Australia - International - AWA.
Coastal Wireless Stations - Melbourne.

Call sign: VIM  
Opened: 8 February 1912. Closed: 1931.
Location: In the Domain on the hill in Domain Road.
Transferred to: Ballan (Transmitting Centre) and to Rockbank (Receiving Centre) - in 1926.

At the official opening on 8 February 1912 by the Governor-General (Lord Denman), the following message was sent to Admiral King-Hall at Hobart:

"I am glad to send you first message to be transmitted from the Commonwealth wireless station at Melbourne. I trust that this new means of communication may prove to the material advantage of the naval forces of the Crown and emphasise the cordial cooperation between the Commonwealth Government and the Admiralty".

Another message was sent by the Governor-General to the Governor of Tasmania (Sir Harry Baron). It was not known whether the messages reached Tasmania because, even if H.M.S. Drake did receive the signals, the low power of her plant would not enable her to answer them. Replies were expected to be transmitted by cable.

The station was opened to the public on the following Monday (11th). The Adelaide Advertiser reported on 13 February that:

"Either the public has not got used to the luxury of having a wireless station at its service or nobody wished to communicate with a vessel off the Victorian coast yesterday. The first day on which the Federal wireless system was open for public business passed without the receipt of a single paid message for transmission. Possibly the care with which the Postmaster-General has dodged the question of how the messages dispatched on Friday afternoon failed to reach Hobart - a distance well within the advertised distance of 500 miles radius of the station - has led to a desire among intending users that the power of the station shall be proved before they put their money on it".

On 4 March 1912, Mr. Balsillie reported to the Postmaster-General that the station was "working very well" and that the furthest communication for a paid message had been with Macquarie Island (about 1,000 miles away). It was possible to communicate up to 1,500 miles. To ships however, the maximum distance was only about 350 miles because of the limited power of most ship installations.

Charges were 6d per word for land messages and 3d per word for messages to ships with a minimum charge of 8/4. Even within the first month of operation, it was expected that charges would be reduced. Receipts for the first 12 months of operation totalled £605/15/9. This amount was made up of £256/17/8 for coast station charges on transmitted business and coast station charges on received business of £ 348/18/1.

It was equipped with a 2.5 kW quenched spark gap transmitter operating on the frequency of 500 kHz, and fed into a vertical antenna about 50 metres high.

 In August 1926, the VIM transmitter was transferred from the Domain to the 180-acre AWA site at Ballan, 50 km west of Melbourne, because of interference problems. The receiving equipment remained at the Domain, and the transmitter at Ballan was remotely keyed. That site was managed by AWA for the shortwave Beam Wireless service.

In 1966, the Ballan Beam Wireless station closed down, and VIM operations were transferred to a new station at Cape Schanck from where it provided safety services for Bass Strait and Tasmanian coastal waters until its closure on 30th June 2002 along with all the other Australian coast radio stations.

The Cape was chosen because it was 'electrically quiet', that is it was well away from the overwhelming electrical 'noise' that has developed in the city. The Cape Schanck Facility occupied over 100 hectares. Most of it was open paddock where the large antennas were located. The buildings occupied a very small part of the site, which incidentally was kept in 'you could eat off the floor' condition.

The last official Morse code communication in Australia was conducted between Melbourne Radio and the Station in Canberra on 1 February, 1999 and then the Morse Telegraphy service closed after 87 years.