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AIH85 headline

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 Aihkiniemi 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.

Jari and Ritva
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 at ABC in Palokka. Despite occasional rain showers, driving northwards went smoothly, and I arrived at the half-way point in Kempele around half past six.

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 shopping mall.

Sodankylä EISCAT
The Sodankylä radar receiving site in Lapland is partly visible to highway E75.

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.

Saariselkä fells
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:

Aihkiniemi antenna directions

During this DXpedition there was also a DXpedition in Lemmenjoki, 100 km from here, but no information about LEM401 has been posted online.

Here's a daily look at propagation conditions, my DXing results and other activities:

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Aihkiniemi cabin
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.

Mika listening in Aihkiniemi
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

Mika fixing antennas
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.

Northern lights
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 report.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Fall colors
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 ones.

A burned terminating resistor
This is what a burned terminating resistor looks like.

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

Ivalo River
Ivalo River

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.

Moose poop
Moose poop

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 around Aihkiniemi.

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.

Aihki beer
Aihkiniemi even has its own brand of beer ;) Well, not really, but this is not a bad name choice from the nearest brewery, Lapin panimo.

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

Foggy forest
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.

Mobile library visiting Aihkiniemi
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 report).

Published on October 1, 2018

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Mika's DXpeditions:
  AIH133 (log)
  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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