Radio St Helena Day 1997

    THANK YOU to all of you who emailed me during the broadcast. It was really a thrill reading all those emails dropping in. As you understand, just a few could be read as the telephone-line was really “hot” all the time. If you remembered I asked you just to send short messsages, well most of you did but there was also some reception reports as well. We are a little old-fashioned here at Radio St Helena, so when the RMS anchors with mailbags, we act like childs – are there any letters for me? Please, don’t take this moment away from us – it’s just that mail let us remembering the broadcast a little longer. So please, send all reception reports by snail-mail (regular post). Greetings to all of you from me and the rest of the crew at Radio St Helena “The Voice of the South Atlantic”.

    Derek Richards

    – Congratulations and thanks on your latest broadcast. The remaining DX/SWL fan of the world thank you. Daniel Robinson, Voice of America Correspondent

    – Hello from the Hawaiian Islands! First time ever I am hearing your broadcast here on the Big Island of Hawaii. Aloha pumehana Charles (Chuck) Boehnke

    – Hi to Derek (ZD7CTO) and all the other Ham radio operators on the Island. Bill Main (VK6ZX), Kalgoorlie, Western Australia.

    – Great signal at 1858 in NA, thanks guys from a grateful SW population in the USA. All the best. Dan Henderson, Md USA


    – It’a really amazing to hear this emission with a Yaesu FT-990 and a Carolina-Windom Antenna. Congratulations et we stay tuned. Lambert Tellier, M.D. (VE2GAG) – please see picturecolor>

    – Good signal here in northern Italy Ciao! Fabrizio Magrone, Forli, Italy

    – Excellent reception at 1930 GMT here. Thanks for the show. 73s, Gerry Bishop, Niceville, FL

    – Hi Derek and the whole Radio St Helena crew from the headquarters of the “Kurzwellenring-Sued”, one of the oldest shortwave-listeners-clubs in Germany!

    – Your reception in Johannesburg is 100% better than last year! Thanks and good luck! Attie Botha

    – I am listening to your broadcast at the moment. You are Signal Strength 8 in Cheltenham, U.K. Best wishes. Nick Mundy


From NUMERO UNO, No. 1448, November 2, 1997

Quite a number of interactive reception reports and greetings were sent to host Derek Richards during the course of the 1900-2300 broadcast on October 26. They showed up in the mailbox of those of us who are subscribers on the St. Helena Mailing List. It was very interesting to read the various reports and comments from around the world, and to get a feel for where and how the signal was being heard. In many cases, the E-mail correspondents would describe their receiver/antenna listening setup, too. The following are some of my observations from the E-mail activity directed to the station while the broadcast was on the air.

In general, my reading is that reception quality this year (compared to prior years) was about the same (good to excellent) in the U.K. and southwestern Europe (e.g. France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain). But in the more northern European latitudes (i.e. Scandinavia), signals ranged from relatively poor to nil. I would deduce that this was a case of auroral absorption, since geomagnetic conditions transitioned to active/minor storm at times on Friday, October 24, and into Saturday, October 25.

Interestingly, however, the signal was significantly improved this time across southern Africa, into the Indian Ocean, and seemingly best-ever on the difficult path (due to proximity of the southern auroral zone) into Australasia (e.g. Australia and New Zealand). It was even heard well out to the mid-Pacific (i.e. Hawaii). For example, NU contributor Mahendra Vaghjee in Mauritius reported good reception from *1900 until fadeout after 2040. There were several reports from Australia (non-specific as to quality), while from New Zealand, Graham Barclay in Napier reported “best yet” reception from 1900, opening for about 45 minutes, before then fading out by 2000. A little further out into the South Pacific lies the New Zealand possession of Niue Island. A German ham who, at the time of last year’s broadcast, was operating as ZK2RA from Niue Island, said there was no signal at all to be heard on that occasion. This time, all the way from Hawaii, well-known DXer Charles Boehnke reported “quite good” reception on the Big Island, this being first-time reception after several years without success.

Moving to North America, signals were predictably strong according to most reports, particularly along the Atlantic seaboard. NUers Dan Henderson and Chuck Rippel cited great signals beginning with the surprise interval signal that came up at 1858. In his message, Chuck extended “a special hello to other members of the Numero Uno Shortwave DX Club.” Hmmm . . . Just who are these guys?

Tom Sundstrum in New Jersey noted a fairly strong signal too, but cited the “annoying buzz caused by a utility station running FDM (frequency division multiplex) mode.” Someone else specifically cited station MKD in Cyprus as the possible culprit. The utility interference was troublesome to quite a number of European as well as North American listeners. Yet, from some locales, it was stated that the signal was coming through without interference. Strange.

Up in Newfoundland, a well-known ham DXer, Frank Davis, VO1HP, cited strong signals from St. John’s, mentioning that this is the site of Signal Hill, “where Marconi received the first transatlantic radio signal on December 12, 1901.” He also referenced having worked two hams on St. Helena, and another on Tristan da Cunha. Predictably, a couple of listeners wondered if Cable & Wireless had a transmitter on Tristan, and if a special broadcast could be orchestrated from there. However, another E-mail correspondent indicated that there is not yet the necessary power generation capability on Tristan. Instead, he proposed Christmas Island (which has a transmitter) for a special broadcast akin to Radio St. Helena Day.

Further inland, signals in the mid-west (e.g. Omaha, Oklahoma, Texas) began weak (if audible at all), but improved somewhat as the local afternoon wore on. Similarly, signals eventually started showing in a spotty fashion on the west coast, but mostly confined to the final hour of the broadcast. A listener in Seattle, however, reported reception on a Collins R-390A as early as 2000. There was a similar report from north of Vancouver, and that person cited much improved signals during the final hour. Still, the sample of E-mails from WCNA was limited, and I rather think that, based on phone-in’s heard in prior years, reception there was not up to what it has been for some other past broadcasts.

A wide variety of equipment was mentioned by listeners reporting in–numerous portables, but, of the current crop of tabletop rigs, the Drake R8A was mentioned most often. Personally, I was interested to see the number of worthy hollow state communications receivers mentioned in this statistical sample of less than 50 SWLs and DX-types [see below–JB]. Included were: Collins R-388, R-390, R-390A (three or four citations); Hammarlund HQ-180A; National HRO-60; and Racal RA-17. In my own case, I used the occasion of the broadcast to check out the operation of a recently acquired vintage (WW II) Hallicrafters SX-28A, and it was just fine. Later, I switched to listening on a late-model (EAC-1967) Collins R-390A, mated with the Sherwood SE-3 synchronous detector (in SSB mode). Getting a good quality signal with that combination was almost too easy!

All in all, the R. St. Helena Day shortwave broadcast was enjoyable once again, and the experience this year was all the more interesting with a real time internet capability. It seems to me that this made for a worthy marriage of modern telecommunications technology and “real radio.”

NOTE from JB. That hollow state interest is, I believe, largely attributable to the efforts of Chuck Rippel, who writes: “There IS interest in SWBC in the ham ranks! I put out the St. Helena information on both the Collins and R390 reflectors last weekend, framed in a ‘Flex Your Vintage Radio Muscles’ format. I actually had about 25 hams participate and say ‘that was fun, how do we get more information.’ The next step is the Vintage Receiver competition to be held in concert with the North American DX Championships.”

And this comment from Joe Buch-VA to Dave Clark: “My copy of the ‘Confidential Frequency List’ Edition 9 shows MKD in Akrotiri, Cyprus on 11093.5 ISB, as the British Defence Communications Network using voice frequency telegraphy. That all fits. There is also a listing for a U.S. Navy station in Rota, Spain on 11093.0. I did not bother to measure the interfering stn’s frequency. It would be interesting to try to plot the skip zone where interference was not reported to see if either of these locations can be confirmed. I think Jonathan Marks on Media Network mentioned the interference to be quite bad in northern Europe. That might be another explanation of the dearth of reports from northern European latitudes. — Put me down as another boatanchor user who heard RStH. My stealth antenna is a 300′ unterminated wire about one foot over a salt water marsh and running north/south through the underbrush. It tends to favor north/south directions. The interference here was audible, but not objectionable. The HQ-180 was best because the IF notch filter could be effectively applied against the interference. The R-390A (EAC S/N 3079) does not have an outboard detector as yours does. The R-390A did not perform that well due to lack of a product detector and IF notch filter. My R-388 was closer to the HQ-180 performance because I was able to optimize the crystal filter bandpass for the specific interference condition. All receivers are fed from the same antenna via a 1 x 8 US Navy active signal splitter.”

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