1938: Awarua Radio’s original 400ft tower to fall

Evening Post, 9 March 1938, p 12

Landmark to fall
Awarua Radio Mast
Relic of early system

Special, to the Evening Post

The 400ft steel tower which has served the Government wireless station at Awarua for the last quarter of a century, and which during its lifetime has seen marvellous developments in the radio world, will be brought to the ground within the next few days.

It has outlived its usefulness. A change-over to shorter aerials more suitable for short-wave reception and transmission has already been effected.

The tower has been a prominent landmark in the thinly populated plain between Invercargill and Bluff since 1913.

One hundred and twenty tons of steel will come to earth with a crash when the tower is released from its stays. The steel will be sold.

The great height of the tower was necessary when it was built. In the earlier days of wireless it was necessary to use very long wave-lengths to transmit for great distances, but with the advent of the short-wave transmitters even greater distances can be covered with lower power and smaller aerials.

Whereas even with the help of the tower it was i not possible to reach more than half of the world, nowadays, with modern improvements, Awarua station can communicate with any part of the world with a fraction ‘of the power previously used.

The new aerial towers, of which there are nine, range in height from 40ft to 70ft, and permit the receiving and transmitting services to be separated. If the conditions are good, simultaneous transmission and reception can be carried out.

The 400 ft tower is a triangular girder about five feet across, and is supported on a pivot resting on glass insulators. At its top is a small platform with a railing round the edge. Even good climbers used to scaling heights take over a quarter of an hour to reach the top, which is liable to sway about two feet in rough weather.

The tower is supported by two sets of three stays, the first being attached at 160 feet from the ground and the second at 320 feet. The last 80 feet of the tower is not supported.

Ever since the station has been established at Awarua the locality has been known as the best in the world for reception. The station site has also the advantage of not being screened by mountain ranges, and of having a fairly good type of earth. On this account Awarua has received messages that the other two Government stations in New Zealand (at Auckland and Wellington) have failed to receive.


Awarua has been able to handle all messages for undertakings such as the Byrd Expedition to the Antarctic and the flight of the Centaurus and the American Clipper ships. It is in regular touch with ships in all parts of the world, and the volume of business done in this way has increased enormously in recent years.

Since the opening of the Rugby station in England and the transmission of British Official Wireless news to the Dominions, Awarua has received all these messages. The news is decoded and telegraphed to Wellington for distribution to the newspapers of New Zealand. The improvements in radio transmission have meant that more messages can be handled in the same time and with the same staff as was necessary in the earlier days of longer wavelengths.

The present staff of nine at Awarua is not appreciably greater than when the station was opened in 1913.

Awarua is the last of the two original stations erected by German contractors in 1912. The other station, at Awa’nui, North Auckland, which was an exact replica of Awarua, was dismantled and the equipment disposed of about ten years ago. The work which the Awanui station performed is now done by a smaller station in Auckland City. Wellington is also equipped with a group of stations which handle a great deal of radiotelephone work, as well as commercial Morse work for ships.

…and from the New Zealand Herald, 10 March 1938, p 12:

Awarua Radio 400ft mast to be demolished

Leave a Reply