The Moeraki plied across the Tasman Sea between New Zealand and Australia, and it also served as a troop carrier for New Zealand army personnel who were taken to Samoa for their attack against the German colony there in 1914. The ship was ultimately sold to Japan in 1932, and it was broken up in Osaka during the following year.
A shipping list in 1914 shows the callsign VLM with the Moeraki, which call they retained until 1927 when the official radio prefix for New Zealand was changed from V to Z. That was the first usage of the callsign VLM.
The second usage of the callsign VLM began on July 5, 1931 when a new 20 kW shortwave transmitter at the AWA center near Pennant Hills in Sydney Australia was taken into service. When Australia Calling, the forerunner for Radio Australia, was inaugurated on December 20, 1939, transmitter VLM was taken into service under a new callsign VLQ2. However, when in use for international communication, the old call VLM was still retained. That station was closed in 1956.
When plans were laid for a major new shortwave station for Radio Australia at Shepparton in Victoria, three transmitters were envisaged, two at 100 kW and one at 50 kW. It is suggested that originally the projected 50 kW transmitter would be designated as VLM. However, when the lone RCA 50 kW transmitter from the United States was installed in 1944, the call was instead.VLC.
Beginning in 1949 and over a period of almost 20 years, four different shortwave transmitters were installed at the Bald Hills radio station, a few miles north of Brisbane in Queensland. The first transmitter installed was a temporary 200 watt and it was taken into service under the callsign VLM, the third usage of this call.
Subsequently, when the first of three additional STC transmitters at 10 kW each were installed, the 200 watt unit was removed and the new unit took the call VLM. Ultimately, the three 10 kW transmitters were each on the air in rotation for the ABC’s VLQ and VLM regional shortwave service. This station VLM, along with VLQ also, was closed on December 17, 1993.
The next usage of the callsign VLM occurred down in the Antarctic. The American base at Wilkes in Antarctica was abandoned in 1958 and some of the structures and equipment were taken over for a new Australian base at nearby Casey. The Casey Base is directly south of Perth in Western Australia.
A radio station hut at American Wilkes was completed three years later (1961) and then it was transferred to Australian Casey three years later again (1964). Subsequently, radio telex equipment was installed, and a communication service was opened with Sydney in Australia.
However in the meantime, a new Casey Base was under construction less than a mile distant and a new 1 kW Dansk transmitter from Denmark was installed into a new building. The allotted callsign for this communication transmitter was VLM, and again it was in use for telex communication with Sydney.
International radio monitors noted this VLM transmitter on 7470 kHz at night and on 11455 kHz during the day. However, Casey Base was closed in 2006 and that was the end of the Antarctic usage of the callsign VLM.
And finally regarding the Australian shortwave callsign VLM, we note that the Radio Australia shortwave station at Cox Peninsula, across the bay from Darwin, was officially opened on September 5, 1971. Three program lines were opened between Melbourne and Darwin and these were designated with the line callsigns VLK VLL and VLM.
However, as a back up for the relays to Darwin, three different transmitters at Lyndhurst carried the VLM program relay at various times, and these were: a 5 kW SSB single side band transmitter manufactured by STC, a regular 10 kW broadcast transmitter, and a 30 kW SSB transmitter that had previously been in use with the ABC at Wanneroo in Western Australia.
In addition, the VLM service was at times also conveyed to Darwin via a 100 kW transmitter located at Shepparton. Then, when the Darwin station was disabled by Cyclone Tracy during the Christmas season in 1974, the VLM service was transferred to Shepparton.
However, after the so-called temporary relay station at Carnarvon in Western Australia was opened, the VLM service was transferred again from Shepparton to Carnarvon beginning May 6, 1984. Initially the 250 kW transmitter at Carnarvon carried the VLM service, though subsequently the VLM service was transferred to the 100 kW transmitter. Backup for the VLM program service was continuously available via a 30 kW SSB transmitter located at Lyndhurst in Victoria.
When Carnarvon was closed in 1996, some of the VLM programming was returned back to a transmitter located at Shepparton.
Unfortunately as we are all painfully aware, Radio Australia no longer exists and their last major shortwave station, at Shepparton in Victoria, is still up for sale.