– 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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