An occasional feature by ZL1NZ in the MPRG newsletter
Voices of spark-gap wireless. Here audio interviews with Bill Walker and Les Elliston of Awanui Radio VLA/ZLA.
At the June meeting, members and guests were treated to a screening of the television documentary Descent From Diaster: The Centennial Yacht Race, portions of which were recorded at Musick Memorial Radio Station. If you missed seeing it at the meeting or when it screen on TV, you can watch it on demand.
Saving the transmitters from Auckland Radio ZLD when the Oliver Rd transmitter building was slated for demolition was a big job, successfully carried out by intrepid members of Musick Point Radio Group.
But imagine trying to save a 250,000 watt HF broadcast transmitter from the Voice of America, and being told you only have 2 weeks to cart it away! Oh, you also must have it on display for the public to view within one year of taking it!
Here’s the story of how volunteers rescued a 20-tonne Collins 821A-1 transmitter, one of three at the former VOA site in Delano, California.
One of the most unusual amateur radio stations in the world has to be VE3CWM, located underground in a nuclear bunker near Ottawa. The “Diefenbunker” is a four-story, 300 room, 100,000 square foot bunker, that was meant to house 535 Canadian government officials and military officers in the event of a nuclear war. Nicknamed after then Prime Minister John Diefenbaker, it was designed and built in secrecy during the crest of Cold War fear, between 1959 and 1961. The bunker has always included an amateur radio station, originally called VE3GOC (Government of Canada).
As you will have seen in the January newsletter, we have received a wonderful collection of photos from the estate of Jack Paton, formerly ZL1KL, who was Regional Technician for the Civil Aviation Authority. These photos have been enhanced with notes by Gordon Cooper, the current holder of ZL1KL who was also a CAA technician and worked at Musick Point from 1961.
These photos can be seen on two pages of this website:
Analogue television in New Zealand is gone, and it’s a good time to be getting active on 6 metres (50 MHz). The DX Zone website has a page full of 6-metre links, including information on propagation, operating practice and home-brewing.
I was recently tipped off – by a former ships radio operator in the UK actually – about this wonderful video on which I hadn’t seen before. It’s a 1939 production on behalf of the NZ Post Office extolling the wonders of marine radio. It contains lots of excellent footage shot at coast stations and local post offices. Perhaps you’ve seen it already but, if not, I think you’re in for a treat.
When the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor in December 1941, a Pan Am Clipper (Boeing 314) flying boat was en route from the United States to Auckland. On arrival in New Zealand, pilot Robert Ford was ordered by the US Government to fly his plane back to the United States, so that the technologically advanced aircraft didn’t fall into enemy hands. To avoid Japanese ships and planes in the Pacific, the Pan Am Clipper went the long way, westward around the world. In the course of the 31,000 mile trip, the captain and crew survived encounters with fighter planes and a Japanese submarine – all while maintaining radio silence, landing in unfamiliar harbours or rivers, and often being forced to refuel with automobile petrol instead of high-octane aviation fuel. Here’s where you can learn more about this amazing feat:
ENIGMA 2000 is a UK based online group that brings together enthusiasts who monitor and gather information on ‘Numbers Stations’ and other related radio transmissions. If you’ve never heard a numbers station on the shortwave bands, there are some good recordings online. The stations transmit groups of numbers – using voice, Morse or data modes. It’s a simple but effective way to send encrypted messages to spies in foreign countries. Popular during the Cold War, there are still many numbers stations on the air. I was interested to read in the ENIGMA group’s newsletter that some numbers stations are using the WinDRM amateur radio digital mode, and that some send photograph files that appear to contain encrypted messages.
The Maritime Radio Historical Society are the custodians of former coast station KPH at Point Reyes, about 60km northwest of San Francisco. They operate once per week on marine frequencies using the callsign KSM (CW and RTTY) and are active on the amateur bands as K6KPH. On 500kcs they use a Marconi T aerial, as at ZL1ZLD. Visit radiomarine.org for more information on this interesting group.
Here’s an interesting mix of old and new technology: making your own valve sockets using a 3D printer. The video, shot at a hacker lab in the Netherlands, is very long (over an hour) and rather poor quality, but the concept more than makes up for it. Watch video
This looks like fun: a 5W CW transceiver kit (single frequency on 40m) including QSK and built-in keyer. All for the amazingly low price of US$40. Details at Flying Pig Rig.
The New Zealand Vintage Radio Society is based in Auckland, but has branches in Wellington, Taranaki and Christchurch. Visit their website for some interesting articles plus links to parts suppliers, valve data and other resources.
Remember the Soviet “Woodpecker” that played havoc with HF communications in the 1970s and 1980s? It was rumoured to be an over-the-horizon radar system, and this was confirmed after the fall of the Soviet Union. Here are some links that purport to show the source of the Woodpecker – inside the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone:
Wikipedia article: Russian Woodpecker
OK, this is downright silly, but it sprang to mind as I was looking forward to the talk on teleprinters at our next meeting. It’s a video demonstrating a CW keyboard. Except this one isn’t such a clever device after all. Check out the video by this Finnish ham, and follow the links to videos of his other strange devices for CW.
This month I thought I’d mention one of my own websites, a new creation called maritimeradio.org. I was recently in touch with Alan Gilchrist ZL4PZ, whom you may recognise as the creator of a website about Awarua Radio ZLB. Alan told me that, due to failing health, he was about to close his website (and he has since done that), and he hoped someone else would take it over. After agreeing to host his site, I got to thinking that it would be good to have a place with information about all of New Zealand’s coast radio stations. As a result, I set up maritimeradio.org, and have just completed transferring all of Alan’s material to it, and adding a few bits here and there. For now, it’s all about ZLB – but I hope to add information about other stations in the future. If you have any feedback, information or photos to add, please get in touch.
Here’s an interesting perspective on Musick Point, a video taken from a low-flying quadrotor. A quadrotor is a remote-controlled model helicopter, and their owners often equip them with a video camera. Tip: turn off the sound on your computer before playing the video, unless you enjoy modern music. 🙂