by Chris G3TUX

Great Britain ceased watch on the 500 kHz international (CW) distress frequency at midnight on 31st December 1997.
I patched a cassette recorder into my FT900 high frequency transceiver and tuned to 500 kHz and have just transcribed the following.......

At 2349 UTC, Portpatrick Radio GPK was first to sign off.

CQ CQ de GPK GPK. At 31.2359 UTC Portpatrick Radio/GPK will end the H24H 500kHz distress watch after 76 years. In 1844 QTC nr 1 fm Samuel Morse was . All R/Os now ken the answer to this. NW 73 73/Slainte to all R/Os, past and present - fare well. AR de GPK GPK VA
Next was Wick Radio GKR.
CQ CQ CQ de GKR GKR GKR. After almost 90 years serving seafarers this is the final w/t broadcast from Wick Radio. For the few of us who are left it is with feelings of pride and nostalgia we remember friends and colleagues at sea and ashore and the service was rendered particularly to the then mighty distant water fishing fleet. Technology however marches on and as we find ourselves and our service consigned if not to the museum then certainly to the pages of history. All that remains...... < at this point, a strong TFC broadcast from IAR rendered copy impossible> .........best wishes for 1998 and 73s to any who are left on the sea with the ability to read this..........
Next from Cullercoats GCC.
CQ CQ CQ de GCC GCC GCC. Here is the last w/t transmission from GCC. A fond farewell from Geordy-land. Sent with a sad and shaking hand. For many years with signs we spoke and now it all goes up in smoke. So thanks and all the very best as GCC is laid to rest. De GCC/GND 010000Z AR AR BB de GND
Finally, at approx 0017 UTC
GLD de GCC. Over to you and best wishes to u and all listeners AR VA de GLD R Mni tks.

CQ CQ de GLD GLD. This is the final w/t transmission from Lands End Radio. Since 1901 GLD has listened continuously on 500 kHz and is proud to have assisted many ships in distress both in peace time and in war. But now the time has come - ours is not to reason why - the satellites are calling, our morse transmitters die. Marconi if you can hear us we salute you.

de GLD

31/12/97 2359z AR AR de GLD

My tape ran out at about 0030z when GLD was still acknowledging calls from other watchkeepers. Callsign logged included stations EAC, EAS EJK, EJM, IAR, OST, OXZ, SAA, SPA, SPE and VCM. Another era comes to an end. The morse was all sent by hand and frequently showed the emotion of the occasion.
Click here to return to Radio Reading Room