Friday, November 20, 2015
Focus on the South Pacific
Australia’s Coastal Radio Station VID in Darwin Suffers Again!
In this edition of Wavescan, we pick up the story of the Maritime Coastal Radio Station VID in the city of Darwin, in Australia’s Northern Territory, at the time when it was rebuilt after a Japanese aerial attack in 1942. Radio station VID received its worst war time damage on August 27, 1942, when it sustained a direct hit, thus destroying or damaging all equipment and much of the structure as well. However, soon afterwards the local staff repaired and rebuilt the station, and in progressive stages VID once again took over its regular communication services.
Soon afterwards, on August 1, 1943, communication station VID began the relay of time pips from the ABC at 0900 & 2200 local time daily. It would be presumed that this brief twice daily relay was taken from a radio receiver tuned to an ABC station on shortwave, probably VLQ at Bald Hills in Queensland.
Six years later, that is in 1949, the historic old VID was by this time rundown and dilapidated, making it difficult even for its experienced personnel to operate effectively. The original and oft-repaired 750 watt transmitter was almost beyond capability.
A new communication station was constructed at a new location. The old station at the original site in McMinn Street was silenced at midnight on June 15, 1950, and the property later became the site for the Darwin Botanical Gardens. The new transmitter station at Gregory Street Parap, with all of its new electronic equipment, was now officially opened for service, with a new remote receiver station located at Shoal Bay, on the northern edge of Darwin.
However, give almost a quarter century later, and once again disaster struck Darwin, and its coastal wireless station VID as well. This time it was a cyclone, named Tracy, and it struck on Christmas Eve 1974 with wind gusts up to 150 mph. This horrendous event, the most disastrous cyclone (hurricane, typhoon) ever to hit Australia, silenced the Radio Australia Darwin relay station at Cox Peninsula, across the water way from Darwin Habour, and it also silenced the communication station VID, at least for a week or so.
It is estimated that 80% of the city of Darwin was destroyed, and it was necessary to evacuate 30,000 people to temporary housing in the southern areas of the continent. The city of Darwin was subsequently redesigned and rebuilt upon its previous location, with the application of new and very stringent safety features in order to avoid a similar massive disaster in the future.
The VID building at Parap was only slightly damaged though most of the antenna systems were disabled, including three tall masts and 20 smaller masts. At the time of the onslaught from the cyclonic storm, Manager Bob Hooper hurriedly assembled some of his own home based amateur radio equipment into his four wheel drive Toyota, and drove to the station.
From his stationary vehicle at the station location, Hooper carried on as much of the VID traffic as possible, and he also contacted coastal station VIP in Perth and passed on to them some of the details regarding the massive wind disaster in Darwin. At this stage. much of the local radio traffic normally carried by VID Darwin was transferred to VIT in Townsville Queensland, and also to VII on Thursday Island up towards New Guinea.
Then, in mid morning Christmas Day, approval was granted for the ship MV “Nyanda” now at berth in Darwin Harbour, to take over the VID radio communication service and to operate under the callsign VID2. The “Nyanda” was previously registered as the “Transontario” for service in North America.
Four days later, when the “Nyanda” departed from Darwin Harbour, the VID2 service was taken over by another ship, the “Darwin Trader”. However, by that time the antenna systems at the land based VIP at Parap had been rehabilitated, and much of the the radio communication service was transferred back to the home station.
From the time of the onslaught by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve, mains power was not available at coast station VID and thus they were entirely dependent upon their own generation system. However, nearly two weeks later, on January 5, (1975) the city power supply was again restored to this radio station.
In May 1999, the operating staff at VID Darwin was withdrawn, and the station was then operated remotely from the coastal station VIP at Applecross in Perth Western Australia. However, give three more years, and station VID was closed, at the end of the month of June 2002. At the time, the station was on the air with 5 identical transmitters rated at 1 kW each.
Thus it was that Coastal Radio Station VID in Darwin was closed after nearly 90 years of illustrious on air service; on this occasion, it was finally silenced forever.
The radio property in Parap in suburban Darwin has since been absorbed into the neighboring housing estate.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 346)
at 1:00 PM