The Perfect Storm


Who knows what makes for good propagation? I mean, we certainly understand the role of the sun and its interaction with earth’s magnetic field, but sometimes there’s something else involved that is harder to predict. It’s like those crazy days during a solar minimum when 10 meters opens up, or those days when the sunspots are rolling, but the band is closed. At the end of the day, it can sometimes just come down to chance. The odds can be in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you’ll complete the circuit.

Even though the stage has been set for great trans-Atlantic and Pacific DX for over a month, things had been kind of slim. I had heard a couple of Spaniards on the band, and even a couple of Brits, but none of them were anything to get too excited about. A little audio here and there, but nothing else. My morning runs through the dial haven’t been much better, when I even bothered to wake up for them that is. You can only have so many mornings filled with a blistering noise level before you decide that bed feels a little too comfy, and you decide to sleep in.

I have no idea what possessed me to get out of bed at 5 AM this morning. Maybe it was the fact I didn’t work at Job #2 last night, and managed to get to bed at a fairly early hour? Maybe it was the cat, who decided it would be fun to walk across my face until I let him crawl under the covers? Or maybe it was the little voice in my head reminding me of how good the bands had been the last week? Whatever it was, I found myself cruising around the dial with the Perseus at around 5:15 this morning.

At first, I didn’t really hear much of interest. 4KW was audible on 5055 with music from Chris DeBurgh, but it was a really rough copy at best. The Solomons seemed to be strong on 5020, but they looked stronger than they sounded, and needed more modulation. I was thinking about going back to bed when I popped down to the mediumwave band, and found the propagation conditions of a lifetime. The bands that had been dead suddenly came to life. The propagation drought wasn’t just over, the perfect storm had arrived.

Imagine my surprise when I received not just one, but multiple Japanese stations all across the dial. JOUB on 774 kHz was the strongest, with a Halloween themed English lesson. Check out the signal strength on this one. That station is 5866 miles away, and its peaking at just under an S9. Amazing!

This was the exact same English lesson that west coast DXer Ron Howard had reported a couple of weeks earlier on the World of Radio mailing list, so this was an easy one to identify. If that didn’t nail it down though, I heard the same programming in parallel on 693 kHz, JOAB.

Japan was audible on several other frequencies as well, including 747 kHz. The best audio of the morning though came from JOUB about an hour later, when their English lesson taught the listeners three important phrases:

This is not the end of the world
God will never give you anything that you can’t handle
All you can eat buffet

(FYI, cut the third one off in this clip. I will upload it in its entirety when I get a chance.)

And just to top it all off, the station that I caught a whiff of (at best) last fall was present this morning, and much stronger than before. My presumption at the time was that this was a China National Radio outlet, and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think.

I was really hoping for a Korean station to pop up this morning, but no such luck. I think I may have heard a little from a KBS outlet up the band from 1098 (there’s something very distinct about the sharp, staccato cadence of North Korean radio), but there wasn’t a lot to work with. Who knows what the band will serve up tomorrow? If conditions hold out, the sun stays quiet, no one wobbles the magnetic field, that magic X factor sticks around, tomorrow could make for another interesting morning.

EDITORS NOTE: I have had some folks more knowledgeable than I am take a listen to the 1098 clips, and they have strong reason to believe it was CNR 11, part of the Tibetan service. If that transmitter was the one at Golmud, it is 11,248 km away from my receive antenna.

Perfect storm indeed.