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Notes on DXpedition Logs

by Mika Mäkeläinen

Priorities in DXing

In the logs you will find plenty of AM stations, but only few shortwave stations, and no FM nor utility stations. The reason is simple; the major DXpedition bases in Finland including Aihkiniemi and Lemmenjoki with their beverage antennae are designed specifically for AM DXing. Most of the experienced DXers in Finland, including me, concentrate on AM DXing. I normally resort to shortwave listening only when the AM band offers nothing interesting — but, especially around the solar maximum, this happened often.

When listening in Lapland, North American and Mexican stations tend to be the favorite targets in the Western hemisphere. In the Eastern hemisphere, stations in the Pacific and the Far East get more attention than others. This is due to the fact that in winter a northern location favors these areas, and reception is much better than in southern Finland, where most DXers live.

Consequently, a location on the western coast of Finland, such as Långåminne, gives a comparative advantage when hunting stations in the British Isles, the Caribbean and South America. Therefore, DXpeditions to Långåminne tend to focus on these areas.

Daily cycle of DXing

For those who haven't experienced the conditions of such a northerly location, a brief look at the optimal DXing times can be helpful for interpreting the log. If solar activity is high, North American stations are completely inaudible. When conditions are moderate, stations can be heard especially in the morning around local sunrise (0600-0800 UTC), sometimes also around midnight UTC. When conditions are good, sunrise is still the best time, but stations continue to be heard throughout the daylight hours, often until 1300-1400 UTC, and Alaskan stations even much later.

The first stations from Atlantic Canada can appear around 2000-2200 UTC, and as darkness covers North America, stations further west become audible. Early morning at 0400-0600 UTC rarely gives good reception.

South American AM stations can generally be heard around 2300-0400 UTC, but in midwinter AM reception may continue until around 0800 UTC, and shortwave reception is still possible when stations sign on at around 0800-1100 UTC. High solar activity can either block trans-Atlantic reception totally, or result in relatively good reception of AM signals from Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay.

Asian AM stations are normally heard for one to two hours around local sunset (1200-1500 UTC), when they can overcome European stations operating on the same frequencies. When solar activity is low, stations from Siberia, Japan and the Korean peninsula can be heard; moderate conditions can bring in China, Taiwan and the Philippines; and during more disturbed conditions, stations from Central Asia, South Asia and the Middle East tend to dominate. The best time to identify Indian stations is however after 0023 UTC when they sign on.

African AM stations from sub-Saharan countries are very difficult to catch, but in times of high solar activity the sign-off time around 1900-2200 UTC and sign-on time around 0200-0300 UTC can occasionally be a pleasant surprise.

Stations from the Balkans can be best heard an hour or two before sunrise, around 0400-0530 UTC, while West European stations are strongest at around 0600-0700 UTC, when the rising sun stifles interfering stations from Central Europe.

It should be noted that in locations south of the Arctic Circle, listening times are much more limited, especially when it comes to North America.

Principles of logging a station

Most DXpeditions in Finland have two participants, but an attempt is made not to listen to the same station at the same time, so rare stations are finders keepers until the following day. However, listeners keep each other constantly posted on all identified stations to ensure maximum utilization of the ever-changing propagation conditions.

Identifying stations is hard work, and to maintain reliability, it should be taken seriously. Logging stations just based on the language, an educated guess or probability, or even based on evidence from simulcasting frequencies, is not regarded as good enough. Unless labeled as tentative (tent.), all stations logged are positively identified either by obtaining a station identification or other local announcement, which rules out all other potential stations.

When a particular station has local programming at one time or another, a local station identification (or a local commercial spot or other distinctively local announcement) is generally required for logging or at least for reporting the station. The main exceptions to this rule tend to be some Colombian networks which are often logged even without a local identification, because local inserts are broadcast only at daytime. But for most countries — notably popular targets like the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Japan (NHK), South Korea, China, India, Russia — information on local program times and identification patterns is readily available and well-known by most DXers, and therefore a national or network identification is regarded as useless. Concentrating on local broadcasts does mean more work and a lot of learning, but it is worth it.

An outsider may be surprised to see how few stations are logged from Europe. This is partly due to the fact that in Finland, according to the rules of the Finnish DX Association (Suomen DX-Liitto), most European stations don't merit "station points". If a particular broadcasting company has several transmitter sites within one (European) country, only those with local or regional programming give separate station points. Therefore the vast majority of European AM and SW transmitters (which would be relatively easy catches anyway) is simply ignored. This rule can been seen as illogical, but it has contributed to the fact that Finnish DXers tend to concentrate on more distant catches, thus raising the general level of DXing in the country.

Also, Lapland is generally not the best place to hunt European stations, as one of the basic ideas of going to Lapland is to get as far away as possible from the interference which European stations cause to the more distant stations.

The log gives a coherent picture of the findings only to an experienced DXer, because all stations considered relatively common are simply left out. This applies especially to areas with a huge number of radio stations. A case in point is North America, where about 300-600 most common stations — common in Finland that is — are routinely left out of the logs. Starting in 2011 I have decided to include only stations that are new to me or otherwise exceptionally interesting. To give you an idea of what North American stations can be heard, the best reference source is KOJE, a list maintained by Tapio Kalmi, which contains all North American AM stations heard in the Nordic countries.

Technical details on the log

The stations are listed in frequency order within each continent. The logs follow a Finnish DXing tradition of dividing Europe into three parts; 1) the British Isles, 2) the Iberian peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Andorra & Azores) and 3) the rest of Europe (including Russia west of the Ural mountains). The rest of the Eastern hemisphere is divided into 1) Africa, 2) Asia (including Middle East), 3) Australia and the Pacific (Oceania). The Western hemisphere is divided into 1) North America, 2) Central America & Caribbean (including Mexico) and 3) South America.

Within each continent, stations are listed in frequency order, (in recent logs) with date and time in UTC before the station name. In some older logs you will find the date after the station name. Unlike in the U.S., the date is given in the form "day.month".

In the station remarks a new sign indicates that the station was heard in Finland for the first time ever on that particular frequency. "r" or "rel" comes from "relay" and indicates the source of the program. // indicates a simultaneous transmission with another station or frequency. "v" indicates a variable frequency. An asterisk (*) before the time denotes sign-on time, and an asterisk after the time indicates sign-off time. In newer logs this has been omitted. When a station is heard several times during one DXpedition, only the first date and time are usually listed. In some of the most recent logs only the dates are listed.

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