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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 467, December 14, 2003

VLC - Another Recycled Callsign

Or maybe more accurately, from two lighthouses to two ships, with a detour in between.

The earliest known usage of the international callsign VLC can be traced back to the year 1913 at the time when the coastal radio station in the Chatham Islands was opened for maritime traffic and for contact with New Zealand.  There was a strong light on one of the antenna towers, and this was used as a beacon for ships traversing the coastal areas.

In 1929, the callsign of Chatham Radio was changed from VLC to ZLC, and the next usage of this recycled callsign was at the lighthouse on Tasman Island, out from Hobart off the coast of Tasmania. 
It was in 1941 that a 50 kw. RCA transmitter was installed at Shepparton in Victoria for use by "Australia Calling" in its international shortwave service, and it was allotted the callsign VLC.  These days, though, the Radio Australia usage of the call VLC is not for a transmitter, but rather it is the identification for a line feed from the studios in Melbourne to a 100 kw. transmitter at the same radio base in Shepparton.

It is very interesting to note that the Australian callsign VLC was incorporated into an American callsign for a radio broadcasting station built into a renovated old ship.  The American vessel ìApacheî was taken to Sydney Harbor in 1944, where two transmitters were installed, one for mediumwave and one for shortwave, and both at 10 kw.  This ship made its first broadcasts off the coast of the Philippine Islands on October 20, 1944 under the callsign WVLC.

There is a reason for this unusual, as it were, double callsign.   The American transmitter that was installed at Shepparton was made available to Australia on a "lendlease" basis, with the understanding that this unit, VLC, would relay "Voice of America" programming to the Philippines for one and a half hours each day.  Thus it was that "Australia Calling" acted as a part time relay station for the "Voice of America," specifically with the program "The Philippine Hour."

When the radio ship "Apache" was off the coast of the Philippines, the relay of this "Voice of America" radio program was transferred from VLC in Australia to the "Apache" under the American callsign WVLC. 

However, a few months later another radio ship from America, the "Spindle Eye," arrived in the western Pacific, and the WVLC callsign was transferred from the "Apache" to the "Spindle Eye."  A few months later again, the "Spindle Eye" returned to the California coast and the usage of the WVLC callsign was dropped. 

These days there are many known QSL cards identifying the VLC callsign as used by Radio Australia, and at least a dozen QSL letters confirming reception of WVLC on the "Apache" are known to exist.  However, there are no other known QSLs for the other usages of the recycled callsign VLC.

Just as a matter of interest, the Australian callsign VLC does not seem to be in use these days, and the American callsign WVLC is held by a 25 kw. FM station on 99.9 MHz in Louisville, Kentucky.

The Recent Geomagnetic Storm

The news media stated recently that the geomagnetic storm that hit planet Earth towards the end of October was the worst to hit our world since the year 1844. This cosmic event caused sizeable interruptions in many different countries to radio broadcasting, radio communication systems, satellite communications, and the delivery of high voltage electricity.

The geomagnetic storm emanated from the Sun as a result of solar flares of a gigantic magnitude. It is calculated that this cluster of solar radiations was many times larger than planet Earth, and that it took four days for this radiation mass to travel from the Sun to the Earth.

Power blackouts were noted in Sweden, and two communication satellites over Japan were destroyed. At one stage there was a major disruption to radio communications with aircraft, apparently mostly in the Northern Hemisphere. It was also stated that the impact of the geomagnetic storm produced a slowing down in the transfer of email messages and files on the internet.

Radio listeners in Europe and North America state that distant radio signals on the lower frequency bands, mediumwave and tropical shortwave, were not heard during the storm. In fact, as noted in Europe, all shortwave signals were gone for a period of several hours on one particular day.

However, one major prediction regarding this storm did not eventuate. It was announced in advance that sightings of the Northern and Southern Lights, the Aurora Borealis and Aurora Australis, would be seen widely, even down in Florida, it was stated. However, there were no sightings anywhere of auroral activity associated with this recent storm.

Interestingly, it is reported that there was a major geomagnetic storm of a similar magnitude back in the year 1859. Morse Code operators who were working the long telegraph lines in the United States at the time discovered that they could disconnect the battery power and send signals by using the power generated in the long telegraph lines by the geomagnetic storm from outer space.

The news media report that another geomagnetic storm of major magnitude hit planet Earth at the end of November, around the time of Thanksgiving. Even though the reports from different parts of the world have not yet been assembled, it is presumed that this more recent storm made a similar major impact as the storm a few weeks earlier.