Auckland Radio 1912-1919

1912

LW Pat BourkeOn 24 October, radiotelegraph station Auckland Radio NZK began operation from a small hut on the roof of the new, and not yet opened, Chief Post Office.

The station used a Telefunken Type D spark-gap transmitter of 2.5kW and the first manager was LW (Pat) Bourke (pictured).

Auckland's new Chief Post Office opened in 1912 and soon became the home of wireless station VLD

Auckland’s new Chief Post Office opened in 1912. Wireless station NZK was located in a small hut on the roof. Photo: Alexander Turnbull Library

A wireless station for Auckland City: one of the masts in course of erection on the roof of the new Post Office

“A wireless station for Auckland City: one of the masts in course of erection on the roof of the new Post Office.” Price Photo Co, Auckland Weekly News, 19 Sep 1912. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

The tubular steel masts of the station were erected on the two domes of the building, a distinctive feature of its ‘English Renaissance’ architecture. The domes themselves were 10.5m above roof level.1

After the new Auckland CPO was opened in November 1912, the PCB cable station was transferred to a location on its roof which it shared with Auckland Radio. Also in 1912, the Pacific cable itself was cut near the entrance to Doubtless Bay and redirected to Takapuna Beach. From here cable messages were relayed to the new CPO by overland wires. In 1912-1913 a new trans-Tasman cable was laid between Bondi (Sydney) and Muriwai on Auckland’s west coast, with messages from it reaching the city via an underground cable between Muriwai and Harkins Point. All these developments had made Auckland the country’s major overseas communications link on the eve of the First World War.2

Original Auckland Radio station VLD

The original Auckland Radio station VLD was on the roof of the Chief Post Office

1913

The station was open “during certain hours daily” and “excellent results” were obtained, although the range was “somewhat less than that of Radio-Wellington,” according to the Post & Telegraph Department’s annual report of 1913.

John L Davies replaced Pat Bourke as manager.

While the station’s spark-gap transmitter performed well, the effectiveness of the station was handicapped by poor receiving conditions.

Auckland Radio’s callsign was changed from NZK to VLD. (Later, on 1 Jan 1929 it changed to ZLD.)

Ralph S Wheeler replaced John L Davies as manager.

1914

The radio-station at Auckland is now used only for daylight work.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Post & Telegraph Department, 1914

1915

On 8 May the Auckland station was closed – but not dismantled – as the high power station at Awanaui, near Kaitaia, was providing superior performance.

Sending Morse Code from Auckland Radio VLD on the roof of the Chief Post Office building

Sending Morse Code from Auckland Radio VLD on the roof of the Chief Post Office building. This photo is dated c1910, but it is believed that Auckland Radio began operation in 1912.
Photo: WA Price via Alexander Turnbull Library

1917

Les H Steel became manager.

Improved methods of detecting signals by means of the ultraudion were introduced at Awarua, Wellington, and Auckland a few months ago, and apparatus for the other stations has been procured and will shortly be brought into use. The results obtained at Awarua, where the apparatus has been extensively experimented with, have been particularly gratifying. The signals of stations using damped and undamped waves invariably come in of readable strength from American, Asiatic and European stations. The use of this detecting-apparatus with a particular combination of the receiving-circuits has demonstrated that daylight signals from stations using the ordinary wave-lengths can be rendered plainly audible, which by the ordinary methods and the use of the crystal detector could not be heard.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Post & Telegraph Department, 1917

1920 – 1929


Notes

1. Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (p 96), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.
2. Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (p 104), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.