Sunday, 20 December 2015

Skegness Log: 20-12-15 (FM)

Band 2 Aurora:
 87.7 1853 HOL Radio 10, Lelystad/Alticom Toren (fle) Jingle ID and pops  350km **
 92.7 2339  G  BBC Radio Scotland, Bressay or Forfar Briefly over Sutton Coldfield, as web **
 94.3 2341  G  BBC Radio Scotland, Black Hill (SC-NLA) As web stream  405km **
 94.7 2342  G  BBC Radio Scotland, Sandale (EN-CUM) As web stream  288km

Band 2 Auroral Es:
 88.0 2202 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Joutseno/Pappilankangas-Valtatie no 6 (ek)
               6201 YL????SI 1899km **

 87.6 2210 FIN YleX, Jyväskylä/Taka-Keljo Ronsuntaipaleentie (ks) Presumed with
               Finnish song  1793km **

 89.9 2211 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Jyväskylä/Taka-Keljo Ronsuntaipaleentie (ks)
               6201 YLE_YKSI 1793km **

 92.7 2213 FIN Iskelmä, Varkaus/Könönpelto-Pitkälänniementie (ps)  62AD KOTI-___ 1907km **
 87.7 2218 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Eurajoki - Euraåminne/Korvenkulma-Porintie 899 (st)
               6201 YLE_YKSI 1561km **

 88.1 2218 FIN YLE Puhe, Kuopio/Vehmasmäki-Möykkylänmäentie (ps)  6207 1905km **
 88.3 2218 FIN YLE Puhe, Tampere-Tammerfors/Kämmenniemi-Vähä - Koveron Tie (pi)
               OM, as 88.1  1684km **

 89.4 2218 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Pieksämäki/Pirttimäki-Kokkomäentie 68 (es) Organ recital,
               as 87.7  1867km **

 92.0 2218 FIN YLE Puhe, Eurajoki - Euraåminne/Korvenkulma-Porintie 899 (st)
               6207 1561km **

 92.5 2218 FIN YLE Puhe, Jyväskylä/Taka-Keljo Ronsuntaipaleentie (ks)  6207 YL??PUHE 1793km **
 92.8 2218 FIN Iskelmä, Kontiolahti/Pyytivaara (pk) Different PS to FM List
               6765 ISKELMA* ***REX** 2019km **

 90.7 2219 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Tampere-Tammerfors/Kämmenniemi-Vähä - Koveron Tie (pi)
               Organ recital, as 87.7  1684km **

 90.2 2220 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Lieksa/Koli-Verkkovaara (pk) Organ recital, as 87.7  2024km **
 91.6 2220 FIN YLE Radio Yksi, Kuopio/Vehmasmäki-Möykkylänmäentie (ps) Organ recital,
               as 87.7  1905km **

 90.0 2224 NOR NRK Petre, Gamlemsveten (mr) Club music, as 91.3  1105km **
 91.3 2224 NOR NRK Petre, Bremanger (sf)  F203 ??????3_ 1009km **

** Personal First via the respective mode

I probably missed the peak of the Auroral Es, which appeared to peak a few minutes before I became aware of them, as indicated by the number of loggings of UK stations made in Finland. Sveriges Radio P1 was also heard on 87.6 and 90.3 via Auroral Es.

A further burst of Auroral Es appeared briefly around midnight, but nothing came up to RDS levels.

Radio 10 from Lelystad on 87.7 was received via aurora. Interesting to monitor this signal while I rotated the antenna from the north-north-east, where Radio 10 peaked, through east where the signal faded completely, then almost to the south-east where it returned via regular scatter. The auroral signal was there when the scatter wasn't. Also, the auroral version of Radio 10 was distorted, whereas the regular scatter version was clean.

Good DX!

John Faulkner
Skegness, Lincolnshire (JO03dd) <3m ASL.
YouTube Channel:
Vimeo Channel:

Elad FDM-S2 (Meteor Scatter and sporadic E)
Sony XDR-F1HD with Konrad i2c mod. (Tropo/Scatter)

Körner 9.2 @ 5.5 metres agl. QTH is approximately 3 metres asl, 1km from the sea.
Fringe Electronics 20dB pre-amp.

Elad FDM-SW2, SDR Console File Analyser & RDS Spy via VAC.
XDR-GTK v0.3.1 for the Sony XDR-F1HD

Yaesu G-5500 azimuth & elevation rotator, allowing antenna to be vertical, horizontal, etc.

Thursday, 17 December 2015

Isle Of Skye DX Trip - 05-12-15 > 09-12-15 (MW)

There's not a lot to write about, DX wise. This was n0t actually a dedicated DX trip, but a holiday ... a holiday from hell (almost)! If you don't want to read through the rest, here are the logs. But I wanted to document the experience. The entire trip was one disaster after another, but we had immense fun throughout!

Peace and tranquility ... some of the time!

Isle Of Skye Medium Wave Log: December 6th & 7th, 2015:

 570 0130 06-12-15 CAN CFCB Corner Brook (NL) Long list of station calls on the 
                       network, finishing with CFCB ID V weak  3475 km

 680 0200 07-12-15 PTR WAPA San Juan (N) (PR) Phone caller, asking why Puerto Rico 
                       cannot change in the same way Venezuela has. Would appear to 
                       be WAPA. Thank you Mauricio Molano. V weak  6501 km

 770 0300 07-12-15 CLM HJJX RCN La Radio FM 93.9, Bogotá D. C. (bdc) Mentioning web 
                       site so Colombia, so RCN-Bogotá. Thank you Mauricio 
                       Molano for help. V weak  8275 km

 840 0500 07-12-15 CUB CMHW Doblevé/CMBQ W Santa Maria, Santa Clara/CTOM2 (vc) 
                       Programme "Al Ritmo de la Noche" from CMHW. Thanks Mauricio 
                       Molano for help. V weak  6952 km

 950 0100 07-12-15 USA WTLN Orlando (FL) WTLN The New 9-50 ID V weak  6493 km

 960 0600 06-12-15 CUB Radio Reloj, Guantánamo/CTOM2 (gu) RR morse ID V weak  6874 km

 970 0100 07-12-15 USA WFLA Newsradio 970, Tampa (FL) WFLA and Fox News Radio, 
                       mixing WZAN Weak  6608 km

1060 0030 07-12-15 CUB CMGW Radio 26, Jovellanos (ma) OM ID. Thanks Mauricio Molano 
                       for help. V weak  6990 km

1140 0000 07-12-15 CUB CMIP Radio Surco, Morón (ca) Vocal ID on the hour in pile-up. 
                       Thanks Mauricio Molano for help. V weak  6902 km

1160 0030 07-12-15 ATG Caribbean Radio Lighthouse, Jolly Harbour (atg) "Caribbean 
                       Radio Lighthouse, Antigua", clearly heard on the half hour in 
                       pile-up Weak  6396 km

1210 0630 06-12-15 CAN VOAR Saint John s (NL) Visit So easy to hear 'up 
                       here', but splashed to bits back home. Fair     3262 km

1240 0200 07-12-15 CAN CKIM Baie Verte (NL) Pops, as 590 V weak  3303 km

1310 0100 07-12-15 USA WLOB Portland (ME) WLOB Portland and Fox News Radio 
                       Weak  4576 km

1460 0100 07-12-15 USA WOPG WOPG-FM, Albany (NY) EWTN Network ID then YL ID W??? 14-60 
                       AM and WOPG FM 89.9. Weak  4861 km

1480 0400 06-12-15 USA WSAR Fall River (MA) News ... Talk ... 14-80 WSAR ID V weak  
                       4778 km

Jane, my lovely wife, stopped smoking exactly one year ago - she just 'stopped'. No gradual reduction of intake, etc. and she's still smoke-free today and has no wish to start smoking again. Well done her! With the money she saved in the first two weeks, she put a deposit down for a holiday. She wanted to stay in a crofting cottage over Christmas and the new year, preferably in the north of Scotland so she might catch a sighting of the northern lights and, more importantly, she wanted to book a cottage with a hot tub. I had no idea how desirable and even fashionable such holidays were. We could both sit outside on a cold winter's night, bathing in the warmth of a hot tub, looking romantically to the stars (or preferably the aforementioned northern lights) while sipping a real ale or two and just chilling. I wasn't entirely sure that the cold air wouldn't be a problem, especially the getting out of a warm hot tub and walking through freezing cold air bit, but the experience sounded interesting.

From the outset, this was NOT going to be a radio holiday, but I was immediately considering the possibility of taking the Perseus and a reel of wire along too, something Jane didn't mind me doing. The plan was for me to take a minimal amount of radio equipment and a laptop so I could record the DX overnight, leave it to get on with itself, then check the recordings after we had returned home.

We began making enquiries in early January this year and were pleased to find a wealth of chalets, apartments and crofting cottages which met Jane's needs perfectly. But we made one big mistake in not booking at that time. In the two days we spent looking around at the various holiday options available, all those we had been considering had been fully booked again by returning holidaymakers. We were left with very few options, with the few remaining places only being available at the beginning of December, and none of them had the hot tub Jane really wanted. Undeterred, we booked Greenhill Cottage in Balmaqueen, right at the northern-most tip of the Isle of Skye on the Trotternish Peninsula. The cottage was situated in a picturesque valley with a great take-off to the north, and fantastic views out over the sea. With a bit of luck we might even be able to see dolphins, eagles, puffins and all manner of fascinating wildlife the north of Scotland has to offer. That was the hope, but what followed (somewhat predictably in my life) was one nightmare scenario after another.

It all started out very calmly as we left Skegness. It was 0400 and the weather was calm and dry. But as we took our first break at Hartshead Moor services near Bradford, the rain was hammering down. Driving was beginning to get difficult as the wind got up out of nowhere and started to push the car into the next lane of the motorway. Motorway signs were suddenly warning of road closures due to high winds and torrential rain. This was a surprise. Maybe I should have checked the weather forecast more closely. I was aware there was an Atlantic weather system moving in, but nothing major. I turned on the radio and heard traffic warnings, telling people not to venture out unless it was absolutely necessary as "Storm Desmond" was going cause widespread disruption. Yes - "Storm Desmond"! This was the name of a storm system, so named by our wonderful Met Orifice. Yes, the Orifice are now naming storm systems. How ridiculous!

It's now 7am and we have just passed Manchester and joined the M61 motorway, heading for the M6. BBC local radio stations were issuing warnings of 100 miles per hour wind gusts at Shap Summit in the north of Cumbria! Nice! We would be driving over this summit in the next hour or two. Once we got past Lancaster, the car was swerving violently from side to side, forcing all traffic to slow down to a crawl. The gists were sudden and powerful. The rain had not relented at all and was getting heavier.

Northern Lancashire and the surrounding hills and Pennine mountains were shielding us from the worst at this stage, but the approaching higher ground was going to prove ever more difficult. We hit Cumbria, almost literally! The rain became horizontal and the sight of lorries lying on their side gave us a real cause for concern. Should we continue with our journey? We had no idea if the weather in Scotland was gong to be any better ... or worse, as is often the case.

We ventured further north into Cumbria. We could see raging torrents of water running through fields to our west. Many fields were completely under water. I am not trying to exaggerate any of this, but we thought it was time to stop and at least take a moment to consider our options. Lorries and even a car were lying overturned, either in a field or stren awkwardly across the motorway. One lorry had a broken windscreen. It looked like the driver may have gone through it. Hopefully the drivers of all these vehicles were OK. Ambulances were screaming up and down both carriageways, no doubt taking victims to hospitals. Surprisingly, the motorway remained open.

Tebay Mountain Lodge came into view and so we stopped for a short rest and a bite to eat. We parked rather too close to a lorry which had had its roof ripped off, the remnants of which were swaying around in the wind. The walk across the car park was unpleasant to say the least as the strong winds making walking very difficult. We were hearing people saying how they had never seen anything like this. Parts of the lodge had minor flooding as rainwater had leaked in through the roof. We thought more about continuing our journey. The weather forecast suggested the winds were primarily over the Borders region, so we expected conditions would improve not too far north of our current location. We opted to continue. The weather improved a little, but the rain was still heavy.

Back on our way and passing a few more lorries which had been blown over. The area around the Solway Firth was, predictably, very bad for the winds and we drove with the utmost care and attention. We reached the Scottish border and decided to pull off the motorway at Gretna Green to get half an hour's kip in the car. We needed it!

Several miles past the Solway Firth and the winds began to ease, but that wasn't the end of our problems. We reached Glasgow safely and without further problems, but navigating the narrow and twisting roads between Dumbarton and Crianlarich gave us new problems. The mountains were getting bigger and the rainwater had formed many waterfalls, some of which cascaded down across our road. It was like driving through a never ending succession of fords. The journey was slow and tedious at this point.

Part of the Glencoe Mountain Resort

Next we travelled through the impressive mountains around Glencoe and on to Fort William. We were looking forward to seeing Ben Nevis, the UK's highest mountain, but it was completely obscured by cloud. At this part of the journey we had been listening to Nevis Radio, one of those truly local radio stations which you probably wouldn't ever have a chance of hearing anywhere else but just around this area. The radio suddenly re-tuned to BBC Radio Scotland for a traffic report. There were warnings of many road closures and landslides, "too numerous to mention", the announcer said.

Just how useless can radio be? Isn't the whole point of radio to entertain and inform? Surely the BBC should have increased their weather and traffic output to help communities? I started to wonder about is. Radio in the UK is so pointless sometimes. So much for being dependable when a serious situation arises. It's just not good enough! They had more interest in playing a Kylie Minogue song. "Oh yes dear listener, it's wild outside with total carnage forecast. No fear, just stay tuned to BBC Radio Local and forget the end of the world while we play you Kylie Minogue." I can still hear them playing the Kylie Minogue song. It was "I Should Be So Lucky"!

The studios of Nevis Radio in Fort William

Interestingly for us, while we were visiting Portree, we met a lady who works for the local radio station for the Isle of Skye, Isles FM, who is shortly to move to Skegness! 

The car radio returned to Nevis Radio, just as they were carrying some more localised traffic information. Unfortunately, they were announcing something we had been dreading, that the A82, our route north, had been closed due to a landslide. It's now dark. Should we take the ferry from Malaig? No, there wasn't enough time get there to catch the last one (1500) so that was out of the question. The alternatives were to turn back and go home, or to continue our journey via a 200 mile detour to Inverness. We decided on something else - to take a risk and drive to the location of the landslide, midway between Invergarry and Spean Bridge, in the hope that it might have been cleared. Kylie Minogue's Luck was on our side at this point as the road had just reopened as we arrived at that point. So we were on our way once again. There were no more problems after this and we arrived at our destination at 1730. So that was a 595 mile journey which took 15 and a half hours! Ouch! Of course, we had no idea that the return journey was going to be far worse.

We found the cottage with some difficulty. It was situated in the crofting community of Balmaqueen and not Kilmaluag as we had assumed. The exact location was not given to us until the balance of the holiday payment had been made. It would have been nice to know the precise location beforehand.

The first thing I personally wanted to do was to set up a longwire to check the conditions on medium wave. This was done but there appeared to be something wrong with the transformer connection - or the Perseus. Signals were too low, but everything was connecting perfectly well. I abandoned this and threw up the flag. Worse still! There was barely any signal and noise persisted across the band. The flag did not stand up in the winds anyway, so this was abandoned until the following day.

Day 2 and I got the flag up. There was a poor connection on the feeder in one of the coax plugs. The connection was open circuit. I fixed this but the problem still existed. The circuit was closed. What on earth was wrong? It must have been a break in the coax, yet this had a multi-stranded copper inner. Bring in the famous Faulkner "Bodgitt & Scarper" methodology. I managed to fix the problem by moving the coax until the radio burst to life. Now to tape the coax to the mast so everything stayed connected! It worked, at least until 6am, when the hard drive on the laptop had filled up. Bugger! At least I managed a few hours worth of recordings.

Medium wave conditions were dreadfuly though. The indices were high enough to ruin high-latitude reception, but weren't hight enough to spark off an aurora - exactly as Mr Pesimism here had predicted. We wouldn't have seen one anyway as the weather was almost constantly cloudy with heavy rain. It was mild though, with overnight temperatures up to 12 degrees! Phenomelnal for the time of year.

Day 3 produced the same non-event of medium wave DX activity, but I managed to record up to 1100 hours as I had deleted a few of the mid-hour files from the laptop in the middle of the night.

Another downside to the holiday. There was no mobile phone signal. There was no wi-fi either, as promised in the holiday booking. We managed to find brief pockets of mobile phone signal only in the car when parked on a particular hillside. It was unreliable though. This was going to be a nusance. When the holiday was originally booked, I was not working. During March of 2015 I started a small business and we found it necessary to take some of the work with us. The wi-fi, or at least a mobile phone signal, was necessary to continue my work. This was a problem as I was losing orders. Some of the work involves printing on very fine papers. The dampness of the cottage was spoiling the papers and the ink was splodging into the papers.

That was another thing - we paid extra to have the use of an AGA, which we were promised would transfer the heat through the cottage. The owners of the cottage would not allow the use of continual central heating and had this set up on a timer. Well, we were absolutely freezing. The AGA did nothing other than heat up the kitchen. We fixed the central heating so it was on when we needed it. We were lucky the weather had not been colder.

Day 4 and we still hadn't slept much due to the howling winds and the creaking and swaying cottage. The winds did not let up and each blast of wind got stronger and stronger. This gave us cause for concern. Although I was not unduly deterred by this, Jane was. She had not experienced the wilds of northern Scotland and felt quite scared. With a forecast of even stronger winds for that night, we decided to abandon the holiday. Midnight was calm and we managed to catch up on some sleep. But by 4am, the cottage was swaying again. It really didn't feel safe. Adding in the problems with the business, which I was unable to keep up with and orders were coming through and customer delays now on the cards, we both agreed to end the holiday and get back home.

So far I haven't mentioned FM radio. There was a local viewpoint with a car park a few miles from the cottage, on the eastern side of the island, between Balmaqueen and Staffin Bay, overlooking the snow-capped mountains of the mainland. I had planned to make a stop there to do an FM bandscan, but never got around to it. Just to add that FM reception in the cottage was sketchy at best and I can't remember much about what I did receive. The upstairs rooms gave the best reception and I remember Isles FM 103.0, Cuillin FM 102.7 (I think), MFR, which might have been on 96.8 and Two Lochs Radio, now that might have been on 103.0. I really cannot remember and I did not make notes. A shambles of a DX trip if ever there was one!

But here's a photo of the Skriaig transmitter, which I didn't know was on the island until I got there.

The Skriaig transmitter, pronounced "Skree-ag"

It was 7am and we heard that the Skye Bridge was due to be closed. We were just about packed and ready to leave. Would we reach the bridge in time? We really didn't fancy having to stay another night, especially with violent storm (Beaufort Scale "force 11") winds forecast. We made it, by the skin of our teeth! Then we had a pleasant drive back through the highlands. We reached Fort William without problem and actually managed to see Ben Nevis this time while enjoying some nice food at a local restaurant which overlooked the Nevis Range.

We decided to avoid Cumbria this time and head for the north-east of England. The worst of the weather was now behind us, right up in the far north-west of Scotland. Or so we thought. We got as far as Stirling, then we remembered that the Forth Road Bridge was closed. We had no alternative routes and did not want to go back through Glasgow and down the north-west of England. So we drove, hoping that the SatNag (satellite navigation) would find us an alternative route, which it did! This was the first and only time that the SatNag had actually done something right in the eight months we'd had it. Miracles never cease!

Could this be the end of our problems? Don't be silly! We were now heading south along the A1. We had just took the Edinburgh Southern Bypass and saw signs for Berwick-upon-Tweed, England, some 65 miles ahead. But we noticed the car swaying again. The wind had got up again. It was about 2000 and I switched on our always up-to-date, every-ready-to-inform BBC local radio stations. Aha! BBC Radio Newcastle had a local programme. It was sports, but this was interrupted at 2100 for the news and weather. By this time we were starting to see lorries on their sides again. The weather bulletin simply said "becoming windy". So either this was a repeat (typical outside daylight hours) or the Met Orifice hadn't done their job properly - as is usually to be expected. If anything, the winds were more severe than those we had during the drive up!

There were soon various road closures. We had THREE diversion on the A1 before we got to England! More lorries appeared on their sides. Was this a 'northern' thing perhaps? Maybe the lorries were having a nap, just like their drivers. Our return journey was becoming increasingly disrupted and we really did not feel safe. Furthermore, diesel levels were getting low.

We crawled to Morissons in Berwick-upon-Tweed, where the general scene was becoming quite surreal. The car was now shaking violently in the winds, which I am guessing were easily reaching storm force. I pulled up to the diesel pump and very carefully opened the car door to step outside. The wind noise was almost deafening. I looked around in disbelief as nearby bus shelter panels were bowing in and out, sounding like a certain person's wobble board (we don't mention his name anymore). I was pinned against the car by the wind. The diesel pump shook violently in its moorings, the top of which was swaying backwards and forwards by at least a couple of inches. Gusts were increasing alarmingly and a lady who had been putting fuel in her car, suddenly took off and shot through the air, whizzing past me. She hadn't finished filling up, but the wind had other ideas. She was not hurt though. I looked around in amazement as everything seemed to be moving. Lamp posts were moving more than I have ever seen. Panels were missing from the roof of the petrol station and the diesel pump clearly wanted to uproot and escape. I'd only put £30's worth of diesel in the car but decided that was enough. It was time to jump back in the car and drive away with our lives! Yes, it really was that bad! But there was no mention of this in the weather forecast.

We were both quite hungry and could only find a MacDonalds, so we got a coffee and drove off. I should have used the drive-through, but we needed to use the facilities. Leaving MacDonalds was quite an experience. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn't walk in the direction we wanted to. The winds were in charge and reminded me of the hurricane we experienced on the first Sheigra DXpedition. Any stronger and we would have only been able to crawl on on our hands and knees.

Well, I wanted to document this just for the memory. It was quite an amazing little trip in many ways, but a pity it had to be cut short. The rest of the journey home was without incident, well, apart from every single cafe we wanted to stop at and eat in was closed, probably because of the severe weather. So it was another dreaded MacDonalds when we arrived back in Skegness at midnight.

Summarising, a holiday it was not. A DX trip it was not. An experience it definitely was! and we did enjoy ourselves a lot. We took plenty of photographs, some more of which will be added below (plus a few we nicked off the net as many of our views were obscured by Scottish weather - all credits included), but the final kick in the teeth came the next day, when we learnt that a substantial solar wind shock had hit and would have probably produced visible northern Lights up in Skye. Well, weather permitting.

Reasonable beaches!

 Plummeting cliffs!

One of the neighbour's properties 

Monty, who loved the wild outdoors

 Monty and Crystal, relaxing after a long walk and a meal. They loved the freedom up there!

A strange bod messing around with wires 

Same strange bod, still messing around with wires 

 Looking west to Harris and the Outer Hebrides

 Monty, again, having a run around Staffin Bay

Staffin Bay

Staffin Bay

Staffin Bay

Staffin Bay, the dinosaur stamping ground of Scotland, apparently

A lone pterodactyl

The Old Man Of Storr

 The Old Man Of Storr

We didn't reckon much to Scottish motorways

 Nevis Radio (Fort William), the smallest radio station in the UK?

Another pterodactyl

 One of millions of Scottish road bridges. This one was not affected by a landslide. 

A nobbly mountain near Glencoe! 




Monty and Crystal enjoying a walk through a Glencoe pass

Monty and Crystal enjoying a walk through a Glencoe pass



One of countless waterfalls we saw

 One of countless waterfalls we saw