Monday, June 06, 2016

Australian Shortwave Callsign VLI

In summary, as mentioned in a previous edition of Wavescan, the callsign VLI was first allocated to the Scottish built ship SS Aorangi which flew the maritime flag for the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand back around a century ago.  This ship was deliberately scuttled in Scapa Flow off the north coast of Scotland in 1915 to deter enemy submarines from entering the waterway.  Five years later the ship was refloated but soon afterwards sold for scrap in Europe.
            The second ship to be allotted the callsign VLI was the SS Ladywood which was built in England in 1907.  It was taken over also by the Union Steamship of New Zealand and renamed the SS Kaitangata.  This ship was later sold to Hong Kong and in 1937 it was destroyed by a fire in the South China Sea while carrying a load of gasoline. 
            The third occasion for the usage of the callsign VLI was a two year period during World War 2.  The shortwave transmitters at the AWA station in Pennant Hills, an outer suburb of Sydney in New South Wales, were carrying a relay of programming on behalf of Australia Calling.  At the time, four different shortwave transmitters were available for this relay of the early programming service from Radio Australia, each rated at 10 kW. 
            The primary callsigns for each of these transmitters were VK2ME VLK VLM and VLN.  These units carried the Australia Calling programming under the callsign VLI from January 1943 until November 1944.
            On this occasion, we now we look at the the fourth usage of the shortwave callsign VLI, in greater detail.  In December 1948, a small 2 kW transmitter built by STC, Model No 4SU148, was installed in the ABC-PMG radio station located near Liverpool, on the southern edge of suburban Sydney.
            This large ABC-PMG facility located at Liverpool was established in 1938 for mediumwave coverage of Australia’s largest metropolis, Sydney.  At the time, two mediumwave stations were on the air at Liverpool: 2FC operated with 10 kW on 610 kHz and 2BL operated on 740 kHz with just 3 kW.  These days though, both services are on the air at 50 kW each; the callsign 2FC has been replaced with the generic callsign 2RN Radio National on 576 kHz, and  2BL with New South Wales State Program is now on 702 kHz.
            The shortwave unit VLI was installed for coverage of coastal areas beyond 200 miles north and south of Sydney where mediumwave coverage was poor at the time.  The shortwave transmitter nestled almost against one of the larger 50 kW transmitters; the long open wire twin feeder line was supported on short wooden poles all painted in a gleaming white; and the antenna system was a half wave dipole aimed at 20 and 200 degrees.
            The first test broadcasts from this new VLI were observed in November 1948, though no specific announcements identifying this unit were noted.  At the time, PMG personnel took field strength measurements in the two main target areas, north and south of Sydney.  The opening ceremony for VLI took place at 8:30 pm on Wednesday December 22, 1948 with official speeches and messages of welcome.
            Initially, two shortwave channels were in use, VLI2 on 6090 kHz during the hours of darkness and VLI3 on 9500 kHz during the daytime.  On June 1, 1951, the callsigns were adjusted to reflect the MHz band, and the callsign VLI2 on 6090 kHz was amended to VLI6, and VLI3 now on 9540 kHz became VLI9.  However, the 9 MHz channel was dropped in October 1952, leaving just the 6 MHz channel, 6090 kHz.            
            Then quite suddenly and unexpectedly, at 1402 UTC on October 7, 1983, the VLI transmitter left the air abruptly.  The official cause was said to be the failure of the main transmitting valve.  Soon afterwards, the transmitter was removed, as were the line feed poles and the antenna system.     
            The small 2 kW shortwave transmitter, VLI, was never replaced and instead, the ABC announced that six new medium stations would be installed in the areas previously covered by the shortwave signal.  However, that expectation was never completely fulfilled either.  Instead, over a period of time, several local FM stations were installed in those same coastal areas.           

 (AWR Wavescan/NWS 379)