Tag Archives: NIST Time Station

Radio Waves: Pack Thanks Interim Leaders, KE4ZXW Moves to Virginia Tech, WWV and WWVH Still Matter, and A New WebSDR in Iceland

Radio Waves:  Stories Making Waves in the World of Radio

Because I keep my ear to the waves, as well as receive many tips from others who do the same, I find myself privy to radio-related stories that might interest SWLing Post readers.  To that end: Welcome to the SWLing Post’s Radio Waves, a collection of links to interesting stories making waves in the world of radio. Enjoy!

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributors Tony, Dan Robinson, Michael Bird for the following tips:

USAGM CEO Michael Pack thanks interim heads of agency’s five broadcasting networks (USAGM)

Today, U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) Chief Executive Officer Michael Pack thanked officials who will serve in an interim capacity as the heads of the agency’s two federal organizations and its three public service grantee broadcasting networks.

  • Elez Biberaj, who has led Voice of America (VOA)’s Eurasia Division since 2006, will serve as VOA’s Acting Director.
  • Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, previously Senior Advisor at Office of Cuba Broadcasting (OCB), will serve as OCB’s Acting Director and Principal Deputy Director.
  • Parameswaran Ponnudurai, who has been Vice President of Programming at Radio Free Asia (RFA) since 2014, will serve as RFA’s Acting President.
  • Kelley Sullivan, who has been a Vice President at Middle East Broadcasting Networks (MBN) since 2006, will serve as MBN’s Acting President.
  • Daisy Sindelar, who has been with RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty (RFE/RL) for nearly two decades, will serve as RFE/RL’s Acting President.

CEO Pack sent, in part, the following message to staff:

“The experience of these talented men and women, their knowledge of the networks, and their commitment to the standards of journalism will allow us to launch into the next exciting chapter of our agency. Dr. Biberaj, Mr. Shapiro, Mr. Ponnudurai, Ms. Sullivan, and Ms. Sindelar will serve critical roles in allowing our networks to become higher performing and to more effectively serve our audiences. For their willingness to step up and help lead this effort, I am deeply appreciative. I am excited to serve alongside them as well as with all of you.”

Virginia Air & Space Center Ends Relationship with Ham Radio (ARRL News)

Virginia Air & Space Center (VASC) Executive Director and CEO Robert Griesmer has advised that the Center’s amateur radio station exhibit will be discontinued, effective July 1, when the Center, in Hampton, Virginia, reopens. VASC is the official visitor center for NASA’s Langley, Virginia, facility. The KE4ZXW display station was shut down on March 13. It was to be out of the VASC by June 30. A main feature of the exhibit was the ability to communicate with amateur radio satellites and with the International Space Station.

Randy Grigg, WB4KZI, of the VASC Amateur Radio Group said the station’s equipment would be relocated. “Thanks to all who have supported KE4ZXW during the last 25 years, especially the volunteer operators who manned the station during that time,” Grigg said. “To the many visitors we have met and school groups that have stopped by and talked with us about ham radio, communications, satellites, and STEM Program related subjects, thank you!”

On June 30, it was announced that the Virginia Tech Amateur Radio Association (K4KDJ) in Blacksburg will be the new host for the KE4ZXW Amateur Radio Demonstration. — Thanks to Randy Grigg, WB4KZI, and Ed Gibbs, KW4GF[]

Why WWV and WWVH Still Matter (Radio World)

Last year was one of both celebration and uncertainty for WWV, the station adjacent to Fort Collins, Colo., that transmits automated time broadcasts on the shortwave bands.

On the plus side, it marked the 100th year of WWV’s call letters, making the site, operated by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, one of the world’s oldest continually operating radio stations.

On the negative side, WWV and its sister time station WWVH in Hawaii nearly missed this centennial. That’s because NIST’s original 2019 budget called for shutting down the pair, along with WWVB, the longwave code station co-located next to WWV, as a cost-saving move.

Fortunately, these cuts never happened, and WWV, WWVH and WWVB seem likely to keep broadcasting the most accurate time from NIST’s atomic clocks, at least for the immediate future. (No further cuts have been threatened.)[]

Another Shortwave WebSDR operational in Iceland (Southgate ARC)

On June 27, a new KiwiSDR web software defined radio became operational in Iceland

A translation of the IRA post reads:

The new receiver is located in Bláfjöll at an altitude of 690 meters. It has for the first time used, a horizontal dipole for 80 and 40 meters.

The KiwiSDR receiver operates from 10 kHz up to 30 MHz. You can listen to AM, FM, SSB and CW transmissions and select a bandwidth suitable for each formulation. Up to eight users can be logged into the recipient at the same time.

Ari Þórólfur Jóhannesson TF1A was responsible for the installation of the device today, which is owned by Georg Kulp, TF3GZ.
Bláfjöll: http://blafjoll.utvarp.com/

The other two receivers that are active are located at Bjargtångar in Vesturbyggð, Iceland’s westernmost plains and the outermost point of Látrabjarg and at Raufarhöfn. Listen at:
Bjargtångar: http://bjarg.utvarp.com/
Raufarhöfn: http://raufarhofn.utvarp.com/

The IRA Board thanks Ara and Georg for their valuable contributions. This is an important addition for radio amateurs who are experimenting in these frequency bands, as well as listeners and anyone interested in the spread of radio waves.

Source IRA https://tinyurl.com/IcelandIRA

KiwiSDR Network

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Interview with Scott Simon of NPR regarding potential time station shutdowns

My recording booth at Radio-Canada/CBC Québec City

Hi, folks!  If you just heard me on  NPR’s Weekend Edition regarding the NIST Budget cuts to WWV, WWVH, and WWVB, welcome, and stick around! This is where the SWLing Post (and other projects we work on, such as the Shortwave Archive, the Radio Spectrum Archive, and the non-profit, Ears to Our World) serve up all things shortwave.  Here, we discuss both the fun (and importance) of this cool old-school medium that, remarkably enough, still has relevance even in our internet-interconnected world.

And for our regular Post readers:  on Thursday afternoon, I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Scott Simon of NPR via Radio Canada/CBC in Québec City, QC, Canada. More on that to come.

The show (with the SWLing Post bit) aired just this morning. You can click here to listen via NPR’s website, or via the embedded player below:

I feel especially chuffed that NPR would give the topic of WWV some exposure. This piece wasn’t so much a call to action as simply building awareness of what the shutdown of our national pacemaker––in the form of WWVB time station––might mean to the average person who has a self-setting wall clock, or watch (most of us do).  (Even at NPR, they’ll be asking, Now, where did we store that stepladder?)

Or what it might mean to the shortwaves themselves, which we in North America may appreciate a source of nostalgia or entertainment––and, yes, handy for keeping time––we have to recognize that there are still pockets of our world, especially in remote, rural, and/or war-torn regions, where shortwave radio is especially vital.

So, something that belongs to all of us––yet another example of a global source of information––may soon be taken away.  If you disagree with this proposal, I urge you to contact your local representatives, and sign this White House petition.

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WWVH: “Working at NIST Hawaii”

From left to right: Dean Takamatsu, Dean Okayama, Director Copan, Adela Mae Ochinang and Chris Fujita.
Credit: D. Okayama/NIST

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Eric McFadden (WD8RIF), who shares a link to the following article from the NIST website authored by Andrew Nobleman, a Grants Management Specialist at NIST. Eric notes that he first discovered this piece from an article in The Spectrum Monitor magazine:

Time on the Beach: Working at NIST Hawaii

The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has campuses in Maryland, Colorado, South Carolina and Hawaii.

Now, I know what you’re thinking, “Hawaiian campus? How do I get a job at NIST?”

Perhaps calling it a “campus” is a bit of an exaggeration. Ensconced within the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Missile Range Facility on the western Hawaiian island of Kauai (pronounced ka-why-ee), sits one of NIST’s shortwave radio stations, perhaps best known by its call sign, WWVH.

Kauai is a beautiful and remote island with unique climate diversity. In the middle of the island, you have one of the wettest places on Earth, Mount Waialeale (pronounced why-ah-lay-ah-lay), which receives an average of 1,148 centimeters (452 inches) of rain per year. Twenty-five kilometers away, the island’s western coast gets a mere 56 cm (22 inches) of rain per year. This is where you will find the NIST radio station.

WWVH’s main objective is to broadcast Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)—the official time for the entire planet—throughout the Pacific region. Those signals help their audience coordinate, calibrate and synchronize their clocks and equipment, which are vital to telecommunications, internet connections and a whole host of other services.

In addition to accurate time and frequency information, the station also broadcasts weather alerts and space weather reports.

“At the tone …”

From Alaska to Australia and from California to China, if you tune your receiver to WWVH, you’ll hear Jane Barbe speaking to you. If you don’t already know her by name, you may know her voice. It was her recorded voice that in past decades told callers who left their phones off the hook for too long (ask your parents), “If you’d like to make a call, please hang up and try again. If you need help, hang up and then dial your operator.”

Although Barbe died in 2003, her beloved voice lives on.

WWVH actually broadcasts her voice using several frequencies: 2.5, 5, 10 and 15 megahertz. The different frequencies cast a wide net so that users of the broadcast will receive a signal regardless of interference from mountains, atmospheric activity or the time of day. This technique allows users to always have access to the correct time as well as the other information provided by WWVH.

WWVH’s sister station, WWV, broadcasts out of Fort Collins, Colorado. Both stations broadcast on the same frequencies. While WWVH uses Barbe’s voice, WWV uses that of former San Francisco radio host Lee Rodgers, who died in 2013. If the ionospheric conditions are just right, users can hear both stations. In addition to using different voices, WWVH and WWV make their announcements at different time intervals to prevent overlap and confusion.

Why Hawaii?

In 1947, NIST determined it needed to create a second station to supplement WWV and expand its coverage area to the Pacific Rim. The WWVH broadcast station was originally built at Kihei on the Hawaiian island of Maui in 1948. After 20 years, however, the encroaching ocean began damaging the property and equipment. So in 1971, WWVH moved nearly 322 km (200 miles) west to its current home on Kauai. This more-westerly location proved to be ideal, as it allowed the station’s signal to reach even more distant locales.

At one point, there were nine employees at WWVH, including an on-site groundskeeper for the station’s 12 hectares (30 acres). Back then, the station was manned around the clock, but automation has whittled the staff down to four, who are now responsible for all station and land maintenance.

Taken together, engineer Dean Okayama, electrical technician Dean Takamatsu, electrical technician Chris Fujita, and administrative assistant Adela Mae Ochinang, have nearly 100 years of experience operating the facility.

In addition to the staff on location, John Lowe, leader of the Time and Frequency Services Group at NIST’s Boulder, Colorado, campus, manages WWVH and WWV, as well as the long-wave station WWVB, which is also in Fort Collins.

A typical antenna at the station, constructed of fiberglass (to resist corrosion from the salty ocean air) with a copper-wound core. Seen in the distance is the island of Niihau.
Credit: D. Okayama/NIST

The Pros and Cons of ‘Paradise’

“Oh, you’re going to go out to Hawaii. Lucky you, you get the easy work,” is something Lowe has heard often from his fellow NISTers. He says he seldom explains the intense labor he puts in while on Kauai because people don’t believe him anyway. He comes to the station at least once every two years, and the staff capitalizes on the extra set of hands by saving challenging projects for his visits.

In addition to Lowe’s visits, there is a yearly rotation of staff between WWV and WWVH for continuity purposes in case of an emergency. Fujita says the exchange “usually involves more work at the Kauai location than the Fort Collins location due to shorthandedness on Kauai, but nothing a few beers can’t fix after work.”

The marine environment, while great for beach relaxation, poses a constant challenge for the station. The salty air and heat have literally caused the transmitters to catch fire! One time when that happened, the naval base’s fire department was alerted before the radio station staff was. Unfortunately, the firefighters put out the fire with a dry chemical agent, a corrosive material that rendered the transmitter useless. Shortly after replacing that transmitter, its backup failed. Fujita says, “It feels like we’re chasing transmitters. Once you replace one, it seems like you have to replace another.”

Despite all the staff’s projects and problems, they maintain a 98 percent on-air rate, which, according to Lowe, is amazingly good. Someone is always on call, and it’s all-hands-on-deck during inclement weather, such as the April 14-15, 2018, monster storm that deluged the northern part of the island with 127 cm (50 inches) of rain in 24 hours, but which thankfully spared the area around WWVH. Checks are done daily to ensure the broadcasts are in close agreement with the UTC.

For Okayama, these major responsibilities translate into a passion for the job. If Monday is a holiday, he has to be reminded on Friday not to come in.

For the staff, the work is both fascinating and challenging. But what about all the fun that comes with working right next to a Hawaiian beach?

Surf’s up?

When the clock strikes noon, Fujita packs up his gear and walks down to the beach carrying a surfboard to catch some killer waves. He and Takamatsu have been excitedly eyeing the waves since the moment they walked in that morning.

At least that’s what would happen on TV.

The reality is much more in line with what happens at the other NIST locations: You go to the lunchroom to eat your packed lunch. When Okayama is asked if they spend their lunch break on the beach, he laughs. “It’s like asking someone who lives next to Disneyland if they go every day,” he says. “We don’t eat outside and lay under the palm trees. It’s hot and humid. There are bugs flying around.”

You would expect Lowe to soak up some rays during lunch on his occasional visits, but he is adamant that he runs for the air conditioning when the clock strikes noon. He believes it’s a unique place to work, but the blistering sun isn’t exactly comfortable.

Not to say that no one has ever surfed during lunch. Fujita tried it once, but says, “It’s too cumbersome to go to the beach at lunch. To change and get all your stuff ready, walk to the beach, wax the board, maybe get one or two waves, then come back and shower. It’s cutting it close.”

A Visit from the Boss

In its entire history, WWVH had never had a visit from the director of NIST. But that changed on March 7, 2018, when newly minted NIST director Walter Copan and his wife, who were on a long-planned Hawaiian vacation, took the opportunity to stop by the site.

“The WWVH team are truly NISTers, and they are our ambassadors of metrology on America’s westernmost shores,” says Copan. “The WWVH team was also recognized by a 2008 NIST Bronze Medal, now on display in their entrance hallway, for the development and installation of a new antenna array by the employees themselves. Their work is a true example of the NIST values, which include perseverance and inclusivity.”

It was a great experience to interact with the NIST director, says Ochinang. Copan shared with them his vision for NIST’s future and some interesting things about himself, like the fact that he is a trained opera singer.

When asked if they took advantage of the extra body to get more work done, Fujita says, “We did not subject the NIST director to intense manual labor, no. That wouldn’t be good … especially not on his first visit.” Fujita adds that, since the Copans’ vacation was not a government-sponsored trip, “We would have to reimburse him for work performed.”

I guess they’ll have to wait until Lowe is back in town.

The Kauai Life

Outside of work, life on Kauai is generally more laid back than the mainland or even the larger islands of Hawaii.

Although it sounds great, living in a tropical paradise is not for everyone. Many of those who move to Hawaii succumb to “rock fever,” the claustrophobia that comes from being on a small island.

Fujita and Ochinang were both born on Kauai, and though they left for a few years, coming back was easy. Okayama and Takamatsu are both from Honolulu, which is on the island of Oahu, the third largest Hawaiian island. Still, they seem to have acclimated well to life on a tinier island. Kauai reminds Okayama of a quieter Oahu in the 1960s when his family used to camp peacefully under the stars at the beach. Takamatsu’s father was from Kauai, so in a way, it feels like he’s returned to his roots.

The Kauai lifestyle and close working quarters have created a family atmosphere. They all take care of each other and no one wants to leave. Ochinang has been at WWVH for 35 years and doesn’t plan on going anywhere. “Sometimes people joke around,” she says, “but sorry, this is a good place to work and I’m not retiring anytime soon!”

So, if you want a job there, you’ll have to hang up and try again later.

*June 18, 2018, Editor’s note: Public tours of the WWVH facility are not available due to limited staff, but thank you for your interest and keep tuning in!

Click here to read the full article and view photos of WWVH on the NIST website.

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WWV seeking reception reports of 25 MHz broadcast

WWV’s transmitter building in Fort Collins, Colorado (2014)

(Source: WWV)

Current 25 MHz Broadcast Specifications

As of 2042 UTC 7 July 2017 the 25 MHz broadcast is now on a turnstile antenna with circular polarization and will remain in this configuration until after the solar eclipse on 21 Aug 2017.  Signal reports are requested.

Schedule: typically continuous. As an experimental broadcast, the 25 MHz signal may be interrupted or suspended without notice.

Radiated Power: 2.0 kW

Antenna: Experimental Turnstile

Listener comments and reception reports may be emailed to: [email protected] (link sends e-mail), or sent via postal mail to:

National Institute of Standards and Technology
Radio Station WWV
2000 E. County Rd. 58
Fort Collins, CO 80524

Note that the 25 MHz signal has traditionally used a vertically-polarized antenna and for about one year (between 2014-2015) with a discone antenna.

Please share your report with WWV–contact info above!

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Listening to WWV at the source: Fort Collins, Colorado, USA

MysterySW-site-LTIf you haven’t already guessed it: yes, the mystery broadcast site I posted on Thursday was WWV/WWVB in Fort Collins, Colorado. Well done, responders!  Specifically, the photo shows the southern antennas of WWVB as I departed the site on Thursday, August 28, 2014; for those of you who got that detail, extra credit–!

I’d like to thank the staff at WWV/WWVB for allowing me to visit the site for the better part of the day. WWV is not officially open to tours, so this was a particular honor for me. And this was an especially fun pilgrimage, as WWV was most likely the first shortwave broadcast I ever heard:  as I’ve previously noted, when I was a kid my father used to set his watch to WWV every Sunday morning.  Now I’ve seen firsthand where that famous tock, tock (and accompanying characteristic tones) originate.

When I return home from my extended travels, I’ll sort through the photos I took at WWV and WWVB, and post them here on the SWLing Post.

Recording WWV

In the meantime, I have a few recordings to share with those who are interested in this mecca of chronology.  Before leaving WWV, I pulled out my Tecsun PL-380 and my Zoom H2N digital recorder, and recorded all the WWV broadcast frequencies. I captured their 2.5, 5, 10, 15, 20 and even their recently reactivated 25 MHz signals.

I made these recordings in the conference room at WWVB broadcast house. As you can imagine, it was simply not at all necessary to extend the telescopic antenna. In fact, the signal was so strong, you’ll hear a slight amount of distortion in the voice audio.


Below, you can listen to the recordings of each frequency via the embedded player (click on the title to download the audio). Enjoy!

WWV on 2.5 MHz

WWV on 5 MHz

WWV on 10 MHz

WWV on 15 MHz (includes top of the hour station ID)

WWV on 20 MHz

Up to this point, I used the Tecsun PL-380, but quickly realized that the ‘380 wouldn’t tune to 25 MHz. A quick look at the back of the radio revealed that the ‘380 only tunes up to 21.950 MHz (!). Believe it or not, I’d never noticed this limitation of the PL-380, likely since I rarely tune above 21 MHz for broadcast listening.  Learn something new every day…But I couldn’t fail to complete my recordings.



So what did I do? I turned to Matthew Deutch, Chief Engineer at WWV and WWVB, who kindly allowed me to use their Sangean ATS-505 to make the final recording:

WWV on 25 MHz (includes Atlantic and Pacific weather)

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