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LEM295 DXpedition to Lemmenjoki
October 23-30, 2010

By Mika Mäkeläinen

The second leg of our two-part DXpedition began in a very sad way; our landlady Kristiina Jomppanen had passed away just two days earlier at the age of 90. Her sons reassured us that we would nevertheless be most welcome, and that they will be happy to host DXers also in the future. DXing didn't offer much consolation. Solar weather was unfavorable, and conditions began to improve only just before we had to leave.

Joenkielinen in the Lemmenjoki National Park
Joenkielinen fell mountain in the Lemmenjoki National Park, seen from the end of our Beverage antennas (you can click on the photos to open a larger photo in a new browser window)

I had already been DXing in Aihkiniemi for a week, when on Saturday, October 23, I packed everything, and headed to Ivalo in a fierce snow storm. Jim Solatie flew from Helsinki to Ivalo, where we shopped for groceries, and proceeded to Lemmenjoki.

We expressed our condolences to Kristiina's four sons and talked a bit about the past and about the future. Kristiina had hosted DXers here since the 1980's, and thanks to her hospitality, Lemmenjoki has become by far the most well-known DXing location in Finland. Moreover, Lemmenjoki is probably the most visited DXpedition site in the entire world, judging by the number of DXpeditions held there, ours being DXpedition number 295! The listening base will now be moved from the small red cabin to Kristiina's former home, but since it will involve rebuilding the coax feed lines, this change won't take place before next summer.

Foggy road
Hazy future

DXing began in a disappointing way. We missed the afternoon conditions to the Pacific and Asia while setting up the equipment, and a neighbor's electrical fence destroyed whatever was left on the AM band. Later, we thought we had arrived at an agreement about keeping the fence off the grid during the most important daytime DX sessions, but by midweek the fence returned on the air, and so we had to keep on switching it on and off by ourselves. We were lucky: the two horses held back by the fence did not seize the chance to escape.

Overall, conditions to Asia continued almost as good as they were during the previous week. Once the Earth's magnetic field began to recover from the effects of a coronal hole that took down long-distance AM reception in the beginning of the DXpedition, conditions to the Western Hemisphere began to improve as well. I noticed Northern lights only once, on Wednesday, October 27.

Foggy lake
Kuivajärvi freezing on a cold morning

Conditions straight north were much better than average, so Hawaiians were a daily joy, and I was happy to log RFO Tahiti on 738 kHz for the first time. In this respect it was great to have an antenna pointing straight north, as a similar antenna was still in the planning stage in Aihkiniemi.

However, we knew that an antenna pointing at 30 degrees was better in Aihkiniemi than in Lemmenjoki, so we left unattended recordings in Aihkiniemi for the duration of our DXpedition in Lemmenjoki. Eventually we ended up driving back and forth to Aihkiniemi (120 km/75 miles one way) every other day, because our timed recording attempts were not very successful.
spruce
This is almost the northernmost point where spruce still grows

Initially non-existent nighttime conditions improved slightly towards the end, and generally conditions to the U.S. were best on departure day. We didn't immediately notice any truly sensational catches from any direction, but the amount of our recordings is once again so vast that I'm convinced there will be some really neat surprises. The end of October tends to be a popular timing for AM DXpeditions, so it was no surprise that fellow hobbyists were active as well. It will be interesting to compare what was heard at the time in Parkalompolo, Sweden, on PAX87 DXpedition.

Here's a listing of solar weather indices, followed by a description of reception conditions each day:

Date Mea-sured
solar
flux
Sunspot number Planetary A index K indices (3-hour intervals) Min-max solar
wind speed (km/sec)
Number of flares (events)
ST
AR
NO
AA
ST
AR
NO
AA
Daily low - high Planetary Boulder C M X
23.10.2010 84.3 54 43 23.1 23 7-48 32445424 42444424 479-686
24.10.2010 85.0 42 34 1.4 1 0-4 10000010 10001110 271-277 1
25.10.2010 86.2 93 57 5.9 6 3-12 21112131 11222122 548-662 1
26.10.2010 86.1 70 74 7.6 8 3-15 32221222 32331221 495-640 2
27.10.2010 87.6 46 53 4.1 4 0-9 11101022 11212121 465-553 1
28.10.2010 86.4 44 27 2.9 3 2-5 00001111 10112210 379-471
29.10.2010 83.7 50 24 3.1 3 0-6 11001200 21102200 348-388
30.10.2010 84.8 35 32 2.1 2 0-7 00011200 00011301 347-421
31.10.2010 81.2 36 32 3.3 3 0-6 02012001 02122111 344-364 2

Jim listening
Jim DXing at sunset

Sunday, October 24, 2010

We patiently waited for a trans-Atlantic opening, and got just scattered signals from Brazil and North America all through the night. The morning was especially poor: North American stations were heard for less than half an hour, until everything vanished at 0610 UTC, the worst morning in over a week. In the daytime there was ample time to catch up on sleep, maintain equipment and listen to the recordings. In the afternoon Asians arrived remarkably late, for real only around 1400 UTC, but fortunately they also dominated the dial exceptionally late. We recorded a band full of robust signals from China and Taiwan, and to a small extent from elsewhere in South-East Asia until 1600 UTC.

Mika listening
Mika listening in the afternoon

Monday, October 25, 2010

Overnight was thoroughly lousy, with Brazilian Rádio Globo on 1220 kHz as one of the few stations producing a decent signal. In the morning conditions were interesting at 0500-0600 UTC when stations from the Rockies and the Caribbean made brief inroads into our cabin. What followed was another quiet day and very good conditions towards China at 1300-1500 UTC, but we didn't instantly notice any rarities.

Cabin after sunset
My last DXpedition in this old cabin

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Overnight was once again a disappointment, although there were minor burst of stations from both South and North America. Morning action focused on South America at 0500-0600 UTC, when we experienced excellent conditions towards Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil, and relatively hefty signals also from the Northern half of South America. Identified stations include Radio Argentina from Buenos Aires on 570.031 kHz and Rádio Eldorado from São Paulo on 700 kHz. The AM band fell silent after 0600 UTC, although there was a short-lived burst of signals from the Rockies at 0805-0825 UTC. There was a long silence on the band before the usual suspects from the Pacific Northwest appeared around 1300 UTC for an hour, along with the most common stations from Alaska and Hawaii. Asians emerged at the same time, but lasted longer, although by 1430 UTC stations from Europe and the Middle East gradually took over. Compared to previous days, conditions favored a more Southern area, and there were many stations from the Indian subcontinent.

Reindeer crossing
Reindeer crossing

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

North American stations emerged out of the static around 0130 UTC, which was a happy surprise after several practically dead nights. North American signals, focused in the Rockies, peaked around 0300-0600 UTC, and daylight hours were mostly quiet. Also South American stations were strong in the early morning hours, peaking at 0500-0600 UTC, with a few nice catches from Peru and the Caribbean just before everything vanished (stations like Radio Turbomix from Cajamarca, Peru, on 1540 kHz, and RCN Manizales from Colombia on 1450 kHz with a local station ID). In the afternoon Hawaiian stations were heard for hours, at best stronger than I have probably ever heard them before, but finding new ones was still quite a struggle. The Pacific Northwest made a brief appearance around 1300 UTC. Asian stations made their way here starting after 1230 UTC, focusing initially on China, but later conditions spread thinly all over, with random Indians and Iranians in the mix.

KVSI Montpelier ID on 1450 AM
KVSI, now both seen and heard

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Once again no daytimers, so we let automated recordings supervise the AM band through the night. It seems that conditions to North America were somewhat better than before. As customary, daybreak at 0500-0600 UTC was the most interesting period, when keeping track of the direction of propagation conditions was a fulltime task. Around 0600 UTC we heard a bunch of Cubans and for example WWFE Miami FL on 670 kHz. Later on signal levels subsided a bit, but the stations did not vanish, as they had been doing for the previous five days. During the daytime reception of U.S. West Coast varied from average to excellent. 1450 kHz, which is the toughest graveyard frequency, was audible better than I have heard ever before. We were able to identify for instance KVSI Montpelier, Idaho, a station that I happened to photograph on a family road trip through the Rockies in midsummer 2008. We were driving from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone, and stayed overnight in Montpelier. KVSI is located right on the main road. Now I've both seen and heard it! And a few days later we continued to Glacier National Park in Montana, where we shared a cabin with Jim's family for a week of hiking. It was a memorable trip, but, now back to 2010. RFO Tahiti on 738 kHz and quite a few Hawaiians showed up around 0800 UTC. The first Japanese tried to emerge at 1030 UTC, but then at 1115 UTC almost everything-from both the East and the West-just disappeared. Eventually Asians returned before 1300 UTC, and we got a full couple of hours of mostly Chinese stations.

A scenic on the road from Lemmenjoki to Kittilä
On the scenic road from Lemmenjoki to Kittilä

Friday, October 29, 2010

North American stations were audible through the night from around 2300 UTC, with emphasis on the Midwest and the Rocky Mountains. It remains to be seen what our drift net recordings caught from Latin America overnight, but at least some Venezuelan stations were heard rather well in the morning after 0500 UTC. The Rockies and the U.S. West Coast remained strong late in the morning, although there unfortunately weren't any sharp changes or clear focus in the nature of propagation conditions like on the previous morning. We spent the daylight hours travelling to and from Aihkiniemi, and when we arrived just before 1300 UTC, the Pacific Northwest was heard with monster signals. Also Hawaii and Alaska came quite well for a moment right after 1300 UTC. Asian stations were still quite weak, but by 1400 UTC Chinese stations were extremely strong and occupied almost every AM frequency. Although Chinese stations gradually lost the fight by 1600 UTC, they made a forceful and surprising comeback before 2100 UTC, well before local dawn.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Overnight conditions to North America were above average, and by midday trans-Atlantic stations were stronger than on any previous day during the past two weeks —tough luck, as it was our departure day, and we had to vacate the cabin shortly after midday. We drove in crisp and sunny weather for three hours down to Kolari, where we caught a train back home. LEM295 was perhaps not a major success in terms of new stations heard, but still worth the trip and a lot of fun, as always.

Published on November 12, 2010

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