30 July 2012

shortwave scanning 11 - 19 mhz

2012-07-29, 1829 UTC: Quiet Sunday. Freshly-charged NiMH batteries in the Eton E5. Just the telescopic whip antenna for now. I tried to pick up WWV on 5, 10, 15, and 20 MHz, but no luck. Next I'll check the NCDXF/IARU beacons. Their five frequencies are programmed into one of the E5's memory pages for easy access. Nudge the BFO dial a bit. Wait two minutes on each frequency. The first frequency is quiet. Well, by quiet, I mean that I don't hear any morse code rising out of the noise. The second, third, fourth frequencies are also lacking morse ID. And the fifth frequency seems idle too.

I grab the plug end of the random wire antenna that's hanging from my ceiling and plug it into the radio. Now I have audible signals of WWV on 10 and 15 MHz. The signal on 10 MHz is faint; the one on 15 MHz is strong, as can be expected for this time of day. 20 MHz is noisy, and I don't hear a time signal.

I'll start dialing through the bands, starting with 25 meters.

1848 UTC, 11540 kHz: Enthusiastic male and female announcers are speaking an Asian language. Schedules list Radio Free Asia and a China National Radio 1 jammer on this frequency at this time, both broadcasting Mandarin to Asia. I wonder which one I'm hearing. I found a page that lists live streams of CNR; I'm trying the CNR1 stream now. No luck. After showing a "buffering" animation for about two minutes, the stream is now reported as disconnected. I ran http://www.cnr.cn/ through Google Translate to see if a stream is offered there. Nothing found. I think I'll move on to the next signal.

1851 UTC, 13760 kHz: Very faint music; strings and piano. The schedule lists Voice of Korea (North Korea) broadcasting English to Europe. The signal is fading, but I want to stick with it and see if there will be any more commentary during the remainder of the hour. Ah, I heard the "Voice of Korea" identification. Now they're giving broadcasting schedules. Kilohertz sounds like "kilohats". I think I heard "Goodbye from Pyongyang." Not bad propagation: broadcasting from North Korea towards Europe, and hitting California.

I figure I'll take another trip through 25 meters, since a lot of broadcasts start and stop on the hour.

1908 UTC, 12160 kHz: This is a decently strong signal in English. It sounds like it could be religious content. I get a match for WWCR in the schedule data; they're in Nashville, Tennessee.

1914 UTC, 13760 kHz: There's something faint on this frequency. I haven't identified the language yet. It sounds like Spanish. If it is Spanish, then this is likely Voice of Korea again, broadcasting to Europe.

1919 UTC, 13780 kHz: This is a strong broadcast in an Asian language. Here's another frequency with Radio Free Asia and a China National Radio 1 jammer both broadcasting Mandarin to Asia. And there went a little music interlude with voiceover that could've helped me identify the station if I knew how. Hey, how come I'm not recording this?

1921 UTC, 13820 kHz: There's a very faint voice here, mostly lost in the noise. If this is Spanish, it's Radio Marti broadcasting to Latin America. I'll have to wait here for a while and pick up the signal as it fades in, just to identify the broadcasting language. Well, several minutes later, nothing is happening here. I have to move on.

1932 UTC, 13845 kHz: I can tell this is a religious broadcast by the pauses in the speech. The schedule lists this frequency for the University Network, Dr. Gene Scott's radio home. This is an English broadcast to North America.

1936 UTC, 15110 kHz: This is a strong Spanish signal. This is Radio Exterior España broadcasting Spanish to North America. The tone of their commentary makes it sound like a sports-related broadcast. Interesting; they're using "She Drives Me Crazy" by Fine Young Cannibals as bumper music, which Radio Havana Cuba also uses. I wonder if FYC know how often their song is heard on shortwave.

1947 UTC, 15580 kHz: There's a very weak signal here; I probably can't identify it. This is a Voice of America frequency, but I can't determine the broadcast language.

1950 UTC, 15610 kHz: This is a weak English broadcast, which looks to be WEWN from Birmingham, Alabama.

1952 UTC, 17850 kHz: This is a strong and clear Spanish broadcast. The schedule has Radio Exterior España here.

2008 UTC, 15110 kHz: "Chariots of Fire" by Vangelis. (REE again)

2012 UTC, 15730 kHz: This is a weak French signal, which the schedule shows as Voice of America broadcasting to Africa. Smooth jazz music. Is there really nothing to discuss? Or are they just filling airtime cheaply while most people are focused on the Olympics?

15 July 2012

amelia earhart: failure to communicate

I have become fascinated recently with the story of Amelia Earhart, who departed for her ill-fated flight from Papua New Guinea to Howland Island 75 years ago. Based on what's documented about the trip, the disappearance of plane and crew are unfortunately not especially surprising. But unsolved mysteries are often appealing to me. A group called TIGHAR (The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery) has departed on an expedition to Nikumaroro Island (also known as Gardner Island) to search land and sea for clues about the trip's fate. One area of criticism I heard about TIGHAR with which I agree but can't recall the source, is that TIGHAR is clinging to one possible outcome of the flight to the apparent exclusion of other plausible outcomes. Anyway, one goal of this mission is to perform underwater searches for the missing aircraft. TIGHAR has a sizable Wikipedia-style website with articles on the subject. Of potential interest to radio enthusiasts is the article, Failure to communicate.