The 85th DXpedition to Aihkiniemi
was the 10th time that I was fortunate to enjoy
this Arctic AM DXing paradise. I was hoping for
loads of Australian AM stations, and I did hear
a few nice ones from Down Under, but even better
catches were the many Philippine and Japanese stations
that I heard around 2000-2100 UTC.
The first DXpedition of the season
is an annual rite of passage; when getting ready
for Lapland you realize that the summer (and what
a fabulous summer this was, with exceptional heat
lasting from May to August!) is finally over. It's
time to focus on DXing instead of kayaking and other
outdoor fun in the sun.
I had already heard from Martti
Karimies and Lauri Niemi that our DX cabin in
had weathered the unoccupied summer months well,
but that there probably were quite a few trees that
had fallen on the antennas that they hadn't yet
checked, so I would get my share of repair work.
Thank you Jari and Ritva for offering a place
to stay over!
I left home before midday on
Friday, September 14, driving north on E75 in light
traffic. By the time I got to Jyväskylä
both me and my Auris needed a fill-up, so I exited
in Palokka. Despite occasional rain showers,
driving northwards went smoothly, and I arrived
at the half-way point in Kempele around half past
Jari (JPR) and Ritva kindly hosted
me overnight in their beautiful new home
just like a year earlier on my way to AIH72.
We had lots to talk, but after a 5-hour sleep I
still managed to wake up at 7, and headed for the
second leg of my journey north.
Following Jari's and Ritva's
advice I chose a road on the right bank of the Kemijoki
River, where the riverside road had no speed cameras
and very light traffic. I stopped briefly at the
Arctic Circle, which nowadays is basically a Santa-themed
I made a brief detour to walk
around the top of Kaunispää fell to take
in the sunny scenery, got my groceries in Ivalo
as well as my last hamburger in Inari, and arrived
in Aihkiniemi at 4:15 pm, after 1216 km of driving.
Surprisingly, I didn't see a single reindeer along
the way. Fall colors were very beautiful, peaking
around Rovaniemi and Sodankylä. Up in Aihkiniemi
most of the leaves are already gone. Weatherwise
the timing of my travel could not have been better,
as it started to rain late in the evening.
This time I was in Aihkiniemi
all by myself. I mostly used two Perseus receivers,
with a third one on hold for good openings.
The view from on top of Kaunispää
This early in the season
the local AM band is really quiet. During the daytime,
only 531 Faroe Islands, as well as 693 and 810 from
the UK can be heard. There is virtually no interference.
The only permanent issue is with a power line that
causes an elevated noise level on the 60-degree
wire, but that's a problem we haven't been able
to resolve. In any case, when propagation is decent
it doesn't make any difference.
The antenna setup remains the
same as last year, so I had 13 Beverage antennas
to choose from, all of them roughly 1,000 meters
or 3,000 ft long:
During this DXpedition there
was also a DXpedition in Lemmenjoki, 100 km from
here, but no information about LEM401 has been posted
Here's a daily look at propagation conditions, my
DXing results and other activities:
Saturday, September 15, 2018
Aihkiniemi cabin on the sunny arrival day
The first few hours were chaotic
as I was scrambling to get my rigs in working order
for the first Asian stations of the evening. I got
my Perseus receivers and laptops running, but connecting
everything just right took many hours. The Asian
front first opened before 1500 UTC, and after a
brief lull, stations returned forcefully before
1600 UTC. Unfortunately propagation lacked a meaningful
focus, with stations spread from all around, from
China to Iran. A few of the most common Australians
(729, 891 and 1152 AM) were heard quite well. ABC
was noted also on 594 AM, but I'm hoping for a bit
better reception at a later point. ABC Perth WA
on 720 AM was an old acquintance.
Sunday, September 16, 2018
Brazilian stations became
audible soon after 2120 UTC on Saturday evening,
but signal levels were quite weak. Reception remained
steady overnight, until stations began to fade out
before 0300 UTC. The lull was temporary though,
and eventually fair propagation continued until
past 0400 UTC with Peru, Grenada (1400 AM) and Guyana
(560 AM) marking the northern edge of stations heard.
Yours truly surrounded by all the radio gear
During the day I checked a couple
of antennas, sawing and hauling fallen trees out
of the way and making sure that the terminating
resistors were good for the new season. The weather
kept changing constantly. Apart from the 11 C temperature,
it was sort of like being in a rain forest; or as
Mark Twain is claimed to have said about New England
weather, if you don't like the weather, just wait
a few minutes showers coming and going.
In the afternoon, Taiwan
on 1557 AM was the first to present a hefty audio
at around 1415 UTC. Propagation favored higher latitudes
than yesterday, with Japanese and Korean stations
heard prominently around 1600 UTC. Later on I was
lucky to get a couple of new catches from Australia,
4QB/4QO ABC Wide Bay, with transmitters in Pialba
and Eidsvold QLD on 855 AM, and 2RN ABC Wollongong
NSW on 1431 AM. One quite interesting new catch
was Bangladesh Betar from Barishal on 1287 AM, which
has normally operated only during daytime hours.
I have no idea whether they have extended broadcast
hours permanently or just temporarily. Some common
South Australian stations were heard quite late,
for instance Cruise on 1323 AM around 2100 UTC.
Monday, September 17, 2018
A saw and a long stick, and a backpack full
of tools to fix antennas.
The first Brazilian stations
appeared around 2040 UTC on Sunday evening, but
overnight propagation to every direction seemed
to be poor. Around 0200 UTC there was a burst of
stations from the Rockies, but soon propagation
shifted back to Brazil and Argentina. Signal levels
were slightly better than yesterday, but off the
cuff I didn't nail any new ones. By 0430 UTC the
AM band was pretty empty (Europeans don't count),
except for a few Argentinian and Brazilian stations
in the very low end of the dial lingering all the
way up until 0500 UTC. One of the few identified
stations was ZYL231 Onda Viva, Araguari MG on 1490
kHz, which I have already QSLed.
During the day I once again spent
a couple of hours fixing the antennas. No ladies
in red here (or more precisely, unfortunately no
ladies at all), but plenty of men in red
including me. The moose hunting season is underway
and I didn't want to get shot, so I had better not
look like a brown moose. Also the bears are still
awake, so every once in a while I tried to make
some noise. Appropriately dressed, I checked a couple
of antennas, replacing a burned terminating resistor,
tightening the wire etc.
This time the northern lights were quite modest.
Taiwan on 1557 AM surfaced at
1400 UTC, but it took another hour to reach decent
signal levels also on other frequencies. No Japan
or the rest of East Asia, but instead South East
Asia today. Focus was in China, Vietnam and Thailand.
This was a better opening than on the previous two
evenings, but at first glance the haul was meager.
I did hear Vision Christian Radio from Kalgoorlie
WA on 1431 AM, but that particular one I had picked
up already a year ago.
Brazilian stations on Monday
evening were barely detectable and neither was there
anything meaningful to be found on the Asian sunrise
front. So I switched to another hobby. Skies were
clear, and there was some very modest aurora borealis,
but good enough to try to capture it for this DXpedition
Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Fall colors reflecting off Mukkajärvi
During the wee hours there were
weak signals from both North and South America,
but overall reception was quite crappy. The morning
opening was hampered by strong adjacent-channel
interference by European stations, and only around
sunrise time, 0340 UTC, DXing was not so painful
anymore but inevitably, signals deteriorated
quickly in daylight. A few of the most common Paraguayan
stations (like 780) were heard, but nothing personally
new on the fly. I noticed a bunch of Ontario and
other East Coast stations, but only the most common
This is what a burned terminating resistor looks
In the afternoon I once again
headed to the forest, this time checking and fixing
antennas pointing at 10 and 30 degrees. Neither
one is very useful right now, but come October,
they will hopefully be connected often.
Before sunset, China on
1098 AM was the first to produce audio around 1410
UTC, but there wasn't anything interesting on the
dial even at 1500 UTC, so it was a very slow start.
Gradually Japanese stations rose to impressive levels,
but it was useless because hardly any of them had
local programming anymore. Queensland's two most
common ABC stations (630 and 1548 AM) were quite
strong, so I expect a closer inspection to reveal
something interesting from there. The two ABC stations
in Newcastle NSW (1233 and 1512 AM) were pleasant
surprises, both new ones for me. Later in the evening,
Philippine stations were exceptionally strong, and
I heard for instance DZNS Vigan on 963 AM, a new
catch for me, and DXOC Ozamiz City on 1494 AM, previously
unheard in Europe. Some of the powerhouses were
booming like a local station. Here you can listen
to an example, DZBB
on 594 AM.
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Stations from the Great Lakes
became quite strong around 0200 UTC, all but vanishing
by 0300 UTC. The best identified station was perhaps
WJIL 1550 AM, but I didn't find anything new. This
was however compensated by a good albeit short opening
to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay. This time it should
be possible for me to identify some personally new
stations from the region, even though most signals
evaporated by 0400 UTC.
Daytime was spent sleeping and
PR. I cooked king crab for our neighbors who had
never tasted it before.
Sometimes you can run into reindeer antlers
in the forest.
CNR on 1098 AM broke through
the noise at 1400 UTC, but again only at around
1500 UTC were the Asian frequencies bubbling with
life, mostly from Japan. The signals were weak,
but at least initially there were stations from
all over Asia. Very soon conditions melted and Middle
East stations dominated the dial. An uninteresting
evening was better spent reviewing recordings from
previous days. I managed to identify two very neat
Pinoy stations, DYOW Roxas City on 900 AM and DXKS
Surigao City on 1080 AM.
Thursday, September 20, 2018
Initially the night didn't sound
promising, but at around 0200-0330 UTC propagation
to the Great Lakes area, as well as all the way
down to Mexico, was decent, and for the first time
during this week, the opening continued a bit past
daybreak. Stations identified included 610 CKTB,
1070 CHOK, 1140 XEMR, 1190 XECT, 1450 KBMW &
KATE and 1520 KOLM.
So far the only new one for me
was WPKX Rochester NH on 930 AM. Tim Moore, Sr.
Vice President-Programming at WPKX responded quickly
to my reception report: "Thanks for sending!
Yes, that is WPKX (and that was my voice you heard
at the top of the hour). We get these occasionally,
but the reception that you captured was about the
best I've heard. Thanks for sharing!". The
chief engineer also replied, in a very succint way:
"Thanks". It does the job, but... I guess
we're all overwhelmed by emails.
During the day I thought I'd
have a pleasant walk in the forest checking the
160-degree wire. Unfortunately it turned out to
mean hours of work, as the antenna was broken 200
meters from the start, probably because of a fallen
tree. Some outsider had collected the loose ends
of the wire and tied them to trees. It was nearly
broken at another point as well, needing a fix,
and it broke once more when I was trying to tighten
the antenna so I ended up soldering it at
four points. All this in light rain. Sweating inside
my clothes and dripping wet on the outside I thought
that this hobby is absolutely, unequivocally, nuts.
The things we go through to catch some barely audible
stations. Why, oh why...
Bilberries (wild blueberries) were abundant
My reward arrived in the
evening. Japan on 1440 AM was the first to rise
to an audible level at 1315 UTC, and NRK from Svalbard
on 1485 AM was also strong, both indicating that
northerly propagation paths were finally open. However,
hours of disappointing conditions ensued as the
Middle East dominated the dial. Luckily very late
in the evening, when Japanese stations popped up
again, I was able to identify several rare transmitters.
Friday, September 21, 2018
Overnight, North American stations
appeared on the dial slowly, peaking around 0130-0330
UTC, and deteorirating rapidly after sunrise in
Lapland. Once again the band was ruled by stations
from the Great Lakes area, but in the early morning
hours the focus shifted slightly westwards. No Latin
American stations to speak of. Weak audio from the
strongest stations in the Rockies lingered on until
0700 UTC, a respectable three hours past sunrise
here, but DX-wise there wasn't anything to discover
after about 0430 UTC and even then I didn't
hear any personal new ones.
Aihkiniemi even has its own brand of beer ;)
Well, not really, but this is not a bad name
choice from the nearest brewery, Lapin
In the afternoon I continued
work with the 160-degree raising it up and finding
a missing piece of the antenna. After that was done,
the antenna arsenal in Aihkiniemi should be in top-notch
condition for this AM season.
The first Asian stations
emerged from the static already around 1300 UTC,
the earliest this week, and in typical fashion,
this first wave was gone by 1330 UTC. There was
no point hitting rec before about 1430 UTC, when
Chinese signals, especially in the lower half of
the AM dial, improved.
Saturday, September 23, 2018
Mysterious-looking foggy forests near Aihkiniemi
A minor (solar) storm began,
pretty much destroying trans-Atlantic reception.
North American stations were heard briefly twice
overnight, and some Brazil & Argentina before
sunrise. As an indication of magnetic disturbance,
Radio Botswana was noted on 693 and 972 AM.
As the stations vanished
by sunrise, I had plenty of time to pack, and I
began driving south at around 1 pm. This time there
were reindeer on the road in multiple locations,
and it was rainy much of the time, so I'm glad I
had ample time.
Once a week Aihkiniemi is visited by a mobile
library, a bus full of books.
I stopped for lunch in Ivalo
and immediately ran into Terho who drives the mobile
library that visited our neighbor just yesterday.
Inari is indeed a small place but only population
wise, and definitely not geographically.
After a week of sleep deprivation,
driving all the way to Helsinki would have been
too much. Instead, my regular solution is to ride
the overnight train from Rovaniemi. They take cars
as well. So, in the evening I was the first in line
in Rovaniemi waiting to drive on the train, which
guaranteed the fastest possible exit in Helsinki
on Sunday morning.
Once again a truly enjoyable
break with just problem; I was supposed to spend
a lot of time writing my next book, which didn't
go quite as planned. There were too many temptations
on the dial, as well as work to do in the forest.
Well, next time. And that next time is coming soon,
already in mid-October! (Later addition: And here
it is, the AIH88 DXpedition
on October 1, 2018