Friday, December 02, 2005

Wake Island & Midway Island Radio

Each is smaller than Guam, each more obscure than Micronesia, more remote and barren than.. pretty much anything. Their only connection for two decades was by cable, and pretty much only to eachother. It was a tether from nothing, to nothing. It was just a small part of the Pacific Broadcasting Network.

The US annexed Wake Island in 1899 for a cable station. It's crucial airforce and naval base was constructed in 1940. In subsequent years, Wake was developed as a stopover and refueling site for military and commercial aircraft crossing the Pacific. Since 1974, the island's airstrip has been used by the US military and some commercial cargo planes, as well as for emergency landings. There are still over 700 landings a year on the island.

Currently owned by the US, the possesion of this lump of rock is disputed by the marshall islands. The U.S. Millitary left the island by october of 2001 but come contrator personell remain on the island even today.

The island has no commercial radio stations. Armed Forces Radio/Television Service (AFRTS) provides a radio service by satellite ...and Of course there's always shortwave.
including the infamous K7ASU.

Midway island by comparison Midway at first seems to be just another lonely island. It's about Midway between California and Asia. That's 1,304 miles west of Honolulu, and 1,182 miles east of Wake Island. The Commercial Cable Company established a small outpost there near 1900, as the first trans-Pacific submarine cable reached the island, which formed part of the very young Territory of Hawaii. The US had just taken possession of Guam and the Philippines after the US-Spanish War, and the northern Pacific was an area of growing US influence. We had not yet shed our Colonialist tendencies.

But unlike Wake Island, by 1936 Midway was being advertised as a tourist stop. By 1935 NBC had stopped in to broadcast through licensed outlet WOEH, And by 1944 AFR had started broadcasting as 900 KMTH-AM. The station was audible clear to New Zealand by 1956 after they upped their wattage to 250 watts.

The AFRTS still keeps a small broadcasting unit on Midway, using 50 watts on the FM 94.0. The station no longer uses the callsign KMTH, ending the WWII link to the Pacific Ocean Network. In recent years, Midway Island has been re-opened to the public, and the Pan American Airways dream of some 65 years ago of a tourism resort is being realised. It's now an eco-tourism resort with regular flights from Honolulu by commercial airline service. However, visitor numbers are restricted to protect the birds who've survived these years of China Clippers, Japanese bombs, and Country music from KMTH.

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