The Radio Spectrum on the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia

Recent news reports from the South Pacific indicate that the local citizens on the French island with a Scottish name, New Caledonia, have opted not to proceed any further in the direction of obtaining their independence from the mother country, France, in continental Europe. The independence referendum was conducted throughout New Caledonia on Sunday December 12 (2021), and it was the third occasion in which the local citizenry have rejected independence and opted instead to retain their traditional ties with Metropolitan France. However, it should also be stated that a large segment of New Caledonian citizens would still prefer to exert their independence as a separate international political entity.

Anse Vata beach in Noumea © TNC

New Caledonia is a verdant tropical island with a quarter million population and it lies close to a thousand miles off the east coast of Australia, and a thousand miles north of New Zealand. This French Overseas Territory is made up of more than 140 different islands, some 40 of which are inhabited. Two of those uninhabited islands, Hunter and Matthew, are also claimed by the neighboring island cluster of Vanuatu, though both are uninhabited.

In our radio topic for today, The Radio Spectrum on the South Pacific Island of New Caledonia, we take each cluster of stations in chronological order, and we begin with their communication stations. It was in 1920 that their first communication station was installed in Noumea the national capital and it was allocated the French callsign FQN.

Other subsequent callsigns have been HZG FZN and FJP. Their usage of callsigns would seem to indicate that their various forms of international and local radio communication all emanate from the one combined shortwave communication station, which is located near Noumea.

FK8AA Radio Noumea issued this card to listeners
© www.hamgallery.com

Amateur radio has featured prominently in New Caledonia, and the best known early Ham was Charles Graveau, who operated under the callsign FK8AA. For a period of seven years beginning in 1937 and into the era of World War 2, FK8AA was on the air with radio programming for the benefit of local listeners.

Many international radio monitors in New Zealand and Australia, and a few beyond, were successful in receiving a QSL card verifying their reception of radio programming from FK8AA. Over the years New Caledonia is represented by several amateur radio operators, and also occasional amateur radio DXpeditions are staged in their territories.

A government operated broadcasting service was established in Noumea during the early part of the European War, and it was first noted on air in both New Zealand and Australia in 1940. This new program service operated in parallel on both mediumwave and shortwave, 558 kHz and 6122 kHz, under the communication callsign FJP.

Work began on the construction of a totally new radio broadcasting station in 1968 with studios in an outer suburban area of Noumea at Rue Guynemer, and with transmitters on two of the Ste. Marie Islands in Noumea Harbor. The shortwave transmitters were installed near Antenna Bay on the largest island Ste. Marie, and the mediumwave transmitters were installed on the smallest island, Uere Island.

QSL card received by New Zealand DXer David Ricquish for transmissions on 670 kHz from Noumea, prior to their move to 666 kHz.
© Radio Heritage Foundation, David Ricquish Collection

Two additional regional mediumwave transmitters were also on the air in New Caledonia, both of which were installed near the middle of their main island, Grand Terre. One mediumwave transmitter, with 4 kW on 1260 kHz, was sited on the summit of Mt Aoupinie in the mid 1980s, and the other with 5 kW on 729 kHz was sited at Toupo, on the east coast of the island in the early part of this century. However the usage of shortwave was closed in 1994, and the usage of mediumwave was subsequently phased out in favor of nationwide FM coverage.

Interestingly, back in the year 1984, RFI Radio France International in Paris, gave serious consideration to building a large shortwave relay station on the island of New Caledonia. At the time, they were studying the feasibility of either building a large new shortwave relay station, or instead taking out a part time shortwave relay via the SLBC in Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation. However, as things worked out, neither option was taken up.

Listener confirmation letter sent from WVUS Tontouta for a December 1945 reception report.

It was during the year 1942 that American forces began to flood into the South Pacific Islands, and at that stage, an American shortwave communication station was installed at Anse Vata, in suburban Noumea. That station was on the air as WVJN with Morse Code communication to Brisbane Australia and to California in the United States. On several occasions, WVJN was noted with the relay of programming beamed to the United States for nationwide broadcast over the continental mediumwave networks.

In 1943, the Australian Red Cross installed radio equipment in the International Red Cross Building in Noumea, and it was on the air with programming for the benefit of American service personnel. During the following year (1944) a new American mediumwave station was inaugurated in Noumea under the Mosquito Network callsign WVUS. Two years later again (1946), this station was removed from Noumea and reinstalled at the American Air Force base at Tontouta, 30 miles northwest of Noumea.

Verification letter received by New Zealand DXer David Ricquish for transmissions from Noumea on 666 kHz
© Radio Heritage Foundation, David Ricquish Collection

The National Broadcasting Service of New Zealand operated a Mobile Radio Unit in Noumea from April 1943 to August 1944, and it produced programming for local broadcast in New Caledonia and also for rebroadcast back home in New Zealand. During its year and a half service in Noumea, this NZNBS radio unit also produced a daily program, the Kiwi Hour, which was broadcast by Radio Noumea on both mediumwave and shortwave.

Another regular program was prepared in Noumea under the title With the Boys Overseas and this was forwarded by plane to New Zealand twice weekly for re-broadcast over the NZNBS home service mediumwave network throughout New Zealand. In August 1944, their mobile radio equipment in Noumea was donated to Radio Noumea, and the personnel returned to their homeland, New Zealand.

For a couple of years beginning in 1960, a locally produced program in the Ifira language was produced in Port Vila in the nearby New Hebrides islands. This program was beamed back to the New Hebrides from Radio Noumea also on both mediumwave and shortwave under the title Radio Kavelicolico.

During the 1980s, a French language program that was produced in the Paris studios of Adventist World Radio was broadcast from Radio Noumea on mediumwave (666 kHz) and on shortwave (3355 kHz and 7170 kHz) for which QSL cards were issued.

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of January 16, 2022


Read more about radio in New Caledonia in these features on our website:
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