Awarua Radio ZLB opened on 18 December 1913 and closed after almost 78 years of service on 30 August 1991.
Originally known as VLB, Awarua Radio was a Government (NZ Post & Telegraph) Telecommunications Station, located between Invercargill and Bluff on the South Island of New Zealand.
Early notes on ZLB Awarua Radio
Researched by Jack Fox ZL4ND from documents at the Hocken Library, Dunedin
Awarua Radio began operating on 18 December 1913 to provide ship-to-shore communication and weather reports of the Southern Ocean.
The station was built by the German company Telefunken, which also had the contract for two other stations in New Zealand (or possibly only Awanui Radio ZLA in NZ and one in Western Samoa – ed).
The Germans were attracted to the terrain of Awarua for effective transmission and receiving by being similar to the large plain at Nauen, 40km from Berlin and home of Telefunken’s test station.
With the forecast of war with Britain there was belief that the Germans were hastening to complete their assignment for Germany’s benefit!
By 1924 ZLB had become a vital link with whaling ships traveling to and from the Ross Sea. Awarua was the only communication channel with the outside world for these expeditions.
Additional information from Alan ZL4PZ
From the reverse of a 1988 commemorative QSL card, comes the following information:
Awarua Radio/VLB commenced operation on 18 December 1913, using a 50KW Telefunken spark transmitter. The antenna was an umbrella type on a 410 foot high mast which weighed over 120 tons and sat on glass insulators. The callsign changed to ZLB on 1 January 1929. Today, the station continues to operate, providing radio communications with international shipping and remote localities on frequencies from 500kHz to 22MHz.
See commemorative amateur radio QSL card below – for a contact made between Tony ZL4DE (at Awarua) and Con Stiglish ZL4DU. The contact was via the Dunedin 690 VHF repeater (146.900 MHz) on 24 November 1988. The photograph on the card is of Awarua Radio as it was during the 1920-30s.
Southland Post & Telegraph Communications Museum
In early 2016, a group of volunteers opened a museum on the former Awarua Radio site. For more information, please visit awaruamuseum.co.nz.
Most of the content about ZLB on maritimeradio.org is from a website created by the late Alan Gilchrist ZL4PZ and has been used with his permission. Many other people – in particular Alex Glennie, Chris Underwood and Tony Graham – have also provided material.