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Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way

Dirk D. Anderson (KG6QNK) on June 12, 2011
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Morse Code is Dead you say? I fell asleep to it last of those Cuban Morse Numbers Transmissions known as M8a.

Although Number Station Transmissions are not often found on the Amateur Bands, Morse transmissions such as M8a do provide an excellent source of copying practice for the Morse enthusiast and newer HF Band Amateurs may be interested in knowing that from time to time you can still run into "Spy Nummbers" transmissions in all the modes: Voice, Morse, Digital...

M8a transmits about 36 minutes of Tone Modulated AM Morse Code at about 20-22 wpm. Since a variation of a technique invented by Western Union known as: "Cut Numbers" is used, a good opportunity for those who copy at slower speeds to get up and over the 20 wpm hurdle is afforded here since only 10 letters need to be recognized. Simply put the following Morse Letters are used for the sake of economy to represents the corresponding Numbers: A=1 N=2 D=3 U=4 W=5 R=6 I=7 G=8 M=9 T=0 ... Thats it. Ten Letters to Copy: A N D U W R I G M and T. Grasp onto these characters at these speeds you can eventually Copy them all.

Cuban Number Transmissions such as M8a are often quite irregular and maybe nothing more than an annoying open carrior. At times some patience is required to monitor.

Typical format for M8a is: Call-up Header consisting of 3 groups of 5 Letters repeated several times such as: RRTWU MNRAG GWNIRT ... (these are the three "alleged" recipients) followed by say for instance: RRTWU (recipient #1) repeated several times then several BT's Repeated then Message Body of 150 Five letter groups which ends with several AR's then MNRAG is next up for 150 Letter Message Body and finally GWNIRT is the final recipient of 150 letter Message Body all patterned as above with recipient #1. after all 3 recipients have recieved thier respective traffic several SK's are sent. This all boils down to 36 minutes of the Morse Characters: A N D U W R I G M and T about 20-22 wpm.

In this particular example, Recipients: RRTWU MNRAG GWNIRT would translate over to: 66054 92618 852760 respectively. The 3 individual 150 Letter Message Bodies could be coverted over to the appropriate Number groups in the same manner. Whereupon, these groups of Numbers would be further processed for decryption into a readable message by use of a One-Time Pad. Since none of us possess this One-Time Pad; nor, are we "spooks" it is impossible for us to decrypt this Traffic; however it does make for interesting Morse Practice Sessions.

Here on the West Coast of USA, I can usualy find M8a several times throughout the week.

Try: 5900 kHz 05:00 utc 5800 kHz 06:00utc 5810 kHz 06:00 utc Frequencies are approximate as I use Cheap Compact Portable with stepped incremental tuning.

Much information regarding Numbers Stations such as M8a is available in a general Google search and YouTube. Again the actual encryption technique is known as One-time Pad Encryption.

This Article is intended as a new and interesting source of Morse Code Practice for those who prefer as I do to Copy Morse the old fashion way. It should be Clearly stated that I in no way, shape, or form endorse codes and ciphers for use by Amateurs on the Amateur Bands or any other Bands..It is Highly ilegal. Governments get away with this sort of activity because they are well...Governments. As I recall, many Governments consider the use of Codes, Ciphers, Cryptography as Weaponry.

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Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by N4OI on June 12, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Numbers stations in several modes, formats and languages (and I assume their intended clandestine audience) continue to be alive and well! Here are a couple of URL links to more information: (be sure to check out the database) (go to the home tab for other information on pirate stations, beacons, etc.)
These are great reasons to have HF general coverage capability on your transceiver!

RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by W4XKE on June 12, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
According to “Walter” on the FRINGE series, these transmissions aren't the work of spies or of clandestine government agencies at all. Or any other earthly organization. The first thing Marconi heard when he put his 'wireless' set together were the numbers stations, sending out the grid coordinates of the locations of the machine parts necessary to establish contact. So the code was here before we were.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by W8VZM on June 12, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
I decoded the instructions and built the device. It was an HW-101! Great story and a great idea for code practice. I will put the aforementioned device to good use! hi hi

Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KC5MO on June 12, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Numbers stations are fun. Thanks for the heads up on the M8 station. I have heard the V2 out of Cuba with my GRC-9. There's lots of fun stuff qround the HF bands.

Herb KC5MO
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by K6HU on June 12, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
"According to “Walter” on the FRINGE series, these transmissions aren't the work of spies or of clandestine government agencies at all. Or any other earthly organization. The first thing Marconi heard when he put his 'wireless' set together were the numbers stations, sending out the grid coordinates of the locations of the machine parts necessary to establish contact. So the code was here before we were."

If Walter Bishop said it, that's good enough for me!
Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 13, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for the comments.

I was not too sure this was going to get published; however, I felt this did have a place here as a legitimate source for Morse Code Copying practice and as something newer Amateurs my have come across and wondered about.

Sleep deprivation and Morse Code do not always go well together. One can over do it. A couple of Sundays ago, I stayed up most of the night Copying M8a. Last night I was copying M8a on 5900 kHz and shortly into the transmission SK01 broke in: Digital RDFT Mode- you will recognize it when you hear it.

If anyone is interested in learning about One-Time Pad encryption, and some additional background information, I highly recommend: Dirk Rijmenants' site "Cipher Machines & Cryptology". Mr. Rijmenant just e-mailed me, it appears both of us got our starts as KW-7 "ORESTES" Crypto and Teletype Repair Technicians. I also got to work with the KG-13 "Pontus" decades ago.

You may recall the question about Codes and Ciphers on the exam. It bares repeating it is illegal to transmit Codes and Ciphers and anything intended to obscure the meaning, with the exception of certain telemetry signals. This is intended for: practice, fun and education. TNX de KG6QNK ..
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by HR2510 on June 14, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
All these number stations are certainly up to no good. They also hate hearing ANY other stations on their frequency during pauses. Typically they will shut down very quickly.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by K5LXP on June 16, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
I don't consider this a legitimate source of copying practice at all.

What good is it to practice a small subset of the alphabet at a fixed speed using a source I can't compare my copy to later, when I can just tune in W1AW and get plain text at a variety of speeds, and can cross check my copy online or out of a magazine?

Mark K5LXP
Albuquerque, NM

RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 16, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for your opinion, and you are most welcome to it.

If you can copy W1AW at a variety speeds, 5 - 35 wpm you don't need this or W1AW.

This is not intended to replace W1AW or any other source of code copying practice...the more copying practice, the better. If this somewhat novel approach, is not your cup of tea, fine.

There are only 10 characters, any one approaching these speeds should be able to eventually copy accurarely and know when they have missed a chacacter...I do. Learn by sound and sound only. I don't want my eyeballs on any text if I can help it.

There are other sources of code copying practice that do offer subsets as an option..evidently, for those who find those specific characters least one is getting conditioned at these speeds.

By my ear these transmissions sound a tad over 20 wpm. If I am wrong on that I stand corrected; however, anthing that helps one get over the 20 wpm hump is valuable as far as I am concerned.

Whatever works for you. This is not intended to be the end all, be all source of Code practice.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 16, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
It should be clearly noted that I am just a Hobbyiest. I am not a member of the ARRL and have no: agenda, interests (commercial or otherwise) to promote.

Funny isn't, how some people can get involved in these sorts of things and arrange matters for themselves.

I am not the: FCC, ITU, or United Nations. I am not responsible for Frequency Cordination or enforcement. These transmissions have been going on for decades, might as well put them to good use and have some fun.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by K6JPA on June 16, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
I have listened to the "numbers" for years out of curiosity as to why they are there, and have always found them to be an intriguing mystery, of sorts. Interesting that they have been brought up in this article.

Clandestine transmissions can be intercepted while listening to the bands with relative frequency, if one desires and knows where to look. As mentioned elsewhere, I suspect a good portion involve trading (or the movement of) one illegal vice or another.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 17, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Evidently,some Folks are interested and have a desire to listen to them.

Generally, no great effort is made to conceal these transmissions, the encryption used is mathematically impossible to break.

Most of these are Government State sponsored. It takes a cohesive organization to properly implement and distribute the decryption material.

A hold over from the Cold War. Among other things, these transmissions helped people escape East Germany...back in the day of the Berlin Wall.

Pales in comparison to what is going on in the background on the Internet these days...not to mention people who don't appear to be able to make a decent, honorable living.

I am not an authority on anything; past several years have had a little time to look into it. Again, a plethora of information is available online for anyone requiring any depth.
Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by NG9D on June 17, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
If you want to hear what the 5800 kHz numbers station sounds like, check

You get bonus points if you can decode the message. Best guess -- either a missile launch command or Cuban baseball league scores.

73 de NG9D
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by K3FHP on June 17, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Old time crypto tech here as well. I imagine all the gear we worked on is in the Smithsonian by now. I guess it's all about software these days. I After ET'A' & DS'A' school I went to Jason(R&T) and Creon school followed by Romulus and Orestes schools 4 years later. Interesting work. I remember one particular time when the backup KWT went down at 3am(the main KWT went down at 4pm and the tech was still working on it), your site was net control for the fleet broadcast and you just hit the rack after a night at the club. over 1500 miniature tubes just waiting to fail. Ah for the good old days of Iron Men and Wooden Radios.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 17, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for your service. I'm about due for the Smithsonian...maybe stuffed like George Washingtons Horse; or, was that Trigger? No telling who you run into these days. Cheers.
Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KF6HCD on June 18, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting approach to code copy practice.

Keep in mind, though, that if written down, copy should be destroyed immediately after the practice session, lest Uncle Sam find it and try to make a beef for espionage.

Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? No.

I imagine there would be few things less pleasant than having the FBI/DHS/<insert favorite three letter agency here> crawling up one's arse with a microscope, seeing as how terrorism is such a national concern as of late.

Just sayin'... ;)
Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by AK8V on June 19, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Interesting Dirk....old Navy crypto tech here also. KW-7, KG-13 and KL-47! Great memories. Ironically I was just researching the history and present state of Treasure Island CA this morning (Navy Class A ET school), I will just wave a hand to other CTMs.

RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 20, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
All these Crypto Techs showing up. Thank you for your service also. All I did was field maintenance.

It's a small world. I was on a Tour Bus several years back, and the Driver turned out to be the Executive Officer of the USS Pueblo.

Regarding destroying your Morse Copy. Personaly, I don't sweat it (especially, the way I copy). If the FBI can not distinguish between a Hobbyist and the real deal...we got problems. Should be concerned about the estimated 250 or so Cuban Agents cock roaching around the Country; not the likes of me. Give me access to that kind of Radio Equipment and pay check I'll take care of it. They should be embarrassed, in my opinion.

I have also used M94, a South Korean Morse Numbers Station in the past; however, I'm not sure if they still transmit.

RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on June 21, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Perhaps, I'm getting a little carried away; however, I don't care if Uncle Sam finds my copy...I'll give it to them if they want, they can correct my errors. The Government does record and archive these transmissions. If I had: SDR, the time, and inclination, I would record these transmissions also; some hobbyists do. Plenty of Audio Samples and YouTube Videos...just groups of random numbers or letters. Since I don't have the means to decrypt; nor, would I ever associate with these types of entities or individuals; nor do I have anything to hide, what possible motivation is there to be set-up by the Goverment for's absurd.

For the purposes of education and fun it is legal to practice the techniques of One-Time Encryption on the Internet on a Numbers Relay Page. You can start your own Numbers Relay Page. I consider nothing on the Internet Secure; just don't do anything that might come back to haunt or embarrass yourself.

I'm just an Old Man who studies Greek, Sanskrit, and tinkers around with Radio from time to time. I'm more concerned about the lack of values and the state of the Culture in general than I am anything else.
Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by N9NWO on July 8, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
We have had hams going into the military thinking that the Signal Corps (Radioman in the Navy) would be a good choice. The problem is that often it is more of a plug and chug MOS. If you really want to do some great radio or electronics, go into Signal Intelligence (SIGINT).

Give an example. Remember when that EP-3 was forced down in China? It was reported in the media that the lowest crew member (new guy) was assigned the job of measuring the pulse width of radars. That seems like it would take more skill and creativity than what most radiomen get to do. Plus you have a TS clearance that opens a lot of doors in the civilian world!
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by N9NWO on July 8, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Just remember that morse intercept MOS is gone in the Army. Now morse is just another "language" for which you get additional pay if you are proficient. Language pay these days can be very good, especially if you are native speaker (level 3 or higher) in Chinese, Farsi, or Arabic.

The Navy refers to SIGINTers are CTs. In the Army they are just SIGINT.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on July 8, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you for the information. I was a Marine Corps 2818 KG-13 TTY Tech. Schools were: MCB 29 Palms, NTC San Diego, and Lackland AFB. I was in during Peace time and got more out of them, than they got out of me. I went to school with Navy CTs and ETs etc.

This paper is of course for mere Hobby purposes, I would not expect too many Young Folks to be interested in Morse Code; however, there is more Morse Activity on the HF Bands than most People are aware of: KPH "Night of Nights" is coming up soon. There is free software available to decode Morse and one could send Morse from a Keyboard. That having been said, I would encourage all who Love these HF Bands just to listen to some CW once in a while. There is a certain mystique about it and you get a Historical sense of this Radio Legacy. In addition, stumbling upon a Numbers Station from time to time, will enhance the sense of mystery, or so it seems to me. I listened to V24 a South Korean Voice Numbers Station the other day.

Plenty of unique opportunities for Young People in the Miliatary. Good G.I. Bill for College etc. Many fields get a security clearance. Computers, Cyber Warfare...this that and the other...Shop Around. I believe B1 Bombers have some sort of Intelligence Radio Operator on board...waiver a few decades and sign me up.

As for Radio Operating, If you have SDR with the waterfall displays and perhaps, some knowledge of Electronic Warfare, along with a little can have some fun with these Numbers Stations. Certain Individual, estimated the Power Out of V24 South Korea by remotely controlling SDR reciever in Australia and doing some Math and comparison/contrasting...very slick. Hopefully you get the basic idea, it's too deep for me; however this and other techniques work for thought.

I don't know Farsi; however, I just took up Avestan the oldest Persian Language. You don't know what decryption is untill you have launched yourself into this! Cheers.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on July 8, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
Regarding: 'Night of Nights' 2011

I just visited juices are starting to run..I'm getting excited.

I have: 12 July pacific time 13 July gmt
on air 5:01 Pacific Time 00:01 gmt

For details try keywords: Maritime Radio Historical Society...KPH...Night of Nights 2011

These are Commercial Morse Code Operators at it's best...when they are not operating a 'Wheel'

This Station is located Central California Coast, I believe the Signal gets back East Quite nicely. In addition appears a very nice line up of other Coastal Marine Stations will be participating this year as will a Amateur Station for two-way Ham to Ham Contact.

Even if you can not Copy Morse Code, you might want to Tune-in the listed frequencies from the website and relax and Listen for awhile. This is how a Coastal Morse Code Station Sounded back in the day communicating to the various Ships at Sea. Be a part (small) of History in the making.

Now get back to those Double-Extended Zepps and Dipoles.
RE: Morse Code Practice the 'Spooky' Way  
by KG6QNK on July 13, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
"Night of Nights" 2011 13 July 00:01 gmt ...

Here San Luis Obispo, California; I have:

KPH 4247 kHz 00:01 UTC

KLB (Near Seattle) 8582.5 kHz 00:11 UTC

KKUI 12552.0 kHz 01:01 UTC "SS American Victory" calling CQ ... PSE Verify, that's what I thought I heard?

WLO (Mobile Alabama) 8658 kHz 01:29 UTC

KFS 12695.5 kHz 01:39 UTC

KPH/KSM 6474 kHz 03:43 UTC

Early on, Bands were noisy: Continuum Noise, Static Crashes...after dark conditions improved, not too bad for the Summertime seems to me.
I listened for about four hours. I thought this was one of the best "Night of Nights". Looking forward toward next year.
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