Thursday, May 15, 2014

Radio Broadcast in the islands of Antarctica

Several weeks ago, we presented a feature item here in Wavescan under the title Australian Radio History.  This was a review of the very readable and very interesting book by Dr. Bruce Carty, with the double title, On the Air: Australian Radio History.
            One of the most interesting items in this almost one hundred page large format book provides a glimpse into an aspect of radio history that was completely new to us.  Dr. Carty presents the outline story of six radio broadcasting stations in Antarctica that we had never heard about before. 
            These stations, some on mediumwave and some on FM, and all quite small, have been located on islands in the Antarctic, and also on what is understood to be mainland Antarctica.  This is what Dr. Carty reveals about these stations, all of which have been installed on Australian territories in Antarctica.  
            Back in the year 1948, a 20 watt mediumwave transmitter was inaugurated on Heard Island under the callsign OHI.  The international prefix for amateur radio operators in these territories is the letter O, and the HI in this callsign OHI stands rather obviously for Heard Island. 
            This lonely radio broadcasting station took an off air relay from the mediumwave station 2NZ which is located four thousand miles away at Inverell in the state of New South Wales on mainland Australia.  When propagation was poor and the signal from station 2NZ could not be received satisfactorily, then the relay station OHI on Heard Island remained off the air. 
            In 1954, the Australian Antarctic base on Heard Island was closed and transferred a thousand miles further south to Mawson Base on mainland Antarctica.  At this same time, radio station OHI on Heard Island was closed and much of the equipment was also transferred to Mawson where it was reactivated under a new callsign, OMA, with the letters MA standing for Mawson.
            Ten years later at Mawson Base, an old radio transceiver originally in use in a taxi in Australia was converted for use as a mediumwave broadcast station and programming was received on shortwave from the BBC London and the ABC in Australia and relayed live to local personnel at Mawson.  Currently, station OMA is on the air on FM, where it identifies as Radio Blizzard.
            In 1957, the American navy established their Antarctic operations at Wilkes Base, on mainland Antarctica.  Two years later, this facility became a joint operation with Australian participation.  Then, two years later again, an Australian who was previously station engineer at commercial station 3UZ in Melbourne, Australia, constructed a 5 watt mediumwave transmitter tuned to 1573 kHz.  
            This radio broadcasting station, with the rather appropriate callsign KOLD, was on the air during the day with pre-recorded tapes from a local mediumwave station in the United States, WLEE.  During the evening, volunteers acted as disc jockeys with live programming.  In 1966, another engineer constructed a larger mediumwave transmitter; though two years later the jointly operated base at Wilkes was closed and the radio equipment was transferred to the Australian base at Casey, a mile or so distant.
            That transfer was in 1968, and the KOLD transmitter from Wilkes Base was installed in the chapel at Casey Base, where the callsign was changed to OCY, with the letters CY standing for Casey.  When reception was good, station OCY relayed live the programing from Australian mediumwave stations in coastal areas, including 3UZ and 3XY in Melbourne, 5AN in Adelaide, and 6KG inland at Kalgoorlie in Western Australia.  These days station OCY is on the air on FM 102.5 under the slogan callsign COLD.
            Another radio station on an Antarctic island was OMI, Macquarie Island.  This little radio station used a CD player for providing music programming for local temporary residents.
            Then at Davis Base on mainland Antarctica, there was a station with the callsign ODA.  These days it identifies as ICY.
            And thats the story of six little mediumwave and FM stations operating on Antarctic islands and on the Antarctic mainland, all of which were unknown to us beforehand.  The only place you can read about all of these intriguing little radio broadcasting stations is in the recent book published by Dr. Bruce Carty, Australian Radio History.  You can read lots of other very interesting information in his book, and you can make contact with him at  We might add, that Dr. Carty requests any additional information that anyone might have about these unique little radio stations in the Australian Antarctic Territories.

 (AWR/Wavescan/NWS 272 via Adrian Peterson)