Category Archives: Travel

Video: Ivan surveys Cuban TV from a cruise ship

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ivan Cholakov, who shares the following:

[W]hile on a cruise ship 30 miles off the coast of Cuba (January 2017) I pointed a small active antenna towards the island and scanned for old fashioned analog TV.

The results show analog TV is alive and well in Cuba! Multiple programs on multiple channels.

From what I understand Cuba has selected the Chinese digital TV standard but using their own channel spacing so I am not aware of any receivers that can pick up Cuba’s digital TV transmissions.

I posted the YouTube video of my channel scan here:

Click here to view on YouTube.

St. Helena is “ready to welcome the world”

If you’ve been a shortwave listener for very long, you may remember the annual Radio St. Helena Day: one weekend a year when this small island broadcaster hit the shortwaves and accepted reports from across the globe. I never had the fortune of receiving their modest signal, but I surely tried!

Since I’m fan of remotely inhabited parts of the world, St. Helena is on my bucket list of places to visit–and it looks like visiting the island may become much easier:

(Source: BBC Travel)

For more than 500 years, the only way to reach the British Overseas Territory of Saint Helena was by sea. Travelling to the South Atlantic island by sailboat, after a nine-day voyage from Namibia, my family and I made landfall the way every person before us has: the way Napoleon Bonaparte did when he was sent into exile in 1815; the way modern-day Saints (as the local population is known) do when they venture home from work in the UK; and the way the occasional, intrepid visitor has always done. But we were one of the last travellers to do so.

In April, the first commercial plane landed at the island’s new airport, and the last working Royal Mail Ship, the St Helena, was slated for decommissioning.

A dwindling population and defiant island geology – which, as Charles Darwin put it, “rises abruptly like a huge black castle from the ocean” – were long-time barriers to the development of an airport. But fears that the island could become nothing more than a remote old age home as younger Saints look elsewhere for employment finally forced the issue. Planned weekly flights will replace the monthly ship visits, and tourism is projected to take off.

Now, for the first time, visitors won’t risk being doused in the Atlantic swell when they reach for the ropes at the sea-washed Jamestown landing, trying to time their first step onto solid ground.

Continue reading on the BBC Travel website…

I do understand that the new airport may be a challenging place to land an aircraft. The following is noted on Wikipedia:

Due to the short runway and the long distance to South Africa, a Boeing 737-700 flying to Johannesburg is not able to use its full seat and cargo capacity. Only flights to and from Namibian and Angolan destinations would allow using a Boeing 737-700 near its full load capacity. The other planned destination, London, requires a fuel stop in Gambia, at almost the same distance as Johannesburg.

If Wideawake Airfield on Ascension Island were open for commercial non-military flights, it could be listed as an alternate aerodrome; this would mean that the load capacity of an inbound Boeing 737-700 could be increased as fewer fuel reserves would be required.

The distance from key destinations, the length of runway available, and the type of aircraft available in the region dictate that air services to St Helena must operate to the requirements of extended twin engine operations (ETOPS) which implies the provision of an instrument approach system based on an off-set instrument landing system localiser (ILS LLZ).

Such is also required by the terrain of the airport which, in commercial passenger air transport terms, is safety-critical due to its steep approaches, high elevation (1,000 ft or 300 m above sea level) and rocky outcrops. Without an instrument approach the provision of a viable air service is considered impossible.

There were doubts concerning local weather conditions and, in particular about the amount of turbulence on the approaches from fallwinds resulting from the elevated location and the surrounding bluffs. Therefore, it was recommended that a charter aircraft should perform approaches to and departures from the intended runway. By April 2016 such flights had taken place, and they weren’t 100% positive[…]

There are so many reasons air service will help this isolated community–especially for medical evacuations–but I suspect this will be a challenging airport for any pilot. St. Helena is one of the most remotely inhabited island on earth–due to aircraft fuel limits and the inability to land at alternate locations, aircraft will be forced to land in occasional adverse weather conditions.

While I’d love to to take a cruise to St. Helena, air service will likely make my future visit much more accessible!

Post readers: Please comment if you’ve visited or live(d) on St. Helena! Please share your experiences! Has anyone had luck receiving Radio St. Helena Day broadcasts in the past?

Trying to chose between the CC Skywave and Tecsun PL-310ET?

CC-Skywave-And-Tecsun-PL-310ET-SideMany thanks to SWLing Post reader, Joe, who recently asked in our comments section:

“The CC Skywave is more than double the price of the Tecsun PL-310ET. The two radios appear to have similar features and performance. Can anyone suggest a reason why one would want to pay the extra charge for a Skywave?”

Thanks for your question, Joe. I’m asked this a lot by SWLing Post readers, so quickly realized I should just turn my response into a proper post.  Here’s my response in a nutshell:

Tecsun PL-310ET

The Tecun PL-310ET

The Tecsun PL-310ET is (and has been for years) one of the best budget shortwave portables out there.

For the price of $40-45 US shipped (via eBay, for example), you really can’t go wrong.  It’s certainly a benchmark among the ultralight DSP portables.

The ($79-89 US) CC Skywave, in my opinion, has a few advantages:

  1. An excellent weather radio receiver (for folks in North America)
  2. The AIR band which is a fun and useful addition if you live near an airport or like travelling by air
  3. I prefer the Skywave over the PL-310ET on the mediumwave band. Its selectivity and AGC, in my opinion, have a distinct edge over the ‘310ET for MW DXing.

Because of these particular advantages, the Skywave has become my travel portable of choice when SSB reception isn’t a priority.

The CC Skywave

The CC Skywave

You might check out my CC Skywave review because I tried to include reception recordings which I felt represented both radios fairly:

http://swling.com/blog/2014/12/review-of-the-c-crane-cc-skywave-portable-radio/

In short, though? If I didn’t care about the AIR band or NOAA weather radio, I’d be quite happy with the PL-310ET. In truth, you really can’t go wrong either choice.

I can say that I now take my CC Skywave on travels more than my PL-310ET.

Click here to search for the Tecun PL-310ET on:

Click here to search for the CC Skywave at

  • C.Crane ($89.99 and free shipping through Dec 6, 2016)
  • Amazon.com ($89.99 with free shipping option)
  • Universal Radio (lowest price without shipping: $79.95)
  • eBay (pricing varies greatly)

Either of these radios, by the way, would make for an excellent gift.

 

A preliminary review of the PK Loop C-LOOP-HDSW6-18

eecraft-kx3-pk-loop

The Elecraft KX3 and the PK Loop C-LOOP-HDSW6-18

Over the past year, a number of SWLing Post readers have asked me to review the PK Loop portable magnetic loop antenna produced by Paul Karlstrand in Australia.

I finally caved in and purchased one.

I ordered the shortwave version of the loop, the  C-LOOP-HDSW6-18 in early November and received it about one week later.

sony-sw100-pk-loop

The Sony SW100 tuned to WBCQ.

I was first introduced to this antenna by SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey, who brought it to the SWL Fest and our 2015 PARI DXpedition.

Mark has taken his PK Loops (both the shortwave and mediumwave models) on his numerous travels around the world. He finds that they’re relatively effective portable antennas in RFI-dense environments like hotels and guest houses. They’re better at mitigating RFI than, say, portable wire antennas or telescopic whips.

Mark hooks up his portable SDR to the PK Loop and makes spectrum recordings (wideband recordings)–from, say, his hotel room in Kuala Lumpur–then takes the recording back home to listen and tune at his leisure via his laptop or tablet PC.  While I’ve certainly made spectrum recordings while travelling in the past, the appeal of such a portable loop antenna is what finally caused me to pull the trigger.

Overview

pk-loop

The PK Loop is a small loop antenna–measuring about 12″ in diameter. It’s encased in UV-stabilized PVC conduit and the matching box also seems to be made of PVC. It feels very durable and can, no doubt, even survive the wildest of luggage handling.

The PK Loop has an attached battery 9V battery holder, but can actually be powered by any 9-18 volt DC supply. Current consumption is less than 15 mA. On the matching box, you’ll find a tuning knob, a BNC connector, DC power in port and a HI/LOW gain switch. My loop shipped with a 2 meter BNC-BNC Cable, 3.5mm adapter, and DC Power lead to open ends.

Operation

Operating the loop is very simple:

  1. Power the antenna with a 9V battery or other DC source
  2. Chose either the high or low gain setting
  3. Place it on a stable surface (height from the ground is not a critical issue, but you should avoid placing it next to noisy electronics or mobile phones)
  4. Connect the PK Loop to your receiver’s antenna jack with the supplied cable
  5. Turn on your receiver to the desired meter band, then adjust the loop’s tuning knob until you hear the signal level peak
  6. Start listening, keeping in mind that as you tune around the band you may need to adjust the loop’s tuning knob for maximum gain

Loop antennas, in general, are fairly narrow-band and–unlike a Wellbrook or Pixel Loop–manual adjustments need to be made with the tuning knob to match the PK Loop as you scan across bands.

Still, I see why Mark favors the PK Loop for spectrum recordings: the bandwidth is wide enough that if I tune the loop to the middle of the 31 meter band, for example, it does a fine job covering the entire band.

On the air

pk-loop-kx2-sw100

My free time has been very limited since receiving the PK Loop earlier this month, but over Thanksgiving holiday, I took it to my family’s home that has relatively high RFI levels.

The following are a couple of videos I made with my Moto X smartphone. I’ll be the first to admit that these are not the best videos–I had no tripod and the Moto’s microphone leaves much to be desired–but I think you’ll still get the idea of how well the PK Loop works.

With the Sony SW100

Click here to watch on YouTube.

With the Elecraft KX2

Click here to watch on YouTube.

So far, I’m very pleased with the PK Loop. It does seem to mitigate noise better than other portable antennas I’ve used in the past and certainly improves my SW100’s reception. It makes SWLing with the Elecraft KX2 or KX3 easy and convenient.

One word of caution: if you use the PK Loop with a transceiver like the KX2, please turn off the ATU, and set the power level to 0W before using. The PK Loop is receive-only and will not handle any RF power.

Note that with the SW100, I have only used the PK Loop’s low gain setting. I’m a little nervous about overloading the SW100, so do not plan to use the high gain setting. The Elecraft KX2 seems happy to handle either gain setting: I imagine this will be the case with most general coverage transceivers and tabletop receivers.

More to come!

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be staying in a hotel room (likely with inoperable windows and heavy RFI) so I will attempt to put the loop through its paces and compare it with my radio’s built-in antenna.  Stay tuned!

Post readers: have you used the PK Loop or other similar portable/travel antennas? Please comment!

Click here to view PK’s Loop antennas on Paul Karlstrand’s website.

Paul also sells his antennas and ships internationally on eBay–click here to view the selection.

pks-loops

Oxford Shortwave Log: DXing in the tropical rainforest of Pará, Brazil – part 2

img_9956pl-680

Hi there, here is part 2 of my reception videos taken in the tropical rainforest of Pará, Northern Brazil. As I mentioned in my previous post, I took a Tecsun PL-680 with me on the trip because I didn’t want to risk losing or trashing one of my precious vintage portables but also because of the following:

  • It can handle a longwire very well without overloading (I actually only used a 5 metre wire)
  • An excellent synchronous detection circuit and audio bandwidth filtering options
  • Excellent sensitivity, as demonstrated by the many DX reception videos on YouTube
  • If it got lost or damaged it would be a pain, but not difficult to replace

So, what can you hear in the jungle? Part 2 of my group of reception videos follow below – I hope you enjoy them.


Tropical rainforest DX in Pará, Brazil: RMI Overcomer Ministry 11530 kHz

 

Tropical rainforest DX in Pará, Brazil: Radio Tamazuj 11650 kHz, Madagascar

 

Tropical rainforest SW in Pará, Brazil: Radio Nacional Brasilia 11780 khz

 

Tropical rainforest DX in Pará, Brazil: R Aparecida 11855 khz (TX distance 2430 km)

 

Tropical rainforest SW in Pará, Brazil: R Brasil Central 11815 kHz, Goiania

 

Tropical rainforest DX in Pará, Brazil: Voice of Turkey 11980 kHz

 

Tropical rainforest DX in Pará, Brazil: Radio Dabanga 13800 kHz, Madagascar

 

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.