Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Voice of America at Ocean Gate

a nostalgic look at the Voice of America at Ocean Gate, New Jersey

Just a few weeks back here in Wavescan, we presented the story of the early Voice of America relay station located at Lawrenceville in New Jersey. On this occasion today, we present the story of another temporary VOA relay station, this time the station that was located at Ocean Gate, also in New Jersey, and that station was also operated by the huge radio & telephone company AT&T.
Interestingly, the five facilities that made up the two large AT&T shortwave stations in New Jersey were all constructed at the same time. These were the two transmitter stations located at Lawrenceville & Ocean Gate, and the three receiver stations located at Netcong, Forked River & Manahawkin.
A large tract of land, 175 acres of salt water marsh on the water front at Good Luck Point, at the mouth of the Tom’s River was procured for the Ocean Gate transmitter station in the year 1929. This location on the Atlantic coastline was some fifty miles south of New York City.
The average elevation at the Ocean Gate property was just eighteen inches above high water, and so deep drainage pipes were inserted below ground level, entirely surrounding the three storeyed transmitter building. The original electronic facilities installed at Ocean Gate included a 15 kW shortwave transmitter, similar in design to the original transmitter installed at Lawrenceville, together with two curtain antennas seventy feet high.
The main callsign at this new shortwave station has always been WOO, though this callsign was also in use simultaneously at an earlier and smaller shortwave station operated by AT&T at Deal Beach. The usage of the experimental callsign, W2XJ was also transferred from Deal Beach to Ocean Gate. Another experimental callsign, W2XDO, was also used on air at Ocean Gate Radio.
The majority of the channel callsigns that were allocated by the FCC for usage at Ocean Gate Radio were three letter callsigns, sometimes with an additional number, and generally in the series beginning with WO or WD. For example:-
WDI on 5052 kHz & WDJ on 7565 kHz
WOO on 12840 kHz & WOO9 on 8660 kHz
Radio station WOO at AT&T Ocean Gate New Jersey was commissioned in 1930 with some excellent publicity about this new international communication station in the local newspaper. The initial purpose for Ocean Gate Radio was for contact with Atlantic shipping, and for communication with Europe & South America.
During the year 1937, the FCC gave approval for the installation of several new shortwave transmitters at Ocean Gate Radio and initially five new channels were assigned for usage of this station. At the same time, a small 400 watt transmitter was installed at Ocean Gate for contact with nearby coastal shipping and it was noted on air soon after its inauguration in 1937, talking with fishing boats under the callsign WOU.
Although this large and impressive shortwave station was erected primarily for commercial phone purposes, yet beginning in the year 1933, it was noted on the air at times with broadcast programming intended for mediumwave relay in Europe & Latin America. For a period of almost two years WOO Ocean Gate Radio was also in use by OWI, the Office of War Information, for the relay of VOA programming to Europe, South America, and the South Pacific.
The first of the two receiver stations was constructed at Forked River, just ten miles south of Ocean Gate itself. Usage of this facility began around December 1929, and it corresponded with both of the AT&T transmitting stations, Deal Beach and Ocean Gate. The Forked River receiving station was installed on the Atlantic coastline, upon a marshy property of 292 acres.
The Manahawkin receiver Station was located on the coastline, ten miles further south below Forked River. This station became the main receiver facility for WOO Ocean Gate Radio, and in addition to its usage for the reception of radio transmission from Europe and Atlantic shipping, it was also the American terminal for the undersea cable from Bermuda.
It was in May 1942, that a daily four hour service of Voice of America programming for Australia and the South Pacific was implemented at Ocean Gate Radio, over two outlets, channel callsigns WOJ & WOK. During the following two years, a total of ten known shortwave channels and callsigns were noted on air with the relay of VOA programming for direct reception, and also for onward relay by radio stations located in North Africa & England.
Signal strength from Ocean Gate Radio as heard in Australia and New Zealand was often described as at a good level. It is probable that all of these transmissions were made at a power output of 20 kW.
On several occasions, for example, station WOO was noted on 12840 kHz with a relay of VOA programming in parallel with WGEO in Schenectady New York. Foreign language programming was noted in Spanish on channel callsign WOK on 10555 kHz, and in French on channel callsign WOO4 on 8760 kHz. The final known VOA broadcasts from Ocean Gate Radio WOO were on the air in January 1944, though the station continued in use for several years as an American terminal for international phone calls.
In the mid 1950s, the large array of curtain antennas was removed and replaced with a series of twenty nine rhombic antennas. By the time the station was closed some forty years later again, the facility contained a bevy of transmitters rated at 10 kW.
When additional undersea cables were subsequently laid between Europe and North America, and when satellite communication became available, AT&T Ocean Gate Radio was no longer needed. The original date for the closure of this station was announced as February 28, 1999, and after a couple of postponements, the station was finally closed on November 9 of the same year, 1999.
These days, the Ocean Gate property is now a wildlife refuge owned by the United States Fish & Wildlife Service, and the large transmitter building is owned by the local city government. However, if you were to visit what was once a large and influential shortwave radio station, you would still see a few remnants of its one time glory, including even one of the rotatable antenna systems.
During the time of its on air usage as a relay station for the Voice of America, as far as is known, no QSLs were ever issued. However, during the final twenty or thirty years of its on air service as a shortwave communication station, many QSL cards were issued on behalf of AT&T-Bell Ocean Gate Radio, WOO. These QSL cards were all oversized postcards, carrying the AT&T & Bell logos on one side. One of their QSL cards showed a map of the world on the other side, with all of the many AT&T locations marked. These QSL cards from Ocean Gate Radio WOO were usually posted from the AT&T receiver station at Manahawkin in New Jersey.
(AWR Wavecan/NWS62)