Chathams Radio 1950-1969

Radio station at Kaingaroa in 1951

“Receiving you loud and clear.” Stewart Troy at Kaingaroa (northeast tip of Chatham Island) answers the 8 o’clock call from ZLC in 1951. Courtesy David Smith

Map: Chatham Islands

Map: Chatham Islands Council

1956:

In December, radio operator Irwin Smith departs and Clyde Williams arrives from Wellington Radio ZLW.
[Read Clyde’s account of life in the Chatham Islands]

1957:

Chatham Islands Radio ZLC in 1957

Chatham Islands Radio ZLC in 1957

Chatham Islands Radio transmitters in 1957

Chatham Islands Radio transmitters in 1957. At left are two 250W NZPO 351 AM/CW units made by RCA, and the dark unit in the centre appears to be a Collier & Beale 277 75W CW transmitter.

At Chatham Islands Radio in 1957

At Chatham Islands Radio in 1957, adults L-R: Pat Columb (Supt), Doug Condell, Clyde Williams, Nancy Columb and Bill Riley. Photo courtesy Clyde Williams

1958:

Radio operator Dave Smith at Chatham Islands Radio ZLC in 1958

Radio operator Dave Smith at Chatham Islands Radio ZLC in 1958

In April, radio operator Clyde Williams left ZLC and returned to Wellington Radio ZLW.

1965: Telephone terminal with privacy system installed

Telephone terminal of the type installed by Don Nicol at Chatham Islands Radio in 1965. Now at the Ferrymead museum.

Telephone terminal of the type installed by Don Nicol at Chatham Islands Radio in 1965. Now at the Ferrymead museum. Photo 2016 Alex Glennie

Until 1965, maintenance and repairs at Chatham Islands Radio were carried out by the Christchurch Radio Depot or, in emergencies, by the resident Superintendent of the station.

My appointment to the Chathams as the first resident Radio Technician in 1965 was instigated mainly by Norman Kirk MP (later Prime Minister) who had promised Chatham Islanders that they would be able to ring up New Zealand and overseas from their home phones. Previously such calls could only be made from Waitangi Post Office or the radio station a couple of kilometres distant.

On arrival, I installed a new single-sideband transmitter and terminal equipment, which involved major reconstruction at the radio station.

Any call destined for New Zealand was transferred from the Telephone Exchange at Waitangi to this terminal at the radio station, and connected to the appropriate transmitter at the station.

The initial setting up of the daily service to New Zealand was carried out at the terminal before connecting up the telephone operator and the local person making the call.

This terminal equipment had a 5-band privacy system which enabled privacy on all calls. With earlier equipment, residents were able to listen to phone calls on their short-wave radios.

To my knowledge, this equipment was also installed in the Stout Street Exchange in Wellington, and may have been supplied to other island circuits such as Rarotonga.

The last time I saw the equipment in a similar position was at the Waikanae Post Office, which had been transformed into a Post Office technical museum, but I do not know if it still exists.

– Don Nicol

Part of the documentation with the telephone terminal at Ferrymead museum

Part of the documentation with the telephone terminal at Ferrymead museum. Given that ‘Chatham Islands’ it not on the list, this unit may have come from there. Photo 2016 Alex Glennie

» 1970-1991

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