Welcome to the DX Podcast for January 2007.
Coming up - some last-minute DX catches from a parked automobile. We'll also have a quick summary of the latest DX and propagation news, and our regular site-of-the-month look at some of the best Internet resources out there for DXers.
First a an apology for the virtual disappearance of the podcast for the last several months. It has been an extremely busy time for me, and I have received many emails from listeners who really liked the first five or six episodes of the podcast, and want to see more. I can't make any promises about the regularity of the program, as my life is still rather busy and irregular, but I will do my best. My job, and my political involvements during a summer election here in New Brunswick in 2006, combined to take me out of commission as far as radio was concerned for many months. The January to June period for me is usually more sedate so I expect to have more time in the next little while. I want to thank Colin Newell from British Columbia for volunteering to keep the podcast breathing. Expect to continue to see west coast versions of the podcast, and some contributions to the main program produced here.
As many of you probably already know, hobbies can be quite cyclical or seasonal, and that is very true of DXing. The seasonal nature of radio propagation, and the rise in noise level on the radio in the summer months, impact all of us in one way or another. Unfortunately for me, the September to November period is optimal for DXing, but it is also my busiest time of year at work, as we are starting a new school year and there's lots to do at the college where I work.
During the Christmas through New Years break at work, I get much more time to catch up on things, and even get to the radio once in a while. The DX Podcast was born a year ago at this same time, when I was more idle and had the time to devote to the hours of scripting, editing and production that goes with it.
Just so you know, I do this for free and will continue to do it as a 100% volunteer effort. I am not a circuit designer or master antenna builder or DXer, so I cannot contribute much to the hobby from my limited technical abilities, but I do have the equipment and the inclination to borrow or steal the work of others, and chuck it into my podcast - always with their permission of course.
This podcast uses free, podsafe music, and is now being hosted at a new site called Switchpod. I have chosen the cheapest plan, which is - well - free! In exchange for that free hosting you may hear a brief advertisement from the good people at Switchpod attached to my program, which I hope will not disrupt the podcast to a great degree. So, as I see it, the podcast is not costing me any money, so I'm not out any money. And what's free to me, is therefore free to you.
The last item about using Switchpod is that I will not be able to archive all of the old podcasts there to be grabbed later by those who discover this show in the future. There is simply not enough space on the free plan, so it looks like I'll only be able to keep a few months' worth of programs on the site at a time. Hopefully Craig Healy will be able to continue to archive old episodes on his site where they can be grabbed by latecomers to make up a complete set. I'll point you to Craig's site later on.
So, to get you up to date here is where the DX Podcast sits. Episode one was January, 2006, and it was followed by monthly shows in February, March, and April. In April, May and June of 2006 I did abbreviated "weekend" versions which aired on WBCQ as part of the "This week in amateur radio" program. And those were the last episodes I was able to produce.
So, if you are just discovering DXing and the DX Podcast now, the good news is you haven't missed very much at all! If you want to download and listen to old episodes, and get yourself caught up on the introduction to DXing, antennas, and propagation, the best place to go is Craig Healy's site at http://www.am-dx.com
OK, on to some of my recent DX catches, and a very good example of what auroral conditions can do. On the evening of Friday December 15th I found myself at a local shopping mall with not much to do while my wife and son were inside Christmas shopping. That time period coincides with the auroral conditions caused by Sunspot 930 that I described a few moments ago.
So, I sat out in the parking lot and decided to twiddle the dial of the radio in my Chev Tahoe SUV. Normally here in New Brunswick several frequencies are dominated by strong stations from Montreal. The three strongest ones are CINF on 690, which is a French language all news station; CKAC on 730; and CINW on 940, where a commercial English all-news station occupies the frequency where a CBC station resided for many years.
In fact, these three stations are so strong they are often heard throughout the day on groundwave.
So, when I sat in the parking lot, tuned to 940 at around 5:15 p.m. local time and heard a loud, clear, signal, I first just figured it was 940 News from Montreal.
Here is what it sounded like, as recorded on an MP3 recorder I happened to have with me. The sound quality of the recording does not do justice to the power of the signal at first, but you'll hear it rise up as the recording goes on, to totally dominate the frequency :
As you can tell from the content, it was certainly not an all-news station out of Montreal. It was, as you heard, WKGM from coastal Virginia. Through most of the next hour, the Montreal station was virtually gone, with WKGM dominating 940.
As I tuned down the band a bit I hit an unfamiliar station on 870. At the time I didn't know what I had, so I recorded the station with my MP3 recorder, and looked up the details when I returned home. Here is what I heard:
At the time I thought the announcer was saying something, and then "Ohio," but when I checked my paperwork back home I realized I had mis-heard the announcer the first time. Here is the clip again:
He wasn't saying "Ohio" at all, he was saying "Heights" which is second name of the city of licence for the station. It turns out WPWT is located in Colonial Heights, Tennessee. That was a new one for me also.
The next catch I made on the night of December 15th was probably the most fun. Here I was, sitting in a parking lot at a mall in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and heard this:
You know, sometimes the hardest part of DXing is IDing the station, because of the lack of use of call letters and the use of slogans instead of proper station IDs. Well, you can't say that about WOKV. My goodness, in that 90-second clip I caught the city of license three times, and the full call letters five times. It was a great catch for me, as 690 is usually dominated by the news station out of Montreal. As you just heard, WOKV was all alone, at a distance of about 1340 miles, and Montreal was completely absent, at a distance of 330 miles, over a thousand miles closer to me.
That was my first reception of Florida in over 30 years. I had heard and verified WINZ in Miami on 940 KHz back in early 1976. Interestingly, that was during an Auroral opening, and on the same frequency as the DX catch I just played for you from WKGM in Virginia.
For those of you new to propagation and the phenomenon of Auroral conditions, what you just heard from mid-December of 2006 was a classic case of absorbtion. The coronal mass ejection from the Sun, although not directed straight at the Earth, still caused particles to rain into the Earth's magnetic field and spiral down into the ionosphere. The Earth's magnetic poles, both north and south, are the focal points for this energy, and when the ionosphere receives this extra energy it starts to behave as if the sun is shining right on it, even though it might be night time and the sun is actually shining on the other side of the Earth.
Basically, the ionosphere in the affected area takes on the characteristics of daytime reception on the low bands. And you all know how weak or non-existent stations can be in the daytime.
Picture the Aurora as a donut, that moves around the upper portion of the Earth's ionosphere. The donut moves around, opposite the sun. That's why the northern lights are usuallt the best about half way between sunset and sunrise, when the sun is directly on the opposite side of the earth,and the solar wind is diving down over the north magnetic pole to the other side.
What happened as I was recording those DX catches, is that the leading edge of the aurora (or the donut) was moving in over the north Atlantic ocean, and was lying between me and Montreal. The strong signals from Montreal were being absorbed as they were travelling eastward to my listening spot, but the usually weaker signals were making it just fine from the south. They were sneaking in under the edge of the Aurora, and arriving basically unmolested.
As the sun moved further around the edge of the Earth later that same evening, the nighttime Auroral conditions completely covered me and absorbed signals from ALL directions, and the entire AM band below 1500 KHz was completely dead.
While the Aurora is more commonly known as the northern lights, here in New Brunswick I sometimes have Aurora to my south. When that happened, as it undoubtedly did on the night of December 15, 2006, I lost everything.
The interesting thing when that happens, is sometimes I receive stations that are also inside the hole of the auroral donut. If the hole in the donut is large enough, it can allow stations from Newfoundland, Quebec City, and Montreal to come in just fine at night, while Boston, New York, Chicago and St. Louis are completely gone.
Every night is different, and every hour of every night is different. That's what makes Medium wave DXing so much fun for many of us.
Before I leave the log of December 15, I have one more catch for you.
Here's what I heard on 820:
Now, as you can hear, there was no ID at all at the top of the hour. This frustrated me, as that is usually the best time to confirm what station you are listening to. Canada and the U.S. have rules and regulations that govern how and when stations are to transmit their IDs. As I drove home that night I had the recording of what I thought was a violator of that policy. When I got home and checked the logbook and the Internet, I found that the only affiliate of the "Trinity Broadcasting Network" was, well, not violating the policy at all - because that station was not in Canada or the U.S. Despite the very domestic sound to the programming, the station I heard on 820 that night was Radio Paradise, located on the island of St. Kitts in the Carribbean.
That was the first time I had heard Radio Paradise since I caught them in 1977 when they were broadcasting on 1265.
Craig Healy, Rhode Island
To comment on this DX Podcast or suggest topics for future shows, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org, with the phrase "DX Podcast" in the subject line.
My thanks to Scott Helm of North Carolina for use of the theme music for the DX Podcast. Scott's web site is www.incoherentmumblings.com