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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 426, February 23, 2003

Test transmissions from a temporary site:  Radio Australia Gnangara

Without prior notice, quite suddenly and unexpectedly, test broadcasts on behalf of Radio Australia were heard from a new location early in the year 1975.  This is what happened.

In an endeavor to gain improved coverage into Asia, a beautiful new transmitter base was constructed for Radio Australia on Cox Peninsula, across the bay from Darwin in the Northern Territory.  Three transmitters at 250 kw were installed and five log periodic antennas.

Test broadcasts from this new facility began in December 1968, and regular programming with all three transmitters in use began in March 1970.  These three transmitters were given feed-line callsigns, VLK, VLL and VLM.

However, on Christmas Eve 1974, the worst cyclone in Australian history struck Darwin, destroying 80% of the city, though fortunately the death toll was quite low considering the circumstances.  The large modern transmitter station near Darwin was seriously damaged by Cyclone Tracy and it was evident that it would be off the air for a long period of time.

A temporary new station was urgently needed and site investigations in Western Australia ultimately led to the quick installation for a new facility located near Carnarvon on the central coast.  Preliminary test transmissions to assess the feasibility of the projected new station were conducted from another location, Gnangara, just north of the state capital Perth.

The Gnangara facility was previously in use as an OTC station which had been erected for the purpose of shortwave communication with a satellite tracking station on the island of Mauritius.  There were three transmitters at 7.5 kw and several rhombic antennas at Gnangara.

Thus it was that unexpected test transmissions were noted from Gnangara, using two of the low powered communication transmitters in parallel, feeding into directional rhombic antennas.  The program tapes were prepared in the Melbourne studios of Radio Australia and consisted of the familiar melody, ìWaltzing Matilda,î long segments of recorded music, and test announcements in English.

These test broadcats commenced on February 25, 1975 and concluded two weeks later on March 10.  The schedule shows that seven different channels were in use during these two weeks of test broadcasts, ranging from the 31 metre band up to the 16 metre band.  They were beamed towards Indonesia, South Africa and England.

This short series of test transmissions from Gnangara was considered to be a success, and they demonstrated that signal propagation into the desired target areas would be adequate from Western Australia.  Government approval was therefore granted for the erection of a new though temporary shortwave station at Carnarvon, further north in Western Australia.

A few QSL cards were issued by Radio Australia for these test broadcasts, though they must be quite rare these days.  It was just 28 years ago next Tuesday that these test broadcasts from Gnangara on behalf of Radio Australia were suddenly and unexpectedly heard on the shortwave bands.

This Week in Radio History - Radio Tonga A3Z, "The Call of the Friendly Isles"

It was just before sunrise on a pleasant cool morning back in the year 1974. I was standing out in the open near the "long house", a local tourist attraction, at the airport at Pago Pago in American Samoa. I tuned my portable radio across the almost empty mediumwave band and just happened to hear the sign-on routine from Radio Tonga.

A subsequent reception report produced an exotic and highly prized QSL card from station A3Z, complete with a banana shaped postage stamp, picturing, of course, a banana. They also sent a descriptive sheet giving the history of Radio Tonga, and we quote from their document.

The Kingdom of Tonga is composed of over 150 islands, the largest of which is Tongatapu with approximately 100 square miles. The islands are scattered over 400 miles of sea in the tropical belt south of the equator.

There are around 100,000 people in the kingdom, with the majority living on the main island. Over 20,000 people live in Nuku'alofa, the capital city of Tonga. There are three main groups of islands in Tonga, and these are located in the north, the center and the south. Tonga is an independent kingdom, with a constitutional monarchy established in 1862 by King Tupou 1.

Radio Tonga came into existence on July 4, 1961, when a new mediumwave station was inaugurated with 10 kW on 1020 kHz. At this stage the new broadcasting service was a department of the Tongan government.

Fourteen years later, Radio Tonga became an independent statutory organization. The studios and transmitters for Radio Tonga are located in the capital city.

To the surprise and delight of the international radio world, a new shortwave service was launched in Tonga beginning on February 28, 1989. A new 1 kW transmitter was now on the air with a relay from the mediumwave service using a frequency in the 60 metre band, 5030 kHz. This new broadcast service on tropical shortwave was intended for coverage of the scattered populations on the outer islands.

However, four months later, a fault developed in the transmitter and from that time onwards, Radio Tonga, A3Z, was heard on shortwave only spasmodically. A new final tube was obtained from France and the transmitter was moved to a new location, but it was never again on the air for any lengthy period of time.

The final end of the shortwave service from Tonga came when a storm demolished the antenna on February 16, 1993. At this stage, Radio New Zealand International provided a brief relay service from Radio Tonga, and beamed the programming back to the "Friendly Isles" of Tonga.

QSL cards from station A3Z on shortwave are now a historic rarity. Thus it was that Radio Tonga made its first broadcast on shortwave just 14 years ago next Friday.