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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 434, April 27, 2003

Local Radio in the Seychelles Islands

In our program last week we presented the story of FEBA Seychelles during its 35 years of broadcast history, from 1969 to the end of March this year. On this occasion here in Wavescan we present the story of the other radio and wireless stations in the Seychelles, including their local station on shortwave and mediumwave.

The first wireless facility in the Seychelles was established by the British navy in the era soon after the end of World War I. This station was on the air with navy communications under the callsign BZH.

Back nearly 50 years ago there were two other communication stations active in the Seychelles Islands. One was the Cable & Wireless station with the callsign ZCQ, and the other was a NASA tracking station with the callsign AFE.

We should also remember the BBC relay station, with its two Marconi transmitters at 250 kW and its six curtain antennas, which was opened on September 25, 1988. This BBC shortwave relay station is located on a tidal mangrove swamp on the western edge of Mahe.

The first local radio station in the Seychelles Islands was a shortwave operation using a low powered transmitter under the callsign ZCQ3. The first known reference to this station is found in two radio magazines of that era, suggesting that the station was launched around the middle of the year 1951.

The station was on the air with programming provided by the government Education Department and a transmitter provided by Cable & Wireless. The original channel was 5770 kHz, the power output was somewhere between 100 and 150 watts, and the station was on the air twice a week in English and French for an hour on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Sometime around the year 1956 the transmitter power was listed as 40 watts, and the operating channel was changed to 4990 kHz. A QSL letter to a listener in Cyprus shows that the programming was still prepared by the government Education Department, though we could guess that the transmitter in use was now an amateur transmitter. Shortwave station ZCQ3 was also heard in Africa, Asia, Australia and New Zealand at this low power rating.

The important move to mediumwave was made on July 20, 1965, just 15 years after the original launching of the shortwave service in 1951. The first mediumwave transmitter was a 500 watt unit on 1336 kHz, though this was upgraded to 1 kW a couple of years later.

These days, station ZCQ at Mahe in the Seychelles Islands is on the air with 10 kW on 1331 kHz and a small network of FM transmitters. A QSL card with a silhouette scene in black and white was issued in 1974 at the time when they increased power from 1 kW to 10 kW. This QSL card is still available, if ever you happen to hear this exotic local station located on a distant island.

Marconi's Birthday - The Story of the "Elettra"

The story of the brilliant wireless inventor Guglielmo Marconi is very well known. He was born on April 25, 1874 at the family villa near Bologna in northern Italy, and just last Friday was the 128th anniversary of his birth.

Marconi began his first wireless experiments on the top floor of the family home just 20 years later using very primitive homemade equipment. During the early part of the following year, he transferred his experiments outdoors and he succeeded in sending wireless signals over a distance of more than a mile, with an intervening hill in between.

He moved to England soon afterwards, and made many public demonstrations of his equipment. He then set up a factory at Chelmsford to make his wireless equipment.

Soon after the end of World War I, Marconi bought a luxury steam-powered yacht, the "Rovenska". This ship was built in Scotland in 1904 for Maria Theresa, of royal blood in Austria. This ship was never delivered to Austria, but instead it was confiscated by the British navy and used as a minesweeper during World War I.

Marconi had the "Rovenska" converted in England for use as a floating wireless laboratory which he renamed "Elettra", the Italian word for "Electricity". In June 1920 the "Elettra" made a shakedown cruise in European waters. At this stage, test broadcasts on shortwave were made under the callsign ICCM using gramophone records while the ship was in the Bay of Biscay off the coast of Portugal.

In fact, on many notable occasions, radio broadcasts on shortwave were made from the "Elettra", including for example, the following:

The grand Marchessa Marconi died on July 20, 1937, and soon afterwards his ship the "Elettra" was sold. In 1943, while at port in Trieste, it was requisitioned by the German armed forces, and it was torpedoed and sunk the next year by a British submarine off the Yugoslavian coast of Dalmatia.

However, this historic old radio vessel was raised from its rest at the bottom of the ocean in 1962 and donated to the Italian government. Unfortunately, through lack of interest and lack of funds, the "Rovenska Elettra" fell into disrepair and it was eventually scrapped.

And that is the end of the story of Marconi's birthday boat, the "Elettra". I wonder if there is somewhere out there in the world an old QSL card issued from the "Elettra" and signed by Marconi himself?