Monthly Archives: June 2012

CBC News: RCI looking for Sackville transmitter site buyers

The vast, open Sackville site will most likely become a wind farm.

Just posted by CBC News:  a breaking news item which focuses on the closure of the Sackville RCI transmitter site and reveals the fact that site owners are now looking for buyers.

During my recent visit to the Sackville site, I spoke with their Transmission Operations Technologist, Marcel Cantin; we both agreed that the most likely future of the transmitter site is to become a wind farm, much like one visible from the site in neighboring Nova Scotia. Evidently, the province has been talking with farmers whose property borders the Sackville site in hopes to procure more land for wind farm development. The Sackville site’s 280+ acres would represent a great portion of the land they wish to procure. The only obstacle I see to this not becoming a reality would be local opposition–and they may have good cause. The two main arguments against wind farms are the noise they produce (not really a problem where RCI is/was located) and the fact that they can harm migrating bird populations. The site is very close to the Sackville Waterfowl Park, a local bird sanctuary which is home or host to innumerable varieties of water birds, and which I also had the good fortune to visit when in Sackville. Opposition in this regard may be substantiated.

(Source: CBC News)

After decades of service, the transmission towers outside of Sackville, N.B are no longer broadcasting Radio Canada International to the world.

The international broadcasting service ended its shortwave transmission Sunday night.

“I find myself, on behalf of all of us, saying goodbye to 67 years of radio,” said host Marc Montgomery, breaking down on air.

[…]”There’s no denying the importance of the internet. There’s also no denying that it can be and is regularly blocked by authoritarian regimes. Shortwave broadcasts on the other hand, almost always get through to people hungry for information,” said Montgomery.

Martin Marcotte, director of CBC Transmission, said he’s now looking to sell the New Brunswick towers and land.

He said he’s focussing (sic) on selling the site to other shortwave broadcasters or wind farm companies.

“It will be fairly costly to dismantle and as a last resort we would dismantle the facility, return it to bare land as it was when we first acquired that site,” said Marcotte.

As for broadcasters, the only one of which I am aware who has both the funds and ambitions to purchase such a transmissions site, is China Radio International.

Of course, I would hope that a broad-sighted private purchaser or even non-profit could keep the site running much as it has been, recognizing its vital relevance to Canadian international relations and to the developing world generally–especially in light of the recent addition to the site of a remote operation system.

Too bad, the Canadian government couldn’t recognize this in time.

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Help us record shortwave history: Radio Canada International’s final day of broadcasts

RCI's Sackville Transmission Site

As many SWLing Post listeners know, today marks the end of an era. Radio Canada International is being forced to conclude many decades of shortwave radio services in a short-sighted attempt to cut costs. In lieu of exploring numerous cost-cutting solutions, such as implementing the newly-installed remote operations of the Sackville, NB transmission site, they have decided to cut all shortwave broadcasting and all content creation for the medium, essentially throwing out the baby with the bath water.

I have written extensively about the potential harm this will cause to those who rely upon shortwave radio as a lifeline of information, not to mention to Canadian diplomacy as a whole.

We want your RCI broadcast recordings

Nonetheless, for archive purposes, I will attempt to record as many final broadcasts today as possible. We invite listeners from around the world to participate in this process: please send us your recordings of any RCI broadcasts today–any language, any frequency.

Thanks to Glenn Hauser, here is a schedule of broadcasts today:

1500-1559 UTC: Maple Leaf Mailbag (MLMB) Finale–11,675 and 15,125 kHz

1800-1859 UTC: MLMB Finale–11,765, 9,530 and (best for N America) 17, 810 kHz

2000-2059 UTC: MLMB Finale 2–17,735, 15,330, 15235 kHz

RCI Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish and Portugese final broadcasts should end at 2330 UTC today on 11,990, 13,760 and 15,455

As for our friends with RCI, we wish you well! Many thanks for your years of dedicated service.

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A glimpse of Radio Canada International’s Sackville, New Brunswick transmission site

The large RCI sign that has long stood beside the Trans-Canada Highway in Sackville, New Brunswick. (Click to enlarge.)

Last Friday, I was fortunate enough to receive an extensive tour of the Radio Canada International transmitter site in Sackville, New Brunswick.

Of course, in light of the extensive cuts looming over this facility, the visit was bittersweet. It was an honor to see the transmitters and antennae I’ve listened to since I was eight years old, when I began listening to shortwave. But more impressive, still, are the people behind the scenes: despite a gloomy outlook, the site is busy and even humming due to their dedicated professionalism. The staff actively maintains the transmitters, antennae, and grounds, and it shows–the equipment, building and even floors are immaculate, demonstrating a palpable pride in a remarkable and still very useful site.  I thank them all, and wish them well…

Soon to come:  I’m writing a much more extensive post, outlining the tour and all that I learned.  I took hundreds of photos in an effort to photo-document the site.

Stay tuned!  Until then, here are a few teaser images:

The Sackville offices and transmitter building. I enjoyed a complete photo tour of this building, covering every hallway and office. (Click to enlarge.)

The new control station--completed only recently--allows for full remote operation of the site via the internet. (Click to enlarge.)

Shown above: the Harris transmitter, which almost exclusively carries the North Quebec service on 9,625 kHz. One of their oldest transmitters. (Click to enlarge.)

The right side of this double curtain antenna is used for transmissions to North Quebec on 9,625 kHz. (Click to enlarge.)

Yes, they use their RCI 4x4 truck all the time. The Sackville site is located on a marsh and experiences various challenging weather conditions. (Click to enlarge.)

The main floor, gleaming as ever. (Click to enlarge.)

When I post an article with the full tour and photos, search for the tag: Sackville

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Telegraph operations in the Great Auroral Storm of 1859

Sunspots of September 1, 1859, as sketched by Richard Carrington A and B mark the initial positions of an intensely bright event, which moved over the course of 5 minutes to C and D before disappearing. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

These days, CMEs and solar flares get a great deal of media attention. But it’s mostly speculation–for even with our advanced abilities to measure the potential impact, we can’t be sure what will happen each time this occurs. Might this solar flare be strong enough to damage our satellites and electrical infrastructure? we may wonder. Could it ‘fry’ our electrical grid?

The concerns are merely speculative. But is there actual cause for concern? Surely. A massive solar flare could damage much of our technology in space–such as our satellites–and could also certainly cause headaches for those who manage our electrical grids.

But do we know how powerful solar events can be? History may hold the answer.

In September of 1859, a solar flare was so massive that there were newspaper reports of it across the globe, and many found the strange light it created baffling. Of course, now, there’s no speculation as to what happened then–eyewitness accounts and plenty of written evidence in this pre-internet era paint a clear picture of a massive coronal ejection. This event has been referenced many times as a benchmark–one that, should it happen now, would certainly give us serious pause.  Technologically, that is.

I happened upon a fantastic article about the 1859 flare on ARS Technica called: 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth.

The following is an excerpt:

It hit quickly. Twelve hours after Carrington’s discovery and a continent away, “We were high up on the Rocky Mountains sleeping in the open air,” wrote a correspondent to the Rocky Mountain News. “A little after midnight we were awakened by the auroral light, so bright that one could easily read common print.” As the sky brightened further, some of the party began making breakfast on the mistaken assumption that dawn had arrived.

Across the United States and Europe, telegraph operators struggled to keep service going as the electromagnetic gusts enveloped the globe. In 1859, the US telegraph system was about 20 years old, and Cyrus Field had just built his transatlantic cable from Newfoundland to Ireland, which would not succeed in transmitting messages until after the American Civil War.

“Never in my experience of fifteen years in working telegraph lines have I witnessed anything like the extraordinary effect of the Aurora Borealis between Quebec and Farther Point last night,” wrote one telegraph manager to the Rochester Union & Advertiser on August 30:

The line was in most perfect order, and well skilled operators worked incessantly from 8 o’clock last evening till one this morning to get over in an intelligible form four hundred words of the report per steamer Indian for the Associated Press, and at the latter hour so completely were the wires under the influence of the Aurora Borealis that it was found utterly impossible to communicate between the telegraph stations, and the line had to be closed.

But if the following newspaper transcript of a telegraph operator exchange between Portland and Boston is to be believed, some plucky telegraphers improvised, letting the storm do the work that their disrupted batteries couldn’t:

Boston operator, (to Portland operator) – “Please cut off your battery entirely from the line for fifteen minutes.”

Portland operator: “Will do so. It is now disconnected.”

Boston: “Mine is disconnected, and we are working with the auroral current. How do you receive my writing?”

Portland: “Better than with our batteries on. Current comes and goes gradually.”

Boston: “My current is very strong at times, and we can work better without the batteries, as the Aurora seems to neutralize and augment our batteries alternately, making current too strong at times for our relay magnets.

Suppose we work without batteries while we are affected by this trouble.”

Portland: “Very well. Shall I go ahead with business?”

Boston: “Yes. Go ahead.”

Telegraphers around the US reported similar experiences. “The wire was then worked for about two hours without the usual batteries on the auroral current, working better than with the batteries connected,” said the Washington Daily National Intelligencer. “Who now will dispute the theory that the Aurora Borealis is caused by electricity?” asked the Washington Evening Star.

Read the full and fascinating article, 1859’s “Great Auroral Storm”—the week the Sun touched the earth on arstechnica.

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Glenn Hauser’s calendar of shortwave radio specials and farewells

Since I’m travelling, I was very pleased to find that Glenn Hauser outlined the many special broadcasts and farewells over the next couple of weeks. Frankly, there are so many, I’ve had trouble keeping them organized in my calendar.

(Source: Glenn Hauser – DX Listening Digest, via SW Programs)

CALENDAR OF SW SPECIALS, FAREWELLS

Dates, days and times are strictly UT

MONDAY JUNE 18 +

This is the final week for Radio Canada International, probably also for CBC NQ 9625, and relays via Sackville. You may want to make an effort to listen more than usual before the Last Days scheduled below.

THURSDAY JUNE 21

2130-2145 British Antarctic Survey special, 9850 & 5950 Skelton UK, 7360 Ascension; or may be 2130-2200, and possibly on WED JUNE 20 instead

FRIDAY JUNE 22

2100 until 2100 SATURDAY JUNE 23 “MidsummerRadio”, special from Scandinavian Weekend Radio, Finland, low power on 25 and 49m; hard to hear beyond Europe

http://www.swradio.net/index2.htm

SATURDAY JUNE 23

1200-1214, final Vatican Radio English via Sackville: 13730

SUNDAY JUNE 24

0000-0059 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale from RCI: 11700 via Kunming

1500-1559 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale from RCI: 11675 via Kunming; 15125 via Urumqi, East Turkistan

1800-1859 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale from RCI: 17810 Skelton UK (should be audible in NAm), 11765 Skelton, 9530 Kashi, East Turkistan

2000-2059 Maple Leaf Mailbag, finale2 from RCI Sackville: 17735, 15330, 15235

RCI Chinese, French, Arabic, Spanish, Portuguese final broadcasts should also be June 24, ending at 2330* UT on 11990, 13760, 15455:

http://www.hfcc.org/data/schedbybrc.php?seas=A12&broadc=RCI

June 24 also appears to be the final day on air for Sackville relays of other stations. It is unclear whether all of these will be gone once the UT day June 25 starts, but assuming they are, listen UT June 24:

NHK World Radio Japan: English 0500-0530 on 6110, 1200-1230 on 6120; Japanese 0200-0500 5960; 1300-1500 11655

Vatican Radio: English 0250-0315, Spanish 0320-0400 both on 7305, 9610; Spanish 1130-1214 13730

Voice of Vietnam: English 0100-0130, 0230-0300, 0330-0400 on 6175

KBS World Radio, English: 0230-0300 9560, 1200-1300 9650; Spanish 0200-0230 9560, 0600-0700 6045; Korean 1400-1500 9650

China Radio International: who cares? Too many and plenty will be left from elsewhere

Radio República, 2300-0200 on 9490 [or only until 0000?]

1100-1127 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 9895 & 6165-Bonaire
1130-1157 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 6165- Bonaire
1200-1227 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 9715 & 6165-Bonaire

MONDAY JUNE 25

0000-0057 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 6165- Bonaire
0100-0157 Cartas @ RN, finale of mailbag show on RN Spanish 6165- Bonaire
0830-0900 Fiji Democracy & Freedom Movement, 11565 via WHRI, weekly

This is the final week for Radio Netherlands. You may want to make an effort to listen before the Last Show special scheduled below

FRIDAY JUNE 29

0200-0400 PCJ Radio Special farewell to RNW, on WRMI 9955

For more details visit http://www.pcjmedia.com

A bit cheeky to schedule this at the same time as RN`s own Last Show!

0159-0257 RNW`s Last Show special to ENAm, 6165-Bonaire [not 11640]
0259-0357 RNW`s Last Show special to CNAm, 6165-Bonaire
0459-0557 RNW`s Last Show special to WNAm, 6165-Bonaire; NZ/SEAu 12015-Bonaire

In case there are any further changes from the `final` schedule:

http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/were-changing

Will Tom Meyer appear on this one? He does in Spanish:

1000-1057, RNW farewell broadcast in Indonesian: 17840 & 21485 Madagascar, 15300 & 15565 Sri Lanka; maybe also at 1100, 2100 [or June 28]
1330-1430 RNW Spanish farewell program with live video stream, including interview with Tom Meyer; repeated on SW the following evening on usual frequencies; see SAT
1400-1457 RNW`s Last Show special to Asia, 9800-Sri Lanka
1800-1957 RNW`s Last Show special to Africa, 17605-Vatican [audible in NAm]

1859-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Eu 6065
1900-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Af 7425-Madagascar
1900-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Af 11615-France
1900-2057 RNW`s Last Show Special to Af 15495-Vatican [maybe audible in NAm]. 2057 UT is really The End, for English

SATURDAY JUNE 30

0000-0057 & 0100-0157, RNW Spanish Farewell program [that`s what they say, unlike English which will end the previous night. Also check UT Friday June 29 in case that is correct date for Spanish too], 6165- Bonaire. See

http://www.rnw.nl/espanol/radioshow/cartasrn-en-v%C3%ADsperas-del- %C3%BAltimo-programa

VATICAN RADIO is also canceling most of its SW and MW broadcasts to Europe, and SW to Americas as of July 1. Presumably many of them will last be aired on June 30, altho the Sackville relays may have ended a week earlier. See

http://www.hfcc.org/data/schedbybrc.php?seas=A12&broadc=VAT

Many of the SMG transmissions to elsewhere are audible in NAm; also via Madagascar; and especially BONAIRE: 0030-0200 15470 in Portuguese, Spanish; 0230-0250 6040, 9610 in French. Since these are after 0000 UT, will their last day be UT June 30 or July 1?

2359-2400, LEAP SECOND, the 61-second minute on WWV, WWVH and all the world`s timesignal stations

http://hpiers.obspm.fr/iers/bul/bulc/bulletinc.dat

FRIDAY JULY 6

2100 until 2100 UT July 7, Scandinavian Weekend Radio monthly broadcast expected, not confirmed; see June 22

THURSDAY JULY 12-SUNDAY JULY 15

R. Hami, Finland, low-power special on 6170, 1584, 94.7. Details:

http://radiohami.fi/

FRIDAY JULY 13

BBC Radio 3 Prom Concert season starts, until September 8

http://www.bbc.co.uk/proms

This calendar will be updated and reissued as needed

Latest edition: http://www.w4uvh.net/calendar.html

(Glenn Hauser, 1640 UT June 18, DX LISTENING DIGEST)

I will try to record some of these, but would love your recordings if you catch them.

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