Monday, December 04, 2017

The Radio Scene in the World’s Smallest Kingdom

Tavolara Island

The small island named Tavolara is located off the north east coast of the larger nearby island of   Sardinia in the Tyrrhenian Sea, the west Italian section of the wider Mediterranean Ocean.  The island is 3 miles long and ½ mile wide, with a high jagged limestone massif in the center, and fingerlike coastal beaches at each end.    

            The island of Tavolara was known to the ancient Romans as Hermea, and to the Arabs of the same era as Tolar, though in those days the island was uninhabited.  Pope St Pontian, history tells us,  was exiled to Sardinia after he abdicated the pontificate in the year 235, and according to some accounts, he died and was buried on Tavolara, though subsequently his body was removed and reburied in the catacombs of Rome.        

            In a historic document dated in the year 1767, it is claimed that the island of Tavolara was not incorporated into the Kingdom of (nearby) Sardinia, but rather it retained its own separate independence.  This island was noted in these earlier years for its unique goat population; these goats had golden colored teeth due to the chemicals in the seaweed and lichen that the goats were eating.

            A settlement on the island began in the year 1807 when an Italian shepherd from Genoa migrated to the island, together with his two sister-wives and their children, in order to escape the charge of bigamy in Italy itself.  Thus it was that Giuseppe Bertoleoni became the first king on the island of Tavolara.

            Nearly 30 years later, King Charles Albert from nearby Sardinia visited Tavolara and he was impressed with the knowledge and education of Giuseppe Bertoleoni.  King Charles of Sardinia gave a Royal Charter to King Giuseppe of Tavolara, recognizing him as king, and recognizing his small island as a separate sovereign state.   

            Over the subsequent years generally speaking, each time the king father died, the eldest son took over with the prerogatives of royalty as king, though at one stage a queen, Mariangela, carried on as the royal ruler after her husband pre-deceased her.

            After the unification of the nearby separate Italian states into the Kingdom of Italy during the 1800s, King Victor Emmanuel 1 granted approval for Tavolara to retain its separate status as an independent state.  Soon afterwards, the Kingdom of Italy bought land on the island of Tavolara for the construction of a lighthouse, for which full payment was made.

            During the year 1900, Queen Victoria of England gave direction that the royal navy vessel HMS Vulcan should visit Tavolara and have an official photographer take a portrait photo of the island’s royal family.  The gold framed photo was hung in Buckingham Palace in London in the gallery of royal portraits from other countries around the world.  A copy of this portrait is hung also in the Da Tonino Restaurant on Tavolara. 

            According to the BBC TV Travel Channel, Tavolara is the world’s smallest kingdom, with these days just 11 part time residents.  The current king is the 84 year old Antonin, and his kingdom is a tourist resort that is famous for its nature reserve, beaches and scuba diving.  If ever you have the opportunity to visit this micro-nation, the Kingdom of Tavolara, you can buy some of their souvenirs, such as a cinderella postage stamp, a mint coin at $200, and a fridge magnetic portraying their national flag.  

            It was during the year 1962 that the United States, under the auspices of NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, constructed a huge radio station on small Tavolara Island.  The few remaining residents on the island, and the golden teethed goats, were removed and resettled across the water on nearby Sardinia. 

            The main buildings for the new radio station were constructed on the fingerlike cove and beach area at Spalmatore di Fuori, at the northeast end of the island.  The massive antenna system was attached to a tall 440 feet self standing tower at ground level, and to four spread out towers on top of Mount Cannone, the giant 1855 ft limestone massif in the enter of the island.

            Two quite different functions were activated in this unique radio station.  One purpose for the station was to communicate with submerged submarines in the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean; and the other purpose was for navigation with planes and ships in the European arenas. 

            This NATO radio communication station was licensed with an Italian callsign, ICV; and its high powered longwave transmitter radiated on the very low frequencies of 20.27 kHz and 20.76 kHz.  The radio-goniometric direction finding station operated under the American Bullseye system, and this was back in the era before GPS navigation became available by satellite.

            As time went by, this NATO communication station on Tavolara Island was no longer needed due to advancement in electronic communication via satellite, and so the station was decommissioned and handed over to the Italian government.  The Italians are still operating this original radio station on this small island, though at a considerably lower level than when it was originally constructed more than half a century ago.
(AWR Waescan/NWS 457)
photo via YouTube