Thursday, August 20, 2015

Return to Nepal: Radio Broadcasting from Mt. Everest

(Mt Everest (wikipedia)
At the time of the twin major earthquakes in the Himalayan country of Nepal recently, their famous mountain, Mount Everest, featured in the events that took place.   Somewhere around a thousand people were on or near Mount Everest at the time of the first shake on April 25, and helicopters flew in to rescue those who were stranded, and to convey the wounded and injured to hospital.  It is probable that the total death toll on the mountain, amounting to 200 or more, will never be known. 
            Mount Everest is known as Sagarmatha by the people of Nepal, and as Chomolungma by the people of Tibet.  Under the early British colonials in India, the mountain was identified on maps simply as B, and subsequently as Peak XV (15).  In 1865, the mountain was named Everest in honor of Sir George Everest, the prominent Welsh Surveyor-General of India towards the middle 1800s.
            Mount Everest itself is not a single, isolated mountain.  Instead it is a high peak among a multitude of high peaks in the ranges of the Himalaya mountains that separate India from the Chinese areas of Central Asia.  This mountain in total stands at about 5½ miles above mean sea level.
            The officially recognized international border between Nepal and Tibet in China runs right across the summit of Mount Everest, and right up there the wind speed can sometimes reach 200 miles an hour.  The measurements from a GPS unit on the summit of Mount Everest indicate that the mountain is gaining an increase in height at the rate of one foot every five years, and it moved sideways for a distance of 1½ inches due to the recent earthquakes.
            Over a period of more than 2½ centuries, several major attempts have been made to calculate the exact height of Mount Everest and these figures vary from 29000 feet up to 30,200 feet.  The standard accepted figure these days of 29,029 feet was established in 1955 by the Survey of India, though an unofficial 29,141 feet is gaining popularity.
            The original staging ground for attempts at climbing Mount Everest was in the wide open area in front of the Adventist hospital at Banepa, though in more recent time, a base camp has been established much closer to the formidable mountain itself.
            During the past nearly 100 years, many attempts have been made to climb right up to the summit of Mount Everest, and nearly 7,000 people have been successful, though the attempts have resulted in more than 200 deaths.  It is thought that the first known successful attempt at climbing Mount Everest might have been by George Mallory and Andrew Irvine on June 8, 1924, though both men perished in a massive storm next day. 
            In 1953, Sherpa Tenzing Norgay and New Zealander Sir Edmund Hilary made the first successful and verified climb of Mount Everest.  While on the climb, Hilary carried a shortwave receiver and he tuned in to the Commercial Service of Radio Ceylon for programming and news.  He reported that the signal strength from the transmitters at Ekala was excellent; the programming came in loud and clear.
            The first radio broadcast from Mount Everest took place in March 1937.  At the time, a German expedition was making a climb to the summit and an essential part of their equipment was a transmitter and receiver; and in those days, it had to be of Telefunken manufacture. 
            The German expedition made three attempts to achieve the summit, but without success.  When they reached the 23,000 foot level on their final attempt, an avalanche killed seven team members and nine Nepali porters, though the team leader himself, Herr Wyiez, escaped serious injury.
            This German team made several radio broadcasts from Mount Everest which were on the air in the 19 m band.  QSL cards were issued from Das Deutsche Funkhaus in Berlin, though it is doubtful if any have survived over the intervening years. 
            Then, in 1953, there was another German expedition to Everest, and once again, they took a set of Telefunken equipment with them for the purpose of making radio broadcasts from the mountain to listeners back home in Germany.
            Give another quarter century again and Germany was once more involved in another series of radio broadcasts from Mount Everest, though this time it was a joint project in co-operation with France.  Early in the year 1979, a seven member team from the two European nations carried a portable transmitter from which they made periodic broadcasts describing their onward progress towards the summit. 
            These mountain broadcasts were picked up on a receiver at the French embassy in Kathmandu, and then uplinked to Symphonie, the Franco-German satellite over the Indian Ocean.  This programming was then fed into the local and international radio services in both France and Germany.  From the summit, they described the expansive panorama into India and China as breathtaking.
            Canada has also been involved in similar mountaineering projects at Everest, and they established a complete TV studio in the Hotel Everest Sheraton in Kathmandu from where TV programming was satellited to homeland audiences in Canada, as well as to the BBC in London and NHK in Tokyo.  To accomplish this series of TV relay programs, it required 300 porters to carry all of the the TV equipment to Base Camp at Mount Everest.
            Handheld 2 metre amateur radio equipment has also been utilized for communication between Everest climbers and their various encampments, including for example a South African team in 2007. 
            In addition, the Everest scenario has been attached to three different attempts at Nepali radio broadcasting.  The World Radio TV Handbook for 1963 carried a half page advertisement on page 50 for a new commercial radio broadcasting service that was planned for installation in Nepal.    
            A radio broadcasting company, which was registered in Zurich Switzerland as the Himalayan Broadcasting System, made an announcement extraordinary stating that they planned to launch their new Voice of the Himalayas in Nepal sometime during the years 1963 and 1964.  Commercial programming from Nepal would be beamed to Asia and the Middle East in ten languages.
            That was all that was ever revealed about the powerful new Voice of the Himalayas, a project that would rival the Commercial Service from Radio Ceylon if it ever came to fruition.  It would seem then that the Nepali government never granted a license for this ambitious project. 
            In 1996, a Nepali consortium launched an FM station in Kathmandu under the slogan Radio Sagarmatha, their name for Everest.  Initially this station was on the air without a license, though during the following year, the government did issue a license, which required a reduction in power down to 100 watts.

            Then, a shortwave program station was launched in London in April 2001 as Radio Everest.  Programing was produced by the Nepali community living in England and it was broadcast as a one hour segment four evenings a week from a 100 kW transmitter of ORF on 7235 kHz at Moosbrunn in Austria.  Due to insufficient funding, Radio Everest folded ten months later, though they did issue a very attractive QSL card, picturing as you might expect, Mount Everest.