Friday, August 12, 2016

* We Return to the Shortwave Scene on the Island of Guam: The KSDA Story

AWR transmitting towers, Guam
It was during the year 1968 that the leadership of the Adventist denomination, at their headquarters on the edge of Washington DC, began a renewed interest in the development of a shortwave network for the broadcast of Gospel programming.  At the time, Dr. Walter Scragg, born in New Zealand of Australian parents, was serving in the leadership of the Communication Department.

            Three years later, the newly married American couple, Allen and Andrea Steele, were invited to establish their home in Lisbon Portugal, where they inaugurated the first official broadcast from what soon became identified as Adventist World Radio.  Their first shortwave broadcast was inaugurated over the 250 kW transmitter number 3 at Radio Trans Europe at Sines on Friday evening October 1, 1971 in a service beamed to Eastern Europe in the 31 metre band. 

            A Master Plan for world coverage on shortwave that was developed during this era called for a network of four stations; located in Europe, Western Pacific, Central America and Africa.  A lengthy period of intense research was entered into in an endeavor to obtain a suitable transmitter location in the Pacific-Asian arena, and several different locations were given serious consideration.  Among the tentative locations under consideration were Sri Lanka, Maldive Islands, Philippines, South Korea, Hawaii, Palau and Guam.

            Finally, Guam was chosen and the Steele family, now well experienced in the international shortwave world, were invited to relocate on Guam.  The first temporary office for the new AWR shortwave station on Guam was in a small section of the Adventist mission office in Agana.   

            In September 1984, the FCC in Washington DC issued a Construction Permit for the new shortwave station that would be located on 40 acres of coastal land at Facpi Point on the island’s west coast.  This property was on the downward slope of Mt Lamlam, the highest mountain on the island of Guam.

            Work began at the new property on Wednesday September 11, 1985 when a bulldozer began to smooth a new access roadway, “Torres Adventista”, off of island Highway 2.  One month later on Friday October 11, a Ground Breaking Ceremony was held at the yet undeveloped property, with the official participation of the island governor, His Excellency Ricardo Bordallo. 

            At this stage, the Steeles transferred the office function of Adventist World Radio to a house in Agat, the Pink House, one mile from the radio station itself.  In addition, the new Guam station was designated as AWR-Asia, and the original AWR-Asia in Poona India was redesignated as AWR-Southern Asia. 

            Two years later on January 18 (1987), the new radio station was dedicated in an official ceremony in which the new island governor, His Excellency Joseph Ada, participated.  Nearly 500 people attended this gala function, including several denominational leaders from the world headquarters on the edge of Washington DC.  Official visitors from the the city of Agana arrived in a long motorcade that was escorted by local police on motorcycles.

            The parade ground in front of the gleaming white transmitter building was adorned with the colorful fluttering flags from 22 countries, representing the territories that would be in the main coverage area of this new shortwave station.  Among the grand musical items that were presented on the Day of Dedication were renderings from the Voice of Prophecy Choir that flew in from South Korea, and  a Brass Ensemble from Agana.  The Korean Choir also performed in special ceremonies at Government House, and also in the Korean Presbyterian Church in Agana. 

            The first two transmitters installed at AWR Facpi Point were manufactured in France by Thomson-CSF; 100 kW Model TRE2311P.  Transmitter No 1 was hard wired into Antenna 1, a TCI Curtain Model 611; and Transmitter No 2 was hard wired into a similar curtain, No 3.  Many possible callsigns, mostly some form of acronym, were given serious consideration but ultimately the very obvious acronym KSDA , foe Seventh-day Adventist, was chosen and approved by the FCC.

            Transmitter KSDA1 was given its initial test transmission at 2:35 pm local time on Thursday March 5, 1987, with a simple test announcement stating: “This is Adventist World Radio-Asia, KSDA Agat Guam, broadcasting on 11720 kHz.  This is a test broadcast.”  This transmitter began a regular schedule of program broadcasting next evening at 7:00 pm.

            Transmitter KSDA2 began a week long series of test broadcasts later in the year on October 24 (1987) and it was taken into regular service without ceremony just one week later on November 1.

            Several years went by, and two more shortwave transmitters at 100 kW were obtained, this time from Continental in Dallas, Texas.  These new units were designated as Model 418E and 418F.

            Dedication Day for KSDA3 was May 16, 1995, and the event was celebrated with a live broadcast in both Chinese and English beamed to Asia.  Transmitter KSDA4 was taken into regular service in January of the next year (1996), thus completing the original concept for AWR-Asia; four transmitters at 100 kW and four curtain antennas.

            More on the Guam story next time.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 389)