November 23-30, 2002
by Mika Mäkeläinen
I guess not
every DXpedition can be a spectacular success story.
LEM169 definitely was not. Conditions to the Western
hemisphere were mediocre at best, while reception
of Asian stations was poorer than I have ever before
experienced in Lapland. Our total report count is
bound to be small, but nevertheless we enjoyed taking
a week off just for DXing, surrounded by the beauty
of mid-winter Lapland.
Almost ready to unload
Solatie's Honda was once again put on the rails
to give Jim and Mika
Mäkeläinen some rest before a week
of intensive DXing. So instead of driving from Helsinki,
on the southern coast of Finland, up to Lapland,
we slept in the comfort of a sleeping car all the
way to Kolari, above the Arctic Circle.
The train schedule
had unfortunately been changed, and we arrived in
Kolari on Saturday morning (Nov. 23) at 10.30 a.m.,
an hour later than last year. This meant that we
wouldn't reach Lemmenjoki before dark. As customary,
we first drove up to the winter resort village of
Levi north of Kittilä to shop for groceries
and enjoy a fillet steak before a week of amateur
Ylläs, 718 meters
above sea level
crisp wintry weather, at -20 degrees Celsius, Jim
drove through the wilderness from Levi to Lemmenjoki.
The sun was shining low, coloring the treeless mountaintops
on the way. We arrived in Lemmenjoki after 4 p.m.
local time (1410 UTC). This time the cottage had
been empty for several weeks and none of the temporary
antennas were up. As we didn't have an antenna pointing
to Asia, we were not in a hurry to set up our gear.
For the first time we filled the fridge before laying
receivers on the table...
Fog surrounding Levi, 531 meters high
around 1600 UTC we had everything in place and it
was time for that magic moment, switching the radio
on and getting the first impression of the conditions
on the band. It didn't sound bad at all, a few Alaskan
stations were audible even without an antenna towards
north, as well as some of the most common Asian
MW stations, likewise without a proper antenna.
On the first evening we identified for example Thor
Or from Sarakham, Thailand, with a local station
identification on 1332 kHz - probably the station
had increased transmitter power as it was heard
also on some other days.
Putting up the
Mika used a long stick
to lift and take down the antennas - not the
favorite pastime in -35 degrees.
a rather arduous task ahead of us during the first
few days; putting up the antennas. We spent the
few daylight hours in the surrounding forest erecting
antennas pointing to the Iberian Peninsula, western
coast of North America, north (Alaska and Hawaii)
and two wires to Asia. Luckily the weather was favourable,
-10 degrees Celsius, no wind and very little snow,
not more than 10 centimeters, making the job easier
We discovered that several of
the coax joints in the cabin were loose, rendering
some of the antennas useless, but managed to fix
these. Unfortunately, the coax cable of the second
Asia wire was obviously broken at some point, resulting
in only one usable antenna for the Eastern Hemisphere.
Later we were to discover
that it actually didn't matter much, as conditions
to that area were really poor.
Jim rolling in an antenna
in -35 degrees C
we laid a shorter wire on the ice pointing to South
Asia, but being too short and without a coax feed,
it proved to be useless in everything aside from
catching interference, so on Thursday November 28,
in a freezing -35 degree weather, we rolled it back
in. On the following day, luckily in a milder temperature
of -25 degrees, we had to repair one of the permanent
antennas, because a tree had fallen on the wire.
After all these more or less successful experiments
and exercises, our antennas
and equipment differed only slightly from last
year. With receivers lent by fellow hobbyists, both
had up to three receivers available, although all
three were hardly ever needed simultaneously because
of the below-average conditions.
Where are the Asians
Afternoons were supposed to be
prime time hunting periods for Asia, but this week
seemed to be an exception. On most days the mediumwave
band was totally quiet aside from a few strong stations
from Northern Europe until around 1300 UTC, when
stations from Iran and the Middle East gradually
became audible. On a few lucky evenings we heard
some stations from Thailand and India, but otherwise
reception from all of Asia was just miserable.
Reindeer can be seen everywhere
Of course the few upper-band
powerhouses like China on 1593, Thailand on 1575,
India on 1566 and Taiwan on 1557 kHz were audible
almost every evening, but hardly anything else from
further east. On Tuesday November 26th and Thursday
November 28th a few shortwave stations from China
and Vietnam offered a small consolation, but generally
also shortwave reception was poor.
In the absence of more interesting
stations, especially Mika resorted to listening
to Iranian stations. In Finland it is considered
essential to catch local station identifications
whenever there exists local programming, but it
seemed that during the holy month of Ramadan also
the local announcers were fasting instead of being
busy in the studio.
A good start to
In the Western Hemisphere US
stations are traditionally the most sought-after
targets. On Sunday morning (November 24) we heard
stations from the Great Lakes region from 0300 UTC
onwards, so the kick-off was promising. In the morning
around 0800 UTC stations from the Rocky Mountains
were heard, and in the afternoon around 1200 UTC
conditions to Oregon (KEJO Corvallis booming in
on 1240 kHz) and the rest of the West Coast were
Not bad - so it seemed
in the beginning
On Monday November 25 conditions
were even better, because they were more focused
in the area of Michigan and Indiana. We caught several
interesting low-power stations such as WMPX Midland
MI 1490 kHz, KNIM Maryville MO 1580 kHz and WHLY
South Bend IN 1580 kHz. However, at 0815 UTC US
stations disappeared from the dial, and surfaced
again only three days later on Thursday, November
28, and much weaker then. Conditions began to improve
gradually before we left so that on Saturday morning
(November 30) about 20 Alaskan stations were really
strong and a few Hawaiian stations were also audible.
We heard nothing from Central
America nor the Caribbean - not counting XERF 1570
kHz and Harbour Light 1400 kHz which we didn't bother
to identify but which presumably were audible. The
northern part of South America was also absent except
for a few minutes around 0700 UTC on Tuesday, November
Conditions to Brazil, Argentina
and Uruguay were moderate during the first few nights,
and on Tuesday even until 0700 UTC. Normally on
mediumwave the first signals surfaced around 2230-2300
UTC and conditions remained fairly good for an hour
or two. Shortwave was dead most of the time.
Our winter wonderland
On Sunday November 24 Jim heard
ZYJ255 Rádio Brasil Tropical from Curitiba
PR on 1320 kHz, which was probably the best catch
of the DXpedition. Because of NRK on 1314 kHz it
is hard to hear anything on 1320 kHz, let alone
a low-power Brazilian from the south.
very exciting catch from South America was Radio
Contemporánea on 1129.8 kHz, the first logging
of the station from across the Atlantic. An earlier
item on DXing.info revealed that such a station
indeed exists in Argentina, but nobody seemed to
know anything else about the station. Luckily I
caught the phone number in one of the promotional
announcements that I heard, and after several long
phone calls - including being interviewed live on
the air - I got a verification, the first of the
LEM169 haul of stations.
The disturbed atmospheric conditions
should have favored stations from the south, but
we caught nothing special from Africa, Italy nor
the Iberian Peninsula. From Greece, ERA Serres on
1584 kHz with local programming was a pleasant catch,
one that we had hunted for ages. Greek local stations
are often heard at night, but in the late afternoon
or late morning, when they have local programming,
they are rather difficult targets.
High solar activity
A daytime high of -35
indication of space weather storms and disturbed
magnetic conditions, the A-index remained above
10 during the entire DXpedition. Solar flux dropped
from 148 in the beginning to 141 in the end. The
disturbances merely repeated the pattern of the
autumn months, so we knew we had it coming, and
our timing could have been better. We saw massive
northern lights late Friday, November 29.
The weather on earth was less
stormy but also less predictable. We put up the
antennas in -10 degrees Celsius, but had to continue
working with antennas when the daytime high suddenly
fell to a less pleasant -35 degrees. At night we
measured -38 degrees.
On Saturday we packed our gear
at 1 p.m. local time, and left before 2 p.m. to
drive back to Kolari via Levi. Later on Saturday
evening Alpo Heinonen (LEM170) took over. All in
all, judging by the results, LEM169 was much below
average, nevertheless with a few interesting highlights.
Here is the LEM169 DXpedition
log, which will continue to be updated during
the upcoming months - so be sure to check it again
in 2003. In the log you
will also find some audio samples of the station
identifications which we heard. For some logging
guidelines, check out notes
on the log.
Published on December
6, 2002 - last update on December 13