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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 415, December 8, 2002
An Island for a Radio Station

The island of Masirah is a picturesque though quite barren island, just 15 miles off the coast of Oman on the south-eastern tip of the Arabian peninsula. The island was named "Masirah" by Admiral Nearchos, who was a fleet leader with the armies of Alexander the Great.

The island itself is pear-shaped, just 40 miles long and 10 miles wide, with the narrowest point just five miles wide. The island is sandy and barren, though there are scenes of beauty inland. There is an abundance of wildllfe on Masirah, with unique turtles and tortoises and birds, and also a spectacular coral reef just offshore.

The island was uninhabited right throughout history until military installations were constructed less than 100 years ago. At its full potential, there can be a population as high as 30,000 personnel on the island. 

This unusual island, which is little more than a military staging facility, was bought from the government of Oman by the British government specifically so that the BBC could establish a large international radio station on it.

In earlier times the BBC had established mediumwave stations on Perim Island Aden, and at Berbera in Somalia. However, both of these stations were closed due to changing political circumstances in the area.

There was need for a large BBC station to cover the Gulf region, and so work began on the construction of a two transmitter facility on the island of Masirah. The first transmitter was placed into regular service on June 1, 1969, and the second unit became operational a few months later, early in the following year 1970.

These two transmitters, each rated at 750 kw, radiated BBC programming in English, Arabic and other regional languages on two widely separated mediumwave channels, 700 and 1410 kHz, with at times slight variations. At one stage, test broadcasts were also radiated on 1320 kHz.

On June 13, 1977, a hurricane swept through the area, lasting four days and damaging at the BBC station, mainly the antenna systems and buildings. It took six months to reactivate the 700 kHz transmitter, and another year again to reactivate the 1410 kHz transmitter. During the interim period, additional shortwave transmissions were beamed into the coverage areas from BBC facilities at other sites.
However, at the time when the devastating hurricane struck the area, work had already commenced on a large new shortwave station some five miles distant. A total of four transmitters at 100 kw were installed at this facility, the first of which was inaugurated in September 1978. The additional units were progressively phased into service, and the station became fully operational early in the year 1979. The shortwave station was operated under remote control from the mediumwave station.

Initially, programming was provided to the BBC Masirah on large tapes sent out by ship and by plane, and by off-air relays from the BBC station located on another island, Cyprus, in the Mediterranean. The BBC receiver station on Masirah was located at an electrically quiet area some distance from both the mediumwave and shortwave transmitting stations. A program feed by satellite from London was implemented in 1981.

In more recent time, a replacement radio station, both mediumwave and shortwave, has been constructed in Oman on the mainland, and the transfer of programming from the old station on Masirah Island to the new station on the mainland began in August earlier this year. According to an E-mail news item from Wolfgang Bueschel in Germany, the final broadcast from the BBC Masirah was concluded at 21:59 UTC on October 7. The last transmitter was on the air on 6030 kHz for its final broadcast.   

The loud voice of the BBC Masirah is now silent, the station is off the air. It has been replaced by the new station on the Omani mainland. Masirah will be remembered by millions of listeners in the Gulf areas, and by multitudes of DXers around the world, some of whom are fortunate enough to hold QSL cards and letters from this now silent radio station.

In our program next week, we will present the story of the big new BBC station located on the Omani mainland.