I have recently been re-exploring the hobby of photography, which is a lateral move from studying astronomy (my main interest being astrophotography). At one time in my life I was a semi-professional photographer, having studied photojournalism in college and dabbling in nature and street photography (as it is now named). And no, I was never a paparazzo!
Following a link from an article on today’s SWLing Blog I landed on an Italian radio/audio company’s archive, the company being Geloso. The above image is an audio amplifier and it caused me to think about radios (and related equipment) in much the same way I have been currently thinking about photography. Allow me to explain.
I spent about a decade in photography back in the days of film, black and white and color. (This was back in the days when the earth was cooling and dinosaurs roamed the earth!) Film cameras are to modern-day DSLRs much like IBM PCs are to modern day Intel Pentium i7 computers — that is to say, technology has really changed! Seeing what modern cameras can do within the camera is rather astounding, and certainly far beyond what we could even dream of in the 70s. The same is true in radios, of course, with radios from the 40s and 50s in comparison to today’s rigs.
And yet, just like film cameras of old being used today producing incredible photographs, radios from the past can still produce incredible sound if maintained well and their operation understood. And yes, I am getting to my main point, but in an intentionally somewhat circuitous route!
As I have been learning about these modern cameras and watching copious videos on YouTube, I have heard a recurring theme come up. Back in my early days I, like many folks today, always believed the next lens or camera would take me over the top and allow me to produce incredible shots. Oh, I might not have stated it that way, but it certainly was present in recesses of my brain. Now mind you, I was producing good photographs, but I was always looking for those shots worthy of a portfolio, and thereby sometimes missing out on great shots right in front of me.
Having just recently purchased a DSLR camera kit with two lenses, before I had even taken a handful of shots with it, I was starting to think, “What will I need to add to this setup to make it really good? Oops, old habits die hard! Today’s cameras (and optics) from the top 4 or 5 DSLR makers are all head-and-shoulders above what we had access to when I was in photography years ago. There is no reason to look for the absolute best optics unless you have literally thousands of dollars to spend for what are at best, modest improvements under specific shooting conditions. The talent is not in the camera or the lens, but rather in the person behind the camera.
The same holds true for radios today, whether receivers or transmitters. Sure, you can spend thousands of dollars on the top of the line receivers or transceivers, and under certain circumstances, such a purchase may be the right thing. But for most of us, which radio you use does not matter nearly so much as the skill of the operator using the radio. Both the camera and the radio are tools, nothing more. A skillful radio operator can pull signals out of the mud or work stations at the farthest reaches of the globe with a 1940s radio that has gorgeous audio with little to no filtering, or they can use a modern DSP-equipped, roofing filter-loaded rig to hear stations so close together a cat’s whisker could fit between them on the frequency dial. In both cases, it is the radio operator who makes the difference by understanding their rig and knowing how to get the best from it.
Now if you are the type of radio hobbyist who really enjoys playing with the newest radio to hit the market and can afford it, wonderful! You help the rest of us have options when we do decide it is time for a new rig. But if you are the type person who believes you can’t really enjoy radio without having that “other” radio with the slightly better specs derived from precise laboratory conditions with nothing to interfere with signal reception, you may just be missing out on what you have right in front of you.
Believe me, I am not one to judge because people in glass houses should not throw stones! I have simply been surprised at myself as these old instincts have arisen in me, when I thought I had put to rest such things! In the radio world I have resisted the siren call of enticing marketing for the latest whiz-bang radios, at least in these more recent years (!) and now must use that same resistance in my photography. In radio I have learned to get the best out of my gear, and the results are very satisfying. Here’s to hoping I can do the same behind the camera!
Halley VI: The British Antarctic Survey’s new base (Source: British Antarctic Survey)
On Thursday, 21 June 2018, the BBC World Service officially transmitted the 2018 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. We had a total of 28 recordings submitted this year–simply amazing! If I’ve somehow missed including your entry, please contact me; I’ll amend this post.
So, without further ado….
The 2018 BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast Recordings
SWL: Gerald LANDL (OE5TET) Location: Eidenberg, Austria Notes:
Preperations with my 6y old son – highly professional with clip board, frequency setting on equipment, adjusting the antenna tuner. setting the alarm clock and preparing cups for warm drinks.
Wonderful broadcast with heaps of feelings and good music – I reckon the crew in Antarctica enjoyed it.
I used to listen with my dad to Norddeich Radio – also broadcast for crews and sailors out on sea.
2018-06-21 2130 UTC antarctic midwinter broadcast 2018 of BBC
Longitude : 14.23225 E (14° 13? 56” E)
Latitude : 48.44367 N (48° 26? 37” N)
QTH locator : JN78CK
5.985 – Woofferton – via FT 991 + HiGain 640 vertical
7.360 – Ascension – via FT 817 + MLA-M magnetic loop
9.890 – Woofferton – via FT 2000 + Diamond W8010 – multi band trap
enjoyed the slight time delay between Woofferton and Ascension – broadcast (echo you hear)
looking forward to record the whole broadcast from Ascension via FT2000
SWL: Gabriele Barbi Location: Ferrara di Monte Baldo Notes: Received in Ferrara of Monte Baldo (Verona) 850 msl, with Sangean 909 receiver and 30 meter row antenna, good signal on all 3 frequencies 5985 7360 9890 hours of reception (Italian) 23.55 today 21062018. Good Radio 🙂
Note that the audio file of the 3 frequencies is divided by the beep signal respectively from the beginning to the end of the file 5985 7360 9890:
SWL: Grabriele Sommas Location: Roccapiemonte, Italy Notes: Hi Thomas, like every year attached I send you the youtube link of the broadcast BBC MIDWINTER 2018 with the hope of seeing it published also this year on swling. Receiver is an SDRplay RSP2 and Antenna a Wellbrook ALA 1530.
I am Davide Borroni from Origgio (VA) Italy. On 21 June 2018 at 2130.-2200 UTC on 5985 kHz AM, i listened BBC Winter Radio with SINPO 54444
I use my Hallicrafters SX 42, Siemens E 401, Collins HF 2050 and Teletron TE 712S receivers with a magnetic loop antenna.
SWL: Giuseppe Morlè (IZ0GZW) Location: Formia, Italy Notes:
I’m Giuseppe Morlè, iz0gzw, from Formia, central Italy, on the Tyrrhenian Sea.
I send you 2 videos about the Antartic Midwinter 2018 to be included on the Swling Post.
You can see how you listened to from my house on my 3 receivers the transmission and as the only Tecsun pl660 with its antenna on my balcony.
Thanks for everything and I always wish you excellent listening.
SWL: Mark Hirst Location: Basingstoke, England Notes:
QRM levels at my QTH were noticeably higher this year than last, continuing a years long trend in my area.
Woofferton is only 100 miles from Basingstoke in Hampshire, and while it doesn’t lie in the direction of the transmission, the signal was strong and steady, overwhelming almost all of the interference.
All three signals were good at my location in Ayrshire, Scotland.
The best of the two Wooferton signals was 5985 AM.
Here is a youtube video of my reception of the signal from Ascension Island on 7360 AM.
Rx = Trio R-1000
Ant = End fed Wire, 20 meters long and ATU.
HAPPY MIDWINTER !
SWL: Rawad Hamwi Location: Turaif – Northern Borders Province – Saudi Arabia Notes:
Date/Time: 21/6/2018 @ 21:30 UTC | 22/6/2018 @ 00:30 Arabian Standard Time (UTC+3)
Frequency: 9890 kHz
Receiver: Sony ICF-SW7600GR / Sony ICF-SW11
Antenna: 30 LM Longwire Antenna
Location: Turaif – Northern Borders Province – Saudi Arabia
SWL: Richard Langley Location: Hanwell, New Brunswick Notes:
I obtained decent recordings of the BAS broadcast both here in NB on 7360 kHz using a Tecsun PL-880 receiver with a Tecsun AN-03L 7-metre wire antenna strung to a nearby tree and using the U. Twente SDR receiver on 5985 kHz. Attached are two two-minute clips, one from the start of each recording. Also attached [above] is a photo of the “listening post” at the back of my yard. Note the mosquito spray!
SWL: Ivan Cholakov Location: New York and Florida Notes:
This year’s Midwinter Antarctic broadcast from the BBC was a special opportunity for me. I thought I would share the story because it has something to say about the state of technology in today’s world of radio. On the day of the broadcast, June 21, 2018 I was on a business trip to New York City. I had brought with me three very useful and very portable items: an SDRPlay receiver, a W6LVP portable amplified loop and an Eton Satellit shortwave radio.
I was able to receive the broadcast in the following order:
By remotely accessing my home station;s kiwiSDR receiver via the internet
By remotely accessing my amateur radio station that I maintain in Michigan using a remotehams.com server
By using the SDRPlay receiver and the amplified loop from the 35th floor hotel room in Manhattan
By using the Eton Satellit pocket sized shortwave radio from the hotel room in Manhattan
I created a youtube video with the four modes of reception above. it is amazing how connected the world has become!
I was able to get 2 different videos of the BBC Antarctic Midwinter Broadcast. One video is of the broadcast coming through an KiwiSDR channel and another is a recording of BBC through my Tecsun PL-380.
SWL: Stan Horzepa (WA1LOU) Location: Wolcott, Connecticut Notes:
Here in Wolcott, Connecticut, USA, I heard the full 30 minute broadcast
on all three channels using my ICOM IC-R8600 and an 80-meter inverted
Vee antenna. 9890 was very good, 7360 was good, while 5985 was poor.
(The broadcast reminded me of The Beatles Fan Club Christmas recordings.)
SWL: Bill Hemphill (WD9EQD) Location: Smithville, NJ Notes:
I got good copy on 9890 here in Smithville, NJ (5 miles north of Atlantic City).
Readable copy on 7360 and almost readable copy on 5850.
Used a combination of Tecsun Radios: PL-310et, PL-880, and S-8800.
Used the telescoping antenna and a long wire antenna strung up in the house.
SWL: Thomas Witherspoon (K4SWL) Location: Huntsville, Alabama Notes:
I managed to listen to a bit of the broadcast myself in the parking lot of the US Space and Rocket Center in Huntsville, Alabama. I only brought my C. Crane CC Skywave SSB along. The signal was quite weak, but I did log the 9,890 kHz broadcast from Woofferton, UK. Pretty impressive considering the modest portable receiver and the fact the broadcast’s target was Antarctica! Pure shortwave magic.
My recording of 9890 kHz in Pennsylvania was much weaker.
SWL: DanH Location: Northern California Notes:
Just awful reception here in Northern California suburbia near three in the afternoon. I can just make out “Jingle Bells.” BBC Woofferton has been coming in well here from 04:00 – 06:00 UTC on 9915 kHz on some nights.
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, TomL, who shares the following guest post:
Backpack Shack 3 – Amplified Whip Antenna
So, having enjoyed using the Ferrite Sleeve Loop I created last year, I have wanted something a little more sensitive and less bulky. I will eventually create a much BIGGER FSL antenna on the order of 2 feet long and perhaps 18 or 24 inches in diameter for indoor/attic use. But that is not a priority at the moment.
Since I already have the DX Engineering Pre-Amplifier and the very nice Cross Country Preselector from the loop project, I thought it might be useful to create an active whip antenna for it. And the cool looking Solar Red backpack needed something to do!
Now that the bulky loop was not taking up the main compartment of the backpack, I could think about what else to put in there, like a larger power pack. I scoured FleaBay for ideas and stumbled upon this contraption for backup power to network systems, the CyberPower CyberShield for Verizon.
This has 12 spaces for D-cell batteries and was mounted inside the demarcation terminal to provide backup power for things like cable systems and Copper-to-Ethernet networks. It is not waterproof, so would be inside the premises of the customer getting the internet/cable service. But my Pre-Amp needs 12-18Volts and would love to have nearly unlimited power. So, I bought a used one, cut the end off of the power lead and put on my own 2.1×5.5mm plug (carefully glued down and tie-wrapped). Then I filled it with 1.2Volt Tenergy D-cells.
Everything was just fine until I forgot to double check the polarity of the plug that I had wired onto the end. Plugged it into the DX Engineering Pre-Amp, flipped the power switch and fitzzz…. The Pre-Amp light went on, then off (permanently!).
So, my expensive mistake is that I start using the FREE multimeter I got from Harbor Freight and check the polarity before I connect homemade battery packs to anything!!
DX Engineering charged me $60 to fix my mistake and it is working fine now after I swapped the wires on the plug. Yes, their Pre-Amp is NOT reverse-polarity protected! Disappointing, since the price tag for that device is $148!!! The CyberShield now sits comfortably inside the bottom of the backpack.
Now that the drama was over regarding the Power pack, I could think about the whip. I did not want a wimpy whip! (No one should rightly aspire to this, in my opinion). More FleaBay searches found me looking at Trucker parts. Loaded whips, magnetic mounts, 10 foot tall MFJ telescoping whips, etc was looking a bit expensive.
Besides that, I cannot fit a 10 foot tall telescoping whip into the backpack, I am limited to at most 18 inches (and that is at an angle to fit it in there). But I found an old-fashioned mirror mount that looked promising since it had a nice SO-239 connector at the bottom and standard CB antenna fitting on top of 3/8”-24.
Then I found the 44 inch SuperAntenna with the same threads; then found the replacement Stainless Steel Shafts for a Wilson antenna in different lengths (I ordered the 10 inch version to test). With a couple of rod coupling nuts and I was ready for testing!
I had already scheduled a short vacation to Sleeping Bear Dunes on the thumb of Northwestern Michigan, so I took this test setup with my Sony ICF-2010. This area is a very nice remote National Lakeshore with minimal noise. I tried a beach setting and a couple of hilltop picnic areas (including meeting a local Porcupine) and had very nice reception at all locations. The hilltop locations are approximately 400 – 600 feet above the Lake (yes, the Dunes are THAT big there!).
Meeting a local Porcupine
Later on, I went to Grand Haven, MI on the way home and stopped at their very lovely beach.
Reception was just as good as the hilltop locations at Sleeping Bear! In both areas, I was next to a large body of water (in this case, Lake Michigan) and makes for an advantageous place for DXing! I had also stopped at a Rest Area off the highway and that was a terrible place even though it was electrically quiet but nowhere near the big Lake. I guess the rumors are true about being near a large body of water somehow enhances reception of weak signals–?
I will submit recordings later since I lost the mini-B cable for the Sony digital recorder and had to order a replacement. However, this was a nice project that freed up some space inside the backpack. I will add an 18 inch extension to the whip that will give me a total length of 72 inches. Plus, it is mounted 12 inches up on the poly cutting board and I place the backpack on a small hunters folding chair that is about 24 inches tall. So, the tip will be about 9 feet off the ground.
Not pictured but I was also able to easily fit inside a used CCrane Twin Coil Ferrite antenna for mediumwave use that also performed very well. I noticed that the picnic benches at some locations are made of metal, so that gives me a future idea of trying to leverage that to use as a ground plane somehow. The battery pack is heavy but also gives great ballast to the backpack and will not tip over. Cannot wait for the Tecsun S-8800 to arrive so I can try leaving the radio inside the bag and just use the remote control to tune!
As always, I’m so impressed with your spirit of radio adventure, Tom! I love the fact that your goal is to make a field-deployable DX kit that isn’t cumbersome or time-consuming to set up on site. I imagine you only need a couple of minutes to open the pack and have it on the air.
Those DXing spots are stunning! I had no idea one could find 400-600′ dunes in NW Michigan–! With that said, I’ve heard that part of the state is one of exceptional natural beauty. If you could somehow turn the lake into a body of salt water–thus increasing ground conductivity–you’d really enhance that already impressive reception! I’m guessing that sort of project would be a bit outside your budget! Ha ha! That and the freshwater fish might protest!
To me, there is no better way to enjoy radio than finding a nice RF quiet spot in the great outdoors…no matter where you live in the world. On top of that, Tom, you’re constantly building, experimenting, documenting and sharing your findings–you’re a true radio zealot! Huzzah!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dean Denton–our intrepid 13 year old DXer–who seeks a little input from the community. Dean writes:
I am going on holiday in July this year, to Fuerteventura in Islas Canarias, near west Africa.
This will be the first time I will be going on holiday, you will probably know the feeling. Because I am a hardcore radio-fan, I will of course bring my Tecsun PL-660, and I will be posting clips on my YouTube Channel, EuropeDX.
Please could you give me, some vital tips when going on holiday when DXing?
The Canary Islands are in close proximity to North West Africa, so I will be DXing: Morocco, Mauritius, Algeria, Western Sahara, Senegal and others.
To those who are reading this post, I am compiling a list of tech that I am bringing with me. Please help add to this list, off of your experience of being abroad.
Here is the list:
Shortwave Radio, Tecsun PL-660, for the immersion.
Tecsun AN-200 Loop antenna, for pulling AM stations.
Travel adapter, we all need one.
Portable MP3 player, to listen to music
A Portable Digital TV, for watching movies on USB.
An action camera w/lapel microphone, for capturing videos.
FM Transmitter, to show the locals what music is!
4G Mobile Data Router, internet is a basic human requirement.
Please suggest more!
I think that the AM and FM DXing will be breathtaking. The Canary Islands are located where I will be able to pick up African radio stations, but also Transatlantic Brazilian and American stations. Due to the high pressure and high temperature, FM Tropo is not rare in the Canary Island’s climate. Enabling this, it will spark my YouTube channel.
Thank you for reading this, and I hope the SWLing community help me. If you would like to contact me, email me at europedx(at)gmail(dot)com.
Thanks, Dean! You’re talking my favorite topics: radio and travel!
I know we have a number of readers who live in the Canary Islands. No doubt, you’ll get to experience some serious radio fun across the bands.
In terms of tips, I would suggest you assume your accommodation could be plagued with radio noise and you may be forced to find an outdoor spot to do all but your FM DXing. If you know where you’re going to stay, check it out on Google Maps and see if there’s an obvious safe spot to play radio outdoors. Of course, it helps if your accommodation has an outdoor space like a balcony, patio or garden.
Looks like you’ve got a pretty good checklist there. Here are a few additional items I typically take on a holiday DXpedition:
Earphones/Headphones (never leave home without them!)
A small back-up radio (if you have one–something like a Tecsun PL-310ET)