Ship Broadcasting in the Pacific, Part I

In our continuing series of topics on the subject of radio broadcasting from ships, we turn ourattention now to the exotic South Pacific.

In July 1925, the United States Pacific Fleet left from its base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii for astate visit to Australia. The battleship, “West Virginia” acted as the radio control vessel forthis navy tour, and it made several broadcasts directed to Australia. Just before the PacificFleet left Honolulu, Admiral Coontz made a speech that was relayed to local listeners bystations 2FC & 2BL in Sydney.

Over in the Northern Hemisphere, the new “Empress of Britain”, was launched in 1931 forAtlantic passenger traffic and it replaced an older vessel with the same name. Even though this new passenger vessel was owned and operated by Canadian-Pacific, nevertheless its radio apparatus was registered with English callsigns.

In the year 1932, this new and large passenger liner made a round-the-world tour, and whileit was in Pacific waters, it was heard with two different callsigns and several radio broadcasts. For communication purposes, the callsign was GMBH, and for experimental broadcast and amateur communications the callsign was G6RX.

The “Empress of Britain” was heard in Australia during its communications with VLK Sydney,and also with KZGF Manila, WOO Ocean Gate New Jersey, and GBP in Rugby England.Several radio broadcasts were also heard in Australia and New Zealand, including abroadcast from the ballroom, as the radio magazine said, “for the benefit of English listeners”.

Postcards of this ship, the “Empress of Britain”, are sometimes available at postcard exhibitions.

The “Director 2” was an American schooner which left New York harbor in mid 1940 for a two year cruise into the South Pacific. The purpose of this “Fahnestock South Seas Expedition” was to record local music, to study bird life, and to make oceonographic studies in various areas of the South Pacific.

The “Director 2” was expected to be in the vicinity of the islands of Fiji in July 1940. It was also planned that this ship would make a series of 20 radio broadcasts back to the United States for re-broadcast by the NBC network. The transmitter was a 1kW unit using six different frequencies in the international communication bands.

It was announced in the pages of “Radio News” in November 1939 that another expedition was planned for the South Seas. The National Geographic Expedition would leave San Francisco on September 19 for a tour of exploration in the South Pacific. The team of specialised explorers would be on board the Coast Guard cutter, “Hamilton”, and it was planned that several relay broadcasts back to NBC would be made from remote locations inthe South Pacific, including Easter Island and Pitcairn Island.

However, in the next issue of the same magazine, “Radio News”, it was announced that the planned National Geographic expedition to the South Pacific “has been called off for the duration of the war”.

From: Wavescan 362, December 2, 2001

Read more

“Wavescan” is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave).