Monday, October 28, 2019

Denmark's Oldest Radio Station

If you google VYL eventually you will find the 1973 United States Hydrographic Office publication Radio Navigational Aids (Atlantic and Mediterranean Area) ... it lists off: VYL Lightship, Denmark 55° 24' 25" N. 7° 33' 38" E. continuous and it's range is listed at 50 miles, It's frequency 289.6 kc/s , A2
Characteristic Minutes
(Interrupted by a long dash)     1
Silent      1
2 repetitions above signal _  4__
Period     6

The List of Lights, Radio Aids, and Fog Signals from 1963 gives somewhat more color with the additional notation: "Red hull, white cross on sides, "VYL" in horizontal stroke of cross, 2 masts." But then a 1915 copy of List of Radio Stations of the World lists OXC as the call letters and Vyl, Denmark as the location. Also a 1935 copy of the Shortwave Listener specifically lists the call letters as OUY on both 1.818 and 1.622 Mc. But they do list an OXC on 1.819 Mc in Ringsted, Denmark. This long history and change of call signs poses a problem, compounded by the fact that I cannot read Danish.
With some luck I found both the old and new URL of a museum dedicated to this radio station and (The former is offline but thanks to the Wayback Machine, we have a copy from 2013.) So lets get back to the United States Hydrographic Office. IN 1935 they list all the radio navigation beacons in Denmark: OUX, OUZ, OUY, OUB, OUT, OUK, OUR, OUE and OUU. I think it's safe from this format to assume the call sign is not VYL. Sources refer to Vyl Station which is the lightship, not the radio station.

The first marine navigational radio in Denmark was installed on the lightship station Vyl in 1899 and also at the same time on the lighthouse at Blavandshuk, so that observations from Vyl could be received ashore. (Vyl is not the ship but the location.) Various ships held that position including Motorfyrskibet Nr. I. This was ship-to-shore radio, not exactly a broadcast but radio nonetheless. The 1939 Edition of US Hydrographic Office publication Radio Navigational Aids makes clear that this is OUY, thus disentangling the two call signs.

On September 1st 1908, the War Department signed on OXA, Denmark's first real coastal radio station.  It was based in a wooden house at Frederiksholm at the Holmen Naval Station. Later came OXB Blavand Radio in 1914, OXZ Lyngby Radio in 1917, OXP Skagen Radio in 1945 and OYE Ronne Radio in the 1950s. The book The Bow and the Spark (Buen og gnisten) by Lise Bock describes that early scene [Roughly translated from Danish]:
"The Danish Navy had been broadcasting since the first attempt with spark transmitters back in 1898. One of the first permanent installations was installed in the BlÄvandshuk lighthouse and on the Vyl lighthouse ship on the west coast of Jutland in 1901. Equipment came from the German AEG developed by Arco and Slaby. Afterward, the Navy destroyed a some warships, and in 1905 they set up a radio station on the islet in Kolmenhavn where the Danish fleet was based... The station was then referred to as Denmark's first coastal radio station..."
On that website is a picture of one of their early crystal sets: Wireless Specialty Apparatus Co. type IP-76. In 1910-1914 the most widely used type in the US Navy. It was used at OXA during World War I and up to the mid 1920s. It's labeled Amerikansk Krystalmodtager which means American Crystal Receiver. They also used equipment from Marconi, Slaby Arco, Skovmand & Pedersen, and Telefunken. OXP was decommissioned in 1993, and OXB in 1996 both to be controlled remotely by Lyngby Radio OXZ. Likewise, OXA served the Royal Danish Navy and the merchant fleet until the late 1940s and then it's building sat disused for half a century. Today, all remaining maritime emergency radio stations in Denmark are controlled by Lyngby Radio.

In 1991 the Danish Navy decided to relocation operations away from Holmen and to close the naval station. The modest wooden building now seemed doomed to demolition to make room for new development. In 2000, a small group of people interested in radio history decided to restore and relocate the station. With the permission and support of the Defense Department, OXA moved from Frederiksholm to Nyholm. The project was completed in October 2003. The station then reopened as a museum of Denmark's oldest coastal radio station Kobenhavn Radio OXA. [LINK]

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