Category Archives: Utility

The Giant Antennas of Shanghai Coast Radio Station (XSG)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Michael (BD4AAQ) who shares the following guest post:


Shanghai Coast Radio Station (XSG):

Those Giant Antennas!

The 17th of May is the World Telecommunication Day. It is also the open day of Shanghai Coast Radio Station. On this day, a group of amateur radio operators were invited to visit the transmission facility, a huge antenna farm, of the radio station, located on Chongming Island of Shanghai, the third largest island in China.

Google Satellite Photo

The transmission site of Shanghai Coast Radio Station is as shown below in the map of Chongming Island. Other sites of the station include a central control/receive station in Zhangjiang, a receive station on Hengsha Island and some VHF base stations in a number of other locations. All these locations in Shanghai, linked via cable and microwave connection, form Shanghai Coast Radio Station, also known by its callsign as XSG.

(Google map of transmitter location for Shanghai Coast Radio Station. Note the antenna farm on the left.)

Presentation by Station Officials

Fifteen or so local hams were cordially invited to have a tour of the station. The radio enthusiasts were greeted by station representatives, including Mr Wan, Mr Wang, Mr Zhou and Mr Niu (BH4BFS), who also gave them an overview of the coast radio station’s history and development. 

Antenna Farm

Mr Wang then showed the visitors around the antenna farm. Many of us, myself included, saw and were deeply impressed with these huge antennas for the first time! Indeed, many professional radio facilities and operators of similar coast radio stations work quietly around the globe and around the clock to provide for distress, navigational, business and personal communications needs of ships!

[Click on images to enlarge.]

The antennas cover a wide range of frequencies, from MF, HF, to VHF and UHF. Many of them are, however, shortwave (HF) antennas.

Transmitter Room

(I placed a Tecsun PL-330 radio near the transmitter at 12380.1 kHz (weather fax). The signal strength, in dbu, is 96. Given the margin of error of the receiver’s display, that’s probably as high as it could go.)

Shanghai Coast Radio Station (XSG) operates on a wide range of frequencies. Its HF frequencies include 4207.5, 4209.5, 4215.5, 4369, 6312, 6326, 6501, 8414.5, 8425.5, 8770, 8806, 12577, 12637.5, 13176, 13188, 16804.5, 16898.5 and 17407 kHz. Of particular note is that they have kept a CW frequency of 8665 kHz for general broadcast of information on a 24 hour basis.

The station’s VHF phone service covers 25 nautical miles of the coast. Its MF NAVTEX covers 250 nautical miles of the coast. And its HF phone and weather fax and HF NAVTEX extend to 1,000 nautical miles.

History and Current Status

Founded in 1905, Shanghai Coast Radio Station has been around 119 years. The XSG callsign has since remained in use.

China has in place DSC watch and NAVTEX broadcast in coast stations (including XSG) in accordance with GMDSS requirements. Among services provided by XSG are Radio Telephony (RT), Narrow Band Direct Printing (NBDP), “Voice of the East China Sea Coast” (voice broadcast on 161.600 MHz and 8806 kHz) and marine radio weather fax. The station is without a doubt one of the largest coast radio stations in the Asia Pacific region and plays an essential role in the region’s marine safety and communications.

QSL Cards

Shanghai Coast Radio Station issues QSL cards in Chinese and English, traditionally in paper form and nowadays electronically.

(This is an electronic QSL card issued to a Shanghai listener, who received their signal over the radio. Examples of QSL cards in English can be found online.)

Show Room

[Click on images to enlarge.]

Ham Station

Mr Niu of Shanghai Coast Radio Station, one of the tour’s organisers, is a ham himself with callsign BH4BFS. According to him, there are intentions to start a ham radio station within the establishment, possibly incorporating the letters XSG. However, there is much work to be done to make it happen. An amateur radio station with overlapping callsigns with a professional one would be really charming.

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VIS: The End of an Era

Many thanks to SWLing Post and SRAA contributor, Dan Greenall, who shares the following guest post:


The End of an Era

by Dan Greenall

Many of us can remember the many radio telephone stations that could be found outside the regular SWBC bands during the 1970’s and 80’s and even into the 1990’s. They often ran repeating “voice mirrors” to help the receiving station tune them in prior to handling actual traffic. Some of these also operated within the designated maritime (ship to shore) frequencies.

One such station was coastal radio VIS from Sydney, Australia and they could frequently be heard here in southern Ontario, Canada on both SSB or CW modes. I received their attractive QSL card for reception in 1972.

However, with the advent of satellite and internet communications, these type of stations began to disappear from the HF shortwave bands.

On Christmas day in 1998, I happened to tune into the attached repeating transmission. This station is presumed to be maritime radio VIS in Sydney, Australia on 13083 kHz. The recording was made at Thamesford, Ontario, Canada on December 25, 1998. The repeating message was “The number you have called is not in service. Please check the number you have dialed. If you require further assistance, please call 1225.” 1225 was the number for International Directory Assistance in Australia.

Audio:

Internet research indicates that VIS discontinued its CW service in 1999. I believe the station completely closed down in 2002.

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Patrizio seeks information about mystery signals he’s discovering across the HF bands

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Patrizio Cardelli, who has discovered some interesting signals on the HF bands and is seeking information about them.

A little background: Patrizio asked me about these signals a few weeks ago and based on a quick glance at the spectrum and waterfall images I assumed it was DRM (Digital Radio Mondiale). I was wrong, of course. Had I looked at the actual frequency and bandwidth, I would have immediately realized is was not DRM. My email load has been so heavy as of late, and my time to reply at such a premium, I rushed through the reply–my apologies, Patrizio!

Patrizio followed up with this message:

Hello Thomas,

I hope this message finds you well. I wanted to share my recent radio exploration based on your advice. I followed your suggestion and investigated a sample signal within the 60-meter band, specifically settling on the one at 4.962 kHz.

I attempted to decode it using the Dream software but encountered no success. It seems this isn’t a Digital Radio Mondiale (DRM) transmission. To rule out local QRM (interference), I tested various Kiwi SDR receivers across Europe, both to the south and north of my QTH. Interestingly, I managed to pick up this signal everywhere, with a stronger intensity noted in the northern locations.

I’m eager to publish this article to find out if other Shortwave Listeners (SWL) have been able to decode this transmission. Additionally, I’d like to mention that similar signals, either continuous or intermittent, are present on various HF frequencies.

I look forward to any insights or experiences others in the community might have regarding this intriguing signal.

Audio sample:

While I recognize these signals now, and I’m sure most of you who cruise the bands have seen/heard these as well, Patrizio is a relatively new SWL, turns out, and I thought it might be fun exploring just what these signals are. 

Readers: If you know what these signals are, please comment. Indeed, I’m sure there are a number of SWLing Post readers who have hands-on time with generating these signals as well in a past life or current career. Let’s explore!

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Announcing DXtreme Monitor Log 14!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and supporter, Bob Raymond with  DXtreme who shares the following product announcement:


Product Announcement 

DXtreme Monitor Log 14™ 

DXtreme Software™ has released a new version of its popular logging program for radio and TV monitoring  enthusiasts: DXtreme Monitor Log 14. Its familiar, uncluttered, industry-standard Windows® interface lets  listeners and DXers log the stations they’ve heard using features that enhance their monitoring enjoyment.

New Features in Version 14 

Signal Modes, Transmission Modes, Grid Square Tracking 

  • We added a Signal Modes field to let users specify the signal mode their receiver is tuned to (for example,  AM, CW, FM, LSB, USB, RTTY, etc.) plus a Transmission Modes field to let users specify the transmission mode  the station is transmitting (for example, CW, FAX, FT8, HFDL, MIL-STD-188-141A, SSB, STANAG 4285, etc.). And we added Signal and Transmission Mode modules to let users maintain tables of signal and transmission  modes.
  • We added a Transmission Mode Details box to allow users to type free-form information about the  transmission mode received, such as baud rate, bandwidth, etc. (for example, 1200bps/L). New Log Variables enable users to share Signal, Transmission, and Detail mode information so readers (and users) can  reproduce the monitoring environment and log (or relog) the stations. Here are two  examples: “1200bps/L STANAG 4285 crypto tfc on USB” and “MIL-188-110A/B continuous mode idle on LSB.” 
  • We added support for tracking Maidenhead grid squares, which is useful when monitoring/logging stations  not located in traditional countries, like aircraft and ships operating in international airspace and waters. Grid  squares are calculated from specified latitudes and longitudes. Both Performance and Stations reports let you  track grids. Search functions let you find log entries for viewing or editing based on their grid squares.

Verification By Improv Imaging 

Similar to the legacy Verification By Audio feature, where the presence of an audio file in a log entry designates  the station as “Verified By Audio,” we added a Verification By Improv Imaging feature which counts the station as  “Verified By Improv Image” if the Shows ID check box on the Improv Imaging tab is selected, indicating the  presence of an ID on the window of a captured digital software application (such as PC-HFDL).  Performance, Stations, and Log Entries reports let you track verifications by traditional QSLs, presence of Audio  files, and presence of Improv Images for which the Shows ID check box is selected.

Schedule Checker Monitoring Advice and Tuning 

  • When Schedule Checker advises users to monitor a station for a new or verified Country, it does so now for  the Class (SWBC, Ute, Ham, etc.) and QSL Type (Verified By QSL, Audio, or Improv Image) selected in Properties. The foreground and background colors that indicate the Schedule Checker’s monitoring advice can be defined by users in Properties. The colors appear in an upgraded legend on the Schedule Checker.
  • Users can now tune their radios to the schedule item’s signal mode and frequency by selecting the desired  signal mode in the Signal Mode list box and double-clicking the schedule item.

Solar Indices Enhancements 

  • Acquisition of current solar indices has been improved on the Monitor Log and Schedule Checker windows. • Editing of solar indices has been added to the Monitor Log window for when NOAA is down.
  • We restored historic solar indices adjustments based on date and time changes made on the Monitor  Log window provided users have downloaded historic solar indices from the NOAA FTP site into the Solar subfolder. An interface is provided on the Edit menu of the Monitor Log window for this FTP activity.

For more information about New Features, click https://www.dxtreme.com/monitorlog_whatsnew.htm.

Standard Features 

Logging Stations 

Monitor Log 14 lets users log all kinds of stations: radio, television, broadcast, utility, Amateur Radio, military,  etc. across the radio spectrum.

Finding Stations to Monitor 

The Schedule Checker lets users import schedules from Aoki, EiBi, and FCC AM web sites and display broadcast  schedule data according to the filter criteria they specify. Users can filter schedule information by band,  frequency, station, country, time of day, language, and more. EiBi schedules also include utility stations.

For each schedule item, Schedule Checker queries the Monitor Log 14 database to let users know – through user-defined, foreground and background display colors – whether they need to monitor a station for a brand new or verified country. The colors appear in a legend on the Schedule Checker window. When Schedule  Checker advises users to monitor a station for a new or verified Country, it does so for the Class (SWBC, UteHam, etc.) and QSL Type (Verified By QSL, Audio, or Improv Image) selected in Properties.

Reporting Reception 

Users can create customized paper and e-mail reception reports for sending to stations plus log entry data  shares for reporting catches to clubs and magazines. Using the Script Editor window, users can create and edit  scripts that format reception reports, eReports, and shares to their liking. The software prompts users to select  the script they want to use. Dozens of scripts come with Monitor Log 14. Users can also send eQSL requests to  hams automatically via the popular https://www.eqsl.cc site and update their databases with downloaded  eQSL.cc Inbox records.

Imaging 

Improv Imaging lets users associate ad hoc images with log entries using Capture, Scan, and Clipboard  functions. Captures of stations received on digital applications, waterfall displays, facsimile and Amateur TV  pictures are popular. The Improv Imaging tab and Application let users view images anytime, and an Improv  Image Explorer lets them peruse their entire collection and display associated log entries. A QSL Imaging facility  functions the same as Improv Imaging for associating QSLs.

Other Features 

  • Rig Control — Retrieves the frequency and mode from supported radios and permits tuning from the  Schedule Checker and Direct Tune. Rig control is provided through integration with Afreet Omni-Rig  (http://www.dxatlas.com) and CAT for SDR applications like SDR Console (https://www.sdr-radio.com) and SDRuno (https://www.sdrplay.com).
  • Audio Archiving — Lets users maintain an audio archive of stations heard.
  • Reporting and Searching — Produces Performance, Stations, and Log Entry reports that track the  performance and progress of the user’s monitoring station and provides criteria-based log entry searches.
  • Documentation — Context-sensitive Procedural Help, Field Help, and Microhelp are accessible on every  window to provide instructions quickly. Installation Instructions and a Getting Started Guide also included.

Supported Operating Systems, Pricing, Contact Information 

DXtreme Monitor Log 14 runs in 32- and 64-bit versions of Microsoft® Windows® 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista® XP.  Retails for $94.99 USD for Internet distribution (discounted pricing for upgrades available). Product support by  Internet e-mail. For more info, visit (https://www.dxtreme.com) or write [email protected].

SWLing Post readers should note that DXtreme was one of our first company supporters. Their ad revenue helps bring the SWLing Post to you daily. Thanks, DXtreme!

Click here to check out DXtreme Monitor Log 11.

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Carlos’ Art and Recording of a NOAA Weather Bulletin via the US Coast Guard

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares his radio log art of a recent NOAA Weather Bulletin from the US Coast Guard:


Carlos writes:

NOAA bulletin (partial), US Coast Guard, Chesapeake, VA, 13089 kHz USB, high seas forecast and hurricane information. Listened in Porto Alegre, Brazil.

Carlos’ listening post and gear.

Click here to listen via YouTube.

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Guest Post: Monitoring Digital Selective Calling (DCS) with YADD

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Don Moore–noted author, traveler, and DXer–for the following guest post:


Photo by Borderpolar Photographer

Monitoring DSC with YADD

By Don Moore

(The following article was originally published in the April/May 2022 edition of the Great Lakes Monitor, bulletin of the Michigan Association of Radio Enthusiasts. An all-band listening club, MARE publishes a bi-monthly print bulletin and a weekly e-mail loggings tip-sheet. The club also holds regular get-togethers, picnics, and DXpeditions, generally in southeastern Michigan.)

There are dozens if not hundreds of different digital modes used for communication on the MF and HF bands. These aren’t broadcasts you want to listen to unless you like to hear weird tones, beeps, warbles, and grinding noises interspersed with static. Digital modes are for monitoring, not listening. And monitoring them requires having software that does the listening for you and converts the noises into something meaningful – like the ID of the station you’re tuned to. The learning curve to DXing digital utilities can be steep. There are lots of modes to identify and the software can be complicated to learn. Some broadcasts are encrypted so you can’t decode them no matter how hard you try. But the reward is lots of new stations and even new countries that you wouldn’t be able to add to your logbook otherwise.

One of the easiest digital modes to DX is DSC, or Digital Selective Calling. DSC is a defined as “a standard for transmitting pre-defined digital messages.” Look online if you want to understand the technical specifications that specify the values, placement, and spacing of the tones. The result of those specifications is a string of three-digit numbers like this:

125 107 125 106 120 105 120 104 000 120 022 120 041 000 002 022 020 041 108 002 053 020 080 108 006 053 021 080 070 006 118 021 126 070 126 118 126 126 126 126 126 126 126 126 126 126 117 126 112 126 117 117 117 112 109 125 108 125

Each three-digit value represents either a digit or a key word and the positions of the values map to the various fields contained in the message. This message, which was received on 8414.5 kHz, is a test call from the tanker Brook Trout to the coastal station Coruña Radio in Spain. The sender and destination are not identified by name but rather by their nine-digit MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identity) numbers – 538006217 for the vessel and 002241022 for the coastal station.

GETTING STARTED WITH DSC

Logging DSC stations requires three pieces of software. First you need a decoder program that turns the noises into numbers and the numbers into meaning. There are several free and commercial options but the most popular one for beginners is YADD – Yet Another DSC Decoder. YADD is free and easy to set up and while YADD can be used by feeding the audio from a traditional radio into your computer, the most common use is with an SDR. That’s what I use and what I will describe here.

Second you need an SDR application and an SDR. I prefer HDSDR for most of my SDR use but I like SDR-Console for digital work. But any SDR program will work if you can feed the audio to a virtual audio cable. And that’s the final thing you need – a virtual audio cable to create a direct audio connection between your SDR application and YADD. There are several different ones available but I recommend VB-Cable. Your first VB-Cable is free and that is all you need to run a single instance of YADD. If you want to expand you can buy up to four more cables from them later. Continue reading

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Carlos’ Shortwave Art and Recording of Okinawa Fishery Radio

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and noted political cartoonist, Carlos Latuff, who shares yet another example of his radio log art, this time for Okinawa Fishery Radio. Carlos notes:

Okinawa Fishery Radio Station, Okinawa, #Japan, 8761 kHz (USB), broadcasting weather reports and navigation alerts to Japanese fishing boats.

Heard in Porto Alegre, Brazil, Feb 9, 2022, 08h59 (UTC).

Click here to listen on YouTube.

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