Monday, December 21, 2009

Radio Australia -Wanneroo

It was exactly 70 years ago, to the very day, that Australia Calling was launched by the Prime Minister of Australia, Mr Robert Menzies. In later times, Mr Menzies was knighted and became Sir Robert Menzies, and Australia Calling was re-designated as Radio Australia. At the time of its inauguration on Wednesday December 20, 1939, Mr Menzies was celebrating his 45th birthday during his first term as prime minister; and Australia Calling was on the air from just three shortwave transmitters at two different locations; two at 10 kW at Pennant Hills in New South Wales, and one at 2 kW at Lyndhurst in Victoria.
During the following month, preliminary test broadcasts began from a 4th transmitter, again just 2 kW, at a 3rd location, Wanneroo in Western Australia. This then is the story of Radio Australia Wanneroo, and we present this information here in this edition of Wavescan in honor of Radio Australia’s 70th anniversary.
It was back in the year 1932 that the PMG Dept procured the Wanneroo property on the northern edge of the state capital, Perth, for the purpose of establishing a new radio broadcasting station. At the end of the year, the eight year old mediumwave station 6WF, located on the top of a commercial building in downtown Perth, was retired and a new 5 kW transmitter for this ABC service was installed at Wanneroo.
In 1938, work commenced at Wanneroo for the installation of two additional broadcast transmitters, one mediumwave and one shortwave. The one year old mediumwave 6WN was transferred from the city post office building to Wanneroo, and a new shortwave transmitter VLW was installed for coverage of outback areas in Western Australia.
The earliest known test broadcast from the new shortwave station VLW was noted in the United States on 7170 kHz in September 1939. However, with the inauguration of Australia Calling, plans were laid for the incorporation of this new unit on the west coast of the continent into part time usage for programming beamed to South Africa and the islands of Indonesia.
Additional test broadcasts from VLW were noted in Australia and New Zealand during the following weeks, and, in the New Year 1940, test broadcasts were beamed specifically towards Africa. This transmitter was officially taken into the programming service of Australia Calling on April 7, 1940, with programming in both English and Afrikaans.
Interestingly, two sets of callsigns were in use from this low powered transmitter. One set of numeric designators was in use for the ABC outback service in Western Australia, and another set for the overseas service from Australia Calling. For example:-
VLW2 was in use with ABC programming on 9615 kHz
VLW2 Australia Calling 9650 kHz
The initial series of broadcasts beamed to Africa from VLW with a relay of programming from Radio Australia in Melbourne lasted for less than a year. However, a new service in the Malay language for the Asian islands north of Australia was introduced in October 1941, though this service too was soon afterwards terminated.
In 1945, the 2 kW VLW was dropped completely from Radio Australia programming and these program services were transferred to the three new high powered shortwave transmitters located at Shepparton in Victoria. Transmitter VLW was now on the air exclusively with the ABC regional service to the outback.
In 1959, work commenced on a new transmitter building at Wanneroo in which several new mediumwave and shortwave transmitters were installed. These new units, three shortwave and four mediumwave ranging in power from 2 kW to 50 kW, were taken into full service in 1962.
In 1963, a series of test broadcasts at 50 kW were beamed to Africa from Wanneroo; six years later another series of broadcasts were beamed to Africa using two transmitters at 10 kW; and in 1983, there was a series of test broadcasts lasting three days beamed to Africa.
In 1984, there was a series of test broadcasts directed to Antarctica using a 10 kW transmitter and back radiation from a rhombic antenna beamed to the Kimberly region in Western Australia. Programming was in English and French with a relay from Radio France International in Paris.
The shortwave transmitters at Wanneroo were in use for international and outback Australian coverage for some 55 years, but they are silent now. These units were withdrawn from service and closed down in 1994. During their more than half a century of service, they were on the air with programming for the outback from the ABC in Perth, and with a relay from Radio Australia beamed to Africa, the Middle East, Asia and Antarctica.
On this occasion today, we salute Radio Australia for their 70 years of on air service, which included the initial usage of the small 2 kW shortwave transmitter VLW located at Wanneroo near Perth in Western Australia. QSL cards for this unique shortwave service during its initial one year period were issued from the ABC headquarters in Sydney Australia and these QSLs were the early version of the orange colored card featuring the wild kangaroo.
(AWR Wavescan NWS 43 via Adrian Peterson)