Category Archives: Numbers Stations

The Ghostly Radio Station that No One Claims to Run

There is a great article by Zaria Gorvett in the BBC Future online magazine concerning several transmitting stations which have baffled folks for decades.

Here is a brief introduction:

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.

The whole article is a highly enjoyable read – check it out! 73, Robert AK3Q

Robert Gulley, AK3Q, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Robert also blogs at All Things Radio.

Operator shares what it’s like to work for a numbers station

(Source: Numbers Stations)

Working at a numbers station 6 decades ago was not much different than working at an AM broadcast station. Located on a WWII old Naval Base it consisted of one building surrounded by a double chain link fence inside which older local men drove pickup trucks around for security. Inside the building there was a workshop, two 20,000-watt AM shortwave transmitters, crystal controlled oscillators, and a soundproof booth with a record player and records of well-known music in a language and culture common to the target. Outside the compound was an antenna farm with a log periodic antenna, a rhombic, and a couple dipoles.

I lived, with my wife, about a mile from the site and would drive through a back road to the location, be admitted by security through each gate, and park, and relieve the other op who, after briefing me, was free to go home. My job was to follow a schedule, select the proper frequency at the proper time, tune the transmitter, hit the plate voltage, play the record the schedule told me to, and then recite the messages arranged in five-number groups of numbers in the appropriate language into the microphone in the recording booth. This was all done live and, as far as I know, no recordings were kept.

[…]Other than that it’s just a job. The messages were all prepared somewhere else by someone else and delivered to us along with the schedule. We all had high level clearances but we never knew who we sent these to or what the real ones might have said. This sort of compartmentalization was (and is) common.

I often thought of those for whom the messages were intended… how they felt, where they were… whether they were in an attic or shed or stranded somewhere copying down a message that was a threat to their very lives on a radio that was a death penalty to simply be in possession of. I was very careful to do it right.[…]

Read the full article at Numbers-Stations.com.

How to find the Pyongyang numbers station (V15) including an off-air recording

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Fahey (our resident North Korea specialist)  who shares the following comment regarding our recent post about the re-activation of the North Korean Numbers station:

The Pyongyang numbers (designated V15) have either become less regular or changed their schedule since March. Its been a few months since I have personally received them – but I also haven’t been specifically tuning in for them lately so maybe I have simply missed noticing a timing change.

If you want to find the North Korean numbers, they are read out in a block between songs within the regular programing of the Pyongyang Pangsong radio station.

The choice of music immediately before the number block seems to indicate which recipient agent the transmission is directed to.

For Agent 27 “We Will Go Together with a Song Of Joy” is played, whereas Agent 21’s song is “Spring of my Hometown.”

The announcements typically take between 5 to 10 minutes to read dependent on the number of digits passed. The transmission schedule is variable; in early 2017 the broadcast alternated with a cycle of one week on Thursday night at 12:45AM Pyongyang Time (1615 UTC) and the following week on Saturday night at 11:45PM Pyongyang Time (1515 UTC).??

Pyongyang Pangsong can be heard on these shortwave band frequencies (it is also on MF & FM on the Korean peninsular):

  • 3250 kHz, Pyongyang 100KW Transmitter
  • 3320 kHz, Pyongyang 50KW Transmitter
  • 6400 kHz, Kanggye 50KW Transmitter

Mark followed up this morning with a off-air recording of V15 on 3250kHz. Mark comments, “I will leave the decrypted message content to your imagination!”

Click here to download.

Mark: thank you for taking the time to write up this V15 tutorial and sharing this recording!

North Korea activates numbers station?

Many thanks to a number of SWLing Post contributors who’ve shared this particular item from The National Interest:

North Korea Broadcasts Really Strange Messages As New Nuclear Weapons Test Looms

Pyongyang is reportedly broadcasting encrypted messages reminiscent of those used to contact spies during the Cold War.

[…]As North Korea prepares to mark a key anniversary — the birthday of North Korean founder Kim Il-sung — a U.S. Navy carrier strike group led by the USS Carl Vinson is on its way to Korea.

[…]Radio Pyongyang began broadcasting peculiar messages at 1:15 a.m. (local time). The messages included numbers and pages, such as No. 69 on page 823, No. 92 on page 467, and No. 100 on page 957.“I’m giving review works in elementary information technology lessons of the remote education university for No. 27 expedition agents,” the broadcaster explained before repeating her message.

The messages are broadcast over shortwave radio.

Yonhap News Agency reports the numbers are different from past announcements. Since June of last year, Pyongyang has broadcast its messages 32 times.

Continue reading the full article on The National Interest website…

Update: Since I haven’t gotten any direct listener reports regarding this numbers station’s reactivation, I’ve added a question mark in the title. Please comment if you’ve logged this station (and we’d all love a recording!).

Bletchley Park replica Turing Bombe decodes 40M Enigma message

Remember the weekend 40 meter Enigma message transmitted by DL0HNF? At least one recipient decoded this message:

(Source: Southgate ARC)

40m Enigma Message decrypted at Bletchley Park

On Friday, April 7 the amateur radio station DLØHNF transmitted an Enigma encrypted message on 7036 kHz to Bletchley Park

DLØHNF is the club station at the Heinz Nixdorf Museum in Paderborn, Germany. The encrypted telegraphy message they transmitted was received at the home of the World War Two UK Codebreakers in Bletchley Park. There the message was fed into a replica of the Turing Bombe which enabled the encryption to be cracked.

The message read:  “Paderborn greets the Codebreakers at Bletchley Park”

Read the report and pictures of the event down the page at
http://www.hnf.de/en/veranstaltungen/events/cipher-event-wer-knackt-den-enigma-code.html

Bletchley Park
https://www.bletchleypark.org.uk/

I would have loved to watch the Touring Bombe in action!

Out of curiosity, did anyone record the Enigma transmission?  I’ve had a number of readers inquire about this. Please comment!