Brochure Grimeton

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grimeton radio station A wolrd heritage site with global reach Lars G. Johansson former Managing Director Grimeton World Heritage Site Foundation Camilla Lugnet…
grimeton radio station A wolrd heritage site with global reach Lars G. Johansson former Managing Director Grimeton World Heritage Site Foundation Camilla Lugnet Managing Director Grimeton World Heritage Site Foundation © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station Grimeton.indd 1 07/02/19 11:21 The Grimeton Radio Station World Heritage site on the west coast of Sweden is situated in a small community with the English- sounding name of Grimeton. The property is a nationally-listed building and one of the fifteen World Heritage sites in the country. There are few World Heritage sites from the 20th century, and Grimeton alone represents our telecommunications heritage. Why has a relatively modern industrial site been assessed as sufficiently important to be listed with Machu Picchu, Skara Brae, the Egyptian Pyramids and the Great Wall of China? The answer to this question is threefold. The first factor concerns the realization by a few 19th-century engineers in the newly emerging field of electronics that electricity could produce frequencies, i.e. invisible waves that could be utilized in transmitting information, at least over short distances. Guglielmo Marconi from Italy was a prominent figure in this research and conducted his first experiments with wireless transmission in the late 1800s. Leading mathematicians considered radio signals to be linear, and therefore thought they would vanish into space at the horizon, due to the curvature of the Earth. But Marconi had deducted this was not the case. All he needed to demonstrate the viability of his theory was an appropriate location as far west as possible with open sea towards North America. Grimeton.indd 2 07/02/19 11:21 © Adam © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station Grimeton.indd 3 07/02/19 11:21 © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station Grimeton.indd 4 07/02/19 11:21 Marconi’s experiment At England’s westernmost point in Poldhu at Land’s End, he constructed a station for ‘the grand experiment’, wireless transmission over the Atlantic. But there was a snag: the Eastern Telegraph Company had already established a facility in nearby Porthcurno in 1876. The company’s founder, Sir John Pender, was involved in an enormous project with undersea cables between Europe and other parts of the British Empire. A functioning Atlantic cable had been laid in 1866 and Sir John anticipated major profits in continuing with the cable project. He viewed Marconi, with his experiments with wireless telegraphy, as a deadly competitor. Sir John established a listening station (wireless, of course) close to Poldhu to find out what the Italian was up to, while Marconi did all he could to keep from revealing anything. As it turned out, there never was any real competition. Both technologies are still in use, side by side. And cable traffic, now employing fibre optics, still plays the leading role in transatlantic communications. At 4.00 pm on 12 December 1901, it was time. Marconi and his associates waiting at the wireless station built at St John’s in Newfoundland received the three short beeps of the letter S in Morse code. The grand experiment had succeeded and testing was later repeated both between land- and sea-based stations. The Marconi Wireless Telegraph Company could begin its triumphal worldwide procession. Marconi shared the 1909 Nobel Prize in Physics with German physicist Karl Ferdinand Braun (inventor of the cathode-ray tube, i.e. the television picture tube), who had laid the theoretical foundation for telegraphy. The world was quick to adopt Marconi’s invention and see its potential. Grimeton.indd 5 07/02/19 11:21 Sweden’s crucial link and Sweden was largely isolated during the The quick and significant response to the war years. new, wireless technology was the second North America’s astonishing financial factor. Those in power in Sweden also saw the development, and primarily that of the US, benefits of the technology. The breakthrough had gained increasing influence in the Old came in 1921 when the Swedish Parliament World and made isolation unacceptable. The decided that a ‘large radio station’ would be Parliament therefore allocated nearly five built for wireless, electronic communications million Swedish crowns, corresponding to ten between Sweden and the increasingly million American dollars in today’s currency, important United States. The reason for this for the construction of this large radio station, major investment in new technology was the which would make the country independent obvious vulnerability of the cable network of other countries’ cable networks. as demonstrated during the First World War. That the radio station was built in Grimeton, Sweden was linked to the US via England, and east of Varberg, had both military and to other countries via a cable to Germany. The geographical reasons. At twelve kilometres warring nations had been quick to cut these from the coast, it was believed that the site connections at the beginning of hostilities, was safe from any attacks from the sea, which © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station Grimeton.indd 6 07/02/19 11:21 says something of the military capabilities of was once the pride of the Radio Corporation the time. Perhaps even more important was of America (RCA) and that today is used for that there was largely open sea between recreational activities. the site and New York. It was in New York, at The third factor in this context concerns Rocky Point on Long Island, that the hub of emigration. Over a period of 50 years (1860– the global-spanning network of long-wave 1910) a quarter of the population of Sweden stations was being built by the Swedish- left their homeland, most moving to the US. American inventor Ernst Alexanderson. From Due to the interruption in communications Poland in the east to Hawaii in the west, the from 1914 to 1918 brought on by the war, world was linked together through his 200- even citizens on both sides of the Atlantic had kW long-wave alternator. Today only the begun pushing for modernization. The need Grimeton Radio Station remains, with one for reliable transatlantic communications alternator – all the others have been scrapped. had never been greater. And aside from the At the site of the gigantic hub at Rocky Point, vulnerable Atlantic cable, there had never only a few foundations remain and some been any means of communication faster than parts of overturned radio towers. Nature has the four weeks it took with a letter. These four otherwise reclaimed the expansive area that weeks had been decreased to roughly four © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station Grimeton.indd 7 07/02/19 11:21 © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station seconds with Marconi’s invention. The mobile Station encountered considerable mistrust phone is a rather modest newcomer – and only from the people who lived nearby. It was an extension of Marconi’s idea. Calling the US feared that the ‘radium station’ as it was often today takes as little time as sending a telegram called, would have horrendous consequences in 1925, even if the procedure was naturally a for both people and livestock: cows’ tails would bit more complex back then and the necessary stand straight up in the air due to the electrical equipment was certainly not pocket-size. voltages radiated by the transmissions. With This is what made the station such a the dreaded magnetic force fields around the valuable resource. It was the first opportunity six gigantic antenna towers – at 127 metres, for Swedes and Swedish-Americans to they were Sweden’s highest structures – the communicate quickly. Even though it was station would be constantly enveloped in expensive and complicated as measured by heavy thunderstorms. today’s standards, it enabled, for instance, the In time the station not only gained folks back home to find out when they had just acceptance, it also became one of the district’s become grandparents. largest employers. Chief Engineer Palmqvist, But plans to construct the Grimeton Radio who managed the station for several years, felt Grimeton.indd 8 07/02/19 11:21 © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station it was the district’s sons – the staff was naturally from both near and far. It is this dedication, almost entirely male – who should serve as along with what the station has meant for transmission monitors and perform other duties millions of people, that has given it World at the station instead of loafing about at home. Heritage status. The Alexander society starts up the old transmitter on special occasions. Last survivor For example, on United Nations Day a message Of the former global-spanning network of of peace formulated by schoolchildren is long-wave stations, only Grimeton remains. transmitted. Grimeton transmissions are heard The mechanical transmitter, The Old Lady, looks by enthusiasts from all over the world, and they just as it did at the inauguration in 1925, a little provide feedback using modern means on how worse for wear perhaps after so many years and where the Morse code signals have been of service, but still fully operational. The radio heard, the type of antenna used, the quality enthusiasts who make up the Alexander society of the sound, etc. The reports come from the regularly hold courses in the art of operating entire world: China, the US and South Africa – and maintaining the equipment. Interest in the and naturally from closer quarters in Europe. society’s work is increasing with new members Still in operation, the Grimeton Radio Grimeton.indd 9 07/02/19 11:21 © World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station Station is undeniably living cultural heritage. installations must be implemented. This can The Grimeton World Heritage Foundation has be problematic, as increasing safety measures been managing the site since 2003. Revenue can affect the authenticity of the site. To create from commercial radio operations, along with a safe working and public environment while government funding for maintenance, cover operating an authentic transmitter from the the very high costs of preserving the site’s 1920s requires great knowledge, awareness cultural value as well as keeping the station and engagement from everyone involved. open to the public. The site is worth the effort. During its Today, the most expensive necessity is nearly 90 years of operation, Grimeton Radio preventative maintenance against corrosion Station has probably had more significance on the six antenna towers, whose close for more people than any other cultural proximity to the ocean expose them heavily heritage site. By the transmission of wireless to salty winds. Keeping the old long wave messages, countries have been linked transmitter in operational condition is together and bridges built between people. another major investment: components, Grimeton is literally a World Heritage site for example, often have to be custom made. with global reach. Also, new safety precautions for high voltage Grimeton.indd 10 07/02/19 11:21 3 WHC covers 85.qxp WHC 21/09/2017 13:40 Page1 This article was originally published in the World MODERN HERITAGE Heritage Review No 85, 7,50€ US$9 £6 ¥850 published in october 2017. Sydney Opera House Australia Grimeton Radio Station Sweden World Heritage No. 85 • October 2017 Brasilia Brazil Modern heritage in the Arab world New World Heritage sites ISSN 1020-4202 3 059630 101851 NIO MUN MO D RI T IA PA Publishing For L • NDIAL • WORLD H MO ER IT E AG I N O Development E • PATRIM United Nations World Educational, Scientific and Heritage Cultural Organization Grimeton.indd 11 07/02/19 11:21 Radiostationen 72 SE-432 98 Grimeton Epost: Telefon: (+46) 0340 674190 Grimeton.indd 12 07/02/19 11:21
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