Tag Archives: Maritime Radio

Classic portables onboard a 1919 Great Lakes tugboat

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Phil Ewing, who writes:

I know you’re always on the lookout for trips and visits so I thought of you when we were up in Wisconsin last week. There’s a maritime museum up in Sturgeon Bay, on the peninsula, that includes a 100 year-old tug. You can go aboard and climb all up and down…and they’ve got some great radios in the crew cabins as part of the displays of what life was like back when the ship was working.

There were a number of standard but interesting normal transistors but what really caught my eye were the Hallicrafters World Wave in the pilothouse and a fantastic pair of Trans-Oceanics in the cabins of the chief engineer and the captain.

The purpose of the visit really isn’t the radios — it’s about the working life of the Great Lakes and an old ship — so discovering them was a fantastic lagniappe.

[T]he appeal of shortwave in these circumstances is clear: Imagine you’re in the middle of Lake Superior towing a barge full of logs to be pulped, or some other unglamorous but essential Great Lakes cargo — maybe a barge full of big rocks to build a breakwater in, say, Sheboygan — and you come off watch in the middle of the night. Life on a ship can be deadly monotonous and deeply lonely but then picture yourself tuning in to the international band on your luxurious Zenith set … not bad since the iPad won’t be invented for another 40 or so years.

These pix also depict the engine order telegraph, which the captain in the pilothouse used to signal commands to the engine room. There was one for each of the two main engines, and duplicates in the pilothouse.

The captain moves the handle so that it indicates the speed he wants (e.g., Ahead Full) and the bottom needle on the telegraph in the engine room moves, ringing a bell. This is why an engineer might report he was ready to sail by saying he was standing by to “answer bells.” The engineers would select the speed on the engines and then move their own handle on their own telegraph to correspond with the captain’s order, signaling to the pilothouse they’d completed the instruction.

The engines are the white things pictured behind the telegraph and on which was stamped the brass plate also photographed here. The diesel engines were made by the Electro Motive Division of GM and replaced this ship’s original steam propulsion system. EMD is most famous for its pioneering and legendary freight locomotives, which led the way in “dieselization” after WWII in converting many railroads from their romantic but much less efficient and much dirtier steam power. But the company also made marine diesel engines as evidenced here and these served this ship for another three decades or so — just think about that. There also are still EMD GP30 locomotives from the 1960s still in service in some places in the U.S., according to what I read in this month’s Trains magazine.


Fascinating, Phil––what terrific vintage kit! Thanks for sharing those wonderful photos and descriptions with us. 

Yes, I can imagine SWLing would have been a vital entertainment outlet for those on working ships in the Great Lakes. No doubt they had access to a number of strong mediumwave stations on the coast, as well. What a way to while away the off-hours.

Click here to follow @PhilEwing on Twitter.

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Atlas Obscura features KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station

Cypress tree avenue towards KPH. Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons

(Source: Atlas Obscura via Eric McFadden)

One of the most stunning sights of the Bay Area is the historic KPH Radio Station, also known as Marine Coast Station KPH. To reach the station, you must first pass through a clerestory tunnel of cypress trees near the Point Reyes National Seashore.[…]

KPH began providing Morse Code telegram service to ships at sea in the early 20th century, broadcasting from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco (where the station gets its PH call sign). The 1906 earthquake forced the station to move until it was eventually acquired by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and found its home in Marin County. The Receiving Station is a classic white Art Deco structure built in 1920. The transmitters themselves, in nearby Bolinas, are a similar style.

At the time, there were dozens of stations like KPH around the United States, though KPH was one of the biggest, sometimes referred to as “the wireless giant of the Pacific.” When the station fell into disuse, land contractors were set to demolish it, including its antennas, to build condominiums. But Globe Wireless acquired the site in 1997 and it was left untouched.[…]

Read the full article at Atlas Obscura.

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“Night of Nights” Returns Tonight!

Chief Operator Richard Dillman at Position 1 (Source: Maritime Radio Historical Society)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Brian Smith (W9IND), who writes:

The cast may be smaller than in previous years, but the “Night of Nights” nostalgia show will go on. At 8:01 p.m. Eastern Time today (0001 UTC July 13), two maritime CW stations operated by the Maritime Radio Historical Society will begin transmitting Morse code on shortwave and medium wave bands, while the Society’s amateur radio station will be active on four ham bands.

Venerable KPH will reappear tonight in the company of KFS and ham station K6KPH, all transmitting from a century-old Marconi site at Bolinas, California. They’ll be directed from a 1930 RCA station at 17400 Sir Francis Drake Boulevard in Point Reyes National Seashore. Several previous participants will be absent this year, including ship-to-shore powerhouse WLO of Mobile, Alabama, and a quartet of Coast Guard stations.

The annual July 12 event commemorates the date in 1999 when commercial Morse code operations ceased in the United States. One year later, “Night of Nights” debuted in a defiant declaration that maritime CW stations would not go gentle into that good night.

Typically, the two 5 kw coast stations transmit “code wheels” (repeating messages), personal messages, and tributes to long-gone maritime stations and operators, remaining on the air till at least 0700 UTC. And K6KPH will not only be heard, but contacted by fellow amateur radio stations. A list of KPH, KFS and K6KPH frequencies can be found at www.radiomarine.org, including those used by ships. Reception reports go to P.O. Box 392, Point Reyes Station, CA 94956.

The public is welcome to observe today’s event and tour the facility at Point Reyes. Doors open at 3 p.m. local (Pacific) time, and Morse aficionados are invited to operate K6KPH. Whisper the words “true believer” for a peek at the Treasure Room!

https://www.nps.gov/pore/planyourvisit/events_nightofnights.htm

For a comprehensive list of frequencies please click here.

Many thanks for the notice, Brian! We’ll tune in!

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After 71 years, WLO operators go off the air

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Zach, who notes that WLO have announced that as of 04:59 UTC on July 1, 2018, “there there will no longer be 24/7 operators on duty at the Mobile, AL stations.”

Here’s a screenshot from their announcement on Facebook:
The end of an era indeed. Thanks for the tip, Zach.

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Reuters: Cyber threats prompt return of radio for ship navigation

eLoran (Image Source: UrsaNav)

(Source: Reuters via Ken Hansen and Dan Hawkins)

LONDON (Reuters) – The risk of cyber attacks targeting ships’ satellite navigation is pushing nations to delve back through history and develop back-up systems with roots in World War Two radio technology.

Ships use GPS (Global Positioning System) and other similar devices that rely on sending and receiving satellite signals, which many experts say are vulnerable to jamming by hackers.

About 90 percent of world trade is transported by sea and the stakes are high in increasingly crowded shipping lanes. Unlike aircraft, ships lack a back-up navigation system and if their GPS ceases to function, they risk running aground or colliding with other vessels.

South Korea is developing an alternative system using an earth-based navigation technology known as eLoran, while the United States is planning to follow suit. Britain and Russia have also explored adopting versions of the technology, which works on radio signals.

Continue reading at Reuters online…

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