Tag Archives: DXing

Free Advice: Stop worrying about solar minimums and just play radio!

Lately we’ve been getting some pretty dismal news about the upcoming solar cycles and the potential for a pretty dismal trend according to some researchers.

We report this news on the SWLing Post because the sun and space weather play an important role in radio signal propagation and one’s ability to snag elusive DX.

After publishing news items like this, though, I always receive a number of emails and comments stating that these trends surely marks the end of all radio fun. After all, if there are no sun spots whatsoever, why bother!?!

Truth is, it’s sort of like saying, “the weather looks lousy, I don’t think I’ll be able to have fun.”

I lived in the UK for several years. If I let the potential for lousy weather stop me from having fun, I’d have never gotten anything done!

The same goes for space weather in our radio world.

A couple weeks ago, I made a Parks On The Air (POTA) activation running 15 watts with the Elecraft KX3 into a simple 20 meter vertical in SSB mode.  Even though propagation was poor, I logged a new contact, on average, once per minute over the course of 30 minutes! It was non-stop!

The GE 7-2990A (left) and Panasonic RF-B65 (right)

I also listened to the Midwinter Broadcast to Antarctica with two portable radios. Propagation was poor and I didn’t even use an external antenna…but I caught the broadcast and had a load of fun hanging out on the Blue Ridge Parkway!

My advice?

As I said in a post last year, use the sunspot low as an excuse to explore frequencies and modes you’ve never used before. Use this as an opportunity to improve your listening skills and the most important part of your listening post or ham station–your antenna system!

I often receive email from people who’ve found the SWLing Post and take the time to write a message to me complaining about the death of shortwave radio: the lack of broadcasters, the prevalence of radio interference and the crummy propagation. They wonder, “is it all worth it?”

My reply?

“Hey…sounds like radio’s not your thing!”

While this same person is moaning and complaining, I’ll be on the radio logging South American, Asian and African broadcast stations.

I’ll be working DX with QRP power, even though everyone tells me that’s not possible right now.

I’ll be improving my skill set and trying new aspects of our vast radio world.

You see: I’ve learned that the complainers aren’t actually on the air. They gave up many moons ago because someone told them it wasn’t worth it, or they simply lost interest. That’s okay…seriously…but why waste time complaining? Go find something else that lights your fire!

While these folks are complaining, I’ll be on the air doing all of the things they tell me I can’t do.

In the words of Admiral David Farragut: “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead!”

Go out there and play radio!

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Guest Post: Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

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


Indian DXer enters into Limca Book of Records

Jose Jacob from Hyderabad, India has collected QSL from 132 different stations of All India Radio over a period of 42 years. Radio stations ranging from Shot wave, Medium wave, FM to the latest DRM mode. In the process he has achieved the feat of creating an Indian Record of collecting maximum number of QSL of different stations of a radio broadcaster in India.

As a teenager Jose started listening to radio and started to write to stations way back in 1973, when in his school days. Few years later in 1976 he first wrote to All India Radio, when his reception report was first verified with a QSL. Over next 42 years, he has used various mediums, ranging from inland letters, post cards to emails, for sending reception reporting. Currently he has over 2500 QSL from 130 different countries, many of which left the airwaves.

Over the years, with his special interest in All India Radio, he is one of key country contributors, from India, of World Radio TV Handbook updating about All India Radio to the directory of global broadcasting.

Jose Jacob, is also a licensed amateur radio operator with call sign VU2JOS currently serving as Asst. Director at the National Institute of Amateur Radio (NIAR) www.niar.org

Jose Jacob (VU2JOS) with Certificate from Limca Book of Records

Limca Book of Records is an annual reference book published in India documenting human and natural world records. The world records achieved by humans are further categorised in education, literature, agriculture, medical science, business, sports, nature, adventure, radio, and cinema with Limca book of Records rules. (https://www.coca-colaindia.com/limca-book-of-records)

Limca Book of Records has recognized the feat as one of the Indian records in the radio category and awarded the certificate acknowledging the achievement.

QSL received in 1997 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1988 from All India Radio, Nagpur

QSL received in 1987 from All India Radio, Nagpur


Congratulations to Jose Jacob VU2JOS for an amazing accomplishment!  Thank you for sharing this news, Sandipan!

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Ultra-Rare DX: Logging Radio Kahuzi in the DRC

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following guest post:


In these days of declining activity on the shortwave bands, we don’t often enjoy the experience of hearing what we might still call “rare” stations.  The new year brought an exception.

On January 1st, 2019 I was tuning around the 48 meter band, which is largely populated by European pirate stations, utilities, and weather stations, when I heard a station on 6,210.20 khz.  It was very distinct in that it sounded like an African station — music, with a male DJ/MC and religious songs.

What immediately came to mind was the religious station calling itself Radio Kahuzi, which is in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of Congo.

The station has been heard by DX’ers in a number of countries since the mid-2000’s and because it’s management is based in the U.S. it is possible to obtain a QSL verification.

Radio Kahuzi also has Twitter and Facebook channels, making it easier to communicate with station managers and staff, and has this blog site: http://radiokahuzi.blogspot.com/

As a You Tube video shows the station has been on the air since the early 1990s:

Click here to view on YouTube.

On January 1st, RK was heard from about 1730 to 1747 UTC when it shut down, playing what Richard McDonald, one of the station’s founders, says were musical pieces that are specific to RK.

On January 2nd, 2019 the station was heard again via Europe-based SDRs, signing off at approximately 1811 UTC.

Here is McDonald’s response to my report (which included an mp3) from January 1st, in which he notes that he even went so far as to give the main station announcer, Gregoire, my name and asked him to mention me in the station’s broadcast:

“I just shared with Gregoire that you had sent a recording of the last minutes of his closing musical sign-off if Radio Kahuzi and he agreed to greet you by name this evening and several days in several languages including English.

You got him saying his name at 5:54 into your recording yesterday,and the ID sign off Mountain Blue-Grass Music was unique to Best Radio Kahuzi in Bukavu!

Barbara Smith will be happy to send the QSL Card and info about us and our National Director and his family situation in case you have any suggestions

Powering off here!  Our power cuts off with SNEL often — I just lost a longer reply to you !
But Keep Looking UP !    And Keep On Keeping ON !

Richard & Kathy McDonald”

By the way, according to Wikipedia, SNEL stands for Société nationale d’électricité “the national electricity company of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Its head office building is located in the district of La Gombe in the capital city, Kinshasa. SNEL operates the Inga Dam facility on the Congo River, and also operates thermal power plants.”

A very interesting page containing the history of Radio Kahuzi, with information about the McDonalds, is at: http://www.besi.org/

As of the time of this writing, it’s unclear to me whether the extended broadcast times of Radio Kahuzi will be continued or if this was a one shot deal linked to the new year — we may have some clarification on this in coming days.

Here’s a video of my January 1st, 2019 reception of Radio Kahuzi:

Click here to view on YouTube.

For now, I am quite pleased to join the group of about 63 DX’ers around the world (that number comes from a link on the RK website called “Shortwave Listeners” that lists SWLs who have heard and contacted the station).

Though it is highly unlikely that Radio Kahuzi will be heard anytime soon in the United States (the station’s schedules shows it being active from 8 AM to 8 PM Bukavu time) at least using U.S.-based radios, whether SDR or traditional receivers, it’s nice to know that there is still a station out there (with 800 watts!) that is a real DX target!


Wow! What a fantastic catch, Dan! Thank you for sharing your catch and, especially, shedding light on this rare DX. 

Post Readers: Please comment if you’ve logged and/or confirmed Radio Kahuzi.

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Guest Post: Possible Last Remaining Direct Biafra QSL Emerges

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor Dan Robinson who shares this fascinating story about what has to be “one of the most important occurrences involving a SWBC station that no longer exists — the Voice of Biafra”:


Biafra: One of the rarest of SWBC QSLs

by Dan Robinson

Many SWLing Post readers will no doubt have heard, in recent years, the  station Radio Biafra broadcasting via various relay locations on shortwave, and also on the Internet.

Those of us who have been SWLs for many decades remember the history of Biafra and the story of the original Voice of Biafra, which when the station was active on shortwave, before it was closed down by Nigerian government forces.

My own SWLing career began in the late 1960’s, but alas my receivers at the time, and my knowledge of what was on the air were such that I did not hear the transmissions from Biafra (I’m one of those who regrets having missed many former tropical band broadcasters, such as Tonga, Fiji, Gilbert & Ellice Islands (later known as Kiribati) when they used shortwave, and Biafra was on that list as well).

I first learned about the original Radio Biafra from articles written by the late Don Jensen.

In one of those [download PDF], Don re-printed a copy of one of the most famous SWBC QSLs of all time — a Biafra verification sent to DX’er Alan Roth.

Typed on a piece of notebook paper, it had “Broadcasting Corporation of Biafra, P.O. Box 350, Enugu” at the top. Three paragraphs of text followed, referring to Roth’s reception dated January 28th, 1969 of the station on 7,304 kHz.

Pictured with the letter to Roth was the envelope with “Republic of Biafra” mailed from the Biafra mission on Madison Avenue, in New York City.  I will always remember the caption, which said that Roth had taken his reception report to the Biafran delegation office which:

“managed to get it flown into the breakaway nation with other official correspondence, on the emergency airlift.  Radio Biafra’s chief engineer wrote the verification letter and returned it via the same route. . . a high contrast photo was required to bring out the typing since a well-born typewriter ribbon had been used.”

For decades this Biafra verification to Roth was indeed considered to be the only one in existence, though because so many SWLs and DX’ers were active through the years, it’s always difficult to state this with certainty.

Those of us who collect historic SWBC QSLs, going through thousands of eBay listings, always keep an eye out for cards and letters and station materials.

So it was that a few weeks ago, as I was doing my usual due diligence looking through eBay listings, I noticed something unusual.  Listed among SWBC QSLs from a seller in Ithaca, New York was something astounding — another Biafra verification letter!

 

Looking closely, it seemed to be exactly like the famous QSL letter sent to Alan Roth in 1969, with the exact same date, but sent to a James G. Moffitt, in Dallas, Texas.

Days ticked by — I had the QSL on ‘watch’ status on my eBay account, and as I do for any QSL of high value, I also had it on automatic bid status.  For this piece of SWBC history, my maximum bid was very high, something I rarely do unless the item has extreme historic or collectors significance.

I envisioned furious bidding for this Biafra verification, but in the end only four bids were recorded.  I won the QSL at what I consider to be a very low price ($81) considering its rarity.

Now, the rest of the story.

It turns out that among the three other bidders was none other than Jerry Berg, DX’ing colleague and author of so many wonderful books on the history of shortwave.

As I was preparing to complete this story for SWLing Post, I emailed Jerry who had already written up a comprehensive story about this newly-discovered Biafra verification.

Jerry’s superb article also includes links to the late Don Jensen pieces (The Life and Death of Radio Biafra and Biafra’s Incredible Radio), as well as a link to a recording of Voice of Biafra made by one of the other big names in the hobby, Al Sizer:

The “Undiscovered QSL of Radio Biafra”, as Jerry calls it in his new article, now resides with me here in Maryland.  Unless/until another of its kind emerges somewhere on the QSL market, it has to be considered the only one of its kind in the world.

As for the question of whether this previously “undiscovered” QSL is genuine, Jerry notes the similarities between the Roth QSL letter from 1969, and the one sent to James G. Moffitt, who he notes was active as a DX’er in the days when Radio Biafra existed.

Jerry continues:

“. . .what about the common date, and date-time-frequency details, in the two veries? If the reports had arrived in Biafra at roughly the same time, it would not be unusual for the replies to be prepared on the same day.  As to the common date-time-frequency details, perhaps whoever typed the letters thought these references were standard boilerplate rather than information that was to be tailored to the specific listener. Certainly the frequency could be expected to be the same. The common date of reception is harder to explain, but it is not difficult to see how the almost inevitable difference in dates of reception could have been overlooked. QSLers know that verifications can be wrong in their details, misdated, even sent to the wrong listener. As for the different fonts, and for Alan’s letter being light in appearance and Moffitt’s dark, perhaps the typist changed typewriters because one was running out of ink. We will likely never know for sure, but I think the Moffitt verie (which sold on eBay for $81) is genuine. In any event, the story reminds us how, in every endeavor, even shortwave listening, today’s connected world can cast new light on old events and turn longstanding certainties into question marks.”

I am quite happy with having acquired what surely is one of the rarest of SWBC QSLs.  It has been added to a collection that, in addition to my own QSLs that I carefully kept over the years, includes other unique cards, including one from ZOE Tristan da Cunha and the station at the former Portuguese Macao.


Amazing story, Dan! It pleases me to no end to know that someone who values our shortwave radio history–and does a proper job archiving it–has acquired this amazing piece. I especially appreciate the time that you and Jerry Berg put into sharing the history of the Voice of Biafra with the shortwave listening and DXing communities. Thank you!

Readers: As Dan suggests, I strongly encourage you to check out Jerry’s website, On The Shortwaves. It’s a deep treasure trove of radio history.

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Allen looks back at 50 years of DXing

Broom Point Fishing Premises, Gros Morne National Park (Source: Newfoundland Tourism, Flickr)

Many of you might remember Allen Willie’s story from our SWLing Post “Listener Posts” collection.

On Sunday, Allen shared the following note with his radio friends. He has kindly given me permission to post it here because, frankly, it’s a most impressive accomplishment from an amazing life-long radio listener:

Fifty years ago today ( June 17, 1968 )

My radio DXing journey began in my hometown of Lacombe, Alberta here in Canada .

Throughout the following years since that day I have been involved in a number of different modes of DXing. From Medium Wave (AM), Ultralight Radio DXing, Shortwave , FM radio , Ham Radio Listening and even TV DXing for a number of years,

They have all played a wonderful part in my DXing enjoyment over the past half century.

My first evening of DXing began on the AM (Medium Wave) radio dial as I logged 560 KMON Great Falls, Montana for my first DX catch. The rest as they say is history and was to remain a lifelong enjoyment in such a great hobby.

Here is a list of some of my DX totals I have been fortunate to achieve in certain categories of DXing from both Alberta and Newfoundland:

  • Heard all 7 Continents via radio overall
  • Heard all 195 countries on earth via radio overall
  • Heard all 50 USA States via radio overall
  • Heard all 10 Canadian provinces and 3 territories via radio overall
  • Heard 1820 stations on AM (Medium Wave) radio from within Newfoundland
  • Heard 787 stations on AM (Medium Wave) radio from within Alberta
  • Heard 5 Continents on AM (Medium Wave) radio from within Newfoundland
  • Heard 123 Countries on AM (Medium Wave ) and Ultralight radio from within Newfoundland
  • Heard 48 / 50 USA States on AM (Medium Wave ) radio from within Newfoundland
  • Heard all 10 Canadian provinces and 2 Territories on AM (Medium Wave ) radio from within Newfoundland
  • Heard 1712 Medium Wave (AM) stations on Ultralight Radios
  • Heard 607 FM DX stations from within Alberta
  • Logged 109 DX Television Stations (non-local) from within Alberta

Countries heard on Shortwave: 179 from within Alberta

Logged 334 stations from within Newfoundland

  • DXCC Ham Radio Countries heard 338/340 from within Alberta and Newfoundland overall.
  • Heard All 50 US States on Ham radio from within Alberta and Newfoundland both.
  • Heard All 10 Canadian Provinces / 3 Territories on Ham radio from within Alberta and Newfoundland both

Looking forward to Year 51 ahead and many more in the hobby!!

Allen Willie VO1-001-SWL / VOPC1AA
Carbonear, Newfoundland

Bravo, Allen! Those are most impressive accomplishments! That took a lot of time, patience and radio fun. Here’s to 51 and onward!

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