Friday, January 13, 2017

Australian Shortwave Callsign VLL

SS Talune
The Australian shortwave callsign VLL began its usage on board a cargo/passenger liner in the South Pacific a little more than a century ago.  The ship was the SS Talune, it was built in Scotland, it was operated by the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand, and during its term of commercial service it plied across the Tasman Sea to Australia, and throughout the South Pacific to many of the varied island groups. 
            During World War 1, the Talune served as a troop carrier for New Zealand military personnel,  and after the war was over, the Talune returned to its former duty with cargo/passenger traffic in the South Pacific.  Unfortunately in 1919, some of the crew and passengers came down with the early stages of the horrendous Spanish Flu and this epidemic was carried to other islands in the South Pacific, with deadly results.      
            The callsign VLL was applied to the SS Talune somewhere around the year 1912, and it was in use until the ship was withdrawn from service nine years later, in 1921.  Four years later, the Talune was filled with rock and scuttled in shallow water at Waikokopu in upper Hawkes Bay on the eastern edge of the North Island of New Zealand. 
            This stricken ship served as a breakwater for many years, and these days the broken up wreckage can still be easily viewed on Google Earth.  The town of Waikokopu no longer serves as a small country port, though it is now no more than a few scattered country dwellings.
            The next known usage of the callsign VLL was applied to the transmissions from the now silent shortwave station that was located a little inland from the coastal town of Carnarvon in Western Australia.  This station was originally intended to be a temporary fill-in station for Radio Australia after the Darwin station was disabled due to Cyclone Tracy at Christmas time in December 1974, and it remained in service for a little over 20 years.
            Radio Australia took over the empty America NASA Space Station at Carnarvon and the second transmitter that was installed there was an American made Harris SW100.  Some time earlier, three Harris 100 kW transmitters had been obtained from the United States and these had been held in storage at the new ABC mediumwave station located at Pimpala on the coast south of Adelaide in South Australia.
            It was originally intended that these three shortwave transmitters would be installed at suitable though yet undecided locations in South Australia and the Northern Territory, as a regional shortwave service for dwellers in Australia’s outback.  Among the locations that had been given preliminary consideration were for example, somewhere on the outskirts of suburban Adelaide, Alice Springs in Central Australia, and Darwin at Cox Peninsula in the Northern Territory.
            However, as changing circumstances would have it, one of these Harris 100s was taken to Carnarvon and installed as Transmitter VLL, while the two other units were ultimately taken to Shepparton in Victoria and installed for Radio Australia.   Test broadcasts from Carnarvon VLL began on February 15, 1975, though it was removed from service during the next month due to frequent troublesome transmitter problems.  Design engineers flew out from the states to correct the problems.
            When VLL was taken into regular on air service, the program feed from the Melbourne studios of Radio Australia was provided by a 2,000 mile microwave link to Perth and thence by telephone line to Carnarvon.  In addition, there was a VLL program feed from a 30 kW transmitter located at Lyndhurst which operated as an ISB independent side band unit on 12290 kHz. 
            Then too, a 100 kW transmitter at Shepparton carried a parallel relay of the VLL service in the Indonesian language and this could be utilized as a back up program feeder if needed.  The Shepparton VLL service was on the air for eight years, from 1976 - 1984.  At that stage, the Indonesian service was transferred to the revived Radio Australia shortwave station near Darwin.  Two years later, (1986) the program feed to Carnarvon was carried by satellite and it was no longer necessary to receive the VLL service via Lyndhurst or Shepparton.  
            The shortwave service from Radio Australia Carnarvon ended on July 31, 1996, at which time  transmitter VLL was removed and sold locally for scrap.

            During its 20 years of on air service, transmitter VLL was verified by Radio Australia in Melbourne with a multitude of colorful QSL cards, and for a few years at one stage by Form Letters indicating the callsign and station location.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 411)