Pachena VAD

   Location selected by Cecil Doutre during his 1906 inspection trip. Pachena was manned and doing tests in December of 1907 but for some reason had difficulty communicating with Victoria, but by the following February it was sorted out and Pachena was commissioned.  Transmitter was, as all the stations were, the Shoemaker equipment, instead of Marconi. The station was shut down in October 1920 due to it being redundant. The station operators were sent to Estevan Point, it being deemed the more important station. Station equipment was left on site.

   In 1923 the station was re-established as a radio direction finding station. Two large loop antennas and a specialized D.F.receiver was installed. Pachena could now offer radio bearings from Pachena to a vessel at sea requesting such information. Pachena had a published range of 400 miles.  Coast station services were curtailed--no ship-shore message handling.
    Apparently there were 19 American direction finding stations between Seattle, Washington and San Diego, California.  Canada had only Pachena on this coast.  On Canada's east coast there were Cape Race, Canso, Chebucto Head and Red Head (New Brunswick).
   At that time there were two types of direction finding systems, both used similar receiving equipment and the only difference being in the antennae used. The Bellini-Tosi system used a loop system for the receiving antenna while the Adcock system was in the form of a square, with a vertical antenna in each corner. Pachena used the Bellini-Tosi type, consisting of two 500 foot diameter loops of wire at right angles to each other. One loop was oriented east-west while the second was aligned north-south. Whether the alignment was True or Magnetic is presently unknown. The second system used four vertical antenna masts in the form of a square.

    Operator Friker, at Pachena for two and a half years after the D.F. was installed remembers that they had absolute confidence in their ability to provide a bearing to within 1/4 of a degree. Friker reports he could receive ships right across the Pacific and give accurate bearings to vessels two to three days out.
   In the banner photo, the DF receiver shack is in the small building at thephoto's center. The receiver loops have been emphasized for clarity. I'd assume the DF shack would be occupied by an operator only when an occasional vessel requested a bearing.

   The station had pretty good reach, as this May 1910 clip from the Daily Colonist shows: "The Makura is the only steamer of the Canadian-Australian line equipped with wireless telegraphic apparatus and enroute to Australia operator M.A. Mulrony did some excellent work. He kept in touch with land until arrival, communicating with Pachena station at a distance of 2,276 miles, a record for this part of the world."   [A note to the technical people--think about that, all the Pachena operator had was a crystal set receiver and tuner!  The whole receiving apparatus ran off what ever current was induced into the antenna from the transmitter on the Makura.]

If you have Google Earth on your computer, click
here to see Pachena's location.

Some Pachena photos in chronological order are here.
1906   Site selection by Doutre.
1907   Construction and installation of the station. Main equipment was a Fairbanks-Morse 3 Horse Power gasoline engine, driving a 1,000 Watt alternating current generator. The transmitter was the Shoemaker type, with the open core transformer, tubular glass condensers, fixed spark gap with a helix inductance coil for resonating.  A crystal detector radio receiver rounded out the installation.  (A. Lawton notes station was on the air testing November 25th.)
  Newspaper reports the original five stations will be open for commercial traffic on December 15th. Unfortunately the Colonist paper reports for the past month (Dec 07) Pachena is unable to communicate with Gonzales (Victoria) but never-the-less can work vessels off California. By December 29 the lads had the bugs out and Pachena was now working Victoria.
1908 In February the station is commissioned with L. H. Bradbury as Officer in Charge. Colonist mentions Bradbury on station in November. In April a prefab house is shipped in along with a party of carpenters to erect the building. Bradbury moves over to the Estevan Station and Pachena closes down due to a shortage of operators. Call sign KPD.
   Interestingly, the lighthouse was not yet established. In April the glass lantern assembly was delivered by the 'Quadra', along with material for a five room house for the wireless operators.
1909 Duplex house is constructed. August newspaper report 2 kWatt transmitter being installed soon.
1910 Station is reopened in January. A. Buchanan is OIC at $85 per month. Colin Kennedy is the other wireless operator.
1911 Census of 1911 has Colin Kennedy as Officer in Charge. He leaves for California later in the year. Twenty four hour coverage is now provided by three operators.
1913   Call sign changed to VAD from KPD in accordance with the Berlin Conference.
   HMS New Zealand was making a tour ofall the Dominions at this time and a copy of a message, taken from the Colonist paper, is available here.

1916  Cpl. A. Walker is in charge of the 50th Gordon Highlander guard stationed at Pachena during World War 1.
Radio Beacon installed.
1920 November Colonist reports station "has been closed."  The closure was brought about by the station becoming redundant as Estevan and Gonzales/Victoria overlapped Pachena's coverage area. Station buildings and equipment were mothballed and left on station.
1921  In July the lightkeeper's residence burns down.  He moves his family into the unused wireless station house. 
   In September the DF station at Tatoosh, NW tip of the Olympic Peninsula is commissioned.  All communication and bearings will be done on 800 meters (375 kHz).
1923 Station is reopened in September as a Direction Finding Station providing bearings on an 800 meter (375 kHz) wavelength. Average of 300 bearings a month are being made, according to Eddie Haughton, the B.C. Superintendent. Steamer "Hawaii Maru" very grateful Pachena DF was there to help.  News item in April mentions the DF station at Tatoosh (N.W. tip of Washington State) is operational but is having difficulty finding trained staff.
1924   H.M.C.S. Armentieres spent two weeks in September between Carmanah and Cape Beale working up the efficiency of the station's direction finder staff.
1927 Hector Corriveau arrives from Bull Harbor as the new officer in charge.  Hector brought with him his experience operating at the Cape Race and Canso DF stations in Nova Scotia.
1929  Station monitors 500 kHz (600 Meters) with a working frequency of 390 kHz (769 Meters).  Direction finding is done on 375 kHz (800 Meters).
1929-30 Annual Report:  A type G-3 D.F. receiver was installed and station was recalibrated. The battery room was enlarged and the interior of the old D.F. building lined with V joint.  New stays were placed on the mast and two jury masts renewed.

    Station is equipped with two transmitters, two receivers, a radio telephone, a landline telephone to Bamfield and a telegraph line. Station has four operators and is operational 24 hoursa day. (E. Haughton 1929/11/07)

1930 Officer in Charge Corriveau passes away in Vancouver from injuries sustained from a cliff fall in the Pachena area.
1933 Syd Jones transfers in as the station's Officer In Charge.
1936 Radiophone frequency in 545 kHz
Modulated CW frequencies on 375, 390, 500 kHz
1946 O.I.C. M.J. King with operators J.H. Macdonald, C. Blacklock and B. Stuart.
1951   OIC Art Healey with operators Charles Blacklock, Phillip Comeau and Keith Bersea.  Art's wife, Betty, wrote a brief account of station life.
1958 Wireless station closes. Coverage in the area is easily provided by the Tofino or Victoria stations. Most of the staff transfers to the newly relocated Estevan radio station at the Tofino airport.

Back