Darwin Anniversary

This article was originally aired over Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” program. Copyright to the author, Adrian Peterson

It was around this season back in the year 1969 that the first official test broadcasts went on the air from the new Darwin relay station in northern Australia. This notable shortwave station is thus currently celebrating its 35th anniversary.

Five years earlier, in the year 1964, the federal government in Australia announced plans for the construction of what was called a booster shortwave station for Radio Australia. Two years later again, construction work commenced on this new facility that is located at the eastern end of Cox Peninsula across the waters from Darwin city.

Unofficial test broadcasts from the first of three 250 kW Collins transmitters began in December 1968, and finally all three units were ready for regular programming in April 1970. However, many problems were encountered in the electronic and computer systems and so only two transmitters were taken into regular scheduling and the third was maintained for emergency usage, sometimes in hot standby.

At first, the program relay from the Melbourne studios of Radio Australia was taken off air from the shortwave transmitters at Shepparton and Lyndhurst. However, beginning in September 1974, the program relay was fed by landline from Melbourne with the use of three lines that were designated with Australian shortwave callsigns, VLK VLL & VLM.

On Christmas Eve in the same fateful year, 1974, a horrendous cyclone named Tracy hit the Darwin area destroying 80% of the entire city. The Radio Australia transmitters were taken off the air a little before midnight local time.

For the benefit of the people living in the Darwin area, the programming from the local ABC mediumwave station 8DR was fed by landline to Melbourne where it was re-broadcast on shortwave from the 100 kW transmitters located at Shepparton in Victoria.

At the time of this massive Australian disaster I was living in Colombo Sri Lanka and in order to keep up with these historic radio events, I fed the shortwave programming into a small microphone transmitter and listened to the continuing saga on a portable FM radio receiver.

Due to lengthy delays on the part of the federal government, it was another four years before three new antennas were erected at the Cox Peninsula shortwave station, and even then, it was on the air only as a fill in with an emergency relay when the Carnarvon station in Western Australia was off the air.

After another lengthy delay on the part of the federal government lasting six years, the station was finally re-activated with a regular schedule on September 3, 1984, using again, two active transmitters with the third in standby mode.

Ten years later again, two new transmitters at 250 kW were installed, and three years later again, the 300 kW transmitter VLK at Carnarvon was transferred to Darwin as VLT. However, in July 1997, the station was again closed and the facility was maintained with only occasional on-air tests that were sometimes heard in Australia and beyond.

At this stage, a new player enters the field, and this is Christian Voice from England. On September 18, in the monumental year 2000, test transmissions from Christian Voice were commenced from the Darwin radio station and soon afterwards they were granted government approval to purchase the station. Since then, Christian Voice has been radiating their own programming over the Darwin shortwave station, and on April 23 last year they also began a part-time relay of programming on behalf of Radio Australia

The current scheduling reveals that only two of the six transmitters in Darwin are in active on-air usage. These two units are the 300 kW VLK- VLT from Carnarvon, and one of the 1993 transmitters, probably the unit that was designated as VLS.

QSLs verifying the reception of programming from the Darwin shortwave station abound throughout the world. The QSL cards and letters when the station was under Radio Australia are of colouful nature cards, or verification letters carrying the line callsign in use for each transmitter. Recent information tells us that Voice International is now also issuing a new QSL card from their office in Buderim in Queensland.

The Shortwave Relay Station at Darwin in Australia
Call Location kHz Year Date Holder QSL
QSL Cards & Letters
Several hundred QSL cards, letters, form letters, notes; AMP

QSLs Line Callsigns – one example for each call
VLN Darwin 15170 1992 May 24 AMP Form letter
VLP Darwin 9560 1993 Mar 25 AMP Form letter
VLQ Darwin 7150 1992 Oct 5 AMP Form letter
VLS Darwin 9610 1994 Oct 21 AMP Form letter
VLT Darwin 13605 1996 Jun 24 AMP Card via ARDXC
The Shortwave Relay Station at Darwin in Australia


Year Date Event Reference

Under Radio Australia – PMG, ABC, Telecom
1964 Full story AMP RA
1964 Sep 17 Parliamentary Report on specifications for Darwin station 79.3
1964 Plans for Darwin Undated document from Radio Australia
1964 Plans for new relay station near Darwin R&H 77.14 7-64 117
1966 Construction work at Darwin began ADXN 5-69 SW
Darwin antennas never intended for use below 7 Mhz BP email
1966 Oct Plans for Darwin relay station R&H 77.14 11-66 165
1968 3 Collins 821A-2 @ 250 kW installed progessively Hodgson Email
1968 3 RCA for 500 kW net style log periodic 310, 6-26 MHz Hodgson
1968 2 RCA for 500 kW net style log periodic 340, 5-26 MHz Hodgson
1968 1 stainless steel dummy load 500 kW 6-26 MHz Hodgson
1968 Nov Darwin expected to begin operation R&H 79.16 11-68 175
1968 Dec 1st test broadcasts, unofficial ABC History 79.7
1969 Jan The Darwin story R&H 79.16 1-69 131
1969 Jan Test broadcasts noted R&H 77.14 2-69 145
1969 Feb Official test broadcasts began half power, 1 antenna ADXN 5-69
1970 Feb Darwin noted on air R&H 69.17 3-70 159
1970 Apr 3rd transmitter now on air R&H 78.17 5-70 175
1971 May All construction work completed, last of 5 antennas AMP RA
1971 Sep 5 Full official usage began 2 @ 250, 1 as standby AMP DSWLC
1974 Sep 1 3 program lines to Darwin opened, VLK VLL VLM AMP RA
1974 Dec 24 Cyclone Tracy damage to RA Darwin R&H 77.14 5-75 102
1974 Dec 24 Station closed soon after 1400 UTC AMP RA
1975 Line calls VLK VLL VLM transferred to Carnarvon usage AMP RA
1979 Huge China mail, Gov approves reconstruction ADXN 1-80 11
1979 Jun 3 new antennas and restored LP approved ADXN 6-79 9
1979 Jul 2 Till Jul 20, 3 weeks as fill-in for Carnarvon AMP RA ADXN 1-80
1979 Later Darwin fill in for Carnarvon 250 kW ADXN 6-79 9
1979 Nov 14 Gov approval granted for restoration, on air fully Sep 1982 ADXN
1979 Dec Gov suggestion to move RA Darwin to Humpty Doo ADXN 1-80
1980 Jan 24 Current unannounced music tests 21720 kHz ADXN 1-80
1980 Jan 27 One day fill-in for Carnarvon ADXN 1-80
1980 Mar Re-opening for Darwin planned R&H 84.185 3-80 114
1981 7 TCI curtains passive reflectors 315 degrees slewable Hodgson
1982 Aug 7 new antennas approved Paper 17-8-82
1982 Darwin restoration proceeding, 1982 re-opening planned ADXN
1984 Sep Darwin scheduled to resume regular usage ADXN
1984 Feb Test broadcasts already begun SCDXers 28-2-84 2
1984 Jul 16 Test broadcasts scheduled Shepparton channels SCDX 24-7-84 1
1984 Sep Darwin scheduled to resume regular usage ADXN
1984 Sep 3 Broadcasting resumed 2 transmitters Speedx 11-84 41
1989 Oct 8 Testing new transmitter (refurbished?) ODXA 12-89 70
1992 Jul 5 Transpolar tests 250 kW 25750 357 deg Europe ODXA 8-92 57
1992 Sep 13 11 m tests continue in new schedule ADXN 9-92 6
1993 2 Thomson TRE2326 @ 250 kW installed progessively Hodgson
1993 Dec Test broadcasts noted ADXN 12-93 3
199x Jun 8 2 new units now on air; TX1 China TX2 Indonesia DSWLC
1996 1 Thomson TRE2320 @ 300 kW (Carnarvon VLK = VLT) Hodgson
1997 Jul RA Darwin closed ABC On-Line
1999 Sep Many brief tests with Waltzing Matilda JB NU 16-9-99
1999 Dec Brief maintenance test broadcasts began 250 or 300 kW Holmes
2000 Feb Recent test broadcasts @ 300 kW BP Email
2001 Three transmitters maintained in semi-operational mode Hodgson
2001 Curtains, and maybe log periodic at 301 degrees Hodgson

Under Christian Voice International – CVI
Darwin leased to CVI, then bought by CVI
2000 Sep 18 Test transmissions begin 4 channels, 2 units, 2 antennas BP Email
2001 Feb 2 Email QSL confirms recent test broadcasts Alokesh Gupta
2001 Mar 15 Two units only, in use for CVI, 250 & 300 kW BP & GH Email
2001 Apr 23 Darwin transmissions re-activated
2001 May 17 Only 2 units on air at any one time, technical limitations Figliozzi
2001 Jul 7 CVI only, 2 @ 250 to China India, satellite from England AG Email
2001 Jul Studios under construction Maroochydore Q Alokesh Gupta
2001 Nov 5 New schedule shows 2 units in use for VI & RA VI Schedule
Three transmitters scheduled on air, only 2 in use CVI Schedule

Under Christian Voice International – Radio Australia
2001 Apr 23 Darwin resumes relay for Radio Australia
2001 May 13 RA re-begins relays from Darwin one transmitter 250 kW Figliozzi
2001 May 13 New RA schedule 2200-2400 11880, MN00-0130 17775 Figliozzi
2001 Nov 5 New schedule with only 2 units in use for VI & RA VI Schedule
2003 Oct New programming service ADXN 11-03 13


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