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 vitel 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 technicans maintaining the transmitters at Klipheuwel
50 km north east of the station.
Town Radio was established in 1910 at the old lighthouse site at Kommetjie
on the western seaboard of the Cape Peninsula. The first call-sign was
VNC and the station operated on 400 kHz 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 sulphur odours 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 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.
has long been the preferred site for radio transmitter. On relatively high
ground clear of mountains, it is far enough from the Milnerton operations
centre to prevent transmitted signals interfering with reception at Milnerton.
Marconi erected 245 metre 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.
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.