Monday, November 23, 2009

Ascension Is ZD8VR Volcano Radio 1602 kHz QSL

The QSL card and friendly letter received from Kent Goddard, Assistant Station Manager of ZD8VR, Volcano Radio, Ascension Island in 1979 (Click onto the images for a high resolution).

In connection with the previous post regarding Volcano Radio, Ascension, I thought I'd share an interesting QSL card and verification letter including a historical audio clip from 1979 !

ZD8VR Volcano Radio made it through to my QTH in Pinelands on the 5th May '79 via a modest 1950's Siera domestic valve receiver and 20 metre longwire antenna. It was a surprise to receive the 500 watt station with a remarkable peak from across the South Atlantic, over 4 430 km / 2 754 miles away !

Siera domestic valve receiver.

A photograph of the Pinelands DX shack taken in 1980 included a Teac cassette tape deck, Realistic DX150A and Siera domestic valve receiver.


A recording of the reception on the 5th May 1979 has been preserved and is available here or by clicking onto the play button below.

A jazz music programme, "Gist Of Jazz" was presented by DJ Ed Hurley and featured the "Bob James 4" album. After the "live" sign-off announcement at the end of the programme, one can hear the ambient sounds in the studio and the "winding up" of a reel-to-reel pre-recorded tape of the station id and National Anthem.


The first radio broadcasting station was installed by the U.S. - an AFRS unit with just 50 watts on 1110 kHz under the callsign WXLR. This station was inaugurated on September 3, 1944 and it was closed when the Americans left, in June 1946.

However, twelve years later, the AFRS station was revived with just 3 watts output under the Ascension callsign, ZD8VR, Volcano Radio. The power output was soon afterwards increased to 30 watts, and then later again to 1 kW, though this was subsequently reduced as an economy measure to half power at 500 watts.

AFRTS funded Volcano Radio until 1982 when budget cutbacks ended that support which was then supplied by the employee funded Volcano Club.

ZD8VR rebroadcast a live relay of the famous St Helena Day Broadcast from Radio St Helena in 1994, as a service to the many people from St Helena who were working on Ascension Island.

A few QSL cards were issued from the first American AFRS station WXLR, and two different QSL cards have been issued from Volcano Radio ZD8VR.

Ten years after the AFRS station was established, another local mediumwave station was installed on Ascension Island. This new station was established and operated by the BBC under the callsign ZD8RA, Radio Ascension.

(courtesy DX Listening Digest)

ZD8VR Station Manager Ralph Jackson.


" Great memories Gary.

I wish I still had my old cassette tapes because one of them had a beautifully clear 'Volcano Radio' sung ID at 22h00 on it. I remember they were playing C&W and I even remember one of the artists being Mickey Gilley. This goes back to the mid 80's probably..I struggled to get an ID outta VR but that night I just left the tape running and there it was when I played it back in the morning..clear peak at TOH..

Funny how this sticks in my mind from over 20 years ago.. guess it was because I was always intrigued by Volcano Radio - the station name, the exotic location, the low power txer.. to me it encapsulated the appeal of Dxing. "

Any memories or futher information regarding ZD8VR Volcano Radio would be greatly appreciated. You are welcome to add your comments below.


jeffpittman said...

I served on Ascension Island with the Royal Air Force as a Fire Fighter from December 1986-dec 87. While I was there I presented programmes on ZD8VR Volcano Radio and was the Librarian, sorting and sifting the incoming music supplied by the RAF. I had previously presented programmes on BFBS Gibraltar.
Another RAF presenter was Vince Spangenburgh AKA "Spangles".

Gary Deacon said...

Hi Jeff

Thank you for sharing - most appreciated!


Pitters said...

My pleasure Gary.
I am currently transfering photos etc to pc including radio station shots including one taken "on air" at Volcano Radio in 1987. I am sure that somewhere in my "junk" box there are recordings of shows which were broadcasted from ZD8VR.

Gary Deacon said...

That's great news!

If you're willing to share a photograph or two, I'd be happy to post with audio that you think would be suitable.


Paul Webster said...

There might be some more photos and memories coming - from mid-60s ...
Station was recently mentioned on the Yahoo group "Ascension-Island-Moderated" and I have linked to here.

I was on the island in 1966/67 - as a young kid - but my dad DJ'd on the station at week-ends (he was there on behalf of UK MPBW).
Couple of our friends were DJs as well - Henry (Hank) Hice and Dudley Aitkin.

Gary Deacon said...

Hi Paul

Thank you for sharing your early memories of the Island and the "Ascension-Island-Moderated" link which is most appreciated!

Scott Adams said...

I was on Ascension in the early 70s for a year and a half. I think it was around 73-74 or so. During that time I was a DJ on the radio and had a Sunday show called "this is my song" I always opened with that paticular song as my theme song. I played primarily broadway shows but also songs from movies.

It was great fun. Their record library was pretty decent.

Manual turntables. You would cue up a song on one while the other was playing so it would be ready after any introductions etc.

There was one record changer too that could be loaded with discs for the evening when the last DJ left. Occasionally it would jam and we would have dead time for a few hours.

As far as I remember I referred to the call sign as Zed Dee 8 Vee Are. I don't remember calling it: Zee Dee 8 Vee Vee Are

Scott Adams said...

I also seem to remember the radio station was housed in an old world war 2 style Quonset Hut.

Gary Deacon said...

Hi Scott

Thank you for sharing your interesting early ZD8VR recollections!

I particulary enjoyed the record changer story - I have early memories of watching a record changer operating at a friends' house for the first time. One could stack a few records on top of an extended spindle and the records would drop down one at a time. I was only about 5 or 6 years old and found the technology really fascinating!

I also remember that Petula Clark song from the late 60's!

A possible photograph of the radio hut would be of great interest if anyone is willing to share.


Richard D said...

I was one of the ZD8VR voluntary engineering staff from September '74 to April '77.
At that time the AM transmitter was an ex marine valve (tube) unit running about 1kW into a simple aerial. This transmission relayed AFRTS and local programming. Being ex marine, the audio quality was quite poor, especially the frequency response, as it was all limited by the modulation transformer design, which was intended only for commercial speech quality.
The AFRTS programmes arrived on LP vinyl discs and were played on four autochanger record players.
The first day's programmes (Monday for example) were all on one side of one set of the discs in sequence, and Tuesday's programmes on the other side. The discs were loaded onto the four decks in the correct sequence, and cued up on the start of each disc on the platter. As deck one played out, each time the autochanger arm came across the disc to drop the next disc, the audio was muted and a ZD8VR jingle played from an eight track cartridge. When the last disc on a player finished, the jingle played and the electrical power was transferred to the next deck, and it started playing the first disc. And so it continued until all the discs were played out, and hopefully a DJ was ready to start a live programme.
We also had a low power 15 watt mono FM service which played a random selection from a juke box type player stacked with 50 LPs. The discs were played vertically, and setting up the cartridges to play them was a tricky job when it went wrong (which was rare, considering how mechanically complex it was).
Eventually, my BBC colleague designed and built a multiplex coder for stereo transmissions, and a high quality ex BBC FM exciter (experimental unit) was permanently loaned to the station (originally the Radio 3 exciter from the 250kW Wrotham transmitter in south east England). We modified an ex air band transmitter and drove it from the BBC exciter, and it radiated about 15 watts stereo FM, which could be heard in all the towns on the island.

Gary Deacon said...

Hi Richard

Thank you for your interesting and informative contribution - greatly appreciated!


"CJ" said...


I also presented on Volcano Radio in 1985 whilst serving in the RAF. Prior to that I'd done some freelance presenting at BFBS Cyprus. From memory the equipment at ZD8VR was somewhat antiquated and took a while to get used to. I presented a show on a Saturday night (1900-2200) and loved every minute of it.

Gary Deacon said...


Thank you for sharing - greatly appreciated!


Andy Mason said...

Had a great 6 months doing a couple of programmes a week on ZD8VR in 1987ish.

Dave Burch said...

I was on Ascension in the mid '60s to early '70s. DJ at ZD8Vr with two programs. One was easy listening with such artists as George Shearing, Henry Mancini, and a few older bands from post WWII. My other program was far more controversial as it was hard core Folk Music with Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, Bob Dylan and many other artists of the day. I could get some pretty nasty phones call for that day.

Dave Burch said...

I was on Ascension in the mid '60s to early '70s. DJ at ZD8Vr with two programs. One was easy listening with such artists as George Shearing, Henry Mancini, and a few older bands from post WWII. My other program was far more controversial as it was hard core Folk Music with Joan Baez, Buffy St. Marie, Bob Dylan and many other artists of the day. I could get some pretty nasty phones call for that day.

Gary Deacon said...

Hi Dave

Thank you for your contribution -interesting to know about your wide mix of music styles aired, including the controversial hard core folk !