Thursday, November 03, 2016

Australian Shortwave Callsign VLK

In the progressive presentation of topics on Australian shortwave callsigns in the three letter alphabetic series running from VLA to VLZ, we come to the callsign VLK.  However, as we discovered in all of the ten previous similar topics, the first usage of the callsign VLK was not in Australia, but rather in New Zealand; or perhaps more accurately, in New Zealand waters.

            The SS Makura was launched in Glasgow Scotland in 1908, and soon afterwards when Marconi wireless equipment was installed it was granted the callsign MKU.  The Makura was the largest ship in the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, and when it was re-registered in New Zealand, the callsign was changed to VLK. 

            The Makura achieved two claims to fame: in 1910, a long distance game of chess was played by wireless with the Australian SS Zealandia in opposite directions of the Pacific Ocean.  Then in 1923, the Makura printed a regular edition of an ocean newspaper under the title The Wireless News.  After 2.3 million miles of voyaging, the Makura was scrapped in Shanghai in 1937.  

            During the year 1924, a new low powered wireless station was installed on the small Pacific island Niue (NEW-AYE).  Then three years later due to an international re-shuffle of callsigns, radio stations in New Zealand and its island dependencies lost the callsigns with a V prefix, and instead they were granted callsigns with a Z prefix.  Thus, we would presume that the VLK callsign on Niue Island  was modified to ZLK.

            The next application of the callsign VLK was indeed in Australia, for a new shortwave transmitter at the large AWA radio station at Pennant Hills on the edge of suburban Sydney.  This new VLK was a 10 kW unit that was installed temporarily to give international coverage for a series of special events in Sydney in 1928. 

            This VLK transmitter was subsequently taken into regular communication service and it was on the air under three different callsigns; VLZ to New Zealand, VLJ to Java in Indonesia, and under its own licensed callsign as VLK to England.  When Pennant Hills was taken over for the international program service of Australia Calling in December 1939, the VLK transmitter was on the air under a new callsign VLQ.

            The fourth application of the Australian callsign VLK was for a new shortwave transmitter in Port Moresby New Guinea during their era before independence.  A new Australian made STC 10 kW transmitter, Model 4SU488, was inaugurated on June 29, 1963 as VLK, and this callsign was in continuous usage until a new callsign P2K was allocated at independence in 1975.  

            However, strange as it may seem, the callsign VLK was also in use by Radio Australia for an overlapping period of nearly five years.  In 1971, three shortwave transmitters at 250 kW in Darwin were phased into usage for coverage into Asia, and the callsigns for these three units were VLK, VLL and VLM. 

            Thus the program service VLK was applied to any of the three transmitters that were installed at the Cox Peninsula shortwave station.  However, at the time there was no line feed from Melbourne to Darwin, and so it was necessary for the VLK programming to be transmitted on shortwave from the ABC Radio Australia stations located at Shepparton and Lyndhurst.  At Lyndhurst, a 5 kW SSB, single sideband transmitter and a 10 kW broadcast transmitter were used at varying times as a VLK program relay to Darwin, as was also a 100 kW transmitter at Shepparton. 

            The final leg of the more than 2,500 mile long microwave broadband line running from Mt Isa in Queensland up to  Darwin in the Northern Territory was finally completed in 1974, and so the shortwave feeder relays from Lyndhurst and Shepparton were no longer necessary.

            However, a few months later at Christmas time (1974), Cyclone Tracy disabled the Darwin station and some of the VLK programming was transferred back to Shepparton.

            Ostensibly as a temporary fill in, a new three transmitter shortwave station was installed in an empty American NASA building near Carnarvon in Western Australia during the following year 1975.  A 250 kW BBC transmitter Model SK3F3 was inaugurated at Carnarvon on December 20 (1975) and this unit took over much of the VLK program service. 

            There were a few subsequent occasions when the service at Carnarvon was interrupted, and a 100 kW at Shepparton took over the VLK service for a short time on a fill-in basis.

            Then 9 years later (1984), a 300 kW Thomson Model YRE2320 was inaugurated at Carnarvon and for the next 12 years, this unit took over the VLK program service.  However, the entire Carnarvon station was closed 8 years later on July 31, 1996, and the 300 kW VLK was slated for transfer to Darwin where it would be installed under the callsign VLT.  There was a delay in the installation of this unit at Cox Peninsula, and eventually when it was installed, it was given an alternative callsign VLU. 

            The ABC in Port Moresby issued many QSL cards verifying their 10 kW VLK transmissions, and these were the regular Australia map cards in varying styles.  It is known that Radio Australia issued QSL cards verifying VLK transmissions in Carnarvon and Shepparton, and perhaps also Darwin as well as Lyndhurst.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 401)