Chatham Islands Radio 1913-1929

JL Davies

JL Davies

1913

In July, the Temuka Leader reported that John L Davies was at Chatham Islands, helping to build the wireless station, and that he would be in charge of the station for twelve months.

James Henry Hampton

JH Hampton

The station opened on 18 September (see official report of opening).

There were only two staff, who handled operating and technical duties. Davies was the Officer in Charge, and James H Hampton was the Assistant Operator. They lived together at the station.

Attendance book for the first three days of operation at Chatham Islands wireless station

Attendance book for the first three days of operation at Chatham Islands wireless station

Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913

Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913. Note the lattice towers with topmasts which apparently proved unsatisfactory, as different towers appear in later photos. Courtesy: David Smith. Click to enlarge

Chatham Islands Radio Telegraph Station. Date unknown

Chatham Islands Radio Telegraph Station. Date unknown. Courtesy: David Smith

Chatham Islands Radiotelegraph Station

Chatham Islands Radio Telegraph Station. Date unknown. Courtesy: David Smith

Apparatus at Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913

Apparatus at Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Engine alternator at Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913

Engine alternator at Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Batteries at Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913

Batteries at Chatham Islands wireless station in 1913. Courtesy: Chris Underwood

Ralph Stanley Wheeler, Timaru telegraph office, 1933

RS Wheeler

1914

Ralph S Wheeler replaced John L Davies as Officer in Charge.

The Chatham Islands station (opened on the 18th September, 1913) established a much-needed link with the mainland of New Zealand. It also serves to extend the range of communication with ship-stations to the eastward. The position of the station is 47°57′ S, 176°31′ W – 416 miles from Radio-Wellington. The wireless set is a 2 1/2 kw Telefunken, with a normal range of 300 miles by day and 600 miles by night. The prime motive power is generated by an oil engine. A storage battery of considerable capacity ensures reliability. The aerial is of the T type, and is suspended at a height of 150 ft from two tubular steel structures 300 ft apart. An earthed counterpoise completes the aerial equipment.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Post & Telegraph Department, 1914

1916

Ralph S Wheeler left the Chathams.

A daily wireless weather report was authorized from the Chatham Islands, and commended on the 8th April, 1915; it has been maintained without a single break. Part of this message is also transmitted by cable to the Commonwealth Weather Bureau for research purposes. Forecasts are also occasionally transmitted to the Chatham Islands, for which a small charge is made by the Post Office, but usually the Wellington forecast suffices.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Marine Department, 1916

Observations are being made at Chatham Islands and Awarua of atmospheric electrical disturbances which prevail in greater or less degree at all times. These are despatched to the British Association for the Advancement of Science.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Post & Telegraph Department, 1916

LH (Les) Steel

LH Steel

1917

Les H Steel became Officer in Charge.

1922

Chatham Islands reports its weather regularly every evening by radio. This is also cabled by us to Australia every day of the year with other reports, at the expense of the Commonwealth Government.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Marine Department, 1922

ALM Wllis, first manager of the Awarua wireless station

ALM Willis

1923

ALM (Les) Willis became Superintendent (the new title for the Officer in Charge).

1924

Reliable and uninterrupted communication has been maintained during the year between Radio-Chatham Islands and the mainland.
With a view to facilitating the despatch of radio-telegrams over long distances, and also reducing interference, arrangements were made in May last for Radio-Chatham Islands to work overseas vessels on the Cape Horn and Panama transpacific routes on long waves.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Post & Telegraph Department, 1924

It is believed that the following photos were taken some years after the station opened (there are more buildings) and it appears the original masts had been replaced with more robust and modern towers. If anyone can date these photos, please contact us.

The captions are from handwritten notes on the back of each photo.

1913 photo of Chatham Islands wireless station

1. Photo taken from WSW of the plant. The stays in left hand corner are from outer mast of big aerial. Mast about 25ft from [unclear]. See mast in nr 2.

1913 photo of Chatham Islands wireless station

2. The point from where nr 1 taken (is) shown by arrow. (Mast of one [unclear] big aerial.) The tower bears west north west of the plant. This photo gives an idea of the distance the plant is situated from the buildings.

1913 photo of Chatham Islands wireless station

3. The line of the buildings from the supt’s residence, nne to ssw. The photo was taken from a point NE of the plant. See nr 1 for area behind photographer.

1913 photo of Chatham Islands wireless station

4. This snap was taken during the erection of the plant. This gives idea of the Southerly situation. By placing nr 3 to the right and nr 5 to the left of this snap, in line with the land line, it will give an idea of the surroundings.

1913 photo of Chatham Islands wireless station

5. Photo taken from NW of the plant. The tower covers the plant from WNW wind – a wind seldom experienced.

Photos 3, 4 and 5 combined

Photos 3, 4 and 5 combined

1913 photo of Chatham Islands wireless station

6. Photo showing distance between tower and mast. The centre (wood) mast is a stay for big aerial.

1927

ALM (Les) Willis left Chatham Islands.

1929

On 1 January, the callsign of Chatham Islands Radio changed from VLC to ZLC, under the new worldwide callsign allocations agreed at the 1927 International Radiotelegraph Convention.

» 1930-1949

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