Wellington Radio 1920-29

The following three undated photographs with annotations from New Zealand Post Office files appear to have been used in plans to replace the two original Oregon Pine masts with a single steel lattice tower plus secondary masts in 1923. The photos also show the original stone building and the small stone hut.

An early view of the Wellington Radio site on Tinakori Hill

An early view of the Wellington Radio site on Tinakori Hill. The aerial was supported by two 150-foot masts made of Oregon Pine. The notations on the photo relate to plans to replace the two timber masts with a single steel tower, completed in 1923.

An early view of the Wellington Radio site on Tinakori Hill

An early view of the Wellington Radio site on Tinakori Hill. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

Undated photo of a "new wooden mast" at ZLW

Undated photo of a “new wooden mast” at ZLW. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

1922

Radio weather-forecasts and 4pm barometer readings…are broadcast nightly from Wellington and Awanui, but have recently been discontinued from Awarua.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Marine Department, 1922

Shaw Savill Albion steamer Tainui

Shaw Savill Albion steamer Tainui. Date and location unknown.
Photo: David James Aldersley, Alexander Turnbull Library

The wireless time-signal sent from the Observatory have [sic] been received by many ships at considerable distances from New Zealand. The signals are transmitted by the Wellington Radio-station…on a wavelength of 600 metres, and are Telefunken quenched-spark signals. The type of signal sent from the Observatory consists of long dashes of about one second duration, and it is probably due to this long dash that the signal reaches so far. The longest distance reported to the Observatory was 4320 miles, for the wireless-telegraph time-signal received by the SS Tainui. The SS Waimana reported the reception of the time signal at a distance of 3638 miles.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Department of Internal Affairs, 1922

1923

A new 165-foot steel lattice tower was erected to replace the original 150-foot Oregon Pine masts which had rotted.

Steel lattice mast at Wellington wireless station erected in 1923

Steel lattice mast at Wellington wireless station erected in 1923. Auckland Weekly News, 20 May 1926. Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries

Undated photo showing a wooden mast at ZLW being lowered.

Undated photo showing one of the original wooden masts at VLW being lowered. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

Undated photo showing a wooden mast at ZLW after being lowered.

Undated photo showing the rot in a wooden mast which had been felled. Photo courtesy Chris Underwood

By the mid-1920s Wellington and some other coastal radio stations were using the new ‘beam’, short-wave radio technology for improved, long-distance communication with shipping, even as far away as the Ross Sea…[Engineers of the Marconi Company] had refined the so-called ‘beam’ system using special directional antennae that allowed short-wave radio signals to be beamed along clear paths rather than radiated out in more diffuse and thus less effective signals.1

1924

In June last the two wooden masts at Radio-Wellington, which had been in service since 1912, were replaced by a new 165 ft steel self-supporting tower. The semi-umbrella type of antenna erected on the new structure is proving equally as efficient as the ‘T’ antenna erected on the old masts.
Consideration is now being given to the matter of equipping Radio-Wellington with a continuous wave valve transmitter. The installation of this equipment would permit of the use of different types of transmission for fixed and mobile service, facilitate long-distance communication with ship stations, and reduce to a minimum interference with adjacent radio-telephone broadcasting transmissions.
– Appendix to the Journals of the House of Representatives: Post & Telegraph Department, 1924

1926

On Wednesday 12 May, the winds on Tinakori Hills proved too strong for the steel lattice tower erected just three years earlier and it collapsed after all four legs sheared off their bases.

Wreckage of the tower at Wellington Radio, blown down in a gale. Note on photo says c1929, but this looks like the mast destroyed in 1926

Wreckage of the tower at Wellington Radio, blown down in a gale. Note on photo says c1929, but this is undoubtedly the mast that collapsed in 1926. Courtesy David Smith

Staff at ZLW in 1926: Seated L-R: D McMahon, JD Hampton  [sic - should be JH Hampton] (Supt), RMA Thompson Standing: JF Sullivan

“The operators who were on duty [when the mast collapsed]. Sitting L-R: D McMahon, JD Hampton [sic – should be JH Hampton] (Supt), RMA Thompson. Standing: JF Sullivan.” Photo: AW Schaef, published in NZ Free Lance, 19 May 1926

ALM Wllis, first manager of the Awarua wireless station1927

ALM (Les) Willis became Superintendent (date unknown).

1929

On 1 January, the callsign of Wellington Radio changed from VLW to ZLW, under the new worldwide callsign allocations agreed at the 1927 International Radiotelegraph Convention. (This was the second change in callsigns, as prior to 1913 there were Auckland – NZK, Awanui – NZA, Wellington – NZW and Bluff – unallocated.)

James Henry Hampton James H Hampton became Superintendent (date unknown).

The station got a second short-wave transmitter in late 1929.2


Notes

1. Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (p 115-116), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.
2. Wilson, A.C. (1994). Wire and wireless: A history of telecommunications in New Zealand 1890-1987, (p 116), Palmerston North, New Zealand: Dunmore Press.

» 1930-1939