"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 492, June 6, 2004
Kiribati Returns to the Air Shortwave
Several email radio bulletins recently have highlighted the fact that there is a distinct possibility that R. Kiribati in the exotic Pacific will again be heard on the shortwave bands, apparently with the intent to return to their former channel 9825 kHz. This information sparked our interest in looking at the shortwave scene in Kiribati, and this what we found.
The small independent nation of Kiribati is located in the South Pacific half way between Hawaii and Australia. This small country of less than 300 square miles, a little more than 800 square km, is made up of islands that were known under other names in earlier times. Kiribati today with its 33 main islands is made up of the following islands and island groups:
- 16 islands
Phoenix Islands - 8 including Canton Island
Line Islands - 8 including Christmas Island and Fanning Island
Ocean Island - 1
The total poulation of Kiribati is a little more than 100,000 and the capital city is Tarawa with 65,000 people. The city of Tarawa is itself a coral atoll made up of several small coral islands. The commercial centre is on Betio; the government offices are on Bairiki; and the international airport is on Bonriki, all as part of the capital city Tarawa.
The original settlers in Kiribati were the Austronesians, and in the 1400s the Samoans invaded the islands, followed by the Spanish, then the British, and then the Japanese. These islands became independent on July 12, 1979. The Australian dollar is their national currency; and English is the official language, though Gilbertese or Kiribati is spoken locally.
The local government moved the International Date Line way out east a few years ago so that they could become the first country in the world to welcome in the new millenium on January 1, 2000. Along with Tuvalu and other low lying Pacific islands, the very existence of Kiribati is threatened by the rise of ocean levels due to global warming.
Back in the wireless era, four stations were established in what is now Kiribati for inter-island and maritime communication. These stations were VQK on Ocean Island, VQM and VSZ on Tarawa Atoll, and VQN on Fanning Island.
Then, during the Pacific War, three mediumwave stations were established in the territories of Kiribati for the benefit of American forces. These stations were WXLH on Makin Atoll, WXLF Tarawa, and WVUU Christmas Island. British Forces also operated a station on Christmas Island nearly 20 years later.
The first attempt at local broadcasting in Kiribati occurred in 1952 when a small scale sporadic radio service went on the air, apparently as an amateur operation. Two years later, a regular though still quite small radio service was established in the home of the engineer, and it was noted in Australia and New Zealand on the shortwave channel 6050 kHz.
A small radio station was built one year later, in 1955, and this facility housed two transmitters, 500 watts on shortwave and 30 watts on mediumwave 844 kHz. A large new mediumwave station was built on Bairiki Island in 1970 and a 10 kw mediumwave transmitter was installed, and this unit has been on the air ever since.
On shortwave, many different transmitters, broadcast and communication, at several different locations have carried a program relay during the past half century. These units have been on the air under three different callsigns, VSZ, VTW and T3K1.
The most exotic of all of these radio services in Kiribati was the shortwave relay to the mediumwave station on Christmas Island. This service was first noted in 1980 and it was in use for a couple of years until a transmitter malfunction rendered the Christmas Island station inoperable. This shortwave service served a double purpose, as a program relay and for direct reception in distant islands. The power output for this relay service was always quite low, and it varied according to which transmitter was in use.
The latest news tells us that Kiribati may be reviving their shortwave service on 9825 kHz for direct reception in the outer islands. Perhaps we will have the opportunity of hearing once again their exotic sign on signal, the turbulent waves of the restless ocean crashing onto the seashore of a distant Pacific Island.