Kiribati on Shortwave

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


(Please note, the correct pronunciation for Kiribati is not like it is spelled. The correct pronunciation is KIHR-ee-BAHS.)

Several email radio bulletins recently have highlighted the fact that there is a distinct possibility that Radio Kiribati in the exotic Pacific will again be heard on the shortwave bands, apparently with the intent to return to their former channel 9825 kHz. This information sparked our interest in looking at the shortwave scene in Kiribati, and this what we found.

The small independent nation of Kiribati is located in the South Pacific half way between Hawaii & Australia. This small country of less than 300 square miles, a little more than 800 square kM, is made up of islands that were known under other names in earlier times. Kiribati today with its 33 main islands is made up of the following islands and island groups:-

Gilbert Islands 16 islands
Phoenix Islands 8 including Canton Island
Line Islands 8 including Christmas Island & Fanning Island
Ocean Island 1

The total poulation of Kiribati is a little more than 100,000 and the capital city is Tarawa (TA-ra-wa) with 65,000 people. The city of Tarawa is itself a coral atoll made up of several small coral islands. The commercial centre is on Betio (bet-EE-oh); the government offices are on Bairiki (bye-REE-kee); and the international airport is on Bonriki (bon-REE-kee), all as part of the capital city Tarawa.

The original settlers in Kiribati were the Austronesians, and in the 1400s the Samoans invaded the islands, followed by the Spanish, then the British, and then the Japanese. These islands became independent on July 12, 1979. The Australian dollar is their national currency; and English is the official language though Gilbertese or Kiribati is spoken locally.

The local government moved the International Date Line way out east a few years ago so that they could become the first country in the world to welcome in the new millenium on January 1, 2000. Along with Tuvalu (TOO-va-LOO) and other low lying Pacific islands, the very existence of Kiribati is threatened by the rise of ocean levels due to global warming.

Back in the wireless era, four stations were established in what is now Kiribati for inter-island and maritime communication. These stations were VQK on Ocean Island, VQM & VSZ on Tarawa Atoll, and VQN on Fanning Island.

Then, during the Pacific War, three mediumwave stations were established in the territories of Kiribati for the benefit of American forces. These stations were WXLH on Makin Atoll, WXLF Tarawa, and WVUU Christmas Island. British Forces also operated a station on Christmas Island nearly 20 years later.

The first attempt at local broadcasting in Kiribati occurred in 1952 when a small scale sporadic radio service went on the air, apparently as an amateur operation. Two years later, a regular though still quite small radio service was established in the home of the engineer and it was noted in Australia & New Zealand on the shortwave channel 6050 kHz.

A small radio station was built one year later, in 1955, and this facility housed two transmitters, 500 watts on shortwave and 30 watts on mediumwave 844 kHz. A large new mediumwave station was built on Bairiki Island in 1970 and a 10 kW mediumwave transmitter was installed and this unit has been on the air ever since.

On shortwave, many different transmitters, broadcast & communication, at several different locations have carried a program relay during the past half century. These units have been on the air under three different callsigns, VSZ, VTW & T3K1.

The most exotic of all of these radio services in Kiribati was the shortwave relay to the mediumwave station on Christmas Island. This service was first noted in 1980 and it was in use for a couple of years until a transmitter malfunction rendered the Christmas Island station inoperable. This shortwave service served a double purpose, as a program relay and for direct reception in distant islands. The power output for this relay service was always quite low and it varied according to which transmitter was in use.

The latest news tells us that Kiribati may be reviving their shortwave service on 9825 kHz for direct reception in the outer islands. Perhaps we will have the opportunity of hearing once again their exotic sign on signal, the turbulent waves of the restless ocean crashing onto the seashore of a distant Pacific Island.

Kiribati on Shortwave
Political History

——————————————————————————————————————
Year Date Event Reference
——————————————————————————————————————
200 Arrival of earliest Austronesian settlers Internet & WBE
1400s Invasion by Samoans, Tongans & Fijians Internet & WBE
1606 Spanish exploration Internet & WBE
1837 British colonialization, Gilbert & Ellice Islands Internet & WBE
1943 Nov 20 Japanese invasion Internet & WBE
1943 Nov American return invasion Internet & WBE
1978 Ellice Islands gained independence as Tuvalu WBE
1979 Jul 12 Independence for Gilbert Islands as Kiribati Internet & WBE
2000 Jan 1 International Date Line moved, now 1st for new millenium Internet
================================================================
Kiribati Radio

Radio References & Information

——————————————————————————————————————
Location Call Year Date Information Reference
——————————————————————————————————————
Wireless Communication Stations
Ocean Is. VQK 1917 LW spark wireless station opened YBWT&T 1917 39
1925 Owned by local gov YBWT&T 82.7 1925 502
1928 Local government AWARG 79.1 1928 146
Tarawa VQM 1925 LW spark, Burns Philip shipping YBWT&T 1925 502
Tarawa VSZ 1928 Local government station AWARG 79.1 1928 146
Fanning Is. VQN 1922 LW spark YBWT&T 62.7 1922 1007

AFRS Stations
Makin WXLH 1944 Jul 16 1400 kHz AFRTS 79.21 453
1944 Dec Became cable radio station
1945 May Station closed AFRTS 79.21 453

Tarawa WXLF 1944 Jul 15 1340 kHz
1944 Dec Station closed

Christmas WVUU 1944 Jun 75 w 1480 kHz AFRS station opened AFRTS 454
1944 Jun Station closed (?) radiodx.com
1945 Feb 1 Station closed AFRTS 79.21 454

Canton Island – Several stations, coming in another edition of Wavescan

British Forces Station
Christmas BFBS 1962 100 w 1450 kHz RAF station
1964 Early Station closed
================================================================


Kiribati on Shortwave

Radio Broadcasting Service

——————————————————————————————————————-
Location Call kW kHz Year Date Information Reference
——————————————————————————————————————-
Gilbert Is 1952 Small scale sporadic broadcasting CBA

Betio House 6050 1954 Mid Engineer L. Znidersic’s house RHA 202 6050 1954 Mid 30 min weekly Sun in Gilbertese

Betio Station VSZ10 .5 6050 1955 Morse & broadcast usage
.5 6050 1963 Inter-island communication only VTW .03 844 1955 Broadcast programming
.03 844 1969 This station closed, transmitter moved

Nanikaai VTW2 2 1963 Early New facility, 18 element array
2 1969 Moved to Bairiki as VSZ2
VTW3 .3 3220 1965 Feb Tests RAAF transmitter 100 ft high dipole

Bairiki VSZ1 .05 844 1969 Original transmitter VTW from Betio House
.05 844 1970 Jan Original transmitter retired
10 844 1970 Jan 9 Test broadcasts began new transmitter
10 846 1978 Nov Channel adjusted
VSZ2 2 4912.5 1969 New station new location, VTW2 unit
2 580 1973 Early Modified for MW usage
2 844 1975 Service closed, became standby unit
2 846 1978 Nov Channel adjusted

Christmas 1 1980 Jul Gov station opened

Tarawa 10 1980 Jul SSB relay to Christmas Island began

===============================================================


Kiribati Radio on the Air
Radio Broadcasting Services

——————————————————————————————————————
Year Information Reference
—————————————————————————————————————–
Experimental Service
1952 Small scale sporadic broadcasting began CBA

Shortwave
1954 New SW service on 6050 power unknown 30 min week Sun only R&H 79.14 9-54 98
1954 New SW station 6050 Sat only RTVN 10-54 126
1954 Located in engineer’s house Mr. L. Znidersic R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1955 Sat only 0200-0239 Gilbertese 6050 expanded schedule soon RTVN 3-55 154
1955 New small building studio & 2 transmitters Betio R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1955 VSZ10 6050 500 w Morse transmitter relay part time VTW R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1961 New 2.5 kW planned shortly WRTVHB 1961 146
1961 Power increase 2.5 kW? 6050 VSZ10 6050 heard NZ under HCJB R&H77.1411-61103
1962 New call VTW2 new power 2 kW R&H 79.15 2-62 103
1962 VTW2 Betio new STC 2 kW 8 element incidence array 40 ft high R&H 79.15 8-62 117
1963 Increased schedule maybe soon change channel avoid HCJB R&H 77.14 6-63 117
1964 Test transmissions on 6055, JOZ co-channel R&H 79.15 5-64 101
1964 2 kW STC installed TDPSW 1998 33
1965 Test transmitter 300 w RAAF 3220 100 ft high dipole, soon 60 m? R&H 79.16 2-65 117
1965 VTW3 on Betio Isle R&H 79.16 2-65 117
1965 Test transmitter on 3220 parallel 6055 R&H 77.14 7-65 117
1965 Test transmitter moved to 4910 R&H 77.14 7-65 117
1966 Sep, extension of prgramming hours CBA
1968 VTW2 4912 now VSZ2, increased schedule, 3 languages R&H 79.16 12-68 161
1969 VSZ2 4912 2.5 kW designed for Gilbert & Ellice only R&H 79.16 1-69 133
1979 VSZ2 2.5 kW 4812 off during move to Betio R&H 79.17 4-70 181
1970 10 kW MW installed recently SW 4912 not necessary in winter? R&H 77.14 5-70 172
1970 Off air SW DXO 2-90 51
1973 SW recently converted to MW 580 kHz 2 kW relay 844 R&H 79.17 3-73 121
1976 Plans to re-establish SW service QSL EK Email
1980 July 10 kW SSB to Line Islands began CBA
1984 1 kW English Rediphone installed TDPSW 1998 33
1991 14917.6 USB service for outer islands schedule DXO 10-91 57
1989 Disappeared from 14802 some months ago, now on 14917.7 kHz DXO 5-89 65
2004 Plans to re-open SW service on 9825 kHz? Email bulletins

Mediumwave
1955 New small building studio & 2 transmitters Betio R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1955 VTW 844 30 w, soon 60 w Fri 1 hr Betio Tarawa R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1960 VTW 50 transmitter installed R&H 79.17 4-70 181
1963 Increased schedule R&H 77.14 6-63 117
1965 VTW 500 w 844 quarter wave folded flat top T antenna R&H 79.16 2-65 117
1968 VTW 845 now VSZ1 increased schedule, 3 languages R&H 79.16 12-68 161
1969 VSZ1 50 w 844 kHz R&H 79.16 1-69 133
1970 New site 10 kW MW 844 kHz, 50 watt retired after 10 years R&H 79.10 11-69 193
1970 VSZ1 10 kW 844 heard in NZ on first day Jan 9 1970 R&H 79.17 4-70 180
1970 10 kW MW installed recently SW 4912 not necessary in winter? R&H 77.14 5-70 172

Transmitter locations – Shortwave
1954 Located in engineer’s house Mr. L. Znidersic R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1955 New small building studio & 2 transmitters Betio R&H 79.14 10-55 112
Located on Nanikaai Isle R&H 79.10 11-69 193
1969 To be transferred to new facility on Betio R&H 79.10 11-69 193
1969 VSZ2 2.5 kW 4812 off during move to Betio R&H 79.17 4-70 181
1973 SW recenty converted to MW 580 kHz 2 kW relay 844 R&H 79.17 3-73 121
1976 2 kW apparently transferred to Funafuti Tuvalu WRTVHB 1976 227
1988 SW re-introduced WRTVHB 1988
1992 Plans to increase power on SW WRTVHB 1992 247
Shortwave Relay to Kiritimati
1976 Plans to re-establish SW service QSL EK Email
1980 July 10 kW SSB to Line Islands began CBA
1982 1 kW SW USB on Betio 16433 kHz 10 kW planned WRTVHB 1982 244
Transmitter malfunctioned, never revived
1984 SW feed currently off air PC 4-84 14
1984 1 kW English Rediphone installed TDPSW 1998 33
1991 14917.6 USB service for outer islands schedule DXO 10-91 57
1989 Disappeared from 14802 some months ago, now on 14917.7 kHz DXO 5-89 65
2004 Plans to re-open SW service on 9825 kHz? Email bulletins

Transmitter locations – Mediumwave
1955 New small building studio & 2 transmitters Betio R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1969 New transmitter site on Bairiki Isle R&H 79.10 11-69 193
1976 2 kW MW ex-SW now listed on Funafuti, Ellice Isles Vanuatu WRTVHB 1976 227
1985? Moved to Nanakai WRTVHB 1986 250

Christmas Island Relay Station
1980 July, 1 kW 1115 kHz, inaugurated with relay from Tarawa 16430 kHz RMI 339 5
1982 1115 kHz 1 kW, plans move to 846 khz WRTVHB 1982 244
Transmitter malfunctioned, never revived

FM Stations
1992 Gov FM service launched on 98.0 WRTVHB 1992
1996 FM service off air, transmitter malfunction WRTVYB 1996
2000 NewAir FM 101 commercial service; on air, but license denied.
2003 Gov FM service revived on 99.0 WRTVHB 2003

Studios
1954 Located in engineer’s house Mr. L. Znidersic R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1955 New small building studio & 2 transmitters Betio R&H 79.14 10-55 112
1965 Studios & transmitters co-sited Betio Isle R&H 79.16 2-65 117
1970 New studio building ready August; BBC personnel & funding R&H 77.14 5-70 172
1970 New studios opened Oct on Bairiki CBA
==============================================================
World Radio TV Handbook Entries – 1

——————————————————————————————————————
Call kW 1955 1956 1957 1958 1959 1960 1961 1962 1963 1964 1965
——————————————————————————————————————
VTW .05 844 844 844 844 844 844 844 844 844 844 844
VSZ10 .5 6050 6050 6050 6050 6050
VSZ10 .1 6050 6050
VTW2 2.5 or 2kW 6050 6050 6055 6055
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World Radio TV Handbook Entries – 2

——————————————————————————————————————
Call kW 1966 1967 1968 1969 1970 1971 1972 1973 1974 1975 1976
——————————————————————————————————————
VTW .05 844 844 844
VTW2 2 4912.5 4912.5 4912.5
VTW3 .3 3220
VSZ1 .05 844 844
VSZ2 2 4912.5 4912.5
VSZ1 10 844 844 844 844 844 844
SW-MW 580 580 580
===============================================================

World Radio TV Handbook Entries – 3

——————————————————————————————————————
Call kW 1977 1978 1979 1980 1981 1982 1983 1984 1985 1986 1987
——————————————————————————————————————
VSZ1 10 844 844 844
T3K1 10 846 846 846 846
SSB 1 16433 16433 846 846 846 846
SSB 10 16433 14802
9825
Kiritimati 1 1115 1115 1115 1115
===============================================================
World Radio TV Handbook Entries – 4

——————————————————————————————————————
Call kW 1988 1989 1990 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 1996 1997 1998
——————————————————————————————————————
T3K1 10 846 846 846 846 846 846 846 846 846 846 846
SW 05 14802
16433
.25 14802 14917.714917.714917.7 9825 9825 9825 9825
.5 17440
1 9810
FM .1 98.0 98.0 98.0 98.0 Off
===============================================================

World Radio TV Handbook Entries – 5

——————————————————————————————————————
Call kW 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005
——————————————————————————————————————
MW 10 846 846 846 846 846 846
SW 1 9810 9810 9810
FM .1 99.0 99.0
===============================================================

Kiribati on Shortwave
QSLs
——————————————————————————————————————
Station Location kHz Watts Year Date Description Reference
——————————————————————————————————————
1955 QSL by letter WRTVHB 1955 99 Many letter QSLs, Aust NZ USA
1963 QSL by card WRTVHB 1963 158
VTW2 6050 1963 Don Jensen
1964 QSL – form letter WRTVHB 1964
VTW2 Betio 6055 1964 May 3 Form letter ODXA 5-9 183 CPRV
4912.5 1969 Sep Edward Kusalik
VTW2 4912.5 1970 Fisher ODXA 2-90 51
4912.5 2 1970 Mar 7 Dan Henderson
1972 QSL by letter WRTVHB 1972 173
4912.5 1970s Bob Hill
1978 QSL by card WRTVHB 1978 239
T3K1 17440 1992 Nov 9 Tourist card Iseki Japan 1993 QSL ASWLC 5-93 30 QSL
RK 17440 500 1993 Mar 22 Tourist card AMP
RK 9825 500 1993 Sep 7 Tourist card AMP
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