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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 430, March 30, 2003

Fiji on Shortwave

Exotic Fiji, with its 333 islands!  A tourist haven for those who want to get away from it all. 

As the tourist brochure states:  Fiji is the place for a truly relaxing tropical get-a-way.  The swimmer can swim with the harmless manta ray, the surfer can surf the 20 foot high waves, the hiker can hike in the tropical rain forests, and you can seek accommodation in one of the outer resorts at the Octopus Hotel. 

In colonial days, Fiji was listed on the map as the "Cannibal Isles," and it is reported that many sailing ships avoided these islands during that era.  The BBC London reported recently in one of its news bulletins in the World Service on shortwave that Fiji is now marketing a new food product called "Cannibal Chutney." No, don't be concerned, this new product is quite harmless.  You see, the last cannibal ceremony in Fiji took place more than 100 years ago.

Just as exotic is the shortwave radio scene in Fiji.  Back in the year 1930, AWA in Sydney installed a shortwave transmitter in Fiji, rated at considerably less than 1 kw., for use as a communication station.  In fact, similar units were installed at three other locations in the Fiji Islands for inter-island communication.

The main station in Suva was given the callsign VPD which was in use at the time by a shortwave broadcasting station located at Doveritz near Berlin in Germany.  This communication station in Fiji was used at times to broadcast radio programming.  For example, in 1933 AWA in Sydney arranged a special worldwide program under the title "South Seas Broadcast." The AWA unit in Suva, station VPD, transmitted the Fijian segment on shortwave to station VK2ME in Sydney.

Regular broadcasting from VPD2 on shortwave began the following year, and a new transmitter was installed in 1936.  In fact, it was conjectured that test broadcasts on shortwave from the Sydney factory under the callsign VK2MD were from the new transmitter intended for installation in Fiji.  Another new transmitter was installed just prior to the European Conflict.

During the Pacific War, Fiji was noted on air under the callsign VPD4 with a relay of the BBC in French.  This service was on the air for about 18 months beginning mid-year 1940, using the old transmitter now running at about 400 watts.  Around the same time period, this station also carried a shortwave relay to Fiji and the Pacific on behalf of AFRS, the American Forces Radio Service.  Early in the year 1942, transmitter VPD was taken over by the army and navy for use as a telegraph transmitter.

When peace was restored to the Pacific, plans were laid for the construction of a new two story studio building in Suva, and a new transmitter base at Naulu, in a swampy area 25 miles from Suva.  These new facilities were officially opened in 1954.

For the new location, the new callsign on shortwave became ZJV, the same as on mediumwave, though a few months later the callsign was changed again, this time to VRH.  But alas, in August 1972, the shortwave service in Fiji was dropped in favor of coverage on mediumwave, and subsequently on FM.

Over the years, the radio service in Fiji has issued nine different QSL cards, some of which were also available in the earlier years from the AWA address in Sydney.  All of these cards are now considered to be quite exotic, and they form a very valuable overview of the history of radio broadcasting in Fiji.