Tag Archives: DXing

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.

Spread the radio love

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!

Spread the radio love

SSB Reception Examples with the XHDATA D-808 Portable Receiver

In my earlier article on this receiver, I shared reception videos of three weak medium wave stations and a single shortwave outlet, all demonstrated in AM mode.

These two videos are of reception in SSB. The first example is true SSB reception–in lower side band on the 40m amateur band, while tuning a local on-the-air ham radio classifieds broadcast:


The next video demonstrates “ECSS” reception
(tuning an AM mode signal in SSB). In this example I use a strong station so the audio quality and fine tuning accuracy of the XHDATA receiver can be clearly heard. Typically, ECSS is used by SWLs and DXers for AM mode stations that suffer from adjacent channel interference on one side or the other.


Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington.  He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.

Spread the radio love

Paul Walker featured on VOV webite

(Source: Voice of Vietnam)

US listener: “Personal connection makes me want to listen to VOV”

(VOVWORLD) – The Voice of Vietnam (VOV) turns 72 this Thursday. Over the past 7 decades, VOV has served as a bridge linking Vietnam with people all around the world. Paul Walker, an American radio presenter and a loyal listener of VOV, says it is the personal connection that makes him want to listen to VOV and learn about Vietnam.

After a 6-hour drive from Washington we reached a small town in Pennsylvania near the border with Canada. It was a peaceful, quiet place with houses dating back more than 100 years. Paul Walker, a young radio presenter, met us in front of his house with his radio gears already set up.

With a small table and chair, 2 antennas, an analogue receiver, a tuner, and a digital recorder, Paul finds it interesting to listen to foreign radio programs. Paul said he picked up an obsession with radio when he was a kid and this passion has grown year by year. Now he is doing radio for a living.

“I started listening to the radio as a real young kid. In fact listening to the radio is what made me want to get into radio. I listened to that growing up and now I get paid to play music. I wanted to do it as a kid and that’s what I do now for a living. I’m actually a radio presenter here in the United States, play music on the radio, put together commercials, manage FB pages for radio stations and general stuff like that,” Paul said.

Paul started to listen to VOV in the summer of 2015 and since then VOV has become an indispensable part of his listening schedule.

Paul said he listens and sends in reception reports to VOV quite often with every detail he recorded with his radio equipment: “I like the music, especially when they play the older music. I also like to listen to news because I like the different perspectives, different opinion on it because other countries see things differently than we do and I like to hear that. I like the Letterbox program that is one of my favorites, I like to hear how other listeners tune into VOV and what they like about it and it seems like a fairly large amount of people like the music so I know there’re many of us out there. VOV’s English announcers are very friendly”[…]

Continue reading at the Voice of Vietnam online…

Spread the radio love

North American and European medium wave signals into Oxford, UK

Hi there, I’ve been rather preoccupied of late, initially with the brilliant Tecsun PL-310ET and latterly with the even more brilliant Eton Satellit. However, in the background (as always), I’ve been trying to catch transatlantic medium wave DX. My listening schedule is broadly based on shortwave DXing during daylight hours – when I’m not at work of course, typically a Friday afternoon or at weekends – and always with a portable. Evenings usually start off with a tune around the tropical bands, followed by setting up the Elad FDM DUO to run some medium wave spectrum recordings overnight. In the past few days though, my daylight DXing has been bolstered by my NooElec RTL-SDR and ‘Ham it up’ upconverter. I bought the device over a year ago and after some initial exceitement, it quickly became quite obvious that I needed a reciever with a bit more ‘oomph’! However, it’s actually proving very useful to view signals on a  spectrum, even when I’m conducting most or all of my listening on a different (i.e. higher performing) receiver. Ultimately, the RTL-SDR is always going to be a compromise, with relatively limited sensitivity, but because by it’s very nature it has excellent selectivity, overall it’s a reasonable performer. My particular RTL-SDR performs quite well if a decent antenna is employed with it, such as a longwire or the Wellbrook ALA1530 active loop.

Anyway, back to the medium wave DX. In the past month or two, I’ve copied a number of stations from North America, with really nice signals, including WRCR Rampano – New York, WFED Federal News Radio – Washington DC, WENE – Endicott and WUNR – Brookline from Newton, Mass. I’ve also recorded a lovely interval signal from RAI Radio 1, Milano and further European signals from Magyar Radio, Budapest and Radio Slovenija 1, from Ljubljana. During the past 18 months or so of DXing, I have been mostly ignoring signals coming into Oxford from the continent. However, that changed a little after I stumbled across the RAI Radio 1 interval signal, which complete with the rather rousing Italian National Anthem, inspired me to dig out some more European DX. I’m actually finding European DX quite rewarding, particularly because it feels new again – not surprising since I haven’t listened to Europeans on medium wave for any length of time since the 1980s. I hope you enjoy the reception videos – embedded video and text links follow below and I wish you all the very best DX. 


Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Click here to watch on YouTube

 

Click here to watch on youtube

 

Click here to watch on YouTube

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

Spread the radio love

The Eton Satellit: my thoughts after 3 weeks of DXing and some recent catches…

Hi there, it’s been about three weeks now since I started DXing with the Eton Satellit and I thought it time to post an updated review, based on my experiences thus far, along with some recent catches. Noting that other radio hobbyists with a strong presence online have been posting neutral to negative reviews on this receiver, I would just like to point out, perhaps rather obviously, that no receiver is perfect and just as importantly, the criteria on which a portable radio is judged will be different from user to user, based on their listening habits. I am almost exclusively engaged in DXing with the Satellit, whilst others will be listening on the broadcast bands on a more casual basis. I know that for some, the ultimate quality and finish of a product is as important as performance and they would make their physical assessment in a very detailed manner. I on the other hand focus mainly on performance and as regards quality, I’m reasonably satisfied if it doesn’t fall apart in my hands, straight out of the box! That actually happened – and it’s sort of where I draw the line 🙂 I guess the point is, I try to respect everyone’s opinion, irrespective as to whether we are in agreement or not and I believe that’s healthy for the future of our hobby.

Ok, back to the Satellit. Firstly, I am able to confirm that in terms of ultimate sensitivity, this portable is very close to my Sony ICF-2001D – one of the most highly regarded portables ever made. The delta in performance between the two is most perceptible on the weakest of fading signals that intermittently deliver audio with the Sony, but can’t be heard on the Eton. On stronger signals, my experience is that either radio might provide the strongest and or highest fidelity audio. I have a series of comparison videos already in the can, which will be uploaded to the Oxford Shortwave Log YouTube channel soon.

In terms of selectivity, the digital bandwidth filters work very well, although I note that even on the narrowest setting (2 kHz) when operating in a crowded band, adjacent channel QRM can occasionally still sound quite pronounced, as compared to my Sony ICF-SW55 or ICF-2001D receivers. As regards synchronous detection, this is more of a hit-and-miss affair. Subscribers to my channel might notice that in nearly all of my reception videos featuring the Eton Satellit, I have not engaged the SYNC. That isn’t to say it doesn’t work, however, even with selectable sidebands, the SYNC mode often appears to increase the overall signal amplitude and noise floor, without positively influencing the SNR. However, it’s interesting to note that signals on the Satellit in AM mode often almost match the ICF-2001D in SYNC mode, in terms of overall SNR. More on that to come.

There are a number of ways to tune the radio; manually using the tuning knob (and this has a decent feel/ resistance to it), direct frequency input which requires pressing the ‘AM’ button to engage, automatic search and access to 700 memory locations, via 100 screen pages. In the real world – and by that I mean ‘my world’ which is most often in the middle of a field, or the woods, all of the above tuning options are as ergonomic as most of my other portables. With regard to SSB reception, there are fast, slow and fine tuning options with a maximum resolution of 10 Hz and this works very well to reproduce natural sounding speech in LSB and USB modes. The tuning speed/fine options are engaged by pressing the tuning knob inwards towards the set – quite a neat idea. With SSB and SYNC there’s always a little pause whilst the electronics engage – a set of chevrons appear on the screen to indicate the receiver is actually doing something. It’s similar to the Sony ICF-SW77 where you effectively toggle between SYNC USB and LSB and wait for lock. Not an issue for me, but it might annoy some, particularly those who have experience with the ICF-2001D, where SYNC engagement is instantaneous, if the signal is of sufficient strength. A small point, but worth making.

 

So, overall, a brilliant little radio that in my opinion is completely worthy of the ‘Satellit’ branding, at least in terms of ultimate performance. As I mentioned previously, one of the most experienced DXers I know, with more than 3 decades of listening to the HF bands and an owner of a number of vintage Satellit receivers noted that the Eton Satellit outperformed them – and by some margin. To further demonstrate this, I have included links to recent reception videos. In particular, I copied three of the regional AIR stations with signal strength and clarity that had never previously been obtained. I also copied HM01, the Cuban Numbers Station for the first time on the 11 metre broadcast band, Sudan and Guinea on the 31 metre broadcast band (a whopping signal from Guinea) and Polski Radio 1 on longwave. I hope you find them interesting. Since featuring the Satellit on my channel, one of two of my subscribers have purchased this radio and thus far have been very happy indeed with it’s performance.

Ultimately, I have to strongly recommend this portable to anyone interested in DXing and in particular those that embark on DXpeditions. I just hope that should you decide to buy one, you receive an example that performs was well as mine. Embedded reception videos and text links follow below, In the mean time and until my next post, I wish you all great DX!


Click here to watch on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Click here to view on YouTube

Clint Gouveia is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. Clint actively publishes videos of his shortwave radio excursions on his YouTube channel: Oxford Shortwave Log. Clint is based in Oxfordshire, England.

Spread the radio love

Dean: An intrepid young DXer!

Dean’s trusty Tecsun PL-660

UPDATE (28 October 2017): We’ve updated links to Dean’s website to reflect his new URL.

A few weeks ago, I received a message from SWLing Post reader, Dean Denton, who lives in Hull, UK. Dean is not your typical contemporary shortwave listener–he’s twelve years old and has been DXing since the age of eight! While, decades ago, that used to be the norm–indeed, I started SWLing at eight–Dean is bucking the trend in 2017.

Dean’s listening post consists of a few receivers:  the Tecsun PL-660, a Tesco RAD 108, a Uniden UBC360CLT and a Hitachi TRK P65E. Dean also spends a great deal of time on the excellent University of Twente WebSDR.

Dean noted in a recent message:

“I typically love a lot of broadcasters, but generally China Radio International, Radio Romania International, BBC, Voice of America plus many more. I like talk and news on shortwave radio as it gives an insight of a typical country’s actions.

I also love music on shortwave due to Amplitude Modulation and its characteristics. Not to mention Pirate Radio, HAM Radio, Numbers Stations and anything else.”

Dean, you’re a kindred spirit indeed–to me, there’s nothing like the sound of music via the “sonic texture” of shortwave radio.

Not only is Dean a radio enthusiast, but he also started a website and is building a library of videos on his YouTube channel. Indeed, most recently, he’s been experimented with Narrow Band TV on his YouTube channel.

While looking through his channel, I found this screencast and recording he made as France Inter shut down their 162 kHz longwave service as 2016 came to a close:

Click here to view on YouTube.

Dean, keep us informed about your DXing adventures and don’t hesitate to ask questions!

Post readers: Let’s officially welcome Dean into our community! While you’re at it, check out his website and YouTube channel!

Spread the radio love