It was a reader, Mario Filippi, who set me on this path. He posted a comment that said, in part: “An interesting place to DX would be the segment between 1500 – 1590 kc’s where there are a number of news stations, one being federal news on 1500.”
Huh, I thought, federal news? I wonder if I can hear that. So I hooked up the MFJ 1886 Receive Loop Antenna to my Grundig Satellit 800 receiver and tuned to 1500. With the 800’s whip antenna, I heard mostly static; switching to the 50-foot indoor room loop, pretty much the same; same thing with the 1886 with the amplifier turned off. But turn the 1886’s amplifier on, and it was like getting slammed against the wall by the schoolyard bully: LISTEN TO ME! A big, fat, S9 signal, sounding like WGY 810 just a few miles from me. Wow, I thought, this loop can really pull out a signal.
A little research revealed, as nearly as I can tell, that Federal News 1500 is in Washington, DC, over 300 miles from me. Over the next few days I would occasionally check on Federal News 1500 using the 1886 loop, and typically it was loud and clear here in Troy, NY.
Hidden behind a curtain, the 3-foot aluminum loop of the MFJ 1886 works well for MW DXing.
Early this morning, Jan. 28, 2023, a thought crept into my brain: how many big, fat, MW signals could I detect with the combo of the Satellite 800 and the MFJ 1886 loop antenna? (Bear in mind that my 1886 rests flat against a window and is NOT rotatable in its current configuration.) Here’s the log, with station IDs when I could get them.
1100Z 1520 WWKB Buffalo
1102Z 1530 Milwaukee? Sports, Australian open
1106Z 1540 CHIN Toronto, old time radio programs
1112Z 1560 religious music
1115Z 1660 orchestral music, Strauss waltzes
1118Z 540 middle eastern music
1121Z 660 WFAN, NYC
1124Z 700 WLW, Cincinnati
1127Z 710 WOR, the Voice of New York
1129Z 730 French language, Canada mentioned
1132Z 750 WSB, Atlanta
1134Z 770 WABC, NYC
1135Z 790 ortho doctor show
1138Z 860 French language, Canada mentioned
1140Z 880 WCBS, NYC
1142Z 1010 WINS, NYC
1144Z 1020 Talk
1146Z 1030 WBZ, Boston
1148Z 1050 WEPN, ESPN radio, New York
1149Z 1060 KYW, Philadelphia, PA
1153Z 1090 WBAL, Baltimore
1154Z 1110 WBT Charlotte, NC
Bottom line: it was immense fun, tuning around for “fat” MW stations in the early AM. Periodically I checked the other antennas as I traversed the band, but universally the MFJ 1886 was better at pulling them in.
Don Moore’s Photo Album: Cuenca, Ecuador (Part One)
by Don Moore
For me travel is all about seeing new places and having new experiences. When I retired in 2017 my plan was to spend the next fifteen years visiting new countries and new places in countries I already knew. Is that a viable goal? Three years ago while crossing the border from Ecuador to Colombia I shared a taxi with Dutch man who, like me, was traveling overland by bus with just a knapsack and a suitcase. And two weeks earlier he had celebrated his eightieth birthday. I don’t remember his name but he’s my hero.
The pandemic put a pause on travel but I’m happy to be back on the road. I’m currently in Ecuador, the country where I’ve spent more time than anywhere except the United States and Honduras. After landing in Quito at the beginning of December I visited four provinces I hadn’t been to before, including spending three nights at the bohemian beach town of Montañita where I had some good DX. I like seeing new places but there is also something to be said for returning to a familiar place that holds a special meaning. For me that place is where I am now – Cuenca, Ecuador.
My ex-wife and I finished our Peace Corps service in 1984, flew home to get married, and then in January 1985 flew to Quito, Ecuador to begin a long journey that would take us overland all the way to Buenos Aires and back. On our way to Peru in late February we stopped for a few days in Cuenca and fell in love with the little city. We visited Cuenca again in July at the end of our travels. When we left I knew we would be back but I never could have imagined the circumstances that would lead to that next visit. In 1997 we returned with our seven-year-old daughter to adopt a six-year-old son. We spent almost three weeks in Cuenca doing all the required paperwork but we had no complaints as we enjoyed being there so much. I clearly remember sitting in a park one day and commenting that Cuenca would be a perfect place to retire in someday. I was only ten years ahead of my time.
La Voz del Río Tarqui
Cuenca was home to several shortwave broadcasters over the decades but La Voz del Río Tarqui was probably the best known to my generation of DXers. The station was founded in 1960 by Manuel Pulla but didn’t begin its shortwave service on 3285 kHz until 1982. My loggings of the station run from July 1982 through 1997 but I believe they were on shortwave for a few more years after that. (Don’t confuse La Voz del Río Tarqui with Radio Tarqui, a sometimes broadcaster from Quito on 4970 kHz.)
La Voz del Río Tarqui in 1985. The facilities inside were no more impressive than the outside of the building was.
La Voz del Río Tarqui takes its name from the famous Battle of the River Tarqui. After the new countries of South America gained their independence from Spain there was often disagreement over just where the boundaries were that they had inherited from Spanish rule. Ecuador was in a union with present-day Colombia and Venezuela until 1830 and during this time Peru claimed much of present-day southern Ecuador, including Cuenca and Guayaquil. In 1828 a large Peruvian army occupied Loja, to the south, and a few months later marched north to complete their conquest. In February 1829 General Antonio de Sucre, a hero of the war of independence, met the Peruvians on the banks of the Tarqui, twenty-five kilometers south of Cuenca. Both sides suffered heavy losses but Sucre’s army routed the Peruvians. Cuenca, Guayaquil, and Loja remained a part of Ecuador. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post:
A DXpedition to East Sandy
By Don Moore
When I was in college over forty years ago, seven of us had a small DX club in central Pennsylvania. A couple of times a year we would gather at the house of one of our parents for an all-night DX session. We shared tips and ideas, had fun, and always heard some new DX. Good DX can happen anywhere if conditions are right and most of mine over the past fifty years took place at wherever home happened to be at the time. But most of my best experiences and best memories of DXing were not made at home. They were made by getting together to DX with other hobbyists such as we did back in college.
Nowadays when I get together to DX with other hobbyists it’s to go on a DXpedition, which is nothing more than taking your receiver to a place where DXing will be better than at home because there’s less noise and you can erect better antennas. Simple DXpeditions can be done from cars. My old friend Dave Valko used to go on what he called micro-DXpeditions. He drove to a remote spot in the mountains not far from town, laid out a few hundred feet of wire, and then DXed from his car for a couple hours. He frequently did this around dawn and around sunset and got some great DX. I know several other DXers that do this today, either at countryside locations or in large parks.
I’ve done micro-DXpeditions a few times. It’s fun but it always lacks an important element: other DXers. For me, the best DXpeditions aren’t just about hearing interesting stuff (although that is very important). They are also about sharing the hobby with other interested friends. And the best way to do that is to go on a real DXpedition with them.
For three years in a row prior to the pandemic a group of eight of us had rented a lodge in rural central Ohio for an annual DXpedition. Covid shelved our plans for 2020 but by the summer of 2021 we were all looking forward to a fourth DXpedition in September. Then another wave of covid swept across the country and we canceled a few weeks before the event. Fortunately, the worst of those days are behind us and we finally had our fourth DXpedition the first week of October of this year. Unfortunately, only five of us could make it – Ralph Brandi, Mike Nikolich, Andy Robins, Mark Taylor and I.
For four nights our DXpedition home was the same place in western Pennsylvania that we had canceled at in 2021. The location was a rural house on the bluffs overlooking the Allegheny River near the old East Sandy railroad bridge (now a hiking trail). It’s always a gamble going to a new place chosen solely based on the AirBnB listing and other information found online. But this site had all the appearances of being a good place to DX from. The pictures and Google satellite view showed that there were trees around the house and large nearby open fields surrounded by woodland. The terrain was relatively flat when viewed on 3D satellite view. We would have plenty of space for a variety of antennas. Furthermore, it didn’t look to be a noisy location. The nearest neighbor was over a quarter mile to the south and because the house was the last one on the road that powerlines stopped at the driveway. I couldn’t have done much better if I had designed the location myself.
Good antennas are the most important part of any DXpedition and erecting them is usually the most time-consuming part of set-up. Still, you never really know what’s going to fit until you’re there. I arrived at 2 p.m. and Mark pulled in a few minutes later. We immediately walked the grounds and were pleased with what we saw. Ralph arrived while we were laying out the first antenna. Mike and Andy arrived later in the afternoon in time to help finish up.
Our DXpedition antenna farm consisted of two delta loops, a DKaz, and two BOGs. The delta loops used Wellbrook ALA-100LN units and are as I described a few years ago in my article on radio travel. These are easy to erect and are good all-around antennas for anything below 30 MegaHertz. The DKaz (instructions here) is a rather complex-to-build antenna designed for medium wave. Ralph uses one at home which he had taken down for the summer to make yard work easier. He brought the pieces and put it up by himself. The two BOGs (Beverage-on-the-ground) were a 300-meter wire to the northeast and a 220-meter wire to the north. Beverages are good for long wave, medium wave, and the lower shortwave frequencies. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Arun Kumar Narasimhan, who shares the following announcement:
My Name is Arun Kumar Narasimhan from Chennai in India in India and I have been producing and presenting “DXERS DIARY”, a 5-minute weekly DX programme in KTWR’s DRM broadcast in 15205 kHz from 15.00 hrs UTC every Sunday from January 3, 2021.
DXERS Diary DX Programme is also being broadcast every Wednesday in 11965 kHz from 11.01 hrs UTC to 11.07 hrs UTC as part of KTWR’s South East Asia block. You can also listen in 9965 kHz from 14.30 hrs UTC every Wednesday. Those who can’t tune in to DRM can now listen to the program in Shortwave.
This programme is designed to make it easy for listeners to contribute to the advancement of the DX hobby. In this programme, we broadcast listeners’ logs, band scans, sent to us from listeners across the world, information about sunspot number, SFI forecast and A-index , news and frequency changes by various radio stations around the world.
Listeners can send their band scans, shortwave radio logs, reception reports, views and opinion about the programme to “[email protected]”.
I first set foot in Latin America in January 1982 when I arrived in Tegucigalpa to begin three months of Peace Corps training. Three months later I moved to my Honduran home, the town of Santa Bárbara in the western mountains. For the next two years I worked as a teacher and resource person at the Escuela Normal Mixta de Santa Bárbara, a specialized high school that trained its students to teach primary school.
Santa Bárbara had a shortwave station, La Voz del Junco on 6075 kHz but it was rarely reported because it broadcast irregularly and was usually blocked by big international broadcasters when it was on the air. I had never heard it but I met Miguel Hasbun, the owner-manager, on my first visit to Santa Bárbara when he picked me up hitchhiking north of town. He told me that the shortwave transmitter had been broken down for a while but that he was going to fix it ‘soon’. Over the next year I kept inquiring about the shortwave and he finally did fix it. After that the station broadcast irregularly for the next year or so, mostly in the morning. I served as volunteer veri-signer and issued around fifteen QSLs. I even issued one to myself.
Santa Bárbara had one other radio station, Ondas del Ulúa on 1140 kHz medium wave (later 1150 kHz). They also announced 4770 kHz shortwave in their canned IDs and station staff assured me they would be adding shortwave “soon”. It never did happen but the WRTH did list the frequency as future plans for several years.
Ondas del Ulúa 1982 sign-off announcement mentioning 4770 kHz.
The department of Santa Bárbara had one other radio station, Radio Luz y Vida on 1600 and 3250 kHz in the town of San Luis. The founder, manager, and veri-signer for Radio Luz y Vida was a missionary from Oklahoma named Don Moore. Needless to say, this caused a lot of confusion in the DX world as some people assumed he and I were the same person. On the map, San Luis is only about thirty kilometers from Santa Bárbara but getting there involved a five-hour journey on two buses. I only went once and the other Don Moore was out of town, so I never met him. I did meet two nurses who were working at the mission’s health clinic.
These pictures were all taken in 1982 to 1984 while I lived in Santa Bárbara [click on photos to enlarge].
La Voz del Junco’s yellow sign on main street in downtown Santa Bárbara. The small tower on the left was the corner of what had been an army post but was being used as a regional prison in the early 1980s. I once went there every day for a week to supervise student-teachers doing adult literacy classes for the inmates. It was not a pleasant place to be.
Entrance to La Voz del Junco. The girl is examining a poster for the night’s showing at the makeshift movie theater that Don Miguel operated nearby. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post:
Monitoring DSC with YADD
By Don Moore
(The following article was originally published in the April/May 2022 edition of the Great Lakes Monitor, bulletin of the Michigan Association of Radio Enthusiasts. An all-band listening club, MARE publishes a bi-monthly print bulletin and a weekly e-mail loggings tip-sheet. The club also holds regular get-togethers, picnics, and DXpeditions, generally in southeastern Michigan.)
There are dozens if not hundreds of different digital modes used for communication on the MF and HF bands. These aren’t broadcasts you want to listen to unless you like to hear weird tones, beeps, warbles, and grinding noises interspersed with static. Digital modes are for monitoring, not listening. And monitoring them requires having software that does the listening for you and converts the noises into something meaningful – like the ID of the station you’re tuned to. The learning curve to DXing digital utilities can be steep. There are lots of modes to identify and the software can be complicated to learn. Some broadcasts are encrypted so you can’t decode them no matter how hard you try. But the reward is lots of new stations and even new countries that you wouldn’t be able to add to your logbook otherwise.
One of the easiest digital modes to DX is DSC, or Digital Selective Calling. DSC is a defined as “a standard for transmitting pre-defined digital messages.” Look online if you want to understand the technical specifications that specify the values, placement, and spacing of the tones. The result of those specifications is a string of three-digit numbers like this:
Each three-digit value represents either a digit or a key word and the positions of the values map to the various fields contained in the message. This message, which was received on 8414.5 kHz, is a test call from the tanker Brook Trout to the coastal station Coruña Radio in Spain. The sender and destination are not identified by name but rather by their nine-digit MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) numbers – 538006217 for the vessel and 002241022 for the coastal station.
GETTING STARTED WITH DSC
Logging DSC stations requires three pieces of software. First you need a decoder program that turns the noises into numbers and the numbers into meaning. There are several free and commercial options but the most popular one for beginners is YADD – Yet Another DSC Decoder. YADD is free and easy to set up and while YADD can be used by feeding the audio from a traditional radio into your computer, the most common use is with an SDR. That’s what I use and what I will describe here.
Second you need an SDR application and an SDR. I prefer HDSDR for most of my SDR use but I like SDR-Console for digital work. But any SDR program will work if you can feed the audio to a virtual audio cable. And that’s the final thing you need – a virtual audio cable to create a direct audio connection between your SDR application and YADD. There are several different ones available but I recommend VB-Cable. Your first VB-Cable is free and that is all you need to run a single instance of YADD. If you want to expand you can buy up to four more cables from them later. Continue reading →
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post series:
Don Moore’s Photo Album
by Don Moore
When I discovered DXing over fifty years ago I also discovered the world. Through my ears I traveled to other countries and explored other cultures. But DXing has also literally taken me places. My early interest in Latin American DXing developed into a broader interest in Latin America. That led to me joining the Peace Corps after college and working three years in Honduras. That experience furthered my interest in Latin America and I have continued to travel in the region whenever possible. For me DXing and travel were always intertwined. I’m one of a handful of hobbyists who took DXing beyond just listening and went knocking on broadcasters’ doors to visit the distant stations I heard. My ex-wife dubbed this ‘door-to-door DXing.’
To date I’ve visited over 150 radio stations in thirteen countries. A few were medium-wave or FM only, but I was always most interested in visiting broadcasters that used shortwave, either at the time of my visit or a few years before. As my station visits were primarily made in the 1980s and 1990s, almost all of the stations are long-gone from the shortwave bands. However, many are still around on medium wave and FM and often also via streaming on the Internet. As much as I miss the magic of shortwave I know that these stations reach more listeners today via streaming than they ever did with their low-powered shortwave transmitters. Honestly, I sometimes enjoy tuning them in without the fading and static of shortwave. But the memories of what shortwave once was are still there.
Photos also bring back memories. I took dozens of pictures on my station visits and enjoy scrolling through them now and then. You may have seen some of them. Many of my photos were printed with articles I wrote for various DX publications and I’ve done a few slide-shows at DX get-togethers over the years.
In this series of columns I want to share my old photos once again. If you’ve been DXing as long as I have maybe they’ll bring back memories of what you once heard. And if you haven’t been around that long you will have a better understanding of the good old days we oldtimers talk about.
Ecos Del Torbes
There is no better place to start this journey than with Ecos del Torbes. Using ten kilowatts on 4980 kHz, this Venezuelan broadcaster was possibly the most consistent station in the sixty-meter band throughout the 1970s, 80s, and 90s. If you were DXing the tropical bands during those years you surely logged them a few times. If you were lucky you may even have heard their one kilowatt signal on 9640 kHz. They were a very good verifier and for many DXers Ecos del Torbes was among the first Latin American stations QSLed.
Just after Christmas in 1994, my then-wife, four-year-old daughter, and I flew to Mérida in western Venezuela for a family vacation. For ten days we had a great time in this Andean city and then Theresa and Rebecca returned to Iowa while I stayed another week to visit radio stations. I was also getting paid by the Voice of America to research and write a study on the media scene in Andean Venezuela. The now very-out-of-date report can be read at my Patepluma Radio website (which hasn’t been changed in over twenty years and is in need of a facelift).
In that week I visited fifteen radio stations in six towns and cities and Ecos del Torbes was the highlight. I arrived at their doorstep unannounced but was immediately treated as an important guest. I was given a great tour and even got to sit in on a live newscast to see the famous Venezuelan doorbell being used live. I was there about ninety minutes and then walked a block up the street to sister station Radio Táchira. Their facilities were smaller but that’s where the technical offices were and Chief Engineer Ivan Escobar had been told to expect me. Ivan gave me a tour and invited me to visit the Ecos del Torbes transmitter site with him in the afternoon. On the way we stopped by his house where his wife had lunch waiting for us. Visiting Ecos del Torbes was not just the highlight of this trip but ranks as one of my all-time favorite station visits. These pictures bring back many good memories.
Ecos del Torbes was located in the second floor of this building in downtown San Cristóbal. The entrance was the door on the side.
The small plaque next to the door was easy to miss. I walked right by the first time.
Edgar Fabala of the news department showed me around. Here he demonstrates the mini-xylophones that Venezuelan stations used to make the distinctive ‘doorbell’ sound that separated items in the news reports.
Announcer in the studio preparing to read the news.
The adjoining control room.
Ecos del Torbes had one of the largest record libraries in Venezuela. The LPs were color-coded by type.
Julio Achila was a control room operator who had worked at the station since it opened in 1947.
This pennant was considerably larger than the ones sent to DXers.
Sister station Radio Táchira was located a block up the street on the fourth floor of this building.
The Ecos del Torbes transmitter building.
The 50 kilowatt medium wave transmitter on 780 kHz.
Chief Engineer Ivan Escobar and Don Moore next to the 31 meter transmitter. The larger transmitter was for the well-heard 4980 kHz frequency.
The antenna array used for 4980 kHz. The medium wave tower is in the background.
Dipole antenna used for 9640 kHz.
San Cristóbal once had a third broadcaster on shortwave. Radio San Sebastian used 6070 kHz in the early 1970s. (They were not affiliated with Ecos del Torbes).
That was nearly three decades ago and a lot has changed. Ecos del Torbes and Radio Táchira have been gone from shortwave for over twenty years.
In 1995 Ecos del Torbes was at the corner of Calle 9 and Carrera 8, the same address as when I first QSLed them in 1972. Sometime since my visit they moved an outer neighborhood about two kilometers to the east. To find the new offices locate San Cristóbal on Google maps and then search for “Grupo Radial Gonzalez Lovera”. The transmitter site is still where I visited it and can be seen by plugging the coordinates “7.7885, -72.2725” into Google maps and switching to satellite view. (Ignore the picture that pops up to the side. That’s not it.) Zooming in, the medium wave tower is clearly visible but there are no signs of the old shortwave antennas. I suspect they were sold for scrap years ago. I never have found out where the Radio Táchira transmitter site was.
I’d love to go back to Venezuela someday and see some of the other cities that I used to listen to, such as Barquisimeto, Valencia, El Tigre, and Sucre. Unfortunately the political and economic situation there doesn’t look good and it doesn’t look as if it will improve any time soon. But when it does, I’ll be back.