April 21 2012 commemorated the 76th anniversary
of the first shortwave broadcast from the MS “Kanimbla”.
This was the date on whjich the ship was officially launched. It operated in Australian waters as a passenger
liner and had a shortwave radio station on board. It was the only ship in history in which a commercial shortwave radio broadcasting
station was constructed into the vessel at the time of building.
The 11,000 ton passenger liner was built at Belfast
in Northern Ireland, by the famous ship building company, Harland and Wolff. The electronic equipment was manufactured by
AWA in Australia and shipped to Ireland for installation while the ship was still under construction.
The ship was named
for the Kanimbla
Valley, west of Blackheath in the Blue
Mountains in New
A radio broadcasting license with the experimental callsign VK9MI, was granted to the "Kanimbla" by the PMG’s
Department in Australia.
consisted of two studios - one for group broadcasts, and the other for announcer presentation. The crystal controlled transmitter
was rated at 1.5 kW.
AWA transmitter could operate on any frequency between 20 and 50 metres. The first test broadcast from 9MI was made on April
21, 1936 during sea trials in the Firth of Clyde.
The ship began its delivery voyage from Northern Ireland to Australia
April 26, 1936 and is reported that the radio station 9MI made four test broadcasts each day during this 25,000 km journey.
official inauguration of the new radio broadcasting station VK9MI was made in a special broadcast to Australia while the ship
was south of the continent in the Great Australian Bight, 1500 km from Sydney. At 8:00 pm Eastern Australian Standard Time,
VK9MI went on the air shortwave and the program was picked up and relayed throughout Australia over the ABC mediumwave network.
This inaugural broadcast from 9MI was made on 11720 kHz, though subsequently the regular channel was 6005 kHz, which
was later changed in April 1939 to 6055 kHz. The schedule was irregular, usually half an hour or an hour a few evenings a
week. The announcer and manager was Eileen Foley.
The "Kanimbla" carried passenger traffic backwards and forwards on
the southern route between Western Australia and Queensland, and the ports of call in this shuttle service were Fremantle,
Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Mackay.
The local AWA mediumwave stations on land in each of these areas
frequently relayed the shortwave programming from VK9MI to the local audience. Among these stations were 2AY in Albury New
South Wales, 3BO in Bendigo Victoria, and 4CA in Cairns Queensland.
On many occasions, radio station VK9MI was heard
on shortwave throughout Australia and New Zealand, and many QSL cards were signed by the famous woman announcer, Eileen Foley.
As time went by, the transmitter began to malfunction and it produced a noisy wide signal in the 49 meter band.