A Radio Visit to the Samoas

This article was originally prepared for broadcast over AWR in January 2002 and now forms part of the Radio Heritage Collection ©. All rights reserved to Ragusa Media Group, PO Box 14339, Wellington, New Zealand. This material is licenced on a non-exclusive basis to South Pacific DX Resource hosted on radiodx.com for a period of five years from December 1st 2001. Author: Adrian Peterson

Four scattered islands in the wide blue Pacific, all in one day! It was back in April 1974 that we as a family boarded a plane at the Los Angeles International Airport for our first epic journey across the largest and deepest ocean upon planet earth.

A weekend stopover in Hawaii gave the opportunity for listening clos-up to some of the famous mediumwave stations that had been heard long distance some 25 years earlier in Australia. Among these stations were KGMB, KHON & KPOA, though they have each changed callsign in more recent time. An attempt was made to hear all mediumwave stations on each of the Hawaiian Islands, but this proved to be impossible from just one single location, even in Hawaii itself.

The morning of the four island journey began before daylight with a direct flight from Hawaii to American Samoa, more than 2,000 miles away. A couple of hours layover at Pago Pago (PANGO PANGO) gave the opportunity to visit the traditional “Long House” on display near the airport and to take a bus ride into the small city.

At the time, station WVUV in Pago Pago with 10 kW on 1120 kHz was in the process of changing ownership, from AFRTS the American Forces Radio & TV Service, to a local commercial operation. A spot of mediumwave DXing revealed a stong signal from station 2AP in nearby Western Samoa, with 10 kW on 1430 kHz, and the sign on routine of station A3Z, with 10 kW on 1020 kHz, on the island of Tonga. Subsequently, QSLs were received from all three stations.

A brief mid-morning flight took us on a short hop across the 60 miles of intervening waters between the two Samoas, into Apia in independent Western Samoa. Here we were met by the president of the Seventh-day Adventist church in the Samoan Islands who escorted us on a quick tour of Pago Pago and nearby areas. Up on the mountain top overlooking the small city of Apia was the transmitter location for the exotic mediuwmave station 2AP.

Actually, the next flight in the early afternoon was onward to Fiji, with its famous AWA stations using two different callsigns in pre-war days, ZJV & VPD2. However, let’s go back to our story about Samoa.

Samoa is a group of 16 major islands located in the Central Pacific a little south of the equator. Early explorers at first called these islands, the “Navigator Islands” because of the fine canoes built by the Samoan people. The total area of all of these islands is a little more than 1,000 square miles with a population around a quarter million people, mostly Polynesian. They speak their own Samoan language, though most people are also fluent in English.

The Samoan Islands are mostly a volcanic formation, ringed with coral reefs. The high hills in the tropical climate are covered with lush foresting, and gently sloping farm lands run down towards the ocean.

American Samoa is made up of 6 main islands with a total area of just 76 square miles, and Tutuila (TOO-TOO-EE-la) as the largest. Pago Pago is the capital, and the only city. The main industries are tuna fishing and tropical products, such as coconut and bananas. The tourism industry attracts multitudes of visitors to these islands that are sometimes described as the “Paradise of the Pacific”.

In the year 1872, the United States was granted naval rights to the large harbour at Pago Pago, and 17 years later, the United States and Germany divided the Samoan Islands between them. Eastern Samoa is today legally a territory of the United States.

The Samoan Islands were first populated by migrating Polynesians more than 2,000 years ago. The first European to visit the islands was the Dutch explorer, Jacob Roggeveen, and he discovered these islands in 1722. Protestant missionaries came to these islands in 1830, and they were bifurcated between Germany and the United States in 1899.

However, at the beginning of World War 1, New Zealand armed forces occupied Western Samoa on August 29, 1914 after which these islands were administered by New Zealand. Western Samoa was granted independence as one of the world’s smallest nations on January 1, 1962. Today, in this edition of Wavescan, we are “Calling Samoa”.

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