Thursday, August 09, 2018

Gone and Forgotten: Shortwave Radio SEARV

In our program last week we presented the story of the early low power shortwave stations (and their parallel mediumwave unit) that were installed in Silliman University on the southeast edge of Negros Island in the Philippines back soon after the end of the Pacific War in the middle of last century.  In our program today, we turn to the story of Gone and Forgotten - 2: The Story of Shortwave Radio SEARV at the same university location in the Philippines.

During the early 1960s, three radio transmitters were constructed in an unnamed garage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa in the United States; two mediumwave at 10 kW and one shortwave at 50 kW.  We would suggest that these three transmitters, including the 50 kW shortwave unit, were all constructed by Mission Engineering which it is known was located at Hiawatha, a suburb of Cedar Rapids in Iowa.  (Mission Engineering is these days identified as CEC, Communications Engineering Company, still located at Hiawatha in suburban Cedar Rapids.)

All three transmitters were built under contract and they were destined for installation overseas, in Asia.  It is not known these days which country received the two mediumwave transmitters. 
However, the shortwave transmitter was intended for installation in the Philippines at Silliman University in Dumaguete, for SEARV, the South East Radio Voice.  In April 1964, a special ceremony was conducted at the dockside in San Francisco regarding the 50 kW transmitter that was ready for shipment to Asia.

Then more than a year later (July 1965), the noted Arthur Cushen in Invercargill, South New Zealand reported in the Australian monthly magazine, Radio and Hobbies, that the transmitter had been received at Dumaguete in the southern Philippines.  However as he stated, the station engineers at the time were uncertain as to what type of antenna system should be employed, though they preferred curtain rather than the proposed rhombic.
The new higher powered shortwave station was planned as an extension of the lower powered DYH4 which was already on the air with a ¼ kW on 6055 kHz.  For the new 50 kW shortwave transmitter, a total of five frequencies were approved with five new callsigns in the consecutive DYH series running from DYH5 - DYH9.

The WR(TV)HB for 1965 stated that test broadcasts from a 75 kW or 100 kW transmitter were scheduled to begin in early 1965.  The 1966 edition of the same WR(TV)HB stated that test broadcasts would be scheduled some time during that year.  The 1967 edition listed the transmitter power as 50 kW.

Finally, for the first time, test broadcasts from the new SEARV were on the air and they were beamed towards Thailand and Burma.  This new station on the shortwave bands was noted in New Zealand on 15420 kHz in March 1968.  Interestingly though, a different  set of four callsigns were introduced, and these were in the DZU series, running from DZU5 to DZU8.

Later in that same year September 1968, Polish language programming was heard in Europe  from SEARV on the very low frequency 4980 kHz, though Arthur Cushen in New Zealand stated that he heard them still on their regular 15420 kHz channel.  Two years later again, he stated that SEARV was on the air spasmodically with test broadcasts, and that they were playing classical music with test announcements in English every quarter hour.

Programming was beamed towards India, Pakistan, China, and the countries of southeast Asia, and additional channels noted on air were: 9750 9770 11910 15145 and 17860 kHz.  The callsign shown for 9770 kHz for example was DZU6.

Unfortunately, Radio SEARV shortwave struck the same problems as did Radio Veritas Asia; a shortage of funding, a shortage of trained personnel, and insufficient programming from too few regional studios.  Thus it was that the 1976 edition of the WR(TV)HB stated that the station was silent, and the equipment was for sale.

However, by the time that this annual 1976 international radio directory was published, the station was already closed and the transmitter was already under installation at the afore mentioned Radio Veritas Asia on the edge of Malolos, north of Manila.  In fact, this 50 kW American made imported transmitter was first activated at its new location in May 1975.  Due to technical problems with the two German made 100 kW transmitters at Radio Veritas Asia, the 50 kW SEARV transmitter from Dumaguete was the only unit on the air at RVA Malolos for the next couple of years.

During its some eight years of on air activity, Radio SEARV shortwave was a very reliable verifier of listener reception reports.  Only one card was ever printed and this identified SEARV in large red letters across the middle of the card.  All were posted from a box address in the capital city Manila, not from the station location itself at Dumaguete in the southern Philippines.

On Sunday and Monday February 23 and 24, 1986, insurgents burst into the RVA transmitter base near Malolos and deliberately destroyed all five transmitters in the building, including the more recently installed 50 kW shortwave unit.  The 22 year old SEARV/RVA 50 kW transmitter was thus destroyed, and along with all of the remnants of the other damaged equipment, we would presume, were sold for metal scrap.
(AWR/NWS 491)