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The Ultimate AM DXing Base
in Lapland
Available for Rent

Aihkiniemi cabin in September 2013
The Aihkiniemi cabin was fitted with a new roof in September 2013.

Imagine spending a week in the middle of nowhere with 13 Beverage antennas — each roughly a kilometer in length and capable of hearing hundreds of rare stations. It's possible because we're making our famous AM DXpedition base in Aihkiniemi, Finland available for rent to other DXers.

Aihkiniemi became the first ever purpose-built AM DXpedition base in Scandinavia in 2010. Most of the construction work was done in the summer of 2010, and antennas have been improved continuously since then.

We want you to succeed and we'll do everything to make your DXpedition as comfortable and successful as possible. Visiting Aihkiniemi is as easy and as memorable as a DXpedition can be because we've already made the investments and done the hard work for you. Forget the drudgery of spending days setting up the antennas and get right into the business of unforgettable AM DXing!

Map: location of Aihkiniemi

Antennas and Equipment

Below are the directions of each antenna and their intended target areas (updated in October 2013):

Beverage Antennas in Aihkiniemi
247° Spain, U.K., Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay
270° Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Eastern Caribbean
291° East Coast of North America, Cuba, Puerto Rico, Central America
304° Americas: Great Lakes, Midwest, Mexico
321° Americas: Prairie states, Rocky Mountains, Western Mexico
348° North America: Upper West Coast, British Columbia, Alaskan Panhandle
Alaska, Hawaii, the Pacific
29° The Pacific, New Zealand
46° Japan (Hokkaido), New Zealand
60° Siberia, Japan, Koreas, Northern and Eastern China, the rest of Eastern Asia, Eastern Australia
8 Western and Southern China, South-East Asia, Thailand, Central Australia
100° India, Pakistan, Thailand, South Asia, Western Australia, the Middle East
160° Iran, the Middle East, Eastern and Southern Africa

As you can imagine, Beverage antennas of this length are very directional on the AM band, so during good conditions you have to choose what you want to focus on. The same antennas can also be used for shortwave listening. Below is our aerial setup on a Great Circle Map (click for larger version, note: 110 degrees now replaced with 100 degrees).

The antennas from 247° to 46° are spread out on the northwestern side of the main road on a flat but otherwise challenging terrain with forest, dense brush vegetation, small lakes and swamps. The rest of the antennas are located on the southeastern side of the road in a bit hillier terrain where the forest is much easier to walk in.

Antenna at lakeshore
The antennas are hung a few meters off the ground.

The antennas hang 3-5 meters above the ground to prevent reindeer and moose from getting stuck in the wires. You should inspect all of the antennas at least once during your DXpedition week to make sure that the wires are sufficiently off the ground and place additional sticks to lift low-lying wires, where necessary. Having a reindeer hanging in a low-lying wire would be a nightmare scenario, in terms of our community relations, which we need to avoid at all costs. We have a rowboat to take you over the tiny lake, or in the winter you can get to the other side using a bridge a few hundred meters away downstream. Don't try to walk across the ice, because it remains treacherous even in mid-winter.

Once you've made a reservation, we'll email you a detailed map of the antennas and cabin surroundings. You'll also get more detailed information on the type of connectors used and answers to any housekeeping questions you may have.

All antennas are grounded and fed into an impedance transformer, from which an RG-58 coax cable leads into the cabin. Toroid-based RF chokes have been installed in most antennas. Inside the cabin, you'll need to handle the coax connectors very gently. Rough handling and unnecessary plugging/unplugging of the cables can cause a major headache to the following crew.

Jim peeling copper to for grounding
Jim Solatie peeling copper for grounding.

Please note that this is wilderness and things happen. Although we work on it year-round, we can't guarantee that all of the antennas will be in working condition when you arrive. Bears, moose, reindeer and rabbits have all wreaked havoc with our antennas at some point (mostly cutting or damaging the coax cables on the ground). If you encounter problems, please let us know so that we can fix it as soon as one of us has an opportunity to travel north. Even if a couple of the antennas are out of service — and you can't find a way to fix them — there's still an abundant array of wires that will keep you busy DXing.

The cabin is equipped with an excellent ground wire that should be used to ground also the antenna switcher. There's also a grounding panel where all unused antennas can be attached to reduce interference.

To minimize electrical interference, there are currently three laboratory-grade power supplies for your laptop computers, and starting from fall 2013, the cabin has been equipped permanently with four laptop computers. Therefore, you don't necessarily have to bring your own computer, but it may still be a good idea, if you want to use your favorite SDR software which you have already installed. If you do bring a laptop, note that you also need a wire connecting the power supply to your laptop, as laptops have a variety of different power plugs.

You will also find a MiniVNA which you can use to analyze antenna performance. Additionally, we have splitters to give both listeners access to the full array of antennas, but you should bring your own preamp if you wish to use one. Preamps are recommended, because there are few strong AM stations in northern Europe, and you can usually boost the signal without overloading a decent communications receiver.

What can you expect to hear?

If you've never experienced a DXpedition in Lapland before, the AM band may initially sound confusing. It's very different from Central Europe, for instance. You're likely to enjoy a very undisturbed band and be impressed with the multitude of far-away stations both in the morning and afternoon. On the other hand, a location in the Far North means that the AM band can become almost dead silent during a solar storm. In any case, you're in for a lot of surprises, and conditions are likely to change from day to day. A week should provide enough time to overcome a solar storm and still enjoy some decent conditions at some point of the week, which is why we wouldn't recommend going through the trouble of traveling up there for only a weekend or so.

Inside the cabin
The DXing room has enough space for two DXers at a time.

The main target areas in this Arctic location are the Americas, Pacific, Far East and Southeast Asia, but of course hundreds of AM stations from Europe and the Middle East are also audible. The following is a review of what you can expect to hear during a typical 24-hour cycle under average conditions.

Saturday midday (1000 UTC) is the time to change crews unless another time was arranged. Setting up your gear will take some time, but during the first day you'll still have time to get a taste of the Eastern Hemisphere.

From November to February, the first stations from the Far East can appear as early as 0900-1000 UTC, and Asian stations can be enjoyed until around 1400-1700 UTC, when stations from the Middle East and Europe gradually take over the AM band. Be alert for local breaks, such as NHK2 station identifications at 1319 UTC and at closing time. Indian stations can be best identified around sign-off time at 1740 UTC or after 0023 UTC sign-on.

Sub-Saharan AM stations are notoriously difficult catches because Central European stations tend to dominate the same frequencies. Our extensive antenna farm is not very helpful because European stations are in the same direction, so don't count on getting many African stations, except in the case of solar storms. Your best shot to catch sub-Saharan African stations is to watch for Ethiopian stations signing off after 2100 UTC, Nigerian stations and others signing off around 2200-2300 UTC, and stations from Sudan and Ethiopia signing on around 0300 UTC.

Jim listening
Jim is hunting for new AM stations.

The first signals from the Americas appear around 2000-2200 UTC. They're usually from Newfoundland, Venezuela or northeastern Brazil, depending on the direction of the conditions. Gradually targets from further west appear on the dial. Overnight conditions vary a lot, but the peak listening time to the Western Hemisphere falls after sunrise Finnish time, around 0600-1000 UTC. If conditions are good, stations can be heard at almost every 10 kHz throughout the AM band. A true feast! Even during poor conditions there's usually a short peak in conditions at daybreak.

In midwinter, the sun remains below the horizon, but DXing conditions are similar. During good conditions, North American stations from the West Coast can be heard until 1500-1600 UTC, and Alaskan stations even later. The strong signals from Alaska will give you chills.

Daylight hours are the best time to hunt for stations in the Pacific, which tend to be overcome by Asian stations later in the afternoon. The Southern Pacific is on the opposite side of the world, so it is a rare treat.

During less than ideal conditions, the AM band can be completely silent for hours during daylight hours. Take it as a good opportunity to get some exercise, check the antennas and enjoy the Arctic nature. During very severe solar storms, trans-Atlantic signals can become inaudible for days.

If you're interested in European stations, the morning hours around 0600-0800 UTC are best for Spain and the U.K., which have loads of local stations. They can also be heard in the evening hours.

So when do you sleep if interesting stations are heard 24/7? We usually sleep around 1700-2000 UTC and again around 0200-0500 UTC. If you trust your instincts in antenna selection, you can of course sleep through the night and have your SDR record overnight. The most interesting DX sessions are after sunrise and around sunset, which need to be monitored carefully.

Bedroom
The bedroom sleeps two comfortably, but there are also two spare beds, so temporarily even four people can stay overnight.

How many new AM stations are you going to catch during one week in Aihkiniemi? It is difficult to predict, as it all depends on your experience, persistence, equipment, the solar weather, and pure luck. We'd say that if you haven't visited a Scandinavian DXpedition base before, if you are equipped with an SDR receiver capable of recording the entire AM band, and your week happens to be average in terms of reception conditions, you can expect to record hundreds of new stations. Even though we've been on dozens of DXpeditions in Lapland, we'd still expect an average week in Aihkiniemi to yield more than 100 AM stations that we have never heard before. For examples of what can be heard in Aihkiniemi, check out reports of recent DXpeditions in Aihkiniemi: AIH3, AIH7, AIH10, AIH17, AIH18 and AIH29.

Accommodation and Amenities

Kitchenette
Kitchenette

The 30-square-meter cabin in Aihkiniemi has two rooms: one for sleeping and the other is for cooking and DXing. There are two beds, so the cabin can comfortably accommodate two DXers at a time. In addition, there are two spare beds, but using them leaves hardly any floorspace, so housing more than two is not recommended.

Between the two rooms is an indoor composting toilet, which works great and is odorless. It needs less maintenance if you pee in the forest outside and only use the toilet for number two. You will find English-language instructions for use.

Two doors separate the bedroom and DXing room, so any DXing/cooking activities will not disturb the sleepier one too much, although earplugs are still a good idea.

The kitchenette includes an electrical hot plate with an oven, some closet space, microwave oven, coffee maker, water heater, fridge with a freezer compartment, and basic cooking and kitchen utensils. You can use the outdoors as a spare freezer, if you need one. Rest assured, the bears are asleep in the winter.

The cabin has electrical heating and is warm even when it's extremely cold outside. Heating is very expensive, however, in case you wondered what you are paying for, in addition to the antennas.

Composting toilet
Composting toilet

There's no running water in Aihkiniemi. Therefore, you'll have to bring drinking water with you and drive 5.6 kilometers south to Matkapaikka Jounila, which offers cabins and lodge-type accommodation. For a very modest off-season fee of 5 euros/person/day you can take a shower, wash your dishes, get more drinking water, and watch TV. Another alternative is to drive 15 kilometers up the road towards the Norwegian border for a shower. We've negotiated with Reino Fofonoff, the owner of Nitsijärvi Cabins, for the use of his hot showers for a modest fee. Reino can also provide you with more drinking water and the use of the sauna in the fall. Nitsijärvi Cabins has an English-language website with detailed instructions on how to get there.

The Aihkiniemi cabin has a smoke detector and a fire extinguisher.

There's very little closet space for your stuff, so you'll have to pile most of it on the floor and tables, or just keep it in your luggage.

You may find it surprising, but there's cell phone coverage even in the middle of nowhere, so the cell phone network is the way to have Internet connection in the cabin. Carry your cell phone when checking the antennas or walking in the forest in case you get lost or hurt yourself. Be sure to check that your cell phone operator has roaming agreements with the major Finnish operators or get a prepaid SIM card on arrival in Finland.

The key to the cabin can be found outside behind a number lock. You will get details after reservation.

Directions

Road to Aihkiniemi
Road number 971 near Aihkiniemi

We recommend that you fly first to Helsinki and then to Ivalo. From there, you can rent a car and drive to Aihkiniemi in two hours. Alternatively, if you don't mind the extra driving, you can fly to Kittilä (a ski resort in northwestern Lapland), Rovaniemi (on the Arctic Circle) or Oulu (an IT industry boomtown further south) and drive from there. Flying to any of these destinations has just become cheaper thanks to increased competition. In addition to Finnair, you can fly with Norwegian, which often has better deals.

If you have more stuff than you can take on an airplane, and you have more time, you can take an overnight train from Helsinki to either Rovaniemi or Kolari (the northernmost railroad station), and rent a car for the rest of the journey. You can check the schedules and purchase the tickets from the national railroad operator VR online.

Map of the location of Aihkiniemi

The Ivalo airport is located 8 kilometers south from Ivalo downtown. Ivalo is the best place to shop for groceries, for winter clothing if you need it, and the last point where you can find a liquor store (Alko).

Intersection
At this intersection you leave the main road (4/E75), and turn right on road 971. Still 43.5 kilometers to Aihkiniemi.

From Ivalo, drive north along highway 4 (also known as E75), through Inari until almost Kaamanen. After 63 kilometers, you'll come to an intersection pointing to Kirkkoniemi, Näätämö and Sevettijärvi. Turn right on the road named as "Sevettijärventie" (number 971). From this point on there are no services, so be sure you have all the food and gas that you need. The road becomes narrower, and you'll need to be very careful with oncoming traffic.

In case you've ever wondered why many signs in Finland have two versions of each place name: the one on top is in the dominant language spoken in the area — most often Finnish — and the one on the bottom is the minority language. In southern coastal areas, it's often Swedish. In Lapland, it's one of the three dialects of Sami, which is the native language for a few thousand people in Finland.

Map to Aihkiniemi

Aihkiniemi is located 43.4 kilometers from this intersection, on the left side of the road. When you see signs pointing to the right for "Käyräniemi" (the sign itself is on the left side of the road) and "Matkapaikka Jounila" (sign on the right side), soon after a roadside antenna mast, you still have 5.6 kilometers to go. When you see a sign indicating it is 80 kilometers to Norja (Norway) and 47 km to Sevettijärvi, you're getting close.

Neighbor's gate

Don't bother looking for a sign for Aihkiniemi: there isn't one. When you see a gated road on the left with a number sign "4333", you've reached our closest neighbor. Our driveway, without a number or sign, is about 70 meters up the road, also on the left side.

Reindeer crossing
Wild encounters

The cabin is located about 70 meters from the main road and has a small parking space right in front of the cabin. If you arrive in winter, there'll be some snow on the driveway, so drive carefully. During the DX season the driveway is ploughed by an outside contractor at our expense after each 20 cm of fresh snow. In between major snowfalls, there's a shovel under the cabin for your exercise. The main road is kept in good driving condition throughout the winter.

You're guaranteed to see reindeer on the road at some point, so drive with caution. Hitting a reindeer is only lethal to the reindeer, but there are also tall moose, which can come through the windshield if you happen to drive into one. All public roads in Lapland are open throughout the winter and are well kept, but they will still be icy and snowy.

What do you need to bring along?

While we have the antennas, you'll need to bring your own receiver(s), power cables and other cables, an antenna selector, and a preamp/amplifier. A splitter without an amplifier is available in the cabin. You'll probably also need earphones, and loads of external hard drives to store your catches.

A compass and a GPS, USB wires, etc. can come in handy. It wouldn't hurt to have basic tools to fix coax connections and antennas, although some tools can be found in the cabin. The environment is largely free of interference, and the most likely sources of unwanted sounds on the dial will be your own power sources, so at least for your laptop(s), it may be wise to use the power sources that we have provided.

Check out the Finnish plugs beforehand, because you may need to bring along shape adapters or even voltage transformers. You won't find them in the grocery stores in Lapland.

Hole in ice
The small lake next to the cabin may look like it's frozen, but it is essentially a slow-moving river, so find a narrow and shallow part to cross, look for the most solid ice, or use a bridge further downstream. We have a rowboat that can be used until October.

Although you'll find mattresses, pillows and blankets in the cabin, you'll need to bring your own sheets, pillow cases and towels. There's also a vacuum cleaner. You're expected to clean after yourself, unless maybe you're traveling with your mother... no maid service within at least 100 kilometers ;)

There'll be snow — lots of it. And it'll be cold. In terms of outdoor clothing, be prepared for any kind of weather. The temperature can vary between freezing point and minus 40 degrees, even lower. Rubber boots or other water-resistant winter boots are a good idea unless you visit in February when everything is frozen solid.

Filter for 100 kHz
The cabin is equipped with two filters to silence the Loran C beacon in northern Norway, which puts out a 200-kilowatt signal on the frequency of 100 kHz. The filter is worth trying when using 10, 30 or 46-degree antennas.

You'll need a flashlight during the occasional power outage. Two UPS units with four power outlets each are available in the cabin to enable you to continue DXing. Outages tend to take place every week, but they're very short. Plan carefully in advance for what you might need. Remember, it's a long drive to the nearest store, especially for toilet paper — which is why we store a lot of it in the cabin.

Supermarkets in Ivalo are large, well-equipped and accept all major credit cards. There are smaller grocery stores in Inari and a tiny one in Kaamanen. ATMs can be found both in Ivalo and Inari. The nearest library with free Internet access is in Inari.

If you have used any of the pans, pots or kitchen utensils, please boil water and do the dishes before you leave. It can be a bit cumbersome. Alternatively, you can buy paper plates, cups, and utensils on your way to the cabin. In any case, please clean the kitchenette. When you leave, please take all your trash with you. You can drop it off on the way back at large roadside bins. You'll encounter the first such trash bins next to Matkapaikka Jounila and there are more as you approach the intersection with highway 4.

Reservations

Jari, Late, Jape, Olli
Half of the original Aihkiniemi team, from left to right Jari, Lauri, Jarmo and Olli.

The cabin is available on a first-come, first-serve basis. Most likely September and October are booked solid by us, and openings can generally be found from mid-November. If you email Jari Sinisalo, he can let you know about availability. If you're traveling alone, you can inquire about the possibility of joining one of us for a DXpedition week.

Rent for the cabin and antennas is 500 euros a week. If there are two DXers, it comes to 250 euros per person. The rent should be paid at the time of the reservation into our association's bank account.

What to do in addition to DXing?

You might want to consider combining your DXpedition with a more traditional vacation trip in Finland. Saariselkä, one of the largest ski resorts in Finland, is located just south of the Ivalo airport. So, if propagation conditions happen to be exceptionally poor, you can take advantage of the slopes, relax in a spa, or enjoy after-ski partying. For something cheaper, but equally impressive, you can watch the aurora borealis, the northern lights! Further south, you can meet Santa Claus in Rovaniemi or cruise on an icebreaker or visit the largest snow castle in Kemi.

Winter in Lapland
This is what Saariselkä looks like in the winter, so don't spend all of your trip just DXing.

For more information about visiting Finland, check out the Finnish Tourist Board website, especially on winter travel. Compared to most destinations, Finland is very safe, clean and organized, so even if midwinter is weather-wise not the ideal time to come over, it is still an opportunity not to be missed. The capital, Helsinki, has loads of sights that you can experience year-round, from modern architecture, opera and dozens of museums, to nightlife and gourmet dining.

In case you happen to be traveling in Lapland during the summer, you can rent the Aihkiniemi cabin for any period of time for half of the winter rate. It's a good base for exploring Lapland, and in the summer you can enjoy 24 hours of daylight, which is an experience in itself. There are ample opportunities for fishing, hiking, and picking wild berries (which you can do even without landowner's permission). In Lapland you can even try your luck in gold-panning.

We own fishing rights in some areas of the surrounding wilderness, so when you rent the cabin, you can fish in these areas. And we have lots of coveted cloudberries in and around our property in early August. As for your luggage — add mosquito repellent and delete your radio equipment; there's not much to listen to on the AM band in summer.

In Finland most people understand English well enough to be able to help you, so getting around and finding what you need is easy. Be in touch if there's anything more that we can help you with in preparing your DX vacation of a lifetime! Welcome to our paradise!

Markku Jussila, Martti Karimies, Mika Mäkeläinen, Lauri Niemi, Jarmo Salmi, Jari Sinisalo and Jim Solatie

Published on May 25, 2011 (last update November 2013)

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DXpedition reports from Aihkiniemi on DXing.info:
AIH29
AIH18
AIH17
AIH10
AIH7
AIH3

Reports and logs on other websites:
AIH23
AIH22
AIH6

"This is an amazing QTH! Extremely quiet, which allows reception of signals that would be impossible to even detect in a populated area. For those of you, who never have experienced a “real” DXpedition, I can recommend a trip to Aihkiniemi without any hesitation. The location is easy to access from just about any direction, accommodation is excellent and the price tag is very sympathetic. All in all, I would say that one week in Aihkiniemi represents the Best Bang for The Buck!"

Swedish DXer Hans Østnell in December 2012 after visiting Aihkiniemi


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