Thursday, August 20, 2015

Australian Shortwave Callsigns: VLD

Focus on the South Pacific: Australia's Callsign VLD

In our continuing series of topics on Australian Shortwave callsigns in the VL series, we come to the fourth in alphabetic order, the callsign VLD.  The usage of this callsign began in New Zealand more than 100 years ago, before it was transferred for implementation at Shepparton in Australia. 
            An original maritime wireless station in New Zealand was installed in a small building on the roof of the Central Post office in Auckland and it was taken into service on October 24, 1912 under the callsign NZK.  The first two letters in this three letter callsign, NZK, stood rather obviously for the initial letters in the two word title of their country, New Zealand, and the K identified one of the letters in the city name Auckland.  Towards the end of the year 1913, the callsign for Auckland Radio was changed from NZK to VLD, due to new international wireless regulations.
            However just three years later, this small maritime wireless station VLD on top of the post office building in Auckland was closed in favor of the new and stronger VLA at Awanui, 150 miles distant at the top of the North Island.  At this stage though, station VLD was not dismantled; instead it was maintained for later regular or emergency usage.
            In 1923, the station was moved from the roof top to the first floor of the same post office building which was adjacent to the Central Telegraph Office.  Then in 1927, the callsign was changed from VLD to ZLD, due again to changes in international radio regulations.
            Three years later, the station was reactivated for regular usage; then three years later again, a new station was built at a new location; and that station was ultimately and finally closed in 1993.
            Thus, for an intervening period of some 15 years running from 1927 to 1942, there was no known usage of the callsign VLD; not in New Zealand, not in Australia, nor in the Pacific.  However, around the middle of World War 2, the callsign VLD was noted on the air in Papua New Guinea.  An outpost communication station located at Mt. Hagen in the central areas of the Australian mandated territory of Papua New Guinea was noted as VLD5 in contact with the coastal station VIV in Madang.
            However, comes the year 1956, and plans are well underway for international news coverage from Australia for the Olympic games, which were staged in the city of Melbourne in the state of Victoria.  Plans were already well underway for a modernization project at the Radio Australia shortwave station near Shepparton in central Victoria, and among these new developments was the installation of new transmitters.
            One of the new transmitters slated for installation at Shepparton at this stage was an American made 50 kW RCA unit model no. BH506.  This new transmitter under the callsign VLD was installed and taken into special service for the Summer Olympics which began on November 11 (1956).  After the conclusion of the Olympics, the new VLD continued in service with Radio Australia, carrying their regular programing from studios in Melbourne.
            At the end of October 1961, Radio Australia dropped the usage of callsigns, and instead used the final letter in each callsign as the identification for a program line from the Melbourne studios to the various transmitter bases.  Thus, line VLD, or just D, became the identification for the program line to a 100 kW transmitter at the Shepparton shortwave transmitter station. 
            The usage of the transmitter callsign VLD was in use on the air with Radio Australia for a period of a little less than five years, from November 1956 through October 1961.

            A few QSL cards carrying the callsign VLD are known, though not many.  The Radio Australia QSL card in use at the time showed a map of Australia, inset with a Kookaburra, and the Shepparton transmitters and antenna towers.  The earlier cards in this series showed the postal address in Melbourne as Box 708H, and the later cards as 428G.

Shortwave Term Callsign VLD
It was back on December 1, 1960, that our DX Editor, Adrian Peterson heard the comparatively new Radio Australia callsign VLD on his shortwave radio.  At the time, he was living in a small country town in South Australia, and Radio Australia was on the air via the 50 kW RCA transmitter under the callsign VLD7, indicating a 7 MHz channel 7220 kHz.

            The QSL card verifying this transmission depicts a map of Australia with inset photographs showing a Kookaburra, together with the Radio Australia transmitters and antenna towers at Shepparton.  The return address on this card shows the latter Box address in Melbourne as 428G.
(AWR/Wavescan-NWS 338)