The KPH Project
In cooperation with the Point Reyes National Seashore, part of the National Park Service, the Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) has taken on the job of preserving the historic ex-RCA coast station KPH and returning it to the air.
Bob Schrader W6BNB writes:
Coast Station KSM
KSM is the coast station of the MRHS. Our goal is to honor and commemorate the men and women who made the profession of radiotelegrapher one honor and skill. We feel that the best way to do this is to preserve their skills and traditions through actual use at a real coast station. Somewhat to our surprise, the FCC granted our application for a full, commercial, common carrier public coast station.
K6KPH is the amateur station of the MRHS. Here's full information about operating times, frequencies, equipment and purpose.
MRHS members are involved in other radio projects around the San Francisco Bay area as well as projects directly connected with the MRHS program. Here's information about some of these.
The sites of historic radio stations surround us, especially along the coasts. As part of our project to record and preserve our maritime radio heritage, MRHS members try to locate these sites and document what is there now. Armed with maps, GPS navigators, historic records and, at least in one case, the plank from a shipping crate, we've had some remarkable success.
Incredible Radio Tales
When radio officers hit the beach in San Francisco they went immediately to "the Dog House", a rooming house in Powell Street that, for reasons lost to time, was the home away from home for seafaring brass pounders. There were probably similar places in every port around the country if not the world. And what must these Sparkies have talked about at table? Why radiomen, radio conditions, and radio equipment of course!
Ah! What one would give to sit in on one of those bull sessions. These were men who could coax a sweet note from a decrepit quenched gap transmitter, copy through static and interference (using their own personal Audion detector smuggled on board) and look the Radio Inspector straignt in the eye when he strode self importantly into the shack.
Our time machine is out of service at the moment due to a shorted power transformer. So we won't be able to join the boys at the Dog House tonight. But we can preserve and present some of our own radio tales, all of them true, for your enjoyment.
As you read, let the sounds of static on 600m at midnight and the dim light of glowing tubes in a dark room become real. Imagine the silence and smell the dust in the abondoned transmitter gallery of a once great station. And above all remember the men and women who came before us and made the profession of radiotelegrapher one of honor and skill.
Reports From NMO
Jeffrey Herman was a radioman at Coast Guard station NMO Hawaii during the glory days when Morse was king and 500kc was alive 24 hours a day. For the benefit of those of us who were not so fortunate as he, Jeffrey has written this account of what it was like to stand watch on 500kc, what the proper procedures were and what it was like to receive his first SOS. He has kindly agreed to allow us to post his reports here.
"I'd like to get a job sending Vs"
Historic Coast Stations
During the golden age of maritime communications the globe was populated with hundreds of coast stations, each with its own area of coverage, call sign and personality. Many of us remember tuning across the marine bands and hearing these stations, standing shoulder to shoulder with hardly any space between them, calling out for traffic or working ships. Recordings of some of these stations were preserved and are posted in the Coast Station Recordings section of this Web site. But what did these stations actually look like? We here at the MRHS have collected as many photos of these historic stations as we could find and posted them here for your enjoyment. They range from many photos showing the big, well documented to a single photo for a small station that was in operation for only a few years.
Do you have photos like these you'd like to share? Please let us know. We'd be honored to post them.
Point to Point
It was Marconi's dream to bridge the oceans and provide intercontinental communications as a rate that undercut the cost of the undersea cables. His signals first bridged the Atlantic in 1901. Only a little more than a decade later his international system was in place and functinging - and earning money. Soon competitors followed, creating the point-to-point industry - first using giant spark and arc transmitters, then magnificent Alexanderson alternators and finally short wave tube transmitters. Often the elite point-to-point service was co-located with the marine service which often had to make do with a corner of the operating building and antennas that the point-to-point service no longer needed. Here is the story of some of these point-to-point stations.
Miscellaneous and Unknown
We at the MRHS spend a lot of time trolling flea markets and eBay for historic radio photographs. When we get extra lucky, the photos show new views of historic stations we know about. These we post in the Historic Coast Stations section of this Web site. But often the photos exist on their own, without explanation or provenance. We present a collection of these photos here - with a request. If you can provide any details about these photos please let us know. Your information will add to the the growing collection of knowledge about our maritime radio heritage.
Many of us at the MRHS maintain personal collections of vintage radio gear connected with maritime radio communications. Here's a look at some of those collections.
Coast Station Recordings
Maybe you're one of those who remember. Late on a winer night night... tubes glowing in the darkened radio shack... earphones on... And one after another they rolled in, the great coast stations of the world. Maybe you listened to improve your code speed. Or maybe you listened for the thrill of it. Once the marine bands were filled end to end with the signals of coast stations from around the world. Twenty four hours a day the skilled operators at these stations carried the messages of maritime commerce. And they were there to lend immediate assistance to mariners in peril at sea. We thought it would never end. But the golden age of Morse code marine communications has passed and now the marine bands are either silent or occupied by digital transmissions. Luckily, recordings of many of that golden age exist. Listen to them here and travel back in time, a time not so long ago, when Morse was king.