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The 29th DXpedition to Aihkiniemi in Finnish Lapland had a very Chinese flavor. Not only did we hear Chinese radio stations most afternoons, but a crew from the Chinese news agency Xinhua drove over 1,200 kilometers from Helsinki to Aihkiniemi to report on DXing! Propagation conditions ranged from fairly good to rock bottom. Although decent openings in the Western Hemisphere were observed from October 17th to 27th, rising solar activity wreaked havoc on DXing during the last week. And, on October 22nd there were more sunspots than at any point during the ongoing solar cycle.

DXpedition AIH29 was exceptional in the sense that we had four participants, a record in Aihkiniemi. However, each of us spent only one or two weeks out of the three week period, so that at any given time there were only two of us:

    • Lauri Niemi: October 12–18, 2013
    • Markku Jussila: October 12–26, 2013
    • Mika Mäkeläinen: October 18–November 2, 2013
    • Jim Solatie: October 26–November 2, 2013

DXpedition AIH29 began after Lauri and Markku drove 930 kilometers from Vaasa to Aihkiniemi the weekend of October 11th. Propagation conditions during the first week were fairly poor with only short morning openings to the Western Hemisphere. Aihkiniemi's extensive antenna options to the East however guaranteed that there was always something to listen to from Asia.

Cabin in twilight
Aihkiniemi cabin at daybreak — click to enlarge, and then hit back to return to this expedition report.

Our aerials in Aihkiniemi consist of 14 Beverage antennas, each 1 kilometer (3,000 ft.) long, which makes our cabin perhaps the best-equipped of all AM DXing bases in the world. The 14th antenna, which was built soon after my arrival, extends the Aihkiniemi antenna arsenal to a previously neglected area. This latest addition is a 1,000-meter wire at 210 degrees, which is intended to capture elusive local stations from Spain's Mediterranean coastline, as well as from Nigeria, which is one of the few African nations with an extensive selection of remaining AM stations. Here's an azimuthal map for Aihkiniemi with our antenna directions:

Map of Aihkiniemi antenna directions

All four of us use Perseus hardware. While three of us favor the software made by the same manufacturer, I prefer to run my Perseus receiver with Jaguar.

Receiver setup
My receiver setup in Aihkiniemi surrounded by a mesh of antenna and grounding wires. Click to view explanations.

The Aihkiniemi cabin is becoming increasingly well-equipped with all sorts of technical accessories. It even includes four laptop computers, so the amount of tech hardware that we have to haul there and back is diminishing every year. I still brought one of my own laptops because I wanted to have Jaguar installed on it. My large antenna switch box was one of the few items that I wasn't able to take by plane. Otherwise, all of the necessary stuff needed for a major listening and recording operation is already portable.

Three pieces of UPS protected us from a few short power outages (less than a second) and, surprisingly, we didn't have any major technical problems nor did we encounter any significant sources of external interference to our equipment, so we were able to focus on the fabulous world of DXing!

Sample some MP3 goodies for yourself

A unique opportunity for exciting new catches on the AM band is, of course, the rationale for undertaking a laborious expedition to a remote location like Aihkiniemi. There will always be goodies, even during less than ideal propagation conditions. Here are a few MP3 recordings showcasing what we picked up:

 • RNE Radio 5, Salamanca, on 1314 kHz, as an example of how well our new 210-degree wire captures signals from Spain. RNE Salamanca, here beginning a local break, is where the well-known Spanish DXer Mauricio Molano works, so verifications are guaranteed!

 • Radio Ethiopia, Mekele, on 1044 kHz, heard here signing off with a closing announcement and the national anthem. Ethiopian AM stations are actually heard quite often thanks to a one-of-a-kind 1000-meter wire directed towards the Horn of Africa.

 • JOQC NHK2 Morioka, on 1386 kHz, signing off, just to show how well some Japanese stations can be heard. From Monday to Saturday, NHK2 stations close down at 1540 UTC, which is one of the few moments when it is possible to identify them.

 • KTWG Agana, Guam, on 801 kHz, is an example from the most coveted continent, Australia & Oceania, in the opposite end of the world from Finland. Again, pretty neat reception quality.

 • KJNP North Pole, AK, on 1170 kHz, a regular catch up here, but very exotic on more Southern latitudes, heard here launching another broadcast day — just to give you a taste of the Arctic!

KJSK 900 AM logo • KJSK Columbus, NE, on 900 kHz, amazing strength considering that the station has never been heard before in Finland.

 • KAKK Walker, MN, on 1570 kHz, a very rare station, and luckily just at closing time, transmitting at 250 watts of power. Indicative of the conditions, which favored Minnesota for a few days.

 • WCSL Cherryville, NC, on 1590 kHz, obviously transmitting with daytime power of 10 kW through the night, again the first ID caught in Finland.

 • HJZI G12 Radio, Bogotá, on 1550 kHz, one of the many Colombian stations that have fairly recently changed its name.

Stay tuned as more clips will become available later.

Chinese Xinhua reporting on DXing

Xinhua standup
Zhang Xuan making a stand-up, pointing to our 80-degree antenna for South China, and Li Jizhi behind the TV camera. You can see the result here.

And then there is China. Not just the deluge of Chinese AM stations that pour into our cabin almost every afternoon, but two very nice Chinese visitors!

I first met the correspondent of the Chinese national news agency Xinhua at YLE in Helsinki a few weeks before DXpedition AIH29, and I suggested this wacky idea of reporting how Finnish DXers pick up Chinese AM stations. Of course other stories, such as reindeer herding, could be covered at the same time in Lapland.

The highlight of traditional reindeer husbandry is the annual corralling of all the reindeer in a pen — usually at the end of October — for livestock census, marking, vet care and, for many, slaughtering. Yes, we eat Rudolphs, but don't worry; Santa still has plenty of them left for his annual flight around the world. The reindeer round-up was a truly unforgettable event and a good example of the traditional Sami culture thriving in Lapland. There's more about our activities with the Chinese news crew in the daily diary.

Map of Aihkiniemi

Xinhua's news reports from Aihkiniemi were published on November 18th both in English and in Chinese. The Chinese article was republished by at least a dozen Chinese newspapers. You can also find a CNC TV report in English and in Chinese. Hopefully, the Xinhua reports will inspire more local and provincial Chinese radio stations to begin responding to reception reports. It seems like only half of Chinese AM stations verify reports, even though we write them in Chinese. It appears to me that they don't realize the value that DXers place on getting a confirmation in return. For decades, such verifications of reception have been an honored tradition in radio broadcasting around the world. The practice is eroding, especially in countries where stations are inundated with reports, but this is not the case with China, which very few DXers seriously target. So, we're counting on Xinhua to educate the Chinese media on DXing.

We also got some domestic media attention. On November 1st, the 90th anniversary of radio broadcasting in Finland was celebrated in Tampere, and Radio Moreeni, a local FM station, interviewed me for about ten minutes on DXing during its jubilee programming.

Conditions rising and nose-diving

Propagation conditions during the three-week period fluctuated quite dramatically, which can be expected near the solar maximum. The first week was rather poor, the second fairly good, and the third truly lousy. For those of you interested in detailed solar weather indices, here's a chart covering the AIH29 DXpedition (thanks to Jan Alvestad for compiling the information). The period of best conditions to North America and the Far East is highlighted in light green and the record sunspot number in red.

Date Mea-sured
solar
flux
Sunspot
number
Planetary
A index
K indices
(3-hour intervals)
Min_max
Solar wind
speed range
(km/s)
#
of flares
STAR SDO NO
AA
ST
AR
ap avg
W
D
C
Daily
ap range
Planetary
(WDC)
Boulder C M X
2K 1K
12.10.2013 127.9 200 137 106 4.0 4 2-9 01011122 02122222 346-439 13    
13.10.2013 129.3 237 148 125 1.5 2 0-5 10000010 10001200 288-353 5 1  
14.10.2013 125.0 230 152 136 17.5 18 0-32 02233444 02333333 274-575 6    
15.10.2013 125.3 218 152 148 16.9 17 3-32 44342113 33433213 462-577 12 2  
16.10.2013 128.1 246 176 120 9.0 9 5-22 43212222 42213322 446-593 10    
17.10.2013 136.1 238 178 166 11.8 12 6-27 33222111 23433311 376-470 11 1  
18.10.2013 139.9 275 207 154 3.0 3 2-6 11100021 10112221 346-413 16    
19.10.2013 132.7 185 143 149 1.8 2 0-2 00000000 00022211 298-361 13    
20.10.2013 133.4 247 149 117 2.0 2 0-4 00000001 00012211 270-367 9    
21.10.2013 135.8 216 139 179 1.5 2 0-2 00000000 00002200 271-308 9    
22.10.2013 146.3 314 206 228 3.8 4 0-7 00210112 01222222 280-408 14 3  
23.10.2013 152.7 306 168 141 3.4 3 0-9 12210000 12111211 275-467 16 3  
24.10.2013 160.6 295 186 148 1.9 2 0-3 11010000 01011211 300-386 16 3  
25.10.2013 161.4 266 161 148 2.4 2 0-5 00100101 01001211 279-413 6 5 2
26.10.2013 160.2 228 169 171 1.5 2 0-4 00000001 10001211 270-358 14 6  
27.10.2013 166.9 237 144 206 1.9 2 0-3 00101010 00102221 270-313 16 1  
28.10.2013 159.9 209 145 155 1.4 1 0-3 00100000 12101211 270-320 6 7 1
29.10.2013 152.6 225 161 171 4.0 4 0-7 00021122 10032222 271-406 16   1
30.10.2013 141.9 236 157 132 12.4 12 3-22 11333334 01343423 308-381 4    
31.10.2013 142.6 259 167 128 6.1 6 3-9 21122212 10112322 335-560 7 1  
1.11.2013 145.6 192 133 95 4.4 4 2-7 22111011 22112220 341-425 8 1  
2.11.2013 141.6 211 151 123 2.8 3 0-5 11010001 12111201 285-424 8 1  
3.11.2013 143.5 272 151 143 5.4 5 0-12 23210021 23311121 348-437 3 1  

October is traditionally a busy month in AM DXing bases across Lapland. You can follow parallel DXpeditions in Kongsfjord, Norway (KONG23 until October 18th) in Bjarne Mjelde's and OJ Sagdahl's blogs. Comprehensive logs from Parkalompolo, Sweden (PAX101), can be found in an often-updated RTF file, and an overview of the conditions from the perspective of Lemmenjoki, Finland, is also online, by two crews, LEM331 until October 25th and LEM332 until November 2nd.

To give you a better idea of each DXing day, here's a detailed diary of our activities starting from October 18th.

Friday, October 18, 2013

I didn't waste a lot of time traveling because I flew for the first time to Lapland for a long DXpedition. This arrangement was made possible thanks to Markku, who took some of my stuff a week earlier by car. I only had to fit the remaining equipment almost within limits of airline regulations. The security check officers didn't even blink when they opened my carry-on luggage, which was filled with external hard drives — stripped of all accessories — and one laptop. I got a second screening but no questions asked. Anything else can be broken with rough handling, but hard drives are irreplaceable (especially on the return flight!) so I insisted on carrying them gently myself.

Finnair's Airbus in Ivalo
Mika's shortcut to Lapland, arriving in Ivalo on Friday afternoon, October 18th.

The weather at Helsinki-Vantaa airport was awful. It was the coldest day so far this fall with sleet in the air and moisture on the ground. However, Finnair's flight to Ivalo was almost on time and, in roughly an hour and 20 minutes later, I saw Markku waiting for me at the airport, where the ground was covered by a thin blanket of fresh snow. Meanwhile, Lauri was in the departure hall, ready to board the same Airbus back to Helsinki via Kittilä. Before arriving in Aihkiniemi well before sunset, we shopped for groceries in Ivalo and had a burger in Inari.

Setting up all the gear always takes a lot of time, so I may have missed some stations during the afternoon Asia session. However, overall conditions didn't sound spectacular. To my surprise, though, I got one new NHK station at 1540 UTC when NHK2 closed down: a 100-watt relay of JOTB Matsue (1593 kHz) on 1539 kHz was a novel discovery. Markku, however, was only focused on the Western Hemisphere, so he had a relaxing afternoon, as nothing was heard from the U.S. West Coast.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

I haven't really checked overnight recordings, but conditions seemed poor in all directions, just a couple of already noted Ethiopian AM stations. Practically nothing was heard from Latin America. North American stations became stronger before daybreak and remained audible until around 1000 UTC, and a bunch of regular stations a couple more hours.

Markku listening
U.S. stations on the dial, and Markku is having a time of his life!

Signal strength varied wildly, atmospheric noise was strong, and conditions were limited to the upper half of the AM band, with stations coming mostly from the Midwest, especially around Minnesota and Wisconsin. "La Picosa" KQSP Shakopee, MN, on 1530 AM was identified on daytime power, along with a couple of stations on 1450 kHz, the best of which was KOKO Warrensburg, MO. Listening to 1450 AM was sheer joy now compared to the same time last year, as a long-time pest in neighboring Kola Peninsula has left the adjacent frequency of 1449 kHz. Until now, listening to stations on 1450 kHz was usually possible only during a few seconds before the top of the hour when Russian stations never worried about dead air. It's pure luxury to be able to monitor the frequency now without any interference.

Just as the Western Hemisphere faded out, Eastern stations emerged. Initially we got a lot of Japanese stations, although NHK2 breaks didn't yield new ones. Soon after, Chinese stations dominated the entire AM band for several hours. I took full advantage of the vacated frequency of 1449 kHz, which was open to the East even late in the evening. The most common Chinese station here is Rizhao PBS, which launched its broadcast day at 2130 UTC with several neat station identifications and a very powerful signal. Some Philippine stations were also heard, but the only new one was DWRS Vigan on 927 kHz opening its morning broadcast around 1954 UTC — quite an interesting timing, I wonder why they didn't start at the top of the hour?
Markku with chocolate
Markku runs a big supermarket, so there's no risk of starving in Aihkiniemi. This amount of chocolate should be enough for DXpeditionists through the winter!

Overall, the Asian opening today was well above average, and browsing the recordings should result in more fun surprises.

Aside from listening, I paid a courtesy visit to our nearest neighbor. The weather was repulsive with strong winds developing into a snow storm by the evening. Braving the snow in the comfort of a car, we drove a few kilometers away to Jounila for a shower, and enjoyed Markku's cooking later in the cabin.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Overnight recordings of transatlantic stations were useless and deleted after inspection. Just the usual suspects from North and South America. In the morning, signal strength was reasonable from around 0400 UTC, and 0500 UTC was the best top of the hour. Conditions favored the Great Lakes area, so even though graveyard frequencies were open, stations like KTRF on 1230 kHz were usually on top. Occasionally, conditions inched deeper south, and we got one spectacular surprise, KJSK Columbus, NE, on 900 kHz (MP3), noticed live by Markku. A few Mexican stations were also logged, such as XET Monterrey on 990 kHz with a very impressive sound. Signals began to retreat after 0500 UTC, and by 0600 the most powerful stations came from the Canadian Prairie and the U.S. Rockies.

Antenna work
Mika checking antennas. This is where our 80- and 160-degree wires begin from.
U.S. stations gradually weakened, although the toughest ones were still audible well past 1200 UTC, so this was quite a long opening. Graveyard frequencies were mostly open, although signals were fairly weak. In addition to KTRF, our typical catches included KCCR and WJON on 1240 kHz, WMBN on 1340 kHz, and KIHH on 1400 kHz. Just a trickle of signals from Hawaii and Alaska in the afternoon.

The first sustained wave from Asia arrived well before 1100 UTC, and this time it was spearheaded by stations from the Chinese province of Nei Monggol in the north. Many Japanese stations joined in the mix, and even Vietnamese stations were present at the same time, so finding new ones was challenging. Notably, NHK2 closed down today at 1510 UTC. Japanese DXer Sei-ichi Hasegawa emailed me that 1510 UTC is nowadays the sign-off time on Sundays, while transmission ends at 1540 UTC on all other days. The Asian opening was much shorter than yesterday, and by 1600 UTC nearly all Asian stations were toppled by Europeans, Iranians, and the like.

Outside fierce winds and snowfall continued until early evening, so I had to clear the yard and driveway. Wouldn't want to get snowbound here. Well, actually, with all of the receivers and food, maybe it wouldn't be so bad after all...

Monday, October 21, 2013

ice lantern with antlers
Arctic ice lantern designed by Mika

Overnight, we heard some common stations from Venezuela and the United States, followed by a good morning opening around 0500-0600 UTC. North American stations were heard from Coast to Coast, but most impressive was the strong showing of stations from Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Colombia. Identified catches included Radio Alegría (Venezuela) on 1020 kHz and Radio Avivamiento (Panamá) on 1530 kHz. Then suddenly all stations vanished around 0615 UTC and resurfaced around 0700 UTC, with some East Coast as well, including WNZS Veazie, ME, on 1340 kHz. Once again U.S. stations continued well into the afternoon.

The Asian opening began after 1100 UTC, once more focused on China and Japan. Unfortunately, Iranian and European stations spoiled the fun quite early, becoming strong already around 1330 UTC. Around midday, we let automated recordings take care of the business while we erected a new temporary antenna, roughly 700 meters pointing at 210 degrees.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

In the early morning hours, stations from Brazil and Argentina were heard for hours, but signal levels were only average — nevertheless this was better than during the previous days. In the morning, daybreak at 0500-0600 UTC was once again the most interesting period and a time of extremely intensive listening. Venezuelan and Puerto Rican stations dipped in the morning, but returned close to 0800 UTC, which is remarkably late this early in the season. North American stations were heard from Coast to Coast. 0600 UTC seemed to be the best top of the hour, as even the very low end of the AM dial was open.

The morning session was lively and mesmerizing because of constant variation in signal levels. We got a bunch of new stations, such as KTUV Little Rock, AR, on 1440 kHz. Around 0900 UTC there was a brief opening to Tennessee, with old acquaintances 1340 WCDT and 1390 WTJS identified. Minnesotan stations were still very powerful, and KATE Albert Lea on 1450 kHz was heard for the third day in a row.

Thai cubes
What do you mean that this doesn't qualify as gourmet dining or merit a Michelin Star?

It might be too early to judge an antenna based on just a few hours of listening, but it seemed that the new 700-meter antenna at 210 degrees had a fairly wide lobe, so we extended the antenna all the way to 1,000 meters, which is the maximum allowed by the terrain — ending at a lakeshore. Even when the wire was short this morning, I still caught one new RNE1 relay transmitter, namely Cabra (Andalucia) on 972 kHz.

The first East Asian sounds arrived just before 1000 UTC, but not quite early and strong enough for the NHK1 local station identifications. Conditions to Japan remained fair during subsequent NHK breaks, but JOAP Naha, Okinawa, on 549 kHz is so far the only new catch. As a sign of improving conditions, Guam stations on 567 and 801 kHz were identified just before 1200 UTC. Around 1030 UTC I switched my focus and recording activity to the Eastern front.

Aihkiniemi cabin
I needed some evidence to remind me that it wasn't completely cloudy all the time.

Otherwise conditions to Asia were average. Chinese stations, such as Nei Monggol PBS on the unlisted frequency of 1305 kHz, dominated at first, but very soon at 1330 UTC even Indian stations were heard, and the band had become a useless mess of everything possible.

While writing this, I missed the 1540 UTC break for NHK2 local station identifications; I just heard the closing melody being played on many frequencies. Oh well, slightly less recordings to check in the end.

To keep things in perspective, the conditions have been so unstable that on all these days we haven't had a chance of getting daytimers during our late evening. Now we're starting to be more hopeful. First audio from North America was at 2040 UTC on 1390 kHz (presumed WEGP), well before sunset there, and from South America after 2100 UTC on 1190 kHz (Brazilian, presumed as CBN Natal with "A Voz do Brasil"). Eventually, no daytimers were detected live, but U.S. East Coast was moderate until around 2300 UTC, when stations vanished and reappeared early in the morning. Moderate Brazil and Argentina (such as Radio Rubí on 1670 kHz) overnight.


Eurasian Jay (Garrulus glandarius) at the northern extreme of its range.

Whimsical developments in the sun that are responsible for the sudden deterioration of propagation have not gone unnoticed by the community of solar geeks. Here's what Spaceweather.com reported:

"SOLAR TSUNAMI AND RADIO BURST: Sunspot AR1875 erupted on Oct. 22nd (21:20 UT), producing an impulsive M4-class solar flare and a loud burst of shortwave radio static. Amateur radio astronomer Thomas Ashcraft of New Mexico was listening at the time of the eruption. "I knew this flare was a strong one by the force of the radio shock front," he says. "It nearly lifted me out of my chair!" -- Ashcraft is a regular listener of the sun and he classifies the Oct. 22nd outburst as "one of the strongest radio blasts of the solar cycle so far."

On Spaceweather you can even listen to Ashcraft's recording of the burst of radio static quite impressive, and not totally unlike what we experienced in Aihkiniemi. The highest recorded sunspot number of the ongoing solar cycle was reached today (228 according to NOAA's count).

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

U.S. East Coast stations were heard best around 0300-0400 UTC, and this would be the only time slot worth saving from the overnight automated recordings. Some Colombian and Venezuelan stations were strong around 0400 and 0500 UTC, but nothing much from any direction was heard in between. The morning peak was the weakest in five days — just as reception should have peaked, the band became quiet. There's only one way from here — up. Time to catch up on sleep. Outside we got some drizzle in the early morning hours as the temperature rose above the freezing point.

Tree trunks
This is not a black-and-white photo, but a cloudy October day here devours all colors.
There was a near total radio blackout during the day. Stations from the west vanished before 0600 UTC, and only after 1330 UTC the first signals from the east became audible. Unfortunately, it was only Iran and Saudi Arabia, along with Europeans, and practically nothing from further east, just the Indian superpower station on 1071 kHz.

Reviewing recordings from this morning was today's bright spot. The new 210-degree antenna worked like magic! Already on the first morning with the full-size antenna I logged five RNE1 and RNE5 stations that I've never heard before: Catalunya on 801 and 1152 kHz, as well as Comunidad Valenciana on 558, 936 and 1125 kHz! This is simply amazing. Trust me. These are rare stations in Finland. Another one of those 'why didn't I think of this before' experiences. Maybe conditions this morning were a bit special. Otherwise, I'd be running out of hunting targets from Spain by the end of the expedition.

Wednesday evening felt like a total disaster, as our antennas captured hardly anything beyond Iran. But hey, there's still Iran! I thought I had pretty much exhausted what there is during several weeks of intensive Iran monitoring a year earlier, but I still had a short list of targets, and began to inspect the dial accordingly. And what a surprise as I hit the Zahedan jackpot! Three stations with provincial programming from Baluchestan, all with fabulous local station identifications on very difficult frequencies (1053, 1296, and 1377 kHz). A word of warning — if you hear Farsi (or in this case more precisely Dari) on 1296 kHz, it is almost certainly Radio Azadi from Afghanistan, and hearing Farsi on 1377 kHz is nearly always Voice of Russia via Armenia. For weeks on end last year, I didn't hear a trace of Zahedan on these frequencies.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

It turned out that propagation conditions recovered rather rapidly. Overnight conditions favored the "Orinoco" region: Venezuela and Colombia. In the morning there was a peak deeper south around 0545 UTC, when for example Radio Sucre (700 kHz) from Ecuador sounded like a real big gun, and quite a few Cubans were heard at enjoyable signal levels.

Antenna at sunset
The days may be short, but the antennas are long.

After a modest rise earlier around U.S. sunset, U.S. East Coast was audible again around 0400-0700 UTC, but no rarities were logged when listening live. A few regulars hung around intermittently until 0900 UTC, but nothing worth reporting.

In the afternoon, the AM band was remarkably undisturbed, and I was already hoping for some Oceania, but had to settle with the regular Asian mix. Fortunately, I had some luck regarding the only two opportunities when NHK2 station can be identified, and I heard two personal new ones: JOLC Tottori via JOLZ Yonago on 1521 kHz and JOMC Miyazaki on 1467 kHz. I also noted Nei Monggol PBS on yet another unlisted frequency, 1224 kHz. The opening, which began before 1100 UTC, was fairly short-lived, and from 1400 UTC the AM band sounded like it was being swarmed with Iranian and Saudi stations.

Got some more snow and I shoveled the driveway.

Friday, October 25, 2013

During the night, U.S. East Coast, Puerto Rican, and Venezuelan stations showed up as soon as the sun set in their respective areas, so we recorded TA signals starting already before 2200 UTC. At daybreak, the conditions just melted, but a new path emerged to the U.S. Rockies and the Canadian Prairie. That's when Markku began his long drive home. Aside from a few big guns, signal levels were pretty weak until around 1000 UTC, when the Northwestern corner regained some strength.

As it was Friday, I enjoyed listening to "Friday Night Blues" and other country classics on my favorite Washingtonian, KKXA 1520 AM, heard occasionally with a massive signal. Got this advice from "KXA" live on the air: "Never stick anything in your ear, except Classic Country!" Couldn't agree more.

KJNP 1170 AM in North Pole, Alaska
A trip down memory lane: KJNP broadcasts from North Pole, Alaska, on 1170 kHz.
Stations from the Pacific Northwest continued remarkably late. Signal levels were not that spectacular, but still at 1400-1500 UTC there were North American stations on the dial from California, Washington, British Columbia, Alaska, and Hawaii. This is not rare, but, nevertheless, it is the first time during this fall season that TA signals endure throughout the day and even make a decent comeback late in the afternoon. If solar activity remains low, this kind of extended North American opening should become a norm for the winter months. It was a real pleasure to hear KONP and KLAM fight over domination of 1450 kHz late into the afternoon, and solemn to pick up KJNP (1170 AM) making its opening announcements (MP3) at 1336 UTC. The wording has probably remained unchanged for decades. Incidentally, just the previous day I was wearing a KJNP t-shirt, bought on location during a very memorable assignment around Alaska in 2007, allowing me to visit North Pole as well.

Conditions to Asia opened late, featured a hodgepodge of everything, and lasted only for a short while. Luckily I was still able to catch one more NHK2 station, namely JOTC Aomori on 1521 kHz.

Briefly back to Friday morning. The new 210-degree antenna brought no new ones on Thursday, but on Friday I very faintly heard RNE5 Murcia from Cartagena on 1152 kHz. This weak ID was not audible on our traditional (250-degree) antenna for Spain, which only caught Castilla La Mancha. So direction matters. And size. And a dose of perverted stubbornness in hunting for the elusive country, you know what I'm talking about... Gibraltar, which has never been heard in Finland on 1458 kHz. Doesn't look like this antenna is going to make much difference there however.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Jim running
Jim preparing for yet another marathon. If you can run here, you can run anywhere.

And here comes the Western Hemisphere again. WEGP Presque Isle, ME, on 1390 kHz was traditionally the first station with audio around 2115 UTC on Friday evening, but still at 2200 UTC there were just a few audible signals. Puerto Rican stations (especially 1280 and 1480 AM) emerged strong soon after 2200 UTC. Sounds very much like the previous day at the same time, or maybe a tad poorer.

Saturday morning turned out to be simply fantastic! A narrow opening to the East Coast of North America, with no stations west of Ohio audible — except for 1160 WYLL, which is a pest on the frequency. This narrow eastern focus without Midwestern stations is a rare opportunity, and signal levels were very impressive. Definitely one of the best East Coast openings that I have ever experienced. As an example, WCSL Cherryville, NC, on 1590 kHz (MP3) was booming almost like a local station.

To balance the day, the afternoon opening to Asia was a non-starter. The first signals appeared rather late, after 1200 UTC, and soon the focus dropped down to India and Iran. So far, Indian stations have been very few on the expedition, so it was nevertheless nice to hear some of them, such as AIR Darbhanga on 1296 kHz signing off at 1740 UTC.

Li Jizhi listening
Li Jizhi, Xinhua's correspondent in Helsinki, just found a Chinese AM station.

Jim arrived in the afternoon, so we now had a full crew again on AIH29. In the evening it was time for a VIP appointment. We went to Kaamanen to meet the correspondent and camera(wo)man of the Chinese Xinhua news agency. Li Jizhi and Zhang Xuan had driven all the way from Helsinki to meet us and make a report about DXing for the Chinese media! So after a tasty meal, we drove back to the cabin for interviews and some live DXing. Luckily, there were some Chinese AM stations audible late in the evening so that we could demonstrate examples that were meaningful to the Chinese audience.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Early in the night, nothing was heard from anywhere, but then Brazilian stations emerged. Signals began to improve around 0130 UTC, and later the opening grew to include all of South America. At daybreak, signals were very strong from all around the continent, and as North American stations were conveniently absent (aside from a few from Newfoundland), this made for an exclusive opening. Major Colombian and Venezuelan stations were heard at armchair levels, and rarities will certainly be discovered once we get to review the recordings. Puerto Rico and Venezuela are still strong now at 0730 UTC, which is quite impressive. A fabulous morning!

Zhang Xuan filming
Xinhua featuring DXing! For a change I wasn't behind the camera myself.
On Sunday morning, the Orinoco front hung around extremely long with last signals dissipating at around 0930 UTC, and even then, the westernmost stations were a few isolated cases from the Eastern Coast of North America, so this was a truly Latin feast. "La Cantina" slogan on 1450 kHz remained a mystery for a while, but eventually it turned out to be part of La Cariñosa programming from Colombia.

We don't really have much DX observations from the afternoon. All afternoon and evening was spent with the Xinhua news group that returned to the Aihkiniemi cabin. First we took them to the surrounding forest to see the antennas, then continued explaining about the hobby in the cabin. In the evening, we all went to Siuttajoki reindeer corral, where the annual reindeer round-up was just reaching its climax. This was to be Xinhua's second news report from Lapland.

Holding a reindeer
Trying to hold a reindeer still takes at least two men.

It had been snowing a lot, but fortunately Xinhua had a good 4WD to take us in the middle of the wilderness. It was a truly spectacular scene. Hundreds of reindeer were roaring and running around in large pens waiting for their turn, steaming and trumping snow.

The reindeer were driven in small herds into a round enclosure labeled as a "churn", where the reindeer face their destiny: chosen either to be slaughtered for meat, or eventually let back into the wilderness. Sami children — some as young as eight — learn to capture running reindeer by their antlers and trying to hold them down, with some help from others. The strongest reindeer require 2-3 men to hold them still. There is a veterinarian giving shots against parasites, and the reindeer are sorted by family who are part of the cooperative.

Reindeer

We returned to the cabin later in the evening to quickly review some of the automated afternoon recordings. It seemed that conditions favored China, but it didn't last very long before the Middle East and South Asia became part of the mix. ABC from Australia on 1152 kHz counts as a regular here in Aihkiniemi. From China, Cangzhou PBS, for instance, was identified on 1206 kHz. Later in the evening, Ethiopia was noticed signing off around 2100 UTC on at least 972 kHz.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Some Brazilian and Argentine stations emerged around midnight UTC and continued until dawn, but not as well as the previous night. Colombian, Venezuelan, and Peruvian stations were present from 0300 UTC, but from North America, only stations in Atlantic Canada were audible. So the conditions were otherwise very similar to Sunday morning, but signals were much weaker. Nevertheless, a few powerhouses were heard until around 0800 UTC, which is late for this time of the year.

Reindeer coming towards you
This may not be the safest place to be standing right now, but at least I got a good shot...

During the daylight hours, I checked some antennas and Jim went running. The weather was miserable, it was either raining or snowing all the time, and as temperatures hovered above freezing point, everything was wet and slippery.

Later in the afternoon, the Asian opening, which started around 1130 UTC, was focused further south than before. Initially most stations were from southern China and Thailand, but the first Indian stations joined already before 1300 UTC. The Xinhua crew visited the cabin one final time before heading south on Tuesday.

The solar weather has become increasingly unstable, so we were hoping to catch something from Africa, but only a couple of Ethiopian stations have so far been detected.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Nearly rock bottom conditions — not a single North American nor Far East station detected during the last 24 hours. In the early morning hours only Brazilian and Argentine stations were heard, best around 0400 UTC. After that, I was expecting a morning enhancement, but signals didn't become any stronger, and only diminishing interference from European stations made reception slightly more comfortable for a while, until all signals withered away after 0700 UTC.

Similar to the prior two days, Venezuelan, Colombian, and Peruvian stations were heard in the morning, although signal levels were weaker. Probably the best catch, however, was from closer to home: COPE Catalunya, Figueres, on 1269 kHz — now I have identified all COPE stations on the frequency despite constant interference by Deutschlandfunk. Daytime hours were equally bleak outside and on the air — rain throughout the day, and just static on the dial.

Reindeer in churn
In the heat of the action at the reindeer corral.

In the afternoon, the first Asian signals emerged around 1230 UTC. The only usable antenna direction was 100 degrees, meaning that Thailand was roughly the Eastern edge of the opening. Indian stations were stronger than at any point during the past 10 days, and we got local identifications of All India Radio on a few less common frequencies, such as 1296, 1458, 1530 and 1602 kHz.

Reading logs from DXers elsewhere in the Nordic countries didn't offer much consolation. It seemed that U.S. daytimers had been heard all around, and especially fellow listeners in Parkalompolo (Sweden) had made very impressive catches a couple of days earlier, when we logged just some common East Coast stations. The prevailing solar conditions seem to take a heavy toll this high up north and/or even minor differences in location can result in quite different catches.

What was lost in radio reception was made up with improved cuisine. Brazilian tenderloin steaks and Chilean red wine were a proper closure for the DXing day. Yummy!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Can the conditions become any worse? Obviously yes. In the early morning, a few common stations from Ethiopia were heard at 0300 UTC sign-on time (828, 972, 1044, and 1359 kHz). From Latin America, a few Brazilian and Argentine stations with poor signal levels were noted until they too disappeared soon after daybreak, before 0700 UTC. Thanks to our new invention, the 210-degree wire, I got one new Spanish station, RNE1 Catalunya from Lérida-Lleida on 612 kHz, so the morning session wasn't a complete waste. Daytime was totally silent on the AM band — a good opportunity to catch up on sleep.

HS, HAT, MTM and JMS
Lemmenjoki (left) meets Aihkiniemi (right) halfway in Inari. A pretty good meal and excellent company.

In the afternoon, Iranian stations began to emerge from the static after 1300 UTC, and aside from a couple of Indian stations, nothing was heard from further East. It was an easy decision to leave the AM band for a few hours and head to Inari for grocery shopping and to meet our friends and fellow DXers, Håkan Sundman and Hannu Tikkanen, who were spending the week in Lemmenjoki on the LEM332 DXpedition. Our three-course dinner at Kultahovi Hotel's Restaurant Aanaar of the included, for instance, lichen (yes, the same stuff that the reindeer eat!) as a complimentary starter.

In the evening, it sounded as if a blanket was thrown over the entire AM band, and signal levels overall were considerably lower than on previous days. Again, some Ethiopian stations were heard, and I even resorted to trying to identify the ubiquitous Koran-chanting stations that seem to have overtaken the AM dial. It paid off, and I came across one newsworthy station: Radio Oman, Buraimi, on 639 kHz is probably a station, which has not been reported in Europe before. It is a new transmitter site, part of the AM overhaul mentioned also in the WRTH. No transatlantic signals were heard even after 2300 UTC.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The end of October was rather depressing on the AM dial. Overnight some Brazilian and Argentine stations were heard, and there was a bit of a morning enhancement after 0500 UTC, so we did save files to check from this modest peak. However, all transatlantic signals vanished already around 0630 UTC. Spanish stations on the 210-degree antenna were weaker on this morning than on any previous one, so not much to listen to from that direction either.

Monster support pole
A new monster support pole lifted the 30-degree antenna much higher than before.

We went back to sleep and woke around midday. Of course there was nothing on the AM band, so we spent a few hours outside checking and improving the antenna installations. It was actually quite nice because the temperature was slightly below freezing (not getting soaked) and we even witnessed some sunshine, which has been a rarity during this expedition. When we returned to the cabin at 1350 UTC, mostly Iranian stations were heard on the eastern front. It is becoming difficult to find anything new from there, but finally we managed to coax an ID from Radio Bushehr, Dayyer, on 738 kHz. The same provincial station, from a different location, is much more common on 1305 kHz where it can be heard daily.

In the evening, we focused on hunting for sub-Saharan African stations. 1377 kHz sounded like Tanzania, and I'm hoping for the much weaker signal on 1323 kHz to originate from there as well. A station on 846 kHz seems to come from the south, but is playing only non-stop music.

The proton flux finally started showing signs of returning to lower levels, so we still had a chance to get something before the inevitable end of the DXpedition on Saturday morning. Or so we thought.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Conditions remained the same — if not worse — despite the proton flux returning to normal. A few regular African stations were heard in the evening and morning, below average conditions to Brazil and Argentina through the night and in the morning, until everything vanished at daybreak. Then the daytime was empty, until Iran and the rest of the Middle East rose in the afternoon, but nothing beyond India. And nothing from North America and the Far East for several days.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

We already started packing Friday evening since we had to leave around 9:00 a.m. in order to catch a midday flight from Ivalo. We didn't do much active listening on Saturday morning, but it was evident that not much of significance was available. ZYJ265 Rádio Cidade, Pato Branco PR on 1360 kHz was a very welcome catch and the only new station that I logged. Brazilian and Argentinian stations peaked in the morning around 0530 UTC, and we pulled the last plugs after 0600 UTC.

Jim at bridge
This is the safest way to cross the nearby stream during antenna inspection outings.

The return to civilization was swift and comfortable. And the hard drives survived intact. There would be a certain charm in driving through the country (which I've done numerous times), it would be a kind of a rite of passage — a transition from normalcy to a passionate expedition and back — but it takes a full day, so I think I just might get addicted to flying.

All in all conditions could have been better, but AIH29 was still a lot of fun! And in any case, I have close to 10TB of recordings. Listening to all of them will take years, so don't expect a comprehensive log anytime soon.

For more information about Aihkiniemi, check out this article. The cabin is already booked for much of this season. However, if you're interested in a DXpedition of a lifetime, there are still a few vacant weeks, especially from February 2014 onwards.

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Published on November 7, 2013 (small changes later)

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