On the 176th Aihkiniemi DXpedition
we scored three extremely rare Travelers' Information
Stations (TIS). They are the ultimate DX targets
from North America due to their very low transmitter
power. Normally, such stations are heard just a
few kilometers away, but we caught three of them
from the Pacific Northwest, about 7,000 kilometers
from Lapland. Additionally, conditions strongly
favored California, resulting in a dozen personally
new AM catches from there.
Switched to winter tires, check. Replaced a broken
headlight, check. Topped off windshield washer fluid,
undiluted, check. A bit of rudimentary cleaning
of the interior, check. My Auris was ready for the
To a lesser degree, so was I. There never seems
to be enough time to update target lists and otherwise
prepare for a DXpedition in Lapland, but what the
heck, it's always exciting to set out on a journey
north and explore the radio waves!
The best catches on AIH176
- WQWS230 Beaverton OR 1610 AM
- WQPW217 Neah Bay WA 1610 AM
- WQHF574 Snoqualmie WA 1650 AM
- A dozen new Californian stations,
KSFO San Francisco 560 AM
KLOC Turlock 1390 AM
KRRS Santa Rosa 1460 AM
- Moana Radio, Tauranga 1440 AM (my
verified New Zealand AM station number
If it ain't broken, don't fix
it. This applies to the logistics of my annual October
DXpedition, which followed the routine of the previous
years. On a Friday afternoon, I packed my gear in
the back seat and headed to the Pasila train station
in Helsinki. That's where Jim
Solatie was waiting for his stuff lots
of it to be crammed into the trunk of my
car before I drove it on the train. We still had
almost two hours to spend before the departure of
the train, so we walked over to the Mall of Tripla
in Pasila for a sushi buffet dinner at Luckiefun's
Restaurant. Then some shopping for snacks until
IC 265 train left on schedule. It felt really relaxing
to be heading north!
We slept pretty well and arrived
in Rovaniemi on Saturday morning just ten minutes
behind schedule. Unloading cars from the train was
exceptionally swift, so when the time signal on
Yle Radio Suomi hit 8 a.m. local time on the car
radio, we were already out of town, driving north,
just about to cross the Arctic Circle on Highway
4. The temperature hovered around -10°C, with
some snow already on the ground, but the road was
dry and in perfect driving condition.
The Rovaniemi railway station
at dawn. CLICK the photos in this report
to see them in full size in a new browser window.
There was a strong sense
of déjà vu. Incidentally, I had been
in Lapland just two weeks before because of a reporting
assignment in Kirkenes, northern Norway. This marked
my first foreign assignment so close to homeand
even closer to Aihkiniemi.
I had flown to Ivalo and rented a car there. Since
I drove right by Aihkiniemi, I stopped to say hello
to Lauri Niemi and Jyrki Hytönen, the lucky
DXers enjoying good reception conditions in early
October. In Norway, I covered the situation at the
Norwegian-Russian border when Norway tightened entry
rules for Russians. My first story was published
on Yle's website just as we started driving.
Back to AIH176. Along the way,
we saw lots of reindeer, shopped for groceries in
Inari, and filled ourselves, as well as the car,
at a Neste service station in Inari. That's where
we also briefly met Ismo Kauppi and Timo Metso,
who had just spent a week in Aihkiniemi scoring
many never-before-heard stations from the southern
part of the US.
(left), Ismo Kauppi, Timo Metso and Jim Solatie
met in Inari.
Eventually, after driving 400 kilometers, we arrived
in Aihkiniemi at 14:40 local time (1140 UTC). If
you're already a DXer and would like to learn more
about Aihkiniemi, check out this
video on my YouTube channel. However, if you're
wondering what DXing is all about, here's a perfect
introduction to the hobby filmed
and published by the BBC.
Setting up our gear was quick
and painless, allowing us to acclimatize to the
DX paradise by listening to numerous Japanese stations.
Surprisingly, Japanese NHK2 stations signed off
at 1455 UTC, a first for me. While I didn't personally
catch any new stations from Japan, I discovered
a couple of Italian AM stations that had appeared
on the AM dial since my previous DXpedition: Radio
Calcio FVG on 1503 AM and Radio Centrale Milano
on 1575 AM, both of which turned out to be common
stations heard daily.
As before, both Jim and I were
equipped with three Perseus SDR receivers. We had
a choice of the same familiar 14 antennas, each
approximately 1 kilometer (3,300 ft) long, pointing
in various directions:
Fellow DXers Hannu Asikainen and Hannu Niilekselä
were DXing 100 km away in Lemmenjoki at the same
time, but they have not published a DXpedition report
or a log. The AM band was being recorded in at least
three other locations in northern Finland as well.
In Norway, DXpedition KONG47 began at the same time
as ours, and their results can be seen in Bjarne
Mjelde's blog. Halfway into our DXpedition,
we visited the Kongsfjord guys. More about this
highlight later. AM DXers were also active in Parkalompolo
in Sweden, making this the peak of the season for
Nordic AM DXers in the Arctic.
In addition to radio equipment,
I was looking forward to testing my new camera.
Just a couple of weeks prior, I had sold all of
my Nikon gear and bought a mirrorless Sony a7R Mark
V with Sigma's 14mm F1.4 DG DN Art lens, which should
be a killer combo for shooting the night sky! As
we approach the solar maximum, capturing aurora
images would become an even more important secondary
activity to DXing.
Unfortunately, the weather didn't
favor stargazing. Almost all the time, it was too
cloudy. Temperatures ranged from freezing point
to -20°C, but even on the few relatively clear
nights, there was way too much moisture in the air
obscuring visibility. The persistent haze was probably
due to strong evaporation from the nearby waterway,
which hadn't yet frozen over.
Moisture in the air made my
light beam very visible, but neither the stars nor
the northern lights were very impressive. A full
moon didn't help either.
Overall, our first week exceeded expectations, especially
considering where we are in the solar cycle, approaching
peak solar activity. However, the second week was
a clear disappointment with disturbed conditions.
The vast majority of our new catches will be from
the first week.
Here's a day-to-day look at what
we heard and what else happened during this memorable
DXpedition. A comprehensive log will be published
as soon as all the thousands of hours of recordings
have been reviewed.
Sunday, October 22, 2023
Overnight, US stations emerged
late and were relatively weak, but stations from
Brazil, Argentina, and Uruguay were notably strong
around 00000100 UTC, indicating a potential
opening that could eventually yield some new catches.
At least one was identified instantly: Rádio
Jornal Leopoldina on 1560 AM even verified right
Identified North American stations
included KSUE 1240, KWVR 1340, KEJB 1480, and KVTK
1570 AM. On shortwave, I picked up Radio Casanova,
a low-power Dutch station, on 6060 kHz.
During the day, our activities
included checking the first antennas. Walking in
the forest was a breeze because the swampy ground
was frozen, though there were only isolated small
patches of snow.
In the afternoon, Japanese stations
were again quite strong, and later in the evening,
we found some signals from South Australia. However,
no new ones were encountered from either direction.
This time, aurora borealis
was quite modest, but I can always enhance the colors
in post-production... ;)
Monday, October 23, 2023
Overnight presented a mixed bag,
encompassing signals from the southern part of South
America to the Canadian Prairie. Unfortunately,
most of my nighttime recordings were compromised
due to excessive gain, resulting in distorted audio.
In the morning, there wasn't a clear focus until
Californian stations boomed around 0600 UTCa
neat, productive, and personally remarkable target
area. Decades ago, I had lived in the Bay Area on
two occasions (see my Silicon
Valley bandscan from 2004 here). During this
opening, I managed to log a plethora of personally
new stations from California, and I anticipate discovering
more gems as soon as recordings are thoroughly checked.
We even detected some low-power
transmitters belonging to the class of Travelers'
Information Stations (TIS) and Highway Advisory
Radios (HAR). Sometimes, the term Emergency Advisory
Radio Stations (EAR) is also used. Collectively
and colloquially, these low-power stations are known
as "tissi" (tits) in Finnish, leading
to interesting reactions from outsiders. For instance,
when I called my wife to share the news that we
had caught spectacular tits... One of these stations
was recognized and identified by DXer Bruce Portzer
in Seattle, so a big thank you to Bruce!
Stations from the West Coast
and around the Rocky Mountains remained strong until
the afternoon. This is where some new interesting
frequencies can now be found, as a bunch of Canadian
superpower stations have left the air, making room
for stations from California and the Southwest.
One of these was KFOY Sparks NV on 1060 AM, now
without interference from a strong station in Alberta.
Elsewhere, stations like KHAT 1210, KMHI 1240, KNEU
1250, KLBS 1330, WNCO 1340, KACH 1340, KSRO 1350,
KUBE 1350, KMYC 1410, KMHS 1420, KEED 1450, KBKR
1490, KBZY 1490, and WRSJ PR 1520 AM were logged.
Here are some audio samples from this fabulous day:
Around midday, during sunny weather,
we performed some antenna maintenance but returned
before the 1000 UTC NHK1 local ID slot. Fortunately,
this time stations from Japan had emerged from the
static before this crucial time slot. NHK1 local
station IDs are always nice to catch, although we
didn't snag any new ones. The day continued much
like the good old days, with plenty of strong signals
from all over, including some of the most common
Pacific islands like Tonga, the Marshall Islands,
and New Zealand. However, no real rarities were
Our DX paradise in the Arctic
on a freezing night.
October 24, 2023
Overnight signals from North
America were more stable than before, but it was
still less interesting than daybreak and daytime
DXing because that's when annoying interference
by European stations faded away. North American
stations remained quite strong throughout the day
until late afternoon, which is not very common this
early in the season.
Once again, Californian stations
were prominent, but Midwestern stations lingered
around longer than on Monday. For example, KSFT
790, KQCV 800, KNCO 830, XEITE 830, KFLD 870, CFBV
870, KNEB 960, KLAD 970, KWSW 980, KSTC 1230, KROX
1260, KGHM 1340, KPOK 1340, KMAJ 1440, and KAGE
1580 AM were identified. And the TIS galore continued.
A drone shot of the Aihkiniemi
cabins in daylight.
By 0900 UTC, some common stations
from the Pacific were booming, along with the first
Japanese stations. Now, even three receivers per
person weren't enough to cover all interesting directions.
For example, Tonga (1017 AM) and the Marshall Islands
(1098 AM) had really kick-ass signals for hours.
Newstalk ZB from New Zealand was heard on many frequencies,
including 1413 AM, which is quite rare. I even heard
one personally new Kiwi myself, Moana Radio on 1440
AM, although overall, this doesn't rise up to the
top New Zealand openings of my life.
Wednesday, October 25, 2023
Reception of nighttime stations
from the Western Hemisphere improved very slowly,
and only after midnight UTC were there more than
isolated stations. Conditions improved steadily,
and by around sunrise (0600 UTC), U.S. stations
were heard from coast to coast on almost every frequency.
Signals didn't wane even after daybreak but persisted
at really strong levels until the afternoon, which
Unlike during the first couple
of days, there was no emphasis on the Pacific Northwest,
but everything from sea to shining sea was available
at the same time, so the usual suspects tended to
dominate the frequencies. For experienced DXers,
it is difficult to find anything new.
Identified stations included
WGR 550, KIXZ 940, XERDO 1060, KDMR 1190, KBAR 1230,
KLIK 1240, WPYR 1380, KGRN 1410, WNGL 1410, XEBS
1410, and WGLL 1570 AM.
This is probably where precipitation
rises from, and obscures the stars.
Outside temperatures dropped
to around -15°C, but with only tiny patches
of snow and the sun shining, checking antennas turned
into a really enjoyable outing. The constant crackle
of newly formed ice in the surrounding ponds and
streams was very prominent both day and night, forming
a quite unique soundscape.
Signals from East and Southeast
Asia emerged earlier than normal, peaking around
1300 UTC. When we have time to examine our files,
there might be something interesting, for instance,
from Taiwan. I caught up on sleep in the evening,
so I have no idea if any Aussies were present later
Thursday, October 26, 2023
Overnight was choppier than before,
with signals rising and vanishing several times.
The dips were the result of a minor geomagnetic
storm, which lowered signal levels, reduced whatever
openings would be available, and overall caused
unpredictable changes in propagation. Sunrise didn't
elevate transatlantic signals, as it normally tends
to do. During the day, the western front recovered
somewhat so that 0900 UTC still offered a decent
selection of Midwestern stations, but at least so
far, no new ones for us. Identified stations included
KFJB 1230, KGLB 1310, KGFW 1340, KTMM 1340, KPRK
1340, KORN 1490, KLGR 1490, KMCD 1570, and KWBG
Mika checking antennas. Behind
you can see a bridge rebuilt by Martti Karimies
earlier in the fall.
Some Far Eastern stations came
pretty strong at around 09401040
UTC, but then there was a lull of several hours
before anything much was heard from the east. Initially
even a couple of New Zealand stations were heard,
but soon focus shifted down to Thailand and India.
Friday, October 27, 2023
Nighttime reception from across
the Atlantic was under par, and stations faded out
almost completely just after sunrise. In the morning,
identified stations included KSJK 900, KNEB 960,
KFBC 1230, KODI 1400, and KKTS 1580 AM.
Jim had received a trophy
from the Aihkiniemi team for reaching a total of
over 10,000 verified broadcasting stations (SW,
AM, and FM) and countries. This accomplishment is
likely a globally unparalleled achievement, the
result of over four decades of intensive DXing.
Luckily, we had better plans
than just DXing. At 11:00 (0800 UTC), we started
driving towards Norway. First, we had a snack at
Kaamasen Kievari restaurant, located some 50 km
away, and then headed north. Nature experiences
were abundant; aside from common reindeer encounters,
we saw a fox and a large male western capercaillie
(wood grouse), both standing in the middle of the
road before and after Kaamanen. Especially the grouse
was quite persistent. Unfortunately, I didn't manage
to catch a photo as I was driving.
Mantojärvi just south
of Utsjoki in a very black and white weather.
Icicles on the side of the
road from Utsjoki to Nuorgam.
In partly sunny weather, we chose
to follow the Teno (Tana in Norwegian) River on
the southeastern bank to get to Nuorgam, the northernmost
point in Finland. First on the road near the center
of Utsjoki stands Utsjoki Arctic Resort, a brand-new
luxury hotel with glass-domed villas for viewing
northern lights and views of the river valley. It
was eerily quiet and turned out to be closed. Apparently,
the lack of Chinese and other Asian tourists has
hit them really hard.
I was hoping that the resort
would have been the place to taste pink salmon,
an invasive species which is despised locally but
should be quite tasty when netted at the right time.
Eventually, it turned out that pink salmon isn't
served anywhere, and most of the catch ends up as
dog food. What a waste of a good resource.
Then on to Nuorgam. Attached
to the local supermarket is Restaurant Beaivvá,
which serves fabulous hamburgers. The name of the
restaurant means the sun sunlight being a
rare phenomenon up here in the winter. The polar
night begins in a few weeks' time and will last
almost two months. Consequently, in the summer,
Nuorgam enjoys 74 days of non-stop daylight without
the sun setting at all.
Finland's northernmost hamburger at Beaivvá
Restaurant is totally worth the drive.
From Nuorgam, we crossed the border to Norway and
continued following the Teno River up to the mouth
of the river (Tanamunningen). As on a previous visit,
we took loads of photos at the end of Høyholmen,
a nature reserve and tidal spit jutting out into
the river and surrounded by impressive mountains.
During an exceptionally high
high tide in Høyholmen much of the grass
around can be underwater.
Giema Mountain is reflected
from the Tana River estuary. On the right is Elkem
Tana, one of the largest open pit mines for quartzite
extraction in the world.
Before five local time, we had
checked into Kongsfjord Arctic Lodge, renamed since
our last visit a year ago, and walked over to the
Kongsfjord DX base where Bjarne Mjelde, Odd-Jørgen
Sagdahl, and Ole Forr had been listening for the
past week on DXpedition KONG47.
Kongsfjord DX cabin at sunset.
From the left Mika Mäkeläinen,
Bjarne Mjelde, Odd-Jørgen Sagdahl, Ole Forr
and Jim Solatie.
We were grateful for the invitation
to join them for an exclusive dinner for the third
year in a row! The culinary skills of the Norwegian
crew surpass ours by such a vast margin that we're
happy to spend most of the day driving just to get
to taste their king crab. Of course, we also cherish
the opportunity to share our DXperiences and enjoy
the superb company of like-minded hobbyists.
Saturday, October 28, 2023
We met our Norwegian friends
once more for breakfast at Bjarne's DX base, and
after feasting on Arctic delicacies (salmon and
cloudberry included), we headed for a return trip
over the mountains of the Varanger Peninsula.
Keep this sign in mind if
someone suggests that Finnish or Sami are easy languages
to learn. This place name on Highway 4 translates
as "Fat fish Lakes."
Sunset in Inari on our way
We followed the exact same route back to Aihkiniemi
with stops at Tana bro (for Norwegian groceries)
and Nuorgam (for Finnish groceries, gas, and another
hamburger at Restaurant Beaivvá). The
road was mostly dry in Norway but quite icy on the
Finnish side. I guess they use much less salt and
sand on this side of the border.
It was just becoming dark at
1440 UTC (17:40 local time) when we arrived and
started to check our pre-programmed recordings.
It appears that the past 30 hours were not very
successful, but a closer inspection is still warranted
once we have time for it.
Sunday, October 29, 2023
On this night, the European Union
switched back to normal time, so I readjusted various
daily alarms that remind me of particular DX targets,
such as RNE or NHK local identifications.
Overnight reception from all
of the Western Hemisphere was worse than on any
previous night. Not even Brazilian stations made
any significant entrée. The K-index was close
to four, reaching minor geomagnetic storm levels,
so probably I should have focused on Africa, but
I was sleeping during the best potential time in
that direction (03000400 UTC). Daytime was
totally dead, so we inspected our recordings from
the first week.
A closup of sparkling frozen
grass in the forest. In the upper left corner you
can see a tiny part of our 321-degree antenna.
In the afternoon and evening,
Asian stations took a very long time to appear at
all. When they finally did emerge around 12001300
UTC and gained enough strength by 14001500
UTC, most stations turned out to be from Western
China and South Asia. I found a couple of new Qinghai
PBS Tibetan service frequencies (1017 and 1170 AM),
which goes to show how poor the options were.
In the evening, we hunted for
two German short-term AM stations on 747 and 749.5
AM, but neither one was heard. Close attention to
747 AM anyhow yielded MCB Radio from the Netherlands,
so the hours spent parked on one single frequency
were not totally wasted.
Monday, October 30, 2023
Nighttime reception was very
poor in all directions, and North American stations
appeared only briefly with weak signals before sunrise.
Early morning brought enhanced signals from Brazil
and Argentina, so that, for instance, Rádio
Sentinela do Vale was logged on 1460 AM. At sunrise,
the AM band became dead quiet.
Frozen in time until the spring.
A sprinkle of snow dropped overnight,
and we enjoyed some sunshine during the day in a
-10°C winter weather Jim hiking, and
me flying a drone.
The first stations from Southeast
Asia emerged around 1130 UTC. As is common during
disturbed conditions, there were no Japanese stations,
but instead, stations from Thailand, as well as
Western and Southern China were the strongest. If
I'm lucky, I could catch a local ID from one of
the southernmost stations in India.
Tuesday, October 31, 2023
Overnight reception of North
American stations was negligible at best, but Brazilian
stations still made it this far during the early
morning hours. In the morning 05000600 UTC
was the golden hour before local sunrise when conditions
tend to shift rapidly. Some rather common stations
were logged from all over the Americas, such as
WGDJ 1300, Radio del Oeste (Uruguay) 1490, Radio
Monumental (Ecuador) 1510, and Radio Bahamas on
Signals vanished soon after
sunrise (about 0625 UTC), but some nice stations
from the East Coast resurfaced around 0730 UTC,
including WRNJ 1510, WAMA 1550, and WVTL 1570 AM,
as well as WKNY Kingston NY on 1490 AM, a personally
new graveyard station.
Mika listening. The CFPL
t-shirt was sent by Bill Brady, then Senior Vice
President of the Blackburn Group, back in 1996.
Daytime was quiet on the dial
until the first Asian signals appeared briefly around
1030 UTC, then died down, and recovered before 1200
UTC. The conditions favored South and Central Asia,
and without much of a focus, it would be a challenge
to find anything new.
Wednesday, November 1, 2023
A missed opportunity: Overnight
would have been the last good slot to catch daytime-only
stations from the US when they sign off a bit after
the actual local sunset time for late October, but
there were no North American stations on the AM
dial during the night. Instead, stations from Brazil
to Argentina were heard relatively well during the
Part of my gear is visible
here, but the Perseus receivers are behind the laptops.
The screens display Jaguar software.
Just before dawn, there was a
mix of signals from the Western Hemisphere, including
the East Coast USA, but they all dissipated by sunrise.
Daytime was dead quiet in all directions, and not
even our semi-local KBRW Barrow from Alaska on 680
AM was heard.
Thursday, November 2, 2023
Miserable propagation conditions
continued. There were some Brazilian and Argentinian
stations overnight, and North American signals around
05000700 UTC, but signal levels were poor
and nothing spectacular was found, at least immediately.
Stations such as KICD 1240, KOIL 1290, KGLB 1310,
KLIN 1400, and WIZM 1410 AM were logged. The Pacific
Northwest made a brief comeback at 1100 UTC when,
for instance, KORT 1230, KRSC 1400, and KVTA 1590
AM were identified.
A view from Kaunispää
Fell to the east.
Signals from Asia began to improve
slowly after 1200 UTC, but again, signals remained
rather weak, and atmospheric noise was strong. In
the late afternoon 16001700 UTC, Indian and
Thai stations dominated, but nothing of interest
was found. Identified stations included regular
catches such as Voice of Vietnam on 549 AM and Bangladesh
Betar on 873 AM.
Friday, November 3, 2023
Poor conditions seemed never-ending
or lasting at least until the end of our
DXpedition. Overnight stations from Brazil, Uruguay,
and Argentina were heard for a few hours, but that
was it. North American stations appeared before
sunrise but weakened soon in daylight. WTWB from
Florida on 1570 AM was perhaps the only station
worth mentioning of those which were identified
on the fly.
An afternoon opening to Asia
was equally miserable, with mostly weak signals
from South Asia, Central Asia, and the Middle East.
For example, Son La from Vietnam was logged on 828
AM, and Qazaq Radiosy seems to have reactivated
on 1557 AM. China's national Kazakh-language service
(CNR17) was heard on 1269 AM, a personally new frequency
for this station.
In the evening, it was time to
start cleaning the cabin for our next guests. We
did the dishes and emptied the composting toilet.
Otsamo Fell shot from
Highway 4 on our way south.
Saturday, November 4, 2023
At -20°C Saturday morning
was the coldest of the DXpedition. Overnight conditions
continued rather poor, with basically just some
Latin American stations audible. In the morning
hours around 05000600 UTC, some Colombian
and Puerto Rican stations were heard for a change,
but signal levels were quite modest. Thus it was
painless to turn off our receivers, pack our belongings
and leave Aihkiniemi just before midday.
The weather was perfect for driving,
with mostly dry roads onward from Inari. Low-hanging
clouds revealed bald mountain tops above the clouds,
so we made several photography stops.
Sushi dinner at Himo Restaurant
in Rovaniemi. The dark meat slices are tender reindeer
In Rovaniemi, we chose Sushi
Restaurant Himo (translated as "Lust")
for our evening meal. The sushi there was exquisite
and can certainly be recommended.
Later in the evening, we still
had a reindeer pizza at Restaurant Alvari at the
Railway station before boarding the train south.
And so it ended, a surprisingly rewarding DX tour
in the Arctic. However, as always after a fine DXpedition
behind us, most of the fun is still ahead: We will
need months to digest our recordings and hopefully
make even more exciting discoveries.
and photos: Mika Mäkeläinen
Published on November