Tag Archives: shortwave

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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Mali shortwave relay site back on the air with CRI

(Source: Radio World)

China Radio International Recommits to Africa

Mali relay site near Bamako is back on air diffusing China Radio’s shortwave signal. The site carries CRI’s shortwave broadcasts for more than 20 frequency hours a day to Africa. The move has also benefited Mali’s own shortwave transmissions, which were reportedly suffering from weak signals and poor modulation. “The reactivation of the facility is in contrast to the shuttering of other shortwave sites on the continent, such as the Sentech facility in Meyerton, South Africa,” writes Hans Johnson.

Click here to read the full article at Radio World.

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“The dream of Biafra lives on in underground Nigerian radio broadcasts”

(Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Ed, who shares the following story about Radio Biafra from the LA Times:

Every evening as 5 o’clock approaches, the clogged, perpetually dusty streets of this industrial city in southeastern Nigeria begin to empty.

Groups of men just off work go inside, shut their doors and tune their radios to 102.1 FM.

Then an anthem begins to play, and a voice says “Kedu” ­ “how are you” in the Igbo language ­ to welcome listeners to the daily broadcast of Radio Biafra.

For the next 90 minutes, hosts and various guests proselytize for the revival of an old dream: the creation of an independent state called Biafra.

The broadcasts, conducted live from an undisclosed location in Nigeria, are illegal, and the group behind them ­ the Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB ­ has been classified by the government as a terrorist organization since 2017. Its leaders say they eschew violence and want a peaceful settlement of the issue through a national referendum.

Activists say people caught listening to the station have been arrested or beaten. But many residents here say they are willing to take the risk.

Radio Biafra is a daily reminder of the bloody civil war that ravaged Nigeria between 1967 and 1970. The conflict started when a Nigerian military general, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, declared an independent state of Biafra. It ended after more than a million deaths, mostly from starvation after the government imposed a food blockade on the region.

Ultimately, the rebels surrendered and the area was reintegrated into Nigeria under the government motto “No victor, no vanquished.”

But the memory of the brutal war looms large in Aba, feeding enthusiasm for the broadcasts despite extremely long odds that Biafra will ever come to be.[…]

Click here to read the full story at the LA Times.

Radio Biafra has also been elusive and rare DX for radio listeners. Click here to read more Radio Biafra posts in our archive.

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Radio Tamazuj introduces English news via shortwave

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Jochen, who shares this announcement via Radio Tamazuj:

Radio Tamazuj launches English news bulletin

The independent broadcaster Radio Tamazuj has launched its English news bulletin today to help expand its listenership in South Sudan and Sudan.

Broadcasting daily in colloquial Arabic and Juba Arabic from 6:30-7:30 a.m. [3:30 – 4:30 UTC] and 5:30-6:30 p.m., [2:30 – 3:30 UTC] Radio Tamazuj focuses on providing listeners with uncensored news and programmes.

Morning frequencies are 7315 on the 41 meter band and 11650 on the 25 meter band. Evening frequencies are 15150 on the 19 meter band and 15400 on the 19 meter band.

Enjoy listening to our English news every Tuesday and Friday on shortwave frequency. Also, enjoy listening to us on our social media handles on Facebook Live @tamazuj and on Twitter @RadioTamazuj from 18: 00 hrs every Tuesday and Friday.

Listen to today’s English news:

Many thanks for the tip, Jochen! Click here to read this news item on Radio Tamazuj.

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The Radio Kitchen: Down Under, Up And Over

The following article originally appeared on The Radio Kitchen blog by Michael Pool, a.k.a. “The Professor.” In an effort to preserve his writings and recordings, we are republishing The Professor’s archived posts in a special collection here on the SWLing Post.

Note that not all of the original links and recordings could be recovered, but the majority have been.

Of course, all of the views and opinions in this article were those of The Professor. 

“Down Under, Up And Over” was originally published on November 30, 2007.


Down Under, Up And Over

by The Professor

When get to fooling around with a shortwave radio I usually don’t have much of an idea of what I might come across, or where the broadcasts I may find will come from. If you happen to be hunting up something originating (or relayed) from a hot nearby transmitter, shortwave listening is almost as predictable and practical as AM or FM  However, the real fun in scanning these forgotten bands is hunting for broadcasts from far-flung regions of the globe. It’s all about surfing those skywaves.

Instead of patiently scanning a SW broadcast band, this particular evening last July, I was quickly scanning several bands with my Degen 1103 looking for something, ah… exciting.

Okay, maybe “exciting” is the wrong word. I was fishing to find some exotic broadcast from far away, and preferably one in my native tongue. I’m sure there are other shortwave listeners who know what I mean. What gets my attention right away when trolling the HF bands is coming across an unfamiliar English language broadcast on a carrier marked by the scars of bouncing off the upper atmosphere a few times. Sure, It’s important that the reception has enough clarity to be understood, but shortwave radio waves from far over the horizon are infused with the sounds of the electrical and magnetic activity surrounding our planet. The audio itself often has an edge, even when listening with agile and fancy receivers. An aquired taste, the sonic anamolies of distant shortwave broadcasts have an inate musicallity, which you may appreciate  once your ears adjust to them. And the last time I heard the clear mutated throb of a strong distant transmitter traversing the globe was last July. I was sitting under the stars in the Michigan countryside when from over eight-four hundred miles away, New Zealand came calling.

RNZI (Radio New Zealand International) doesn’t seem to have any worldwide coverage mandate like CRI (China), the BBC or VOA or something. Their main purpose is as a regional service for the South Pacific. Dotted with a scads of far-flung islands, their broadcast zone actually covers a huge swath of the Earth’s surface. So just by making a point of covering this region well, RNZI is a major player in international broadcasting. (And sadly, I can’t remember when I picked up the BBC World Service as well as I heard New Zealand RNZI that evening.)

From my casual and primitive DXing experience, many powerful shortwave stations from around the world can be picked up from Eastern North America, as long as the signal doesn’t originate from anywhere directly blocked by the massive mountains of the top three quarters of the North American Continental Divide. In other words, with a booming transmitter from the closer sections of Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South America are the most likely catches from overseas. Deeper into these zones and continents (and Asia in general) are difficult terrain for DXing rewards from here. That said, with my limited portable equipment I’ve been able to pick up signals from at least three of the major broadcasters from the Southern Orient– India, Australia and New Zealand. I’ve always assumed that these signals ride skywaves over the lower mountains of the Southwest and Central America. But I’m no expert.

I do know that all the overseas states located directly west of the tall Rockies who are serious about reaching US citizens via shortwave rent relay transmitter time from Canada, as well as sites in the Carribean and Europe). In fact, if you happen to come across international broadcasts  from Vietnam, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan or Thailand on shortwave in Eastern North America, you’re probably hearing a relayed transmission from several hundred miles away. But the recording I’m offering here is of reception from from far across the world. Considering the distance travelled, the reception here is fairly healthy. A little hairy, but practical. And there’s no local RF noise getting in the way. You really can hear the details it if you pay attention.

Radio New Zealand International pt 1 – 9615kHz – 07-07-07 0644 UTC 15:05

(download)

This first bit is an interview with Canadian chemist and author Penny LeCouteur discussing her book about molecules that have changed the world. Of note here– the legacy of how James Cook and ascorbic acid made the south seas safe for European explorers and colonists.

Then the cassette came to an abrupt stop, and the part two of this recording begins with the flip of the the tape. At the onset of this archive the interview is aborted in mid-sentence and a female announcer formally announces that Radio New Zealand International is closing on this frequency. After twice insisting that I “re-tune to six-zero-nine-five kilohertz in the forty-nine meter band” (followed by a clipped “This is New Zealand”), it all sounds so damn official that I felt compelled to follow the instructions. Although I knew that just because RNZI was booming in on 31 meters didn’t necessarily mean it would come in so strong (or might even be heard) on the 49 meter band.

You hear RNZI’s interval signal (the call of the New Zealand Bellbird) after the station ID, and then the signal at 9165kHz goes dead. I then put the tape deck on pause and punch up 6095 kHz on the Degen and release the pause button. And there it was! The call of the Bellbird is quite clear there as well, although a nearby signal is chewing on the edges of the reception a bit.

Radio New Zealand International p2 2 – 9615 & 6095kHz – 07-07-07 0658 UTC 28:55

(download)

Whoever is running the board down there in the South Pacific was a little sloppy that night. After the interval signal the board-op starts to pot up the interview again (which is still running on one of the channels). But the mistake is corrected in a fraction of second, and it’s the news with Phil O’Brien. The lead story, a nationwide “Drunk Drive Blitz” the night before had netted over two-hundred inebriated kiwis on the highways down there. And an update on the aftermath of an unprecedented swarm of tornados that ravaged the North Island a couple of nights earlier.

After the news, it’s the beginning of a program I can barely believe I’m hearing in 2007. A faux flapper-era theme song launches a “nostalgia packed selection of favorites” that will saturate the skies of Oceania for the next four hours. While I love a lotta old music, the whole idea of “nostalgia” can get a little silly. Although I must say that old Joe Franklin used to pull it off with some charm on WOR here in New York City before he gave up the show a few years back. It’s really an approach to radio that’s all but dead here in the states. But apparently not in New Zealand.

As you’ll hear if you brave through this chunk of pulsing and buzzy DX radio, there are a couple of corny numbers to wade through. But I gotta tell you, that sitting outside in the middle of the night with an artifact-drenched AM signal from the other side of the world filling my headphones, it felt reassuringly twentieth-century. Maybe you’ll hear what I mean. And the Paul Robeson and Mills Brothers seemed quite appropriate.

I guess a little nostalgia isn’t so bad.

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