Monday, December 19, 2016

The Radio Scene at the World’s Largest Toothbrush Fence

According to the best available information, there are two fences in the world that are decorated with old and used toothbrushes.  One of these fences runs along a country road in the North Island of New Zealand, and it was commenced a few years ago by a New Zealander of Scottish background as a retirement prank. 
 The Toothbrush Fence in New Zealand is a metal wire fence running along a winding country road near the town of Te Pahu.  It has become a common practice for admirers to send an old toothbrush by post to the location, and the Scottish owner affixes it to his wire fence.  Many notable people have donated an old tooth brush to the project, including a recent Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark, who grew up in the town of Te Pahu.
 There is another Toothbrush Fence, and this one is located in Alofi, the small village that is the capital city of the exotic tourist location, Niue Island.  The Alofi Toothbrush Fence holds the world record as the longest.
 The Alofi national capital stretches along the inland side of the paved roadway running near the edge of Alofi Bay, on the west side of Niue Island.  This capital holds another record; it is the second smallest capital of any independent nation in the world, second only to Ngerulmud on Palau Island in the western Pacific.
 Niue Island is located in the center of all of the little corral atolls in the South Pacific, due west of the Cook Islands which were featured here in Wavescan in a mini-series of nine programs throughout this past year.  Niue is an autonomous island country linked in free association with New Zealand; its citizens are accorded the status as citizens of New Zealand; and its language is a Polynesian language similar to all of the other Polynesian languages spoken in the islands of the Pacific as well as in New Zealand itself. 
 Like so many other islands in the South Pacific, Niue is almost circular in shape, perhaps almost ovaloid, with 100 square miles of land surface, and a population of a little over a thousand.  Niue is one of the world's largest coral islands. 
 The terrain consists of steep limestone cliffs along the coast with a central plateau rising to about 100 feet above sea level.  A coral reef surrounds the island and the only major break in the reef is in the central western coast, close to the capital, Alofi.  A notable feature on the island is the number of limestone caves found close to the coast.
 The first settlers on the island were Polynesians who arrived from Samoa around 900 AD.  Another wave of settlers arrived on Niue from Tonga some 800 years later. 
 The English explorer Captain James Cook made three attempts to land on the island in 1774, but he was repelled by the inhabitants.  He named the island Savage Island, in part also because of their appearance; their teeth were colored by the red banana that grows in profusion on the island. 
 English Christian missionaries from the London Missionary Society visited the island in 1846.  The first Christian missionary to serve on the island was himself a Niuean citizen who had been trained in Samoa as a Christian pastor.
 In 1889, local chieftain leaders asked Queen Victoria in England for protection against a possible takeover from other European powers; and twelve years later the island was taken over by New Zealand.  In 1974 they gained independence, with free association with New Zealand, and all citizens of Niue are also citizens of New Zealand.
 Wireless came to Niue in 1924, when a small communication station was installed in Alofi by the New Zealander Mr. H. W. Cockerel.  The original callsign was VLK, but this was amended in 1927 due to new international wireless regulations.  We would presume that the new callsign for Niue Island Radio was ZLK.  Niue Island Radio is in use to this day, for local communication with shipping and aircraft, and also with distant New Zealand
 During the 1960s, consideration was given to the need for a local radio broadcasting station, particularly so that warnings could be given to local citizens in the event of major weather emergencies, such as approaching cyclones and ocean storms.
 A few years later on August 14, 1967, the same day incidentally that some offshore stations around the British coast closed down, a new radio broadcasting service was inaugurated under a New Zealand amateur callsign ZK2ZN, with the part time usage of a marine communication transmitter.  A 250 watt transmitter radiated 200 watts output on 550 kHz, with programming in both English and the Niuean language for a few hours each week. 
 This new broadcasting service was operated by the Community Development Office from a small temporary studio in a nearby tourist hotel.  Very few radio receivers were in use on the island at the time, so a bulk consignment was procured from Japan and these were sold to the local citizens at cost price.   
 Six years later, a new 250 watt Marconi transmitter was installed in a new building on a hill at an elevation of 100 feet, one mile distant from the studios in Alofi.  The mediumwave mast stood 250 feet tall.  At this stage, a new studio and office building was constructed for radio station ZK2ZN, now known as Radio Sunshine.   
 Sometimes, the programming from station WVUV on American Samoa was relayed off air after hours, at the end of regular local programming from ZK2ZN.  News bulletins and some special programming on shortwave from RNZI Radio New Zealand International and Radio Australia was broadcast from Radio Sunshine, with a microphone placed in front of the radio receiver.
 The radio station at Alofi on Niue Island has been noted on a total of five different channels over the 32 years of broadcasting on mediumwave, running from 1967 to 1999.  These five mediumwave channels have been: 550 620 531 837 and finally 594 kHz.
 An FM transmitter was installed in 1991, with 100 watts on 91 MHz.  In 1999, when the mediumwave service was closed, an additional 500 watt FM transmitter was installed, and this took over the 91 MHz channel.  The 100 watt unit was retuned to 102 MHz.  In addition to the government operated Radio Sunshine, there is also now another FM station in Alofi and this operates as Rock Radio.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 408)