The Awanui Wireless Station was activated on 27 March 1913. The Post & Telegraph Department sent John L Davies to Sydney (presumably the Pennant Hills station which was very similar to Awanui) to participate in the Awanui tests during March and April.
The high-power station at Awanui of 30 kilowatts has been completed. It will be capable of communicating with Sydney at any hour. This station is provided with a tower 394 ft in height from which an umbrella-shaped aerial spreads from summit to base over an area of about 90 acres. A similar station at Awarua, near Bluff, is also completed. These stations are undergoing departmental tests.
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1913*
Staff were housed in three buildings: the superintendent’s house, the operators’ quarters and the engineer’s house.
Bill Walker was the Assistant Engineer.
Service was provided to ships as well as point-to-point communication with Apia.
The high-power stations at Awanui and Awarua were both opened for commercial work on the 18th December, 1913. Awanui is situated in 34°54′ S, 173°18′ E, and Awarua is 46°30’S, 168°23′ E. These stations are of 30kw primary power and have identical Telefunken equipments. The severe tests made prior to their being taken over by the Department proved them capable of fulfilling all requirements and of ensuring wireless communication with Australia at any hour of the day or night.
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1914*
During the First World War, a military guard of 65 men under Captain Proctor of Whangarei was posted at the station, and a high barbed wire fence was erected around it.
Auckland wireless station suspended operation, as the much higher-power Awanui station offered superior performance.
From Bill Walker’s audio interview recorded in 1962:
- Surrounding the tower was a counterpoise ring, connected by 60 wires
- The tower faces were 8 feet wide
- The tower height was 400 feet “near enough”
- 24 aerials led from “practically” the top of the tower about 1/4 mile to posts in the field surrounding the tower
- The main working, on 2000 metre wavelength, was to Samoa
- There were smaller aerials for other wavelengths: 600 metres (ships), 1200 metres (navy – not used much), 300 metres (“never used”)
- The aerial wires were phosphor-bronze, about the size of Number 8 fencing wire
- The high-tension room included helixes, repeaters (keying relays
- At full power, the transmitter used 30-35kW, which was necessary to reach Sydney during daytime (only half as much power was needed at night)
- For ships service, the transmitter typically used 10-12kW
Assistant Engineer Bill Walker left for military service. His replacement was Mr B Winstanley from the Auckland Post & Telegraph workshop.
Wireless communication on long waves between Awanui and Apia, Samoa, a distance of 1550 knots [sic], established shortly after the seizure of the Samoan group by the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on behalf of the Imperial Government on the outbreak of war, continues to be satisfactorily maintained.
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1916*
Wireless weather forecasts which were discontinued at the commencement of the war have been resumed during the year, and are sent out through the radio stations at Awanui, Wellington, and Awarua on the usual reporting nights, and at other times when deemed necessary.
– AJHR: Marine Department, 1916*
In December, John L Davies, previously Officer in Charge at Awarua Wireless Station, became Officer in Charge at Awanui, replacing LW (Pat) Bourke, who became Superintendent of Telegraphs at Napier.
The erection of a residence at the Awanui wireless station for the use of the engineer was completed during the year.
As indicating collateral uses which wireless stations may serve, ‘time’ was transmitted on one evening from the Observatory clock, Wellington, to Tahiti. The clock was arranged to make contacts at intervals of a minute and worked a relay at Awanui over a land-line about 600 miles long, the relay in turn operating a sounder which served as a key to work the high-power transmitting apparatus. Ten separate signals which were sent were reported as having been received in an entirely satisfactory manner at Tahiti, the distance covered being 2245 nauts.
– AJHR: Post & Telegraph Department, 1917*
John L Davies left in August to return to Apia with the Samoa Reinforcements. Assistant Engineer Bill Walker returned from war.
John L Davies returned as Officer in Charge.
* Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives