A site about the radio listening hobby and my activities therein - longwave, mediumwave, shortwave, FM, and television DXing. A site about the radio listening hobby in all its forms, or at least the forms that interest me.

I am also a licenced amateur radio operator, callsign VE3LXL. Information about my amateur radio station is found on my station website.

Sunday, 31 October 2010

Amateur Radio DXing - 2010 CQ Worldwide DX Contest, SSB

On the weekend of Oct 30/31, 2010, I spent some time on the air, at my amateur radio station VE3LXL, making contacts in the 2010 CQ Magazine Worldwide DX Contest (SSB). It occurred to me that I should also keep a log of the stations I heard, even the ones I failed to work on the air. I am already in the habit of logging amateur stations when tuning around the bands, so it only makes sense to also do this when I'm operating my station.

It also occurs to me that this is a form of DXing that SWLs should consider doing more often. It's no secret that shortwave broadcasting is in trouble these days, with shortwave broadcasters dropping like flies. But there is still plenty of activity on the amateur bands, especially on weekends of major contests. And there are many countries that are difficult or impossible to hear on the shortwave broadcast bands that have active amateur stations. If you're an SWL, give it a try. You can find a list of all the upcoming amateur contests at WA7BNM's contest calendar.

I did all my listening on the 15, 20, and 40 metre bands. I won't list all the stations I heard this weekend - there were over 90 of them. But I will list the countries I heard: Antigua, Argentina, Azores (Portugal), Belize, Bermuda, Bonaire (Netherlands Antilles), Brazil, Canada, Canary Islands (Spain), Cayman Islands (U.K.), Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, England, France, Galapagos Islands (Ecuador), Germany, Madeira Islands (Portugal), Mexico, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Scotland, Slovak Republic, Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos Islands (U.K.), U.S. Virgin Islands, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

WiFi DXing

I am wondering if it is possible to turn the search for Wireless Local Area Network (WLAN) Wireless Access Points (WAPs) into a branch of the DXing hobby - WiFi DXing. Wireless networks communicate by radio, using two bands in the 2.4 and 5 GHz range. Each network's base station can be thought of as being a tiny, micro-powered radio station. By scanning for wireless networks with your computer, you can get a list of the nearby stations of this type. So is there a form of DXing possible here? Is it possible that under certain conditions signals can propagate long distances, becoming DXable targets?

As an experiment I used software called inSSIDer 2.0 that I installed on my station computer to scan for wireless networks in my neighbourhood. The network card has a small antenna on the back of the computer; I didn't try augmenting it. Since I live on the 12th floor of an apartment building I have the advantage of height. There are also other apartment and condo towers nearby, and two main streets with office buildings and businesses, which gives the potential for numerous wireless networks. The advantage of using inSSIDer is that it gives you the number of the channel the WAP is using, which allows you you to know the exact radio frequency. That's not really important for most purposes but it's something you'd want to know if you use a frequency-based logging system.

The results of this experiment were interesting. I did a single scan at 16:36 UTC on Oct. 24, 2010. InSSIDer listed 66 WAPs nearby. Clearly there's no shortage of targets. It's safe to assume all are within a few hundred metres of here. InSSIDer tells you the network's name, the type of device and the network speed it supports. What it does not tell you is where the WAP is actually located. (Or maybe it does - inSSIDER does seem to have an option for attaching a GPS to it, so maybe it can identify the network's location if you do that. But I don't have a GPS). Without knowing the WAP's location, there's no way to tell if a new network you're seeing is a DX reception or just a new nearby network.

I think there's potential to this, although clearly it's not radio DXing in the conventional sense. There's nothing for you to listen to, and you use the computer's wireless card as the receiver, not a conventional radio.

Shortwave Loggings

Some interesting things heard on shortwave today, Oct. 24, 2010:
  • AFRTS (American Forces Radio and Television Service) feeder heard on 12133 kHz at 0505 to 0518 UTC, in USB with weak signal. Programming was talk, sports talk, and army announcements. Station location: Saddleback Keys, Florida.
  • Unidentified utility station on 12120.5 kHz at 0520 with high-speed digital traffic. Strong signal.
  • Radio Nacional da Amazonia, Brasilia, Brazil, heard at 0525 UTC on 11780 kHz with fair signal. Brazilian music and talk, in Portuguese naturally, between songs. 250 kW.
  • Radio New Zealand International, Rangitaiki, New Zealand, hear at 0534 to 0602 with poor signal. Tentative - no ID heard but programming was typical of RNZ. Stupidly, I forgot to record the frequency but it was in the 25 metre band.
  • Unidentified utility station on 12014.5 kHz at 2030 UTC with fair signal carrying high speed digital traffic.
  • WEWN, Vandiver, Alabama, heard at 2120-2140 UTC on 12050 kHz with good signal carrying Catholic religious programming in Spanish.
  • WYFR, Family Radio on 12055 kHz at 2140 UTC with talk and music in English. Interval signal at 2200 then off air. Weak. This was not from WYFR's usual site in Florida but was instead being relayed from Ascension Island in the South Atlantic. To central Africa.
  • BBC World Service, from Ascension Island, on 12095 kHz at 2210 in English with poor signal. Talk and news. Interference from a Spanish language station on the same frequency - may be Radio Damascus in Syria, which is the only station listed as operating in Spanish on this frequency at this time. However, nothing was heard that could identify it.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Dominican Republic and Brazil on 10 Metres

The 10 metre amateur band is dead much of the time, but today (Oct. 23) it came alive for a bit and I heard two DX stations. Details:
  • HI3B, Dominican Republic, heard at 2110 UTC in Morse code (CW) on 28028 kHz working various stations. RST: 379.
  • PY2XC, Sao Paulo, Brazil, heard at 2133 UTC on 28018 kHz in CW working several stations. RST 479. The only station that worked PY2XC that I was able to hear was VE3IN here in Toronto.

Friday, 22 October 2010

30 Metre Beacon

Today: my first reception of an amateur radio beacon on the 30 metre band. WA4SZE/B, Manchester, TN, USA, heard from 1210 - 1250 UTC Oct. 22, 2010 on 10148.6 kHz with a fair signal. The beacon was sending a continuous stream of dash-dot beeps with a "WA4SZE/B" ID in Morse code every few minutes.

Shortwave Broadcast Loggings

Some shortwave broadcasters heard this morning (Oct. 22, 2010):
  • Voice of America, 9885 kHz at 1155 UTC with fair signal. Talk/news show in Spanish.
  • Radio Vatican, 9830 kHz at 1158 UTC with strong signal in Spanish. Religious programming. Transmitter location unknown, but given its strength is likely from Sackville, NB relay.
  • Radio Marti, 9805 kHz at 1201 UTC in Spanish. Fair signal. News/talk show. Broadcasting from Greenville, NC, USA.
  • KBS World Radio, 9650 kHz at 1203 UTC via Sackville, NB relay. Excellent signal in English with news from Seoul, South Korea.

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Navtex DX Session

Results of an overnight DX session: 0310 to 1150 UTC Tues. Oct. 19, 2010. I left the receiver on overnight tuned to 518 kHz, hooked to the computer with Navtex Decoder running to see what would come in. Here's what came in. No new stations.

1. NMG ($04G), New Orleans, LA:
  • 0310-0320: Navigation warnings.
  • 0700-0740: Weather forecasts, two satnav messages, and some navigation warnings.
2. VCK ($04C), Sept-Iles-Riviere-au-Renard, QC, Canada:
  • 0418-0425: Navigation warnings.
  • 0523-0525: Meteorlogical warnings - gale warnings.
  • 0610-0612: Meteorlogical warnings - gale warnings.
  • 0655-0655: Meteorlogical warnings - gale warnings.
  • 0818-0820: Weather forecast.
3. NMF ($04F), Boston, MA:
  • 0510: Navigation warnings.
  • 0844-0910: Navigation warnings and one satnav message.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Radio Cultura do Para, 5045 kHz

A new logging of a tropical band broadcast station tonight. From 0305 to 0331 UTC I heard a weak station playing Latin music on 5045 kHz in either Spanish or Portuguese - it was too weak to determine the language. No ID. Three hours later, when I was having trouble sleeping, I came back to it - from 0645 to 0725 UTC (that's 0245 to 0330 AM local time). Now the signal was stronger, although with a lot of interference from Radio Rebelde, Cuba, on 5040 kHz. It was playing Brazilian or Portuguese pop music with talk in Portuguese. Finally at 0725 I heard an ID "Radio Cultura" and a mention of "Amazonia, Brazil". This is Radio Cultura do Para in Belem, Brazil. 10 kW.

Back in the old days I used to enjoy tropical band DXing and logged a fair number of broadcasters on the tropical bands. Sadly, most broadcasting activity on these bands has ceased now. So it was a nice surprise to actually log a new one today.

Another HF-FAX Reception

I made a second reception of a station transmitting weather maps via HF-FAX today. This was actually part of the same DX session that netted the reception of NMF yesterday, but two hours later, when the UTC date had already changed. Details: NMG, New Orleans LA, on 8503.9 kHz at 0030 to 0100 UTC Mon. Oct. 18, 2010. Fair to poor signal. Weather maps for the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea. Lots of interference (noise) but readable.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Three Unidentified Utility Stations

Rounding out today's loggings are three unidentified utility stations and some shortwave broadcasters. The utility stations:
  • 9030 kHz, 2248 UTC: High speed digital signal, maybe some type of RTTY.
  • 4805 kHz, 2330 - 2337 UTC: Station with "sweeping" sounding signal. May be a coastal radar station.
  • 4820 kHz, 2338 UTC: Another station with the same type of "sweeping" signal as heard on 4805.
The shortwave broadcasters:
  • WWCR, Nashville TN on 9350 kHz at 2100 UTC with show "Prison Planet" hosted by Alex Jones.
  • WTJC, Morehead City NC on 9370 at 2217 UTC with gospel music.
  • WBCQ, Montecello ME on 9330 kHz at 2225 UTC with religious preaching.
  • Radio Cairo, Cairo Egypt, on 9305 kHz at 2226 UTC in Arabic with Arabic music and talk by a woman.


An interesting amateur radio logging today as well: TO3GA on the French island of Martinique in the West Indies. This was a DXpedition station operated by a German amateur, DL3GA. He was operating in CW on 40 metres (7026 kHz) at 2320 UTC Oct. 17, 2010. He was working lots of stations in quick succession. The only one I heard was DF1AL in Berlin, Germany.

HF-FAX Reception on 9110 kHz

Something new today. I was tuning around 9 MHz on shortwave to see what I could discover and I came across a strong digital signal. I started up MultiPSK to attempt to decode it and quickly discovered that it was an HF-FAX signal, with a transmission of weather maps of the North Atlantic and the Carribean. This is my first reception of an HF-FAX station ever. Frequency: 9110 kHz. Station: NMF. Location: Boston, MA. Time and date: 2230 - 2244 UTC Oct. 17, 2010. Signal quality: good.

This is one thing I enjoy in radio - exploring what's out there and discovering hitherto unknown types of transmissions and stations.

Useful links here, here, here, and here.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

WGBW 1590 DX Test

WGBW 1590, Two Rivers, Wisconsin, held a DX Test between 0500 and 0600 Z on Sat. Oct. 16. I listened to 1590 from 0515 onwards trying to catch it. Usually stations doing DX tests use distinctive tones and, sometimes, Morse code IDs, to ensure they stand out. I heard nothing from them for the entire time of the DX test. The channel was dominated by WAKR in Akron, Ohio, and by noise. That is, I heard nothing until 0559, when WAKR faded momentarily and the noise abated, and I heard faint but clear "...WGBW AM 1590 Two Rivers, Wisconsin...". It's certainly odd that the only thing I heard from the DX test was the station's full legal ID at the top of the hour.

Another new station for both the Toronto log and the overall log. I've not received this station before.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Thanksgiving DXing

Over the Thanksgiving weekend I was in the village of Harrowsmith, Ontario, near Kingston. And as I usually do when I'm up there, I did some DXing. I'm always impressed by how much more I can hear there than from home, even though I'm just using a little portable shortwave receiver with its built-in antenna when I'm there. The reason for the great reception is that there is so little interference. There is very little electrical noise on the bands, and I'm not in a steel frame building there.

I was tuning around on the lower shortwave frequencies, and here's what I heard. Date: Oct. 11, 2010. Receiver: Kaito KA-1103 on its telescopic whip antenna.
  • 3485 kHz: Gander Radio, Gander Newfoundland, 0257 - 0300 UTC, with aviation weather.
  • 3476 kHz: 0302 - 0310 UTC, weak station in English with Irish sounding accent with air traffic control transmissions. I think this is Shanwick Radio, an air traffic control station in Ireland.
  • 3476 kHz: Gander Radio, Gander NL, 0310 - 0314 UTC. On after the preceding station went off. Air traffic control for North Atlantic from Gander airport in Newfoundland.
  • 3350 kHz: Radio Exterior de Espana, broadcasting from Costa Rica, at 0317 to 0335 UTC.
  • 3320 kHz: Radio Sonder Grense, Meyerton South Africa, from 0336 to 0042 UTC. With music and talk in Afrikaans.
  • 3395 kHz: 0402 - 0403 UTC. Unidentified utility with strange pulsing sound: 3 harsh mid-tone beeps and one deeper one, repeated, with each cycle taking about 2 seconds.
  • 3185 kHz: WWRB, Manchester TN, at 0405 UTC. Christian broadcaster. 100 kW.
  • 3885 kHz: Ham radio roundtable in AM mode aty 0411- 0425 UTC. Stations heard include W2NBC in Oak Ridge NJ, WB2CAU in Dix Hills NY, and N1HCI in Concord NH.
  • 3880 kHz: KG2IR, Greenlawn NY at 1320 UTC. Another amateur in AM mode.

Saturday, 9 October 2010

And Even More Navtex DXing

I did an overnight Navtex DX session on Oct. 9. I left the computer on decoding what came in on 518 kHz and then checked it the next day. Here's what put in an appearance:
  • NMF ($04F), Boston MA, 0447 - 0510 UTC, good signal with marine weather forecast for northeastern U.S. waters and four navigation warnings.
  • VCK ($04C), Sept-Iles-Riviere-au-Renard QC Canada, 0601 UTC, good signal with meteorological warnings, reporting gale force winds in the Cabot Strait, Northumberland Strait, Gulf Magdalen, Chaleur-Miscou, Anticosti, etc.
  • VCK ($04C), Sept-Iles-Riviere-au-Renard QC Canada, showing up again at 0654 UTC with more meteorlogical warnings.
  • NMG ($04G), New Orleans LA, 0700 - 0735 UTC, fair signal with marine weather forecast and navigation warnings.
  • NMF ($04F), Boston MA, 0854-0856 UTC, good signal with navigation warnings.
  • XLJ895 ($04P), Thunder Bay ON Canada, 1032 UTC, good signal with marine weather forecast (for Great Lakes).
  • NMG ($04G), New Orleans LA, 1102-1113 UTC, good signal with marine weather and navigation warnings.
All of these are relogs, except for XLJ895 in Thunder Bay, Ontario, which is a new station for me. As usual, I used Frisnet Navtex Decoder 2.1.5 to decode the signals.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

More Navtex DXing

Another Navtex DX session and two stations received, both of them relogs. Frequency: 518 kHz, date: Oct. 7, 2010, decoding software: Frisnet Navtex Decoder 2.1.5.
  • NMG ($04G), New Orleans LA, 0305 to 0315 UTC, fair signal with marine navigation warnings.
  • VAR-9 ($04U), Saint John NB, 0321 to 0330 UTC, fair to good signal with marine navigation warnings.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Navtex DXing

Last year I briefly tried out Navtex DXing, but then didn't keep it up, despite the encouraging results of that first experience (for instance, receiving the first station I've ever heard from Greenland). Today (Oct. 6, 2010) I decided to come back to it. Here's what I found:
  • 0420 - 0425 UTC, VCK ($04C), Sept-Iles-Riviere-au-Renard, Quebec, with navigation warnings. Good signal.
  • 0426 - 0436 UTC, NMA ($04A), Miami FL, with navigational notices. Weak with garbled messages, but station identifier clear.
  • 0445 UTC, NMF ($04F), Boston MA, with marine weather forecast for northeastern U.S. waters. Good signal.
All these stations were logged on 518 kHz, just below the bottom end of the AM broadcast band. VCK and NMF are relogs, but NMA from Miami is a new one for me.

Navtex is transmitted in a mode called SITOR-B. To receive Navtex, you need a receiver that supports SSB reception, and a computer to decode the signal. I use a software application called Frisnet Navtex Decoder to do the decoding.

Navtex stations on 518 kHz all broadcast in English. The world is divided into regions called Navareas. The stations within a Navarea take turns transmitting according to a predefined schedule. Each station in a Navarea identifies itself by a single letter (e.g., "A"). William Hepburn, at his DX Information Centre site, has a comprehensive list of the stations in each Navarea, with their identifiers and transmission schedules.

Navtex DXers identify stations using the format $NNI, where "$NN" is the Navarea number and "I" is the station's single letter identifier. For example, $04F is station "F" in Navarea 4, and from Hepburn's station list you can see this is station NMF in Boston, MA.

I also heard an aircraft navigation beacon on 516 kHz at the same time (0420 UTC): YWA in Petawawa, Ontario, with a fairly decent signal. This station is a regular visitor here in Toronto.