1910 model Bois de Boulogne Double Phaeton Type 28/32 motor car made by Gräf & Stift in Vienna. This vehicle, with engine number 287, was owned by Count Franz von Harrach, and it was licensed with an army identification plate showing A III-118. In a remarkable coincidence this vehicle identification number can be expressed as the date for Armistice Day at the subsequent end of World War 1 four years later: A III-118 = A for Armistice, 11-11-18, that is November 11, 1918.

At around 10:45 am on that same fateful Sunday morning in 1914, the chauffeur Leopold Lojka by mistake took a wrong turn, and he then attempted to back the car onto the main thoroughfare, a difficult maneuver for the luxury Gräf & Stift vehicle. At that stage, 19 year old Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princi, who happened to be standing nearby, seized the opportunity to kill the royal couple.

The would-be assassin fired just two bullets. The first bullet penetrated the aluminum side of the motor vehicle and hit the Duchess Sophie in the abdomen; some say she was pregnant. The second bullet hit Archduke Franz in the neck. Both victims bled to death in the next few minutes. The vehicle's odometer read 8596 kilometers (5341 miles). The young assassin, Gavrilo Princi, was arrested and brutally mistreated, and he died in prison four years later.

That tragic event took place on Sunday morning June 28, 1914. Exactly one month later, on July 28, Austria-Hungary declared war against Serbia, and Germany invaded France. One week later again, England declared war against Germany. World War 1!

Interestingly, some evangelical Protestants understand that both World War 1 and World War 2 were foretold in the Holy Scriptures. Anne Graham Lotz, the daughter of Evangelical evangelist Billy Graham, states in her book, "Expecting to See Jesus" (p 27): "World War I and World War II . . . were predicted by Jesus when He warned, ‘Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom.'"

What was the wireless scene in Europe at the time when the belligerent powers went to war? Germany operated two major wireless stations at the time, both maritime, at Nauen and Eilvese.

During the year 1914, Germany rebuilt their station POZ at Nauen near Berlin with a new transmitter building, a massive new antenna system together with a recently installed new 100 kW ARCO wireless transmitter. The wireless station at Eilvese near Hanover was a little smaller than the Nauen station, though it was still very effective for use in international wireless communication.

We might also refer to the lower powered 10 kW maritime station Nordeich Radio, which was located near Kiel in Germany. At that time Nordeich Radio was on the air under its second consecutive callsign KAV. (The original call was KND; and the more familiar call DAN was adopted in 1927.)

At the very commencement of the 1914 war, Great Britain cut the German underwater cable systems across the Atlantic. In order to communicate with the German colonies and German commercial interests in the Americas, Africa, and the South Pacific, intervening German naval vessels conducted a cascade relay of information in Morse Code between the German mainland and the distant German locations.

During that early era of the Great War, the German navy used isolated and lonely Easter Island, half way between South America and the exotic islands of the South Pacific, as a safe rallying point. For a short period of time, they even operated their own temporary wireless station ashore on Easter Island.

Within the United States, the German Telefunken company had constructed two huge wireless stations; at Tuckerton on Hickory Island, New Jersey with 200 kW, and Sayville on Long Island, New York with 100 kW. Station WCI WGG on Hickory Island (which was not actually an island but rather part of the New Jersey shoreline) communicated in Morse Code, mainly with station OUI, the Eilvese wireless station near Hanover in Germany. The Sayville station WSL communicated with mainly POZ in Nauen near Berlin.

A map of the British Isles shows literally a hundred or more wireless stations in use in 1914, and they were scattered around the coastlines, with a few further inland. Notable among those early wireless stations were the well-known Marconi station at Poldhu (MPD & ZZ) and the Marconi stations on the Isle of Wight. There was also the powerful new Marconi station MUU at Carnarvon in Wales.

In addition, the English Marconi company had also installed, and in 1914 was operating, several important wireless stations in North America (and beyond), including:

CB-VAS Glace Bay Cape Breton Island Canada
CE-VCE Cape Race Newfoundland Canada
NFF New Brunswick New Jersey USA
CC-WCC Cape Cod Massachusetts USA
PH-KPH Bolinas California USA
KIE Kahuku Oahu Hawaii