Awarua Radio was a New Zealand Government (Post & Telegraph Department, later NZ Post Office) communications station, located at Awarua, between Invercargill and Bluff on the South Island of New Zealand. It was sometimes referred to as the Bluff wireless station and the letter B features in its callsigns.
The station opened on 18 December 1913, several months ahead of schedule as workers for the German contractor were anxious to return home before war was declared.
The station closed after almost 78 years of service on 30 August 1991.
VLB until 25 November 1927
ZLB until closure
Awarua Radio was virtually identical to Awanui Radio and the two stations officially opened on the same day.
They were each built on a 100-acre site selected by engineers from the contractor (Telefunken) and used a spark gap transmitter rated at 30KW input (15KW output in the aerial) and a massive umbrella aerial supported by a 400 ft tower.
These two high-power stations complemented the lower power (5KW input, 2.5KW output) Telefunken stations at Auckland, Wellington, the Chatham Islands, and on the Government steamship Tutanekai. A fifth low-power set was purchased as a spare. (There may also have been one installed at Rarotonga.)
(For more on the early days of Awarua and Awanui Radio, see When spark was king.)
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, and their engineers were attracted to the terrain of Awarua for effective transmission and receiving, as it was 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.
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.
Much 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 – have also provided material.