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Author Topic: What is your favorite SWLing story?  (Read 1778 times)
N8FNR
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Posts: 308




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« on: June 18, 2019, 09:02:26 AM »

Here is mine. Back in the 1980's I was tuning around with my Kenwood R-1000 and came across two guys talking back and forth in a non-ham portion of the HF spectrum. They were not using any callsigns which I found weird so I kept listening. It became obvious that one guy was on the ground and the other was in a plane. The guy on the ground was trying to give the other guy instructions on where to land. The pilot kept saying that he was not seeing any of the landmarks that the other guy told him to look for. The man on land then gave the pilot a beacon callsign to navigate by so I looked it up and it was in the Yucatan. The pilot said that he was not receiving the beacon but after a bit said that he could see a water tower in a town nearby. He flew near the tower and read off the name and it was a town in the panhandle of Florida.

So it appears to me that they were probably drug smugglers and the pilot was so bad that he was off course by 700 miles or so. I always wondered how this story played out. Somewhere in our attic I have a recording of this on cassette tape.

Please post your favorite SWLing story here. I look forward to reading yours.

Zack N8FNR
« Last Edit: June 18, 2019, 09:14:59 AM by N8FNR » Logged
KA1VF
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Posts: 176




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« Reply #1 on: June 18, 2019, 10:01:15 AM »

 Back in the late 1960’s, I used to monitor the International Maritime 500 Kc
(CW) frequency on my Hammarlund HQ-129X receiver. One afternoon, I got
home early from College (daytime student) and I turned on my SWL rig just
in time to copy an SOS from an Oil Tanker that was sinking.

  note: I then made a landline call to the U.S. Coast Guard hotline and told
          them the name of the vessel and that it was sinking off the coast
          of North Carolina near Cape Hatteras.

          73,
               Bob

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N8FNR
Member

Posts: 308




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« Reply #2 on: June 18, 2019, 10:14:34 AM »

Back in the late 1960’s, I used to monitor the International Maritime 500 Kc
(CW) frequency on my Hammarlund HQ-129X receiver. One afternoon, I got
home early from College (daytime student) and I turned on my SWL rig just
in time to copy an SOS from an Oil Tanker that was sinking.

  note: I then made a landline call to the U.S. Coast Guard hotline and told
          them the name of the vessel and that it was sinking off the coast
          of North Carolina near Cape Hatteras.

          73,
               Bob


Now that is a great story and you helped out too!
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N9LCD
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Posts: 102




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« Reply #3 on: June 18, 2019, 01:18:14 PM »

Back in the early 80's I was monitoring 5,696 KHz SSB one Saturday afternoon.  I picked-up a call from a Coast Guard copter 200 miles out,  returning to base at San Diego because of problems with the landing gear.

I monitored for about 10 - 15 minutes, about six calls to base.  No answer.

Got on the phone and got the land line for the Coast Guard - San Diego.  Finally talked my way into the radio.  The Chief in charge probably thought I was a crank, picking up their copter in Chicago when they couldn't hear it in San Diego.

I had the flight number & their position report.  The Chief finally was finally to the point of admitting that I had something when the copter's call came in over the squawk box.

"Hey, you're right.  Gotta go.  Got an emergency" as an alarm sounded in the background.

I sent in a reception report.  The Coast Guard QSL'ed with a nice thank-you letter.  And 30+ years later, I still have it.
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KC6RWI
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Posts: 170




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« Reply #4 on: June 19, 2019, 10:06:16 AM »

That makes for interesting listening. I have never been so lucky, although I've heard a variety of stuff on vhf. Now I don't want to hijack or sidetrack the subject. A few years back I picked up a Del  Taco on 31.50, I think they have moved on from there. Interesting that a low freq is the one they used.
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AC8UO
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Posts: 8




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« Reply #5 on: June 20, 2019, 09:27:55 PM »

Idi Amin was at one time the President of Uganda. He was a brutal leader. He was reported to enjoy drinking human blood by many news sources and it is believed that he personally ordered the murder of approximately 300,000 of his fellow Ugandans, earning him the nickname the “Butcher of Uganda”. In October of 1978 he ordered an attack on the country of Tanzania. Not only did Tanzania counter-attack, they were aided by anti-Amin Ugandan nationalists. They overpowered the Ugandan military forces, and moved in on the Ugandan capital Kampala in April of 1979. As the city was in the process of being surrounded, I happened to fire up my old Realistic DX-160.  As I went through the dial, I came upon an announcement that the President of Uganda was soon going to address the nation.  As promised, President Adi Amin came on the air a few moments later. He said that his forces were in the process of winning a glorious victory but that now it was time for all mothers and children to join the fight to protect the Motherland. The next day all major world news outlets were reporting he had been overthrown and had fled the country.
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KG7VQ
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Posts: 2




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« Reply #6 on: June 29, 2019, 12:04:42 PM »

I don't remember the date but before I got satellite TV the Cubs were playing in the playoffs and it wan't being covered by a network I got. I fired up my receiver and my son and I listened to the games over the Armed Forces Radio Network.
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K0RO
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Posts: 49




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« Reply #7 on: July 01, 2019, 06:24:32 PM »

In Fall of 1956 at age 15,  I was listening to Radio Budapest one evening.  I often tuned in on my Hallicrafters S-38 and was enthralled by the many foreign stations I could hear.  Radio Budapest was one of my favorites.  As I listened on that particular evening, the station suddenly went off the air.  I didn't know until much later that I had been listening at the very time the invading Soviet army was putting down the Hungarian revolution and one of the first things they did was to destroy or control communications.
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VE3WGO
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Posts: 441




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« Reply #8 on: July 02, 2019, 09:11:44 PM »

Listening on the air late one winter evening in 1991, I heard an awful lot of ugly-sounding wideband noise signals in many places across the shortwave bands.  It was very unusual, and I had no idea where they were coming from or if my radio was having problems and causing these "signals".  They sounded like many tones all at once, many kilohertz wide, really spooky, as if hundreds of organ pipes were all playing continuously without end.

Next day, the Gulf Air Campaign in Iraq started. 

I guess those "noise signals" were either jammers or perhaps very high speed wideband military signals, because they were gone the next day.  Or maybe it was just coincidence.  I have not heard them since.

73, Ed
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HFCRUSR
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Posts: 350




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« Reply #9 on: July 03, 2019, 11:34:37 AM »

I have no "story" as beautiful as in previous posts but I do have a few significant SWL catches.

I and some others monitored HAARP back when they were fully operational. I recorded this one night in 2011
https://youtu.be/gyqaoZ9k0OE

I recorded Voice Of Korea the day Kim Jong Il died
https://youtu.be/TSe3wzQimRE

And I caught the Air Force Song on 11175kHz USB being played on 11-26-2012
https://youtu.be/C-nmYoyU8Jk
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Not a ham, but an avid hobbyist in HF world. All things, short of transmit happen in this shack.
N8YX
Member

Posts: 1339




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« Reply #10 on: July 15, 2019, 07:58:43 AM »

I've always been an off-the-beaten-path DXer. Kol Yisrael on 29.750 in the late 70s on my DX-160. Still don't believe I got that one, but I have the QSL card.

Go a little lower in the spectrum (27.540) and monitor all the CB/"freeband" packet radio stations in the early 90s. What killed that operation domestically was the willingness of many foreign amateur SysOps to turn a blind eye to the traffic's origin; thus, the amateur packet network was inundated with non-amateur communications. Eventually, the FCC did something about the problem. As did many fellow SysOps.

So-called "Echo Charlie Band" communications, clandestines. The 6.3-7.0MHz region was active with them if you knew where and when to look. Nowadays, with sat and cell phones...not so much. But they're still around. As are the pirate SWBC stations who favor the high end of 41M.

FM studio links on HF. The 11M SWBCB may be dead to broadcasters but I still keep this allocation available in any HF receiver I own. From 25.700MHz and up, one occasionally catches a link transmission during a good Sporadic E opening.

Lots to hear, even today. Just requires tuning and patience.

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KC6RWI
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Posts: 170




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« Reply #11 on: July 15, 2019, 10:43:51 AM »

Interesting, I didn't get the last paragraph, are you saying there are broadcasters that use a low freq to send a clip? (I just reread you post and Yes, thats what you are saying)
Also I hear from another site I visit,, hf underground, that so many pick up pirate broadcasts just below 7 mhz, but I've yet to hear anything at anytime..
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HFCRUSR
Member

Posts: 350




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« Reply #12 on: July 22, 2019, 04:59:48 AM »

I caught a pirate on 6930kHz USB last night in the 0300UTC hour playing some Merle Haggard Smiley
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Not a ham, but an avid hobbyist in HF world. All things, short of transmit happen in this shack.
VK2NZA
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Posts: 275




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« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2019, 02:05:18 AM »

In 1968 I was 14 year old New Zealander attending high school and living in Bethesda MD, just 1/2 mile from the District of Columbia border.
My father had been posted as a Consul for New Zealand to the USA in 1967 and the position entailed looking after the interests of NZ'ers traveling/living in the USA and processing passports for US citiizens travelling to NZ and assisting citizens of both countries when in need.
I was a keen SWL'er and often sat up late at night in front of my Realistic DX-150 plus matching "voice frequency speaker" (can't forget that LOL) at night surfing the then busy SW bands.
 This was at the height of the Vietnam war and both New Zealand and Australia had military involvement alongside the USA with over 60.000 Australian troops, naval and air assets, NZ deployed rifle battalions, engineers and medical and surgical teams and heavy artillery attached to the 173rd Airborne at Ben Hoa near Saigon.
A number of my fathers associates in DC were NZ defense liasons attached to the Embassy due to the war and one Captain had encouraged me in my hobby with a view to an amateur radio licence.

Radio Hanoi, R Moscow, R Cuba and  were hot in condemnation of the Imperialist forces and the airwaves were full of stations giving a young teenager (just) a handle on the world.

(I was also aware of the rising opposition to the war and often saw injured vets many in wheel chairs at the Bethesda naval hospital which was just down the road from my high school.)

Of course I regularly tuned into the Kookaburra signet of R Australia most mornings for a view on local news in the South Pacific my area of origin.

Radio Australia had a good signal into the USA from its Shepparton, Victoria site with 4 100 KW and 1 50 KW Collins, STC, AWA and RCA transmitters and also the Cox Peninsula transmission site near Darwin in the Northern territory, it used 3 250 KW Collins transmitters although I believe they were later replaced with 3 Continental 50 KW transmitters. although it did not specifically target the USA or Europe, its Asia Pacific service was easily received on the East and West coast of the USA.

Radio New Zealand however was a bit more difficult to receive on the East coast primarily due to its smaller 7.5KW ex WW2 Collins transmitters originally US army left by the American forces stationed in NZ after the war, (I believe)
However R NZ had a great antena location on towering cliffs overlooking the Tasman Ocean at Titahi bay 20 or so miles North of the capital Wellington.

Interestingly one of the local Wellington National stations 2YA on medium wave used a 100KW transmitter on 570 khz and 2YC had a 60KW transmitter on 660 khz., Most other NZ MW National stations were 20 KW.

Around 2100 - 0000 at night if one tuned carefully R' New Zealands signet Bell bird chirp could be received in the 25 meter band  11780 khz quite well and if my memory serves me the 31 meter band 9540khz or so, depending on propagation usually one or the other could be heard.

On the night of 10 April 1968 I had been lstening to R'Nederlands via Nederlands Antilles (remember that) and decided to tune for R'NZ, now as you older amateurs and SWL'ers may remember the DX-150 was a single conversion superhet with bandspread tuning that left a bit to be desired in regard to tuning accuracy, the odd birdie and above 21 meters a bit deaf,
Selectivity was improved by my first kit assembly of a Heathkit Q' multiplier and notch filter.
Through some QRM and band noise I recognised a Kiwi accent giving a news bullitin except it wasn't on the hour as usual, what I heard was an announcer giving live coverage of a large inter Island ship the 8948 ton Wahine that sailed between the North and South island of NZ carrying railway wagons, trucks, cars and this night ( morning in NZ)  734 people on board, locals and tourists, seamen, it had been coming into Wellington harbour during Cyclone Giselle and been hit broadside by 100 knot gales and a large wave that pushed it onto Barrat reef a rocky part of the western entrance to the harbour.
The Wahine was a very new Scottish built ocean going ship with stern and bow thrusters designed for the heavy seas of the Cook strait that it crossed twice daily.
The ship was listing badly with 4 compartments flooded, its starboard propellor smashed and drifting.
Its stern propellor was smashed and engines failed.

The announcers voice delivered the grim details, It felt quite surreal to be listening to a broadcast of this urgency from the city I had left only a year before.

I went upstairs to my fathers bedroom and he was reading some papers in bed, I urged him to come down stairs and listen, his response was querying "I would have heard from the communications officer at the Embassy if something like that was happening" however he begrugingly came down to my room and listened briefly, then went to a phone and rang the duty officer in the secure basement area communications room, at the New Zealand Embassy, the duty officer said nothing received here and my father hung up.
A few minutes later the telephone rang and the comms officer said the teleprinters are going berserk as reams of paper were scrolling off machines, heralding a lot calls to other Embassy staff.

The next few days were busy for my father and other Embassy staff as relatives of US tourists were contacted or enquired as to safety of their friends and family.

Subsequently
The heavy tug Tapui reached the ship at 1130 and managed to attach a cable, however listing heavily with 200 cars and trucks shifting compounding list, the cable broke and the ship continued to take water through the large rear vehicle loading door.
Drifting and dragging anchors, at 1330 the captain finally gave order to abandon ship, only 4 life boats were able to be lauched due to the heavy listing and wild sea.
As Wellingtonians became aware of the disaster around 1400 the news rallied many people to drive their cars down to the western harbour areas and face them into the water with their lights on high beam to guide the ship wrecked passengers and indeed many were dragged out of the heavy seas to safety.
Visability and weather was foul and people stood in the surf calling out to survivors.
The Wahine's sister ferry the Aramoana and other police and customs vessels stood by picking up survivors.
The Wellington Harbour Master Galloway was able to reach the ship on a pilot lauch and jumped from the launch onto a suspended ladder in high seas and board to assist the captain with rescue efforts, he and the Wahine's Captain Robertson were the last to leave the ship.
Three of the 4 launched life boats made safety, the 4th was swamped and abandoned in the heavy seas.
The final result was of the 734 on board 51 lives lost, many through exposure after being dragged out of the freezing wild seas and thrown onto rocks.

Shortly after this event my father took more notice of my interest in SWling and allowed me to put up some tuned dipoles in the attic to conplement my 45 ft long wire in the back yard.
I'll always remember the chilling effect that broadcast had on me a youngster and the thrill of having a communications device that allowed me to hear an event on the other side the world.
I have continued an interest in SWling into my later life spurring me on to gaining an amateur licence and enjoying the contacts and cameraderie of my fellow hams!
  Ross.



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NA4IT
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« Reply #14 on: July 27, 2019, 03:42:44 AM »

My story is a little different. My dad was in the Korean War, stationed in Germany. He bought a new Zenith Trans Oceanic, and unfortunately didn't bring it home with him. He loved listening to SWL.

Many years later, I go a Realistic DX-160 receiver. My dad asked me to teach him how to use it. Later I got my novice ticket and got a QRP transmitter, so the DX-160 became my receiver.

My best memory is coming in the house and seeing my dad in my bedroom sitting at the desk with the headphones on listening to the DX-160. He would be oblivious to anything around him, just enjoying listening.

I often wondered how much he regretted leaving that Zenith TO in Germany...
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