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AIH139 DXpedition Report

September was my second opportunity to combine remote work and DXing in Lapland. For the first week I was working during daylight hours, when there would be nothing to listen to. During the second week I was off work, but spent time checking and improving our antennas, and focused on DXing especially around sunrise and sunset. I expected new catches mostly from Australia, but propagation favored higher latitudes, so most of my interesting catches were from the U.S. and China.

As it had been 32 years since I last joined my friend Martti Karimies (MKA) for a DXpedition to Lapland (KAMU6), another joint DXpedition was long overdue. Martti is a renowned expert on DXing AM stations from the Eastern Hemisphere, so I was eagerly looking forward to us hunting for new stations from Australia and Indonesia. September should have been the ideal time of the year for these AM stations.

Unfortunately, propagation conditions didn't support the plan. Martti had arrived in our Aihkiniemi DX cabin already five days earlier, during which time he did get several rarities from Australia (such as 3KND Melbourne on 1503 AM), but as soon as I showed up, nothing much of interest was heard from Down Under.

Mostly I focused on just keeping tabs of the changing propagation, and getting the best openings recorded by my Perseus receivers. By the time of publishing this report, I have only reviewed about 2 % of my recordings, so there should be some goodies left to discover. In any case, it is safe to say that the total amount of new catches will be significantly lower than on my previous DXpedition AIH133 in February.

This could be my best aurora shot ever, thanks to the shooting star in the frame. CLICK to enlarge.

September is the time of the year when the outdoors in Lapland actually looks exceptionally photogenic, which is why my haul of photos might eclipse the very modest discoveries on the AM dial. On one clear night the northern lights were pretty impressive, and I sent a few of my shots to the meteorologist on duty at my employer, the Finnish Broadcasting company YLE. They ended up in the main evening newscast on TV, and I was very pleased to be able to share them with a wider audience also on Facebook.

Because of the fall colors, September is the most popular hiking season in Lapland, and so the trains were full, forcing me to drive north. It is 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from the capital region to Aihkiniemi, too much for me to drive in one day – especially on top of a full work day. Happily I was able to stay overnight at the riverfront cottage of my friend and fellow DXer Jari Ruohomäki and his spouse Ritva in Tervola, just south of the Arctic Circle.

Jari and Ritva
Jari and Ritva at the breakfast table.

On Friday, September 17, I was able to leave home a bit past 3 PM, later than planned, which got me stuck in heavy Friday afternoon traffic on the freeway number 4 (E-75) to Lahti for the first hour. Gradually the traffic became easier, and I took the first and only hamburger break at the ABC service station in Pyhäjärvi after four hours and 40 minutes of driving. When I was ready to continue, it was past 8 PM, and already pretty dark, so after the pit stop there was no more sightseeing. Not that there would be much to see before Oulu, as this stretch of the highway is quite flat and boring.

It was already midnight when I arrived at the cabin of Ritva and Jari, but fortunately they didn't mind my late arrival. We had a great time catching up over wine and a late dinner, and it was close to 4 AM before I got to bed.

On Saturday morning it was time to take a look at the surroundings of the cabin, located on the shore of Kemijoki, the mightiest river in Finland. BTW, the shot behind the headline of this report is taken from there, at the riverfront of the cabin. At this point the river is about 600 meters wide. After a sumptuous breakfast I finally got driving north just before midday.

Jätkänkynttilä Bridge in Rovaniemi
Crossing over Kemi River on the Jätkänkynttilä Bridge in the town of Rovaniemi.

I shopped for groceries and filled up in Ivalo where I also had a sandwich for lunch. Incidentally, I ran into four fellow DXers at the Ivalo S-Supermarket parking lot. What a rare coincidence! A pack of wolves, as the DXers from Northern Karelia call themselves, happened to be visiting Jari Korhonen's DX cabin in Ivalo on this same weekend.

Mika, Markku, Jussi, Jari and Jopi in Ivalo
A chance encounter in Ivalo. From left: Mika Mäkeläinen, Markku Sollo, Jussi Suokas, Jari Korhonen and Jopi Nyman.

Driving was relaxing on dry roads without too many campervans slowing me down. Not too many reindeer either. I arrived in Aihkiniemi at 6 PM, which under ordinary conditions would have been far too late to take advantage of any Asia opening, but propagation was poor, and I started recording random stations from the East from around 7 PM (1600 UTC).

Road to Aihkiniemi
Approaching Aihkiniemi some 20 km away. This particular point has the nicest colors.

Martti had arrived in Aihkiniemi already on the previous Tuesday, and he had enjoyed a nice opening to Australia, the coveted DX target in September. Martti had done a lot of maintenance work in Aihkiniemi as well, for instance improving the insulation of the second cabin, which turned out to be a bit chilly during the roughest winter months last season.

Everything worked great, with one exception. Our newest aerial pointing at 214 degrees, which had functioned perfectly in October 2020, had ceased to be effective later in 2020, displaying an awfully high noise floor. We tried to fix it, even replacing the coax cable, and moving the starting point of the wire much further away from the cabins, to no avail. We decided that I would relocate and rebuild the antenna with Jim Solatie when I would return to Aihkiniemi for my second DXpedition of the season in late October.

Antenna locations in an aerial drone photo
The landscape around Aihkiniemi from a drone perspective. The remaining antennas begin from near the lower right corner of the photo. As with all photos here, CLICK to open a larger photo.

Here are the directions of the 14 Beverage-type antennas at Aihkiniemi, each of them about one kilometer (3,000 ft) long. The longest one is the 270-degree wire, approximately 1,200 meters.

Antenna directions at Aihkiniemi

We were not the only DXers in Lapland at the time. There were parallel DX efforts 100 kilometers southwest in Lemmenjoki, where Vesa-Jussi Rinkinen was DXing, as well as somewhat nearer, across Lake Inari, where Jari Korhonen has a cabin.

The weather was fairly mild for the season. In the beginning nighttime temperatures dipped well below freezing point, but all the ice melted during the day. Toward the end daytime highs reached 14 degrees Centigrade (57 F), which felt almost like summer up here. Roughly half of the days were more or less sunny, so walking in the wilderness and checking the antennas was not unbearable at all.

Morning frost
Morning frost near the lakefront in Aihkiniemi.

Moose hunting season was already underway in Lapland, and the bears were not yet hibernating, so I wore a red jacket and tried to keep noise every once in a while, since I didn't like the idea of being misidentified as prey by either potentially risky creature. Thankfully no dubious encounters in the wild, although I heard a hunter's dog once. Or, maybe it was a wolf...

Listening to the radio live, after seven months of merely browsing my old recordings, was both thrilling and thoroughly enjoyable. Overall propagation was average, although I did miss hearing more Australian stations. Here's a more detailed look at my observations on each day.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

A mixed selection of stations from the Americas was audible around 01000400 UTC, but nothing of interest. AM Renacer was one of the stations noted on 1340 kHz, which has become a very enjoyable hunting ground once BBC Radio Ulster (1341 kHz) left the AM band.

Mika and Martti at Restaurant Aanaar
Restaurant Aanaar is located right at impressive rapids on the Juutua River.

As it was weekend and I didn't need to work, we seized the opportunity to visit Inari, which surprisingly has one of the most famous restaurants in northern Finland, Restaurant Aanaar. I was lucky to be able to get a table for us for a gourmet lunch featuring reindeer tartar and grilled local whitefish. An experience well worth its reputation!

The dessert
A dessert titled "Riverside", which included cep ice cream, sweetgrass-sorrel juice, Angelica granita and bilberry.

Back at our receivers, in the evening there was a wide assortment of Asian stations on the AM band, but nothing really interesting. I was listening with Perseus receivers, while Martti was equipped with Winradio's WR-G33DDC (Excalibur Pro) receivers.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Overnight North American stations peaked at the top of the hours from 0100 to 0300 UTC, and I found one personally new station, KIXZ Amarillo TX on 940 AM. Other identified stations included 880 KRVN, 1070 KSKK, 1170 XERT, 1530 KGBT and 1580 KDOM. In the morning around 0300 UTC there were also stations from Argentina and Uruguay. Everything vanished around 0400 UTC, and the AM band remained fairly empty until around 1500 UTC.

I started recording the Asian dial just before 1600 UTC, when Japanese stations were relatively strong. It turned out to be a very mixed bag of stations from Iran to the Far East, and I didn't score anything personally new.

Martti practising petanque
Martti practising pétanque, in which he competes on the national level.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Again the best overnight peak coincided with the top of the hour (0100 UTC). Signals were strong, but unfortunately propagation centered around the usual area, Minnesota and Michigan. For example 950 KOEL, 1080 WNWI, 1320 KXYZ, 1340 WMBN, and 1570 WVTL were identified, but so far nothing personally new. Stations from the southern half of South America were heard best around 03000400 UTC, and by 0430 UTC everything interesting was gone. Some powerhouse stations from the U.S. however lingered around until 0700 UTC with a weak signal. This was over three hours past sunrise, and quite impressive for this time of the year.

In the evening, conditions to Asia were just as poor as before a little bit of everything between Japan and Iran, so zero chances of catching any rare new stations. The closing time of NHK2 seems to vary more than before, and today these stations signed off at 1440 UTC.

Aurora borealis
The best aurora was visible in the early morning hours of Wednesday, September 22.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Stations from the same general areas were once again heard during the night, best around 00000130 UTC, after which the signals just faded out, without the normal enhancement seen around sunrise. During the day, apart from my real work, we tried to fix the antenna pointing at 214 degrees, but it didn't help. The evening opening to Asia was miserable, with mostly stations from the Middle East on the dial.

Aurora borealis
These aurora shots required an exposure time of around 10–15 seconds.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Overnight, there was one decent opening to the Great Lakes, best around 0130 UTC. Later in the wee hours, a few Chilean stations were heard before daybreak at 0400 UTC, by which time just about everything from the Western Hemisphere had vanished. In the evening, Asian signals were slow to emerge. There were just weak signals around 1500 UTC, so I only saved recordings from 1600 UTC onwards. Some regular catches from the Philippines were audible around 2000 UTC, but nothing new, and overall an uninteresting evening.

Aihkiniemi from above
A drone shot straight down to Aihkiniemi.

Friday, September 24, 2021

Once again the Great Lakes, especially stations from Wisconsin, were heard prominently during the darkest hours of the night. Unlike on the previous nights, reception gradually improved towards the morning, until signals nosedived at 0340 UTC, about 20 minutes before sunrise. North America was replaced by a brief opening to Peru. What followed was an AM silence of ten hours before the first Asian signals emerged.

Martti left in the wee hours, and almost hit a moose just a few kilometers from Aihkiniemi. Gotta be alert on these roads.

Mika and Martti at lunch
Mika (left) and Martti enjoying Martti's signature dish, sautéed reindeer.

After wrapping up my work week, I still had time to get started with the most important obligation of every DXer in Aihkiniemi: Checking the antennas. The first round covering antennas at 255 and 270 degrees took two hours to complete in swampy and also otherwise difficult terrain. I always carry an axe, a knife and all electronic tools to repair the wires. This time I fixed one support pole by adding more sturdy supporting poles to keep it upright.

In the evening there were some Chinese, Filipino, and Thai stations on the dial, but nothing much out of the ordinary. I did however pick up Sichuan PBS on 1521 kHz with Tibetan-language programming, previously unheard by me, and probably never before heard in Europe either.

Aihkiniemi DX base
The light is on in the listening room of the Aihkiniemi base.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Great Lakes, once again overnight, but not too great reception, and no sign of daytimers. U.S. stations were heard from the East Coast to the Rockies, but nothing spectacular. Signals peaked at 0100 UTC and at 0230 UTC, and rapidly weakened after that.

During the day I spent three hours in the swamp and forest, checking four antennas, and grabbing lingonberries along the way. A fabulous way to get even more than the recommended daily dose of antioxidants and whatever other ingredients this superfood has. Near the end of the 335-degree wire I also found some bunchberries (dwarf cornel). I didn't taste any, since I didn't know if they're edible apparently they are not poisonous, but neither are they tasty. As for the antennas, again one wire needed one of the supporting poles to be fixed.

Lingonberries, a healthy delicacy in the forests surrounding Aihkiniemi.

Before dusk, I set my receivers to automated recording, as I drove to a friends' cottage in Partakko, a mere six kilometers away. Pretty cool to have friends located so near, and even without any DX connection. Päivi Tahkokallio and Antti Kokkonen have a sauna on the shore of Lake Inari, so I got to dip in the +6 degree C water. For the first time I saw their modern cottage from the outside in daylight. The setting is really beautiful. And they had prepared a fabulous dinner of cabbage rolls with moose meat, as Antti is a hunter and just recently shot a moose.

I returned to Aihkiniemi close to midnight when Chinese and Thai stations were quite strong before their local sunrise. I found a couple of very interesting Chinese stations, which are unlisted. For example, on 846 AM, CNR had two unknown transmitters, the other one broadcasting CNR3 Voice of Music network (Yinyue zhi Sheng), and the other one "Minzu Guangbo" programming, which is more obscure. Wei Wei kindly listened to my audio clips, confirming that these were indeed the station identifications. Minzu Guangbo has a website at minzuguangbo.com, but who knows what this station really is, and where is it broadcasting from?

Sunday, September 26, 2021

There was a very short opening to Brazil and Argentina just before 2200 UTC, followed by two hours of barely anything from the Western Hemisphere. Then signals especially from Midwest and the East Coast began to improve. At daybreak it was nice to listen to Colombian and Puerto Rican stations better than at any point during the previous week.

In late afternoon, the Asian front opened earlier than before. There were quite a few signals already at 1400 UTC, and my recordings started humming half an hour later.

Mika listening
Mika listening in Aihkiniemi. On the left, antenna switchboxes on top of each other. A Perseus receiver can be seen under the headphones in the front.

Monday, September 27, 2021

There was a first modest peak to North America at 2340 UTC, another stronger one at 0230 UTC, and still another at 0400 UTC, after which signals began to dissipate. North American signals from around Wisconsin made a weak comeback around 0630 UTC, which wasn't very productive, but still quite a positive surprise considering that it was two and a half hours after local sunrise. A mishmash of Latin American stations from Argentina to Venezuela was heard before daybreak, Venezuela being new for this DXpedition.

Logs underwater
Water color and clarity in the ponds varies greatly. This one near the end of our 10-degree antenna is exceptionally clear.

Daytime was spent checking antennas in a sunny and warm forest. The daytime high reached 10 degrees Celsius. Later in the afternoon I flew a drone from a nearby hill to get some aerial shots of the landscape around Aihkiniemi. From that location I was able to reach a much higher altitude than when launching the drone from in front of the cabin.

Taiwan on 1557 kHz emerged already at 1200 UTC, four hours before sunset, but only from 1500 UTC onward were the signals strong enough to merit recording the AM band. Nothing much of interest.

Cottongrass grows abundant in the swamps around Aihkiniemi.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

A huge opening toward North America starting even before darkness fell there. No new daytimers, but what a joy to listen to monster signals on nearly every frequency. The price of this onslaught of stations was soon apparent though: Once the sun had set in all of North America, the AM band was dominated by the usual suspects and graveyard frequencies became too mushy to distinguish individual stations. For the first time on this DXpedition, there was no rollercoaster ride of openings and total AM silence. Instead, reception just improved steadily.

In the evening nothing much beyond the Middle East, so it wasn't very motivating to continue monitoring the AM dial.

Fall colors on the ground
The brightest colors can usually be seen on the ground instead of the trees.

Wednesday, September 29, 2001

Overnight was poor to all directions, but daybreak offered a decent opening to Latin America, with stations mostly from Argentina, Brazil and some from the Andes. While signals were not terribly strong, fortunately the opening peaked at 0400 UTC, and thanks to the absence of North American stations, they were free of interference. I identified stations like Radio Laboulaye (1440 AM) and Emisora del Este (1580 AM), but I already have verifications from all the stations that I encountered.

The afternoon opening seemed to focus on South Asia, which rarely offers anything new. Late evening was more interesting, with many Vietnamese, Chinese and Thai stations emerging around 2200 UTC, but I still haven't found any new ones.

Deadwood in the forest
This forest could be a tinderbox in a forest fire, but I love how they've left loads of deadwood to support a diverse ecosystem, although the forests around Aihkiniemi are not protected areas.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

North American stations were heard from around 2300 UTC, continuing through the night except for a dip around 0030 UTC. Then there was a good opening to much of Latin America until almost 0600 UTC, after which U.S. East Coast stations continued for a while. So far I have found two really neat rarities from Florida, namely WQXM Bartow on 1460 AM and WAMA Tampa on 1550 AM. I also noticed that the common Colombian station from Bogotá on 1580 AM has changed its name to Uniminuto Radio.

During the day the first signs of fall were present in the form of Alaskan and Pacific stations. A single Kiwi was logged in the afternoon: Unsurprisingly it was Newstalk ZB on 1035 AM. Asian stations followed suit relatively early, so I recorded the entire band from 1300 UTC onward. I didn't pay any attention to the AM dial later in the evening, however, because I needed to attend a virtual gala ceremony organized by Koura Foundation. They selected and rewarded Finland's best programs and news reports of 2020, and my pieces from the Amazon (including this one) got an honorary award. As anyone who has visited Aihkiniemi knows, I had to remove a few items from the wall which was the backdrop during my acceptance speech...

Skeleton in the forest
A skeleton was found in the forest. It might have been a reindeer.

Friday, October 1, 2021

This was the last night of September, so U.S. daytimers would still broadcast relatively long. And the daytimers didn't disappoint, with stations like 760 WCHP, 1040 WYSL and 1060 WILB showing up just before they either signed off or powered down. No new ones for me though. And it was another morning with an opening to the Great Lakes. WGIL on 1400 AM was the strongest graveyarder, and luckily I found also one personally new station, WBET from Michigan on 1230 AM. Signals faded out around 0500 UTC, pretty soon after sunrise.

In the afternoon, there were some stations from the Philippines for a change (such as a DZRH relay on 1440 AM), but no new ones for me. I did get a couple of new Chinese stations on 1521 kHz, however. Hubei zhi sheng and Zhujiang EBS have probably never before been heard in Europe. This has become an interesting frequency after it was vacated by CRI. In the evening, some Thai stations were heard as they began a new broadcast day around 2200 UTC. By that time stations from Atlantic Canada were already audible, so my attention shifted to the Western Hemisphere.

Sign warning about reindeer
Reindeer are the gravest risk on the road up here.

Saturday, October 2, 2021

Overnight and on Saturday morning the reception of North American stations first grew and then withered steadily, without any ebb and flow patterns. Graveyarders came through only sporadically, as most frequencies were just too crowded. I identified stations such as 1400 KLIN, 1410 WRMN, and 1550 WRHC, but nothing personally new, before pulling the plug after 0700 UTC. At that time the signals were already quite weak.

One of the dozens of reindeer encountered on the roadside during my return trip from Aihkiniemi to Rovaniemi. Do you see that wise look on his face? No, neither do I.

Then I packed all my stuff in the car, which made it easier to clean the cabins. After all duties were completed, I started driving south at 1 PM local time. Driving conditions were once again quite good, so it took me five hours to reach Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle. It wasn't sunny though, so I wasn't tempted to stop at any scenic locations along the way. In Rovaniemi I had plenty of time to wait for the train, where I drove my Auris at 7:20 PM local time.

The ride south was smooth enough so that on Sunday morning I arrived in Helsinki feeling rested and relaxed. I'd be working for another two weeks, and then head back to Aihkiniemi for yet another two-week DXpedition! Looks like I just might be a bit addicted to this hobby :)

Many would like to see the logs of this DXpedition. A complete log will be published as soon as all the recordings are reviewed, which will likely take a very, very long time. In the meantime, check out this AIH133 log to get an idea of what kind of stations can be heard in Aihkiniemi.

Mika Mäkeläinen

Published on October 15, 2021

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Mika's DXpeditions:
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  AIH72 (log)
  AIH10 (log)
  AIH7 (log)
  AIH3 (log)
  LEM295 (log)
  LEM291 (log)
  LEM287 (log)
  LEM278 (log)
  LEM271 (log)
  LEM239 (log)
  LEM220 (log)
  LEM214 (log)
  LEM206 (log)
  LEM202 (log)
  LEM169 (log)
  LEM158 (log)
  LEM144 (log)
  LEM132 (log)
  LEM121 (log)
  LEM112 (log)
  LEM104 (log)
  LEM96 (log)
  LEM83 (log)
  LEM54 (log)
  LÅ164 (log)
  KAMU9 (log)

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