Post reader Rob Wagner (VK3BVW), in Australia, could receive the broadcast on three frequencies (5,875, 5,985, and 7,350). He’s included clips of each broadcast on his excellent blog, The Mount Evelyn DX Report.
As for me, I was traveling to visit family yesterday afternoon when the broadcast started. I knew from listening endeavors on previous visits that receiving a broadcast indoors at their home is not feasible; there is some sort of power line noise in that area that overwhelms anything on the short or medium wave bands, unless the station is very strong.
To cope with this noise, I knew I would need to move my operation outdoors, away from the house, and employ an outdoor antenna. So I packed the following, all into my small flight case: the CommRadio CR-1, a NASA PA-30 15 foot passive wide-band wire antenna, and the Zoom H2n Handy Recorder
I hung the PA-30 antenna in a nearby tree, spread a wool army blanket on the ground for lounging, and put the mini flight case to use as a stand to hold the radio and recorder. The CR-1 required no external power supply, as its internal battery had been charged in advance (one of the reasons I love this little receiver for travel).
To try out the set-up, I tuned around the bands. Conditions were rough, thunderstorms were in the region, but I was most impressed that I could hear several broadcasters on 31 meters. I knew that the BBC broadcast would be a tough catch; after all, none of their transmissions were targeting my part of the globe–rather, the opposite!
When I tuned to the BBC broadcast on 7,350 kHz, here’s what I heard:
This is (very) rough copy; for five or so minutes, you’ll hear me switching between AM/USB and LSB to find the best mode for the signal. I also check the other BBC frequencies to see if any were more audible.
In the end, using ECSS (zero-beating the signal in USB) seemed to work best.
For fun, I had also brought along the Tecsun PL-660–a choice portable radio for weak signal DX. I tuned to 7,350 and could just hear the BBC signal in the noise, but voice and music were unintelligible.
What did I get out of the experience? Good copy? Alas, no.
But there’s nothing like the fun of playing radio outdoors! Even though the copy was rough, propagation deplorable, and static crashes abundant, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. Moreover, I was amused to note that while I listened (and sweated) outside in the very hot, muggy conditions of the American southeast, a few scientists huddled near the extremely chilly southern pole at that exact moment, were tuning in the exact same broadcast. It somehow made the heat bearable.
That’s the remarkable camaraderie of radio: truly, a wireless community.
Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey’s new base (Source: BBC)
Every year, the BBC broadcasts a special program to the 41 scientists and support staff in the British Antarctic Survey Team.
The BBC will play music requests and send special messages to the team who winter over in this isolated post. The broadcast is guaranteed to be quirky, nostalgic and certainly DX worth catching. Click here to listen to the 2013 broadcast.
The winter program will air today, June 21, 2014 at 21:30 UTC on the following frequencies:
7,350 kHz; Ascension; 207°
9,890 kHz; Woofferton; 182°
5,985 kHz; Dhabayya; 203°
5,875 kHz; Wooferton; 184° (updated)
Readers: If you have a chance, try to record the broadcast as I’m uncertain if I’ll have a chance to catch it this year. I would like a good recording for the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.
I’ve been on the road a lot lately. A lack of time resulting from this, combined with frequent afternoon and evening thunderstorms when I am home, has meant that I’ve not had the radio time I often enjoy.
This morning, I woke up around 5:50 AM determined to get a bit of time on the radio. After all, today is the first day of summer here in the US, and a special day for me. I walked outside and hooked my antenna back up; I had been forced to disconnect it yesterday as pop-up thunderstorms persisted throughout the afternoon and evening.
I then brewed a cup of coffee and settled into my “listening lounge” for some early morning tuning.
I started off this morning off by tuning the Elad FDM-S2 to Radio New Zealand International on 9,890 kHz in DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). I was treated to one full hour of Peter Fry’s Saturday Night music; the DRM lock was completely stable. Though I prefer the sonic characteristics of AM over digital modes, I’m most impressed with the audio quality DRM affords coming from a 50 kW signal being broadcast on the other side of the planet. The quality is so exceptional that, if you listen carefully, you can even hear the news reader shifting papers at the top of the hour.
That got me thinking: I’m flawlessly receiving and decoding a wireless digital audio signal from 13,500 kM away. Amazing. Especially considering that my laptop struggles to receive Wi-Fi in many hotels.
RNZI signed off after an hour, so I switched modes to AM and tuned to Radio Australia on 9,580 kHz.
As I had hoped, RA was broadcasting the second half of the AFL match featuring the Essendon Bombers who ultimately held a nine-point win over the Adelaide Crows. Alas, Radio Australia dropped the signal before the end of the final quarter, but I was able to watch the results roll in on my iPhone while making waffles in the kitchen. If this had been a World Cup match, I would have scoured the shortwaves for another Radio Australia frequency.
Immediately after tuning in RNZI, I hit the record button on the FDM-S2 (around 5:55 EDT/9:55 UTC) and didn’t stop the recording until after Radio Australia signed off, so there is a 30 second silence in the middle while I tuned and switched modes from DRM to AM.
Just yesterday, I was contacted by SWLing Post reader, George Stein (NJ3H), who had just discovered my recording–and, in turn, shared his own recording of the WG2XFQ transmission. In George’s message, he casually mentioned that he has a close family link to the original Fessenden Christmas Eve broadcast, which I find of great interest. George writes:
“My grandfather, Adam Stein, Jr., was Fessenden’s chief engineer and was present for the Christmas Eve broadcast from Brant Rock, Mass in 1906. He is also mentioned in the Fessenden biography by Helen Fessenden, of which I have a copy…
In scientific journals from that time…it was reported that my grandfather’s voice was the first heard across the Atlantic (Machrahanish, Scotland) in Nov/Dec 1906. This occurred during testing at Brant Rock and was picked up by Fessenden’s man in Scotland.”
All I can say is, Wow! This is an amazing bit of history. Of course, I sent a reply to George asking for more information and permission to post this, which he kindly granted. George continues with an excerpt from S. Belrose, Communications Research Centre Canada:
“In November 1906, Fessenden and colleagues were conducting experimental transmissions using his newly-developed HF alternator, between stations at Brant Rock and Plymouth, Massachusetts. The station at Brant Rock was modulated by a carbon microphone connected in series with the antenna lead.
About midnight, on an evening early in November, Mr. Stein was telling the operator at Plymouth how to run the dynamo. His voice was heard by Mr. Armor at the Macrihanish, Scotland station with such clarity that there was no doubt about the speaker, and the station log book confirmed the report.
Fessenden’s greatest triumph was soon to come. On 24 December, 1906, Fessenden and his assistants presented the world’s first radio broadcast. The transmission included a speech by Fessenden and selected music for Christmas. Fessenden played Handel’s Largo on the violin. That first broadcast, from his transmitter at Brant Rock, MA, was heard by radio operators on board US Navy and United Fruit Company ships equipped with Fessenden’s radio receivers at various distances over the South and North Atlantic, as far away as the West Indies. The wireless broadcast was repeated on New Year’s Eve.”
The Brant Rock staff and operators: Fessenden is seated in the middle and to his right is his son (Reginald Kennelly), holding Mikums, his cat. Mr. Pannill is on the far left. Standing next to him is Jessie Bent, the secretary. Mr. Stein is on the far right. (Radioscientist)
[Above] A picture of Fessenden’s team at Brant Rock, Mass in 1906. Radio pioneer Charles Pannill is shown in the picture. My grandfather, Adam Stein, Jr., who was Fessenden’s chief engineer, is also shown in the picture.
A postcard showing Fessenden’s wireless antenna in 1906 at Brant Rock.
In December 2006, a special event amateur radio station, W1F, was on the air from Brant Rock to commemorate 100 years since Fessenden’s Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve broadcasts. Stephan Barreres, K2CX, put a team together for the special event. I was fortunate to be included with the fine team he had assembled.
All that remains of the Fessenden antenna is the tower base.
The picture was taken in Dec 2006, with NJ3H standing in front.
The plaque on the base was provided on the 60th anniversary of the 1906 broadcast.
NJ3H at the operating position of W1F, 30 December 2006
The following is George’s audio and screen cast while he received the Christmas Eve reenactment broadcast on 25 December 2013; WG2XFQ broadcast from Forest, VA by WA1ZMS, this recording was made by George in Stephens City, VA on a Microtelecom Perseus SDR and a Wellbrook loop.
For those of you not familiar with Reginald Fessenden, I encourage you to read about him; he was a Canadian inventor who performed pioneering experiments in radio, including the use of continuous waves (CW) and the early—and arguably the first—radio transmissions of voice and music. Check out some of our archived posts on Fessenden and read more about him at this online Fessenden museum.
George, again, many thanks for sharing a little history about your grandfather and your own way of honoring his work.
Most impressive! Indeed, I believe SDR#’s noise reduction might rival that of OEM applications. While I’m not the biggest fan of noise reduction for everyday use (due to inherent digital artifacts) it is a valuable tool when noise levels are high.
The BBC has said the audience for its international services has risen to a new high, with 265 million people around the world accessing its output each week.
The corporation’s estimates show the numbers using its various global news services – including the World Service and BBC World News – have risen by 3.5 per cent in the past year, with big jumps in Russia and Ukraine as people have apparently turned to “trusted” sources.
[…]Radio has seen a major decline in numbers with 17 million fewer listeners than the previous 12-month period, although it continued to be the biggest platform overall with 128 million tuning in.
Rises in digital and television use have offset that figure to give an overall audience rise.
[…]The audience for TV services stands at TV viewers at 126 million and digital access stands at 46 million – a third of these through mobile devices – with many people clearly using more than one of the services.
Peter Horrocks, director of the BBC World Service Group, said: “Today’s figures show the most successful year ever for the BBC’s global news services.
“Investment in TV bulletins and responsive mobile services for the World Service is bearing fruit. Radio will be a World Service mainstay for years to come, but as these figures testify, the way people access news is changing and we must continue to innovate if we are to flourish in the years ahead.”