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Resurrection of Columbia Island
History of Columbia Island
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Built in 1941, Columbia Island was created at a cost of $500,000.00 by Columbia Broadcasting Systems, CBS. Literally, a manmade island, Columbia Island was created and became the home of WABC for some 25 years. A 420’- 50KW radio tower was erected and radio broadcasting was born. Around 1966 a private pilot on approach to LaGuardia Airport flew into the tower knocking it down, the end of the tower and the demise of the facility. Abandoned, the fate of the island remained in limbo. Eventually being sold and then donated to a College in New Rochelle New York, then given to the caretaker, ultimately to be sold again in 2007 to Al Sutton, the resurrection of Columbia Island had began.

Columbia Island consists of a Sea Wall constructed on bedrock.180’ square. The structure built upon this is all brick, 75’ square, and will become a part time residence for its new owner. To accomplish this, all amenities will have to be provided to establish this residence. The local power company will not reconnect this facility to its grid, as it would not be cost effective. The existing fresh water well contaminated with sea water is no longer usable and the cost to drill a new well to 1000’ is too risky to justify the endeavor. Without power, heat cannot be provided and the original 5000 gallon fuel tank has been unused for approximately 50 years. There in lies the quandary, how to cost effectively bring this facility back to life. The directive from the owner “build me an off the grid totally Green facility”

The obvious decision was to first Power her up. With power, everything necessary to provide an inhabitable environment can be accomplished. This in itself presents additional challenges. To supply enough energy for the 100KW demand, the cost of fuel, coupled with the cost of maintaining the generators, makes the cost of power enormous. Fortunately there are alternatives.

The obvious solution is economical power generation and the storage of this energy. utilizing the most advanced technologies. We will be erecting a 14KW solar field on the roof Energy storage will be via a 5600 amp hr. 48V Rolls battery bank, the conversion of this energy to AC power will be 6 - 6000 Watt Inverter chargers. Wind is in consideration and will be incorporated once the residence is operational.

Two 45KW Marine Generators to supplement the solar as needed will be installed.. These Generators will be Yanmar powered. Fuel will be stored in double walled fuel storage containers in the basement and internal leak detectors will monitor the condition of the poly tanks within the galvanized steel outer shells.

Heating and domestic hot water will be provided by three Slant Fin Boilers. A non toxic antifreeze solution will be circulated in the heating system. Slant Fin baseboard will provide heat to the various areas within the residence; each zone will have its own Danfoss mechanical thermostatic control valves, eliminating electrical thermostatic controls.

Water will be provided through A Village Marine 1200 GPD U.S.C.G. approved Reverse Osmosis Sea Water Desalinator converting sea water into potable water, storage will be in black poly containers, (black) to prevent algae growth and UV Sterilization of the water delivered to the residence.

The residence is 2’ below the water table. The basement is completely sealed from Long Island Sound by its sea wall and the space between the sea wall and the basement wall is 40’ thick. To prevent seawater from entering the basement thru the ground floor of the residence, waterproof marine bulkhead doors will be installed and within the residence, the stairwell to the basement will be sealed with watertight doors. The Machinery rooms will also have Marine waterproof bulkhead doors to protect the fuel room, the generators, the batteries, invertors, and the furnaces. The floor of the residence will be sealed, and all pipes etc will be sealed where they pass through the floor. There is a large sump to extract any water from the basement should any seepage occur. Within the sump are two automatic 10,000gph sump pumps.

The door openings into the residence will be sealed by the installation of U.S.C.G. approved marine waterproof doors and the windows will be 140 mph hurricane proof safety glass and thermo panes for energy efficiency. When unoccupied all the windows and doors will be fitted with Roll Down Shutters to protect the residence from the environment and pirates.
An approved microbiological sanitation system will be installed to handle the Black and Grey water, produced by the residence, protecting the marine environment.

Fire protection will be provided by an automatic fine misting sprinkler system, the same type as used on Cruise Ships. The fresh water supply for the residence and the sprinkler system will be via a Village Marine Reverse Osmoses capable of producing 1200 GPD and will be stored in polyethylene water tanks in the basement.

The entire facility will be controllable and monitored remotely by Computer. Access will be given voluntarily to the New Rochelle Police and Fire Departments.

Columbia Island is operational at this time.


Radio "Island" Comes to Life
WABC's New Transmitter Is Called an Engineering Dream
Built on a Man-Made Rock in Long Island Sound
This article appeared in the New York Times on Oct. 12, 1941.

Fifteen miles northeast of Manhattan a tiny island of steel, concrete, copper and glass has grown out of the waves of Long Island Sound. From the midst of this man-made pile of metal and masonry a 410-foot steel tower projects upward. Adorning the top is a steel "hat" 85 feet square, wider by 10 feet than the base from which the tower sprouts. Crowning the hat like a wispy feather is a device resembling the antenna of a huge insect.

Ships that pass up and down Long Island Sound on clear days sight the tower many miles away, farther at night, because of the winking lamps around the brim.

Next Saturday, shortly after 10 P. M., at the touch of a button--"Columbia Island," as it is now called--will spring into ethereal activity for the first time as the new key station of the Columbia Broadcasting System--the newest, perhaps the most revolutionary, broadcasting unit ever devised.

Salt water is supposed to be the ideal "earth" medium over which to project radio waves. Columbia Island, new home of WABC, is surrounded with it. Large steamers may sail within a few feet of the strange-looking new outfit; made so, chiefly, because of a monstrous vertical lattice aerial. Except for this tower, which might pass for the fighting top of a battleship, the balance resembles a swanky, streamlined yacht club with business-like pier and boarding float. Even the concrete abutment on which the building and mast rest is streamlined--curved outward like a clipper's bow to toss high waves back upon themselves.

Everything about the station has been calculated to a nicety, even to the right-angled kinks deliberately built into the electrical "pipes" that convey WABC's 50,000 radio watts from water-cooled tubes to lattice aerial. These kinks are lightning arresters in disguise. If a bolt strikes the tower it is expected to leap off the electrical pipe at the first corner--certainly the second or third--and flash to earth over spark gaps to the heavy copper roof of the building and ninety copper cables extending radially outward into deep water.

The men who operate the station actually live within a grounded metal shell, under which are living quarters for engineers, workshops, electrical units to supply tube voltages, an auxiliary Diesel-electric generator that roars into use the instant a fault occurs in under-water electric cables from shore, and everything else that modern radio engineering can devise to keep a station on the air in spite of apparatus failure or fury of elements. If a subsurface cable springs a leak an internal gas, at high pressure, keeps the water out.

The radio plant is virtually two in one. Although almost entirely automatic in operation the eye of an engineer, sweeping a dozen control-room electrical meters, may detect failure in any part of the system. By pressing one of a series of buttons a train of events is started to eliminate the trouble--perhaps 100 of the plant's 500-odd selective electrical relays may open or close, cutting in or out of the circuit as many as half of the station's 500 vacuum tubes.

From water-line to tip of vertical lattice "radiator," every adornment has a purpose at the WABC plant. The wispy, feather-like object that tops the 410-foot tower--scarcely visible from below--is a receiving antenna for two microwave emergency channels between transmitter and studios at 485 Madison Ave., Manhattan. If land circuits from studio to New Rochelle and under-water path to Columbia Island fail, the microwave circuit cuts in an instant later and neither listeners nor engineers may be the wiser. The direct-by-air link operates on 330 and 335 megacycles (less than a meter) from a special sending station atop the Manhattan studios.

Because of the wide frequency difference between the WABC broadcast channel (880,000 cycles) and the ultra-short-wave link (330,000,000 cycles), no interference results despite the fact that incoming studio program waves arrive at Columbia Island in the midst of powerful 50,000-watt waves leaving the vertical radiator to serve millions of set-owners.

One of the features of the 342-ton vertical radiator is the part that spreads outward at the top like an umbrella. Commonly referred to as the "hat," this part perches on four large insulators. When supplied with broadcast power "a little out of phase" or electrical step with the main tower on which it rests, the WABC waves in space are made to "hug the earth" and become more effective in producing strong signals for receiving sets. Four huge insulators at the base of the main tower legs support the whole. Each insulator is designed to carry more than 3,000,000 pounds; the whole tower will perch upon three legs, if need be, and withstand 120-mile winds.

Supporting the aerial tower are four large steel-concrete blocks each weighing 2,500 tons--twenty-two feet square. Outside is a 3,000-ton sea wall and between tower blocks and sea wall is 8,000 tons of sand and loam fill upon which grass and shrubs will grow in the Spring.

The magic of the new WABC, however, is not all above the waterline; drillers were put to work to find a source of fresh water for drinking purposes and cooling the tubes. It was struck 910 feet down.

Incidentally, WABC after Saturday will serve a potential audience of 14,000,000 listeners, according to CBS engineers. Radio equipment was designed by the Federal Telegraph Company of Newark, affiliate of the International Telephone and Telegraph Co.


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