Thursday, 24 July 2014

DXing near the North Pole

As my first blog, I thought I'd reissue something that I wrote back in 1997 but is still of interest. It was written in response to Kevin Redding who asked what DXing was like during my time living in Canada's High Arctic (Nunavut, ex-NWT). I originally posted it on the AMFMTVDX forum. Here it is...

Kevin, I lived in the NWT from Aug. '82-Aug. '85 - in 4 different locations (while working as a young punk at the wx stations)...

Eureka (Ellesmere Island)
 80-00 N 85-49 W  Civilian Wx station (pop. 9)
Resolute Bay (Cornwallis Island)
 74-43 N 94-58 W  High Arctic hub & Inuit village (pop. 170)
Hall Beach (Melville Peninsula)
 68-46 N 81-14 W  DEW-line site & Inuit village (pop. 350)
Coral Harbour (Southampton Island)
 61-12 N 83-22 W  Inuit village (pop. 430)

At 80°N, Eureka is further north than the most northern Inuit village (Grise Fiord). Unfortunately, I didn't have a proper DX setup; doing a lot of DXing on a "ghetto-blaster" inside a metal-encased building !!! (Compared to other portables, I now find the receiver, a JVC PC-R11C, to be below average on AM).

In Eureka, we had a 4.5 month dark winter, a 4.5 month lit summer, and a 6-week long spring & fall. There was one "local" AM station when I first got there in August of '82 - it was AFRS-1430 Thule, Greenland. It was about 350 miles away and could be heard 24-hrs a day. A month later, it left the air & moved to FM. We had lost our "favourite" (and only) station! Otherwise, the closest AM station was 990 Qaannaaq, Greenland at 300 miles which faded in & out.

After AFRS left AM, we were left without a source for new music. With 24-hour sunlight, the AM band was basically dead. Sometimes KBRW-680 Barrow, AK (1,300 miles) would come in, but it was a boring station. The "local" CBC station, 1230 Frobisher Bay (1,200 miles), could not be heard in daylight. We had a satellite dish, but it was only hooked up for TV. Actually, the TV station was 7 miles away at Skull Point where the dish was. Eureka is in the middle of mountains - the south was blocked off. At Skull Point, the south can be seen. The elevation angle of the dish is 0.5 degrees - nearly horizontal! An unlicensed 1-watt transmitter on Channel 9 (still the world's most northern TV station) broadcasts from Skull Point, which we picked up in Eureka using a simple yagi. The satellite channel could be changed from our site by remote control.

Anyways - back to AM. We had no source for music, so KYOI-Shortwave Saipan became "our" station. If you remember, KYOI was a commercial music station on shortwave broadcasting in Japanese & English from a studio in Los Angeles.

In the winter, the AM band went nuts. In the evening, we used to listen to Radio Luxembourg on 1440. Back then it was in English from studios in London. "R-T-L 2-0-8" is still my all-time favourite radio station. It was so lively with excellent DJs. Some evenings they'd play the Top-20 countdown from the UK, some nights the US countdown. It came in loud & clear on 1440 between 8 PM - 11 PM until it faded & CFGO Ottawa took over. Sometimes, Saudi Arabia would come in on 1440 and create a nuisance. Luxembourg wasn't the strongest European signal though, that honour went to 1314 Norway hands down.

So after 11 PM, the Eastern North Americans would take over; then after 2 AM, the Western guys would come in. Meanwhile the Alaskans would be in most of the night. KJNP-1170 North Pole was by far the strongest Alaskan. KICY-850 Nome was always an interesting station. I never did hear Japan though. Novosibirsk did come in on 1026. Occasionally Caribbean stations such as 1580 Antigua came in. Oh yeah, regarding Mexico City, from Resolute Bay I have XEW listed as my only entry on 900!

The graveyard channels were empty, so stations such as CJOK-1230 Fort McMurray, AB (about 2,000 miles) came in loud at times without any QRM, later in the night when Frobisher Bay & Churchill were weaker.

As far as the Europeans go, the part of the band above 1000 was definitely better. Here were the stations heard most often :

  • Greenland   570 , 650 , 750 , 850 , 990
  • Albania   1395 , 1458
  • Austria   1476
  • Belgium   1125
  • England   1053 , 1089
  • France   164 , 1350 , 1377
  • Germany   185 , 1017 , 1044 , 1197 , 1269 , 1422 , 1539 , 1593
  • Luxembourg   1440
  • Norway   1314
  • Northern Ireland   1341
  • Poland   1503
  • Saudi Arabia   1440
  • Soviet Union   236 , 1026 , 1143 , 1323 , 1566
  • Sweden   1179
  • Yugoslavia   1413
Now, the most bizarre AM happening that I had in the Arctic had to be in Hall Beach. I arrived there in Feb. '84. With 24-hr dark, I was expecting lots of AM stations. Would you believe the band was dead! In fact the band was dead all the way through February until I left in July! The ONLY station heard was CFFB-1230 Frobisher Bay. It didn't matter whether I was inside, outside, at the wx station - all AM radios were dead. When I came back in September, the band was going nuts with stations at night! Could this be explained by the "auroral-doughnut" or whatever its properly called? Could Hall Beach be in the centre of it? Auroral displays were rare there, another clue?

No VHF DX was had in Eureka, Resolute or Hall. Hall Beach had 2 FM stations, one was the CBC on 106.1, the other was KMBR on 108.25 (ex-109.05)! It was a feed from KMBR-FM Kansas City. The CBC station is apparently unlicensed. It was the station on which I made my weather broadcasting debut, hi. It may have had the calls CHHB-FM.

In Coral Harbour, E-skip was had on both TV & FM from NF to AB, including the states of MI, WI, MN, ND, SD & MT. Most of the ES was between 11 PM - 1 AM CST indicating a likely link to auroral activity. There was only 1 local station - the CBC on 105.1.

So that's a bit of a rundown. I can only imagine what it would have been like if I had laid out a mile-long wire on the tundra and had my NRD-535D with me! Maybe someday I'll volunteer for a tour-of-duty some winter. I still remember those droning depressing "This is Radio Tirana" announcements and the Russian woodpecker sound shooting across the AM band!

No comments:

Post a Comment