Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Radio Broadcasting in New Guinea

The Port Moresby Story - VIG & VHSU
In recent time, we have begun a series of progressive topics here in Wavescan on the story of radio broadcasting on the island of New Guinea. Thus far, we have shared with you the early origins back in the era of the old spark wireless stations; and on this occasion, we take a look at the New Guinea story, in Port Moresby itself.
You will remember from the previous program on this topic that the first wireless station located at Port Moresby in the Papua section of New Guinea was a temporary facility erected on Paga Hill in March 1911. A permanent spark wireless station was erected on the edge of Port Moresby two years later. This permanent 5 kW electrical transmitter was constructed from equipment provided by Father Shaw and his wireless factory on the edge of Sydney in Australia.
Wireless station VIG in Port Moresby was installed for the purpose of Morse Code communication with shipping in the waters nearby to Port Moresby, for contact with Sydney with commercial traffic and government messages, and for inland communications throughout the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. The long distance communications with Australia were often handled via intermediate stations that relayed the Morse Code messages on to the next nearest wireless station. These intermediate relay stations were located at Cooktown and Townsville, on the Pacific coast in the northern areas of the state of Queensland.
In October 1915, all wireless stations throughout the Commonwealth of Australia and all neighboring islands were placed under the control of the Australian navy, which formed part of the British navy at the time. It might be added that Port Moresby was a quite small town during this era, and it was described as having the character of a small outback town in Queensland.
Station VIG in Port Moresby was taken over by the Australian government soon after the end of World War 1, though it was transferred back to the original owners, AWA in 1922.
It was around the year 1925 that the spark wireless stations in coastal areas of Australia and nearby islands were modernized with the installation of electronic transmitters utilizing the recently introduced valves, or tubes, made in England and the United States. The Port Moresby station, along with all of the others in the maritime service throughout the South Pacific, was upgrade with the latest available electronic equipment.
In March 1931, AWA installed a high speed telegraph centre in Main Street, Port Moresby which keyed a new out-of-town facility that contained a 5 kW transmitter and a three mast antenna system beamed on Sydney.
With the progress of the Pacific Conflict, the civilian population in the city of Port Moresby was evacuated to Australia in December 1941, and the main operating facility for the radio station was transferred into Wonga Cottage, at a place called Five Mile, which was of course, 5 miles out of town. Wonga Cottage was in earlier times a quite famous vacation home for a wealthy family living in New Guinea.
That was the story of the AWA communication station VIG, from its earliest installation up to the early 1940s.
However, it so happened that AWA established another radio communication station in the province of Papua during this same era. It was an air radio facility for communication with aircraft and it was operated by AWA on behalf of the government Post & Telegraph Department.
Initially this station was on the air under the callsign VHPM, with the letters VH indicating an Australian aircraft facility and the letters PM obviously indicating Port Moresby. Following the initial series of test transmissions, the callsign was changed to VHSU.
Communication station VHPM/VHSU was heard in Australia, New Zealand and the United States when it was on the air with aircraft communications and also when it was in contact with a similar airways station located at the regional air strip near Salamaua in New Guinea. It was noted in Australia with traffic for various communication stations in New Guinea and Australia, and the messages were read very slowly, and sometimes specific words were spelled out.
Airways station VHPM/VHSU was active from September 1938 to around June 1940. There are no known QSLs from this station.
During this era around the middle of last century, the main AWA shortwave station at Port Moresby, station VIG, was often heard in the same three countries, Australia, New Zealand and the United States. On some occasions, it was noted with communication traffic, and on other occasions it was heard with program broadcasting.
Somewhat independent from the AWA shortwave facility was a new mediumwave station which was on the air under the Australian callsign 4PM, and shortwave station VIG sometimes carried a relay from this mediumwave counterpart for the benefit of distant listeners. Every now-and-again, an old QSL card from the AWA station VIG turns up, though these days they are quite rare.
OK, then on the next occasion in this series of special features on radio broadcasting in New Guinea, we will tell the story of the mediumwave station 4PM and its shortwave relay counterpart VIG.
NWS 14 via Adrian Peterson)