Category Archives: SWLers

Guest Post: Report from the 2019 Henry’s Island DXpediton

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD), for sharing the following guest post:


Henry’s Island DXpediton 2019

World Radio day is observed by the UNESCO on 13th February every year. This year is the 8th year world day being celebrated with theme “celebrate radio and how it shapes our lives”.  In recent times there has been a sea change in radio listening and radio broadcasting. More and more radio broadcasters are shifting to FM which radiate over a small distances and require low power transmitters. Medium wave broadcasting and shortwave broadcasting which is used to reach audience over larger distances is gradually becoming less important with the growth of internet connectivity. Broadcasters are increasingly streaming their content over the internet to reach their audience via the PC, Laptop and now via the mobile phone.

DXing is the hobby of listening to the faraway and distant signals and the hobbyist are called DXers. DXers would switch on their radio set, connect it to the piece of wire which is the antenna and turn the dial to search and listen to the far away and sometimes feeble radio signals. For these radio enthusiasts challenge is becoming greater. The big names of yesteryear such as BBC, Voice of America, Radio Moscow and Deutsche Welle, the German radio are all gradually shifting their content from shortwave broadcasting to the internet. Now with data connectivity to the mobile phone available to everyone, the shortwave broadcasters find a more reliable and popular route to reach their audience through the internet rather than troublesome “bounce” through the ionosphere. Then with the rise of household electrical devices which radiate “radio noise” such as the LED bulb or the TV, the radio signals from distant lands have to rise over this local noise to reach the ear of the audience.

That is why a band of radio enthusiasts from all over India have travelled to the listening camp set up at a resort in Henry Island at Bakkhali in the state of West Bengal, India. This year the listening camp ran from 10th – 13th Feb, which celebrated World Radio Day and the hobby of radio. The dedicated radio enthusiasts who have been drawn into this radio listening camp, are drawn from different parts of country varying from New Delhi to Tripura. Kolkata the home of the Indian DX club International (www.idxci.in), has been promoting the hobby since 1980 has naturally most participants in this camp. They were very upbeat while worldwide radio enthusiasts have to cope up with bad news for the hobby. In the last few years, stations after stations have closed down and so have iconic radio clubs like Danish Short Wave Club and periodicals like Monitoring Times. Broadcasting mega corporations like VOA and DW have reduced their presence in the airwaves to a faint whisper compared to their former roar.

Sandipan Basu Mallick (VU3JXD) with Dr Supratik Sanatani (VU2IFB)

Sandipan Baus Mallick (VU3JXD), who is the principal in organizing this year’s DXpedition from IDXCI says that the appeal of radio is still there among the various age groups. These camps are set up in remote locations, which enable the radio enthusiast to come together with likeminded people to exchange ideas and experiment with their equipments and brush up their skills with conventional radio. People from various races of life participated in this years camp.

Among the participants Sudipto Ghose (VU2UT) who just retired from a job with the Ministry of Finance is drawn by the technical part of the hobby and toys with new radio receivers and accessories such as antennas and preamplifiers.

C K Raman (VU3DJQ) from Delhi whose job incidentally involved professionally monitoring broadcast stations, has narrowed his interest down to the medium wave stations and the tropical band stations such as stations from Brazil, Colombia and Indonesia and has come down looking for such exotic signals.

Suvendu Das (SWL), who professionally managed ship communications has suddenly become interested in the hobby of broadcast band listening.

Pradip Kundu (SWL) of Tripura who after retiring as a Principal has more time to pursue his childhood passion and is an avid QSL collector.

Babul Gupta (VU3ZBG) an interior designer still spends time to seek those rare signals at the wee hours and has to his credit listening to some of the most rare to hear stations from India such as Cross Radio, an evangelist radio station broadcasting from the Carribean.

Alokesh Gupta (VU3BSE) has flown in from Delhi for the radio camp is an avid enthusiast who also served to coordinate the Listeners association of Radio Taiwan and runs the website radioactivity.org which disseminates information related to radio broadcasting.

Kallol Nath (SWL) is among the newest entrants in the DXer squad. Armed with XH Data D-808 receiver, he logged a number of pirate stations on the MW band.

For Sandipan, a marketing professional worked to set up this camp and bring together radio enthusiast from various parts of India. He is also drawn by the technical aspects of the hobby and can flaunt many a radio gear just like his friend Debanjan Chakraborty (VU3DCH) who is a radio collector and has radio sets.

Accompanying them is Eye Surgeon Dr Supratik Sanatani (VU2IFB), who has key interest in home brewing various radio equipment, and a veteran in DXpedition also came together explore the airwaves from the Bay of Bengal.

Henry’s Island marked with a red location pin.

Henry’s Island is at the tip of the Bay of Bengal which for the radio listener gives a good opportunity to hear distant signals from Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, Indonesian archipelago and Papua New Guiniea.

DXpeditioners strung long wire antennas aimed in their favorite direction and then connect their modern digital radio receivers to try to catch the feeble signals from exotic radio stations. During their whole night listening sessions, some would exclaim at 2.30 am that the Phillipines medium wave station was opening with a greeting its local audience in the local language Tagalog–or someone might simply record the Maldivian medium wave station from Male ending its transmission with their national anthem. The fisheries ground also has the advantage of low noise from electrical devices. To run away from local noise, the hobbyist might even have to pitch a tent in the middle of nowhere and use their advanced radio receivers with battery power.

What is the pinnacle of success? Just like the bird watcher catching a glimpse of the rare migratory bird, for the DXers it is the thrill of listening to exotic signals such as from the American Forces Military Base at Diego Garcia to the barely audible Papua New Guinean station from Port Moresby. Then there are others like that Peruvian station Radio Tarma with excited football commentary which comes through to India only during a short window in the very early morning before day break and only on few days in a year. Even though the 11 year old solar sunspot cycle which influences radio transmission, is at its favorable “ low”, we can still confirm that DXing as a hobby is still alive and kicking!!!

DXers in Action


Thank you so much for sharing this report, Sandipan! It appears that you not only enjoyed some excellent DX on Henry’s Island, but you also strengthened friendships that will last a lifetime. Well done!


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Remembering Don Schimmel

Photos courtesy of Skip Arey

This weekend, I learned of the passing of my friend, Don Schimmel.

Don was a prominent figure in the world of shortwave radio, author of Radio intrigue, and my go-to man on numbers stations and any other mysterious signals. Over the past ten years, I’ve gotten to spend quality time with Don at the Winter SWL Fest.

My buddy, Gary Donnelly, a regular here at the SWLing Post, was the one who informed me of Don’s passing. Gary wrote the following about his dear friend:

It is with much sadness I announce the death of my SWL Elmer, neighbor and good friend, Don Schimmel, 91. Don passed away at his Hedgesville, WV house.

Don served his country first in the US Navy as a communications guy, then a career at the Central Intelligence Agency where he again was a communications expert. Don served at several locations in Central and South America. Don spent his retirement years in the communications/radio area. He was a “Scanner Scum” with others from the NASWA group. He wrote for Popular Communications and also wrote a small monthly article called Radio Intrique for Dxing.com, a publication of Universal Radio.

Don got me interested in SWL and introduced me to the NASWA group where we later attended several meetings of the group, me more than me. Don gravitated to focusing on the Cuban numbers stations and until a few months before his death, he would tune them in.

Don remained in good health and spirits until past his 90th birthday. He will be missed by the community and he will be missed by me.

Indeed, he will be missed by us all. Thank you, Gary, for sharing this information and for all of the support you gave Don over the years.

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Marcus’ countryside mobile listening post

The Düsseldorf evening skyline

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Marcus Keulertz, from Düsseldorf, Germany, who writes:.

Here are some nice pics about my own special way practicing our beloved radio hobby. I was quite satisfied with my logs.

I heard Radio Taiwan’s Mandarin broadcast and All India Radio National Service in vernacular languages. I did [all  of this listening  from] my little car there.

Thank you for sharing, Marcus! Looks like you’ve found a peaceful spot to enjoy radio from the comfort of your car.

Indeed, you’re doing exactly what I tell urban listeners today who have difficulty hearing stations from home: head to the countryside and escape the radio interference! It’s simply amazing what you can hear when your receiver isn’t being overwhelmed by RFI/QRM.

Sometimes it takes very little distance from sources of urban noise–even a city park (as our friend London Shortwave routinely demonstrates) offers enough of a noise buffer.

Thanks for sharing, Marcus!

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Pure nostalgia: Mark’s shortwave recording of Radio Tahiti music

(Map Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mark Pettifor, who writes:

One of the great things about DXing and SWLing is the variety of music  one can hear. One of my favorite stations to listen to on shortwave for “exotic music” was Radio Tahiti, Papeete, French Polynesia, when they were still on shortwave.

If my memory serves me correctly, I believe something happened to the transmitter, and they never got back on SW. They were on mediumwave through December of 2016 (738 kHz); now they are on FM only. (Maybe us hobbyists should start a funding website to put them back on shortwave!)

Many a Saturday night I would turn on the DX-160 (my first SW rig) and let it warm up for a while, before tuning in 15170 to see how band conditions were. If the band was good, I’d get ready to record through the air. Once I started recording, I’d often leave the room and shut the door, because having three brothers around meant the possibilities were high for having “extraneous interference” on my recordings.

Saturday evenings were a good time to tune in, because of a music program that aired with a good selection of island music. The program had an announcer who spoke in the island vernacular (Tahitian?), and when that program ended they switched to French.

Here is a 30-min recording of Radio Tahiti on 15170 kHz from a while ago, most likely around one of the solar maxima of either 1980 or 1991. I’m leaning toward the 1980 cycle. My apologies for not being able to be more specific than that. I kept terrible records of my recordings. This would be recorded either with the DX-160 or a DX-302. Apologies too for the jump in volume at around the 2:37 mark.

So close your eyes, imagine you are lying in a hammock on a beach somewhere in the South Pacific, with a warm breeze off the ocean and your favorite cooled beverage nearby, listening to some of the best island music anywhere.

Click here to download an MP3 of this recording.

Wow Mark!  Thank you so much for sharing this recording–it certainly brings back memories of listening to Radio Tahiti on my Zenith Trans-Oceanic!

Post readers: Anyone else cruise Radio Tahiti for the amazing music?  Please comment!


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What is the Radio Hobby? One Perspective

The Geloso G.215-AN

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!

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

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