Vox Clamantis in Deserto

communications monitoring

Radio in the High Desert #hamradio #swl #interzone

“In the desert you can remember your name”
“Cause there ain’t no one for to give you no pain”

– America, Horse With No Name

Went into the desert with a fellow LMI Monday night to do a little field radio work.  Let’s just say it was somewhere in DN52.  Six meters was pretty quiet, as was Ten.  We did hear an ATSC pilot carrier for Channel 2, just a little above the noise floor, about an S2 max when we swung the beam North.  FCC records show a station on CH2 up in Montana, so that makes sense.  Also heard a fair amount of local/regional 11m AM & SSB activity from 26-28 Mhz.  Of course the high-power CH6 guys were coming in loud and clear.

Only got about about an hour and a half worth of radio time in, but it was still a good exercise.  Next time I’m gonna bring a sleeping bag and breakfast. 


Tuning the Airwaves

“For the words of the profits
Were written on the studio wall
Concert hall
And echoes with the sounds, of salesmen”

-Rush, Spirit of Radio


Fired up the R-75 on the 120′ longwire last night and spun the dial for a bit.  The frequency shown is that of Radio Havana, Cuba.  Arnie Coro’s show DXers Unlimited was on, and that’s one I really enjoy listening to. The 75/80 and 160 meter ham bands were also open, and I tuned around there for a bit.  There are some fucktards on 75m SSB who need to be hunted down.  Their language and behavior has no place on the amateur radio bands. In contrast, 75m AM and 160m are still gentlemans’ bands, probably because it requires a level of skill to operate successfully there.

Went down below 160m and heard at least one station on every AM BCB frequency.  Mostly talk radio at night, but 1420 & 1330 KHz. were playing decent selections of oldies and country music respectively.  Going down even lower, I logged a whole list of distant longwave NDBs that I will share with you:

Freq. (KHZ.)     ID         City, State/Province
406                    YLJ        Meadow Lake, SK (Canada)
404                    MOG     Montague, CA
385                     WL        Williams Lake, BC (Canada)
383                     CNP      Chappel, NE
368                     SX         Cranbrook, BC (Canada)
371                     ITU        Great Falls, MT
350                     RG        Oklahoma City, OK
326                     DC        Princeton, BC (Canada)
317                      VC        La Ronge, SK (Canada)
290                    YYF       Penticton, BC (Canada)
284                    QD         The Pas, MB (Canada)
257                    HCY       Cowley, WY
242                   XC           Cranbrook, BC (Canada)
200                   UAB       Anahim Lake, BC (Canada)

That’s about 40 minutes worth of tuning through the LW band.  Not listed were relatively local (within 300 miles) NDBs that I usually pick up on any given evening.  Since the FCC will soon be opening up bands below AM BCB for amateur radio use, this frequency range has been of increased interest.  If you are interested in radio’s basement, you’ll want to join the LWCA.

Monitoring Times, CQ VHF, & Popular Communications to cease publication.

By now communications hobbyists have heard that Monitoring Times has ended publication, and that CQ VHF and Popular Communications are getting folded into a digital publication called “CQ Plus.”

Monitoring Times was always a good publication, and I would consistently buy a copy off the magazine rack when the new issue came out.  I’m going to miss MT.

Popular Communications was great in the early 1980s when Tom Kneitel started and ran it.  After he left in the mid 1990s it started going downhill.  Occasionally I’d find something good in an issue, but most of the time I let it stay on the rack.  I won’t miss it.  I’m not surprised it’s going away, as the attitude of one of their former editors was “the only thing hip about our readers is the type that requires replacement.” (her exact words)

CQ VHF was better in quality than Poop Can.  The mag had some issues in the past, and I always thought CQ Communications considered it their red-headed step child.  This was one magazine that I actually subscribed to, but only because I couldn’t find it on the rack anywhere.  I’m going to miss this one.

As of late, I’ve been getting a lot of my monitoring info from HF Underground – http://www.hfunderground.com/.

If there is sufficient interest, I’ll expand my Technical Journal to include more radio communications and communications monitoring content, especially if people contribute stuff.  Let me know, or better yet, send something in.  My email is ticom.new.england@gmail.com.

UHF Antenna Experiments


Uniden Bearcat BC9000 Scanner. Pix courtesy of http://www.rigreference.com/


A few NEAR-Fests ago, I swapped some excess gear for this scanner.  New Hampshire State Police went P25 a long time ago, so you can find good high-end analog scanners such as this for not a lot of cash.  This scanner is a pretty good one.  It has  500 channels, 25-1300 MHz. frequency coverage, a fast scan/search speed (100 ch./second), PL tone decoder, and a tuning dial for cruising the aether.  For under $100 they’re great for listening to whatever analog AM/FM comms are in your area.  In my case, there were a bunch of UHF MilAir channels I wanted to monitor, and this was going to be my dedicated MilAir receiver.

After a quick look through the scrap pile, I slapped together this 1/4″ wave ground plane antenna and set it up near the lab’s skylight.  After a few hours listening, I logged various refueling comms from the AR tracks off the Atlantic coast and in Northern New England, as well as some AMC flights coming in to McGuire and Westover.  Pretty good for an inside antenna made from junk.

On one particularly slow afternoon for MilAir monitoring, I threw the scanner into search mode across the UHF public safety pool frequencies.  The two freq. ranges in question are 453-454 and 460-460.6 MHz.  There are a few agencies using UHF around here, and most of them are still analog.  To my surprise, I logged a new signal in the 453 band.  It was scratchy and buried in the noise, but something was there.  A quick look in the database showed nothing nearby on the frequency.

I had one of WA5VJB’s 400-1000 MHz. PCB Log Periodic Antennas.  After clamping it to a small camera tripod, I aimed it out the skylight to see what I could hear.  I only had a rough idea of the direction, and the frequency has very intermittent traffic, but I was able to pull it out of the noise a little better.  Would be a lot better if the antenna was higher, but the days need to be a little warmer for me to get on the roof.

The performance of the LPA was what I expected.  I tuned around a bit on the more active parts of the spectrum, and one thing that I noticed right away was that with the LPA I could pick up a lot more 800 MHz. trunked system control channels.  I was really impressed with how well this antenna works.