Cape Cod - Chatham
WA1WCC is operated by the WCC Amateur Radio Association in Chatham, Massachusetts, on Cape Cod.
Chatham is the site of Marconi's second station on Cape Cod. The first was the famous South Wellfleet station "CC", which began operation in 1903 and served during the early years of the century. As technology advanced and erosion threatened the South Wellfleet location, Marconi arranged to build a new station on the shores of Ryder's Cove in Chatham, with construction beginning in 1914.
A number of brick structures were erected to house the station and operating personnel. One building served as office and operations center. A hotel provided bachelors quarters, and several cottages were designated for men with families. A power station provided the needed A.C. and D.C. power for the station. Six towers approximately 400’ tall stretching about one mile were built for the antenna and dominated the skyline for miles around. Chatham was one of a series of stations Marconi built for transatlantic communication as competition for the undersea cables that were expensive and difficult to maintain.
Chatham Antennas ca. 1919.
The Operations Center is the building just below the masts.
The new facility was at first used as a receiving station in a duplex Circuit with its counterpart on the south coast of Norway. Chatham’s transmitter (a rotary gap 150 kW transmitter) was located in Marion. Today it is unclear if this Circuit ever saw commercial use because in 1917 at the time of World War I, the Navy took over both the Wellfleet and Chatham stations (as well as all of Marconi’s high powered stations). Chatham became a listening station and was used as a backup to the Belmar station. After the war, foreign ownership of strategic facilities was deemed contrary to the national interest, and RCA was formed to take over Marconi's holdings in the US.
Marconi's Wellfleet station had initially used callsign "CC" (Cape Cod), then later "MCC" (Marconi Cape Cod), and finally "WCC" (conforming with international prefix assignments). "Old CC" did not reopen after the war and was dismantled by the Navy in 1919.
In contrast, the Chatham station evolved and flourished, preserving the "WCC" callsign. RCA consolidated all transatlantic communication facilities at Rocky Point on Long Island and converted Chatham to a Marine station in 1921.
Chatham Antennas, ca. 1922.
Chatham soon became a model for other shore stations that were built on both coasts. In the Chatham facility, under RCA ownership, WCC went on to become the premier ship-to-shore station on the east coast for most of the 20th century. During World War II, the Navy again occupied WCC, with a staff of over 200 Navy personnel. After the war it returned to commercial use and saw thousands of messages a day, serving passengers at sea with ‘RCAgrams’ and freighters arranging their shore operations. Ultimately, newer technology began to replace traditional ship-to-shore communication, and the station was phased out, closing for good in the '90s.
Today, the buildings at the WCC site remain intact and they appear much as they did when they were first built by Marconi. WA1WCC operates from the original Marconi operations center building, under the auspices of the Chatham Marconi Maritime Center. The CMMC is a non-profit organization working to preserve the history of Marconi in Chatham.
The Chatham site as it appears today.
The Operations Center is at the lower left.
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