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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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