Tag Archives: Maritime Radio

The first maritime radio distress call

(Source: The Telegraph via Mike Barraclough on Facebook)

On 17 March 1899, the East Goodwin Sands Lightship, operating under a licence from the General Post Office, BT’s predecessor, sent a signal on behalf of the merchant vessel Elbe, which had run aground on the treacherous Goodwin Sands off the coast of Kent.

The message was received by the radio operator on duty at the South Foreland Lighthouse, who was able to summon the aid of the Ramsgate lifeboat.

Goodwin Sands featured again a few weeks later when, on 30 April 1899, the East Goodwin Sands Lightship sent a distress message on her own account when she was rammed by the SS R F Matthews.

Rather than the now-famous signals of “SOS” or “Mayday”, the recognised call sign for ships in distress at the time was “CQD”. Devised in 1904 by the British Marconi Society, it was popularly mistaken to mean “Come Quick – Danger” or, more bleakly, “Come Quickly – Drowning!”. However, its actual official meaning came from the land telegraph signal CQ – “sécu” from the French word sécurité – followed by D for Distress.

The “SOS” Morse code signal – three-dots/three-dashes/three-dots – was established as an International Distress Signal, agreed at the Berlin Radio Conference on 3 October 1906 – though the signal wasn’t formally introduced until 1 July 1908.

Continue reading the full story at The Telegraph online.

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Datawake: Steven’s new “floating lab”

stephen-roberts-datawake

Photo: Steven K. Roberts

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Steven Roberts, who shares the following update:

Hi, Thomas!! Thought I’d send an update… I did in fact find a buyer for Nomadness, and have since gone to the Dark Side… for 8 months, I have been living aboard my Delta 50 named Datawake. The sale of Nomadness was via the geek grapevine… last Spring I built a power cart named Shacktopus, and West Mountain Radio used my story about it as their quarterly newsletter. A fellow on the East Coast read that, followed the links, recognized my bike, saw the Amazon 44, and bought it… and he is now preparing to head down the Pacific Coast.

Photo: Steven K. Roberts

Photo: Steven K. Roberts

Here’s the new ship, and the console now includes four HF rigs, D-Star, a few SDR devices, crosspoint audio routing with web interface, electronics lab, and networking goodies. Nice to be back on the air after a year without a proper skyhook!

http://microship.com/meet-datawake/

Amazing, Steven! You have a super power in your ability to turn boats, bikes and pretty much anything into mobile techno-wonders! What craftsmanship!

I love Datawake and appreciate the tour with photos and details you’ve posted. I noticed the Icom IC-7300–perhaps we can have a QSO someday on the air? I’ll look forward to any report you may have about the IC-7300 as a maritime mobile station.

We look forward to future updates!

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Night of Nights XVI: July 12, 2016

Chief Operator Richard Dillman at Position 1 (Source: Maritime Radio Historical Society)

Chief Operator Richard Dillman at Position 1 (Source: Maritime Radio Historical Society)

Update: Please read Brian’s update regarding frequencies.

SWLing Post contributor, Brian D. Smith, writes:

“Thought I’d forward you this information on the annual “Night of Nights” event on July 12 (U.S. local time)/July 13 UTC, which provides an opportunity for shortwave QSLs – assuming the listener understands Morse code!

I’m sure you’re familiar with this one-night-a-year happening, in which maritime radio stations rise from the dead and transmit Morse code messages again for a few hours.

As a guy who honed his CW sending skills by listening to these stations’ constantly repeating messages, I have a sense of nostalgia and gratitude toward these stations, which helped me obtain my first Novice license, WN9ICB, at the age of 15 … less than 2 months after I taped the WWV recording that I submitted.”

Many thanks for the notice and sharing your nostalgia! Brian also forwarded an announcement from the Maritime Radio Historical Society of America. The MRHS describe the event:

It’s that time of year again. Time to honor all those ops who came before us by preserving their skills, traditions and culture through on the air operations.

Why 12 July? Long time True Believers know the story. But it may be worth repeating for new arrivals and to remind everyone of the traditions we hope to keep alive.

On 12 July 1999 some very tough looking grizzled old radio pioneers had tears in their eyes as the last commercial Morse code radiogram was sent. It was the end of an era. And as the last beeps faded away into the static they witnessed the end of the career to which they had devoted their lives.

These men – and some women – had stood watch over the airwaves on shore and at sea. Theirs was mostly the business of maritime commerce. But when their ship was in peril they were called upon to send the most electrifying three letters in radio, S O S, knowing that all their fellow radio operators would press their earphones close to get every scrap of information and bring aid to their stricken ship.

Once, our coasts were dotted with great Morse code radio stations, all communicating with ships at sea. They’re all gone now… all except one, the one they called the Wireless Giant of the Pacific, located at Point Reyes.

On that sad day in 1999 another event took place. The Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) was formed. We made it our life’s work to honor the men and women of wireless by restoring that wireless giant. One year and one minute later the giant’s voice once again spanned the oceas as we picked up the thread and kept the faith with our colleagues of the air.

Every year since, in an event that became known as the Night of Nights, Morse code station KPH has returned to the air, joined by KFS and the station of the MRHS, KSM.

This year our friends and colleagues at USCG station NMC have labored mightily to bring that storied call sign back to life on Morse code for the evening along with NMQ in Cambria, CA..

And station NMW in Astoria, OR will be on the air as well.

Stations WLO and KLB will join us again as hey have in years past.

This is a global and local event. Hundreds of listeners around the world will be waiting with their earphones on, waiting for the signals of the great station to once again arc over the dome of the Earth to their receivers.

You can be with us in person!

The frequencies for this event are numerous! I have listed the USCG (NMC) frequencies below, but please check the MHRS newsletter for MRHS and other maritime station frequencies.

Again, Brian, thanks for the heads-up!

Happy listening, everyone!


NMC (Transmit Bolinas, Receive Pt. Reyes)

Frequency            Transmitter                         Antenna

472.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173′ monopole tower
500.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173′ monopole tower
6383.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
8574.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
17220.5                Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional

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Jim’s shortwave listening post is a Navy ship

USNS Button - 02

USNS Sgt William R Button (Photo: NavySite.de)

SWLing Post contributor, Jim Clary (ND9M/VQ9JC) contacted me in June to obtain details about the BBC’s Midwinter broadcast to the British Antarctic Survey Team. Jim has been working on board the USNS Sgt William R Button since mid-June. While on board Jim has no web access, but he can send and receive emails and some files. I kept Jim informed about the time and frequencies of the BAS broadcast.

Jim had hoped to make a recording of the Midwinter broadcast at sea, but timing and some technical problems got in the way and he missed the bulk of the 30 minute program.

That’s okay, though, because Jim is an avid SWL and ham radio operator. During time off, he has logged a number of stations, so I asked if he would consider making a recording for us.  I mean, SWLing from a Navy ship?!  How cool is that?!

Within a week, Jim sent me a recording of the Voice of Korea. Here are some of his notes:

I’d heard [the Voice of Korea] many times before when Stateside (and they were Radio Pyongyang at the time), but their signals were always weak and had major polar flutter. Out here, the signal was in-my-face loud, so even though the station is not much of a rare DX catch, I wanted to get them on tape.[…]

[M]y location is the east southern Atlantic Ocean, not far from St. Helena.

[…]My ship is named USNS Sgt William R Button. The ship has been active since the mid 80s and was a “motor vessel” (M/V) until we became a Navy asset in 2009.

USNS Button - 04

[…]My receiver that I’m currently using is my QRP rig, a Yaesu FT-817ND. I changed over to a Navy antenna that I’m feeding with about 70 feet of 75-ohm RG-6 cable. There’s obviously some signal loss from both the length and impedance mismatch of the coax, but at these freqs it’s fairly negligible.

The antenna itself is an AS-2815/SSR-1 that’s mounted above the wheelhouse (bridge) of the ship. I can’t really describe the make up of the antenna simply because I don’t see why it works so well but it really does a good job. If I’d figured out where its feed point is a couple weeks ago, I would’ve had no problem logging the BBC’s Antarctic service!

.Click here to download Jim’s recording of the Voice of Korea or simply listen via the embedded player below. This broadcast was recorded on July 1, 2015 at 1900 UTC on 11910 kHz:

Many thanks, Jim! We look forward to any other recordings you wish to share!

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Night of Nights XVI: July 12, 2015

Photo: US Coast Guard

Photo: US Coast Guard

SWLing Post contributor, Brian D. Smith, writes:

“Thought I’d forward you this information on the annual “Night of Nights” event on July 12 (U.S. local time)/July 13 UTC, which provides an opportunity for shortwave QSLs – assuming the listener understands Morse code!

I’m sure you’re familiar with this one-night-a-year happening, in which maritime radio stations rise from the dead and transmit Morse code messages again for a few hours.

As a guy who honed his CW sending skills by listening to these stations’ constantly repeating messages, I have a sense of nostalgia and gratitude toward these stations, which helped me obtain my first Novice license, WN9ICB, at the age of 15 … less than 2 months after I taped the WWV recording that I submitted.”

Many thanks for the notice and sharing your nostalgia! Brian also forwarded an announcement from the Maritime Radio Historical Society of America. The MRHS describe the event:

It’s that time of year again. Time to honor all those ops who came before us by preserving their skills, traditions and culture through on the air operations.

Why 12 July? Long time True Believers know the story. But it may be worth repeating for new arrivals and to remind everyone of the traditions we hope to keep alive.

On 12 July 1999 some very tough looking grizzled old radio pioneers had tears in their eyes as the last commercial Morse code radiogram was sent. It was the end of an era. And as the last beeps faded away into the static they witnessed the end of the career to which they had devoted their lives.

These men – and some women – had stood watch over the airwaves on shore and at sea. Theirs was mostly the business of maritime commerce. But when their ship was in peril they were called upon to send the most electrifying three letters in radio, S O S, knowing that all their fellow radio operators would press their earphones close to get every scrap of information and bring aid to their stricken ship.

Once, our coasts were dotted with great Morse code radio stations, all communicating with ships at sea. They’re all gone now… all except one, the one they called the Wireless Giant of the Pacific, located at Point Reyes.

On that sad day in 1999 another event took place. The Maritime Radio Historical Society (MRHS) was formed. We made it our life’s work to honor the men and women of wireless by restoring that wireless giant. One year and one minute later the giant’s voice once again spanned the oceas as we picked up the thread and kept the faith with our colleagues of the air.

Every year since, in an event that became known as the Night of Nights, Morse code station KPH has returned to the air, joined by KFS and the station of the MRHS, KSM.

This year our friends and colleagues at USCG station NMC have labored mightily to bring that storied call sign back to life on Morse code for the evening along with NMQ in Cambria, CA..

And station NMW in Astoria, OR will be on the air as well.

Stations WLO and KLB will join us again as hey have in years past.

This is a global and local event. Hundreds of listeners around the world will be waiting with their earphones on, waiting for the signals of the great station to once again arc over the dome of the Earth to their receivers.

You can be with us in person!

My buddy, Mike (K8RAT) also notes that this “Night of Nights” event may witness the last ever Morse communications from the US Coast Guard stations. Indeed, this is mentioned in the MHRS newsletter:

This may very well be the last time ever that USCG stations can be heard on the air using A1A (Morse) emission. As new equipment is installed the hardware and wiring for Morse has been progressively removed. And the personnel who knowledgeable in the art retire or are reassigned. So be sure to listen for these stations.

I’ll not only listen to this Night of Nights, but hope to record some of the stations as well.

The frequencies for this event are numerous! I have listed the USCG (NMC) frequencies below, but please check the MHRS newsletter for MRHS and other maritime station frequencies.

Again, Brian, thanks for the heads-up!

Happy listening, everyone!


NMC (Transmit Bolinas, Receive Pt. Reyes)

Frequency            Transmitter                         Antenna

472.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173′ monopole tower
500.0                    Nautel ND2500TT/6           173′ monopole tower
6383.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
8574.0                  Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional
17220.5                Rockwell-Collins RT-2200  Omni-directional

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