Monday, August 07, 2017

The Radio Scene on a Small Island with a Large Volcano

The Radio Scene on a Small Island with a Large Volcano!  That’s our opening topic here in Wavescan today.  The small island with a large volcano is Montserrat in the Caribbean, but that’s not where we begin our radio story today.  Instead, let’s begin this radio story in El Salvador in Central America rather than on Montserrat in the Caribbean.

            Early in the year 1967, Deutsche Welle in Cologne Germany, announced that they planned to erect a shortwave relay station in the small Central American country of El Salvador.  This information about a new Deutsche Welle relay station, their first in the Western Hemisphere, was copied and recopied quite widely throughout the international radio world at that time.  Original planning for the El Salvador relay station called for four high powered transmitters: 1 @ 100 kW mediumwave; and on shortwave, 1 @ 150 kW and 2 @ 250 kW.   

            Two years later (1969), and still with no real sign of progress, international news media re-iterated the Deutsche Welle intent to erect a shortwave relay station in El Salvador.  In anticipation of a completed  project, Deutsche Welle went ahead and bought the transmitters for installation in El Salvador.  However, at that stage, the government of El Salvador disallowed the installation of the projected Deutsche Welle relay station in their country.

            According to Jerome Berg of suburban Boston in his outstanding volume, Broadcasting on the Shortwaves 1945 - Today, the shortwave transmitters originally planned for installation in El Salvador were instead diverted and installed in another new Deutsche Welle relay station, Radio Trans Europe in Sines Portugal in 1970. 

            However, at the same time, Deutsche Welle continued looking for a new host country in the Central American-Caribbean region, and two years later again (1972), they announced that they had become a shareholder in Radio Antilles, on the island of Montserrat.  In fact, over a period of time, Germany provided funding into Montserrat to the value of many millions of Deutschmark.

            Back in the times of ancient antiquity, Montserrat, a small island almost in the middle of the chain of small islands that separate the Caribbean from the Atlantic, was inhabited by Amerindians who had migrated from the American mainland and other islandic areas.  At the time when the famous Christopher Columbus discovered Montserrat in 1493, the island was uninhabited he declared, due to local tribal fighting.

            The local citizens on Montserrat describe their island as in the shape of a pear (fruit), perhaps we might say, a crooked pear.  It is eleven miles long, and seven miles wide at its widest point.  It is a quite hilly tropical island, very verdant, with what had been in earlier times a couple of quiescent volcanoes.  We are told that the island is home to 1,241 different species of small animals, and 718 species of beetles.

            Two hundred years after Columbus, a batch of Irish migrants was taken onto Montserrat, and in fact over a period of time, so many Irish migrants settled onto the island that the Irish Gaelic language was at one stage quite dominant in all of its communities.  During the year 1666, which incidentally happened to be the year of the Great Fire in London, the Irish migrant communities on Montserrat invited France to claim the island, but instead, England invaded and captured it. 

            However in 1782, during the still raging American Revolutionary War, the War of Independence, France did actually invade and capture Montserrat.  During the following year though, the island was ceded back again to England by the Treaty of Paris (1783).

            Hurricane Hugo on September 17, 1989 with its sustained wind force at more than 185 mph wrought horrendous damage to the island and this wide spread 90% devastation was compounded half a dozen years later with the onset of almost continuous volcanic activity beginning on July 18, 1995.  So powerful was the total devastation from the explosive eruptions of Mt Soufriere that the large bottom half of the pear shaped island is declared an exclusion zone, for which everybody has to obtain a police permit to enter.  It is claimed that Mt Soufriere has been the subject of scientific study more than any other volcano anywhere else upon planet Earth.

            The small capital city of New Plymouth was so overwhelmed with millions of tons of mud, volcanic ash and lava that the entire city has been abandoned.  At one stage, the town clock on top of its ornamental tower could be seen just above the level of the accumulated and solidified debris.  Some 8,000 citizens fled Montserrat and they were settled on other nearby islands, in England and elsewhere. 

            A new capital city Brades is under construction on the northern half of the island, and a totally new infrastructure is underway.  In 1994 the total population of the entire island was 13,000, but today their population numbers just 5,000.

            The well known European radio entrepreneur Jacques Tremoulet provided two mediumwave transmitters (20 kW and 200 kW) and two shortwave transmitters (15 kW each) for a new radio broadcasting station on Montserrat, Radio Antilles in 1959.  This equipment had been previously in use as a commercial broadcasting station, Radio Africa in Tangier.  These units, together with additional ancilliary equipment were installed in a new transmitter building located close to the Caribbean shore at the southern edge of the island.

            Soon after Deutsche Welle entered the radio scene on Montserrat, it is stated, they installed a 200 kW mediumwave transmitter that had been procured previously for their El Salvador project.  In addition, Deutsche Welle subsequently installed a new 50 kW Continental shortwave from the United States. 

            Thus, Radio Antilles, with its transferred equipment from the old Radio Africa in Tangier and also from the El Salvador project, together with the new 50 kW Continental, formed the electronic equipment that would be used as as a joint relay station on behalf of Deutsche Welle in Cologne Germany and the BBC in London England. 

            More about the Deutsche Welle - BBC relay station on Montserrat Island next time.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 441)