Monday, March 27, 2017

Lonely little shortwave station in Canada closed

According to several recent reports, the small, isolated and low powered shortwave station located on the west coast of Canada is now declared to be off the air, permanently.  The CBC Canadian Broadcasting Corporation shortwave station CKZU has been serving northern communities in British Columbia for ¾ of a century, it left the air last year due to equipment failure, and it is now confirmed that the cost of replacement is not financially justified.
            Several astute international radio monitors observed that the station was providing only intermittent service since about the middle of the year 2015, perhaps more often off the air than on the air.  However, the noted international radio monitor Harold Sellers stated in the Danish bulletin, DX Window, that he heard shortwave CKZU with a strong signal on its regular 49 m band channel 6160 kHz on September 30, 2016. 
            Harold Sellers lives in retirement in the city of Vernon in the central interior of British Columbia, which is within the main target area of shortwave CKZU.  That monitoring observation last year appears to be the last reliable logging of the signal from shortwave CBC in Vancouver, British Columbia.
            Canadian international radio monitor Walter Salmaniw lives on Vancouver Island in the provincial capital Victoria, which is 60 miles across the waterway from the city of Vancouver, the home for shortwave CKZU.  Quoting Colin Newell, Walter Salminaw stated in an internet release, that the CBC in Vancouver has declared that the old CKZU transmitter is beyond repair, and the cost for replacement is not justified, due to the very limited number of listeners who tune in to its shortwave signal.
            Shortwave CKZU has always been co-located with the main CBC mediumwave station in Vancouver and it was taken into service in December 1941.  At the time, the mediumwave callsign was CBR and the shortwave callsign was CBRX.  The low power RCA transmitter was rated at just 150 watts, and the operating channel was 6160 kHz, the only channel ever used for CBC shortwave in Vancouver.
               The transmitter and antenna system were co-installed with mediumwave CBR on Lulu Island, in what we would call the southern suburban areas of the city of Vancouver.  This transmitter was placed into service for two specific purposes: as a program feed to a network of small LPRT low power CBC mediumwave relay transmitters throughout the province of British Columbia, and for direct reception by isolated listeners in the same areas.
            Lulu Island is a small, low and flat island at the southern edge of Vancouver city.  It is a silt island with some areas below both sea level and river level.  The island was named in honor of a popular entertainer Lulu Sweet, apparently from Hawaii, who bought property on the island.  Perhaps it was true that Lulu Sweet was indeed from Hono-lulu.  An elevated dyke has been built up around the entire populated area of Lulu Island as protection against flooding from the Fraser River and against storms coming in from the Pacific Ocean.
            The first transmitter base for CBC mediumwave CBR and shortwave CBRX was in the area of  Lulu Island which is now built up as suburban housing.  The first antenna system was a diamond shaped rhombic, supported on four towers 50 feet tall and each leg was 240 feet long.  The main lobe from this antenna system was directed a little to the northwest, thus ensuring coverage into the hilly coastal areas of British Columbia to the north. 
            On January 25, 1952, the callsign for mediumwave CBR was changed to CBU, with the CB indicating CBC and the U indicating Vancouver.  At the same time, shortwave CBRX became CBUX, with the X indicating shortwave.
            Two years later (1954), the small 150 watt RCA transmitter was replaced by a Marconi transmitter from England, rated at 1 kW input and ½ kW output.  Then, eleven years later again (1965), the shortwave callsign was changed once more, due to the fact that international radio callsigns beginning with the two letters CB belonged to Chile, not Canada.  Thus CBUX became CKZU.
            Give two more years (1967), and a completely new transmitter station was constructed for CBC Vancouver.  This new facility was still located on Lulu Island, though it is now on the water-logged ocean side of the protective dyke surrounding the built up housing areas of the island.  Shortwave CKZU was moved into its new location alongside 50 kW CBU.  
            Then, in 1983, a new shortwave transmitter was installed for CKZU, an American made 1 kW Elcom Bauer, Model 701B, from California.  This was the third shortwave transmitter for CBC Vancouver, and the one that has been sputtering somewhat during the last few years.  The antenna system, supported on four wooden poles, is a dipole with passive reflector, thus still providing coverage to the north.
            In 2008, it was rumored that shortwave CKZU might close; in 2013 the CKZU license was cancelled, though soon afterwards reinstated; in 2015 the station was off the air, though in September last year it was noted on the air again, at least for a while.  Then in February earlier this year, shortwave CKZU was declared inoperable.
               Yes, CBC shortwave in Vancouver has now joined the mounting pile of silent shortwave stations, though you can still see on Google Earth the wobbly antenna system, and the old transmitter building that still houses the 50 kW mediumwave CBU on 690 kHz.  You will also see a scattered clustering of old pine tree trunks that have been washed up into the area due to storms and flooding.

            So what then is left these days in the shortwave scene in Canada?  Yes, you can still hear the CBC shortwave station CKZN in St John’s Newfoundland with 1 kW on 6160 kHz; and CFVP in Calgary Alberta with 100 watts on 6030 kHz; and CFRX in Toronto Ontario with 1 kW on 6070 kHz.  And don’t forget the three channel operation of the chronohertz station CHU in Ottawa Ontario on 3330 7850 & 14670 kHz.  
(AWR Wavescan)