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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 N474, March 25, 2018

The Caribbean Radio Scene: Radio Antilles

In our program today we return to the radio scene on the small island with the large volcano. It is the story of Radio Antilles, the shortwave station that relayed the programming of both Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany and the BBC in London England. Ray Robinson has our feature on Radio Antilles.

On April 20, 1963, the Radio Antilles Corporation was formed on Montserrat Island on the Atlantic edge of the Caribbean, and soon afterwards work commenced on the construction of the new medium wave/shortwave station right on the ocean at O'Garro's Beach, a little south of Morris in St. Patrick's Parish. The large 200 kW transmitter was dubbed Transmitter Anita in their Radio Antilles terminology, and the twin 15 kW shortwave transmitters were dubbed Transmitter Dora.

The studios for Radio Antilles were installed on the second floor of the isolated transmitter building. The original P.O. Box number allocated to Radio Antilles by the Post Office in New Plymouth was 35, but later, through negotiation with the Post Office, this was changed to 930, reflecting the operating frequency of their huge 200 kW medium wave station.

The original owner of Radio Antilles was Jacques Tremoulet, who had previously invested his endeavors and his funding in Radio Andorra, as well as in other stations in France, Spain and North Africa. Andorra is a small micro-country sandwiched between France and Spain, high up in the Pyrenees Mountains, from which Tremoulet's high-powered Radio Andorra could cover much of France. Several of the Radio Andorra staff assisted in the original development of Radio Antilles on Montserrat.

In 1970, Deutsche Welle invested significant funding in Radio Antilles, and they took over the management of the station with their own manager from Germany. When the German engineers arrived at the station, they reported that the two 15 kW transmitters were already installed, and that they looked as though both units were either new, or recently renovated.

Subsequently, Deutsche Welle installed a 50 kW Continental shortwave transmitter, and the 200 kW medium wave transmitter that they had obtained previously for their projected station in El Salvador. Maybe the huge new medium wave transmitter replaced the older unit that had been brought in from North Africa. Some ten years after Deutsche Welle took over, the twin 15 kW units were withdrawn from service.

A small shortwave receiver station was installed towards the summit of St. Georges Hill, almost in the very center of the island, with twin rhombic antennas that were beamed for reception from Germany and England. This hill top location on Montserrat was some four miles distant from the transmitter station, which was located on the lower southwest coast of the island.

In March 1977, both Deutsche Welle in Cologne, Germany and the BBC in London, England began relaying their programming from Radio Antilles on Montserrat on the edge of the Caribbean. The two European shortwave stations shared time over the two 15 kW and one 50 kW transmitters.

However, four years later, in 1981, the BBC withdrew its involvement with the Deutsche Welle/Radio Antilles shortwave station, choosing instead to expand its usage of the larger and more substantial shortwave relay station on the nearby island of Antigua. Deutsche Welle, for its part, continued to use Montserrat, but also began using Antigua along with the BBC.

International radio monitors in North America learned to distinguish which Deutsche Welle station was on the air, Montserrat or Antigua, by listening carefully to the station announcements. The on-air announcements from DW Antigua tended to have a German accent, with the emphasis on the first syllable of the word RE-lay; whereas the on-air announcements from DW Montserrat tended to have more of a French accent, with the emphasis on the second syllable of the word re-LAY.

Eight years later again, in 1989, due to a massive financial scandal associated with Radio Antilles, Deutsche Welle closed out its operation of the station, and the government of Montserrat took over control of the station and its operation. It was at this stage that the massive Hurricane Hugo hit Montserrat with sustained winds as high as 185 miles per hour, and 90% of the structures on Montserrat were badly damaged or destroyed.

This devastating hurricane literally destroyed the tourism industry on Montserrat. The main building for Radio Antilles was also badly damaged, though it was subsequently repaired.

Then give six more years, to July 18, 1995, and the dormant Mt. Soufriere exploded into volcanic activity; and over a period of time, the large southern half of the island was totally abandoned, including the capital town, New Plymouth.

An early lava flow came to within 200 yards of Radio Antilles. On three separate occasions, Radio Antilles moved its studio operation from the transmitter facility into temporary accommodations in New Plymouth.

Ultimately, all of the salvageable electronic equipment was removed from the transmitter building and taken to the northern part of the island for safe storage. The building itself was ultimately completely inundated with an overflow of untold millions of tons of molten lava, ash mud, and volcanic debris. The actual site of Radio Antilles can no longer be distinguished.

Visitor Comment:

Thank you Ray for that fascinating feature about Radio Antilles. And it's especially interesting to me because I had the opportunity to visit the station on Montserrat, around 1983 I believe. I was in the studio building and I got to see the antennas close-up. It was a very nice facility, and it's hard to believe that the site can no longer be seen because of the volcanic eruption.

Radio Antilles sign on announcement.