To Make The World Smaller – Expedition To Pitcairn Island – February 2, 1938 – Past Daily Reference Room

In 1938, communication was new and the world was destined to get smaller.

In 1938, communication was new and the world was destined to get smaller.

. . . or click on the link here for Audio Player – NBC Special Program – Pitcairn Island Expedition – February 2, 1938 – Gordon Skene Sound Collection,

In trying to think of a comparable communications feat in recent times, the only thing I could think of was the development of Streaming Audio and video – it’s a way of bringing everything fingertip close and within a matter of seconds.

In the 1930s, radio was still rather new. All the possibilities were still being discovered. One of those possibilities was the use of Shortwave as a method of communication over long distances. The idea of being able to communicate with remote villages and far off lands to the rest of the world was an exciting possibility. Prior to this, the only method of communication was short distances, the use of shortwave was considered experimental and the domain of hobbyists.

In 1938, RCA and its broadcast wing, NBC came up with an idea to send an expedition to Pitcairn Island in the south Pacific with the hopes of setting up a shortwave station that would serve as a link to the rest of the world. The idea of being able to hear a broadcast featuring one of the direct descendants of the HMS Bounty (the famous ship that became the subject of numerous movies) who had been living on the island, relatively untouched for the last hundred or so years , was tantalizing to say the least.

And so on February 2nd 1938, RCA and NBC Radio set out with an expedition from the U.S. to Pitcairn Island in order to set up a shortwave station consisting of state-of-the-art equipment to begin broadcasting directly from the Island to the rest of the world.

Two of the principals of the expedition were on hand for an interview; L.S. Bellham and Granville P. Lindley, to explain the purpose of this expedition and what they hoped to accomplish.

It may not seem like such an earth-shattering accomplishment today, and it may be hard to put yourself in the position of those engineers who were getting ready to set up the first radio communications on a tiny island in the Pacific. But it was a huge accomplishment at the time – one which would have far-reaching effects, particularly since War was just a short distance away.

For you communications history buffs, this may be the only time both of these figures in early radio were interviewed and recorded. So it’s historic and rare, all at the same time.

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2 Responses

  1. marcel says:

    wonderful! thanks for this historic broadcast! what i want to hear for years is another broadcast from a zeppelin to a ship! International Broadcast From The Airship Hindenburg. May 7, 1936. NBC net. Sustaining. An attempted two way conversation with the steamer “Bremen” and the airship Hindenburg. Max Jordan tries to establish contact while aboard the Zeppelin, heading for America on her maiden westbound flight. He describes the airship’s accomodations (including the grand piano) and the cuisine. These are two separate broadcasts made on the same day. Commander Hugo Eckener of the Hindenburg is heard (in German only). The recording includes organ fill. Max Jordan, Hugo Eckener, Van Russell (NBC announcer in New York). 30:45. it would be great to hear it, if you have it.

    there is another short wave interview earlier than this. in october 1932 the german reichs rundfunkgesellschaft makes a short wave interview with wolfgang von gronau from berlin to batavia. von gronau was the flight captain of a dornier water plane. very interesting! and historic!
    keep boppin´
    marcel

    • gordonskene says:

      Many thanks for your kind comments! Yes,let me look and see if I have that Hindenburg broadcast. Ironically, I have the two additional Pitcairn Island broadcasts made when the expedition landed in March, but neither was successful. Atmospheric conditions made a broadcast impossible. It was quite embarrassing since it was a live broadcast.
      Thanks again! Stay tuned for more history!
      Gordon