Many of you may have seen the following announcement/casting call floating around the hamospehere recently. This casting company is seeking radio “experts” of all stripes for a new TV series centered around numbers stations. I was contact by them directly last week. I spoke with a representative from this casting company and can verify that this is, indeed, a legitimate casting call.
Want to be on TV?
If you’re interested in applying for the series, simply read through this announcement and send the required info to the email address provided:
NOW CASTING RADIO EXPERTS (HAM Radio, Shortwave/high frequency, technicians, enthusiasts/hobbyists) AND ADVENTURERS WITH A THIRST FOR SOLVING MYSTERIES FOR A NEW SERIES ON A MAJOR CABLE NETWORK!
Seeking a team made up of radio experts, code breakers and adventurers to embark on a mission to uncover the true meaning behind anonymous radio transmissions – “number stations.”
We are looking for experts who have thirst for solving mysteries, are adventurous & charismatic and have a STRONG knowledge of radio (including shortwave and HAM) as well as an interest in ‘number stations’ to be featured in this new and exciting series. We are looking for our ‘Indiana Jones’ of the shortwave world.
We are ALSO looking for ADVENTURERS – people who are not afraid to explore and investigate a wide range of worldwide mysteries; someone who is persistent, charismatic and fearless! We are looking for people who have EXPERIENCE in travel, research and problem solving. For example: code crackers, techies, radio conspiracy theorists, private investigators, former FBI/CIA, hackers, former military, researchers, history buffs and urban explorers.
“This is the era of hyper-tech espionage, encrypted emails and mindboggling cryptography. But you can hear a very old-fashioned form of espionage on shortwave radio.
It is 13:03 on a Tuesday in a little crammed room of the BBC Monitoring building in Caversham and what is suddenly heard on a shortwave receiving station is a 10-minute message in Morse code.
There is a small community of aficionados who believe messages like this are a throwback to the era of Cold War espionage. They are the mysterious “numbers stations”.
At the apex of the Cold War, radio lovers across the globe started to notice bizarre broadcasts on the airwaves. Starting with a weird melody or the sound of several beeps, these transmissions might be followed by the unnerving sound of a strange woman’s voice counting in German or the creepy voice of a child reciting letters in English.
[…]Times have changed and technology has evolved, but there’s evidence that this old-fashioned seeming method of communication might still be used. Shortwave numbers stations might seem low-tech but they probably remain the best option for transmitting information to agents in the field, some espionage experts suggest.
“Nobody has found a more convenient and expedient way of communicating with an agent,” says Rupert Allason, an author specialising in espionage issues and writing under the pen name Nigel West.
“Their sole purpose is for intelligence agencies to communicate with their agents in denied areas – a territory where it is difficult to use a consensual form of communications,” Allason says.
A former GCHQ officer, who does not wish to be named, whose duty was to intercept signals towards the UK and search for these numbers stations in the 1980s is also adamant that these were broadcasts to agents in the field or in residencies or directed to embassies.
It was “one-way traffic” – the transmitters broadcast numbers to the recipient. The recipient did not reply.”
[…]”This system is completely secure because the messages can’t be tracked, the recipient could be anywhere,” says Akin Fernandez, the creator of the Conet Project – a comprehensive archive of the phenomenon of numbers stations. “It is easy. You just send the spies to a country and get them to buy a radio. They know where to tune and when,” he says.
We’ve mentioned “Shortwaveologist” David Goren on the SWLing Postmultiple times. David is a talented radio producer who also happens to be a life-long avid shortwave radio listener.
One of David’s productions, Atencion! Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero: The Mystery of the Shortwave Numbers Stations, first aired in 2000 as part of the NPR series Lost and Found Sound. It’s a richly layered soundscape, a sonic journey woven together by David’s narration and a series of interviews in a form of personal documentary–and it’s simply inspired. This piece caught the attention of Roman Mars, producer of my all-time favorite podcast, 99% Invisible. I’m pleased and proud to report that 99% Invisible‘s latest podcast features this brilliant numbers station piece of David’s.
For those of you who don’t know, 99% Invisible now has, deservedly, one of the largest listenerships in the podcasting world. A version of their show is also produced and aired over NPR. This piece will give shortwave radio significant exposure, and in turn make it a little less…well, invisible.
I read this account Pavel posted on the Spooks reflector and asked if he would share his story on the SWLing Post. He kindly agreed.
“Inspired by a recent thread about a vintage number station, I searched my old tapes (I really [have a] LOT of them, hundreds of reels, mostly with music, but sometimes with other interesting things) and finally found a short snippet of a German number station transmission. There is neither a start nor end of the transmission, just a few 5-digit groups. It was recorded sometime between 1977 – 1980, at my cottage near Ceska Lipa, Czech Republic (but it was Czechoslovak Socialistic Republic [then]).
Reception was made on a Czechoslovak tube receiver “Barcarola” on a shortwave band with classic AM (of course this receiver was not capable of SSB or any other advanced modes) using a random wire (about 10 m) antenna.
A recording was made on the B400 Czechoslovak tape recorder using a Scotch 220 magnetic tape (exactly the one which is in the picture), speed 9.53 cm/s. Import to the digital domain was performed using the Audacity open source sound recording and processing software, without any artificial filtering or other DSP techniques.
I know that because the recording is incomplete, it has just a low value as such, but maybe it can at least demonstrate, which kind of equipment was obvious at this time and that it was possible to use it for activities like SW listening and number station (at least the strong ones) monitoring.
I’m curious whether somebody will identify the station.
Pavel’s Barcarola was similar to this model (Photo source: http://www.oldradio.cz/)
What really amazes me is the fidelity of Pavel’s recording. Though the transmitter might have been relatively local, there is certainly something to be said for analog equipment–both Pavel’s Barcarola receiver and his B400 recorder.
I actually collect and maintain more tube receivers than solid state. While their sensitivity and selectivity isn’t always on par with modern receivers, their warm audio fidelity makes up for it.
If you can identify Pavel’s numbers station recording, please comment.
Though I don’t often record HM01, I did record it on the morning of September 20, 2013––and, yet again, I heard what seemed to be HM01 tripping over its own tongue.
Instead of the broadcast starting with numbers to identify the transmission, then implementing intermittent RDFT data bursts as per usual, this broadcast begins in the middle of a data burst, then shuffles awkwardly into a “normal” broadcast. I imagine an operative in the field scratching his or her head…