Thursday, June 18, 2015

More Personal mid-winter greetings for Antarctica (update)

The longest night is nearly upon us. No that is not a mistake, providing you live in Antarctica that is.

Not many people know that each year, on this longest day for us, the BBC World Service fires up four shortwave transmitters for a special 30 minute broadcast specifically for those on Halley VI, the British Antarctic Survey's movable base down there.

How many potential listeners to the broadcast? About 44 if we can trust Wikipedia and the British Antarctic own site.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, and the Commissioner for the British Antarctic Territory, Dr Peter Hayes, have sent messages of support.

In her own message to staff BAS Director, Jane Francis, said:

“I’d like to take this opportunity to say a big thank you to every one of you for all your hard work down south. You are all vital to the science that helps understand that amazing continent. You are part of an exceptional team of scientists and logistics people that make work in Antarctica a great adventure – and a safe one too.”

BAS has four stations which it operates over the winter months; Bird Island, Kind Edward Point, Rothera and Halley VI. There are currently 44 staff based at these stations. They include scientists, electricians, plumbers, chefs and doctors.  
The show consists of music requests and special messages to the team recorded in Cambridge by the RAS team back home. Reminds me of Two Way Family Favorites on Radio 2. My son would probably describe it as narrated spotify. 

If you still have a shortwave receiver that works, here are the details you are going to need.

From us to 44 of you, via BBC World Service
After a test on Friday 19th June, the frequencies have been finalised. The special broadcast goes out once on Sunday June 21st 2015 from 21:30-21:45 UTC on the following frequencies:
  • 5,905 kHz, from a transmitter site at Dhabayya, UAE, beam: 203 degrees
  • 5,985 kHz, from a transmitter site at Woofferton, UK beam: 184 degrees
  • 9,590 kHz, from a transmitter site at Woofferton, UK beam: 182 degrees
If you don't have a shortwave radio, you can access one on line which has been set up by the University of Twente in Enschede.

the shortwave radio in Twente

What to look for

This is what the broadcast sounded like in 2014 via Ascension Island, as recorded by Domenik for Note that the first couple of sentences were missing from the broadcast.

Halley VI Research Station is the first fully re-locatable research station in the world. It was commissioned in 2006 and its unique and innovative structure was the result of an international design competition in collaboration with the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The state-of-the-art research facility is segmented into eight modules, each sitting atop ski-fitted, hydraulic legs. These can be individually raised to overcome snow accumulation and each module towed independently to a new location.

The station took four years to build and delivered its first scientific data in 2012. Its iconic design houses a cutting-edge science platform and modern, comfortable accommodation.

The central red module contains the communal areas for dining, relaxation etc., while the blue modules provide accommodation, laboratories, offices, generators, an observation platform and many other facilities. Remote scientific equipment, set up for long-term monitoring, is housed in a number of cabooses around the perimeter of the site, which also contains numerous aerials and arrays for studying atmospheric conditions and space weather (i.e. the ionosphere and plasma physics)

Approximately 1.2 m of snow accumulate each year on the Brunt Ice Shelf and buildings on the surface become covered and eventually crushed by snow. This part of the ice shelf is also moving westward by approximately 700m per year.

There have been six Halley bases built so far. The first four were all buried by snow accumulation and crushed until they were uninhabitable. Various construction methods were tried, from unprotected wooden huts to steel tunnels. Halley V had the main buildings built on steel platforms that were raised annually to keep them above the snow surface. However, as the station’s legs were fixed in the ice it could not be moved and its occupation became precarious, having flowed too far from the mainland to a position at risk of calving as in iceberg.

View from inside the Halley VI research station

One of the reasons for the location of Halley is that it is under the auroral oval, resulting in frequent displays of the Aurora Australis overhead. These are easiest to see during the 105 days when the sun does not rise above the horizon. Thanks to Thomas Witherspoon for the schedule details.

Monday, June 01, 2015

MN.05.01.1995 News Update

This news edition of the programme kicks off the new year 1995 with a range of new items. This was a good example of a news show without a particular theme, based on a "crowd sourced" pile of news items. Victor Goonetilleke is hearing a new station from Ethiopia Radio Fanaa,  DW has announced the old Radio Berlin International transmitter site in Nauen is to be upgraded. Voice of America announces major expansion and record audiences. Pete Costello has launched a catalogue of hypertext links. All the mediumwave stations in Austria have signed off for the last time.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.11.04.1985 Micromuf and Yaesu FRG-8800

This early Media Network is more than 30 years old, so be gentle when listening to it. Lou Josephs reports from Boston on how radio stations across the US have united to play the USA for Africa single, we are the world. Voice of America is expanding both its output and audience according to VOA Director designate Gene Pell. A VOA relay station is being planned for Belize. We discuss the use of a computer interfaces to control a shortwave radio. The TROS has published plans for the Sinclair ZX-80. Rainer Lichte has published plans to connect to a Apple IIe to a shortwave radio.
The 10th West Coast computer fair has just closed. Our reporter talked to computer critic John C. Dvorak, now a host on the popular No Agenda Show podcast and on the TWIT network. John actually had some interesting thoughts about why the home computer was never going to make it. Richard Ginbey had several interesting clips from the airwaves in his African Media report. John Campbell also has clandestine radio news, including a follow-up to the book Secret Warfare.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Saturday, May 16, 2015

MN.03.07.1996. Sony SW600 & Listener Calls

We had just installed a new answerline recorder. Listeners want to know about the Sony SW600, the existance of a portable MP3 player, frequency changes for RNW, Victor has been hearing Radio Miami International - a rare catch in Asia. Voice of the Tamil Tiger being jammed by Sri Lankan authorities. Michel Schmidt wants to know about DAB in Germany and the Netherlands. 1997 will be the year of introduction. We followed the launch of Radio-E, set up to demonstrate digital radio. Radio Netherlands launches a daily email newsletter. The NOS Gender monitoring unit has been closed down.  The Dutch seem to be rather traditional. Only 18% of all experts on TV are women. We got a lot of reaction to our contest. Arthur Cushen recalls a record frost - and excellent mediumwave reception in Invercargill New Zealand.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

Sunday, May 10, 2015

MN.09.06.1988 WLW and Asian Ambitions

This edition of the programme starts with an interview with Jim Vastenhoud. He was one of the authors of a fact finding survey to Asia where Radio Netherlands examined possibilities to build a new relay facility in the region and boost it's signal. Vastenhoud explains the reasons for narrowing down the options.
NDXE says it has approached Voice of America in order to hire airtime on a mothballed SW radio facility in Dixon, California. That reminded me of station WLW in Mason, Ohio which was hired by VOA at the outbreak of war. Its famous diamond-shaped antenna mast is still there.
In other news, Sky channel announces a major expansion plan when the Astra satellite launches later this year. Alan Sugar says he will deliver the dish sets for 199 pounds. A US listener travelling in Europe has heard a strange sound which turns out to be a national paging system. Arthur Cushen has been hearing distant stations on mediumwave from a listening post in New Zealand.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.03.04.1997. Receiver Market Changes

This edition looks at the changes to the receiver market in the 400-700 US dollar price range. Gilfer Shortwave and 47th Street Photo have both gone out of business. Rick Lansing in Colorado has a problem with a time signal station in Caracas, Venezuela. There is a mystery on 1440 kHz. DXers in Finland have been hearing a station on 1440 when RTL closes down. It seems to be broadcasting in Swahili and may be coming from Tanzania. There are major changes to broadcasts from Radio Tirana, Albania. Voice of Mongolia has started using e-mail! Voice of Hope has started broadcasting from Tbilisi. If you want to see new cars being tested, look at the models driving by VOA Greenville, North Carolina transmitter site. Tim Hendel has comments about local radio in the US and the possible threat from satellite radio. Lou Josephs has a survey of changes to international broadcast websites. BBC World Service has cut back on the number of streams and has issues with viewing their site in some browsers. Victor Goonetilleke has news about TWR broadcasting in English on 882 kHz. He is also hearing Angola on 4950 kHz. Radio For Peace International in Costa Rica is making it into South Asia. The first tests from the HAARP facilty have been heard in Europe. Trevor Brook, owner of Radio Fax broadcasting from Ireland, says he is going to the European Court of Law to fight for private shortwave licences in the UK.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.10.03.1993.Transcription Changes

This transcription version of Media Network was sent to about 150 stations who subscribed to a condensed version of the show. Obviously propagation reports were not relevant, and we were concious that the items had to be less time sensitive. This edition looks at the rise of rebroadcasting activities and distribution challenges facing BBC World Service, Radio Finland, RFE/RL, Radio Netherlands and Radio Austria International. Interesting to listen to this programme 20 years later, and realise that many of the fears expressed by the international stations actually came true. The rise of the gatekeeper has always been the biggest hurdle to the international broadcasters. If only FM radio could travel over the horizon, the scene would have been different. And this is before the convenience and lower costs of digital satellite television made it into a much more effective medium for many countries.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.09.10.1997. Stanford Visit to Archimedes

By the mid-nineties, the Internet was starting to interest many people in the communications business. We made trips to Silicon Valley to figure out what was going on and the role played by Stanford University. This is one of those on-location safaris. Diana Janssen and I spent some fascinating days talking to Netscape and various audio companies working on early mp3 players. We also visited Neil G Scott, who was building the Archimedes project on the campus of Stanford University. He later moved everything to Hawaii. He was busy working out alternative interfaces to the mouse. Remember this is two years before Google went public and speech recognition was in very early stages.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.21.10.1993. Changes DLF & RFE

The fall of the Berlin Wall and the Velvet revolution are starting to have an affect on stations serving Eastern Europe. This programme looked at the major changes announced to Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty with budget cuts to staff numbers from 1540 to 705 people. In 1993 the Munich based station had a budget of US$200 million dollars. Services to Afghanistan, were stopped! Melisse Fleming explained they were moving eastwards. Olrich Cip, (in photo), frequency manager at Radio Prague explains the implications of the recent split of the Czechoslovak republic. Wolfgang Pleines at DW has news of changes to Deutschlandfunk. Hans Bakhuizen explains DAB tests about to start in Hilversum and why they are important. Lou Josephs reports that DAB tests are to happen in the US but with their own system. There are problems with the current audio algorhythms. Radio Australia is testing two transmitters from its new facility in Darwin.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault

MN.29.07.1992. Vriezen on Caroline

For many years, Media Network had a shorter version sent to around 150 foreign radio stations for rebroadcast on FM. That worked better than crackly shortwave, although the fading and static added to the magic of distance in different ways. This transcription edition of Media Network features an interview with Radio Netherlands Dutch Service presenter Wim Vriezen, someone who became one of the leading voices on the programme Newsline Europe. One of the best all-round news presenters in the Netherlands.

This episode is hosted on the Media Network vintage vault