Wednesday, June 10, 2020

Australian Shortwave Callsign VLS

The legend of Hinemoa was passed on from generation to generation, long before any migrants from Europe settled on the islands of New Zealand, the Land of the Long White Cloud.  Princess Hinemoa was the pretty daughter of a Maori Great Chieftain, and she had fallen in love with handsome Prince Tutanekai, the son of a local Maori Chief. 

Princess Hinemoa lived near the water front of Lake Rotorua a large inland lake, and Prince Tutanekai lived on Mokaia Island in the center of the lake.  The hidden romance, forbidden by local custom, became well known, and the canoes at the water front were protected, so that Hinemoa could not paddle out to the island.

However one night, Princess Hinemoa clad herself with dry, empty Calabash Gourds, and she swam out to the island, guided in the darkness by the music that Tutanekai was playing on his own home made flute.  She arrived at the island, met her handsome prince; and like all good European legends, this Maori couple in New Zealand lived happily ever after.   

Named in honor of this princess, the small New Zealand coastal vessel, Hinemoa, just 542 tons and only 207 feet long, was built in the Scott shipyards in Greenock Scotland in 1875.  At the beginning of World War 1 (1914), the Hinemoa was listed with wireless apparatus operating under the New Zealand callsign (as it was at the time) VLS.  Due to new international radio regulations, all radio callsigns in New Zealand beginning with VL were changed to ZL on January 1, 1929, and thus the little ship NZGSS Hinemoa dropped the callsign VLS and received a new callsign.

The Australian usage of the shortwave callsign VLS was taken up by the AWA shortwave station in Pennant Hills, near Sydney and it was in use during the 1920s and 1930s for the Trawler Communication Service in both voice and Morse Code for the ships that plied along eastern coastal waters.  In addition, the long distance communication service from Pennant Hills was registered under the callsign VIS, though sometimes this was erroneously identified as VLS, due to the similarity in callsigns. 

During the year 1933, Donald Mackay, leader for the Mackey Aerial Survey Expedition in Central Australia, took mobile wireless equipment for use on the ground and in the air.  It is understood that the callsign that he used while at Docker Creek on the border between Northern and Western Australia, was VLS.

Interestingly a total of five different shortwave locations, in use by the ABC Home Service in Australia and the international service of Radio Australia, have all operated under the callsign VLS.  We look at each of these occasions in chronological order.

Soon after the end of World War II, the ABC in Australia began assessing their radio coverage throughout the continent and they observed that mediumwave coverage in the heavily populated coastal areas north and south of Sydney was insufficient.  It was determined that it would be more economical to provide a radio service to these areas on shortwave from one single location, rather than to install a network of several medium powered mediumwave stations.

The chosen location for this new shortwave station was on the western and southern edge of Sydney, just beyond suburban Liverpool.  This was already the location for all of the mediumwave transmitters that carry the two program services, ABC National and ABC Local, for coverage of Australia’s largest city. 

Interestingly, during the planning for the new 2 kW shortwave transmitter, the evidence suggests that the suggested callsign would be VLS, with the S obviously standing for Sydney.  However, when the transmitter was installed and taken into regular service in December 1948, an even more logical callsign was granted; VLI with the LI indicating Liverpool.

Twenty years later (1960s and 1970s), another well established ABC/Radio Australia shortwave station was already on the air at Lyndhurst in Victoria with programming beamed to the Great Outback, the Pacific and South East Asia.  During each summer season, one of the 10 kW transmitters at Lyndhurst was placed into service for the broadcast of live commentaries on the ever popular sport, cricket. 

The Lyndhurst transmitter that beamed the cricket commentaries to New Zealand and the Pacific was given the unannounced callsign VLS.  Then for example during the next decade in December 1980, a 10 kW transmitter at the larger shortwave station at Shepparton also in Victoria, took over the VLS cricket broadcast for New Zealand and the Pacific.

A new and temporary shortwave facility was installed for Radio Australia at Brandon near Townsville in Queensland in 1989.  The original intent was ultimately for a much larger station, and initially only three transmitters at 10 kW each we installed.  However, only two antenna systems were erected, and thus only two transmitters could be activated at any one time. 

The third transmitter, which was originally intended to carry its own separate programming, thus operated instead as a fill in for the other two.  That third transmitter was originally allocated the callsign VLS.

During the 1990s, one of the 250 kW transmitters at the Darwin relay station of Radio Australia was allocated the line callsign S, as in VLS, as a program service to Asia and beyond.  Back at that time, Radio Australia was issuing QSLs in the form of a Form Letter, and the verification text gave the callsign as VLS.

And for the final application of the Australian shortwave callsign VLS, we mention the shortwave Aeradio station that carries aviation communications with passenger aircraft in the vicinity of the Kingsford Smith Airport at Mascot, Sydney.   Several shortwave transmitters have been in use at this location during the past half century and more, and they are rated at 3 kW, 5 kW and 10 kW.  QSL cards from Sydney Aeradio and also Sydney Volmet, identify this station under the callsign VLS.
(AWR-Wavescan/NWS 558)