Victoria radio's operating position in the 1930's. Change from spark and crystal to vacuum tube equipment complete.
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 the 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 map of Victoria. The larger black square is an observatory and over the years has served as both astronomical and meteorological functions.
1906 Cecil Doutre, Dominion Superintendent of Wireless Stations for
the Department of Marine and Fisheries, and Eddie Hughes, Project Engineer, sail on the Marine
& Fisheries Vessel 'Quadra'. They make site selections for the new chain of wireless
stations along the British Columbia west coast. Gonzales Hill in Victoria was one of the
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
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.
1908 Station is fully operational in January.
1909 2 kWatt spark transmitter installation started on October 7th.
1910 Walter Howard is assistant operator.
1911 January Colonist reports a more powerful transmitter will be installed later in the month. New 180 foot 8 ton mast installed. Two more acres purchased to provide extra antenna space. Total area now three acres.
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. (Victoria Heritage Foundation image.)
1922 Andy Gray's son remembers the 500 watt tube transmitters
being installed about this time.
About this time 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.
1923 Station operation is improved with the installation of 8 kWatt four valve continuous wave transmitter equipment. The age of the spark transmitter is coming to a close.
1929 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 in the operating house and half the roof was re shingled. A new hand rail and landing was built at the dwelling and the roof and trimmings painted.
1933 1600 Watt transmitter being installed in April.
1936 Modulated CW frequencies 405 & 500 kHz
1939 A November news item reports 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 the Gordon Head area was then a farming area. A six room house is
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. Also new operator dwelling constructed.
1967 Station moves from Gordon Head area of Victoria 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.
In the early 1990's the station moved out to Patricia Bay (Ocean Science Complex). During the move VAK shed its MF and HF frequencies. Station is maritime mobile VHF only now and operates as a marine traffic and communications station.