Victoria VAK

  This station was one of the original five stations and was operational in December 1907.  Gonzales Hill is located in an eastern suburb of Victoria, British Columbia, overlooking the Straight of Juan De Fuca.  In the early days the site was referred to as Shotbolt's Hill instead. Shotbolt was a Victoria pharmacist and had his house on the north west slope of the hill.
   The original location was to be on Clover Point in Victoria, a small thumb of land sticking out into the ocean below Beacon Hill. Conventional wisdom at thetime figured radio waves somewhat like light waves, thus the higher the better and thus the selection of Shotbolt's Hill.
   This wireless station was by no means the first established in the Victoria area. The USA based Pacific Wireless Company had erected three stations. One in Mt. Douglas (although I've heard it was on Smith's Hill) just north east of Victoria, another at Port Townsend, Washington State, and the third at Friday Harbour, Washington State. This Victoria station was shuttered within a year or two of Gonzales being commissioned.

Google Earth location
here.
   Station is centered on this fragment of a 1936 Victoria map. The larger black square is an observatory and over the years has served as both astronomical and meteorological functions.
1906    Cecil Doutre, DominionSuperintendent of Wireless Stations for the Department ofMarine and Fisheries, and Eddie Hughes, Project Engineer,sail on the Marine & Fisheries Vessel 'Quadra'.They make site selections for the new chain of wirelessstations along the British Columbia west coast. GonzalesHill in Victoria was one of the selected sites.
   Some station chronological photos are on this page.

1907    July 27 edition of the Daily Colonist reports: "John Taylor has a similar contract for the building of the station on Shotbolt's hill in this city.  " $2,000 was paid for lot 14, an acre of land on Shotbolt's Hill. Construction and installation of the station began almost immediately. 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 the inductance coil helix. A crystal detector radio receiver rounded out the installation. 150 foot wooden mast supported the antenna. The single floor building consisted of three rooms, far end held the 6 HP gasoline 110 volt generating plant, the middle room held the actual wireless transmitter, while the operations area occupied the remaining room."

   Late in the year (Oct 22 ref A.Lawton) the station opens with Eddie Haugton as station manager.  Call sign VSD. Newspaper notes station is exchanging test messages with Point Grey on November 20, 1907. The November 24 Colonist paper reports the five original stations will be open for business on December 15,1907. Station doing tests in November and December of 1907.
    British Columbia Telephone bill was $6.00 monthly.
1908    Stationis fully operational in January.
1909  2 kWatt spark transmitter installation started on October 7th.
1910  Walter Howard is assistant operator.

1911 January Colonist newspaper reports a more powerful transmitter will be installed later in the month. New 180 foot 8 ton mast installed during the spring. Two more acres purchased to provide extra antenna space. Total area now three acres.
Operator Whiteside arrives. With the staffing increased to three operators, 24 hour coverage is now avaialbe at this important station.
1912 October newspaper reports the new Marconi 2kW apparatus is working well.
1913 Call sign changed from VSD to VAK in accordance with the Berlin Conference. Newspaper reports three land-lines connected to the station: G.N.W., C.P.R. and Dominion Government lines.

1915    Image shows the Gonzales station's antennas up on the hill.  Typical huge antenna system was repeated at all the stations. (Victoria Heritage Foundation image.)
1921   In June Point Grey and Victoria wireless stations were in communication with the High River air station in Alberta.  This was the first time any Canadian station had put a signal over the mountains.

1922
   Andy Gray's son remembers the 500 watt tube transmitters being installed to replace the 7.5 kW spark sets about this time (Andy was an early operator.)
   Commercial broadcast stations were becoming popular and the local listeners were up in arms over Gonzales' spark transmitter's Morse interfering with their listening pleasure. Thus the December 20th Daily Colonist reports Gonzales now does not transmit, except for emergency traffic, between the hours of 7 and 10 PM.
1929-30 Annual Report  A successful break-in relay was developed and installed on the C.W. transmitter. (Before this point the station receiver was disabled during transmission. Now the receiver would be active during key up, allowing the far station to 'break-in" and get the transmitting station's attention--i.e. get an immediate repeat of a word. A mechanical remote control wave changing device was installed which enables the operator to change wavelength from his chair. A screen grid valve was incorporated in the type 707 receiver.
A new front verandah and front steps were built on the operating house and half the roof was re-shingled. A new hand rail and landing was built at the dwelling and roof re-shingled and trim painted.
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1933 In April George Gilbert is busy installing the 1600 Watt transmitter.

1936 Modulated CW frequencies 405 & 500 kHz

1939 A November news item reports early planning to move from Gonzales Hill, Victoria out to a 10 acre plot in Gordon Head, Saanich, some 15 km northward. Gonzales area was getting built up and man made interference was degrading reception. Gordon Head area was then a rural area with little interference. A six room house is also included in the plans.
New CW transmitters include 2 kW and 1 kW. 200 Watt 3 channel crystal controlled CW/Phone short wave transmitter. Two steel self supporting towers are being erected.  Vancouver Sun paper for November has a request for tenders to "erect a new wireless station"

1967 Station moves from Gordon Head to Sooke, approximately 40 km to the west. Moving was again necessitated by the expansion of Victoria's residential areas out into Gordon Head. Sooke's transmitter site was further west at Sheringham Point lightstation. 430kHz & 500kHz, VHF 16 & 26 1630/2182/2340 and a couple of 2mHz tug and fish boat frequencies. There was also a VHF lighthouse circuit.

1992  Station is closed at the end of March and operation is consolidated with the Marine Traffic and Communications Station at Patricia Bay (next to the Victoria Airport YYJ). During the move MF and HF frequencies are decommissioned.