In 1974, I was an exchange student with AFS (then known as the American Field Service) in Swaziland, southern Africa. I had taken a Drake SPR-4 with me for the months I lived in Swaziland, and I used the receiver to hear a range of stations in Africa and Asia. Stations using shortwave that were a challenge for listeners in North America and other locations were heard at local levels and one of those was the RBC, in what was then called Rhodesia. These recordings on one of the RBC shortwave frequencies were made in Mbabane, Swaziland. Elsewhere on the SW Archive, there are other recordings including one of RBC heard in the United States on shortwave. The QSL card shown here was the older style with an image of an impala, a photo of Salisbury (later Harare). On the back, under a white sticker, an even older name of the radio station, The Broadcasting Corporation of Rhodesia and Nyasaland, can still be seen.
Nelson Mandela was released from prison in South Africa on February 11th, 1990. At the time, Radio RSA was still broadcasting to the world on shortwave radio, and provided live coverage of the event which was heard by many shortwave listeners. It will be recalled that Radio RSA had one of the most powerful shortwave transmission systems of any country for many years — with its familiar interval signal it was a regular for SWLs.
This recording of Radio RSA was made on a SONY ICF-2010 receiver in Silver Spring, Maryland. The first recording is of the full Radio RSA coverage, and the second is the Mandela speech itself, a portion that begins at about the 1 hour 10 mark. Mandela said: “A democratic and non-racial South Africa is the only way to peace and racial harmony.” Radio RSA was so strong, in fact, that it could be heard on my SONY AM-FM-SW Cassette Deck using only a short piece of wire as an antenna. At end end of the Mandela speech recording, can be heard a VOA newscast from the previous day covering the announcement by then President DeKlerk that Mandela would be released.
In the early 1970’s, Syria was among the major shortwave broadcasters from the Middle East. The Broadcasting Service of the Syrian Arab Republic, as it was called back then, put in fairly strong signals on 15,165 khz in the 19 meter band, though not as powerful as other stations such as Radio Kuwait and Radio Cairo. In this recording from 1971, we hear a political commentary on the Palestinians, followed by station identification: “You are tuned to Damascus, the broadcasting service of the Syrian Arab Republic. The time is exactly 23 hours and 10 minutes.” While Damascus was still using shortwave, including its old 12,085 khz frequency and 9,330 khz in the first decade of the 2000s, the civil war in Syria along with decisions made to end shortwave, removed this once familiar Middle East voice from the shortwave bands.
In 2022, it is quite astounding that we still have, at least as of now, two Middle East broadcasters still on the air on shortwave: Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. Radio Cairo was making attempts to return as of early 2022 but having great difficulties resolving its longstanding modulation and distortion problems. Jordan is now gone, as is Bahrain it seems. Oman which was still on shortwave as of 2019 is now either gone or intermittent. Radio Kuwait, which returned to shortwave some years ago, began shifting to DRM transmissions though is still being heard on regular AM shortwave, though with some highly variable shifts of frequency.
Which brings us back to the good old days when Radio Kuwait was the new powerhouse in shortwave broadcasting from the Middle East, having taken delivery of 250 kilowatt transmitters. Radio Kuwait was a daily presence on shortwave for decades, with its familiar musical interval before English newscasts, and music programs. As a young SWL, I used to listen to Radio Kuwait almost on a daily basis, usually in the 19 meter band. The signal was so strong and clear that it was easy to tune in on the 1940’s T-133 receiver I used at the time. Here is a recording of Radio Kuwait from 1970. The station was also a superb reliable verifier of reception reports and sent out beautiful folder QSLs.
In 2022, one station in the South Pacific remains on shortwave, to the great delight of shortwave listeners. That station is Radio New Zealand, which as of early 2022 could still be heard with good signals. Back in the 1970’s Radio New Zealand was a prime DX target. Its sign on at 0600 UTC required staying up until 2:00 AM in summer months. For signs of good Pacific propagation, DX’ers often used VNG, the former time signal station in Australia, as a marker. If VNG was coming in well, then New Zealand and Tahiti were likely to be coming in well. It’s hard to explain the feeling a new SWL got hearing Radio New Zealand in those days. At a power of 7.5 kilowatts, the station listed on its QSL card (shown here) 9 frequencies, including 9.54 mHz and 11.780 mHz where I used to hear them. Other frequencies in 1971 were 15.280, 17.770, 6.080, 9.620, 15.220, 6.020, and 15.110 mHz for ZL2/3/4/5/7/8/10/20 and 21 call letters. The verification signer was H. Taylor-Smith at NZBC Broadcasting House in Wellington. Hearing this 7.5 kilowatt signal, with its characteristic fading as the signal made its way the many thousands of miles to Pennsylvania, was a real thrill. Here is the 1971 recording of Radio New Zealand, from sign on with its “Bellbird” interval signal and BBC news relay.
In 1981, a small U.S.- supported station called La Voz de Mosquitia (HRXK) went on air from Puerto Lempira, Honduras. The frequency was 4,910 khz — and it was plagued by interference from other Latin American stations in the 60 meter band. A good write up about the station can be found here. This recording was made in Washington, DC using a Hammarlund HQ-180A receiver. The plain QSL card shown here was signed by Reverend Landon Wilkerson, an independent Baptist Missionary, who spent seventeen years in Honduras with his wife and family helping the Miskito Indians.
The shortwave listening community was stunned some 40 years ago by the sudden appearance of a new station in the Galapagos Islands. It was Radiodifusora La Voz de Galapagos HCVG-8 and broadcast on 4,810 khz in the 60 meter band. Not only did LV de Galapagos put in an excellent signal in the evening in eastern North America, but it was an excellent QSLer, sending out beautiful photo cards showing wildlife in the islands. On the back were wonderful colorful stamps. This recording was made in Washington, DC in 1980.
The Cable & Wireless Ltd point to point station at St. George’s, Bermuda was a regular signal on the shortwave frequencies in the 1960s and 1970s. This recording was made in Levittown, Pennsylvania using a Hammarlund HQ-180A receiver: “This is a test transmission for station adjustment purposes of a radio telephone terminal owned and operated by Cable & Wireless, Ltd. This transmitter is located at St. George’s Bermuda.”
Among the many point to point / utility stations on the shortwave bands was this one, ACA (Alpha Charlie Alpha) located in the Panama Canal Zone. This recording was made in the early 1970s in Levittown, PA: “This is United States Army radio station, Alpha Charlie Alpha, located in the Panama Canal Zone. We are testing for receive alignment and station identification”
In the 1960’s and 1970s, and likely earlier in the 1950s, point to point utility stations were an enjoyable part of the shortwave listening hobby. These stations, run by Cable & Wireless, Ltd, Republique Francois Post et Telecommunications, and companies, and broadcast by transmitters in many of the former colonial territories, were heard on frequencies outside of the main shortwave broadcast bands. Because they were not meant for general consumption, verifications from these stations, usually from the PTT office in the countries concerned, usually were not verifications as such but recognition of reception. Nevertheless, they offered an interesting way for hobbyists to hear countries, including some locations that had no shortwave broadcast stations. The QSL shown here was for my reception in the 1970’s of the PTT station at Cayenne, French Guiana.