Naval History and Heritage Command

Naval History and Heritage Command

The Point Loma station is a receiving and control station located at Point Loma California. Four (4) receiving antennae operated in conjunction with three (3) receiving sets. The range of damped wave receiving set was from 200 to 30, 000 meters. CMDR R. C. Gearing and George E. Hanscom of the Mare Island Navy Yard selected the site in 1905. The birth of "Navy Radio San Diego" occurred on May 12, 1906. The occasion was the commissioning of a ''Massie" type spark transmitter in a neat little yellow cottage atop Point Loma by Robert B. Stuart, then a Chief Petty Officer in the U. S. Navy and a specialist in wireless installations. The equipment was received and loaded into a horse-drawn wagon at the Santa Fe wharf in San Diego. Nine hours later, it reached the Point Loma site. In those early days, Point Loma was often isolated from San Diego when rain made the roads impassable.

 

The installation of the transmitter was completed not long afterwards at nine o’clock in the evening and a naval precedent established when enlisted men commissioned the station. It was planned that the Point Loma station would serve as a relay link in the Mare Island - Farallon Islands - Point Arguello - San Diego circuit. However, on the evening that the installation was completed, Chief Stuart gave Mare Island, about 500 air miles distant, a hesitant call and was astounded by an immediate answer. This contact set a new record for Navy wireless communication over land. The previous record had been 110 miles.

 

The first petty officer in charge was R. W. Moore, Electrician 2nd Class. Of course, at that time there were no radiomen. It was customary to take telegraph operators and instruct them in electrical fundamentals or to take Navy electricians and train them as operators. The early operator was necessarily self-sufficient. He had no technicians to fall back on and had to know his installation from A to Z. No excuses were accepted for not keeping his station on the air. This doctrine developed a group of sailor communication experts whose pride in service was the highest.

 

In 1908, Chief Electrician A. R. Rice installed a new electron tube type detector at Point Loma. This was a three-element “audion” vacuum tube invented by Dr. Lee DeForest. It was a vast improvement over the frail, easily disturbed crystal detector and the insensitive, magnetic-filings coherer then commonly used. Quite a few years were to pass before the crystal type detector was completely replaced by the lusty infant that eventually became the most important component leading to the development of our modern electronic age.

 

In 1908, Navy Radio Point Loma established communication with the USS CONNECTICUT while the ship was enroute from Hawaii to New Zealand using the ''Massie" type spark transmitter, at a distance of 2,900 miles, another new record for the young station.

 

BELOW IS A SMALL SELECTION OF THE IMAGES IN THE POINT LOMA (SAN DIEGO) COLLECTION.