Wednesday, August 05, 2015

The Radio Scene on the Happy Hula Island - Part 2

The Radio Story on the island of Molokai in the Hawaiian Islands

 In this our second topic regarding the radio scene on the Hawaiian island of Molokai out there in the central Pacific, we pick up these interesting historic events with the story of the only mediumwave broadcasting station ever erected on the island.  It all began this way.
            Back in the year 1953, a Protestant Christian organization installed an FM station in the Honolulu suburban area of Kaimuki, just behind the famous extinct volcano Diamond Head.  This new radio broadcasting station, an FM only facility, operated on 95.5 MHz with 5.6 kW under the callsign KAIM. This new FM station was an equal first FM station in Hawaii, and the callsign KAIM incorporates the first four letters of its suburban location, Kaimuki.
            Then, nearly three years later, a mediumwave sister station was inaugurated at the same location on August 31, 1956 with 1 kW on 870 kHz.  The KAIM AM & FM programming was diplexed into the KOHO mediumwave antenna tower which had been installed quite nearby a few years earlier.  The KAIM FM antenna elements were side mounted on the same tower.  A few years later, the power level for KAIM mediumwave was raised to 5 kW.               
            The Billy Graham Evangelistic Association bought this mediumwave and FM station KAIM in Honolulu in 1978 with the intent of increasing the power on mediumwave for wide area coverage in the Pacific, including the Philippines.  They obtained a CP, Construction Permit, to transfer the mediumwave station from Honolulu on Oahu Island into a country location on the nearby island of Molokai, some 25 miles distant.  The desired location on Molokai was quite near to the isolated Western Beachi, just off Kaluakoi Road.
            Three years later they activated their new station with its 50 kW Harris transmitter Model MW50 at its new location on the same mediumwave channel 870 kHz.   A two tower configuration gave protection to another 50 kW station on the same channel, WWL in distant New Orleans in the mainland United States, and it gave coverage over the Hawaiian Islands, though not really into the desired Philippines.
            Programming was prepared in the KAIM production studios at the same original location, and it was transferred via an STL studio-to-transmitter link on 950 MHz at Kaimuki up to nearby Koko Head, and then onward to the KAIM transmitter on Molokai with another STL on the same channel 950 MHz.  This two hop STL link was described as very reliable, with an excellent audio quality.   
            However, electricity was very expensive on the island of Molokai and it cost KAIM $150,000 a year for power to their mediumwave transmitter.  In addition, there were so many power outages that it often became necessary for KAIM to use their standby generator.
             In fact, as an economy measure, KAIM began to depend upon its own generator, but on the occasion when it got overheated and blew up, the owners decided it was time to take KAIM back to a more economical location, around Honolulu itself.
            In view of the high costs involved, the difficulty of maintaining a transmitter station at a lonely isolated location, and the fact that its performance was inadequate for what the Billy Graham Association desired, they sold the entire facility to Salem Communications in 1999.  Give two more years, and Salem Communications closed the 50 kW mediumwave station on the island of Molokai, on December 1, 2001, in favor of a lower powered station in the Honolulu area.   
            Six years later, as workmen were felling the two antenna towers no longer in use on Molokai, a brush fire broke out, and it burned an area of 120 acres, though very little real damage was done.
            And before we leave the mediumwave scene on the island of Molokai, we are reminded that the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association announced plans back then to establish a shortwave station in the Hawaiian Islands.  We would presume that they intended to co-locate this projected station for trans-Pacific coverage with their mediumwave station on the island of Molokai.  However, this project never eventuated.
            Then too, the well known Gospel station in Ecuador South America, HCJB, also announced their interest in a shortwave station in Hawaii.  Perhaps this would have been a joint project with KAIM.  Who knows; it just never happened.
            However, at one stage there really was a shortwave station on the island of Molokai and this was on the air for a period of nearly 20 years.  Back in the early 1990s, Globe Wireless was expanding its international maritime radio network for communication with shipping worldwide.
            Globe Wireless bought several shortwave stations around the world that were already on the air at suitable locations, and they built others in needed areas.  They required a station for central Pacific coverage and no shortwave station was readily available for this purpose, so they constructed their own station.
            They chose a location at the north west quadrant on the island of Molokai, and there they constructed a transmitting station and a few miles distant, a receiving station.  Their Hawaiian business office was located in Honolulu itself, on the nearby island Oahu.
            The transmitter station was installed nearby to Kahalelani on Molokai at an elevation of 640 feet. 
A total of 5 short-wave transmitters were installed for their SITOR electronic communication service, each a 2 kW unit manufactured by the Henry company.  These five transmitters were fixed connected to five quarter wave vertical antennas.  The receiver station operated a bevy of TCI 8074 receivers, each attached to the one omni-directional cone antenna. 
            This maritime shortwave communication station with the callsign KEJ was in  continuous usage for a little less than 20 years, and it was closed last year when Global Radio sold out to Inmarsat which implemented satellite communication for shipping, not shortwave radio. 
            And finally, yes, there is an FM radio broadcasting station on the island of Molokai.  In November 2004, this station won the rights to establish their station on the island, and they paid the FCC getting towards $½ million for this privilege.  
            The new FM station, KMKK, was inaugurated in 2006 with 1.9 kW on 102.3 MHz with studios in the island town Kaunakakai and transmitter out nearby.  They identified themselves somewhat dubiously as the first radio broadcasting station on Molokai.  Since then, the station has changed hands a couple times but it is still on the air to this day. 
            As far as QSLs are concerned, it is known that the 50 kW mediumwave station KAIM has issued a few QSL letters as well as a few listener prepared QSL cards from their office in suburban Honolulu.  And yes, Global Radio KEJ also verified with a very attractive full color picture QSL card to confirm the reception of their shortwave station on Molokai Island.

Part 1
The Hawaiian Islands are a chain of volcanic islands lying in the mid Pacific half way between the United States and Asia.  This island chain extends some 1,500 miles from the north west to the south east.  It is made up of major islands, minor islands, islets, rocky outcrops and coral atolls, with a complete total of approximately 200 that are listed and named, seven of which support a permanent population.
            The island called Molokai is the fifth largest in this chain of islands in the central Pacific, and it lies in the center of the inhabited cluster of major Hawaiian islands.  Molokai is 40 miles long and 10 miles wide, and its shape as shown on the map is described as resembling a ladys slipper shoe, or perhaps a fish.
            Molokai is a mountainous island made up of two extinct volcanoes.  The  eastern end and the northern shore of the island are rugged and mountainous, and the majestic sea cliffs at nearly 4,000 feet are the tallest in the world.  The high areas receive as much as 80 inches of rain each year.
            During the daytime, two nearby islands are visible from the southern shore of Molokai, and at night time, the lights of Honolulu 25 miles distant are visible from the western edge.  The main town is Kaunakakai in the  center of the south coast, with less then a thousand homes.  There is one major roadway running the full length of the island and the top speed limit is 45 miles per hour.
            The tourist brochure cites Molokais pristine, breathtaking tropical landscape, careful consideration of the environment, its rich and deep Hawaiian traditions, and a visitor friendly culture as invitations to come and stay a while.  In fact the island of Molokai is sometimes designated as the Friendly Island.
            The earliest inhabitants of Molokai were the Polynesian peoples who began to arrive from other central and south Pacific islands in the initial waves of migration around 2,500 years ago.  The first European explorer to sight the island was the famous Captain James Cook from England in 1778; and the first to land on the island was another Englishman, Captain George Dixon, during his exploration of the west coast of North America and Alaska eight years later.
            In the early 1800s, Russia gave consideration to colonizing the island of Molokai to produce food for its colonies in Alaska; the first European settlement was established by the  Protestant missionary Harvey Hitchcock in 1832; and European Catholics established a leper colony on the isolated northern peninsula in 1866.  The population of the island these days is around 7,000, and on any one day, there are around 1,000 tourists on the island.
            During the year 1899, Mr. Fred Cross of Buffalo New York surveyed the Hawaiian Islands with the intent of establishing a cascading network of wireless stations for inter-island communications.  He met Marconi in New York on October 31, (1899) and he secured a contract for five wireless stations running from Honolulu to the big island Hawaii.  Three Marconi men from the mainland,  Trios Bowden, John Pletts and B. E. Hobbs arrived in May of the following year (1900) to begin the installation of the five stations on five different islands.
            The first wireless station installed on the island of Molokai was a primitive set of Marconi equipment near the beach at Laau Point on the west coast.  Initial test transmissions from all five stations began in August (1900) with very little success.  The only stations that could communicate with each other were on two other islands, Lanai and Maui.
            The Marconi company on the mainland called their wireless expert, Andrew Gray, who was in Africa at the time, to come to the rescue in the Hawaiian islands.  He successfully worked on the first link, from Honolulu to Molokai, by transferring the Honolulu station from the 200 feet high location at Kaimuku down to sea level.  This 28 mile link was successfully inaugurated on November 13, 1900.
            In addition, the wireless station at the beach at Laau Point on Molokai could also successfully communicate with the station located at the water front on the nearby island of Lanai.  The complete five station network from Honolulu to the Big Island was opened for business on March 2 of the following year, 1901.
            Then, three years later, the station on Lanai Island was transferred to Kamalo on the edge of Molokai.  Thus, at this stage, the inter-island wireless company was temporarily operating two Marconi wireless stations on Molokai; Laau Point on the western edge and Kamalo near the southern most point on the island.  However, the original station at Laau Point was closed, and the station near Kamalo Harbor became the only communication station on Molokai.
            However, after less than 5 years of attempted service, the entire system was closed due to its inefficiencies and ineffectiveness on January 9, 1906.  The whole system was sold off and reorganized as the Wireless Telegraph Co during the following year.
             However, give two more years, and the system was bought by the Mutual Telephone Company and the two systems were amalgamated under the one company name, Mutual.  Under the Mutual Telephone Company, the ½ kw Kamalo spark transmitter was activated on January 1, 1909 with the callsign AM.
            New equipment was installed at Kaunakakai in the center of the south coast, and this became the location for the wireless station on Molokai.  New transmission equipment was installed at all five locations throughout Hawaii, and the government licensing agency inspected them all, but did not write out provisional licenses until three years later, the latter part of the year 1916.  The callsign for Molokai at this stage was KHO.
            During the year 1930, the entire faulty system of inter-island wireless communication was upgraded and modernized by Mutual with the installation of valve or tube radio equipment.  The FCC granted licenses for each of these radio stations, and the Kaunakakai station was officialized with the call KGXN on the high shortwave channel 51600 kHz

            Next in the radio scene on the Hawaiian island of Molokai was the islands only mediumwave broadcasting station, and we plan to take a look at this unique station here in an upcoming edition of Wavescan. 

But before we leave Molokai at the present season, the Happy Hula Island, we should mention that this island is traditionally acknowledged as the founding location for the famous Hawaiian hula dance.  According to the stories handed down for the past one and two centuries, the hula dance was developed on Molokai as part of an early form of worship, and also to honor community leaders on important social occasions on the island.  These days though, the hula is a graceful and beautiful folk dance that has become a famous tourist attraction throughout the Hawaiian Islands. 
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 333)