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Telecommunications on Svalbard
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A telegram of Destiny

Yes to a telegraph station

Radio operator and cinema executive

An accidental shot

The mining disaster

The Airship « Norge»

Listed building
Credits

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A telegram of Destiny

The year was 1953. It was summer.

At the restaurant Wivel in Narvik, two young men found themselves “enjoying the blessings of civilisation”, as was written by one of them, the journalist, Alf Hjort Moritzen. By chance his eyes settled on an ad in an eight-day old newspaper lying on the table: “Substitute radio operator, Manager for the Ny-Aalesund radiostation wanted.”

-Here’s something for you, he said to his friend, Willy Hald, who was a radio operator.

-Are you out of your mind, was the answer. The position must have been filled long ago.

-Let’s try anyway. It won’t cost more than the price of a telegram.

Some weeks later the answer arrived:

“Hired”.

“Travel to Harstad immediately. Stop. Boat leaving in three days.”

The journalist came along for the journey and gave later a description in a newspaper article in “Harstad Tidene”. It was to tell the tale of life…. and death.

Simple conditions were to be found at the station in Ny-Aalesund, also with regards to the technical equipment. The transmitters were weak and maintenance lacking. In general the station was overworked. The radio operator that was to be substituted was of the opinion that the service was too cheap.

“People never learn to express themselves in brevity, but insists on sending foot-long texts where but half would have been ample….with the current situation, one can only supply the correct service by working, practically, around the clock.”

The new radio operator tried to dam up the flow of outgoing telegrams by posting a notice on the door saying:

“It is much cheaper to send a letter”

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But on the door of the post office the post master retorted with a large arrow pointing towards the telegraph station followed by the text: “It is much faster and safer to send a telegram!”

“The married men” were regular customers at the telegraph station. The journalist wrote: “The wives back in Norway will make themselves heard with remarkable precision when pay day is near.”

Before reading the telegrams, the workers would jokingly say: “Send more money. Stop. Stay up there.”

The new radio operator, Willy Hald, ended up here as a result of a fateful telegram. It would cost him his life.

Yes to a telegraph station

Wireless communication played an important role owing to the particular circumstances found on Svalbard.

Before this station was built, the operations manager, Sherdal, and two workers trekked across the glaciers and icy fjords to Longyearbyen to send a telegram informing of that winter’s coal production. It took them 44 hours. They spent the night in temperatures down to minus 42 degrees Celsius. The dogs broke free and escaped with the sled carrying their provisions and equipment. For one of the fellows the trip ended with the loss of all toes on one foot.

Westby, who was the winter administrator in Longyearbyen, wrote of this event in his journal:

19 of March. 32 below […] In this temperature, operations manager, Sherdal, and a man from Kings Bay came via Cape Boheman. They had left a third man approximately 10 kilometres outside Hotellnesset.[…]

He was driven to the hospital and is receiving treatment. The central office on the mainland was dependent on information from the mines here to sell the coal production at the best possible price and to obtain ships that could transport coal out to buyers. This site; ”Ny Ålseund” is called after the city ”Ålesund” on the mainland of Norway.

The decision to establish a wireless telegraph station at Ny Aalesund came a few months later, in May 1918.

During the polar expeditions of Amundsen and Nobile in the 1920s things got hectic here at the station.

It was first and foremost used by the mining industry, but the price of coal was fluctuating and for large portions of time turned the operations unprofitable.

Mining here was dangerous and accidents numerous.

Work seized during the Second World War but was later reinitiated.

Radio operator and cinema executive

Even though the telegram was the predominant means of communication, there was also radio-telephony. This posed a challenge also in Longyearbyen.

Conversations were broadcast all over town. Eventually the option of using voice distortion technology arrived, but the quality was bad. One lady was also said to have been exceedingly offended when she could no longer listen in (to the town’s conversations.)

Transmitters and receivers would often cause disturbance between one another and also in other electronic equipment. Telegraph supervisor, Egil Reimers, speaks of an incident where he was sitting on tenterhooks, as he attended a memorial service in Longyearbyen. He was anxious that radio communication from a transmitter would interfere with the church’s electric organ. There was no way of telling what sounds might erupt.

Svalbard is an inaccessible place, but eventually regular radio broadcasts brought the rest of the world closer, for example in the autumn of 1930 when the hostess, Berta Aam in Ny-Aalesund got the radio working. It was large charging the batteries was a process that took a whole day.

In the 1950s post could be delivered by air-drop to out of reach places. Number one priority were letters, next came newspapers and finally, if there was room, advertisements. Miner, Johan Ødegaard, recounts of a time when he saw the bag of advertisements drop on land and the one filled with letters into the sea.(This happened at Hopen).

The GP, Kjell Aas, in Ny-Ålesund remembers the cinema shows in the 50s:
“The radio operator was also the cinema operator, but he had only three films to show throughout nine months: A western film, a cartoon featuring Donald Duck and a film about contraception. After the fourth showing of each film with the last one run in reverse, it was all over, because no one would turn up any longer.”

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The first TV- programs came in on video tapes transported by boat or plane from the Norwegian Broadcasting Corporation and were shown four weeks after they had been broadcast on the mainland. In the 70s satellites provided a connection to the mainland, but TV via satellite was not available until 1984. Today fibre cables transfer data along the bottom of the sea providing TV, telephone and the internet.

An accidental shot

”Reflecting over position Kings Bay one year from October. If I do get it will you marry me and come? Letter will follow. Will telephone Sunday morning. Yours Kjell”

The medical doctor, Kjell Aas, telegraphed his sweetheart...She said yes and they moved here.

“The radio operator in Ny-Ålesund must meet at the Telegraph!”

“The radio operator in Ny-Ålesund must meet at the Telegraph!”

“If something has happened to the radio operator, someone must go to the Telegraph”

Was there something amiss?

It was the spring of 1954. The days were yet again filled with light and the fjord was free of ice. The gulf-stream does a sort of turn here keeping the fjord open. A group of men were going out to Krossfjord to shoot birds. Ny-Aalesunds radio operator, Willy Hald and the GP, Kjell Aas were among them. Shotguns were resting on the engine housing....a shot went off . An accidental discharge. The radio operator was struck. The doctor stood with him as they heard the report behind them. The gun had fired as the weapons had been disturbed when rattling around on top of the engine housing. Dr. Aas layed Willy Hald on deck, kneeled down and tryed to stop the bleeding. He did all he could...but the trip back took over an hour. The radio operator died on the operating table before anything could be done...

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After this Ny-Aalesund was completely isolated and had no contact with the world outside. The doctor, however, thought he might be able to figure it out. He had been taught morse at flying school in Canada and England during the war... Firstly, he tried the radio telephone - for a long time-, but out of it came nothing but squeeks, whines and hissing sounds. He gave it up. Then he tried the morse key.

An electrician reconnected a few wires here and there...then they tried...again and again.

”Kings bay calling please attention anybody please help STOP.please help STOP wireless communication kings bay broken after operator died in accident STOP otherwise all well STOP please tell Icefjord radio to forward message STOP please confirm STOP END”

He tried for several hours, and finally, an answer could be heard in the headphones. Kings bay calling...so...came answer...

(pip pip)

The doctor grasped the morse key and sent: "too fast STOP i am amateur STOP please repeat slowly STOP END".

(pip pip)

"understand problem STOP transmit message to Icefjord Stop fine job STOP good luck STOP"

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During the next few days he managed, with the help of the electrician, to get the morse code printer to function and receive signals.

He settled down to decipher the signals that had been previously received. There were some communications for the administration and some private messages. He wrote them out on a typewriter. He then took to wandering around to the various addressees.

Two of the messages were somewhat difficult to deliver. Finally they had reinforcements. A radio operator came from Icefjord radio. One can read about the radio operator, Willy Hald, in a newspaper article in Harstad Tidene.

“His destiny was decided by a random ad”, wrote his friend the journalist and ended the story:

“We both lost our hearts to the small town up there under the glacier..I had packed my suitcases to travel up when a notice from the foreign ministry announced that my friend had perished”

The doctor, Kjell Aas has written of the incident in the book ”Bondefanget doktor i Kings Bay”

The mining disaster

With the coal industry, Ny Ålesund became a mining town in the beginning of the 20th century, and had, despite of its isolation, gathered 200 inhabitants. Life here was dangerous and the place saw many accidents.

Arnulf Gisvold, miner in 1917:

“It was a beautiful day when 3-4 of us were sitting on the kitchen bench drinking coffee…. Suddenly we noticed a small tremble, almost as if a shiver went through the room….It was so feeble that no one would have taken any notice, if it hadn’t been for one sat looking out the window..who…suddenly sprang to his feet and shouted: Look! Look over there! We understood from the tone of his voice that this…was something extraordinary…and the terror on his face…” “Enormous clouds of smoke came billowing out of all the mine shafts, thick, black and suffocating smoke. Every man started running towards the mine. The air rang with shrieks of pain…”

“We were passed by a man running down as he held his hands in front of his face. His clothes had been rendered in to rags flapping about him. The rest had been burnt off him.”

Arnulf carries on his recount of the accidents:

“You have lived through a winter together, in close quarters. Through daily relations one will have come to know about each other’s good sides and bad. When someone is suddenly torn away a void is formed. His bunk is left abandoned, his place in the canteen empty for the rest of the year.”

It was a small society, with few inhabitants. The accidents could be devastating… In 1920, 26 men perished…1/10 of all the workers.

And there would be more accidents…

The radio operator Odd Einar Hammer speaks of an evening in November 1962:

I sat at home and we were about to go to bed, it was around half (past) ten in the evening, when the lights slowly dimmed. Then we understood that something was wrong…

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“Icefjord Radio. Icefjord Radio. Ny-Aalesund Radio calling. I have an express message for Norway. Mine explosion on the 5/11 at 22.45 in belt-shaft west 18 possibly 20 human lives lost stop cause of explosion unknown STOP”

This was the beginning of the telegram sent to Oslo in the autumn of 1962.

Ny-Aalesund, a small place on the edge of the world, was to change Norway.

The whole of the night shift, counting 21 men, were lost. As a result of the numerous accidents throughout the 40s and 50s over 40 human beings lost their lives in the mine. The question of responsibility in the state-run mining industry led to a governmental crisis in Norway. It ended with the resignation of the labour party controlled government.

Odd Einar Hammer continues:

«When such accidents occur, it was horrendous…receiving the names of the dead and the injured. And then the telegrams started criss-crossing, with questions and answers, about the deceased…, I believe I was at it for about 40 hours non-stop. It was every evening, but I did receive help after a week’s time.»

The Airship «Norge»

April 1926.

Every day the Norwegian polar explorer, Roald Amundsen, came here to the telegraph station to set his watch in accordance with the time signal from the Eiffel tower in Paris.

He was waiting for the right weather.

In Italy the electrical engineer, Umberto Nobile, had constructed a gigantic airship which was given the name “NORGE”.

May 1926.

The airship “Norge” was on its way from Rome to Ny-Ålesund before carrying on towards the North Pole. Nobile was its captain.

The Norwegian Telegraphic Board sent the radio operator, Odd Sandvei, as an auxiliary to Ny-Ålesund.

He explains in an internal magazine:

“At(…) station we had our hands full. Quite a substantial pack of journalists had now gathered, from more or less the entire world, and they were all out to prove themselves and put their skills on display. At this point there was still not much to report on the upcoming expedition, so they were writing about the midnight sun, of the snow and the great flocks of seagulls, the seal hunt and much else. Every day, long dispatches had to be sent off from the small spark transmitter. We had to work pretty much around the clock in three shifts.”

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Just before the airship landed, mr Sandvei was in direct contact with the Russian, Gennady Olonkin who was the radio operator aboard the airship. Olonkin had had payed close attention to Amundsen and the other adventurers for a long time. He had even been ice-locked in the ship, Maud for several winters on a seven year expedition. He was described as a loyal and capable man.

Odd Sandvei carried on the recount:

“I have never felt more in the centre of the world’s attention nor will I ever again!”

He sat here at the station alone for many hours and controlled the tele-traffic in the hectic days before and after the airship’s journey to the North Pole. Eeeeh:

“By the way, I wasn’t all on my own. On a stool in a corner sat a big, silent man, The Russian radio operator, Olonkin….. This journey, many years in the planning and preparation almost destined to lead to fame and glory, now on its last leg….and he wasn’t there….but instead sitting, completely apathetic, while his comrades were sailing across the Arctic seas…. I have never seen a human being so utterly downtrodden, and I have never felt as sorry for a man as I did Olonkin.

He had become shy and completely silent. He was on the same boat as I on the way down to Tromsø coming home from Svalbard, but I cannot remember him exchanging a single word with anyone during the entire journey.” At the last minute he had been told that he was not to come any further…

”A temporary ear ache” was the reasoning.

What?

He never mentioned anything.

He was of the wrong nationality. By exchanging the Norwegian speaking Russian with a Norwegian who had been temporarily serving here at the station, the Norwegians were no longer a minority aboard. One of the Italians saw a tear on Olonkin’s cheek.

Norwegian financial interests demanded another Norwegian for the journey. Olonkin had to stay behind. Amundsen accepted this. Nobile handed in his protests, but to no avail.

The first telegram sent from Aalesund to the airship on its way north was a weather forecast from Point Barrow, Alaska:

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“Weather foggy, barometer rising, light wind from east”

The journey went well.

In hindsight it is ironic to think that also the rescue missions around the Arctic became major happenings, even they turned out to become contests among nations. And with great activity surrounding the wireless telegraph stations.

Often under major confusion.

In the end, who was looking for whom?

Some years later, in 1928, 1400 people from six nations participated in the rescue mission looking for Nobile. Among them were Roald Amundsen who left in an aeroplane never to return.

Gennady Olonkin started work for The Norwegian institute of Metrology in the north of Norway. He died in 1960. In his honour the town of Olonkinbyen is to be found on the island of Jan Mayen.

Telecommunications on Svalbard

The letter s was sent wirelessly across the Atlantic. This was man’s first successful attempt in 1901. The inventor was the Italian, Guglielmo Marconi.

Only 10 years later the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation built the wireless telegraph station on Svalbard. Several stations followed. In 1918 this was built at Ny-Aalesund for the mine and for Kings Bay Coal Company. The Norwegian newspaper «Verdens Gang» wrote:  «Our wireless dominion over the Arctic Sea. »

A wireless infrastructure on Svalbard was not only for the purpose of communication, but was also a stratagem in the race for sovereignty on the island.

«The Telegraph», it was called, the station. It was a small building yet it was an opening to the rest of the world.

Orders and messages were sent from here. Communications regarding wind speed, requests for money for the family, maybe an emergency call from one vessel or another, words sent from an infrequent airship: All well...

...or the communique’ that made the Norwegian government crumble and fall.

All this via the radio operator.

The First Arctic Radio telegraph station.

A society like the one found on Svalbard, where people would be isolated for large parts of the year, had a particular need for making contact with its surroundings and the rest of the world.

The American Company Arctic Coal Company (ACC) ran a coal mine at Advent Bay (what is today Longyearbyen). A wireless telegraph connection via Norway to Europe and America would increase production and improve safety.

In 1911 ACC applied to the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation for a concession to establish a wireless telegraph station on the mainland as a link between its plant on Svalbard and the rest of the world. ACC had its offices in Trondheim, Norway and in the USA.

The position of Svalbard, far from civilisation, meant that any wireless telegraph station here would need a station on the mainland to communicate through.

In the autumn of 1910 the ACC sent a request to Director, Thomas Heftye, in the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation (today Telenor), regarding a permission to establish a telegraphic connection between Svalbard and mainland Norway. As Svalbard was still seen as “no man’s land”, the request was in reality asking for permission to build a station in Norway.

The telegraph director gave no concessions for private interests in Norway, but at the same time he knew that the Norwegian state wanted activity on Svalbard in order to strengthen the Norwegian claim for soverignity of the archipelago. It was decided that the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation would construct a wireless telegraph station at Finneset by Grønfjorden on Spitsbergen.

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This became a matter of urgency and was passed by the Parliament on the 3 of May 1911. To insure a rapid erection of the station buildings, these were ordered from Strømmen prefab factory in Norway.

The work on Finneset moved very quickly. The 60 meter antennae masts were ready on the 23 of July 1911, and the Norwegian split-flag was attached at the highest point. The Norwegian state had now established itself with high-technological communications equipment on the Spitsbergen. When the station was ready for use on the 23 of September that same year, 26953 man-hours had gone into it. The initiation of the Spitsbergen-link cost 390.000 kroners in 1911. This was a lot of money for the, at the time poor Norway, and is equivalent to 21,870,500 in 2013 values.

The main-land station was built on Ingøy, near the town of Hammerfest in Norway. It was named Ingøy Radio and was to be erected at the same time as the station on Svalbard. The station on Svalbard was given the name, Spitsbergen Radio. The first contact between the two stations was made on the 24 of November 1911.

ACC established then a wireless telegraph station at Advent Bay (Longyearbyen) in 1912 for communication with Spitsbergen Radio.
Spitsbergen Radio (was given the name Svalbard Radio after 1925) was the first wireless telegraph station in an Arctic area. 1. With the telegraph link a Norwegian community formed on Finneset and this was where Sysselmannen (The Governor) settled when Norway claimed sovereignty over the archipelago on the 14. August 1925. Spitsbergen Radio covered all the Arctic Sea and formed the hub for all communication between the Arctic and the rest of the world. Many consider the establishment of the radio an important factor in Norway’s success in gaining sovereignty over Svalbard.

Read more about Spitsbergen radio.

The telegraph station in Ny-Aalesund

Ny-Aalesund got its telegraph station in 1918.

The mining company, Kings Bay, was dependent on communication with the outer world and with a wireless telegraph link the business was conducted far more efficiently than by post.

Safety was also improved. The mining work was filled with risks and accidents were numerous. In such situations, the telegraph was a great help.

The telegraph station was owned by Kings Bay, but was subject to a number of guidelines from the Norwegian Telegraph Corporation with regards to pricing, equipment, training and availability.

The telegraph station played an essential role during Amundsen’s expeditions in 1925 and 1926. 

When Nobile and the airship “Italia” disappeared on the way to the North Pole in 1928, Amundsen, among others, set out with the airplane “Latham 47” to look for it. The airplane with Amundsen disappeared and has never been found. The telegraph in Ny-Aalesund was the last place to register a signs of life from “Latham 47” and Roald Amundsen.

Mining and accidents

In the autumn of 1929 there was a temporary stop in the mining in Ny-Aalesund, but the traffic of tourists increased in the summer and they were also in need of the services provided by the telegraph. In the winter it was quiet and the radio operator went back to the main land.

In 1941 Kings Bay restarted mining again, but it didn’t last long. The evacuation of the population of Svalbard to Great Britain in the same year put a stop to all activities in Ny-Aalesund, including the telegraph.

In 1945 activities, including the mining, postal- and telegraph services, were resumed yet again. The year after the telegraph station was moved from “Flaggstanghaugen” (Flag-pole-top) near the sea to a re-designed and extended house nearer the settlement (where it sits today).

The great mining disaster of 1962 lead to a final end for the mining at Ny-Aalesund.

The entire night-shift of 21 people died. Through the numerous accidents of the 40’s and 50’s more than 40 men lost their lives in the mine. The question of responsibility within the state-run mining industry lead to a governmental crisis in Norway, resulting in the down-fall of a Labour-party government.

Radio operator, Jo Hammer, sent this message:

“Isfjord Radio. Isfjord Radio. Ny-Aalesund Radio calling. I have an express- message for Norway.

Mine-explosion on the 5th of Nov 22.45 in belt shaft west caused the death of 18 possibly 20 people. STOP cause of explosion unknown. STOP” 2

After the mine was closed there was no longer need for a separate telegraph station. The job as radio operator was performed by employees of the Telegraph Corporation who were based in the administrational building of Kings Bay. In 1980 the telegraph station was replaced by a modern radio link to Longyearbyen.

Frequency-free area

This is because Statens kartverk (Norwegian State geographical survey) runs a research station in Ny-Aalesund. They measure among other things the noise from black holes in outer space, up to 13 billion light years away. These measurements are vulnerable to sound-pollution in the frequency-area. The Telecommunications Authority has therefore granted that Ny-Aalesund shall be a frequency-free area. Normal wireless networks from mobile phones, portable computers and alike must be turned off. Everyone that arrives here is given information telling them to turn off any wireless networks. Communications with the outer world happens today through fibre cable to Longyearbyen and the main land.

The many names of Telenor
  • Telegrafvæsenet 1855
  • Den norske Statstelegraf 1857 – 1895
  • Den Norske Rikstelegraf 1896
  • Det Norske Telegrafvæsen 1900
  • Norges Telegrafvæsen 1905
  • Norges Telegrafvesen 1920
  • Telegrafverket 1932
  • Televerket 1969
  • Telenor 1995

Fredning og restaurering

Svalbard's history is a series of separate epochs, with no continuous development of human impact on the islands. People have travelled to the archipelago in order to exploit the natural resources, for science and exploration, or from pure curiosity. Whaling started and finished. The same with the Pomor (Russian) and Norwegian wintering hunting and trapping. A "Klondike" period of mineral prospecting left its traces. Even the 2nd World War influenced Svalbard. In recognition of these concluded epochs in Svalbard, all of which have left behind their unique monuments and sites, the limit for automatic protection of historical remains in Svalbard has been put at 1.1.1946. All traces of human cultures previous to that date are now protected by law, including 30 buildings in Ny-Ålesund which belonged to the early mining period there. Amongst these is the Telegraph Station.

In a successful cooperation between the owner Kings Bay AS, Telenor ASA and the Directorate for Cultural Heritage it was decided to restore the Telegraph Station. The Station represents the mining settlement's fragile contact with the outside world in a time before our modern communication opportunities, right from the mining activity was established and until the building's historical function was replaced in the 1960s. Research showed that the building had undergone a number of changes during its lifetime. It had been both moved and enlarged to adapt to developments in the settlement. The restoration reference group decided that the restoration should be based on the last period - end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s - in order to be able to preserve as much as possible of the historical development and because certain traces of the earlier stages in the building could be preserved at the same time. The work was based on a number of historical sources including paint analyses, archives and photographs.

The restoration work was led and mainly carried out by restoration carpenter Finn Løken, who maintained contact with the reference group through Kings Bay's representatives. Generous donations from Telenor and Svalbard's Environmental Fund made it possible for Kings Bay to fully finance the project.

Susan Barr, The Directorate for Cultural Heritage.


The reference group for the restoration consisted of:

  • Susan Barr, The Directorate for Cultural Heritage.

  • Egil Murud, County Curator in Nordland and member of the board in Kings Bay.
  • Dag Blakkisrud, Telenor Cultural Heritage.
  • Siri Hoem, Antiquarian.

Credits

  • Oddvar M. Ulvang , Hovedfagsoppgave i historie – Telekommunikasjoner på Spitsbergen 1911-1935, 2008, Universitetet i Tromsø. 
  • Thor B. Arlov , Svalbards historie,1996, Tapir Akademiske Forlag
  • Rolf Hanoa, Kings Bay Kull Comp. A/S. 1917-1992. 2003, Schibsted
  • Kjell Aas, Bondefanget 
  • Viggo Bj. Kristiansen , Telenor – mellom satellitter og fangststasjoner på Svalbard, 2005, Telemuseet.
  • Trygve Mathisen, 1951, Svalbard i internasjonal politikk 1871-1925, Aschehoug
  • Egil Reimers
  • Telemuseets arkiv.
  • Fylkesarkivet i Tromsø
  • Statistisk Sentralbyrå
  • www.polarhistorie.no

Technical equipment

The Norwegian Telecom Museum has reinstated the technical equipment once used at the telegraph station.

1. Line amplifier presumed produced by the main workshop of the Telegrafverket. It would amplify the signal (speech) from the line to a scrambler unit and then to the transmitter and vice versa; meaning the signal from the receiver and scrambler unit back to the line.

2. Lorentz long-wave receiver -72-1525 kHz – from World War II. It is likely to have been used for morse-communication on medium-wave – listening duty 500 kHz and traffic on frequencies between 410 and 516 kHz.

3. Wheatstone perforator from the Great Nordic Telegraph Company, Copenhagen for morse registration using perforated paper tape. The telegrams were “punched” on to tape and sent using Wheatstone automatic telegraph transmitter for morse.

4. Wheatstone maskinsender for morse. Maskinsenderen leste hullbåndet fra perforatoren og nøklet senderen med morsetegnene med hastighet opp til 300 tegn i minuttet. Fra Great Nordic Telegraphcompany, København.

5. Triumph typewriter for transcribing telegrams from morse-code on paper tape from 9. A guide track for the paper tape over the keyboard is missing.

6. Siemens Communications receiver from the middle of the 1950ies. Covers all potential frequencies from extreme long-wave to short-wave – 14kHz to 30.3MHz – and could be used for both morse-telegraphy and telephony.
Assumed to mainly have been used as a telephony receiver in Ny Aalesund, but might also have been used as a broadcasting receiver.

7. Telefunken loud-speaker, presumed used for listening duty and possibly also reception of morse-signals. In a radio-room where the radio-operator would normally be alone and at least alone in being able to read morse-code on the ear, headphones would not be used unless the signals were weak. This object is a replica.

Neste side

Forrige side

8. Lorentz short wave receiver – 980kHz – 10.2 MHz – from World War II. It is presumed to have been used as a listening duty receiver for medium wave telephony – 2182 kHz. The Lorentz-receivers were particularly good receivers for their time and were used by all coastal radio- and air safety- stations after the war. Radio-operators returning from WWII, fighting on the allied side, reported that these receivers were far superior to their British and American counterparts of the same era.

9. Morse transcriber-“snake writing” from US Army Signal Corp, i.e. from WWII. Similar apparatus were in the fifties produced by Telegrafverket’s main workshop mainly for use by the Radio-central in Oslo.
The transcriber could receive morse with up to 300 signs per minute and printed the signals out as one continuous line with short and long blips to signify, respectively, dots and lines. From this comes the expression “snake writing.”
It was the traffic of telegrams to and from Svalbard that was conducted in this manner. The use of such a morse transcriber and an automatic morse transmitter (4) enhanced the efficiency of the communications, as direct ear-reception and manual transmission of morse rarely would exceed 100 to 125 sign per minute. With the morse transcriber it was also possible to receive a telegram without the radio-operator being present.

10. EB radio-transmitter type 13-SS-300. The transmitter was a regular ship’s radio transmitter that entered the market in approximately 1955, but was also used by the coastal radio stations. It could be used for medium wave telegraphy (MF) – 410 – 516 kHz, medium wave telephony (MF) – 1.6 to 3.2 MHz and short wave telegraphy and telephony (HF) 4 to 22 MHz.
Ny Aalesund received it in 1957 and it is assumed to have been used mainly for telephony with Svalbard Radio.
There is also reason to believe that Ny-Aalesund up to 1963-64 in addition had the two Lorentz-transmitters shown on the photograph of the station taken by Olav Eggen in 1953 as telegraphy transmitters on 500 kHz and 454kHz. It was probably one of these the doctor managed to bring to life when the radio operator died due to the accidental gun-shot. (454 kHz is the working frequency, i.e. the frequency the telegrams would have been transmitted on.)

Neste side

Forrige side

11. Line changer from Elektrisk Bureau commonly used in ship’s radio stations. Radio telephone calls could with the help of this be set to subscriber – internal (telephone in public service room), subscriber - out (presumably the Head of Operations, Kings Bay) or Radio (telephone in the radio room). When pushing the button “subscriber” you would call the chosen telephone.

12. Standard telephone – modified EB model 1953 – for use in the radio room (radio station) for which one could have two alternative receivers connected. A ship’s radio station would always have at least two receivers in order to have alternatives in case one of them was out of use or being serviced. The same is likely to have been the case in Ny-Aalesund.

13. Speech scrambler unit, mainly used for radio telephone calls on medium wave also called the “fisheries wave”, so that the communications could not be overheard on a normal broadcasting receiver.

14. Listening duty – All coastal radio stations had personnel on listening duty during opening hours. Most had a 24 hour duty, but not all. On Svalbard only Isfjord Radio operated with listening duty at all hours. This meant that they would have one receiver tuned to 500 kHz and one to 2182 kHz which were the emergency and calling frequencies for, respectively medium wave telegraphy and medium wave telephony. (In the 1960ies came also the use of VHF channel 16). This object is a replica.

15. Morse key

Historical images