Monday, January 19, 2015

Underwater Radio

The Radio Ship Radio Mi Amigo (
It is known that at least five radio broadcasting stations, or major components thereof, are lying at the bottom of the ocean in the ship that was carrying the equipment at the time.  Four of these sunken ships were due to enemy action, and one was the result of a fierce winter storm. 
            Back in the year 1940, soon after the onset of the European Conflict, a 100 kW shortwave transmitter, manufactured at the Marconi company in Chelmsford England, was shipped out to Singapore Island.  It was intended that this transmitter would be installed at a new shortwave station still under construction, adjacent to the early Radio Malaya station at Jurong on the western side of Singapore island.  When activated, this station was to act as a relay for the BBC London, with coverage into Asia and the Pacific.
            However, due to an attack by an enemy submarine, the ship was sunk en route and the entire cargo was lost, including the electronic equipment for the new BBC shortwave relay station.  Instead, a 50 kW RCA shortwave transmitter was subsequently consigned to Singapore, but before it could be activated, it was removed and taken to Barbados in the Caribbean where it was installed for Cable & Wireless at Bearded Hall under the callsign VPO.
            Back in the year 1941, plans were laid for the installation of a megapowered mediumwave station at a secret underground location near Crowborough in England.  This station was intended to  beam surreptitious programming in various languages to continental Europe, and also to act as a BBC relay station for coverage into the same continental areas. 
            At the time, a super powered 500 kW transmitter was nearing  completion at the RCA factory in Camden New Jersey which had been ordered by NBC for mediumwave WJZ at Bound Brook, New Jersey.  However, the FCC had imposed a 50 kW power limit for mediumwave stations in the United States and NBC-WJZ no longer needed this huge transmitter.
            China demonstrated an interest in procuring this megalithic transmitter, but while negotiations were still underway, the British government arranged to purchase it and have it shipped across the Atlantic.  The transmitter was re-engineered for 600 kW, disassembled into smaller units, crated and stowed separately into several different ships.
            One of these cargo ships, carrying the antennas and towers, was sunk in the Atlantic by an enemy submarine and the equipment was lost.  Very hurriedly, new towers and antennas were manufactured in the United States and freighted across the Atlantic where it was all installed above ground for the underground American transmitter, known as Aspidistra, at Crowborough.  
            During the latter half of the European Conflict, PWI Press Wireless International, manufactured and shipped across the Atlantic numerous transmitters, large and small, for use in islandic and continental Europe.  Some of these shipments contained their famous 40 kW shortwave transmitter, and other shipments contained complete mobile radio broadcasting stations.  The mobile stations usually contained a 400 watt transmitter, always capable of high speed Morse Code, and sometimes also capable of voice transmission. 
            Much of this radio equipment was manufactured at their new factory quite near to their large shortwave station at Hicksville on Long Island, New York and then shipped across the Atlantic.  PWI states that at least one of these mobile stations was sunk by an enemy submarine in 1944, and that station still lies to this day on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean.    
            Also in the year 1944, Lord Louis Mountbatten expedited the construction of a large shortwave station at Ekala, a dozen miles north of Colombo in Ceylon, as it was known in those days.  A large shipment of radio equipment, including electronic items from the Marconi factory at Chelmsford and redundant antenna systems from the Isle of Wight, were shipped out from England. 
            However, the entire consignment was lost to enemy submarine action in the Indian Ocean off the coast of Sri Lanka.  Ultimately, a new consignment of equipment was sent out from England, and this was installed at the SEAC installation at Ekala, where it was in use for many years for the relay of programming by the BBC London, the Voice of America and Adventist World Radio.  This SEAC station also carried programming on behalf of SLBC, the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation.
            Back in 1965, Ronan ORahilly in England ordered a 50 kW mediumwave transmitter from Continental Electronics in Dallas Texas for installation on the ship Mi Amigo, which was on the air at the time as the famous pirate radio station, Radio Caroline.  During that era, Continental was constructing several 50 kW mediumwave transmitters, Model 317C, for various clients.
            However, the BBC suddenly needed two 50 kW mediumwave transmitters for its new Central Africa Relay Station at Francistown in Botswana and entrepreneur ORahilly agreed to allow the BBC to take the No 12 transmitter that he had ordered.  The BBC also took an additional unit, No 13, so ORahilly agreed to accept transmitter No 14 in this series which he installed on board the Mi Amigo.
            Some 15 years later, on March 19, 1980, the ship Mi Amigo encountered a Force 10 storm and she drifted for 10 nautical miles before running aground on the Long Sand Bank.  The ship sank next day where she now lies in 10 feet of water in the Thames Estuary out from London. 

            The 50 kW mediumwave transmitter also went down with the ship, and that is where it lies to this day, at the shallow bottom of the North Sea!    
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 308)