Radio Stations in Alaska
Vincent I. Kraft
RADIO communication plays an important role in Alaska. Many cities and towns which would otherwise be isolated are kept in touch with the rest of the civilized world by this agency alone, and the United States Government employs it to communicate with government vessels in North Pacific waters, and to receive the weather reports from all parts of the northland. Remote as Alaska is from the source of radio inventions and improvements, the Alaskan stations represent strictly up-to-date
methods of radio communication.
During the past few months a great deal of construction work has been done in Alaska, both in improving the existing stations, and in the erection of new ones. The past year has witnessed the completion of
the Ketchikan unit of the new chain of
semi-high-powered stations. Here the Marconi Company has built a 25 kw. plant, which is at present in daylight
communication with a similar outfit located at Astoria, Oregon. This first span of the new chain is over a distance of 640 nautical miles, and connects Ketchikan, the southernmost city of importance in Alaska, with the United States. Astoria was chosen as the United States terminus of the chain, after a series of tests in many parts of Washington and Oregon, on account of its natural adaptability to Alaska work.
Another station, of ten kilowatts capacity, will soon be erected at Juneau, the capital of Alaska, and will be within daylight range of the Ketchikan station. The erection of a fourth station, in the vicinity of Seward, the terminus of the new Government railroad, is contemplated. Other stations will probably be erected later.
This chain of stations will be capable
of rendering service that the United States Army cable does at present, between the United States and the abovementioned points. Experiments are still being conducted between Ketchikan and Astoria, the longest of the spans, and although the wave lengths that will be employed in actual commercial communication had not been definitely determined upon up to last August, it had been found comparatively easy to cover the distance satisfactorily, using waves between 3.000 and 5.000 meters in
length. Signals ranging in strength
from 1,000 to 1,500 times audibility are received at Ketchikan from Astoria in daylight, and this intensity is considerably more than necessary for good commercial operation, employing a typewriter at the receiving sta-
The installation at Ketchikan, the largest of the stations of the new chain, includes four steel towers of the selfsupporting type, 315 feet in height, between which is supported an antenna of 20 wires 1,000 feet in length. The station is equipped with a 60-cycle transmitter of 25 kw. rated capacity, provided with a synchronous disc discharger. The transmitter is able to operate at 100 per cent, overload. The receiver is of the standard Marconi panel type, adapted to the reception of waves up to ten thousand meters in length. The station at Astoria, Oregon, is a duplicate of the Ketchikan installation.
The United States Navy, which has maintained stations for many years in Alaska, is improving its present installations and building new ones. The station at St. Paul (Pribilof Islands), since its erection some four years ago, has been equipped with a set of five kw. capacity Telefunken apparatus. The Navy is planning to increase the height of the masts to 500 feet and install a 25 kw. set in addition to the present 5 kw. one. The new set will be of the Poulsen arc type, for the generation of continuous waves. The station at Unalga Island has been dismantled, and that at Dutch Harbor (Unalaska) will be increased in size, to make it capable of handling the traffic heretofor handled by the Unalga station. Unalga and Dutch Harbor are only eighteen miles apart, and it was not deemed necessary to maintain both stations.
These two stations are peculiarly well located for long distance radio work. The station at Unalga Island has several times been in direct communication with the United States Navy station at Key West, Florida, nearly six thousand miles distant, although the power employed at Unalga Island was only ten kw. The operators at Unalga claim to have copied quite regularly, during the winter months, many stations on the Atlantic coast, in spite of the fact that Unalga Island is located more than fifteen hundred miles west of the Pacific coastline of the United States. Stations in Japan, Russia, China and the Philippine Islands are heard regularly and were it not for the fact that the Asiatic stations use languages other than English in their regular work, the operators at Dutch Harbor or Unalga Island could easily communicate with them.
The station at Wood Island (Kodiak) is one of the most efficient the Navy has in Alaska. This is undoubtedly due largely to its favorable geographical location. Kodiak is within daylight range of St. Paul (575 nautical miles distant), Cordova (260 miles), and Sitka (530 miles). Occasionally Kodiak has been in daylight communication with Unalga Island, and it is very probable that, when the improvements at the Dutch Harbor station are affected, that station will be in daylight range of Kodiak. The station at Cape Whiteshed (Cordova) has been rather unsatisfactory for long distance work, although this station is equipped in an up-to-date manner with a ten kw. Telefunken set. This may be due to a poor location.
The station at Sitka is one of the first put up by the Navy in Alaska, and has
done very efficient work, although not until recently has it been equipped with the latest type apparatus. At present two sets are installed, one being a five kw. Telefunken set, and the other a 20 kw. 240 cycle synchronous rotary discharger set.
The installation of vacuum tube amplifiers in all the Navy stations of Alas-
ka, recently, has made a marked improvement in the service rendered. Stations that have previously had difficulty in maintaining communication are now
working without trouble. I he
with vessels is also materially increased thereby, as the amplifiers enable the Navy stations to receive signals from the i and 2 kw. sets on board ships, as far as the ships are able to receive signals from the five and ten kw. equipments of the Navy stations, and oftentimes farther. The Navy has but recently inaugurated a new service, whereby vessels in communication with its Alaska stations may send in reports of their positions daily, which are to be relayed without charge to the Navy station at North Head, Wash., where the position reports are turned over to the telegraph lines for transmission to the daily papers of the Pacific Coast. By this service, the reports of positions of vessels in Alaskan waters each night, are published in the following morning’s papers in all the principal cities of the coast.
Heretofor the Alaskan station have been able to communicate with North Head at night only, but since the installation of the audion amplifiers, daylight service has been possible to a limited extent between North Head and Sitka, using waves under 2,000 meters in length. This is over a distance of 780 nautical miles. During the summer months there is but an hour or two of darkness each night, and during the latter part of June and the early part of July, it does not get even completely dark. This has made it very difficult to handle traffic during the summer months and as the communication is limited to the period of darkness, it has frequently happened that more business has been offered than could be despatched during one night. For this reason, the Government has been desirous of installing equipment, capable of handling traffic between North Head and Alaska, during all seasons, day and night. With this object in view, the Navy has ordered a thirty kw. arc set to be installed in the present Cordova (Cape Whiteshed) station, to test with North Head. By employing continuous waves of great length, generated by this set, it is very probable that the desired daylight communication will be established. A much larger station will also be erected near Cordova, at Mile 13 on the Copper River and Northwestern Railroad. Here will be installed a one hundred kw. arc set, which will insure continuous communication between Alaska and the United States, and may make direct communication with Arlington (Va.) possible.
The adoption of the arc type transmitter, by the Navy, marks a long-foreseen step in advance, and the results of the tests to be conducted by the Navy will be watched with interest by the engineering profession. If the operation of the continuous wave transmitters proves satisfactory between the United States and Alaska, where the conditions are unusually trying, it is not improbable that they will be installed throughout the Navy service.
The Signal Corps, of the United States Army, operates a chain of stations throughout the interior of Alaska, with stations on the coast at Nome, St. Michael, Kotlik, Petersburg and Wrangell. These stations serve districts where the maintenance if not the construction of a landline would be a very difficult matter. The Signal Corps stations work in conjunction with the United States-Alaska cable system, and the interior land telegraph system, both of which are owned by the Signal Corps. In the interior many points have radio stations as the only means of communication, because the extremely heavy snow fall prohibits the use of telegraph lines. Between Nome and St. Michael,
a distance of about 120 miles, it was found, after many futile attempts, impossible to keep a cable intact, during the winter months, on account of the heavy ice floes, which carried the cable away. Accordingly radio stations were erected at these points, and all cable or telegraph traffic for Nome is now sent by radio from St. Michael. A somewhat similar condition exists between Wrangell and Petersburg, in Southeastern Alaska, but in this case it is the tides in Wrangell Narrows, rather than ice floes, which make the maintaining of a cable difficult.
With few exceptions, the Signal Corps stations in Alaska are of one uniform type. The regulation equipment consists of a single 200-foot steel tower, from which is supported a 12-wire umbrella antenna, and a ten kw. Tele funken set. Receiving equipments include both Telefunken and I-P-76 Tuners. Most of the stations have counterpoises.
Another group of radio stations in Alaska, is the group of salmon cannery stations. The majority of salmon canneries are located at points distant from the cable or telegraph lines, and for their own convenience, the owners have installed, or leased, small sets. These stations work with Government or Commercial stations, and afford a means of communication with the outside world. These sets, at small expense, handle business between the canneries and the home offices of the packing companies, in the United States, that would otherwise have to go by the slower mail. These stations are in operation during the canning season only, which lasts from about May to September, and are some ten or fifteen in number.
In times past, when the Seattle-Alaska cable has broken, the radio stations of the Government, in conjunction with the commercial stations of Alaska have satisfactorily handled the heavy traffic although these station then had lowpowered sets, and were able to hold communication at night only. With the completion of the improvements and new installations now planned for, however, the radio system of Alaska will be capable of giving uninterrupted service between the United .States and most of the important points of Alaska.