Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A Voice Across the Atlantic - RCA & AT &T Rocky Point

Some time back, you will remember, we presented the story here in Wavescan, of the great wireless station that was located at Rocky Point on Long Island, New York. At the time, it surely was the world’s largest wireless station, and if it had been built to its intended potential, then it would have become a a majestic electronic wonder. This radio station was also in use at times for the relay of programming on behalf of the Voice of America.
It is not so well known however, that RCA Rocky Point was also in co-operation with another wireless organization, AT&T, for communication across the Atlantic. This is what happened.
Back during the year 1922, AT&T began experimenting with an attempt to bridge the Atlantic Ocean with a wireless signal. These experiments were underway at the early AT&T facility located at Deal Beach in New Jersey and the test communications were conducted on longwave channels. These wireless tests with a comparatively low powered transmitter were quite successful and it was demonstrated that a reliable communication service could be established between the United States and England.
The project was then moved from the AT&T facility at Deal Beach New Jersey to RCA Rocky Point on Long Island. AT&T rented from RCA the space for the longwave transmitter and the associated antenna systems. A huge 200 kW Alexanderson alternator was installed at Rocky Point and test transmissions in Morse Code commenced in March 1926.
A little less than a year later, on January 27, 1927, the new trans-Atlantic communication service was opened from Rocky Point under the callsign WNL using the longwave channels 56.5 & 58.5 kHz. The receiver station in Great Britain was located at Cupar in Scotland, and the return service to North America was rendered by transmitter GBR, the huge Post office station located at Rugby.
Surprisingly, this longwave communication service between the United States and England was in use for nearly half a century and it was not closed down until the year 1970.
The receiver station for AT&T Rocky Point was located at Houlton in Maine, quite close to the Canadian border in New Brunswick, and in more recent time this location was in use by AT&T as a Telstar satellite receiver station.
Thus, the American terminal for the first trans-Atlantic communication service was indeed located at Rocky Point Long Island, but it was an AT&T unit located in an RCA facility.
(AWR Wavescan/ NWS95 via Adrian Peterson)