The Last Day of BBC World Service Transmissions in Orford Ness

Three years ago, precisely on 25 March 2011 I was in Orford Ness, a shingle spit on the Suffolk coast that the National Trust turned into a natural reserve. But before being valued as a nature conservation site, Orford Ness was owned by the Ministry of Defence. Important research for the development of radar technology was conducted there, and during the cold war many components of atomic bombs were tested in the special buildings that are still visible on the site. Access is restricted in part to preserve this unique bird habitat, and in part because the spit is still full of unexploded bombs dropped during years of testing.

One of the landmarks in Orford Ness is the Cobra Mist radar station, a long-range surveillance site pointed towards Eastern Europe. Closed in 1973, it became home to the AM transmitters of the BBC World Service. When I visited the station I learned that it was just hours away from being shut off, due to public funding cuts. I made some recordings of the huge transmitters, some old AEG models from the 1980s and more recent ones, with their cooling fans. I also walked with the recorder next to a line of racks with the monitors of the different programs being aired. Only a few days ago I realised that the anniversary of the end of the transmissions was getting close and I realised this composition. Recorded with Sony PCM-D50, some with internal microphones and some with Pearl MSH-10 in Sound Devices MixPre.

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