My third Lapland DXpedition of the season was saved
by a couple of nice openings to Australia. Neat
catches were made also from Southeast Asian countries,
especially Thailand. However, the Western Hemisphere
was a major disappointment, as hardly anything of
interest was heard from the Americas.
The ongoing DX season became
quite exceptional personally, because this was already
the third time that I visited Lapland since last
winter. On this occasion I didn't burn any vacation
time, but I was actually on an unpaid book leave.
When Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un ended their failed
summit in Vietnam, I made the last adjustments to
the manuscript of my book Kimlandia.
My six-month book project was finally over, and
I needed a relaxing break.
What could be a better way to
unwind than going on a DXpedition to Lapland? As
soon as I had emailed the finishing touches to my
traveled with Jim
Solatie up to Aihkiniemi,
where we were together just three months earlier
on DXpedition AIH88.
This solar minimum is precious time for AM DXers,
and in the meantime in December and January Jim
had spent three more weeks DXing in Lapland!
Mika, Hannu, Håkan and Jim at the Rovaniemi
As has become customary, we took
the overnight train from Helsinki to Rovaniemi,
leaving on Friday, March 1. Two even more experienced
DXers, Hannu Tikkanen and Håkan Sundman happened
to be on the same train, on their way to the Lemmenjoki
DX cabin. Altogether the four of us have spent about
180 years in this hobby, collecting about 20 000
verifications from AM and shortwave stations
so plenty of DX talk in the restaurant on board!
We arrived in Rovaniemi on the
Arctic Circle on Saturday morning half an hour behind
schedule, but knowing that a solar storm had taken
place a couple of days earlier, we were in no hurry
to drive north in Jim's Honda CR-V. We knew that
there wouldn't be anything interesting to listen
to in the afternoon.
Sometimes the sky seems
to be on fire.
We stopped along the way to absorb
fabulous winter sceneries on top of Kaunispää
fell (see the banner at the top of this article)
in the Saariselkä ski resort, and a bit later
we met Martti Karimies
and Jorma Mäntylä, the outgoing DXers
who just completed their mediocre DX week in Aihkiniemi.
We shopped for groceries in Ivalo, and finally arrived
in Aihkiniemi around 4 p.m. local time.
the last stretch from Ivalo to Aihkiniemi in clear
and crisp weather. The roads were only partially
icy. Along the way the temperature was around -20
degrees C, but in the evening it dropped down to
-30. This would be typical of the week. We
never measured temperatures higher than -5 C, but
had a couple of -30 degree nights.
Checking the antennas proved
to be overly difficult and very sweaty as there
was about 70 cm of snow. Walking using snow shoes
was difficult, but walking without them was even
more difficult, and so was skiing. Whatever method
we tried, our feet sank all the way to the ground.
Solar weather was somewhat unstable,
which resulted in poor propagation over higher latitudes.
This was my first DXpedition ever in Lapland when
I didn't immediately find a single new station from
the Western Hemisphere. I expect this to change
eventually, however, when I get to review my recordings
better. In any case, poor propagation to the west
was compensated by quite a catch of Australian AM
stations. Also Thailand and the rest of Southeast
Asia offered a few neat surprises.
Mocca, Jim's Labrador,
at the cabin
This DXpedition was exceptional
to me, because never before in my adult life have
I spent so much time with a dog, let alone in such
a confined space. I'm allergic to dogs, but antihistamine
kept symptoms at bay. Jim's dog Mocca, a black Labrador,
behaves very well, but dogs are dogs. Even though
we consider ourselves fast eaters, Mocca finishes
her meals in 20 seconds. Whenever we eat, she also
immediately starts salivating and begging for more.
As Jim said, the rug on the floor comes really handy,
because it absorbs all the drool...
Just as before, we relied on
Perseus type SDRs. Jim used also Perseus software,
while I favored Jaguar. Our antenna selection was
the same as on previous DXpeditions, 13 Beverage
antennas, each 3,000 ft/1 km in length, although
as one coax was broken, we had to alternate between
the 255 and 291 degree antennas. These are the antenna
directions in Aihkiniemi:
Here's a daily summary of our observations on the
Saturday, March 2, 2019
Propagation conditions were quite
poor. A handful of common East Asian stations were
noted during late afternoon and in the evening hours,
but mostly the AM band was dominated by stations
from the Middle East. In the evening northern lights
streched across the northern sky in multiple layers.
Aihkiniemi DX cabin at dusk
Sunday, March 3, 2019
Stations from the southern half
of South America were heard intermittently overnight,
though mostly just for short bursts, which occurred
before 2200 UTC, as well as after 0200 and 0300
UTC. North American stations began showing up at
around 0300 UTC. Reception was best around 0500
UTC, and propagation favored the Midwest and the
Identified stations included
KLMR Lamar CO (920 AM), KRDO Colorado Springs CO
(1240 AM), KIUL Garden City KS (1240 AM), KWBE Beatrice
NE (1450 AM) and KLNG Council Bluffs IA (1560 AM),
but nothing new for me. Overall, propagation was
quite crappy, and even the above stations were merely
lucky catches. During the daytime only a few weak
North American stations were heard with faint signals,
apart from a bunch of Alaskan stations, which had
decent signals in the afternoon.
A video (clicking the photo opens a Youtube
page) to show how slow it is to try to walk
with snowshoes in deep snow.
In the afternoon Asian stations
became audible at around 1315 UTC, and top-of-the-hour
1400 UTC brought loads of signals from China, for
instance Nanjing was logged on 900 and 1008 AM.
When NHK2 stations signed off at 1530 UTC, stations
in Aomori (1467 and 1521 AM) were dominating their
There was nothing new on the
AM dial for me, however, and my first reported station
was a shortwave station, Radio OZ-Viola from Denmark
on 5825 kHz. Pretty soon stations from the Indian
subcontinent were heard quite well, and as stations
are audible from Japan to Iran, finding new ones
on the AM dial is a futile attempt.
In the evening we heard our first
Aussie stations on this DXpedition. For instance
the two main ABC stations in South Australia (729
and 891 AM) were quite strong at times. Other Australian
stations were noted on 558, 1152, 1161 and 1323
AM, but nothing new for us. Later at around 2000-2100
UTC there was a decent opening towards the Philippines,
with over 20 stations noted. I was left empty-handed,
but Jim caught a couple of personal new ones (DZVR
711 and DYHB 747 AM).
Capturing the northern
lights on camera is a freezing job in -30 degrees.
Monday, March 4, 2019
Overnight was a disappointment.
I deleted all recordings of North American stations
- because hardly any were audible
but there might be something worth listening to
from Argentina and Brazil once we get to comb them
all in detail. Stations like Rádio Sertão
Central (1570 AM) were heard at 2300 UTC, when the
national program A Voz do Brasil ended. Most South
American signals vanished around 0400 UTC, but Rádio
Tupi (1280 AM) was heard even around 0530 UTC.
North American stations were
heard fleetingly at around 0400-0500 UTC and again
at 0700-0800 UTC. Nothing of interest logged. KORT
(1230 AM) was my only graveyard ID. KDYL from Utah
was heard on 1059.9015 kHz, quite far from its nominal
Daytime was quiet on the AM band,
until Asian stations rose from the static a bit
later than yesterday. By 1500 UTC the band was full
of strong signals. Initially stations from Taiwan
and the southern half of Mainland China were very
strong, and I got even one new catch, Fujian PBS
(Xinwen Zonghe Guangbo) on 1395 AM. Later in the
evening we enjoyed a nice opening to Western Australia,
netting a few private stations that were new ones
for us. A couple of dozen Philippine stations were
again heard around 2100 UTC, but nothing new, and
a poorer selection than the day before.
I've seen a lot of
northern lights, but this shape was very unusual.
The evening continued interesting,
as for the first time on this DXpedition, East Coast
stations began to be heard even before local sunset.
Most of them were of course just common pests, but
still it was a pleasure to hear stations from that
direction before going to sleep. One of the few
even moderately interesting catches was WSKW (1160
AM), but of course nothing new. The opening ended
sharply just before 2300 UTC.
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Later during the night some North
American activity was detected at around 0100-0200
UTC, and again at 0300-0500 UTC, but all were common
stations. Propagation favored the Great Lakes and
the Midwest. KFOR (1240 AM) and KLIN (1400 AM) were
among the stations identified, but still nothing
new from North America. At sunrise, a bit past 0500
UTC, some Peruvian stations were logged, and I switched
our coax feed from 255 to 290 degrees, just to hear
propagation slumping immediately after that.
Could this station be from Yap? Mika with Jaguar
software running on the laptops.
During the day North American
signals continued very weak. KYKN (1430 AM) from
Oregon was perhaps the best station identified.
The first peak from the Eastern
Hemisphere occurred at 1220 UTC, when Newstalk ZB
was briefly heard on 1035 AM. After 1330 UTC Asian
signals were booming, led by Chinese and Japanese
stations, but at least initially nothing much of
interest was heard. In the evening propagation seemed
to favor higher latitudes than on the previous day,
so there was a lot of northern China, for instance
and no South
or Western Australia. And no new stations for us.
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
North American stations were
first heard at around 0200 UTC, and after taking
a dip, the signals resurfaced around 0300 UTC. Fortunately
stations remained audible at least a little bit
past sunrise (0510 UTC), although at 0630 UTC the
AM band virtually shut down. Identified stations
included KYYW 1470 AM and WOSH 1490 AM, but again
nothing new for us. At daybreak there were a few
stations from Colombia.
Jim needed energy to compensate for the long
skiing trips, but would this be considered doping?
Daytime was empty on the dial,
so Jim went skiing with Mocca and I went snowshoeing.
It was a nice sunny day, and the temperature rose
above -10 degrees.
In the afternoon a handful of
the strongest North American stations were barely
audible, mostly around 1200 UTC. I screwed up the
Asia opening by monitoring a wrong antenna when
Southeast Asian stations emerged around 1300 UTC.
Especially Chinese, Vietnamese and Thai stations
were strong, but many of them retreated back to
noise by 1400 UTC.
Later in the afternoon we had
a good opening to Australia, and especially the
X-band stations were strong. This was followed by
Chinese stations. Nanjing seemed to dominate every
frequency where it operates, one of them (801 AM
with Sports Service) being a personally new catch.
The evening was unremarkable with hardly anything
Thursday, March 7, 2019
During the night signal levels
from North America improved gradually and continued
strong past daybreak, when listening became more
enjoyable as we got rid of European adjacent-channel
interference. For the first time on this DXpedition
the AM band sounded like it should sound during
solar minimum: US stations at 10-kHz intervals from
top to bottom of the AM band. Unfortunately propagation
seemed to favor a very familiar region from Ontario
to Wisconsin, so we didn't find any new ones. The
focus shifted gradually westwards and signal levels
began to drop from the 0630 UTC peak.
Our cabin is the light
at right. Faint traces of aurora can be seen
often, even if there are no full-blown northern
West Coast stations tapered off
after 1200 UTC, when the Eastern Hemisphere was
already in full swing, so no daytime lull today.
Identified stations from the west included KVNU
610, CFCO 630, KSEI 930, WNWI 1080, KBAR 1230, KBIZ
1240, WGPL 1350, KATE 1450, WAUB 1590
all fairly common, so no new ones for us.
V7AB (1098 AM) became audible
at 1020 UTC, and continued until its 1130 UTC sign-off.
Unfortunately that was the extent of the Pacific
opening. A bunch of Alaskan and Hawaiian stations
were heard, but not enough to hunt for new ones.
The first Japanese stations emerged
after 1100 UTC. From Australia, 2MM on 1656 AM,
a rather frequent station, was unusually strong
around 1330 UTC, prompting hopes for Indonesian
stations along the same route
and eventually we netted a couple of stations, the
strongest of which was RRI Semarang on 801 AM. Pretty
soon conditions moved forward to the Indian subcontinent,
and it became useless to try to find anything new
Friday, March 8, 2019
Overnight North American signals
improved steadily after 0300 UTC, and reception
was quite nice after sunrise (at 0500 UTC). Fortunately,
even East Coast stations were heard, and not just
Midwest. Identified stations included WSBT 960,
XEEP 1060, XEPRS 1090, KZZJ 1450 and KGBT 1530,
which of course are not rarities, and we didn't
log any personal new ones. Propagation collapsed
at 0845 UTC, leaving just a bunch of common West
Coast and Alaskan stations on the AM band.
Wind shaping the surface
of the snow
Daytime was pretty empty on the
dial. Some of the most common stations from the
Rockies were detected with weak signals. V7AB (1098
AM) was heard after 1100 UTC, at which time also
the first few signals from the Far East were briefly
heard. This first wave died quickly, and the second
wave of Asian signals arrived around 1300 UTC, after
which signals improved steadily. Some Philippine
and South Chinese stations were in the mix, but
Japanese stations were totally absent, so the path
of reception was much more southerly than on the
previous day. Alaskan stations and a couple of Hawaiians
were relatively strong after 1300 UTC.
Unfortunately the opening towards
Asia turned out to be very general in nature, yielding
signals from East Asia to Iran. Thai stations were
exceptionally prominent, but no new catches were
made at least immediately. The evening was unremarkable,
without much trace of Australian stations.
In the evening, the first Transatlantic
stations appeared very early, with CBG (1400 AM)
heard at 2115 UTC, and some other Atlantic Canadian
stations a bit later. At 2220 UTC CBG was replaced
by Harbour Light, so expectations were high for
a better than before opening towards the East Coast
of North America.
Saturday, March 9, 2019
North American stations
had stable signals until four hours past our sunrise
(0500 UTC). At sunrise time East Coast stations
were prominent, with a few Colombian, Cuban and
Puerto Rican stations in the mix, but later on the
selection of stations was very familiar: Great Lakes
and the Midwest, eventually shifting westwards to
Idaho and Washington. Here are some examples of
identified stations: KSEI 930, KBOB 1170, KCCR 1240,
KBRF 1250, KVXR 1280, KPRK 1340, KWTL 1370, KXGF
1400 and KIVA 1600. Once again nothing new for us.
The first Japanese stations
emerged around 1300 UTC. The first hour was mildly
interesting, with strong Chinese stations around
1400 UTC, but afterwards Indian and Iranian stations
dominated the AM dial, and finding any new stations
became next to impossible.
In the evening, hardly
anything was heard from Asia, as the AM band was
dominated by European and Middle Eastern stations.
Sunday, March 10, 2019
Overnight was very poor.
There were some Brazilian stations from 2200 to
2330 UTC on Saturday evening, and using the 270-degree
wire (as we were without the 255-degree-antenna),
a bunch of lower band Brazilians were briefly audible
around 0400-0500 UTC, after which all stations were
All of these infamous Boeing 737 Max 8 planes
were grounded because of safety concerns soon
after my flight back south.
North America was even
more miserable. The first weak signals were detected
around 0100 UTC, and later on, only at 0300-0500
UTC was anything audible. A few weak station identifications
were caught from around Minnesota, but nothing worth
Then it was time for me
to pack and head south. Jim took me to Ivalo airport
to exchange me for prettier company Jim's
wife Pia was arriving on the same plane which I
would take south. This happened to be Norwegian's
Boeing 737 Max 8, the same type that had just crashed
in Ethiopia. Fortunately the blanket grounding of
this model was ordered two days later, otherwise
I might have got stuck in Ivalo for a while.
We left some automated recordings
to run for three days while Jim and Pia were skiing
in Saariselkä, and then Jim continued the DXpedition
for a few more days.
on March 17, 2019