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LEM158 DXpedition Report
December 1-8, 2001

by Mika Mäkeläinen

We spent the week around Finland's Independence day (December 6th) in Lemmenjoki, celebrating our independence of Finnish radio stations. Once again the polar night proved to be the perfect timing, giving us an almost continuous flow of distant radio stations on the mediumwave band. Our best catches this year were from China, but we also enjoyed a pretty stable reception of signals from the East Coast of North America.

Home sweet home
Home sweet home - for one week

Jim's Honda was jampacked with radio equipment and handed over to the State Railways for overnight transportation from Helsinki to Kolari on Friday, November 30th. After one beer, we were ready for bed, but especially Mika, being so anxious to get to play with the receivers, spent a rather restless night on the train.

We arrived at around 9.30 a.m., but it was still dark. An hour's drive from Kolari, the Levi mountain resort was the last outpost before wilderness, and that's where we stocked groceries and had the last decent meal - yes, reindeer pizza for Mika - for a week.

Antennae intact

We saw hardly anyone on the road from Levi to Lemmenjoki. Driving in pleasant wintry weather, and without hitting the ubiquituous reindeer herds, we arrived in Lemmenjoki well before 3 p.m. local time (1300 UTC) on Saturday December 1st, and had the antennae sorted out and most of our gear in place before 1400 UTC.

It had already been 11 days before the departure of the previous DXpeditionists, so finding nearly all permanent antennae functioning well was a positive sign. Our DXpedition was the 6th of this season, and the 158th of all DXpeditions to this location, thus the abbreviation LEM158. Our antennae and equipment differed only slightly from last year.

The first 24 hours

When we switched our receivers on, not a single Transatlantic station was audible, but there were pretty strong signals from China. Good enough. It was already pitch-dark, and very soon the few Asian AM stations disappeared as Europeans invaded the band at intervals of 9 kHz, but we were too excited to try to get any sleep.

What's so funny?
What's so funny?

Normally evening activity would concentrate on scanning for random outbreaks of Asians or the more predictable local breaks of Spanish stations, but as there were hardly any local inserts on Saturday, we caught nothing. Around midnight shortwave stations from Brazil came in exceptionally well, and we identified stations like Rádio Congonhas (4775 kHz) and Rádio Cultura de Campos (4955 kHz). Practically nothing on AM, so it was a quiet night thereafter.

Sunday morning (after 0530 UTC) brought the first coveted sounds from North America; mostly from the East Coast. No sensational catches this morning, but it was a good feeling.

In the afternoon we kept an extremely close watch at Asian stations, and were happy to hear the first stations rise above the noise at 1100 UTC. One of the most welcome catches was DXJR, a new Philippino station on 1575 kHz, occasionally beating even the superpower Thai station, then signing off early. Additionally, pretty rare Chinese local and regional stations were observed on frequencies such as 1584 and 1431 kHz.

China jubilee

LEM158 became our best ever DXpedition in terms of logging new Chinese AM stations. Chinese language was heard virtually every afternoon around 1200-1300 UTC on many frequencies, but Friday December 7th was a field day beyond our wildest expectations. Chinese stations ruled the band from their appearance at 1020 UTC all the way until around 1600 UTC.
Loads of Chinese on the dial!
Loads of Chinese on the dial, can't complain!

We were especially intrigued by the many local dialects heard aside from standard Chinese and Cantonese. Station identifications heard in these strange minority languages (on frequencies such as 1584, 1512 and 1368 kHz) are giving us a hard time, so if you know any sinologists, help on resolving some mystery announcements would be most welcome.

Some of the most fascinating catches identified so far include Haixia zhi Sheng on 666 kHz and Nei Monggol PBS on 1152 kHz. After a semi-local Latvian station had recently vacated the frequency of 1350 kHz, we had a constant watch on this frequency, and were pretty successful in emptying it of Chinese and some other Asian stations as well.

Otherwise Asian signals were relatively weak and few. The conditions didn't favor Japan, the Koreas, the Philippines - and not even Thailand, India or Iran, as often associated with below-average conditions. Despite keeping an eye on the X-band, we didn't hear any AM stations from the general direction of Australia, and not even the usual indicator RRI Jakarta on 999 kHz showed up.

Stuck on the East Coast

After Sino DX, it became our second major effort to find new stations from the East Coast of the U.S. and Canada. Conditions toward North America repeated the same pattern almost every day, with East Coast stations best audible at daybreak around 0700-0900 UTC, and disappering soon thereafter. A few dominant stations from the Great Lakes region were audible already at nighttime on most nights, but nothing of interest to us.

Geographically, for the first few days, stations were heard almost exclusively East of the Appalachians and from around Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. This narrow scope was very welcome, as it kept many Midwest dominants comfortably at bay. The East Coast came best on Monday, December 3rd, when we were able to identify a number of stations previously unheard by us, such as 790 CFAN, 830 WCRN, 900 CKDH, 1160 WMVI, 1230 WMOU, 1570 WBUG, 1580 WEAM and 1600 WKWF.

Later during the week also Midwest stations became audible, and on Thursday, December 6th, we had our first afternoon opening from the West Coast. KVRI Blaine WA (1600 kHz), with a rare format of chanting and Indian movie melodies, was logged for the first time in Finland. This station is likely to become one of the dominant stations on the frequency.

The X-band was under special scrutiny, but all stations identified had been heard in Finland already before.

Tame Latin performance

There was no abundance of South nor Central American stations. Nighttime reception was much below average, and a couple of Brazilians on shortwave was just about all worth mentioning.

In the morning hours a few Cubans were identified among East Coast stations, but aside from that, Jim's catch of WRSJ Bayamon PR (1560 kHz) and Mika's catch of Radio Tricolor, Guayaquil (1250 kHz), both on Friday, December 7th, were among the few highlights.

Midwinter in Finland is unique, because it offers the once-in-a-year chance to hear Latin American stations on shortwave as they begin their broadcast day. Taking advantage of this, we managed to pick up Radio Imperio, Chiclayo (4389 kHz), Radio Buenas Nuevas, San Sebastián (4799.8 kHz) and Radio Casino, Limón (5953.9 kHz).

Eurosclerosis

The closest European equivalents to graveyard channels are the frequencies of 1602, 1584 and 1485 kHz. Unfortunately, as usually is the case in Lapland, 1602 kHz was completely destroyed by Radio Egerszeg's poor modulation and 1584 kHz was dominated by Iran, so no new catches this time.

Mika scored the remaining local Belgian stations, but otherwise we didn't get much anything from Europe. It was disappointing that GTRK Mordoviya, Saransk, had moved from 1062 kHz to 1080 kHz, destroying a channel which used to be very good for Asian DXing.

We kept a close watch on Spanish local breaks, but as usually, reception conditions favored the northwestern corner of the country, meaning a meager haul of new stations.

Stable conditions

Solar activity was very stable the entire week, so it didn't come as a surprise that African AM stations didn't show up. Solar flux started at 226, hit a high of 245 on Monday, December 3rd and returned back to 226 by the end of the week. A-index varied in the range of 3-10, solar activity was low to moderate and the geomagnetic field was quiet to unsettled every day. Beautiful northern lights (aurora borealis) were visible on one evening.

No sleep for some time?
No sleep for some time?

Weatherwise it was a pretty normal week in Lemmenjoki. Temperatures varied from -2 to -20 degrees Celsius, so wandering in the forest checking the antennae wasn't an overly arduous undertaking.

Happy but tired - after an average dose of five hours of sleep per night - we packed our gear after midday local time on Saturday, December 8th. Our successors, Per-Ole Stenman and Mikael Dalkarl, arrived before our departure, and we had time to share our experiences of the past week. U.S. stations were audible pretty well when we had to leave, so prospects were better than a week before. Initial results from the LEM159 DXpedition indicate that they were able to hear many of the same stations as we.

All in all, the results were average, if compared to all the DXpeditions we have had in Lapland, but above average if compared to other DXpeditions of this past fall. For details on our identified stations, here's the LEM158 DXpedition log. For some logging guidelines, check out notes on the log. Be sure to check the log again in the future, since many more stations are added all the time as we get to review our recordings. Mika alone has over 150 hours of audio to check, so the post-game show of this DXpedition will last well into the spring! Jim's recording strategy was much more conservative, because he is heading back to Lemmenjoki already in February 2002.

Written on December 19th 2001, last edited on December 26th 2001

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