Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Paul Walker, who has kindly allowed me to published some notes he recently shared among MW DXers about DXing in McGrath, Alaska, USA: During a Zoom hang out with a bunch of Pacific NW DXers, one of the things that come up was why my DXing in Alaska is beyond amazing, and we’ve come to a few conclusions.
The extended darkness. Sunrise in the middle of winter here is 3+ hours later than the west coast, so once their Skywave burns off, I’m left with darkness over the pole and to my west.
There’re no operating AM stations within just under 200 miles from me which is a big help. I have heard distant signals on the same channel as “semi locals” such as 780 and 1080.
And I’m pretty sure there’s something to the fact I’m close to the North Pole. Still far, but closer than most.
Interesting to note though: pre sunset DX isn’t a thing there. What I’ve unscientifically discovered is it seems to be that the entire Pacific has to be dark for DX to be worthwhile for me in the evening … despite my evening DX being Canada and the lower 48 US States.
What most everyone else hears at night, such as the transpacific signals from Japan, China, Australia etc…, I hear in the morning. Hearing anything from Asia or the Pacific at night is EXTREMELY rare.
[Since I’m DXing outdoors in extremely cold conditions] I’m getting extra batteries, extra audio cables (to go between the recorder and the radio), another radio, and another recorder. Oh and some hot hands hand warmers. Also have some extra gloves and hats ordered too.. getting prepped for winter DXing well ahead of time!
The hand warmers are as much for my gloves as they are for my digital recorder… AA batteries don’t last long during continuous use in extreme cold.
i also have a portable battery and extra cable so I can use it for my phone. Those lithium ion batteries hate cold even more than aa alkaline batteries–they will shut off in the cold. In fact, you have to not only warm it up but charge it. The cold causes it to think tis dead…. and even warming it up won’t work.
If you’ve been a reader of the SWLing Post for long, you’ll notice that we’re not a space for political discussions; there are much better options out there on the Internet. Here, we stick to the world of radio, but we can’t help but highlight this intersection and Carlos’ creative logs.
In fact, Carlos, I might nudge you for that Vatican Radio recording and your artwork to post on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive!
George Zeller at the Winter SWL Fest Pirate Radio forum (Photo by Paul Kaltenbach)
Many of us who were friends with George Zeller or who regularly attend the Winter SWL Fest are devastated to learn that this well-loved SWL personality passed away after an unintentional electrical fire in his Cleveland home on Saturday March 20, 2021.
Richard D’Angelo with NASWA posted this message about George:
I was shocked and saddened to learn of George Zeller’s sudden passing earlier today (March 20) in a house fire this morning. I had exchanged emails with George earlier this week on NASWA editorial matters as he was slowly recovering from his recent Covid-19 vaccination. The news article in the online Cleveland Comeback mentioned overcrowded electrical outlets/extension cords as the cause of the accidental fire. George was 71 years old.
George and I knew each other for about 40 years. George came to several DXpeditions at Gifford Pinchot and French Creek State Parks. We attended many of the same radio hobby gatherings over the years. For several years, I traveled to Cleveland for work; George and I would go out to dinner on those occasions. Naturally, any time my company was mentioned in the local newspaper George would eagerly forward that information to me. George also traveled to the Winter SWL Festival in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania each year to gather with like minded radio people. He attended other radio conventions too over the year’s throughout the country.
George at a Gifford Pinchot State Park DXpedition
George was well known in the greater Cleveland area as an Economist who kept close tabs on the Ohio economy. The Economic Indicators project he worked on provided continually updated information on poverty, earnings, and the economy in all Ohio counties and communities, with related demographics. In Ohio, Economic Indicators data include annual income trends for all 612 Ohio school districts. Detailed data was also available for job growth and payroll earnings in all Ohio counties going back to 1979, including measures of the very large job losses suffered by Cleveland and Ohio during the 2000s recession that has lingered longer in Ohio than it did elsewhere in the United States. Over the year’s he mixed with local political figures and served as a volunteer in a number of community organizations serving the greater Cleveland area. He was a regular on several talk radio programs when Ohio’s economy was the lead topic.
George was an active baseball and football fan. He attended baseball games wherever he could. He spent time traveling to difference cities attending games in many major league and minor league baseball stadiums. I recall making such a trip to Camden Yards in Baltimore with several others to catch an Orioles-Yankees baseball game when my children were youngsters. He was an enthusiastic Cleveland Indians and Cleveland Browns fan going back to the glory days of the 1950’s. He never forgave the Indians for trading away Rocky Colavito.
For twenty years George wrote a column about unlicensed pirate and clandestine shortwave radio broadcasting news in Monitoring Times magazine. He was also a contributing editor to Passport to World Band Radio, the definitive guide to international shortwave broadcasting frequencies, schedules, and receiving equipment. For decades he wrote a column on Clandestine radio broadcasting in the monthly issues of The ACE from the Association of Clandestine Radio Enthusiasts. Annually, he hosted the Pirate Radio Forum at the Winter SWL Festival in Plymouth Meeting, Pennsylvania as well as being the host of the prize raffle at the Saturday night banquet. In recent years, George was the editor of the Pirate Radio Report column for the North American Shortwave Association. He joined NASWA in December 1965 as a lad of sixteen.
Left to right: Rich D’Angelo and George Zeller at the Winter SWL Fest
George was always fun to be with and a real character to boot. No matter what the topic of the conversation was, he had a story that may or may not have been pertinent. There was never a dull moment when he was part of the group. George Zeller will be missed by all of us.
Thank you for sharing, Rich.
In the news article about the house fire, his neighbor described George as always kind and somewhat reclusive. With his radio community, he was everything but reclusive.
George wearing his ceremonial cheese hat and goggles at a Winter SWL Fest banquet. (Photo by Larry Willl)
George had a huge personality, amazing sense of humor, and perhaps what I admired about him most was his ability to poke fun of himself. A quality I hold in high regard.
This is a sad story. Well, it’s sad for me. But hopefully my sad story will yield “radio life” for somebody else and that life will bring them joy.
I’ve been an SWL’er since the early-90s. Due to the decline of international broadcasters, “collecting” has become just as – if not more – important to me than listening. I’ve always been fond of the Sony ICF-SW100 pocket radio. I often read here on this blog about Thomas’ affection for it. To make my dream a reality, on 19 November 2017 I found the perfect SW100 (with the leather case) and I purchased it. It did not disappoint! That radio has to be the most sensitive radio for its size out there. No, correction – that little baby has held its own against any other portable shortwave radio (of any size) that I own (I have 17 or 18, incl. this SW100). That’s quite amazing for a true pocket radio.
But please allow me go back to the beginning of my story. Once I acquired the ICF-SW100, I assembled a “kit” … piece-by-piece (remember, I’m a collector).
I surmised that the SW100 would fit into the Sony ICF-SW1 case – and I was correct (sans the SW100’s leather case). The SW1 case was one of my first purchases for my SW100 as I wanted something rugged to protect it.
The Sony AN-1 antenna works great with the SW100, and that was part of my kit. Of course, I also wanted the OEM Sony Compact Reel Antenna. “Check” – found one on eBay! The OEM AC adapter? Yes, “check” that one off the list. A photocopy of the OEM manual would not do – I found an original on eBay and “check”, that was added to the kit.
I already owned a Sony AN-LP1 (active) antenna. That would not fit into the case, so I added a TG34 active antenna that I already owned (that’s a Degen 31MS clone). Why? I gotta have a ready passive antenna in my kit.
Wait, who wants a 30+ year old OEM set of earbuds? Exactly, neither do I. This is the only thing I did not want to be OEM! I bought a new pair of Sony earbuds (off Amazon) to throw into the kit. Other than the TG34, everything in the kit had to be Sony. In the end, this handy little case was my Eutopia – it had everything I needed in its own “shortwave bugout kit”.
Of all of the radios in my shortwave arsenal, this was by far my favorite. Hobbies should bring us joy. So even if there weren’t many broadcasters to listen to, this little pocket radio never failed to bring me joy.
The last time I really used this radio was June-August 2020. My newborn grandson was in the NICU far from my son’s home. I “deployed” (with my SW100 bugout kit & 5th wheel camper) to my son’s very rural & very remote farm (275-miles from my home). I was there to tend the farm, solo, for that period of time while my son and his family could be with my grandson at a specialty hospital some 350-miles away. During this stressful & physically demanding time – tending to more farm animals than I care to mention and rustling bulls that escaped from the pasture – my SW100 was the only friend that I had. It provided many, many hours of enjoyment. Literally, other than a neighbor about ¾ of a mile up the road my ICF-SW100 and I were alone (not including the 50+ animals I tended to) from June through August.
Fast-forward to the present: last weekend I reached for my kit and I removed the my SW100. I turned it on and there was no power. Not surprising but actually very unusual as my NiMH Eneloop batteries typically last for a year or more inside my radios in “storage”. I reached for the battery compartment, I felt an anomaly on the backside of the case and imagine my horror seeing this as I turned it over!
Surprisingly, there is zero damage to the Eneloop batteries (they did not leak). I can no longer power the radio via ANY batteries, but amazingly the radio seems to operate at full capacity via AC Adapter. Whatever happened inside the radio, it still seems to operate (though admittedly I haven’t taken it through all of its usual paces).
Unfortunately, a pocket radio that only operates via AC power does not suit me. There is a better option: my loss may be someone else’s gain? I am sending the radio and the necessary components to Thomas’s friend Vlado for a full autopsy (Vlado emailed that he has worked on these radios for years and has “never” seen this issue before). After the autopsy, my radio will become an organ donor. The remaining healthy components of this radio – and there are many – will be used for repairing other SW100s (singular or plural).
Strangely, I cannot detect any other “trauma” to the radio other than that one melted corner. The battery compartment *seems* undamaged though I refuse to open the case as I do not want to accidentally damage the radio’s healthy components (I’ll let the professional “coroner” do that). I am looking forward to the coroner’s report because I need to know what the heck happened to my baby?!
In closing, though we’ve only had a 3-year plus relationship I can honestly say this amazing little pocket radio had become a great friend. I’m sure it’s grief, but I am considering liquidating the remainder of my radio & antenna collection – my heart just isn’t “in” to SWL at the moment. And the timing of this is just awful for me: I’m having surgery Tuesday for an injury I incurred eight months ago while tending my son’s farm. I had big plans that my SW100 and I would pass the time while I convalesce. But alas, my buddy will be headed to radio heaven as an organ donor. May others benefit from my loss.
Tuesday, many of us in the shortwave and DXing community learned about the unexpected passing of our good friend and veteran radio reporter, Allan Loudell.
I got to know Allan via the Winter SWL Fest community. Allan attended every year and was well known for being not only wonderfully good-natured, the sort of guy who is liked by everyone, but also one of the most knowledgeable DXers on the planet. As a mutual friend recently noted, his knowledge of the domestic and international broadcasting scene was very nearly “encyclopedic.”
Dan Robinson (left) and Allan Loudell (right) at the 2020 Winter SWL Fest (Photo source: Dan Robinson)
I made a point of chatting with Allan each year at Winter SWL Fest. This year, we all noticed that he had lost some weight, but otherwise seemed fine and, as usual, in great spirits. He mentioned to me that he had been through months of medical issues and rehabilitation, but believed he was on a positive track. I only wish that might have been so.
It was among my favorite things to do at the Fest––and I got to enjoy this a few times–– to page through albums of QSL cards with Allan that he and other Fest attendees like Dan Robinson brought to share. Allan’s eyes would light up as he turned each page. Not only did he know each card and each broadcaster, but––if you asked––he could take you on a deeper dive into the nuanced history of each station.
Allan interviewing a young lady in the studios of WDEL. (Photo source: WDEL)
Clipped from the February 1994 issue of Pop Communications
As our mutual friend, Tracy Wood, put it: “[Allen] was a giant… radio was his life….and thankfully he shared his passion with us.”
Moreover, Allan was a longtime Delaware radio newsman, having spent 18 years with WILM and most recently 15 years with WDEL.
In a typical year, I make at least a couple of trips through the mid-Atlantic states, and each time I do, I tune to WDEL to hear Allan’s voice.
The subtext is plain: he was a well loved at the station and, indeed, in the community. The station included the following quote from Delaware Governor John Carney:
“I’m very sad to hear that Allan has passed away. I tell people that, in my thirty years of public service, I’ve developed a list––just a personal list of good guys and gals, people that were really good to work with…Allen was one of those guys…He was always very fair…He always covered his subject matter in a way that most reporters didn’t. And he used the radio media as a way of communicating, and having public officials like myself communicating, with the people that I worked for, the people in northern New Castle County. I particularly liked his show DelAWARE, because…he did, in very intense kind of way, various subject matter that got below the surface…”
Governor Carney continues:
“[Allen] was just a really interesting guy and a very real gentleman…and I enjoyed being with him…I know that the people in the WDEL, WILM listening area here in northern New Castle County and, actually, across our state now will miss his programming, will miss him as as a media person, and it’s sad to hear that he’s passed.”
Halley VI Research Station on the Brunt Ice Shelf in Antarctica (Source: British Antarctic Survey)
On Sunday, 21 June 2020, the BBC World Service officially transmitted the 2020 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast–an international radio broadcast intended for a small group of scientists, technicians, and support staff who work for the British Antarctic Survey.
This is one of my favorite annual broadcasts, and I endeavor to listen every year. Once again, the SWLing Post called upon readers to make a short recording of the broadcast from their locale.
Below are the entries, roughly organized by continent and country/region.
Did I miss your recording?
Putting this post together takes almost a full dedicated day sorting recordings, uploading, and formatting them for the Post. Many readers posted a link to their recording on Facebook, Twitter, or even in the comments section on previous posts. I tried to hunt down these links, but if I’ve somehow missed including your entry, please send me an email with details and a link to your recording; I’ll amend this post.
So, without further ado please enjoy the following recordings:
The 2020 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast Recordings
Here are a couple of samples from the 2020 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast, both on 5790 kHz, the first one at 21:53 UTC, the second one at 21:59 UTC.
My receiver is a JRC-NRD 535 with an AOR LA400 loop antenna and I used a Roland Edirol R-09 recorder.
My location is Aarhus, Denmark. Best reception from here was on 5790 kHz followed by 7360 kHz (weaker signal and a bit background noise) while 9580 kHz was barely audible.
I really enjoy reading your articles, reviews, etc. in both your website and blog. thank you very much!
SWL: Paul Lethbridge Location: Worthing, England Notes: 9580 as received in Worthing with some talkback from G0JXX on 2mtr to me G3SXE
SWL: David (G4EDR) Location: North Yorkshire Notes:
I used my Tecsun PL-680 and its telescopic whip antenna to receive the annual mid winter broadcast. 5790 kHz was very strong here on the North Yorkshire coast in the UK. My audio recording was taken from the loud speaker using my mobile phone. Hope the quality is acceptable for posting on your website.
73, David – G4EDR
SWL: Mark Hillman Location: Littlehampton, West Sussex Notes: 132ft longwire at my QTH in IO90RT (M0TVV)
SWL: Mark Hirst Location: North Hampshire, UK Notes:
I hedge my bets this year and monitored both 5790kHz and 7360kHz using my RSPDuo and FRG-7700 respectively.
Below is the beginning of the broadcast on 7360kHz, recorded in North Hampshire, UK:
7360 kHz deteriorated towards the end, so the RSPDuo recording will be the keeper.
SWL: Nick B. Location: England Notes:
Some recordings I made this evening on 5790kHz. I’m around 90 miles NE of Woofferton TX so it’s a big signal here!
Using Airspy HF+ Discovery, SDR Console in SAM mode.
Unfortunately, the BBC caused a lot of confusion due to their incorrect broadcast time (and incorrect pluralising Ascension Island!). I hope they managed good reception down in Antarctica.
SWL: Roseanna Notes:
I’ve got the BBC Midwinder 2020 broadcast recorded in pretty amazing quality for your archive post!
SWL: Philippe Location: Brest. France Notes:
Good morning Thomas,
i’ve recorded the last BBC Antarctic Midwinter broadcast.
I’m located near BREST, in west France.
SWL: Martin Location: Hannover, Germany Notes: Here is a recording of the 2020 BBC midwinter broadcast, received in Hannover Germany on my XHDATA D-808 and its telescopic whip antenna, with the strongest signal on 5790 kHz via Woofferton.
Thanks for bringing this broadcast to my attention!
SWL: Andreas Bremm Location: Western Germany Notes:
Hello Thomas i can send you my record from the BBC Midwinter Show sounds really good. It’s recorded with Tecsun ICR 100 Revived with Tecsun Pl880 and a MLA30+ Loop in Western Germany
SWL: Alan Location: Ireland Notes:
5790 kHz Woofferton UK
BBC Antarctic Midwinter broadcast 21-06-2020 21:30UTC
Recorded from County Kildare, Ireland (GRID IO63ri)
Icom-718 and 20m Random wire
SWL: Marco Origlia Location: Cuneo, Italy Notes:
My name is Marco and I am an Italian student in Telecommunications
Engineering. Thanks to one of our Professors, I’ve become enthusiast for
radio communications and day by day I’m becoming a shortwave listener. I
must thank you for your blog. I’ve added it to my RSS feed aggregator so
that I don’t miss any of your posts, which I always find very interesting.
Upon your invitation I would like to share a short recording of the BBC
Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast I made. The data of the recording are the
Location: Cuneo, Italy (44.384413N, 7.542607E), from an indoor location
of a urban area
Frequency: 7360 kHz
Receiver: TECSUN PL-660 with wire antenna leaning out of the window
Time: UTC 2020-06-21 21.41
Although at times the signal faded, the broadcast was pretty clear.
I haven’t bought a jack to jack cable to pipe the output of the radio to
the computer, yet. So I plugged my headphones into the computer, I put
the headphone microphone on the radio speaker, I recorded the broadcast
with OBS and converted it using VLC.
Thank you again for your service to the shortwave listeners community,
SWL: Giovanni Lorenzi Location: Messina, Sicily Island Notes:
I’m Giovanni Lorenzi, and I’m a amateur radio too. I live in Messina, Sicily Island. My working condition are: receiver Yaesu FRG-7000 and dipole antenna.
I’ve tuned the program above and I’m sending 3 audio clip about.
SWL: Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW) Location: Formia, Central Italy Notes:
I’m Giuseppe Morlè, iz0gzw, from Formia, Central Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Sea …
Also this year I send you the link where you can see My Antartic Midwinter 2020 video.
I hope you will publish it on SWLing Post for the swl community of the world …
I thank you and always wish you good listening.
Ciao from Italy.
SWL: Przemys?aw Ryszka Location: Jaslo, Poland Notes: Recorded in Jaslo, south-eastern Poland using Tecsun PL-360 and some lenght of a wire.
SWL: Anton Kolesnichenko, R9LAU Location: Tyumen, Russia Notes:
SWL: Dmitry Elagin Location: Saratov, Russia Notes:
Hello from Saratov, Russia!
UTC time: 21:30 – 22:00
Frequency khz: 9580
Weak signal. Local impulse interference. Sometimes fading a weak signal and noise at frequency.
Signals 7360 and 5790 are much stronger.
Receiver: SDRplay RSP1
Antenna: Long wire antenna 7 meters + counterpoise 20 m. (10 – 14 m. above ground level)
MFJ-959C Antenna Tuner SWL and Preamp / MFJ-931 Artificial RF Ground
Receiver location: Saratov, Russia
SWL: Richard Lacroix Location: Toronto, Ontario Notes:
I managed to receive on all 3 frequencies from Toronto, Ontario Canada. Best
of them was 9580 kHz. I first started to listen on 7360 kHz as this was the
only working frequency. Reception was poor, hence the poor audio recording.
Conditions rapidly got much better which allowed me to switch to 9580 during
the broadcast period with much better reception.
SWL: Richard Langley Location: Hanwell, New Brunswick Notes:
I obtained a good recording of the BAS broadcast here in New Brunswick, Canada, on 7360 kHz using a Tecsun PL-880 receiver outdoors at my house with a Tecsun AN-03L 7-metre wire antenna strung to a nearby tree. Attached is a photo of the “listening post” at the back of my mosquito-infested backyard. Note the bug spray!
Received in Ottawa, Canada using an XHDATA D-808 with ~15 feet of wire clipped to the telescopic antenna. Location was on a balcony, east facing about 20 feet above the ground. Nothing heard on 5790, faint signal on 9580 and readable with variable fading on 7360 (maybe S3R3-4). Recording here:
SWL: Cameron Campion Location: Melbourne Notes:
Hello Thomas, Here is my reception of the BBC Midwinter broadcast from here in Melbourne, Australia with my XHDATA Receiver. I received first on 7360khz and then switched to 5790khz where the reception improved substantially.
SWL: Chris Mackerell Location: Marahau, New Zealand Notes:
Here are a couple of clips from the BBC Midwinter broadcast
for Antarctica received here in Marahau, New Zealand.
This is 7360 kHz – the best of the signals. 5790 was weaker,
and 9580 was just a spike on the SDR display.
The clips are the first & last minute or so.
Receiver was an Elad DUOr with a Wellbrook loop antenna.
SWL: Ulises Chialva Location: Rio Primero, Argentina Notes:
My name is Ulises Chialva, Im 46 years old and I live in a small rural town called Rio Primero, in the Cordoba province, central region of Argentina. Im a DXer since the late 80´s and been a member of several clubs here in Argentina, also a monitor for Radio Netherlands in the 2000´s.
Today is a cold Fathers day here in Argentina, and at the moment of listening I was also enjoying a really beautiful sunset.
I’ve listen to this years BBC midwinter broadcast with my Sony ICF-2010 and a 45 meters long random wire antenna with a 9:1 balun.
Conditions were pretty good with the UK so I’ve listened to Woofferton station transmissions very clear on 5790 and specially 7360 KHz; 6170 and 9580 from Ascension Island were barely audible here.
I send to you a little more than 1 minute recording of 7360 KHz from Woofferton, UK; and a photo of my little shack here at home.
SWL: Carlos Latuff Location: Porto Alegre, Brazil Notes:
It was a risky listening to the Midwinter Broadcast during the Covid-19 pandemic, because I had to leave my home since inside my apartment it is practically impossible to listen to shortwave radio due strong interference.
I took my Tecsun PL-606 (telescopic whip only) to the Guaiba waterfront near my home here in Porto Alegre. It was a calm night with calm weather and the place was CROWDED; people with and without masks, ignoring the social distancing. I stayed only for a short time there, trying to keep myself away from people.
SWL: Francisco Miranda Fuentes Location: Santiago, Chile Notes:
I send you my participation to reception of the activity “2020 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast on June 21”. I also attach a recording in mp3 format corresponding to 44 seconds of the event.
Name: Francisco Miranda Fuentes
Receiving frequency: 7360 khz at Woofferton
Receiver: Kenwood R-1000.
Location of the box: Santiago, capital city of the Republic of Chile.
Recording: 128 bps mp3 format
SWL: Julio Campos Location: Costa Rica Notes:
Hi. This is my brief reception. It was still daylight here, and there was a heavy storm. The reception was poor.
Once again, many thanks to all of you who submitted your recordings of the BBC Midwinter Broadcast!
We’ll be sharing this post with both the British Antarctic Survey and the BBC World Service. And to all of you, from the SWLing Post: Happy (Belated) Midwinter! Happy Summer/Winter Solstice!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alfred, who shares the following:
I have taken my DX-150 off the shelf and renewing a long-ago hobby. Circumstances have certainly changed since my introduction to SWLing.
One of the major changes is my operation of the receiver non-visually. To re-acquaint myself with the technology and new operational mode, I have been gathering literature (on the computer using screen reading software). I came across this link about Arthur Cushen, who I was not aware of – and you may be, and pass the link on to you to enjoy the aspects of his life and profession as a DXer.
From the Editor: Tim Hendel is a member of the Huntsville chapter of the NFB of Alabama. Since he was a student at the New York State School for the Blind in Batavia, he has been interested in travel, languages, and short-wave radio. That is how he first became acquainted with Arthur Cushen and his story.
This is what he says:
A large group of sighted people would tell you that the only blind person they know is Arthur Cushen. These people share the hobby of tuning around on their short-wave radios to pick up unusual stations. Hard-to-get stations are often referred to as “DX,” and people who have this hobby are called “DX-ers.” Arthur Cushen was called “the world’s only professional DX-er.” On September 20, 1997, he died in Invercargill, New Zealand.
Arthur Thomas Cushen was born on January 24, 1920, in Invercargill. This community is at the extreme southern tip of the South Island of New Zealand. It is about as far as you can get from most European and North American cities.
As a young boy Arthur is said to have suffered from poor eyesight. I do not know if he would have been classified as visually impaired in modern parlance. It is true that while in school Arthur did not receive any special educational training. During the 1930’s his sight became much worse. He lost all vision in the early 1950’s. Somewhere along the way Arthur learned Braille.
On Christmas morning, 1932, Arthur got up at 3:00 a.m. with his father and the rest of his family. They tuned their battery-powered radio to the BBC on short-wave to hear the Christmas address of King George VI, from far-away England. A couple of years later as a teen-ager Arthur picked up Suva, Fiji Islands, on his radio. By that time he was bitten by the bug and saved his money to buy better radios. He probably climbed around in his yard, putting up better antennas. Many of us have tuned around on our radios to see what we could pick up, but from his earliest explorations Arthur kept careful and detailed records of what he heard.
All of this might have remained little more than a pastime for a young man in a very isolated community, if it had not been for World War II. During that war most men of military age in New Zealand, as well as in other English-speaking countries, were called away to fight the Germans and Japanese. It was the nature of that war that many of these fighters were taken prisoner.
In the early 1940’s, Germans, Japanese, and Allies were all beginning to learn about international radio and trying to use it for their own propaganda ends. The Japanese were fond of sending out nightly broadcasts in English, touting their victories. These broadcasts went out from what was then called Radio Tokyo, but also from Manila, Singapore, and Batavia (now Jakarta, Indonesia). To give their broadcasts more realism, they often read out the names and addresses of prisoners of war whom they were holding. Perhaps the Japanese felt that these details would increase the believability of their programs. They surely never knew that they were providing great comfort to the families of those prisoners.
Sitting almost at the bottom of the world, listening to his radio, was Arthur Cushen. He had been rejected for military service due to his vision. Arthur, together with his wife Ralda, copied down the names and addresses of the soldiers and civilians as they were broadcast from Tokyo, Singapore, and Batavia. (Arthur says that those were the strongest stations and had the greatest number of prisoners, but that he also monitored Shanghai, Chungking, and many other smaller stations.) Then Arthur would try to track down the families and tell them that he had heard news of a relative on the radio. True, the man might be a prisoner, but at least families got word that their loved one was alive.
To understand how Arthur did his work during World War II, we should bear in mind that there was no Internet, no cassette recorder, no word processor. I cannot even find any mention of his having had a typewriter. He dictated his messages to his wife and other helpers, who would often go to the local telegraph office and send telegrams or write letters to the families. Even long-distance telephoning seems to have been limited, perhaps because Arthur could not afford it. After the war letters of thanks poured into Arthur’s home. In 1970 Queen Elizabeth awarded Arthur the MBE (Member of the British Empire) for his service during the war.
During the Vietnam War Arthur monitored the Voice of Vietnam (Radio Hanoi) and contacted many U.S. families whose loved ones had spoken over that station. By this time the actual voices of the prisoners were broadcast, and tape recorders were common, so Arthur was often able to provide recordings to the families.
In 1953 Queen Elizabeth made a trip to New Zealand. She made it known that she wanted to spend at least one night alone in her hotel room. She also requested a radio and asked that someone provide her with a list of frequencies on which she could hear the BBC. Arthur Cushen was called upon to do this and has kept the special souvenir card on which he listed the frequencies for Her Majesty. Another scoop came to Arthur on November 23 (New Zealand time) 1963. After President Kennedy was shot, Arthur monitored many U.S. AM broadcast band stations and relayed the news he heard to the local New Zealand stations. In that era before satellite coverage, they would not have had so much news if it had not been for Arthur.
In February, 1942, Arthur was contacted by the BBC in London, who had heard of his radio work. They wanted someone in New Zealand to check on reception of their programs and send them a cable each week, telling them how the station was doing. After the war Voice of America, Radio Canada, Radio Netherlands, Radio Sweden, and many other stations made similar arrangements with Arthur.
Between 1952 and 1954 Arthur had several eye operations. He hoped that they would restore his sight. Instead, he lost most of the vision which he had. At that time he felt that he could not continue the work he was doing and needed to find another source of income. He asked the stations for which he had already been doing monitoring if he could be taken on their payroll as a regular staff member. This is how it came to pass that Arthur Cushen became the world’s only professional DX-er.
In addition to his work for the large broadcast stations, Arthur wrote many articles talking about radio. Some of these were published in radio hobby magazines, others in newspapers in New Zealand. Arthur wanted as many people as possible to discover the magic of tuning their radios to far-away stations. He also wanted people to know that they could do this with whatever radio they had on hand, instead of going out and spending lots of hard-earned cash for a special receiver. Victor Goonetilleke of Sri Lanka said, during a tribute to Arthur by Radio Netherlands, “Arthur always put in stuff that was easy to pick up, as well as the rare, hard-to-find stuff. He was a great encouragement to those of us who were starting out, especially us who lived in Asia. No one else was talking about stations that we could hear.”
Glenn Hauser of the well-known short-wave program “World of Radio,” said, “Arthur is the only person who was active in the hobby when I started in 1957 and is still heard.”
I was a boy at the New York State School for the Blind when I first heard Arthur giving reports over Radio Netherlands, talking about stations he had heard. It is hard to describe the thrill I felt when, as a teen-ager living in what I thought to be boring Upstate New York, I heard Arthur talking about picking up Fiji, Tonga, or New Guinea. It certainly whetted my appetite for travel, languages, and radio—interests which I still have.
In the early 1970’s I lived in Hawaii, and I had the thrill of exchanging tapes with Arthur. He wanted to know how well Radio New Zealand was received in Honolulu. I was able to fulfill his request. In 1986 I met Arthur at a short-wave convention in Montreal. It was wonderful to see everybody, blind and sighted, clustered around Arthur as he told stories of World War II and radio in the exotic islands of the Pacific.
Arthur wrote two books. The World in My Ears is a combination autobiography and beginning guide for those who want to know about short-wave radio. NLS has recorded it as RC15856. Another book, Arthur Cushen’s Radio Listening Guide, has not been recorded.
Most of the tributes to Arthur have focused on his radio activities. In passing they have mentioned that he “did a lot for the blind of New Zealand,” but I have been able to obtain very little information about this facet of his life. Apparently he helped found the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind. During the early 1960’s he and his wife Ralda began some kind of simple newspaper-reading service for the blind. Ralda would read articles on tape. These tapes were placed on an answering machine, where people could call in and hear them. Today most of New Zealand, as well as Australia, is served by radio reading services which operate on open channel, usually on the AM broadcast band.
In the tributes which many short-wave stations broadcast about Arthur, his wife Ralda was always mentioned. It was said that Ralda was “his eyes” and his greatest help. It is certain that Arthur and Ralda worked a great deal together, but I do not know how much of this reflects some sighted people’s ideas about what we can and cannot do without sighted help and how much reflects the actual way this couple chose to work together. A careful reading of his book reveals some gentle chiding of certain sighted people who, he felt, were trying to take over the running of some organizations in New Zealand, putting into place what they thought was “necessary for the blind,” rather than consulting with blind consumers.
It is true that Arthur grew up in a time and place when the special tools we take for granted were not available. I have no evidence that he used talking computers and other modern devices. I do know that he used Braille during his broadcasts. I used to fancy sometimes that I heard him rattling his Braille paper, though I don’t know if this was true.
Arthur’s family has requested that any contributions in his memory be sent to the Royal New Zealand Foundation for the Blind, 172 Queens Drive, Invercargill, New Zealand.
Tributes and condolences to Ralda Cushen may be sent to Ralda Cushen, 212 Earn Street, Invercargill, New Zealand.
Condolences and recollections of Arthur may be e-mailed to
Radio New Zealand ended its tribute to Arthur Cushen with a beautiful Maori sacred song. A very well-known blind person has passed from among us.
Thank you for sharing this remembrance, Alfred. I’m willing to bet there a number among the SWLing Post community who remember Arthur Cushen even though he passed away in 1997.
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