It was on Christmas Eve December 24 1974, that Cyclone
Tracy destroyed 80% of the city of Darwin in northern Australia.
transmitter base for Radio Australia at Cox Peninsula was disabled and it was very apparent that a new station would be needed,
at last on a temporary fill-in basis.
Site studies were conducted in Western Australia and test transmissions were
conducted from Gnangara near Perth, using two transmitters of 7.5 kW each.
this stage, three possible locations, all vacant at the time, were given serious consideration.
facility near Carnarvon was chosen, due mainly to the fact that it was located closest to the desired target areas. Work commenced in mid-1975 on reinforcing the main building against possible cyclone damage and modifying
it for use as a shortwave relay station.
New transmitters were also needed quickly.
A 250 kW transmitter manufactured in Switzerland by Brown Boveri was installed in the new radio station as
the first unit. The second transmitter was a 100 kW Harris from the United States.
This unit was already in storage in Adelaide at the time and it had been procured
originally to begin a shortwave service for the Northern Territory.
The third unit was a 300 kW Thomson transmitter
made in France, by essentially the same company that made the first transmitter.
The low, undulating hill on the side
of the transmitter building was bulldozed and five towers were installed in the leveled area of red sand to support the four
curtain antennas. The entire antenna system was designed so that it could be
lowered and tied down in order to minimize damage from an approaching cyclone.
Preliminary test transmissions began
from the 250 kW transmitter early in December 1975 and official test broadcasts began a couple
of weeks later on December 20. This date was the anniversary
of the original launching of Radio Australia 36 years earlier, back in the year 1939.
Five years later this unit was taken off the air for a few weeks for design modifications and one of the transmitters
at the partially restored facility near Darwin was re-activated temporarily on a fill-in basis.
Programming at this
stage came by broadband carrier from Melbourne to Perth, and by ordinary landline up to Carnarvon. A low powered shortwave transmitter at Lyndhurst was also available as an emergency backup for the program
feed. When the broadband carrier was finally extended to Carnarvon the programming
line feed for this transmitter was designated as VLK.
The second transmitter was the 100 kW Harris and this unit began
test broadcasts on February 15 in 1976. Strangely,
just two weeks later, the station was closed temporarily and the antenna system was lowered as a precaution against an approaching
Three weeks later again, this same transmitter was taken out of service for modification and it did not return
to regular service again until November, a period of nearly nine months.
unit was on the air with the program feed designated as VLL.
third transmitter, rated at 300 kW and designated as VLM, was taken into regular service on May 6, 1984
and it was officially opened a few weeks later.
the changing winds of fortune, the decision was made to close this so called temporary station at Carnarvon after it had performed
21 years of on air service. The station was finally closed at 1430 UTC on July 31, 1996.
And what happened to the transmitters? The
first two transmitters, the 250 kW BBC unit VLK and the 100 kW Harris unit VLL, were removed and sold for scrap.
third unit, the Thomcast VLM at 300 kW, was removed and re-installed at the Darwin radio base where it returned to the air