Tag Archives: Atlas Obscura

Atlas Obscura features KPH Maritime Radio Receiving Station

Cypress tree avenue towards KPH. Photo by Frank Schulenburg via Wikimedia Commons

(Source: Atlas Obscura via Eric McFadden)

One of the most stunning sights of the Bay Area is the historic KPH Radio Station, also known as Marine Coast Station KPH. To reach the station, you must first pass through a clerestory tunnel of cypress trees near the Point Reyes National Seashore.[…]

KPH began providing Morse Code telegram service to ships at sea in the early 20th century, broadcasting from the Palace Hotel in San Francisco (where the station gets its PH call sign). The 1906 earthquake forced the station to move until it was eventually acquired by the Radio Corporation of America (RCA) and found its home in Marin County. The Receiving Station is a classic white Art Deco structure built in 1920. The transmitters themselves, in nearby Bolinas, are a similar style.

At the time, there were dozens of stations like KPH around the United States, though KPH was one of the biggest, sometimes referred to as “the wireless giant of the Pacific.” When the station fell into disuse, land contractors were set to demolish it, including its antennas, to build condominiums. But Globe Wireless acquired the site in 1997 and it was left untouched.[…]

Read the full article at Atlas Obscura.

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A history of listening to Mars

(Source: Atlas Obscura via William McFadden)

When the red planet comes close to Earth, some people have tried to tune in to see if it has anything to say.

ON RECENT EVENINGS, AS JULY has melted into August, Earth’s rocky red companion has dropped by for a visit. Earth and Mars, when they’re on opposite sides of the Sun, can be as many as 250 million miles apart. This week, however, Mars has been just shy of 36 million miles from Earth, the snuggest our planets have been since 2003. Looming bright and orange in the night sky, it has been easily visible to the naked eye. The close-up comes courtesy of opposition—the point at which Mars, Earth, and the Sun align, with us sandwiched in the middle.

When the planets approached a similarly cozy distance 94 years ago, in August 1924, some people, including Curtis D. Wilbur, the Secretary of the U.S. Navy, thought it might be possible to actually hear messages from our neighbor. If Martians were ever going to drop us a line, they suspected, that’d be the time.

From an office in Washington, D.C., Wilbur’s department sent orders to every naval station clear across the country. An outpost in Seattle received a telegram asking operators to keep their ears tuned to anything unusual or, maybe, otherworldly.

“Navy desires [sic] cooperate [sic] astronomers who believe [sic] possible that Mars may attempt communication by radio waves with this planet while they are near together,” it read. “All shore radio stations will especially note and report any electrical phenomenon [sic] unusual character …” The orders asked for operators to keep the lines open and carefully manned between August 21 and August 24, just in case.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES/596070

This request didn’t come out of nowhere. There was a long buildup to the idea that Mars might be trying to tell us something, with technologies that were then new to us.[…]

Click here to read this article at Atlas Obscura.

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Atlas Obscura: “This weather report has been making waves for 150 years.”

Photo by Michael Browning on Unsplash.

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who notes that the excellent website, Atlas Obscura, recently featured The Shipping Forecast:

Why a Maritime Forecast Is So Beloved in the United Kingdom

For the penultimate song on their 1994 album Parklife, Blur chose the swirling, meditative epic, “This Is a Low.” The song envisions a five-minute trip around the British Isles as an area of low pressure hits.

“Up the Tyne, Forth, and Cromarty,” sings the lead singer Damon Albarn, “there’s a low in the high Forties.” The song’s litany of playful-sounding place names, including the improbable “Biscay” and “Dogger,” may seem obscure to listeners abroad, but to a British audience, they resonate.

The song’s lyrics were inspired by the Shipping Forecast, a weather report that is broadcast on BBC Radio 4 on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. Sailors working around the coasts of Britain and Ireland, recipients of the wrath of the North Atlantic and North Sea, are the ostensible beneficiaries of the forecast.

But, for listeners who tune in while tucked in bed rather than sailing the high seas, the reassuring sound—a simple, steady listing of conditions in the seas around the British Isles, broken down into 31 “sea areas,” most of which are named after nearby geographical features—is something more akin to the beating pulse of the United Kingdom, as familiar as the national anthem or the solemn chimes of Big Ben.[…]

Continue reading the full story via Atlas Obscura.

Thanks for the tip, Eric!

SWLing Post readers know that I’m quite a fan of The Shipping Forecast. We’ve posted a number of articles about the Forecast on the SWLing Post in the past–click here to read through our archives.

When I lived in the UK, I would often fall asleep and/or wake up to the Shipping Forecast. Here in the States, I can listen to the forecast live via the U Twente WebSDR, but I rarely remember to do so.

And, of course, I can navigate to the Radio 4 website and stream current and past forecasts on demand, but I find the audio a little too clean and full fidelity. I prefer listening to my maritime poetry via Amplitude Modulation (AM)!

To satisfy my desire for some AM forecasts, this morning I fed my SSTran AM transmitter with audio from the Radio 4 website, then made a recording with my AirSpy HF+ SDR.

Here’s my AM version of the Shipping Forecast:

Click here to download as an MP3.

For the record: this is what you get when you combine a radio and shipping forecast geek!

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