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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 411, Sunday November 10, 2002
Radio Broadcasting from Ships - Radio ZMBJ on the "Awatea""(The Eye of the Dawn), in New Zealand Waters
and Mystery of Irish Radio History - 2nd Shortwave Era

The Awatea Story

Back in the days before World War II, there were two ships in Australasian waters that were quite famous in the international radio scene.  One was the"Kanimbla" with its radio station VK9MI, and that was the story in Wavescan on a previous occasion.  The other ship was the"Awatea" that plied across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.  That is the story for today.

The MV"Awatea," meaning"Eye of the Dawn" in the Maori language, was a little larger then the"Kanimbla" and was rated with a displacement of 14,000 tons.  It was built by Vickers Armstrong at Barrow in northern England and it was launched in February 1936, just two months after the launching of the"Kanimbla."  The electronic equipment on board the"Awatea" was also made by AWA in Australia and it was installed in the ship at the time of construction. 

The transmitters on board the"Awatea" were licensed by the New Zealand authorities as ZMBJ, and for long distance communication it operated with 400 watts on 8840 kHz.  However, there was no radio studio on this ship, and when the station was on the air with program broadcasting, the communication equipment was diverted for this purpose.

In September 1936, the Prime Mimister of Australia, Mr. Joseph Lyons, was travelling on this ship and he made a broadcast to Australia from the shortwave transmitter ZMBJ.  This broadcast was relayed Australia-wide on the ABC network by the mediumwave station 3LO in Melbourne.  Around this era, occasional broadcasts using recordings of popular music were heard in both Australia and New Zealand.

As time went by, this ship made fewer radio broadcasts, until towards the end it was noted only in communication traffic with the maritime stations VIS in Sydney and ZLW in Wellington.  However, generic QSL cards were issued for both the program broadcasts as well as for the communication traffic.

At the outbreak of war, both the"Awatea" and the"Kanimbla" underwent the same fate.  Program broadcasting from both ships was silenced, and both ships were drafted into war service as troop carriers.  In 1942, while on active duty in the Mediterranean, the"Awatea" was attacked and sunk, thus ending the illustrious life story of a very interesting radio broadcasting ship from"down under."

Occasionally it is possible to come across an original QSL card from ZMBJ on the"Awatea," and sometimes you will see a reproduction of this exotic QSL card in a radio magazine.  The AWR collection contains just one copy, and Dr. Martin van der Ven in Germany also has a copy.  You can find his web site on ship broadcasting at www.offshore-radio.de

Mystery of Irish Radio History - 2nd Shortwave Era

This is now the fifth episode in our search for information on the radio scene in Ireland, and this time we take a look at the shortwave scene under the title, "The Second Shortwave Era." 

As mentioned in previous editions of Wavescan, a small 1.5 kw shortwave transmitter was installed with the high powered medumwave transmitter near Athlone in Ireland.  This unit began test transmissions in the early part of the year 1939, and it was on the air intermittently until it was closed three years later at the end of the year 1941 due to war time exigencies.

Three years later, again this transmitter was re-activated as an interim shortwave service pending the installation and activation of a large 100 kw unit, also co-sited with the other units at the transmitter site near Athlone.  Again, this low powered transmitter was on the air somewhat intermittently with a program relay from the mediumwave service, usually a short broadcast consisting of a news bulletin and information about local events. 

This radio programming from Ireland was heard on occasions in various countries of Europe, in North America, and in the South Pacific.  On one occasion a soldier on duty on an island in the western Pacific happened to tune in to this exotic little shortwave station on the other side of the globe.  That was in the year 1945.

After nine years of on-air service during this second spate of activity, making twelve years altogether, this little transmitter was finally switched off for the last time, sometime during the year 1953.  The Irish government decided to divert funding originally intended for the shortwave service into other projects within Ireland itself.

Now, at the same time as the low power unit was in service on an interim basis, a large 100 kw unit was under installation at the same location.  Installation began in 1948 and on air test trasnmissions were conducted in 1953. 

At this stage, due to uncertainty regarding the future, the transmitter was simply warmed up weekly, just to keep it serviceable.  However, this unit was also switched off for the last time at the end of the same year, 1953.

During both the frst era and the second era of the low power unit, QSL letters were isssued to listeners in Europe, the United States and the South Pacific.  At least one listener claims that he heard the large 100 kw unit and he received a QSL letter in acknowledgement.  This historic QSL letter is now lodged in the Hocken Library in Dunedin, New Zealand, as part of the QSL collection of the New Zealand Radio DX League.