Tag Archives: National NC-173

Seventy years ago, Thor Heyerdahl packed a National NC-173 and made history

The National NC-173

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Kris Partridge (G8AUU), who sent the following feedback a few days ago. Sorry for missing the boat, Kris!

Kris writes:

Just under two weeks ago I was watching a Norwegian film on Polish TV (no, don’t ask) and knowing how the sight of old radio’s in films is of interest to you and your readers I was going to write but travel and work, Passendale100 commemorations in Belgium, got in the way. The radio in question was a National NC-173 receiver. And the film Kon-Tiki.

There is much written about the exploits of the voyage and the operators of LI2B. I give as an example from PA7MDJ http://pa7mdj.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/the-kon-tiki-expedition-and-heroes-of.html?m=1 I leave it to PA7MDJ’s most excellent blog to tell more, he has some Nation Radio Company images from 1947 illustrating his piece and at the end there is a very extensive links listing.

But another reason for writing is that tomorrow, Monday, 07 August is the 70th anniversary of the end of the voyage as the raft landed on the reef. On the 67th anniversary the ARRL did an article on LI2B, why the 67th?

What happened on the 7th of August 1947, and in the 36 hours after, says much about the build quality of the National NC-173.

How many radios today would survive a dunking in seawater and after drying out still be working?

I’ve just been to my book shelves and after a small search found my copy of The Kon-Tiki Expedition published in 1950 given to me not too many years later.

You find LI2B in the book’s index twice. Once describing the operation of the radio ‘corner’ and a very QRP contact between the raft and Oslo Norway. 6 watts CW on 13990 kc. per second, the book being written in 1949 no kHz.

LI2B had been given permission to operate out of but adjacent to as well as in the 20 metre band. The second entry concerns what happen after the raft ends up on the reef and the radio shack and equipment got flooded.

They had been in contact before hitting the reef and there was a 36 hour window before the air search and rescue operations would begin. The drying out of the equipment took no little time and the writer describes how slowly the receiver came to life but no transmitter.

Finally they were able make contact, just before the 36 hrs ended,using a WW2 hand cranked resistance, the book says sabotage, transmitter.

Both the radio operators on the Kon-Tiki had been radio operators in the Norwegian resistance in WW2, only 2 years earlier.

If one puts LI2B into Google images quite an interesting assortment of radio related images are found (click here to view search), including QSL cards but the one I like best is this http://f6blk.net/photos/LI2Bshack_x1.jpg:

I’m sure I’ve seen an English language version, this one looks slightly cropped since the end of the ‘Earth’ wire is out of vision

Regards es 73 de

Kris G8AUU

How fascinating! Thanks so much for sharing this, Kris.

Again, apologies I didn’t get this posted prior to the 70th anniversary–I’m a tad behind (understatement alert) on email at the moment.

I have a particular affinity for The Kon-Tiki Expedition. I found a 1950s copy of the book while doing my undergraduate degree ages ago.

My 1950s copy of The Kon-Tiki Expedition in an archival cover.

The book played no small part in my fascination with anthropology–especially Heyerdahl’s version of “applied” anthropology. I went on to do my post grad work in anthropology at the London School of Economics. Indeed, I re-read that book before my finals to remind myself the significance of anthropology.

If you haven’t read The Kon-Tiki Expedition, I highly recommend you do so! Indeed, it’s about time I read it again.

I’m very curious how many SWLing Post readers have a National NC-173 sitting in their shack? Thor would tell you to take care of it, because it certainly took care of his crew!

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A photo tour of the 2015 WCARS hamfest

IMG_20150725_083926547 A few weeks ago, on July 25th, I made my way to Waynesville, NC, to the WCARS hamfest. This is a much smaller hamfest than, say, the Shelby Hamfest I recently attended.

In the past, however, I’ve found some real gems among the tables of this small hamfest.

I took a few photos but should note they’re not at all a representation of what was available at the hamfest, rather the things I found of interest (ahem…vintage gear).


This Hallicrafters SX-100 was on one of the first tables I noticed in the main building. I have an SX-99 and have always thought about “upgrading” to an SX-100. The seller was asking $150.


My buddy, Mike (K8RAT) believes the Omni D is one of the best CW rigs ever made. He purchased one–in excellent condition–with matching power supply at a hamfest in Ohio for $200. I believe this one, and another OMNI D at the WCARS hamfest were selling for $300+. IMG_20150725_111501657 IMG_20150725_110153073 IMG_20150725_110033935_HDR IMG_20150725_105119120

I would have loved a little radio/TV combo like this when I was in middle school. The two inch black and white CRT screen reminds me of the devices everyone carried to open doors  and communicate on Space 1999.IMG_20150725_104953461 IMG_20150725_104945038

I still find the IC-R70 and IC-R71 appealing. Maybe it’s that classic Icom green.

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This National NC-173 really caught my attention. The seller had kept this radio in excellent cosmetic condition.IMG_20150725_120447122

Indeed, the temptation was too much! I purchased the NC-173 and took it home. After turning it on, though, I felt voltage on the chassis (50V, in fact) and no audio. I contacted the seller, who lives locally, and took it to his home work bench. He happily refunded my money and then began looking for the fault. My life has been so hectic, I haven’t gotten back to him yet, but he was holding it for me should I want to purchase again. I may very well go back and purchase it. Hey, if it’s good enough for Thor Heyerdahl, it’s good enough for me!


While none in working order necessarily, these ARCs were being sold for about $25 each. I probably should’ve gotten at least one.

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The seller wanted over $700 for this Clansman manpack transceiver and accessories, if memory serves. Someday, I’ll snag one of these.

Phillips Model 46-350 AM radioI did come home with this beautiful 1946 Phillips Model 46-350 with roll-top dial cover. The 46-350 was a very popular model for Phillips after WWII; over 220,000 were produced. Original sales price? $49.95


The seller–an avid antique radio collector–sold this 46-350 to me for $25. I feel like I got a deal, too: the receiver is amazing and the audio is beautiful. The chassis shows wear, but I like that (gives some chronological context–!). The inside is in great shape for a radio that’s almost 70 years old.


This Model 46-350 has become my bedside radio; one my sweet wife didn’t object to at all. When not listening to a local AM station, or one of the night time clear channel stations, I tune to my (very) locally transmitted 1570 kHz which typically relays the UK 1940s Radio Station.

I also brought the following items home from the WCARS hamfest:

All in all, a good haul! I’ll certainly visit the WCARS hamfest again next year if my schedule allows.

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