Sunday, 23 December 2012

World Heritage Grimeton Radio SAQ 17.2 kHz

Listen to World Heritage Grimeton Radio (SAQ)

Grimeton Radio is the last transmitter in the world generating rf power without any electronic parts. No tubes, no semiconductors, only an engine driving an AC generator.

The above station will transmit on 24th December 2013 at 0730 and 0800UTC in CW from Sweden.

The DX-394 will tune down to 1khz (have a look here for how to modify the DX-394 with button presses only) 

The DX-10 Vertical antena on the washing line performs a dream on VLF, and so i will try to listeni in tomorrow morning and see if I can hear anything.

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

First 24H with ERA Microreader

This is a photo of the new microreader reading amateur cw yesterday. I have done a side by side
comparison with fldigi and it is just as good yet without all the hassle (not to mention noise!) of loading up the pc. I am very impressed. In fact there were digits that the fldigi program failed to copy that the microreader read OK, which surprised me, given its age.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Era Microreader

I have bought an ERA Microreader for decoding cw and rtty signals in the shack. My parents bought me one when I was a lad and after years of fun decoding press agency signals and aero stations in Africa, I foolishly let it go for a song with a big box of radio equipment I thought I no longer wanted. Years later I regretted that decision, especially as Mum & Dad must have saved so hard to buy it for me.

I am not a lover of computers at the best of times, and certainlty not when I want to relax with the radio hobby, so a stand alone unit such as this has huge appeal for me. I am hoping to spend some enjoyable hours monitoring the 10m beacons, some CW maritime stations, and if I can find any some maritime RTTY stations.

I have spent the past few months since my last entry monitoring broadcast stations and was sad to recently discover Radio Exterior de Espana no longer broadcasts to Europe, the demise of this service being accelerated by the economic climate.

Last year I bought a Pure Evoke Flow internet radio and although it has taken a while to adjust to this more contemprary way of listening to worldwide radio after using short wave all my life, I am thoroughly enjoying it now. I especially love the excellent audio quality of some of my favourite music stations, and what a joy to hear previously weak signals from the tropical band stations in Brazil in modern digital sound quality. another bonus is these DX stations can be heard during the day, instead of only at 3 o clock in the morning!

Monday, 15 October 2012

German Air Force on HF

I have been doing an HF scan on my Icom 703 of 20 or so European military SSB voice frequencies, primarily Navy and Air Force, for an hour or so each morning for several months now. I no longer hear the Italian Air Force and Navy like I did last autumn and in fact have heard so little I was beginning to wonder if during this short space of 12 months a lot of the military had dropped the use of HF. As I have mentioned recently, the French Air Force and Navy are active on HF, as indeed are the Portuguese Air Force.
What a joy, then, this morning to hear much activity on the German Air Force frequency of 5687 with callsigns GAF041 and 033 calling in with solid signals and departure and arrival times in a mix of German and English language. I even heard mention of "frequency kilo" which I understand is 8965khz. So a little later in the day I will try that one for a few hours and see what I hear.

If anyone has any more information on HF voice frequencies used by the military, please do drop me a line, either via the comments page of the blog or via my email mentioned in the profile. I would love to hear from you.

In the meantime I will keep monitoring and report anything interesting here on the blog.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

French Air Force AWACS

Cracking bit of early morning DX on aircraft in the South Atlantic today and then later, on 6700 khz I heard some RTTY and French voice comms for a FAF AWACS aircraft using the familiar "Cyrano" callsign. I went to play the recording back to try and translate a little of it but I had the audio routed into the PC for PSK and not my tape recorder. Silly me. A shame as the comms were long and sounded interesting. Logged at 0757UTC today 11th October. I understand these Boeing Sentry E3's are based at Avord AFB......

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Royal/VIP Flight Ascot (RRR) 1610

I heard this very aircraft serial number ZD621, a BAe HS-125 700B as flight Ascot 1610 calling TASCOM on 6733 earlier today 10th October 2012 at 1103UTC. I didn't hear all of the conversation, but caught the aircraft's selcal code of DJFK and his request for the Keflavik weather. I shall have a look at a few news pages and see if any of the royal family were travelling across the Atlantic today as this range of callsigns belongs to 32 (Royal) Squadron and is used for the Queen's flight and other VIPs.

Lots of activity also on the French Navy (Atlantic) frequency of 5708 early this morning around 0730UTC in voice and RTTY. Clearly heard the ships using the stations callsign "Armor".

No DX the last few mornings as the K indices have been so high, but hopefully they will gradually settle down and allow some South American monitoring before the weekend.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Portuguese Air Force on HF

I have returned from my holidays with a sprained knee so am unable to get out and about as much as usual. The upside of this is that I have more time to spend on the radio! I have had a few interesting logs this afternoon.

8992 Portuguese Air Force 1412UTC flight x27 wkg Lisboa w/several overs in Portuguese
8992 Hickam AFB, Hawaii 1431UTC with std broadcast. Very clear. First time ever for this AFB!
8764 (pres) USCG with an ALE data burst. Had to stop monitoring with the PC now on.

I have seen listed for Portuguese Air Force the following HF frequencies in addition to 8992 but am not sure how old/accurate the information is:

5687 khz
6685 khz
8992 khz (heard this one many times myself but guess they must have lower back-up HF freqs...)
9007 khz

This is a Nord 2502 Noratlas of the Portuguese Air Force pictured at Sintra AFB, Lisbon

I have a special interest in Portugal and the Portuguese language so expect to see more posts on the Portuguese Air Force.

Must get this PC off now and get the DX394 back on!

More South Atlantic HF Logs

I have been on holiday in the UK and spent the early morning hours monitoring 6535khz and 6649khz USB.
These frequencies were very busy around 0500-0700UTC with traffic in the EUR/SAM corridor. Atlantico Radio on 6649 was a faiurly good signal most mornings and it was a joy to hear the female controller talking portuguese to the TAM pilots and then trying to translate the numbers and some of the conversation!

However the most interest SAT catch for me was on 6th October back at my main QTH when I heard Aeromexico 028 trying unsuccessfully to raise Cenamer control on 6649 in Spanish at 0626UTC. I was only recently saying how little I now hear in South America itself compared to years ago, so it was a joy to know that at least Cenamer listen on 6649 and that pilots call on this frequency which I shall pay closer attention to from now on, especially since I saw yesterday on DX Atlas that the grey line will link SW England with NE Brazil in the coming months. This Aeromexico flight, by the way, was en-route from Mexico City to Buenos Aires.

I also heard a US pilot with callsign xxxx 908 call on 6649 at 0609UTC today, the 08th October. Knowing AA and UA used to have flight to South America beginning with a "9" I typed American Airlines 908 into the "Flightstats" website, and sure enough an AA908 was currently en-route from Buenos Aires to Miami with an ETA of 1101UTC.

I'm guessing these South American flights no longer routinely use HF across the Amazon region but call in from time to time, perhaps when VHF contact is lost or when the CPDLC link is lost or further perhaps when they are CPDLC-linked and require a flight level change (which I am not sure can be made via CPDLC.....??).

73 for today, Adam

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Some new AERO posts

After a long gap away from aero monitoring, just wanted to blog a couple of recent interestings logs:

5550khz 29/09/12 0538UTC New York ATC wkg Air Canada 090 (Toronto-Sao Paulo)

8855khz 26/09/12 0622UTC Cayenne ATC wkg ATN540 en-route to Antigua and onwards to Patrick AFB (tracked this one for several hours - ATN run charters for amongst other customers, the US DoD

6535khz 12/09/12 0541UTC Sal ATC wkg Delta 200 (Atlanta-Johannesburg) NB recently heard Delta 201 wkg Luanda on 8894khz

I have been listening on 8855khz for days now and haven't heard a single Brazillian station. Years ago this frequency was very active with Manaus, Belem, Maiquetia and Porto Velho ATC Centres. I guess it's now all VHF as even if the aircraft were CPDLC satellite-linked, they would still call in for selcal checks and level changes as they still do frequently on the South Atlantic.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Yaesu FRG-100 for SWLing

Up until now I have been listening to short wave broadcast stations on my Realistic DX394B. For utility stations this radio is superb for the low, second-hand price tag of around £75, but on AM the audio quality (perhaps due to low cost filters?) was rough, and during QSB it was tough-going on the poor old ears.

I have spent the last few weeks deciding how to upgrade the shack and, to cut a long story short, have had great success with a Yaesu FRG-100 I bought last winter from a G4 friend of mine initially for scanning airforce frequencies on USB from the European air forces.

In fact I now realise this radio was designed with the broadcast band listener in mind: superb audio, sensible choice of AM filters of 6khz and 4khz, and a handy option of being able to set the radio up to toggle through the international broadcast bands and select the steps to, well just about anything really. I have it hooked up to a 1930's Rola bakerlite speaker and the sound quality is quite simply exquisite. I am particularly fussy in this area of sound quality. I have what I suppose you would call a "musical" ear making me perhaps extra sensitive to poor sound quality. But if I tune now to All India Radio in the evening, instead of having to switch off after a few minutes of heavy "whooshing", "crashing" sound with  wildly varying dynamic range during even slight to moderate QSB, I can sit back and enjoy Hindustani classical music and popular light/film music. I have always loved classical Indian music and like nothing better than to listen to it on a humid, wet, summers day (getting a lot of those this year!) and imagine I am thousands of miles away in a tropical sub-continent monsoon.

And whilst the tabla drums on my other SW radios sounded just like any ordinary drum: rather dull and flat, on the FRG100 they sound beautiful: soft, vibrant, full of rich, deep sound. In fact all music is now very, very much more enjoyable. The combination of the better quality radio and the great speaker bring out, as if from nowhere, all these hitherto unheard instruments, and all with rich, tonal sound.

I had considered buying an AOR7030 and even got as far as ordering one last week. But I'm glad I quickly changed my mind in favour of giving my FRG-100 a run for its money as it is a great receiver.

The DX394 is especially good in the sensitivity department and is an excellent radio for weak station DXing in the SW and MW bands. But I have to say for the LW beacons it is sadly totally useless. It was its excellent SW and MW sensitivity that made me worried about changing to a different radio. But the Yaesu 100 seems just as good in this respect as the DX-394 with the added bonus that it is also exremely good for LW beacon DXing.

BTW before I go, I found a great youtube video that showed how, with a few simple button presses, you can extend the coverage of a Realsitic DX394 down to 1khz.


takes you into the strange and fascinating world of time signals, submarine communications and natural radio, all of which I know next to nothing about but am keen to learn. I have already heard MSF59 and DCF77 loud and clear with my DX10 vertical antenna on the washing line!

So I shall be keeping the DX394 in the shack as my main radio for utility listening.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Plymouth Air Safety 3924khz

Heard some activity on this frequency this morning with the military training near the Eddystone Lighthouse off Plymouth. I use the Yaesu FRG-100 to monitor local military HF activity and my Icom 703 to monitor European military HF voice frequencies, though I haven't heard any European traffic for weeks, so am wondering if they have moved to higher frequencies for the summer and higher point in the solar cycle (I am only monitoring 5mhz and 6mhz channels) or, worse, if they are perhaps no longer using HF radio.

5696khz is another frequency that has quite a lot of local military air traffic from RNAS Culdrose.

New Guests Arrive

Some new guests have arrived in our garden: a small colony of perhaps 400-500 bees!

The queen is in the process of being replaced as the old one was no longer laying. A process called supercedure. But the new queen has yet to mate so the colony is not currently growing. My main concern is that the colony will die out before the new queen can lay sufficient eggs to hatch in time. But they are our first attempt at bee-keeping so having a smaller starter colony is easier this year. They arrived this Monday and yesterday was the first dry day for them to get out and about and orient themselves to their new surroundings. Bees are now no longer able to be self-sufficient due to disease and erosion of their natural habitat (good old human beings - another thing to be proud of) so they are very much dependent upon bee-keepers for their survival. It is nice to be trying to do something positive for these little creatures whose planet we share.

I am fascinated by the way they live for the sake of something greater than themselves ie the colony.

A guard bee stood on duty for the first two nights: it was wet and cold and he would willingly have given his life to sting predators venturing too close in order to protect the hive. I was moved by this. By his silent watch. By seeing him there, in exactly the same spot, the following morning.

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Tropical Bands and Radio Nacional in Brazil

Well, I have spent the last few evening and mornings monitoring the tropical bands and now that we are at the peak of the sunspot cycle and I finally have an outdoor antenna, I heard the Northern Territory Shortwave Service VL8A from Alice Springs in Australia on 4835khz at 2131UTC on July 01st. I remember seeing this station years ago as a teenager and wondering how anyone ever heard it when all I could get was noise! So this was a nice catch for the logbook.

Also, after an especially memorable trip to Brazil years ago, I have had a special interest in any SW stations from that country. This morning I heard Radio Nacional on 6180 at 0546UTC. The signal was really good with some nice Brazillian music and a full station ID on the hour.

Also from Brazil this morning was the Christian station Super Radio Deus e Amor from Curitiba, but I don't like this one so much as it's a bit fanatical-sounding with no nice music for the early hours to listen to as I drink my cup of tea! That's not to say I dislike religious stations. To the contrary I enjoy WWCR, Vatican Radio and especially Dr McGhee's morning "Thru The Bible" talks on TWR Europe. As someone very interested in life's spiritual journey I find many of these programmes offer inspiration for the path, though I prefer to take the seeds and essence of truths from the world's great spiritual traditions than get too involved in only one. I also find as I get older I am drawn back more and more to the Christian religion, and some of St Paul's writings blow me away with their depth of vision and love.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

MANX Radio on Medium Wave from Devon

This morning in my favourite dawn hours I heard Manx Radio, Foxdale, Isle of Man on 1368khz AM. Nice signal with an advert for the Isle of Man Steampacket Company. This is the first time in allmy years of SWLing that I have received a signal from this Island in the North Sea and started my day very positively.

I also heard some nice Asian stations in London on the MW band: Kismat Radio on 1035khz and Buzz Asia on 972khz.

I became a member of the BDXC - British DX Club a few years ago. It is only £15 per year and for this remarkable price you receive a monthly magazine called "Communication", a twice-yearly guide to HF broadcasts in English, and a terrific discount on the World Radio and TV Handbook. I try to send one or two of my more interesting logs each month into them for inclusion in the magazine.

That's it for today. But before I go, I spoke to a nice chap in the Mare & Foul Sanctuary shop where I work who down here on holiday from Stockport near Manchester airport. He bought a pair of binoculars for plane-spotting and had been lucky enough to see the Emirates Airbus A340 coming in to land on so many occasions it had now become commonplace for him. I have never seen one before, but would dearly love to as I understand it's a splendid site.

Here she is:

Friday, 22 June 2012

Transport Radio, The Netherlands on HF

I was listening on 6095 khz yesterday at 0945 UTC to a Dutch language broadcast on AM. I thought it might be Radio Netherlands broadcasting to South America as the music had a Latin flavour, but nope, it was Transport Radio from The Netherlands, a 24-hours internet station focused on road transport, inland waterways and rail. The music was great and I enjoyed listening.
I have also been enjoying VOA's broadcasts to Africa on the tropical bands on 4930 (Botswana tx) and 4940 (Sao Tome tx), and on Wednesday night they had a programme called "Explorations" about Buddhism and Christian monastic orders in the USA. They spoke to some young nuns of the Dominican Sisters of St Cecilia who had rejected the more westernized lives of their friends in exchange for a more peaceful life of the spirit. With that and some lovely plaintive Asian music from Radio XL in Birmingham on medium wave 1286 this morning, I realized it was this transporting of my mind to different places that I listen to radio and enjoy it so much.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

RF Systems DX10 Antenna - update

Well I am the first to admit when I am wrong, and in the case of the DX10 antenna I think I was a little unfair as since my last post I decided to give it a fairer test. In the sales blurb about it 12 years ago I read it can be used indoors. This is just not true. It is a useless antenna indoors on all its operating range of LF to HF. It simply picks up all the noise, amplifies it and throws it at your receiver. It was misleading to advertise it in this way and at £200 I disagree with the comment RF Systems make in the leaflet about it being low cost. If you want an indoor antenna, make a small loop for a fiver. That is low cost and will null out, to varying degrees, much of the noise.

But mounted about 3m above ground and outside the noise field of the house, it is rather good and although I have only had it up for 24 hours I don't think it will be coming down again in a hurry.

On medium wave (both broadcast and maritime sections) it is superb and outperforms my indoor loops for those bands. And an the 15 and 17mhz broadcast bands it is smashing as well.

I have updated this paragraph as I realise this antenna is also extremely good all the way through the LF beacon band and down into the VLF portion of the spectrum. I have tuned my DX394 with it all the way down to 1khz and it is a superb performer an all the eerie and unusual VLF utility stations. I think the excellent performance in this area only became apparent once I had securely clamped the metal base of the DX10 onto the aluminum washing line pole. Whilst simply hanging from the washing line the LF performance was mediocre at best.

On HF on all the lower bands, broadcast and utility, it is just as good as my tuned indoor loop but of course I don't need to do any tuning or rotating to nul out the noise from inside the house, so it is a pleasure to use, and I can hop around from frequency to frequency checking for the best one quickly and effortlessly.

The only area where the indoor loop seems better is on 6mhz where, for instance, Gander Volmet has a lower noise floor and is thus more readable on the indoor loop. But that's when indoor noise is low. I haven't tested it when the indoor noise floor is S9 with plasma TVs and pcs from next door all emitting their dreadful din.

So there you have it.

Here is a photo of it on a wet June afternoon here in England, with Bradley, my Jack Russell watching the proceedings!

Friday, 8 June 2012

NDBs so far

I heard a new NDB last night via a recording on 356khz. It was SGO (Sagunto) in Southern Spain at a dsitance of 763 miles from my location in Torquay. I though it would be cool to post a google earth map showing the beacons received so far. Yellow markers are from my main QTH in Torquay, those in blue from Redruth in Cornwall whilst on holiday last month.

Pula in Croatia is the best distance record at 891 miles, however I understand it transmits using 2kw! Sagunto is 300 watts according to the same source. These are relatively high power and many of the other ones logged nearer home are only 15-30 watts, making catching them a real treat, given their operational range is only some tens of miles.

I have ordered a narrow 250hz filter for my Yaesu FRG-100. It cost me almost as much as the radio but as I am enjoying the NDBing so much I decided it was a worthwhile purchase.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Homemade vs Commercial Antennas

Over my 20+ years of short wave listening I have mostly bought everything I require. But this is not always the best thing to do, and it certainly is not the most satisfying. About 12 years ago I bought a hugely expensive antenna: the RF Systems DX10. What great things I expected from this £200 100khz to 30mhz amplified vertical of about 3 foot long, and how very disappointed I was when it performed no better than a few meters of wire strung around my window frame.

Since passing my amateur radio basic licence I have joined a local amateur radio club and made some super friends who have helped and inspired me to make my own antennas. My LF loop antenna outperforms that RF Systems vertical beyond anything I would have believed 12 years ago. And my HF loop of less than 50cm diameter is indescribably better. What's more, both homemade loops cost less than a fiver (£5.00) and when I hear a station on them it is accompanied by a joy and contentment that commercial equipment never delivers.

I have just received a parcel from the USA containing a varactor diode. With the help of an M0 friend I hope to be able to keep an LF Beacon loop outside and tune it remotely from the comfort of my shack. So keep your eyes out for my updates on this project!

Over the last few nights I have received PIA (Piacenza), PLA (Pula) and ILM (Illesheim) on the LF beacon front. I am now using the Roberts C9950 to make several short recordings during the night of the same beacon.

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Here is a screenshot from Google Earth of the NDBs I have logged so far. PIA (Piacenza) and LRD (Lerida) were logged during the dead of night using a recorder as I am not a late night listener now that I am a little older!

I have also redesigned the NDB loop using 90mm PVC trim. It is 60cm in diameter with 20 turns of bell-wired, tuned with a 1000pF variable capacitor. It is twice as large as my first prototype and SHM (Shoreham) comes in all day now, whereas previously I had yet to log it. I read there is 10% more efficiency when you use a pure loop over a square or diamond. I am certainly delighted with it. Here it is in the garden:

Friday, 4 May 2012

First NDB in Spain

I decided to record 15 mins of audio on my FRG-100 with indoor LF loop last night and when I awoke this morning I heard the morse letters "LRD" on my tape recorder: repeated clearly for over 5 mins before fading into the noise. You can imagine my delight when I looked it up on the internet and discovered it was Lleida (Lerida) NDB, 60 miles NW of Tarragona, at the airport of Alfes. This is 643 miles from my QTH and for me, this is LF DX!

Here is the LRD Beacon at Alfes airport:

 photo by Antoni SaldaƱa

A G0 friend of mine has kindly offered to lend me his Howes ASL5 Dual Bandwidth filter for NDB DXing and with a 300hz filter on CW I am looking forward to see how it performs.

Monday, 30 April 2012

LF Loop

As promised, here is a photo of the LF loop:

As you can see, it is not the sexiest antenna in the world, and I have to admit to being a bit of a commercial-product-addict in past years. But since becoming a "ham" I have enjoyed tinkering around with homebrew antennas using bits of recycled timber and old radios. There is also the added enjoyment that, when you do receive a nice signal, it is done so on something you have put together by your own hands. Now I'm getting older, I enjoy that feeling!

On the above loop, I heard Paris Orly NDB "ORW" on 402.0khz this morning, my first signal from the French capital.

I have also ordered Edward Noll's book "25 Simple MW and Tropical Band Antennas" as I loved that series of Mr Nol's books as a youngster. So I might try my hand at a tropical band antenna next.

I also quite fancy having a bash at a larger LF loop. My experiments with HF loops have shown me that the size is not at all critical, and I have come down from 1m diamater to barely 40cm diameter with no noticeable loss of received signal. But my instinct tells me a larger LF loop might make all the difference in pulling in these very weak NDB signals from around NW Europe.

Sunday, 29 April 2012

LW NDB Beacons

It has been raining much of the week and I have spent the last few days with a heavy cold, so as going out wasn't going to be an option, I spent the time building a loop antenna for long wave. I used an old MW prototype and simply extended the wire from 13 turns to about 25. In order to cover both the LF broadcast band and the NDB beacon band, I needed to add a switch that kicked in an extra 940pF of capacitance to reach right down to 153 khz and allow me to receive Deutschlandfunk and France Inter, the latter being a station I am growing to really like.

 The MRV aero NDB at Merville (Calonne), France
which I have logged several times from my QTH
here in Torquay.

My first few hours of beacon experimenting were disappointing and I was barely able to receive the "EX" NDB here at Exeter airport (only 19 miles away!). But I soon realized that despite the DX394 being VERY sensitive on the LW broadcast band and both the MW broadcast and marine bands, it is all but useless on the bit inbetween ie from 250khz to 500khz. As soon as I swapped over to my Sony SW7600GR things improved enormously. I inductively coupled the Sony with the loop by simply sitting the 7600GR inside the loop with no direct connection to the radio, and this is working wonderfully.

I have logged dozens of beacons from as far afield as Belgium and Northern France, with my best "DX" so far being the Mackel NDB (MAK) near Ghent at a daytime distance of 311 miles. Considering these beacons are low power in the 25 watt range, I think this is great.

I am too tired to post a photo of the loop tonight, but when and if the sun comes out I shall try and take a nice shot of it now that I have spent the afternoon tidying it up and revamping it a bit. At first I simply added the extra turns needed for the LW band over the top of the windings already on it for MW. But after I unwound that mess and did it properly the capacitance dropped significantly requiring more turns and yet still extending the coverage significantly. It now tunes 150-200khz with the extra  940pF switched in, and 230 to 860khz with it switched out.

In order to make use of the gear I already had in the shack and not buy new stuff, I tune both sections with both an AM radio capacitor salvaged from an old radio, and a vintage radio capacitor brought for 20p from the Wooton Bassett Vintage Radio Rally last year.

So altogether the loop cost me, ahhh let me see, 20p!!

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Loop for Medium Wave

I have been a member for the British DX Club for a number of years now, and after reading the medium wave sections by Tony Rogers and receiving some friendly emails from him about the MW aspect of the hobby I decided to give it a bash. Having been mightily impressed by the performance of my homemade HF loops that I use for listening and transmitting QRP signals on amateur radio, I decided to build a loop for medium wave.
This one is only 10 inches across, but performs just as well as the proto-type I built which was double that size. In fact, recently I have been experimenting with reducing loop sizes, and my HF receiving loop has been reduced in diameter from over one meter to a mere 40cm with no noticeable drop in signal.

The Medium Wave broadcast loop sits on a small cake decorating turner that I bought for 50p from a church sale and does the job perfectly. It is tuned using an old vintage radio capacitor and covers about 580 to 1600khz.

I use this loop with my Realsitic DX394 as that radio, despite it's low price, is a really terrific performer on MW (both Maritime and Broadcast bands). It may not have selectable bandwidths like the Tecsun PL310, and there is no sync detector as on my Sony SW7600GR. But what it lacks in features it more than makes up for in sensitivity, and weak MW utility signals in the maritime band are way more readable than on my other sets.

I love rotating the loop and hearing signals peak. And it still seems like magic to me when I discover a weak signal present in the nulls of stronger ones. 

I have just ordered an MVAM109 varactor diode from the USA for £5 incl postage as I have read that with a 9 volt battery I can vary the capacitance of the diode from 30pF to 450pF using a variable resistor. The idea is to run 30 meters of wire from the shack to the summer house where my outside loops are located and use the varactor diode to tune either my HF or MW loop from INSIDE the shack. At the moment, if I am using my outside loops, I have to run down to the summer house every time I want to change frequency, which is a bit inconvenient!

Monday, 2 April 2012

AN124 crosses the Sahara

I had a great catch on 8894 khz on saturday 31st March: one of Ukrianian outsize aircargo operator Antonov Design Bureau's Antonov AN124s checked in as he crossed the Algerian coast southbound at 31,000ft. A quick internet search and I came across a cool website called flightaware which not only located the flight, but showed the actual flight plan as well. The callsign was ADB1262 and his route was from East Midlands, UK EGNX to Malabo FGSL.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Unidentified transmissions on 7590khz USB

20MAR12 0715UTC 7.590mhz USB in Spanish (good signal):

- "Tacam, Tacam, Pegaso?"
- "Pegaso, Tacam. Recibo 3x3"
- "Tacam, Tacam de Pegaso?"

After several unsuccessful attempts, I heard a stream of cw. Not being able to decode it in either my head or Multipsk, I have recorded it for a friend at my local radio club to listen to who operates mostly cw, so I may be able to come back in a week or two with more information.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

German Police & Customs on ALE

The German Police and Customs have a very active ALE net on HF and it's a great way of logging some of the rarer and more unusual ship and coast stations. This is the first transmission I logged, a call from German Police Boat Bad Dueben BP23 to Police HQ:

and here is the vessel herself:

The two frequencies I have heard active are 8132khz and 4553.5khz. I have yet to hear any voice comms, only ALE transmissions. Perhaps someone can enlighten me: the ALE equipment, having determined the optimum frequency from a longish history of ALE soundings, uses this information for what purpose? If it's to determine what frequency to use for ongoing comms, where and in what mode is this happening? I'm not hearing any actual information exchange/traffic between stations, such as with the Italian Navy who will use voice mode to establish comms before exchanging STANAG messages.

Anyway, I am a newcomer to the data-modes and understand very little. I just know I enjoy it and it's great to have the chance to log ships and coast stations that are not active in voice mode.

Monday, 19 March 2012


I have been using the Multipsk software a lot recently and here are a couple of stations successfully decoded with it. The station broadcasting "IDN" etc is the Italian Navy in Naples in STANAG, sending these CARBs (channel availability & readability broadcasts) interspersed with encrypted data, and Royal Navy RTTY CARBs from HM Naval Base, Clyde. On this latter transmission when I saw the letter "IVVB" and "PPVYG" I thought I had unearthed some Italian and Brazillian callsigns being transmitted, but alas extensive googling proved this wasn't the case, and I wonder now if these letters were just intereference! Anyway, here they both are:

I have also had a whole lot of fun monitoring German Customs Vessels in ALE mode, but I haven't time to blog about this now, so will save it for another time.