Saturday, November 11, 2017

Australian Shortwave Callsign VLP

The Australian shortwave callsign VLP was originally applied consecutively to two passenger/cargo ships belonging to the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand.  Back in those days, the two initial letters VL were applied to wireless stations New Zealand, though due to new international regulations in 1927, the first letter in wireless/radio callsigns for New Zealand was changed from V to Z.

            The first New Zealand ship to which the callsign VLP was allocated was the SS Manapouri.  This ship was built by Dumbarton in Scotland in 1882, and it was named in honor of Manapouri, a small town at the southern end of the South Island of New Zealand.

            The SS Manapouri was sold to the Moller Line in Shanghai China in 1925, though the callsign VLP was initially retained during that era in the change of ownership.  This ship went through a subsequent change of names, from Manapouri to Lindsay Moller to Fook Hong to Tai Poo Sek.  The ship was sunk during a United States  bombing air raid in the Mekong Delta towards the end of the Pacific War, in January 1945.

            The second ship belonging to the Union Steamship Company of New Zealand to receive the callsign VLP was the SS Kurow that was launched in England in 1910.  This ship was also named after a small town in the South Island of New Zealand.  The Kurow took over the callsign VLP in 1924 when the previous ship, the Manapouri relinquished the callsign under Chinese ownership.

            The SS Kurow was likewise sold in 1933 to the Moller Line in Shanghai and it was renamed the Mabel Moller.  Two years later, on September 18, 1935, this ship was wrecked off the coast of Sakhalin Island, north of Japan, while traveling under ballast.

            The SS Kurow also relinquished the callsign VLP under Chinese ownership, and it was then applied to an international wireless communication service at the AWA shortwave station located at Pennant Hills on the edge of suburban Sydney in Australia.  The callsign VLP was applied to the shortwave communication service with New Zealand which was licensed for transmission in the 35 or 36 metre bands (8 MHz) in 1931.  This usage of the callsign VLP was not applied to a specific transmitter, but rather it was applied to a specific frequency in the Australian communication service to  New Zealand.

            The next usage of the callsign VLP is a real enigma!  Over a period of seven years, the authoritative American radio publication known as the White Radio Log carried an entry in every issue in which VLP3 in Sydney Australia on 11850 kHz was listed.  The first listing of VLP3 11850 kHz in the White Radio Log is for November 1940, and the last listing is found in the issue for October 1946.

            This regular long term listing of a shortwave broadcasting service from Sydney Australia does not appear to be a misprint, though no other frequency is listed under this callsign.  It should also be noted that no other radio publication anywhere in the world carried a listing for a shortwave program service from Sydney Australia under the callsign VLP; and there are no monitoring comments in radio magazines of that era that draw attention to the callsign VLP3 on 11850 kHz; not as a misprint, nor as a legitimate callsign service.    

            There are two very different possibilities for the seven years of listings for VLP3 in the White Radio Log.  Back then, it was a common habit for some radio publications to borrow listings from another radio publication without giving due credit.  To counter this problem, an accepted authoritative publication would sometimes list a spurious entry so that if bulk entries were pirated without credit by another publication, the inadvertent inclusion of a spurious entry would reveal this dishonest practice.

            The only other possibility for the long term inclusion of VLP3 on 11850 kHz in the White Radio Log was that this was a genuine entry that the editors had obtained from their own legitimate sources.  If the callsign VLP3 was a genuine entry, then there was only one shortwave service in the Sydney area that could carry this programming, and that was of course the aforementioned AWA station in Pennant Hills.

            Many other radio publications during that same era did list VLR9 in Melbourne (Lyndhurst) on 11850 kHz.  At that stage, the original old low powered VK3LR-VLR transmitter was ailing.  It had been reworked two or three times, and its signal was raspy to say the least. 

            However back then, Australia desperately needed all of its few available shortwave transmitters, including the ailing 2 kW VLR.  If VLR should fail, what could take its place?

Perhaps the entry for VLP3 in Sydney on 11850 kHz provides us with a clue.  Maybe the Australian government (which owned a 51% share of AWA) had made a quiet arrangement with AWA to provide a fillin on behalf of the ABC if the unreliable VLR should fail.

            So, what is the real answer?  Was the seven year entry for VLP3 simply a pretense to prevent piracy of information?  Or was it an unannounced backup procedure for AWA to provide a fillin if VLR should fail?  I guess we will never know for sure, but we would suggest that the real hidden purpose for VLP3 was for any available AWA shortwave transmitter to take over from VLR9 should it fail.    

            During the 1990s, the VLP callsign was applied to the transmissions from Radio Australia Darwin out on lonely and isolated Cox Peninsula in the Northern Territory.  The  line callsign VLP, or at times just P, identified a program service from the Radio Australia studios in Melbourne up to a 250 kW transmitter at their Darwin relay station.  Many Form Letter QSLs were issued by Radio Australia verifying the callsign VLP, and likewise many QSL cards were issued verifying the transmitter callsign VLP during the 1990s. 
(AWR Wavescan)