Thursday, August 11, 2005

KPH: The Wireless Giant of the Pacific

Every year on August 12th KPH returns to the air for one night...

According to the Maritime Radio Historical Society, the station would have been 100 this year. It began in 1905 as Morse station "PH." (Remember back then call letters were voluntary. You could make up anything you wanted.) The call letters referred to the Palace Hotel in San Francisco, where the station was located. Later, regulators later added the K to the call sign. KPH was once known as the "Wireless Giant of the Pacific."

For almost a century, marine wireless operators heard steady dots and dashes of the KPH signal in their earphones. At KPH some of the best Morse operators in the country listened for calls from ships. Most messages were routine. But occasionally an S-O-S would come in and KPH operators would jump to respond. The station went silent in 1997; two years before the formal end of commercial Morse Code use in the United States.

The annual event is July 12 this year; it is held at Point Reyes Station in California. Organizers have invited the public to watch professional Morse operators, including several original KPH operators, work the station. The station moved its transmitters and receivers to West Marin in the 1920s. The Maritime Radio Historical Society keeps it alive, with cooperation of the Point Reyes National Seashore. The Point Reyes National Seashore currently owns the land and buildings and all the artifacts of KPH.