Casting radio experts for numbers station TV series

SWLingPost-Spy-Numbers-Station

Many of you may have seen the following announcement/casting call floating around the hamospehere recently. This casting company is seeking radio “experts” of all stripes for a new TV series centered around numbers stations. I was contact by them directly last week. I spoke with a representative from this casting company and can verify that this is, indeed, a legitimate casting call.

Want to be on TV?

If you’re interested in applying for the series, simply read through this announcement and send the required info to the email address provided:

NOW CASTING RADIO EXPERTS (HAM Radio, Shortwave/high frequency, technicians, enthusiasts/hobbyists) AND ADVENTURERS WITH A THIRST FOR SOLVING MYSTERIES FOR A NEW SERIES ON A MAJOR CABLE NETWORK!

Seeking a team made up of radio experts, code breakers and adventurers to embark on a mission to uncover the true meaning behind anonymous radio transmissions – “number stations.”

We are looking for experts who have thirst for solving mysteries, are adventurous & charismatic and have a STRONG knowledge of radio (including shortwave and HAM) as well as an interest in ‘number stations’ to be featured in this new and exciting series. We are looking for our ‘Indiana Jones’ of the shortwave world.

We are ALSO looking for ADVENTURERS – people who are not afraid to explore and investigate a wide range of worldwide mysteries; someone who is persistent, charismatic and fearless! We are looking for people who have EXPERIENCE in travel, research and problem solving. For example: code crackers, techies, radio conspiracy theorists, private investigators, former FBI/CIA, hackers, former military, researchers, history buffs and urban explorers.

To be considered, please email the following information ASAP to: SHORTWAVECASTING@GMAIL.COM

  • Name
  • Age
  • Phone number
  • Email address
  • Brief bio of you and your relevant experience to this (radio, explorer etc.)
  • 2 recent photos

Numbers Stations in the news

towersThere have been a lot of numbers in the news lately.

Earlier this week, David Goren’s numbers station radio documentary was featured on the ABC Radio National show, Sounds Like Radio.

Click here to listen.

This morning, I also noticed this excellent BBC News Magazine piece on numbers stations, which includes an interview with Akin Fernandez, the creator of the Conet Project.

Here’s an excerpt from The spooky world of the ‘numbers stations’:

“This is the era of hyper-tech espionage, encrypted emails and mindboggling cryptography. But you can hear a very old-fashioned form of espionage on shortwave radio.

It is 13:03 on a Tuesday in a little crammed room of the BBC Monitoring building in Caversham and what is suddenly heard on a shortwave receiving station is a 10-minute message in Morse code.

There is a small community of aficionados who believe messages like this are a throwback to the era of Cold War espionage. They are the mysterious “numbers stations”.

At the apex of the Cold War, radio lovers across the globe started to notice bizarre broadcasts on the airwaves. Starting with a weird melody or the sound of several beeps, these transmissions might be followed by the unnerving sound of a strange woman’s voice counting in German or the creepy voice of a child reciting letters in English.

[…]Times have changed and technology has evolved, but there’s evidence that this old-fashioned seeming method of communication might still be used. Shortwave numbers stations might seem low-tech but they probably remain the best option for transmitting information to agents in the field, some espionage experts suggest.

“Nobody has found a more convenient and expedient way of communicating with an agent,” says Rupert Allason, an author specialising in espionage issues and writing under the pen name Nigel West.

“Their sole purpose is for intelligence agencies to communicate with their agents in denied areas – a territory where it is difficult to use a consensual form of communications,” Allason says.

A former GCHQ officer, who does not wish to be named, whose duty was to intercept signals towards the UK and search for these numbers stations in the 1980s is also adamant that these were broadcasts to agents in the field or in residencies or directed to embassies.

It was “one-way traffic” – the transmitters broadcast numbers to the recipient. The recipient did not reply.”

[…]”This system is completely secure because the messages can’t be tracked, the recipient could be anywhere,” says Akin Fernandez, the creator of the Conet Project – a comprehensive archive of the phenomenon of numbers stations. “It is easy. You just send the spies to a country and get them to buy a radio. They know where to tune and when,” he says.

Continue reading on the BBC Magazine website…

If you would like to know more about numbers stations, click here to read other numbers posts.

Click here to go to David’s website, Shortwaveology.net.

David Goren’s numbers station piece featured on 99% Invisible

99invisible-logo-itunes-badgeWe’ve mentioned “Shortwaveologist” David Goren on the SWLing Post multiple times. David is a talented radio producer who also happens to be a life-long avid shortwave radio listener.

One of David’s productions, Atencion! Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero: The Mystery of the Shortwave Numbers Stations, first aired in 2000 as part of the NPR series Lost and Found Sound. It’s a richly layered soundscape, a sonic journey woven together by David’s narration and a series of interviews in a form of personal documentary–and it’s simply inspired.  This piece caught the attention of Roman Mars, producer of my all-time favorite podcast, 99% Invisible. I’m pleased and proud to report that 99% Invisible‘s latest podcast features this brilliant numbers station piece of David’s.

For those of you who don’t know, 99% Invisible now has, deservedly, one of the largest listenerships in the podcasting world. A version of their show is also produced and aired over NPR. This piece will give shortwave radio significant exposure, and in turn make it a little less…well, invisible.

Intrigued?  Join us–and begin by listening to David’s feature.  Either subscribe to 99% Invisible via your favorite podcasting software, download the show as an mp3, or simply listen on 99% Invisible‘s website by clicking here.

ShortwaveologyLogoBe sure to check out David Goren’s updated website Shortwaveology.net which has an array of his own audio productions as well as a sound clips and a listener’s (b)log.  It’s terrific.

PS–If you would like to meet David in person, plan to attend his annual listening event: the Shortwave Shindig at the Winter SWL Festival in Pennsylvania (you have registered for the annual SWL Fest, right?).

David, we look forward to any and all of your future work (rumor has it that he’s working on Shortwaveology #3)…Stay tuned!

Pavel’s 70s era recording of a German numbers station

towersI read this account Pavel posted on the Spooks reflector and asked if he would share his story on the SWLing Post.  He kindly agreed.

Pavel writes:

“Inspired by a recent thread about a vintage number station, I searched my old tapes (I really [have a] LOT of them, hundreds of reels, mostly with music, but sometimes with other interesting things) and finally found a short snippet of a German number station transmission. There is neither a start nor end of the transmission, just a few 5-digit groups.   It was recorded sometime between 1977 – 1980, at my cottage near Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic (but it was Czechoslovak Socialistic Republic [then]).

Reception was made on a Czechoslovak tube receiver “Barcarola” on a shortwave band with classic AM (of course this receiver was not capable of SSB or any other advanced modes) using a random wire (about 10 m) antenna.

A recording was made on the B400 Czechoslovak tape recorder using a Scotch 220 magnetic tape (exactly the one which is in the picture), speed 9.53 cm/s. Import to the digital domain was performed using the Audacity open source sound recording and processing software, without any artificial filtering or other DSP techniques.

As you can hear, it was perfect, clear readability:

I know that because the recording is incomplete, it has just a low value as such, but maybe it can at least demonstrate, which kind of equipment was obvious at this time and that it was possible to use it for activities like SW listening and number station (at least the strong ones) monitoring.

I’m curious whether somebody will identify the station.

With regards,
Pavel

Pavel's Barcarola was similar to this model (Photo source: http://www.oldradio.cz/)

Pavel’s Barcarola was similar to this model (Photo source: http://www.oldradio.cz/)

What really amazes me is the fidelity of Pavel’s recording. Though the transmitter might have been relatively local, there is certainly something to be said for analog equipment–both Pavel’s Barcarola receiver and his B400 recorder.

I actually collect and maintain more tube receivers than solid state. While their sensitivity and selectivity isn’t always on par with modern receivers, their warm audio fidelity makes up for it.

 

If you can identify Pavel’s numbers station recording, please comment.

Cuban Numbers Station HM01: serving up a little confusion

WFL_015On occasion, I hear the Cuban numbers station HM01 on 5,855 kHz on weekday mornings.

It seems that many of the mornings as I listen, I hear HM01 making mistakes or at least experiencing “technical difficulties” (click here for a recent case in point).

Though I don’t often record HM01, I did record it on the morning of September 20, 2013––and, yet again, I heard what seemed to be HM01 tripping over its own tongue.

Instead of the broadcast starting with numbers to identify the transmission, then implementing intermittent RDFT data bursts as per usual, this broadcast begins in the middle of a data burst, then shuffles awkwardly into a “normal” broadcast.  I imagine an operative in the field scratching his or her head…

But hear this for yourself.  Either click here to download an MP3 of the recording, or simply listen via the embedded player below:

Shortwave Radio Recordings: Listen to Cuban Spy Numbers Station HM01

WFL_015Numbers stations have always been a dark oddity that pop up from time-to-time in the course of shortwave radio listening. There is unquestionably an air of mystery and intrigue which surrounds them. With the release of the movie The Numbers Station, many non-SWLers may be enticed to explore the HF bands.  A good thing, as it may draw fresh interest to this classic radio hobby.

I have heard numbers stations since I first started listening to shortwave radio broadcasts some thirty years ago, and I find that I often pause to listen (and to wonder) when I come across one on the bands.  The numbers station I hear most often, though the country of origin cannot be confirmed, is in Cuba–well, at least, we’re pretty certain of that. The same female voice, reading numbers in Spanish, has been Cuba’s calling card in the spy numbers world for some time.

Two weeks ago, on a Sunday morning between 10:00-11:00 UTC, I captured the Cuban spy numbers station widely recognized as HM01 (Hybrid Mode Number 01) on 5,855 kHz. HM01 broadcasts a mixture of AM voice and digital file transfer modes intermixed within the same transmission. The voice heard is the familiar Spanish female voice described above; the digital portion of the broadcast uses a mode called RDFT, a differential phase shift keying mode that has never become popular or standard in the ham radio world. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Windows software DIGTRX (download here) can decode RDFT.  Let us know what, if anything, you discover…

You can click here to download the entire HM01 broadcast as an MP3, or simply listen via the embedded player below: