Monday, December 17, 2018

Wandering the Caribbean with Deutsche Welle

Over a period of two or three centuries, many different countries and lands in Europe, and elsewhere also, have demonstrated an interest in establishing colonies in the islands of the Caribbean.  Among those countries and lands of Europe that have demonstrated their interest in the Caribbean have been: England, Scotland, Denmark, Norway, France, Holland, Spain, Germany.  Interestingly, German interest in the Caribbean, which has been evident for several centuries, was demonstrated quite positively around the turn from the 1800s to the 1900s when they made overtures to Holland in an attempt to buy the Dutch island of Curacao.
Then too, Canada has at times indicated an interest in buying an island group in the Caribbean; and the United States has also exerted its influence in Caribbean events, on several major occasions.
As far as the international shortwave radio scene is concerned, again, several countries have been involved in the Caribbean; including England, Holland, France, Canada, United States and Germany.  In addition to these several western countries, two Asian countries have in earlier times also stated their interest in establishing a shortwave relay station somewhere in the Caribbean, and these were AIR All India Radio in Delhi and NHK Tokyo in Japan.
In our topic for the day, Wandering the Caribbean with Deutsche Welle, we see their tenacious attempts to install and maintain major shortwave coverage from somewhere in the Caribbean areas; attempts that stretch for more than half a century, and covered many countries in the Caribbean as well as mainland areas on the edge of the Caribbean.  Let’s go back now more than half a century ago, to the middle of the 1960s.
The first tangible attempt at obtaining a suitable location for their Caribbean relay station was on the island of Bonaire.  The Australian radio monthly, Radio & Hobbies, twice referred to this initial attempt by Deutsche Welle back during the early part of the year 1966.
In the January issue of this magazine, the noted Arthur Cushen in his monthly report stated that Deutsche Welle in Cologne announced that it plans to establish a shortwave station on the island of Bonaire for coverage of the Americas.  The German station would be the third on Bonaire, in addition to Trans World Radio and Radio Netherlands.
Two months later,  (March 1966) Arthur Cushen again stated that Deutsche Welle would soon begin construction of its new shortwave station on Bonaire.  However, this station never eventuated, and we could guess that the island government and the Dutch home government in the Hague considered that three large shortwave stations on this one small island in the Caribbean was just one too many.
According to Deutsche Welle Chief Engineer Peter Senger, their second attempt for a large shortwave relay station in the region was in Guatemala in Central America.  It is stated that the largest settlement of German migrants in Central America is found in Guatemala.  However, this Central American venture too was unsuccessful, so they looked elsewhere, and the next attempt was in the neighboring country of El Salvador, still in Central America.   
Again, we turn to Arthur Cushen in New Zealand and he tells us in the July 1967 issue of his “Listening Around the World” monthly pages in Radio and Hobbies that Deutsche Welle was planning to erect their American shortwave relay station in the small Central American country of El Salvador.  This new station, Cushen stated, would contain three shortwave transmitters at 150 kW and 250 kW, and a mediumwave unit at 100 kW.
In anticipation of the installation for the station in El Salvador, Deutsche Welle went ahead and procured several major items of electronic equipment including the shortwave transmitters.  However, fruition for Deutsche Welle at this location was not forthcoming either, and so the shortwave transmitters and other items of ancillary equipment were instead diverted to Portugal for their new station at Sines near the Atlantic coast.  All we can say is that the government of El Salvador must have changed their mind about having the large shortwave station in their country.
So, what came next?  That same Australian magazine, Radio and Hobbies, provides an answer.  In their issue for September 1968, Arthur Cushen informed us that Deutsche Welle was negotiating with the government of Costa Rica for approval to install a superpower mediumwave station at 1,500 kW in that country.  However, Cushen stated that the governments of both the United States and Canada would likely disapprove a superpower station in Central America that could be heard with strong signals further north.
The Christmas (1968) issue of the same magazine states that Deutsche Welle was still seeking a suitable home for its American shortwave relay station in Central America.  It is understood that they gave serious consideration at this stage to the country of Belize; but that never happened either.
The next year (1969) the August issue of Radio and Hobbies again indicated that Deutsche Welle was in the process of installing a shortwave station in the Caribbean.  But where?
In their next move (in 1970), they took out a relay via Radio Antilles with 200 kW on 930 kHz on the island of Montserrat.  Then during the following year (1971), Deutsche Welle began a closer relationship with Radio Antilles, until ultimately they bought the station, and they then funded it and operated it.
They brought in equipment from what had been their projected station in El Salvador, and from Radio Africa in Tangier, Morocco North Africa, together with personnel from Radio Andorra.  The Deutsche Welle usage of Radio Antilles was shared also with the BBC London.
However, in the meantime, Deutsche Welle was also looking for a permanent solution, and they conducted an intensive survey in the Leeward and Windward Islands on the eastern edge of the Caribbean during the year 1974, and they finally settled on the Island of Antigua.  In co-operation with the BBC in London, a new station with four transmitters at 250 kW was constructed near Seaview Farm almost in the center of the island of Antigua, and this station was taken into service in 1976, some ten years after the Deutsche Welle search for a Caribbean relay location first began.
The BBC withdrew from Montserrat in 1981, and Deutsche Welle closed the Montserrat station eight years later, in 1989.  After 29 years in service, the Antigua station was also closed sixteen years later, in 2005, and the station was dismantled soon afterwards.
And so the saga of Deutsche Welle and its rugged tenacity for more than half a century in the Caribbean areas came to an end in 2005.  But no, that was not quite the end.
This lengthy Deutsche Welle saga began with the island of Bonaire in the mid 1960s.  After the Antigua station was closed in 2005, Deutsche Welle was already back on the air in Bonaire.  On this occasion they were already being relayed, along with NHK Tokyo, China Radio International and Adventist World Radio, via the Radio Netherlands shortwave station.  But that did come to an end also, when that station was closed in 2010.
And so, that was the story of Deutsche Welle and their 45 year saga in more than half a dozen different locations in the Caribbean and Central America stretching from 1965 to 2010.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 510)