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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 271, March 5, 2000

The Lonely Voice from Down Under!

What happened to the original radio base that carried the shortwave programming from Radio Australia?

In the western suburbs of Sydney there is a Girl's High School standing on a spacious and attractive property. Nearly 100 years ago, this location was in an isolated area, some 20 miles distant from old and faraway Sydneytown. Ask the students who are attending the high school today: "Do you know the important history of this property?" At a guess we would probably say no, most of them do not know the interesting background associated with this property. This school property was at one time the site for one of the world's largest radio stations.

It was here in Pennant Hills that the newly-formed federal government purchased the 40 acre property quite early last century for the purpose of establishing a large wireless station. Electrical engineers came out from Germany to install the newly developed Telefunken wireless apparatus, and finally on August 19, 1912, wireless station POS was inaugurated. The original transmitter was a 25 kw spark unit and the antenna was an omni-directional vertical radiator; in other words, just simply a tall steel mast.

Station POS was intended to become the key station in a nationwide network of wireless stations for the purpose of inter-communication throughout the Commonwealth of Australia and its territories. The callsign POS stood for "Post Office Sydney," and the counterpart near Perth in Western Australia, some 3,000 miles distant, was POP. However, the callsigns were soon changed to conform to the new international regulations, and POS and POP became VIS and VIP, as they are to this day.

A large number of radio transmitters were installed over the years at this Pennant Hills location, many for communication traffic and some for radio broadcasting. During the year 1927, a new building was erected on the Pennant Hills property, specifically to house a new 20 kw shortwave transmitter. This unit made its inaugural broadcast under the now nostalgic callsign VK2ME on October 27, 1927, with its famous first "Empire Broadcast."

Soon afterwards, two more shortwave transmitters were installed at Pennant Hills, and these were in use as VLK and VLM for international communication and as VK2ME for program broadcasting.

When the climactic events of 1939 finally broke out into open warfare, the Australian government hastily organized an international shortwave service under the designation "Australia Calling." At Pennant Hills, the two transmitters on the air previously as VK2ME and VLK-VLM became VLQ and VLQ2, and they went on the air with the inaugural broadcast of "Australia Calling" on December 20, 1939 with programming from the studios of the ABC in Sydney.

This shortwave station, "the lonely voice from down under," was on the air for six years as the main facility for Radio Australia. However, when the new shortwave station at Shepparton in Victoria was commissioned in 1944, the usage of Pennant Hills was terminated. The AWA radio station at Pennant Hills then reverted back to full time usage as a communication facility, though occasionally the 10 kw transmitter VLN was on the air with Radio Australia programming beamed across the Pacific.

The Pennant Hills radio station was finally and forever closed on October 31, 1955 when all services were transferred to a newly constructed facility located at another Sydney suburb, Doonside. The property was sold, and upon it was built the Carlingford High School.

The only reminders left in the radio world of this once powerful voice from down under are references in old radio magazines, and QSL cards in old collections. The AWR historic collection in Indianapolis contains two original QSL cards from the old VK2ME, both in color, with a laughing Kookaburra superimposed on an outline map of Australia, One card is dated 1932 and the other 1937.