CAPE TOWN RADIO
(A Short History)
Cape Town Radio was established in 1910 at the old lighthouse site at Kommetjie on the western seaboard of the Cape Peninsula in South Africa.
The first call-sign allocated was VNC and the station operated on the 400 kHz frequency using Spark transmitters. The operators had to work with the windows of the station wide open to the elements, summer and winter, to release the sulfurous odors created by the apparatus. In 1928 the call sign ZSC was allocated and is still in use today.
During World War Two, Cape Town Radio played a valuable role intercepting distress messages from Allied ships under Axis submarine attack or being shelled by a German pocket battleship. It is recorded that on one occasion the station monitored eight distress calls in ten minutes. Towards the middle of the war, the station moved to Wireless Road, in Kommetjie where it shared premises with the Royal Navy until 1960. In September 1965 the station moved to its present location in Koeberg Road, Milnerton, to premises that had recently been vacated by the South African Broadcasting Corp. The main operations room is in the only sound studio. Nearby is the building in which Marconi established the Wireless and Telegraph Company in 1919.
Cape Town Radio established itself on the world maritime map from June 1965 when the Suez Canal was closed by the Arab/Israeli conflict. The station played a vital role in the controlling communication traffic for the thousands of ships that diverted to the Cape route. Congestion on the airways was chronic at times with as many as 27 ships waiting in turn on the various circuits for service. (QRY)
Congestion was just as bad at the ports. Frequently there were more than 100 ships at anchor in Table Bay roadstead seeking bunkers, stores and water. The reputation earned by Cape Town Radio during the eight years that Suez was closed has been maintained to this day. It is common practice for ships passing through the Suez Canal to communicate with Europe via Cape Town Radio.
The station is today manned by an operating staff of 41, plus technicians maintaining the transmitters at Klipheuwel 50 km north east of the station. Klipheuwel has long been the preferred site for radio transmitter. On relatively high ground clear of mountains, it is far enough from the Milnerton operations center to prevent transmitted signals interfering with reception at Milnerton. Marconi erected 245 meter high radio masts at Klipheuwel in 1923.
This was part of a plan to establish long-wave radio links between London and the entire British Empire. These high masts were never used, because in 1924 Marconi introduced short-wave radio which cost 1/20th of the longwave system, used only 1/50th of the power and trebled the transmission capability. It‘s been a long walk from those sulphur-laden rooms and the Spark transmitters. Today‘s Cape Town Radio operator sits at his computer console and works morse, telex and radio-telephone from the one position.
Marconi would have been very proud indeed.
CAPE TOWN RADIO - ZSC
Frequencies and Operating Modes as of 1995
MODE SERVICE EQUIPMENT POWER ANTENNA 2182 H3E R/T Distress Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 2191 H3E R/T Distress Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 4125 J3E R/T Distress, call and answer Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 4214 F1B TOR Traffic reply to 4176 kHz SPT 5 kw Cone 4291 A1 W/T weather, TFC List, Time Signal Collins 5 kw Quad 4317 A1 W/T Primary Traffic Plessey 5 kw Quad 4369 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 4417 J3E R/T Call, reply to 4125 traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 4426 J3E R/T Traffic, Autolink Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 4435 J3E R/T Traffic, Weather Bulletins Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 8428.5 F1B TOR Traffic reply to 8388.5 kHz Collins 5 kw Quad 8461 A1 W/T Weather , TFC List, Time Signal Marconi 4 kw Cone 8688.5 A1 W/T Primary Traffic Marconi 4kw Cone 8719 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 8725 J3E R/T Traffic, Autolink Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 8731 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 8779 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 12601 F1B TOR Traffic reply to 12488.5 Plessey 5 kw Quad 12698 A1 W/T Primary Traffic Marconi 5 kw Cone 12724 A1 W/T Secondary Traffic Plessey 5 kw Quad 12722.5 A1 W/T Weather , TFC List, Time Signal Marconi 5 kw Cone 13101 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 13137 J3E R/T reply to 12290 kHz Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 16816 F1B TOR Traffic reply to 16692.5 kHz Plessey 5 kw Quad 17018 A1 W/T Weather , TFC List, Time Signal Marconi 5 kw Cone 17164.75 A1 W/T Primary Traffic Plessey 5 kw Cone 17263 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 17302 J3E R/T Reply to 16420 kHz Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 17338 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 22705 J3E R/T Traffic Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone 22756 J3E R/T reply to 22060 kHz Marconi 5 kw W/B 2-30 MHz CSA Cone
TOR= Telix Over Radio