1924: NZ radio amateurs communicate with England

In addition to describing a milestone in global communications, this article includes an indirect quote from John L Davies, a New Zealand radio pioneer who had managed the wireless stations at Auckland, Chatham Islands, Awarua, Awanui and Apia.

New Zealand Herald, 4 November 1924, p 13


On October 16 the Morse signals of Mr R Slade, 4AG, Dunedin, calling certain American stations, was [sic] heard in England, and on October 18 a cablegram to that effect was received by Mr Slade from the Wireless World, London.

About 6.10 pm on Saturday, October 18, Mr FD Bell heard a British amateur, 2SZ, calling an American amateur, who apparently could not make himself heard plainly, as 2SZ signalled to him to try once more on 80 metres. Mr Bell then called 2SZ on 90 metres, receiving a reply to the effect that his signals were distinct. Communication was carried on for some time, and the amateur wireless chain from England to New Zealand was complete.

Writing to “Thermion,” under date October 22, Mr Bell says: “We have been in communication every night since our first success on Saturday, October 18, under varying conditions, our signals being reported sometimes QRZ (weak) and sometimes QSA (strong). Our usual correspondent is 2SZ, Mill Hill School. It was a great pleasure to work Mr J Orbell, of 3AA fame, who was at 2SZ on Tuesday. He is certainly a good operator, and while he was at the key we were able to work considerably faster than usual, since he recognised that if we said 2SZ’s signals were QSA we probably meant it. As a matter of fact, they were readable by the second operator (Miss Bell) without ‘phones right across the table from the official receiver. There are some local stations harder to read. We find that from about 5.50 to 6.50 p.m. English signals come in quite well, but after that they fade rapidly. Their wave is around 100 metres, with an input from 100 to 200 watts.

“We work on 90 metres, using an input of 150 watts, with a 50-watt Radiotron valve, a 96ft lattice mast, vertical cage, and small counterpoise. The receiver is of the low-loss type, with one-step audio amplification, and we have worked English 2KF, 2SZ, 20D, 2SH, and have heard, but not worked, 2NM, 5LF, and 2WJ. On Monday evening we also raised U 5DW, Greenville, Texas, who called for confirmation. 4AG and 4AK, Dunedin, have both been reported several times now by English amateurs.”

These new records are the result of great perseverance by our amateurs and it is hoped that they will soon be in communication with amateurs in the south of France (practically our antipodes) thus girdling the globe. While no one doubts the authenticity of the recent records, the amateurs concerned should consider the advisability of placing their claims on an unassailable scientific basis by communicating a test message to England, and this message could be cabled back to those who wrote it.

In connection with transmission and reception at this time of year, it is interesting to record the general opinion of commercial operators that in October of each year the best results, for 600-metre work at any rate, are obtained. For example, Mr J Davies, sometime superintendent at Awanui, VLA, states that at this time of year it was found always possible to work VEA, Esteban, Vancouver, an impossible feat at other times of the year. This extraordinary transmission and reception applied to other stations at the same time. Whether there is a similar effect with short wavelengths will be shown by the continuance or otherwise of the present amateur two-way communications.

It would be of interest also if the New Zealand amateurs could endeavour to work other amateurs as nearly as possible at their antipodes. A few years ago, the French Government sent to New Zealand waters one of their vessels, the Aldebaran, to measure the signal strength at different distances of the French highpower stations. The Aldebaran was steered to the exact antipodes of the French stations, and it was found that there the signals were two or three times as loud as they were in the Mediterranean. Such a result was not unexpected as the antipodes would be a meeting point for all the waves travelling round the earth from the transmitting stations.

» Radio interview with radio pioneer Margaret Brenda Bell from 1964