Marconi - 100th Anniversary of First Radio Wave Transmission

            5 September 1995            20c, $1.00, $1.50, $3.00                Mint and CTO        $5.70
                                                                                                           FDC                       $6.20

Technical Details

        Release Date:                5 September 1995
        Tablet Values:               20c, $1.00, $1.50, $3.00
        Artist:                            Nick Shewring
        Printer:                          Cartor SA
        Process:                        Lithography
        Paper:                           CA Watermark
        Stamp Size:                   30.5 x 38 mm
        Perforation Gauge:         13 per 2 cm
        Pane Format:                 50 (2 x 25)
        Mint and CTO:              $5.70
        First Day Cover:            $6.20

We gladly acknowledge the assistance provided by GEC Marconi Exhibitions, Marconi College, Chelmsford Essex; Inmarsat, London; and Mr Graham Ford, Cambridgeshire, in preparation of this issue.

Following his attendance at university Guglielmo Marconi (1874-1934), Italian scientist and inventor, became interested in Hertz' discoveries regarding the possibility of radio wave transmission.  His experiments in 1895, continued in 1896, resulted in the first acknowledged transmission of radio waves.  He submitted his inventions to the British government and in 1897 the Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company was formed.  In 1899 signals were transmitted across the English Channel.  Throughout his working life he continued experimenting and was responsible for a number of developments in his field of endeavour.

There is a degree of uncertainty about some aspects of the introduction of radio communications to Pitcairn Island but the late Andrew Young, fifth generation descendant of Midshipman Edward Young of HMAV Bounty, recorded his involvement thus:

In 1921 [we were] given a card with morse code on it... .  We practised by flashing messages at night down the main road and, as we improved, would sometimes go off to two mountains which were a mile apart to send our messages.  My idea was to stop ships passing at night time to take mail; this we eventually did.

News of our practising got to the Marconi Co.  They sent a small crystal receiver with dry batteries which none of us knew how to connect up.  [This was, in fact, a Marconi crystal receiver, Type 31 A, sent to the island in 1922.]  Lincoln Clark tried and he thought the earth connection would have to go out to sea.  Everything was set up to listen, but we heard nothing.  After a long trial and hearing nothing, Captain Cameron on the Remuera sent his chief operator ashore to see if he could find the trouble.  He went into the radio shack and asked me where my earth connection was.  I said it lead to the sea.  He laughed and said to cut it off and bury it under the building.

After doing this, we began to pick up signals.  I continued listening and practising on a small buzzer.  After a long time of trying to pick up ships' messages the great big surprise came - I heard a ship.  If I got the message right the Corinthic was arriving at 7am the following morning.  My friend rushed out of the radio shack calling "Sail Ho!"  When the people heard the message they began picking fruit.  Oh my heart was pit a patting whether it was the right message and I couldn't sleep that night.  Was I glad when the ship appeared on the horizon at 7am.  And when I went on board and told the radio operator about it he was as pleased as me to know that his was the first message to be received on Pitcairn Island.

In 1928 a visiting radio enthusiast built a small coil transmitter with which he succeeded in contacting vessels 150 miles away.  Andrew recounts,  This radio helped me a lot in reading up to ten words a minute.  One operator [from a visiting ship] told me my transmitter signals sounded like a monkey on a drum.  I told him I don't care how it sounded as long as it was received.   Those fortunate enough to have known Andrew can well imagine how this story would have been recounted with a hearty chuckle and a twinkle in his eye.

The four stamps in this issue feature Marconi, Pitcairn radio circa 1930, the island's present satellite earth station and Inmarsat's satellite in orbit.