Auckland Radio 1912-1919

1912
It is believed that this photo was taken in the radio cabin on the roof of the Auckland Chief Post Office, c1912
It is believed that this photo was taken in the radio cabin on the roof of the Auckland Chief Post Office, c1912. Photo possibly by WA Price, Alexander Turnbull Library

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
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
Radio mast on roof of Auckland Chief Post Office, 1912
“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

1913
Original Auckland Radio station VLD
The original Auckland Radio station VLD was on the roof of the Chief Post Office

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
Auckland Chief Post Office with radio aerial in 1915
Auckland Chief Post Office in 1915, looking northeast from the corner of Customs St W. To the right of the CPO is the entrance to the railway station and the Waverly Hotel. At left is the Endean Building. This view shows the masts on the CPO domes, with one of the oak spreaders for the T aerial of Auckland Radio VLD.

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

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.