Chatham Islands Radio 1930-1949

1934: Wind-powered generator installed

1935: New valve transmitter of 50-watt aerial rating replaced the spark transmitter, which was retained for emergency use.

1942: A Security Intelligence Report stated: “The equipment on the Station is old, particularly the Benzine Motor which provides the requisite power. Nevertheless, the plant is functioning satisfactorily.”

Alex Glennie writes:

I believe [the Benzine Motor referred to above] was likely much the same as installed in 1913, 29 years previously. Here is a passage from the book I am writing of my father’s [Charles Alan Glennie] time on the Chathams during WW2:

“In another incident he spoke of the old benzine motor and generator at the Wireless Station that another staff member, Jack Bonisch (must have been after 1944 when Bonisch arrived on the Chathams), was having trouble stopping. Father simply took the high tension lead in his hand, shorted it to ground .. with the motor coming to a stop.”


I remember him telling me also, that there was a bank of batteries used at the station as a back-up for emergency power supply, hence the benzine motor and generator. These batteries required distilled water that the staff produced at the station. With the war situation and the isolation, commodities were often in short supply and so people either had to make do or go with out. I put it to Charles once that it would be easy to use the water distilling plant to produce alcohol and consequently their own liquor. He never confirmed or denied but gave me a wry grin”.

Chatham Islands Radio Staff in the 1940s
Chatham Islands Radio Staff in 1943. L-R: WB Burt, CN (Chas) Hair (Superintendent), WE Farr, CA Glennie, CC Langdale. Photo courtesy Alex Glennie
Bill Farr, Bill Burt and Alan Glennie in 1944
WE (Bill) Farr, WB (Bill) Burt and CA (Alan) Glennie in 1944
Looking north over Chatham Islands Radio ZLC, c1944
Looking north over Chatham Islands Radio ZLC, c1944
Chatham Islands Radio ZLC in 1947
Chatham Islands Radio ZLC in 1947

There are 10 seconds relating to Chatham Islands Radio in the following video, starting at 1:12.

Chatham Islands Radio in 1947
Chatham Islands Radio in 1947
Chatham Islands Radio "post World War 2"
Chatham Islands Radio “post World War 2”. Photo courtesy David Smith. Click to enlarge.

» 1950-1969

One Comment

  1. Dr Glenn Vallender
    09 July 2016

    I am researching the history of the Milne horizontal pendulum seismograph #16 which went to the Chathams in 1932 and operated by the radio team until 1941 when it was decommissioned and somehow went back to Wellington. The remains of this historic seismograph are at GNS Science in Wellington.

    I would be grateful if you had any information about this, and ecstatic if there were any photographs.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Glenn Vallender

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