Thursday, March 17, 2011

Another Middle East Trouble Spot - Yemen, Part 1

The Story of Radio Broadcasting in the Land of the Queen of Sheba
The Middle Eastern country of Yemen is another one of the countries that has shared in the recent unrest that has moved through the Middle East and North Africa almost like a turbulent epidemic. The news on television has shown the mass events that took place in Tunisia, and more recently of course, the similar and greatly enlarged events in nearby Egypt, particularly in their capital city Cairo, as well as in Libya.
According to various news sources, thousands of Yemeni citizens took to the streets in January in the wake of these similar events in the two North African countries, Tunisia & Egypt. However, the news media state that in Yemen, the mass public demonstrations have been mostly peaceful and orderly, though the demands are the same; changes in national leadership where corruption and mismanagement are evident, and attention to the needs of citizenry regarding employment, income and local freedoms.
Yemen is described in the encyclopedia as one of the oldest countries in the world, and at the same time, one of the poorest. Yemen is made up these days of two states, each with its own capital city, Sana & Aden, and there was a time when they were separate countries. The combined country is about 750 miles long and nearly 300 miles wide, with a population of a little over 20 million.
Going way back in history, it is stated that Hamitic and then Semitic peoples moved into the area around 4,000 years ago, and the locality became an important trading route between Africa, the Middle East, Europe & Asia. Great Britain seized Aden in 1839 after the local people robbed a wrecked British ship, and they gradually expanded their influence and took over the whole area.
Independence from England was gained in 1967, and during subsequent fighting in the areas, there were two Yemens, Aden & Sana, in some form of separation. On May 22, 1990, the two Yemens were united into one country.
The encyclopedia states that the Biblical Queen of Sheba ruled the Yemeni peoples during the 900s BC, and that she visited King Solomon in Palestine around the year 950 BC. Local history tells us that the Queen of Sheba was a new queen at the time, in her mid teens, and that her name was Bilqis. Her capital city was Marib, in which important archeological excavations have been conducted in recent years.
In our radio story, we go first to Southern Yemen, or Aden as it was known for so long, and here we discover that way back, there was a very early cable station located in this small British colony. This underwater cable system connected Europe with the Middle East, Asia and the South Pacific.
This submarine cable was laid by the Eastern Telegraph Company and it was opened for communication service in 1879. In 1936, the communication company known as Cable & Wireless, C&W, took over the control of the cable station in Aden.
In the meantime, the Marconi company in England established a spark wireless station in Aden during the year 1915. This station formed part of the Marconi international network known as the Imperial Wireless Scheme and it was established for onward communication between England and Asia and the South Pacific.
In 1940, a small radio broadcasting station was established in Ra’s Bradley, a suburban area of Aden and it was on the air as required spasmodically, with short broadcasts containing war news, important local announcements and emergency information. This station was closed in 1945.
Another very small station was installed in Aden by AFRS, the American Armed Forces Radio Service. This station was located inside an American army base, it emitted just 5 watts as a carrier current operation, it radiated on 1040 kHz, and it was on the air under the callsign WADN. The initial letter W indicated its American ownership; and the three subsequent letters, ADN, almost spelled out its location, as Aden. Station WADN was closed in August 1945.
Next on the scene was an informal amateur broadcasting station established with improvised equipment by volunteers at the Royal Air Force RAF base at nearby Khormaksar. This station was inaugurated in 1954 with 250 watts on 1236 kHz.
However, two years later, another Royal Air Force radio station was established at almost the same location and it was operated officially as a unit of BFBS, the British Forces Broadcasting Service. Interestingly, both stations on the air force base, were on the air simultaneously, some times in competition, and occasionally in co-operation.
The new BFBS station began with just 300 watts on 1025 kHz, though a little more than half a dozen years later, a tangible new facility was constructed at Steamer Point, a new 10 kW transmitter was installed, and the frequency was changed to 1241 kHz. When this substantial station was closed in 1967, much of the equipment and some of the personnel were transferred to the smaller and still rather unofficial radio station at the same air force base.
During two different time periods, the shortwave station in Aden operated by Cable & Wireless, C&W, was in use spasmodically for the broadcast of radio programming. In January 1941, station ZNR was heard in both Australia & New Zealand with the broadcast of radio programming on 12115 kHz. The actual callsign in use was ZNR2, and the power output was just 250 watts. QSL letters were issued in confirmation of this shortwave programming that was noted for a few months around early 1941.
Then again, ten years later in the early 1950s, similar occasional broadcasts were noted from station ZNR, on the same channel 12115 kHz, but now with an increased power output of 2 kW. During this era, these broadcasts were noted on air for around a year or two
More on Yemen here in Wavescan, next week!
(AWR/Wavescan NWS # 107 via Adrian Peterson)