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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 457, October 5, 2003

Emergency Relay - Radio New Zealand International via Radio Australia

A surprise item of information came from the noted North American DXer John Figliozzi, stating that Radio New Zealand International is taking out a special relay from the shortwave service of Radio Australia.  We decided to look into this matter and find out about the historic background of radio relays across the Tasman, and this is what we discovered.

In actual fact, there have been four major eras since the beginning of radio broadcasting in the South Pacific during which radio programming in New Zealand has been relayed specifically for rebroadcast in Australia--two eras on mediumwave and two on shortwave.  The first of these eras was in the 1920s and 1930s, and in those days the program relay across the 1,000 miles of the Tasman Sea was carried on mediumwave.  
Some time in the late 1920s, an Australian singer on location in New Zealand sang a patriotic song on local radio in New Zealand, and this program was picked up in Eastern Australia and relayed locally on mediumwave. 

Then, in 1930, the famous American explorer Admiral Richard Byrd called in to the southern city of Dunedin on his way back from the South Pole.  He made a radio broadcast by telephone from Dunedin, and this was carried live by the new 5 kw. mediumwave station 2YA in Wellington.  This programming was relayed on shortwave by the Australian station VK2ME for the benefit of listeners in the United States, who heard the event on relay over their local network station.  

In 1931 there was a disastrous earthquake that destroyed much of Napier in the North Island.  News reports from the scene were assembled by the government radio network and carried nationwide on mediumwave.  The shortwave communication station ZLW near Wellington also carried this same programming on shortwave, and this was relayed again by VK2ME for local relay throughout Australia.  Similarly, the New Zealand segment of the famous South Seas Broadcast of 1933 was transmitted by Wellington Radio and relayed worldwide by VK2ME.     

For a short period of time in 1940 the new government shortwave service, ìAustralia Calling,î carried a bulletin of New Zealand news for New Zealand soldiers on duty in North Africa.  These broadcasts were carried by VLQ near Sydney and by VLW near Perth in Western Australia.

For a couple of years beginning in 1950, the 100 kw. Shepparton transmitter VLB provided a daily bulletin of news from New Zealand for the benefit of their soldiers stationed in Japan.

On this current occasion, the feeder line from the 100 kw. Thomson-Thales transmitter of Radio New Zealand International at Rangitaiki in the centre of the North Island failed.  This problem occurred at 0505 UTC on Saturday, August 30, during their scheduled transmission on 17675 kHz.

While parts are awaited from the manufacturer in Europe, RNZI took out a relay over a 100 kw. unit at Radio Australia Shepparton, beginning on September 8.  This broadcast of the ìPacific Breakfast Showî is on the air daily from around 1700 UTC on 9580 kHz.  It is presumed that Radio Australia receives the programming from New Zealand either by satellite or the internet. 

It is expected that the RNZI transmitter will return to the air some time during the early part of this new month, October.  Those who can hear this emergency relay should endeavor to obtain QSL cards from both Radio Australia and Radio New Zealand International while this unusual opportunity is still available.

The Dark Day

In recent time, there have been three major outages of electricity in three different countries. The first of these "Dark Days" was in North America, followed two weeks later by a similar outage in London, and this was followed again by another nationwide outage throughout Italy, just last week.

We have entitled this feature in "Wavescan" as the "Dark Day". The original "Dark Day" occurred in the eastern areas of North America way back in the year 1780, though, of course, in those days there was no electricity.

The recent "Dark Day" in North America affected large areas in the United States and Canada, reaching from New York City across as far as Ohio, and up into Canada as far as Toronto in Ontario. The noted DXer William Matthews states that his area in Columbus Ohio was not affected, though the blacked-out area reached as close as Marion, some 55 miles distant. This North American blackout began on August 14 and lasted for several days, with a varying return to power in different areas.

In New York City most of the radio stations were without power, and they simply left the air unannounced. Among the few stations that remained on air was the 50 kW mediumwave WOR. The trade journal "Radio World" states that the emergency generator at the transmitter site kicked in just 20 seconds after the power went off. The WOR studios are located on the 23rd floor of the Times Square building in New York, and emergency power in the building kept the station on the air, though staff had to negotiate 23 levels of stairway.

The FM station WCBS returned to the air quickly with a standby generator located atop the transmitter building, and, at one stage, the on-air announcer ran his programming from a makeshift studio installed in his suburban home. Several of the other FM stations in New York also lost power, and they went on air with a relay of the audio channel from the TV station, WNBC channel 4.

The Wavescan reporter in Indiana, Dr. Floyd Layer, states that he heard several of the mediumwave stations in the power-affected areas. Station WCBS, with 50 kW on 880 kHz, carried emergency programming, apparently with the use of emergency power for their studios, though their transmitter on Long Island was not affected by the power outage.

Station WJR 860 kHz in Detroit was on the air with emergency power, as were also WTAM 1100 kHz in Cleveland and CFRB 1010 kHz in Toronto. Floyd states that he also heard KYW 1060 kHz in Philadelphia and WBZ 1030 kHz in Boston, though he was not aware as to whether these two stations were also working under emergency power.