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The ionosphere was recovering from a storm, so DXpedition AIH106 got off to a slow start. However, by our second week North American signals filled the AM band from sunrise to sunset, and occasionally also overnight. Other goodies were caught from all around, including countries like Argentina, Nigeria, Japan and even New Zealand. Although sensational new discoveries were not made, DXing felt just as rewarding as it should now that we're living the solar minimum.

Barely two weeks after returning from DXpedition AIH103, I was ready to return to Aihkiniemi. Well, almost ready. Getting on this DXpedition was quite a hassle, and my Saturday schedule didn't allow for any delays.

Fells around Saariselkä ski resort
Winter arrived early this year. This scenery is from Saariselkä ski resort.

I was arriving from Seoul, South Korea, where I held a presentation about North Korea in a conference about Inter-Korean media cooperation, and my plane touched down in Helsinki at 14:15. I knew I could only have hand luggage, as I had to run through the airport, get a taxi home, take a quick shower, pack my car, and start driving towards the Pasila train station.

Again a bit of running in Pasila, as I headed for the convention center, where I held a book talk about Kimlandia (my most recent book, featured also on Facebook) at Finland's biggest book fair at 16:00. After signing books I returned to the Pasila train station to drive my Auris onboard the train at 18:00. Jim Solatie joined me at this point, and now we were finally able to relax. We did some last minute purchases at the Mall of Tripla, a brand new shopping center built on top of the railroad tracks, and claiming to be the largest mall in the Nordic countries.

Because of the Korea and book fair engagements, our departure was delayed by a day, as normally we would travel north already on a Friday evening.

Sunny scene at Saariselkä
Can winter get any more beautiful than this?

The train departed as scheduled just before 19:00. We had an extra hour of sleep as this was the night when daylight savings time ended, and the train stayed put for an hour in Oulu. Even with this flexibility, the train arrived in Rovaniemi an hour late because of a technical problem at a railroad switch up in the north, so already at start we were two hours behind the regular schedule, when measured in UTC. Fortunately offloading the cars went smoothly, so after a breakfast at the Rovaniemi railway station we set off driving north from the Arctic Circle at 8:44 (0644 UTC).

We encountered plenty of reindeer along the way. The road was snowy and icy, but on a Sunday morning there was hardly any traffic. The weather was exceptionally nice when we reached the Saariselkä ski resort, so we made a small detour to enjoy the views from on top of Kaunispää fell, and I made a couple of rounds with my Mavic Air drone to capture the snowy landscape. Photowise this was the highlight of the trip.

Drone video over Kaunispää
Flying a drone over Kaunispää fell in Saariselkä ski resort on the way up to Aihkiniemi. Clicking the photo opens the video on Youtube.

After shopping in Ivalo and a lunch at a Neste service station in Inari, we drove further, arriving in Aihkiniemi at 16:30 local time (1430 UTC), when it was already getting dark.

This time of the year the weather can be dramatically different in the south and north of the country. In Helsinki it was close to 10 degrees C (50 F) and raining, while up in northern Lapland it was well below freezing, and there was already an unseasonally heavy snow cover, about 30 cm in Aihkiniemi. During the following night the temperature fell down to -22 degrees C (-8 F).

A drone shot of the top of Kaunispää
The top of Kaunispää fell as seen from a drone.

By the time our gear was functioning, the afternoon opening to East Asia was gone, and there were mostly European and Middle Eastern stations left on the dial. Propagation conditions were auroral, so we focused on African stations. Jim heard BBC Mauritius on 1575 AM, and I picked up Ultimate Radio from Lesotho on 891 AM. I've heard snippets of its programming for more than a decade, but any ID had eluded me, until now.

As customary, I had Perseus type SDRs with Jaguar software, and Jim was using Perseus receivers with the manufacturer's software. Our antenna arsenal remained the same as on previous DXpeditions, with 13 Beverage antennas, each 3,000 ft/1 km in length. These are the antenna directions in Aihkiniemi:

Aihkiniemi antenna directions
Here's a daily summary of our observations on the AM dial.

Monday, October 28, 2019

Very few North American stations were heard during the night. A few common ones from the Rockies were audible at 0100 UTC, and then some more, mostly from the Midwest, around 0500 UTC, but at sunrise around 0600 UTC everything vanished. The same applied for South America. We caught a few personal new ones from Argentina around 0530 UTC, but they also disappeared from the dial at sunrise.

Drone video from over Turvelompolat
Flying a drone over Turvelompolat right next to Aihkiniemi. Clicking the photo opens the video on Youtube.

During the day freezing temperatures had eased a bit, warming up to -10 C, and we checked a few antennas. Despite my doubts, it turned out to be safe to walk on the ice of our small pond. Not having to use a rickety bridge half a kilometer away shortens the walking distance to most antennas. The landscape was really wintry, and walking in the snow-covered swamp was already harder than a few weeks ago. Jim shoveled the driveway clear, but in the evening we got some more snow.

In the afternoon, stations from the east began to show up after 1300 UTC, and by 1400 UTC the focus was already in Southeast Asia. We caught a few new catches, DYMF Cebu on 963 AM, Radio Bangladesh Thakurgaon on 999 AM and Radio Pakistan Quetta on 1134 AM. There was no sign of Aussies, and the evening was once again dominated by European and Middle Eastern stations.

A fell above clouds
A fell rising above clouds, shot from Kaunispää in Saariselkä.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Overnight, a few US and Brazilian stations were heard peaking at 0230 UTC, but otherwise transatlantic reception was poor. Stations from Brazil and Argentina disappeared after 0300 UTC, which was remarkably early. 0300-0430 UTC was quiet to pretty much every direction, but South American stations (such as Radio Nacional San Rafael on 620 AM and Radio Chilena on 1030 AM) recovered for a moment after 0500 UTC. The lull before sunrise made me venture into Africa, which paid off handsomely. A few Nigerian stations (for instance Adamawa BC on 1440 AM) were heard better than ever before as they began their broadcast day after 0430 UTC.

Except for dips at 0700 and 0800 UTC, North American signals continued to be heard with fairly good levels all through the day until dying out after 1300 UTC. Nothing from the East Coast was heard, but instead the focus remained in the northwestern corner of the US. Identified stations included 550 KARI, 610 KONA, 890 KVMX, 1150 KAGO and 1300 KROP — so far nothing personally new. Stations from Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Montana dominated the graveyard channels. Jim caught KBZY Salem OR on 1490 AM, a personal new, but weirdly I had no trace of the ID.

Mika, Håkan, Hannu and Jim at dinner in Restaurant Aanaar
Enjoying dinner at Restaurant Aanaar, from left to right Mika, Håkan, Hannu and Jim.

During the day we once again checked some antennas. The weather was sunny and the daytime temperature -8 C. After arriving back in the cabin, at around 12101300 UTC we heard three stations from New Zealand (1035, 1107 and 1161 AM), and Tonga (1017 AM) offered neat reception even longer. At the same time, most Alaskan stations had mighty signal levels, but we found nothing personally new. Our luck was better with Japan, which dominated the Asian scene until past 1400 UTC, and we netted a couple of new NHK1 stations. Australian ABC was heard on 630 and 1548 AM. After 1500 UTC Asia sounded like a typical mishmash of stations from China to Iran.

In the evening, we drove to Inari to shop for groceries and then dine with fellow DXers Hannu Tikkanen (HAT) and Håkan Sundman (HS) at Restaurant Aanaar, part of the riverfront Hotel Kultahovi. HAT and HS were DXing in Lemmenjoki until Saturday. Driving on the quiet and dark country roads we encountered lots of reindeer, a curious fox, and a rescue truck trying to pull a minivan — which in some strange manner had ended up on the forest side of a road railing — back on the road. Surprises after almost every turn!

Late in the evening, Brazilian stations were pretty strong at 2100 UTC, and we even heard the first US signals around the same time, well before East Coast sunset.

Luxury villas on top of Kaunispää
Luxury villas on top of Kaunispää. A night in one of these would likely cost as much as a week in Aihkiniemi.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Overnight turned out to be good, at least from around 0330 UTC, when North American signals improved. Stations were heard from coast to coast, and also Latin American stations from north to south were present. Signal strength remained decent for about three hours after sunrise at 0615 UTC. It was especially nice to hear many Colombian and Cuban stations well into the daylight. We identified stations like Radio Carrousel 660 AM, WPNW 1260 AM and WMLM 1520 AM.

North American stations gradually weakened and the focus shifted, following a familiar pattern, to the northwestern corner of the US. However, they was no daytime break in listening, because a new eastern front opened. The most common Pacific islands nations of Tonga (1017 AM), the Marshall Islands (1098 AM) and Kiribati (1440 AM) were heard already around 1000 UTC, as were some Japanese stations, allowing us to hunt for new NHK1 stations at the local ID break of 1000 UTC. Kiribati was heard also on 846 AM, giving Jim a new station and a new radio country! A few Kiwis were heard as well, but nothing new for us.

Aurora borealis
Aurora borealis occurred especially during the first few nights, but most of the time it was too cloudy to enjoy the light show.

Everything from Asia arrived much earlier than usually. ABC Emerald QLD on 1548 AM was heard already at 1050 UTC. An unknown station with Bollywood music and announcements about hip hop was noted by Jim on 1611 AM under the common Philippine station DWNX. With investigative help from Martti Karimies, this station turned out to be Pop Desi from Tasmania, using one of the legacy transmitters left unused by the now defunct Rete Italia network. Late evening was uneventful — scattered catches from East Asia, but nothing worth mentioning.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

North American signals rose very slowly from the background noise after 2100 UTC. At 2300 UTC I even found one personally new station, but after midnight UTC there was a deep retreat. We slept through the rest of the night, but based on Jaguar tracks on my PC screen, some common North American stations have been audible around 0130 and 0300 UTC. Signal levels began to rise before 0500 UTC and the entire North American AM band was available well into the afternoon. Latin American stations were weak in the morning, with the exception of Cuban and some Colombian stations. Even a fleeting East Coast focus was very welcome, although most identified stations (such as WSKW 1160 AM, WMMB 1240 AM and WFEA on 1370 AM) with hefty signals were already familiar to us.

More northern lights
Northern lights shot from the small lake next to our cabin.

I went back to sleep after sunrise, but woke up to check the eastern front before 0900 UTC to see if Cook Islands would happen to be audible on 630 AM. No such luck, as KIAM from Alaska is so strong here, but plenty of other stations from the Eastern Hemisphere were already present. This turned out to be one of the strongest openings to the Pacific that we have ever experienced, and also one of the earliest, because most stations were heard already before 0900 UTC, including even a bunch of Japanese stations from Hokkaido. Radio Kiribati from Kiritimati closed down on 846 AM with a good signal, and 2AP from Samoa was heard strong on 540 AM. Fiji was heard both on 558 and 990 AM, as well as the more common Tonga (1017 AM), Marshall Islands (1098 AM) and the other Kiribati station (1440 AM).

The weather remained bitterly cold with a daytime high of about -13 and a nighttime low of -23 C.

In the early afternoon, in broad daylight, Midwestern stations were still going strong, as were Alaskan and Hawaiian stations, so it was difficult to choose which area to focus on. Despite Alaska and Hawaii putting out stronger signals than on any previous day this fall — as far as my DXpeditions are concerned — it was soon clear that none of our very few missing stations would be available.

Looking straight down towards the cabin from a drone
A freezing landscape surrounds the Aihkiniemi cabin. This was shot straight down from a drone.

New Zealand showed up more forcefully than on previous days. Newstalk ZB popped up on 1035 AM already at 1000 UTC, and for the next three hours we identified about 20 Kiwi stations. Even though we already have 80+ stations verified, we were lucky to score a couple of new ones; Rhema on 540 AM and Radio Ake on 1179 AM, a Maori station. Jim also heard the Chinese Radio from Auckland on 936 AM. If you are looking to get your first Kiwi, your best shot would be either NewstalkZB on 1035 AM or Magic Talk on 1107 AM, which consistently has even more oompf than 1035 AM, and which also suffers from relatively little interference, at least before all the Asian stations pour in. In any case, you need a very directional antenna and low background noise.

As the eastern wave began early, it also died down early. It seems that by 1400 UTC all of Asia and the Middle East was already heard in a hodgepodge of stations from the east. Some X-band Aussies had decent signals, but at least so far we haven't found any rarities.

Friday, November 1, 2019

Late Thursday evening and early Friday morning would be our last good chance to capture daytime-only stations, and we were ready to stay up late. It wasn't necessary though, as propagation conditions were lousy. North American stations surfaced too late, signal levels were poor and European interference was heavy.

Aihkiniemi cabin from above
Landing closer to the cabin.

Even at sunrise signal levels remained pathetic. Signals from South America were weak, although some common Colombian stations (such as Radio Viva Cali on 1290 AM) were identified as late as 0800 UTC. Earlier also Peruvian and Puerto Rican stations were part of the mix.

During the daylight hours US stations gradually gained strength, but among the many identified stations (such as KBAR 1230, KLIX 1310, WKMI 1360, KYLT 1340, KFXN 1380, KBCK 1400 and KVTA 1590 AM) we didn't find any rarities.

Pacific stations emerged early, with Tonga (1017 AM) leading the way already at 0850 UTC. Overall, signals were however much poorer than on the previous day, and just a couple of Kiwis were identified. By 1200 UTC most of Asia seemed to be fighting for domination of the dial, and it became next to impossible to score new ones. Jim however identified one neat catch, Ningbo Lao Shao Guangbo on 1251 AM. I slept most of the evening, but Jim monitored the AM dial, which didn't offer anything special later on. I didn't get a single new station.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

In the evening North American stations began appearing on the dial as soon as the sun set, and signal levels were decent, but we didn't spot any rarities. At the same time, Brazilian stations were quite strong, and it seemed to turn into a good night — but we need to sleep at some point. When we woke up before 6 AM, South American stations were gone, but North American stations were in full swing.

Jim Solatie listening
Jim Solatie with a map of Aussie catches made in Aihkiniemi behind him.

There was no drop whatsoever around sunrise, and this turned out to be the best day of the week for hunting North American stations. The propagation pattern was quite common: Canadian stations tended to be on top where ever they exist, and from the US, the upper Midwest had an upper hand. Stations were heard from sea to shining sea, but luckily the northwestern corner of the US was not quite as dominant as it normally tends to be during daylight hours. Anyhow, the sheer number of stations, and the resilience of the opening, lasting to around 1400 UTC, was impressive. I especially enjoyed hearing a few Texan stations.

Initially we found only a couple of new stations, but there are bound to be more. To give an idea of what was available, for instance these semi interesting stations were logged: 550 WGR & KTRS, 590 WKZO, 610 KCSP, 620 WVMT, 690 XEW, 830 XEITE, 870 WHCU & KPRM, 940 KVSH, 1030 KBUF, 1040 XESAG, 1080 WNWI, 1140 KGEM, 1260 KWYR, 1320 KELO, 1420 WVJS, 1530 KGBT, 1550 WJIL & KCIS and 1580 KNIM. Graveyard channels opened only in the afternoon and seemed to be offering just the usual suspects.

Mika Mäkeläinen
Mika Mäkeläinen with a map of Micronesia and a poster from Colombia in the background.

Even before 0900 UTC we started making sporadic checks on the eastern front, but as it didn't feel exceptionally good, we focused entirely on North American stations for as long as they lasted. Later in the afternoon we visited one of our neighbors, and neglected close monitoring of Asian stations. Based on what we've checked, there was however nothing of interest.

In the evening, WLQV on 1500 AM was heard already at 2045 UTC, raising expectations for the rest of the night.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Sunday seemed like a repeat of Saturday. Initially, on late Saturday evening signals from Brazil were strong, but well before sunrise stations from the southern half of South America lost the battle to North American stations. Several US stations appeared well before local sunset, such as WLQV 1500 (identified at 2045 UTC) and WLIB 1190 (at 2119 UTC), which could have offered an opportunity to catch daytime-only stations, but we didn't spot any.

We slept through most of the night, but it seems that nighttime reception was poorer than on the previous night. I found two common graveyard stations, WGIL (1400 AM) and WOSH (1490 AM) at 0300 UTC, when reception was best.

Drone flying over Aihkiniemi
Taking off from the Aihkiniemi cabin, flying around and landing. Clicking the photo opens this drone video on Youtube.

Reception improved in the morning and was very similar to Saturday, except that signals began to weaken considerably after 1000 UTC. Once again stations were logged coast to coast, north to south, and especially in the morning hours, also in the very low end of the dial (including WFLF & XEWA on 540 AM). Here are some other examples of identified stations that are not heard daily: 550 WGR, 610 CKTB, 620 WVMT, 660 XEEY, 680 WRKO, 710 KCMO, 790 WTNY, 1070 WTSO, 1160 WCVX, 1230 WMMB & KWIX, 1240 KFOR, 1450 KYNT, 1520 WMLM and 1590 KCTY.

By 1100 UTC Tonga and Marshall Islands were booming, but there was no sign of Kiwis nor Japan — just one East Asian station was heard, Taiwan on 1557 AM — so we continued hunting for new stations from the west. The last US stations vanished after 1400 UTC, but even after that reception from Asia was lackluster. A few bursts of stations from Japan and India were noted as darkness fell, but it was nothing to get excited about.

Freezing weather continued with temperatures down to -20 C (-4 F) in the evening. It had been snowing a bit, so we needed to shovel the yard and driveway.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Late Sunday evening was very similar to the previous two nights, except that signals surfaced even earlier. Here are some examples of stations noted well before local sunset: 1030 WBZ at 2019 UTC, 1120 KMOX at 2130, 1200 CFGO at 2019 UTC, 1200 WMUZ at 2127, 1320 WILS at 2130 UTC, and 1580 CKDO at 2017 UTC. However, we noticed only few stations with daytime power, and none of them were new to us. For example, WNWC on 1190 AM put out a mighty signal on 1190 AM at 2200 UTC.

Jim dropping snow from antenna
Jim dropping snow from the 80-degree antenna wire.

Overnight there was more variation in signal levels than on previous days. Latin American signals were poor, but North American stations were audible with better than average quality aside from sinking at 2300 and 0300 UTC. After sunrise (today at 0643 UTC), signal levels dropped once again, but recovered pretty well, especially on the upper half of the AM band. Geographically, Canadian stations dominated again, and most regional channels were covered by very familiar stations from around the Great Lakes, but there were isolated signals from coast to coast, and from Mexico to Alaska.

The selection of stations was less interesting than during the weekend, and Jim opted to use the sunny day to drive up to Kirkenes for a short Norway excursion. Unfortunately the North American opening also ended earlier than before, and midwestern stations were gone after 1200 UTC, when daytimers could have been heard. I didn't get a single new station, unless recordings contain hidden gems.

Tonga and the Marshall Islands, along with some Japanese stations, appeared at 1020 UTC, but there was nothing interesting on the eastern front. By 1130 UTC there was a mixed bag of Asians on the dial without a particular focus. For the first time UK stations were so strong through the day that they covered some potential Kiwi frequencies, eg. 1107 AM.

In the afternoon, the opening to Asia was miserable. A little bit of something from everywhere — impossible to get anything new. But the evening was saved by a promise from the west: CBC was heard on 1230 and 1400 AM already at 1820 UTC, earlier than I have heard them before.

Icicles forming in Jounila
Jounila is a nearby motel where we normally drive daily to take a shower.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Monday evening was an unforgettable experience in how early North American signals can appear, often up to 1.5 hours before local sunset. Here are some examples of when these Great Lakes and Midwest stations were logged: 1040 WHO at 2200, 1120 KMOX at 2200, 1190 WNWC at 2130, 1280 WHTK at 2110, 1390 WFBL at 2113 and 1590 WGBW at 2134. Monitoring stations fading in and out was thrilling, and expectations for daytimers were sky-high, but eventually we both managed to nail just one personally new daytimer. There might of course be more when we some day (early retirement?) have enough time to carefully listen to these recordings.

At 2240 UTC the signals suddenly collapsed, and so did we. Automated recordings took care of the rest of the night. A quick Jaguar review revealed that moderate reception continued through the night, except for another black hole after 0200 UTC. Signal levels continued fairly steady until after 1100 UTC, when the eastern half of North America began to fade out rapidly.

The Great Lakes area ruled most of the time, but we did get some more East Coast stations, which is always a treat, and offers a better opportunity for new catches. Here are some examples of the stations heard until early afternoon: 560 WQAM, 790 WPRV, 810 Caracol, 830 WCRN, 930 KSEI, 1110 WJML, 1140 WRVA, 1330 WYRD, 1350 WOYK, 1360 KRKK, 1370 WFEA. A bit later in the day, when only the West Coast stations remained on the dial, we logged for instance 860 KTRB, 1220 KHTS, 1280 KLDY and 1300 KROP — so this station is now active, although listed as inactive in the latest AM Radio Log. Graveyard channels remained mushy most of the day, and individual stations were mostly heard only in the afternoon.

Spring in a frozen lake
A spring remains open long after temperatures fall below freezing.

Around sunrise there were also some Cuban and Colombian stations, but nothing worth mentioning.

It had snowed some more, so shoveling snow and dropping snow from antennas wires were the excercise choices of the day.

Since North American stations offered more promise, we didn't pay much attention to the eastern front. There were hardly any stations from the Pacific. The first wave of random Asian stations arrived before 1100 UTC, after which signals dipped, and improved again by 1200 UTC. Already after 1300 UTC the AM band was crowded with stations from South Asia, and a bit later by stations from the Middle East, so the opening to East Asia was unusually short. It didn't seem to improve, so I just went to sleep early.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Late Tuesday evening was disappointing; nothing from East Asia, and overseas signals were much weaker. Actually, Brazilian stations were heard even with our North America antennas. Some of the common northeast stations from Brazil, such as Rádio Difusora Vale do Curu from Pentecoste, Ceará, on its distinctive split frequency of 1559.813 kHz were logged. Even at 2200 UTC, from North America only a few New York City powerhouses were fleetingly audible.

During the night we let automated recordings to do the job, but it appears that aside from the southern half of South America, there have been just some isolated stations here and there from around the Americas. A bit more North American stations began to appear after 0500 UTC, while signals from Brazil started to tank.

A string of northern lights
Northern lights forming a string across the sky.

Because transatlantic reception was poor, I even had time to check frequencies on this side of the pond. A new religious broadcaster was indeed operating on 1476 AM (as discussed at the time on RealDX mailing list) from Benin. It's supposed to be TWR, but I heard an ID for Radio ELWA at 0400 UTC, and I suspect that it has been caught in the broadband nets also many times before. Carillon Wellbeing Radio from the UK dominated the frequency an hour later at 0500 UTC.

Soon after sunrise we set out to take care of the last remaining antenna chore: reeling in the last 300 meters of the 100-degree wire. We needed to remove it because of upcoming logging in the area. Again it was freezingly cold, -18 C, much colder than normally in early November. We also checked the remaining two antennas and cleaned snow from the wires.

North American stations continued to be heard through the day, but only with average strength and without any exciting catches. Here are examples of identified stations: 570 WMCA, 580 CKWW, 640 WMFN, 690 XEN, 730 KDBI, 1080 WNWI, 1230 KBAR, 1280 KVXR, 1340 WNCO and 1580 KNIM.

Stations from the east began rising before 1100 UTC from a broad area including Japan, Koreas and China. Nothing special was heard from the Pacific nor East Asia, but I made some recordings for further review.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Late Wednesday both Brazilian and North American stations emerged later than on previous days. WBBR on 1130 AM was one of the first stations identified at 2130 UTC. Generally East Coast & Great Lakes signals didn't seem to advance in daylight like on previous days.

Meandering river near
A narrow meandering river still remains unfrozen. Lake Mutajärvi in the upper left corner.

Overnight was a disappointment. Both night and day, European stations, and especially UK stations, were very strong. There were isolated North American stations, especially around 0200 UTC, but most transatlantic reception involved stations in Brazil and Argentina.

After daybreak North American signals again took over, but the focus was much more western, with a lot of stations from the Rockies, for instance 550 KFYR, 590 KSUB, 610 KVNU and 630 KFXB. Later during the day the Great Lakes area once again produced mighty signals, which collapsed after 1000 UTC. As has been common for the past week, a bunch of West Coast stations were heard until past 1400 UTC.

During the day I had an accident unrelated to DXing. A neighbor here asked me to take aerial photos of his home with my drone. So I did. All went well until a technical malfunction brought the drone down in very difficult terrain. We spent a couple of hours searching for the drone, but were not able to recover it. Only later I discovered that the last known coordinates were stored in the DJI software, so I hoped to find it on a second attempt Friday.

Jim spent time also cleaning the antenna wires, which had accumulated loads of snow, sometimes pulling the wires all the way to the ground. This kind of antenna maintenance is something that every crew in Aihkiniemi is obliged to do in the winter.

Villas at Kaunispää
Villas on top of Kaunispää on our first day in Lapland.

Another set of problems was waiting inside the cabin. Two laptops decided to call it quits. So the afternoon and early evening were spent trying to solve problems, and I have no idea what the propagation conditions to Asia were like. We made some recordings, and should be able to review them within the next 20 years. We were also planning to visit fellow DXers in Lemmenjoki, but canceled it because we were overwhelmed with other issues.

And, did I mention that our two splitters, which were professionally repaired last summer, didn't work at all. Looks like we paid over 100 euros for nothing. Fortunately they weren't our only splitters. An utterly shitty day.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The beginning of the night was very modest. Brazilian stations were weak, and North American stations even weaker, mostly just Newfoundland stations with readable signals. On the opposite side, unusually many Chinese stations were heard during sunrise in Eastern China.

Low clouds in Saariselkä
Clouds hanging low above Saariselkä.

Later in the night signals from the southern half of South America improved and reached an impressive level in the morning around 0600 UTC, especially in the lower end of the dial. Just before 0700 UTC North American stations grew stronger, and Latin Americans weakened, so it was easy to change the target area. Already at 0700 UTC the emphasis was heavily in the northern part of the Rockies (Montana, Idaho, Wyoming & Alberta). Later in the day the Great Lakes Region stations persisted as well, but especially local channels were so crowded that identifying individual stations was very difficult. Here are examples of identified stations: 540 XEWA, 570 KNRS, 730 KDBI, 750 KERR, 860 KTRB, 870 KLSQ, 880 KWIP, 1210 KHAT and 1240 KCID.

Asian stations started rising after 1000 UTC, but again prospects for getting new stations remained better on the vast western front. Live monitoring suffered, because we had to look for the drone. But good news — eventually we found it! It was no further than ten meters from the point where the last GPS reading placed it, but it had made a relatively small hole in the snow, and it was extremely difficult to spot. I had previously walked a mere two meters away without noticing it.

The drone was broken beyond repair, but I was still very relieved to recover it. I have an insurance policy that will subsidize most of the replacement drone as long as I can provide the remains of the broken one. After the drone hunt, we still had antennas to take care. Since we had so much fresh snow, we checked and cleaned most antennas twice during our two-week DXpedition.

Reindeer close to Aihkiniemi
Reindeer close to Aihkiniemi.

After checking the antennas, Jim grew curious about the springs that remain unfrozen in our lake through the winter. He got a bit too close though, and fell through the ice. Luckily it was close to the shore and the water was only thigh high. Wet and muddy clothes — but a dry cell phone.

After we returned from antenna maintenance at around 1220 UTC, North American signals were mostly gone, but the band was full of Asian stations. X-band Australian stations were stronger than on any previous day on this DXpedition, and Jim managed to find one new catch.

As for the rest of the evening and early Saturday, we mostly just used automated recordings to get what was available.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

On the last night I only tried to get enough sleep, since it was a long drive on Saturday to Rovaniemi. Most of Saturday morning was spent cleaning and packing. After sunrise, reception conditions to North America were roughly the same as on previous days. For instance WTLN 990 and WTAB 1370 were logged. We unhooked the last receivers at the very last moment, around 1110 UTC, and were ready to head south half an hour later.

Reindeer on the road
Reindeer staying stubbornly in the middle of the road are the biggest driving hazard in Lapland.

The next Aihkiniemi crew arrived around midday. Timo Klimoff and Patrik Willför would have an equally productive week DXing North American stations. Finally, the solar minimum is beginning to feel like a solar miminum should.

When we arrived in Rovaniemi some six hours later, we grabbed a burger and headed to the railway station. Sleeping on the train and waking up in Helsinki was a relaxing way to end this fabulous two-week adventure. For me, this was the end of the live DXing season, but Jim would be returning to Aihkiniemi later in the winter.

Reviewing our recordings is progressing slower than ever before, because work obligations took us on long business trips soon after returning from Lapland. I traveled to Brazil and Jim to China. Only now, five weeks after returning from the DXpedition, I finally found time to edit ja publish this report, which I hope will inspire you to plan DXpeditions of your own. You could even be DXing in Aihkiniemi, as the cabin is frequently rented by DXers, and we have vacant slots every winter.

Published on December 15, 2019

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