Sunday, May 17, 2020

The First Wireless Radio Station in Greenland

The island of Greenland in the northern areas of the Atlantic Ocean is the world’s largest island, and yet it also has the world’s lowest population density; just 56,000 people spread out over 86,000 square miles.  Greenland has been under Danish influence, exploration, and settlement for more than a thousand years, though at one stage back 500 years ago, Portugal explored and laid claim to the island. 
In addition Norway also has laid claim to Greenland, or at least part of it, along the central eastern coast.  Then in more recent times, the United States has granted economic support and cooperation with Greenland, and they have also operated a series of military bases in various areas of this same island. 
Nearly 90% of the local population in Greenland is descendant from the original Eskimo-Inuit settlers who migrated in from northern Canada, though the small foreign population living there are mainly of Danish background.  The official language in Greenland is Greenlandic, a local Eskimo-Inuit dialect, though Danish and English are both recognized languages, along with local languages and dialects as needed.
The earliest usage of wireless and radio in Greenland was associated with exploration and hunting.  In 1921, the MacMillan expedition aboard the ship Bowdoin in Baffin Bay made the first wireless transmissions from Arctica, though these longwave communication tests were unsuccessful, due mainly to heavy local static. 
The first successful wireless transmissions from Arctica were made from a land based station at Mosquito Bay on the east coast of Greenland, and this was under the leadership of the Norwegian animal trapper Johan A. Olsen.  The Norwegian government was aware that Olsen planned to visit Greenland once again as a hunter of land and sea animals, and they granted him sufficient funding and equipment to install a radio station for the purpose of sending weather information back to Norway. 
It was in the year 1922 that Olsen and his hunting party made another return voyage to Greenland, aboard the ocean harvesting vessel Anni 1, and they landed at a location they named as Myggbukta,  This Norwegian word Myggbukta means Mosquito Bay, a very appropriate name because of the hordes of mosquitoes in the area.
The Olsen party constructed a small building at Mosquito Bay into which they installed the new radio equipment and they then made their first transmission of weather information back to Tromso Radio on Tromsoya Island in northern Norway.  This first successful wireless/radio transmission from Myggbukta Radio occurred on Sunday October 1, 1922; it was the first wireless/radio transmission from Greenland, and also apparently the first wireless/radio transmission from Arctica.
The second series of successful wireless/radio transmissions from Greenland/Arctica came from the MacMillan expedition aboard the ship Bowdoin in Greenlandic waters in the latter part of the year 1923.  At the time, MacMillan was obviously unaware of the Norwegian transmissions from 
Myggbukta Radio, almost a year earlier.  The MacMillan 1923 claim as the first from Greenland/Arctica, which we erroneously accepted and presented here in Wavescan nearly six months ago, is in actual fact, superseded by the Norwegian station on Greenland almost one year earlier.
The Norwegian radio station at Myggbukta was on the air for several months with weather reports to Norway.  Then during the following year (1923), the station was closed and the personnel boarded the ship Anni 1 for the return voyage to Norway.  However, a few days later, the ship Anni 1 was stuck in an ice floe, and crushed; the ship was broken and sunk, and sadly all personnel died.
The radio station at Myggbukta was repaired by Gunnar Isachsen during the next year (1924) and it was temporarily reactivated.  Give two more years (1926), and the station was activated again, this time by members of the Norwegian Foldvik Expedition.
In 1931, five members of what was called the Arctic Commercial Enterprise, claimed the territory around the radio station at Mosquito Bay as a colony of Norway, though this territorial annexation was totally unofficial and without government authority.  Then during the excesses of World War 2, personnel from a patrol boat operated by the Free Norwegian Navy, the Fridtjof Nansen, came ashore at Mosquito Bay and destroyed the radio station.
After the war was over, the Norwegian government rebuilt Radio Myggbukta at Mosquito Bay in Greenland in the summer of 1946, and it was in continuous operation for the next thirteen years.  However, during the year 1959, the Norwegian government dropped all funding for this station, and so it was unceremoniously closed. 
That was the fascinating 37 year long saga of radio station LMG, Radio Myggbukta, Radio Mosquito Bay, on the east coast of Greenland.  This was the first wireless/radio station in Greenland, and apparently the first radio/wireless station in Arctica.
We might also add, that there were five other Norwegian radio stations in coastal Greenland back during the prewar era, all of which were installed during the year 1932.  These additional radio stations provided local communication for shipping in the Norwegian fishing fleet, as well as weather reports for mainland Norway.  These five additional Norwegian stations in Greenland were located at Karlsbakk, Jonsbu, Storfjord, Torgilsbu and Finnbus.
More about the radio scene in Greenland next time.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 580)