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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 468, December 21, 2003

Christmas Anniversary for ABC Sydney on Shortwave - VLI

In the Christmas edition of Wavescan each year, it is our custom to choose a Christmas radio station and tell its story.  This year we choose another shortwave station that was inaugurated during the Christmas season many years ago, and the choice falls upon the now silent Home Service shortwave station that was on the air in Sydney, Australia.  

It was on December 22, 1948 that a small 2 kw. shortwave transmitter was officially inaugurated at Liverpool in New South Wales under the Australian callsign VLI.  A few days earlier, local radio listeners noted test broadcasts from the new transmitter on several different channels in the international shortwave bands.

The large ABC radio station located at Liverpool on the southern edge of the city of Sydney was established in the year 1938 for mediumwave coverage of Australiaís largest metropolis.  The two main transmitters carry the national and state service for the ABC, and these have been on the air under the callsigns 2BL and 2FC. 

A few years ago, the historic callsign 2FC was relinquished and the national programming for the Sydney area is now on the air under the generic callsigh 2RN.  Two other mediumwave callsigns have been in use at Liverpool: 2JJ, which is now identified as Triple J on FM, and 2PB, which carries parliamentary broadcasts and news relays.

The new shortwave unit was implemented for coverage of coastal areas north and south of Sydney where mediumwave coverage was poor at the time.  Initially, two channels were in use and these were scheduled as follows:  VLI2, 6090 kHz, morning and evening, and VLI3, 9500 kHz., daytime                     

However, on June 1, 1951 the numeric designators were changed and VLI2 became VLI6 and VLI3 became VLI9.  Two years later again, the 9 MHz channel was dropped and the transmitter was on the air full time on just one channel, 6090 kHz.

Quite suddenly and unexpectedly, at 1402 UTC on October 7, 1983, the VLI transmitter malfunctioned and left the air abruptly.  The official cause was stated to be the failure of the main transmitting tube. 

The small transmitter was soon afterwards removed from its location against one of the big 50 kw. mediumwave transmitters, and all of the wooden poles, all painted white, that carried the feeder line to the rhombic antenna system were also removed.

During its 35 year history, station VLI carried a composite relay from both 2BL and 2FC, and its signal was heard quite reliably well beyond the coastal areas.  Many QSL cards were issued to confirm the reception of VLI, and they were always the regular ABC QSL cards that were in use at the time.   

Just as a matter of interest, the callsign VLI was in use back in the year 1919 for the New Zealand ship "Aorangi."  Then in January 1943, the VLQ transmitter at Pennant Hills that was on the air with the programming of "Australia Calling" was re-designated as VLI. 

Two years later, Radio Australia dropped the usage of the station at Pennant Hills, and the callsign VLI was deleted.  However, three years later again the call was taken up for the 2 kw. transmitter located at Liverpool.

And that is the story of the Christmas station VLI that was inaugurated on December 22, 1948, just 55 years ago.

California Fires - The Radio Scene

The California wildfires during the months of October and November are described as the worst ever in the history of that state. More than one million acres were burned, destroying 3,600 houses and resulting in the death of more than 20 people. Mandatory evacuation from danger areas produced un-numbered thousands of refugees, and, for example, 1,000 refugees were housed temporarily at the San Bernardino airport in the TWA hangar.

Quite obviously, electronic communication played a very important role in all of the fire related events. On the local scene, all of the radio and TV stations carried emergency information, and the national networks also focused major attention on these events. More than 200 amateur radio operators went on the air with their radio equipment to assist with emergency communications.

Some of the fire trucks are equipped with slow scan TV, and they relayed fire pictures back to local control centers. Many helicopters flying over the areas provided live radio and TV coverage of what was happening on the ground for local, national and international coverage. One computer buff opened a website under the name rimoftheworld.net to convey fire information for evacuated families, and this website received half a million hits each day.

Statewide, California Public Radio carried network fire information, and in the San Diego area two stations carrying major fire information were the AM and FM stations KFMB and KOGO. Several radio stations were completely destroyed in the disastrous fires, while others lost part of their facilities and were unable to remain on air. In such cases, wide area stations such as KNX, 50 kW on 1070 kHz in Los Angeles, took over the role and provided local as well as wide area information.

One of the radio stations that was destroyed was KSGN at Riverside on 89.7 MHz FM. This station is owned by a Seventh-day Adventist unit, and it is also associated with the shortwave Gospel station HCJB in Quito, Ecuador. The transmitter building was destroyed, and the fire was so intense that it vaporized an aluminum ladder.

The station returned to the air with emergency equipment and aided in the relief efforts conducted from the several major medical and educational institutions operated by the Adventist church in the area. It is estimated that there are more than 100,000 Adventist church members in the fire-ravaged areas.

The well-known radio station KFBK in Sacramento, with 50 kW on 1530 kHz, conducted an on-air fund raising campaign and succeeded in raising $100,000 for the benefit of fire victims.