??Annual Commemorations Marking the First Transatlantic Wireless Signal By Marconi in 1901

Annual Commemorations Marking the First Transatlantic Wireless Signal By Marconi in 1901

A project of the
Marconi Radio Club of Newfoundland

1931 1961 1971

1981 1991 2001 2011


(This web page is a work in progress)

On 12 December 1901, Marconi made communications history by his claim to have received the first transatlantic wireless signal in a fever hospital on Signal Hill. The signal originated from his spark transmitter in Poldhu, Cornwall, England. Amateur radio operators and others who share a passionate interest in Marconi's work have been commemorating the event for over 4 decades. In April of 1960, the Marconi radio station VON moved from Cabot Tower, and some time after that, the building was made available for amateur operations. The building where Marconi did his experiments on Signal Hill was destroyed in fire on 18 December 1920.

To the right of Cabot Tower in this early photo is the former fever hospital where Marconi conducted his receiving experiments in 1901. (Photo thanks to the Memorial University Archives.)
Inside the fever hospital: Marconi and his receiving apparatus including coherers, coils and a telephone earphone. (Photo thanks to the Newfoundland and Labrador Archives.)

Several themes are used in the commemorations that highlight the historic achievements of Marconi, such as the contrasting technologies used in global communications and the innovative skills and high degree of technical competence of the traditional radio amateur operator.



1931 - The 30th Anniversary

Marconi himself participated in an event to mark the 30th anniversary of the first transatlantic wireless signal. He was in London at the time along with Kemp and Paget, according to the information in "My Father, Marconi" by Degna Marconi.

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1951 - The 50th Anniversary

This image was sent by Davey G3AGA of the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club in 2008. He writes: The Club has been given a photo which appears to be taken at the Marconi site at Poldhu (actually in the old hotel) 57 years ago probably on Dec 12 1951 - the 50th anniversary - and probably the first in the series of "remembrance" transmissions which we are keeping going. The photo has no caption or any details on it but shows the late G3AET (John Watson) reading a prepared message into a group of microphones.


1961 - The 60th Anniversary

The 1961 operation took place from the Colonial building on Military road.

The participants were, standing from left to right, Messrs R. Peddle VO1BD, B. Lewis VO1FM, name not known, and G. Humphrey; seated Messrs A. Burden VO1BJ, E. Ash VO1AA, Dr J. Craig VO1FB, and Mr Eric Holden VO1BH. now VE3GN, who also contributed to the operation.
Images thanks to Dr J. Craig.

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1971 - The 70th Anniversary

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1981 - The 80th Anniversary

Mr Frank Davis, the (now) late Gioia Marconi Bragga and the late Mr Ben Collins represented SONRA and Newfoundland Telephone Amateur Radio Club. The call sign VO1MEA was used for the 80th anniversary. An honorary degree was conferred upon Gioia Marconi Bragga at the fall convocation of Memorial University. The photo was provided by Frank Davis VO1HP 12 Nov 2012.

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1983
This photo by Brian VO1IF shows Don VO1KZ, Brian VO1BG, Jim VO1JW (seated). Standing are Brian VO1IF, Ned VO1MN and Aiden VO1KH. The operation was from the second floor of Cabot Tower on the west part of the floor. Thanks to VO1FB for the info from the "The Long Skip" newsletter.
1985 In 1985 Messrs Cyril Forbes, Ned Mulrooney, Warren Stone, Frank Davis and Joe Craig operated a tube radio that they set up on the 2nd floor and a wire antenna was strung out the west window of Cabot Tower.

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1986 - The 85th Anniversary

Messrs Warren Stone, Bob Lewis, Frank Davis, Ned Mulrooney and Joe Craig operated a temporary station from the second floor of Cabot Tower. Warren and Joe were interviewed by CBC radio's Ted Blades. Many contacts were had.

Mr R. Troke of Parks Canada (upper left) assisted and welcomed us to use Cabot Tower for the event.

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1987

Mr Chris Allingham and Mr J. Craig representing the Memorial University of Newfoundland ARC and SONRA. Mr Don Parsons of Parks Canada assisted. (Photograph and story courtesy of The Telegram.)

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1991 - The 90th Anniversary

An operation was set up within metres of where Marconi heard the first transatlantic signal to commemorate the 90th anniversary. The operators were VO1KX, MP, and NA and several others. A re-enactment was conducted where the Morse letter 'S' was received from the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club in Cornwall, England.

John Walsh VO1MR(sk) (hooded parka) assisting Eric Salter VO1KR fly a ballon supported long wire "Marconi" antenna on Signal Hill Nfld. Dec 12 1991. (Thanks to Frank VO1HP who provided this in 2013)

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1993

Plans to prepare for the 100th anniversary are discussed with Parks Canada

Mr Bob Lewis, VO1BL, founding member of SONRA displays a small home-built amateur radio transmitter with only 12 components. Mr Lewis, a well known radio and television personality, was building his own radio transmitters while Marconi was experimenting with short waves. The skilled amateur radio operators in Poldhu have received messages from this tiny transmitter for 4 consecutive years on 12 December. Photograph courtesy of The Telegram.

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1994

Operators were VO1JOH,VO1FE,NA,FZ and others.

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1995

Radio amateurs welcome Prof Len Zedel of the Physics Department of Memorial University who has requested we attempt to make a direct contact with David Edwards in Hobart, Tasmania on the other side of the world. Tasmania was the site of a Marconi station in 1905. A special antenna is designed and a prototype erected with the assistance of Parks Canada and the contact is made. Greetings are exchanged between officials at CSIRO (VK7RO) and MUN via Morse code and the internet. The Poldhu contact is established at 12:30 local time and greetings are exchanged.


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1996 - The 95th Anniversary

His worship Mayor Murphy of St John's exchanges greetings with the "mayor" of Poldhu, Chairman of Council Carolyn Rule, via Amateur Radio as Sandro de Bernardin of the Italian Consulate (upper right) and amateur radio operator J. Craig look on.
The mayor uses the telegraph key to send the Morse while Joe activates the antenna switch. This transmitter was built from junk-box parts following the amateur practice of years gone by and had a power output of one watt -- about the same power used by a small flash-light. Of course, we also made contact with Hobart using Morse code and the internet.
(Paper clipping used with permission of The Telegram. Colour photographs taken by Bob Lewis)

(Picture and story courtesy of The Telegram)
1997

Contacts are made with Hobart via radio station VK7UJ and via internet phone. A message from David Edwards is sent from VK7UJ to VO1AA to be forwarded to GB2GM in Poldhu. Contact is established with Carolyn Rule in Poldhu and greetings are exchanged using radiotelephone. Home built radio apparatus is used to transmit messages in Morse code to Poldhu, including the letter 'S'.

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1998

On 2 October 1998, Mr Roy Dodge, VO1XP and Mr J. Craig VO1NA were very honoured to communicate with Princess Elettra (Marconi's daughter) while she was in Poldhu England. The Poldhu Amateur Radio Club had organised the event and the Newfoundland Telephone Club station VO1NT was used to communicate from St. John's. Also heard were amateur radio operators in Villa Griffone where Marconi did his early experiments. Click here to hear Elettra Marconi's radio transmission across the Atlantic from GB2GM (Poldhu) to VO1NT (St. John's).

Again, we are successful in contacting Poldhu and Hobart on 12 December. This year, Len and Autry exchange internet video and audio with Hobart. Radiotelegraph contact was established with Hobart. The small transmitter is used to send messages to Poldhu. Radio amateurs in St. John's chat with amateurs in Poldhu.


1999

Prof. Zedel, David Edwards (Tasmania) and Mr. Craig are interviewed by CBC radio. A telegram is sent via Morse code to the Governor of Tasmania from the Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland. Contact is made with Poldhu, but radio conditions are very poor and Morse code was the only reliable means of radio communication that was available.

At 5:00 AM Barry Roberts and Autry Dawe (top) welcome coffee from Michelle and Joe. Autry established I-phone and image transmissions.
Len chats with dignitaries in Hobart on a cell phone. Barry, an electrical engineer with NewTel, arranged the cell phone operations.
Mr Craig, having telegraphed greetings from his Honour Lt. Governor Maxwell House, copies the reply from His Excellency Governor Green in Hobart. Dr Zedel forwards the telegram to Lt. Governor Maxwell House. We are grateful to Parks Canada for granting us permission to use the site.


2000

As in previous years, and following the tradition started by Marconi in 1901, we brought all of our gear to Signal Hill and set it up for the event. The aerial was tuned using a remote controlled balanced antenna tuner, constructed entirely from parts provided by the Canadian Marconi Company. We are very grateful to Mr Barry Hayes of CMC Electronics for his expertise and helpful technical discussions.

At around 5:00 AM an internet connection was established with Hobart, and efforts were made to co-ordinate the Morse code contact with VK7RO. Mr Jack Norman VO1JN, telegraphs Australia as Len and Autry continue to exchange information with the ITEE conference delegates on a ship in Tasmania.
This year, we were honoured to welcome Kelly Nelson and David Burns of Marconi Canada. Kelly has been very enthusiastic and supportive of our efforts. David was very happy to be involved for the first time. Despite a solar flare that made conditions very poor, direct radio communications were established with Hobart and Poldhu. All present had a chat with Carolyn Rule. Pictured are Kelly, David and Joe. We are most grateful to Dr J.Craig VO1FB, for providing his radio for the event. It is just visible to the left of Kelly who has the microphone in hand. (photo: Frank Davis)
Kelly wrote a brief message that was telegraphed to Poldhu. This and the reply are transcribed below.
We received the letter 'S' and were able to acknowledge it using the home built transmitter. We resume voice communications and there is excited discussion about the centenary event next year. Also participating was Mr Frank Davis. Frank declined to be photographed, but assures us he hasn't changed since the 1981 photo!

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February 2001
St John's was honoured with a visit from Princess Elettra. Here from left to right are Len Zedel, Princess Elettra, and Premier Grimes. Photo: J. Craig.
November 2001 The Marconi Radio Club of Newfoundland is formally incorporated.
2001 - The 100th Anniversary

After considerable planning involving the Poldhu ARC, Memorial University and the IEEE, the Nfld Science Centre, Radio Amateurs of Canada and a host of others, we set up on the campus of Memorial University using half the driven element from the 20 metre yagi beam of VO1FB as a quarter-wave monopole atop the Music Building. The special call sign VD1GM was used. Telegrams were sent and received from government officials, radio amateur officials and academics. We were joined on the air waves by distinguished radio scientist Dr John Belrose and RAC regional director Bill Gillis VE1WG.

Photo: Chris Hammond, Memorial University of Newfoundland Photographer.

Dr Zedel looks on as Frank Davis, P.Eng operates the radio and Joe announces the transmission over the World Wide Web.


Photo: Chris Hammond

Drs O'Young and Zedel listen on a crystal receiver. This receiver was assembled by components contributed by several MRCN members. Jeff Newhook a senior electrical engineering student, looks on. The Receiver Competition for grade 9 students was a resounding success.


MRCN members Mr Dave Colton, VO1TK, Dr Siu O'Young, Mr Barry Roberts, P. Eng (standing) and seated Joe and Len who gave details of our operation during an interview by CBC.
Barry displays the Canadian flag to the web cam for viewers in Tunisia as Dave transmits Morse code to IY4FGM in Villa Griffone in Italy where Marconi did his early experiments. Radio Contacts were also made with Chelmsford, Glace Bay, Cape Cod, and other sites with historic connections to Marconi.
Len checks the internet connection to Hobart as Joe copies a reply to Lt Governor Maxwell House from His Excellency Sir Guy Green in Hobart Tasmania.
A ceremony was held by the IEEE and University for the Crystal Receiver Competition. Dignitaries included Lt. Gov. Dr House, Dr Meisen, Mr Fontaine (University and IEEE presidents) and of course the students. We received greetings from John Rule in Poldhu: the radio transmission was fed into the audio system in the auditorium so all could hear.
Dignitaries exchange greetings with their counterparts in Poldhu. Mr Harris, MHA for Signal Hill-Quidi Vidi, Mr Guerette, District Director, Industry Canada and Dr Gill, professor of Electrical Engineering, were on the air. Here Mr Bob Lewis transmits from VD1GM to GB100GM. Coincidentally the year 2001 was Bob's 70th as a licensed radio amateur. He participated in the commemoration 40 years ago in 1961. Mrs Carolyn Rule invited the MRCN to be a formally linked with the Poldhu ARC as their sister station and of course we were very honoured to accept. The event concluded with a transmission of three clicks from Poldhu (which resembled the transmission by Dr John Belrose VE2CV who recreated the sound one would hear when receiving a the Poldhu transmitter in 1901). These were heard on an authentic Marconi receiver. Here's a signal transmitted from Poldhu and received in Newfoundland with a Marconi receiver.
VIPs and some MRCN members: Mr J. Harris, Dr E. Gill, Mrs M. Craig, Mr D. Bouzaine, Mr R. Guerette, Mr J. Craig, Dr L. Zedel and Mr B. Lewis. Photo: Ms Cathy Young, Executive Assistant to Mr Harris.

For additional details on the centenary events, please see the Fall 2002 issue of "The IEEE Canadian Review".


2002

Click here to hear the 'tiny transmitter' send the letter S and GB2GM, the call sign of the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club from Poldhu in September. Following the big splash on the Centenary, we resumed more usual operations. Contact was made with David Edwards via Richard Rogers by radio. Richard was pleased to accept an honorary membership in MRCN during the Morse code contact. David has also accepted an honorary membership.

Here we see Dr Zedel making his own "radio transmission" from the site where Marconi spanned the Atlantic 101 years earlier. Of course, we made out usual contact with the PARC. Fortunately Dr Lawton, VO1BP alerted us to the fact that Poldhu was calling slightly off frequency and we were able to make the contact with Keith. Several other MRCN members were able to exchange greetings with other PARC members as well.
2003

MRCN returned again to Signal Hill to successfully link the antipodes via radio (although not with Hobart) and to re-enact the first wireless transatlantic experiment. We used the telephone line and the internet to contrast with the radio methods of communication by contacting the ITRE in Hobart as part of their Radio Foundation Day celebrations. During our contact with Poldhu, MHA Jack Harris was greeted by his counterpart Chairman Carolyn Rule. We are very grateful to Michelle Miskel and the staff of the Johnson Geo Centre for their being so accommodating and arranging an interview with the local television station.

Pictured above are Messrs D. Colton, J. Craig and B. Lewis at the VO1MRC station in the Geo Centre on Signal Hill.
2004

This year, we had the participation of all honorary members, Dr J. Belrose, Magistrate C. Rule, Mr David Edwards and Mr R. Rogers. Dr L. Zedel of MRCN was a guest at the radio station of J. Craig where 1 kW of RF on 7 MHz was transmitted from a 25 metre tower and gave readable signals in Hobart. Although VK7AW (VK7RO at the key) was very weak in Newfoundland, we did complete the contact on the 10th of December as part of an awards banquet in Hobart. Details appeared in the Febuary 2005 issue of "Engineering Tasmania." We also sent images to Hobart and had a chat on the phone. And as usual, members of the the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club and the Marconi Club linked again and reminisced about our many transatlantic wireless exchanges of greetings and members.

Len Zedel chats to David Edwards in Hobart on an old style telephone as J. Craig enjoys a beaker of coffee after completing the radio contact.
2005

As part of International Physics Year, we were invited to the Newfoundland and Labrador Science Centre. Here Len works on the antenna on the roof. The staff at the Centre did an excellent promotion with a 'Wireless Workshop' with children building their own radios and using them to copy Morse code transmissions. The Poldhu club received our transmissions and we received theirs, but because of electrical noise, the usual contact was not possible on 12 December although we did have other contacts including Ric VK7RO in Hobart, Tasmania.
Here we see Joe, Len and Frank along with a Cornish Flag and Cornish Kite (on the table to the right) from our friends in Poldhu.
2006

Once again, we returned to the NL Science Centre, about 2 km from Signal Hill. Atop the Science Centre, we set up this aerial, the same one we used in the 2001 reenactment.
On the top floor, we set up a temporary radio station and completed several 2-way contacts using Morse code and radiotelephone. Here we see Tracy Thoms, whos assistance and advice on behalf of the Science Centre has been truly outstanding. After news that VO1MRC was on the air, many stations started calling our station including ...
our friends at our sister station in Poldhu GB2GM. (Photo: PARC Newsletter, 55:1,2007) Conditions were not especially favourable but fortunately Morse code was used to make the initial contact. We then switched to voice and were delighted to exchange greetings across the Atlantic to mark the 105th anniversary of Marconi's experiment. We are very grateful to all those who assisted and of course, the NL Science Centre.
2007

12 December 2007: Len and Joe contacted Hobart by Internet and Poldhu by radio on the 106th anniversary of Marconi's anniversary. A few dozen contacts were had as VO1MRC took to the airwaves after our contact with GB2GM. It was good to hear our honorary members David Edwards and Carolyn Rule.


2008

We had hoped to return to Signal Hill for this event, but this did not happen. This was fortuitous as conditions were very poor and we had more power from a big Marconi transmitter at Joe's home station which meant we could maintain contact and exchange messages which would have been impossible from the hill. In anticipation of the poor conditions, we made initial contact 2 hours earlier 20 metres, then moved to 17 metres. Keith and Davey were in Poldhu and Joe was near St John's. We sent a Morse code telegram to mark 50 years of Parks Canada on Signal Hill. Best wishes were exchanged between MRCN and PARC amidst the deep fades and dirty key contacts at VO1MRC. At 1600 UTC, contact was established between G3AGA, Davey, and VO1MRC to advise that Poldhu was on 20m. We resumed the contact with GB2GM and received an acknowledgement of our telegram "Thanks to Parks Canada for the kind message" Best regards were sent on behalf of Frank VO1HP and Len who was unable to join us. Regards were relayed on behalf of Carolyn along with her regrets for being away at the time. It was often necessary to make several efforts to get messages across because of the poor conditions which were exacerbated by precipitation static from the snow in Newfoundland.


2009

This year marked the centenary of Marconi's receipt of the Nobel Prize in Physics. This years participants included G0WYS and G0RJH from PARC and VO1FB VO1HP and VO1NA from as outlined in Keith's article in the PARC Newsletter 63, No. 1 March 2010.


2010

Once again, activities on the big day are outlined in an article in the Poldhu Newsletter 67, No.1. Thanks to Keith G0WYS (editor) and Joe VO1NA (author).



2011 - The 110th Anniversary

Excellent radio conditions prevailed and media coverage was splendid, thanks to CBC Radio and Television, NTV and The Telegram. We rigged "Arlene", a VW, with radio gear on Signal Hill and after some tinkering, made contact with our colleagues in Poldhu as Maggie Gillis and Krissy Holmes reported from the back seat. Telegrams were sent on behalf of Mr Jack Harris, MHA, CBC Radio and Parks Canada to mark, respectively, the 110th anniversary of Marconi's experiment, 75 years of CBC Radio, and the Parks Canada centenary. We also commemorated the 10th anniversaries of the Marconi Centre in Poldhu, our twinning with the Poldhu club and the incorporation of MRCN. Keith G0WYS, Carolyn M0ADA who is Mr Harris' official counterpart, and Cliff G3UYN battled howling gales in Poldhu while Len and Joe and the media braved a -5 deg C breeze atop the hill. We were joined by radio with friends at IY4FGM in Villa Griffone, Italy. Carolyn and Krissy conversed across the Atlantic and a portion of Carolyn's transmission from Poldhu was broadcast on CBC television in the evening. VO1FB was on hand with strong signals into Poldhu from his home station with VO1HP and VO1XP on standby. In the picure are Len, Krissy, and the fly-rod antenna.
Maggie Gillis of CBC Radio.
Len and Joe display the banner.
Looking in the direction of Poldhu -- 3435 km away.

2012 - The 111th Anniversary

Ken and Joe return again to Signal Hill for our annual linkup with Poldhu. We are joined on the air by VO1FB, VA1VAS (Glace Bay NS) and KM1CC (Cape Cod MA) Several other stations were contacted using Morse Code from the parking lot.

Ken has a try on Morse Code after our contact. Thanks again to Keith at Poldhu for his splendid work.


2013 - The 112th Anniversary

In the late fall, excitement builds on both sides of the pond. Cliff G3UYN publishes an item in the Poldhu ARC Newsletter on the 'Glorious 12th' and Keith G0WYS makes preparations. VO1FB and VO1XP are asked to keep a radio watch as the station is set up atop Signal Hill. At 12:30 Keith at GB2GM is heard loud and clear calling VO1MRC. Following some tinkering and adjustments with the transmitter in the car, greetings and telegrams are exchanged between Poldhu and Signal Hill, including kindest regards to Carolyn M0ADA and greetings were relayed from Len Zedel. VO1HP joined us on the air from his home station. Keith reported that there were new amateurs at the Poldhu club headquarters who were amazed at how the the signals could have orginated from a car across the ocean. There was a brief media spot on CBC radio that evening and VX9MRC was on the air, making contact with KM2KM, Kris in Ithaca, on 5348 kHz.

A curious VO1IRA is welcomed and comments on the strength and clarity of the Poldhu signals.


2014 - The 113th Anniversary
From the Poldhu Amateur Radio Club Newsletter 83, No. 1 March 2015.
2015 - The 114th Anniversary

After a physics seminar at Memorial University in the fall of 2015, Len mentions 12 December and some ideas are tossed about.

Meanwhile experimentation on long waves is underway. A BPSK mode called EbNaut created by Paul Nicholson is used to send a telegram to Domenico IZ7SLZ in Italy from NL. The message "MARCONI 114TH ANNIVERSARY" was received on a wavelength 2200 metres with a Shannon efficiency of 32 per cent. The assistance of DF6NM and Paul is gratefully acknowledged.

Keith, soon to be GK0WYS, finalises the GB2GM/VO1MRC sked for the 12th. By then, VO1HP and Joe who is wearing his PARC jersey, meet at VO1FB's for a VO DXCC Honour Roll photo by VO1RL. VO1FB generously makes his beam and rig available for the QSO. We call on CW using a 4 element beam and get excellent reports both ways. Condolences are expressed to our long-time friend Carolyn and we understand why she was not joining us. Keith mentions that Andy G4JNT, who also received the long wave telegram, built the 1.9 MHz beacon used for the 2006 Marconi experiment. Keith then sends the "S" and we receive the three clicks. Gratified, we tried modern technology. Of course, the batteries on the cell phone failed but VO1HP had his cell so we could call Len at home. Len sent greetings from MRCN to PARC over the radio link to Poldhu. We recalled thevisit by G7FOT of PARC to VO land last summer. GB2GM remains the air to make more contacts while VO1MRC goes on to work 20, 40 and 60 metres. Among the contacts was IZ2PKD in Bologna.


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