Sunday, October 23, 2016

Dutch MW pirates: a brief history and how to hear them

The Dutch MW pirates are quite a well-known phenomenon. However, knowledge of these stations is almost non-existent among most DXers and there is little publicity about them other than blogs like ours and the excellent AM Forum. To remedy this fact, we will take a close look at the MW pirate scene and provide you with the essential details to be aware of when DXing the underground stations from the Netherlands.

A brief history

The first Dutch pirate transmitter was built around 1915 and is on show at the Museum for Communication in Den Haag. As far as we know, there were only a few pirates before World War II, but at the end of the war many of the American and French army transmitters were put into circulation all over the country, paving the way for many people to start up their own stations. At this time the pirates provided the audience with Dutch folk music, and this format has mainly been used ever since as the legal stations never have offered this kind of service.

Jumping three decades to the 70s, a new kind of pirate popped up on the 227 metre band (1300-1330 kHz), usually called "international broadcasters" as they had broadcasts in English, dedicated not only to a local audience, but also to DXers all over Europe.

For several years the activity on 227 was very intense and many of the stations became very popular. Among those were Radio Corallfisher, Radio Hawaii, Radio Tom Cat and Radio Nolan. The latter told us he could get around 100 letters for only a one-hour broadcast, a figure that most pirates of today can merely dream of.

At the start of the 1980s legal broadcast stations began occupying some of the 227 metre frequencies, leaving no space for the MW pirates, and consequently one by one they left the airwaves.

A few years later, however, new frequencies were found in the MW band and the international pirate scene was revived, mainly with broadcasts on 1508 kHz. Radio Orang Utan was the very first station to use the frequency. That was in March 1985, and it turned out to be a very good and clear channel. Just a few months later, several other international pirates also could be heard there. One of the most active stations besides Radio Orang Utan was Radio Torenvalk, who also used 1094 kHz for their regular transmissions.

For some reason these frequencies were abandoned after only two years and those stations who were left went back to the 186 metre band and some moved to shortwave. 

In April 1992 new morse signal stations from Scheveningen in northern Holland began broadcasting on 1611 and 1615 kHz, making reception of Dutch pirates in the frequency range 1610-1620 kHz very difficult. Only a handful of stations continued to operate in this part of the band. However, all was not lost as most of the previous occupants moved down band just a little and could be heard mostly between 1604 and 1610 kHz. A few stations also revived 1508 kHz - the likes of Radio Perlee, Radio Pirana and Radio Barones, who could all be heard with regular international broadcasts.

The different types of Dutch MW pirate
In terms of Dutch pirates on mediumwave we are usually referring to stations operating on the 186 metre band, that is the range from 1610 to 1640 kHz. There are some pirates who operate lower down the MW band - 1539, 1512, 1494 etc, but these are often low-power daytime locals and can hardly be heard from outside their own area. In the last few years some of the Dutch pirates have tried out going a little higher than 186 metres, experimenting on frequencies up to 1700 kHz  but, as a rule, you don't hear many stations this high up the band.

There are a large number of pirates in Holland, but most of them broadcast on the FM band, some with huge teams of people running up to 30kw of power. Over the past decade MW activity has gradually increased due to the overcrowded state of the FM band, although in the last couple of years some stations have gone silent following closer scrutiny from the Dutch authorities.

Basically, there are three types of Dutch pirate operator. First, we have the already mentioned international stations, who usually have a programme format similar to the SW pirates (pop/rock music, jingles and announcements). Names like Barones, Relmus, Wadloper and Batavier fit firmly into this area.

In the second category we have the so-called zender amateurs, who provide a service of Dutch folk music. They also often make qso contacts, in which two or more stations give signal strength and modulation quality reports to each other. A QSO starts with two stations initially and often more stations come along with it, which sometimes can develop to involve anything up to seven or even more pirates. Names like Monte Carlo, Toulouse and Noordzee figure here.

Last, we have stations
 whose main interest is to play music to a local audience only. There are also mixtures of these catogories - it’s rather common that some of the pirates make international broadcasts as well as making Dutch folk music programmes and QSOing.

When to listen
The Dutch pirates can be heard daily all year round. The best time to listen out for them overseas is from around 1700 UTC to midnight, and sometimes even later. On weekends activity increases dramatically. The few international broadcasters can mostly be heard on Saturday nights, although other days and times are used too.

Some stations have regular broadcast times. You can hear Veronica every Monday evening on 1640, and Vrijevogel is usually on 1650 at the same time. Thursday mornings on 1636 is when you can hear Torpedojager, Sterrekijker can be heard on Friday evenings on 1620, Keizer en Keizerin are active most Saturday evenings on 1636, while early Sunday mornings are a great time to catch Zonnester on 1620, and Witte Tornado is active every Sunday on 1647 kHz from 1500 UTC.

While some stations might not have regularly tranmission times, many do have specifc frequencies. While this helps to establish an audience, another reason for staying put is because of the antennas used by many of the pirates. Their coil designs have a very narrow bandwidth, which means the transmitter will give full power and work at its best only on the frequency for which the antenna has been designed. A change in channel can lead to be a big decline in the effectiveness of the antenna.

Here are some stations to listen out for use who have a regular spot on the band:


Barcelona 1636
Blauwe Koe 1635
Bluebird 1638
Bootsman 1620
Casablanca 1642
Friese Piraat 1629
Havanna 1636
Johan 1620
Kezier en Keizerin 1636
Marianne 1630
Matrix 1670
Mustang 1647
Pandora 1625
Polkaman 1665
Relmus 1655
Schaduwjager 1620
Spanningzoeker 1620
Sterrekijker 1620
Sylvania 1638
Torpedojager 1636
Toulouse 1636
Uniek 1615
Veronica 1640
Vrijeveogel 1650
Wilskracht 1655
Witte Tornado 1647
Zonnester 1620

When DXing the Dutch pirates listen for tune-up whistles and strong open carriers all over the band. Many surprise stations can be heard this way and can often lead to some lengthy QSOs. Now and again you will hear announcements between the Dutch folk music records, so listen for the station identifications. A phone number, usually for text messages or WhatsApp contacts might be given out, and often an email address. Some stations might have an email address but no longer announce it as they prefer not to be contacted in this way. They prefer instant contact which does not involve time-consuming responses to emails and sending out qsl cards.

It’s not much use telephoning a Dutch pirate unless you can give a verbal Dutch report and be understood. You might have just heard an identification and location given in perfect English, but this is probably the only English the station operator knows, having repeated it parrot fashion for many years. A fair amount of the MW pirates do speak fluent English, but the majority do not.

When a station has been on the air for a while with a music programme and announces a close-down, this is the time to listen very carefully. Check all frequencies as more often than not one, two or possibly three stations will be waiting to give him a report.

Why it can be difficult
Most stations you will hear have a splendid modulation quality, but a number of the pirates sometimes have a terribly distorted modulation which often makes it impossible to decipher the speech. One way to help matters is to use an amplified audio and a bandwidth filter connected between your receiver and loudspeaker or headphones. The improvement is often dramatic.

Another problem with listening to the Dutch MW pirates can be drifting. With DDS transmitters this is far less frequent than it used to be, although unstable carriers can still be noted. Quite a number of the pirates use very old transmitters which continue to move around even when they’ve been on the air for some time.

There are quite a few difficulties when it comes to reporting the Dutch MW pirates. Although some of them can be found in the pirate radio chatroom and can be contacted immediately with a reception report, others may not be interested at all in hearing from you. Most of these stations belong to the third category (local low-power operators) and if you do hear one of them, usually the only way to contact them is to rely on the goodwill of a pirate in the neighbourhood and ask him to forward your report to the station in question.

The best way by far to send a report to a Dutch pirate is through an email. Report forms might do for most international stations but you should always add some personal details. Try to use Dutch if possible. Although not necessary, it will be appreciated since some of the operators don’t speak English.

You can include a SINPO rating, but it will not be understood by a lot of pirates. Therefore, you should also describe the reception in words. Primarily they are interested in signal strength and modulation quality, which simply can be described as any of poor, fair, good, very good etc. Then you can go on describing any type of interference and anything else that might be of interest to the station. 

Since many stations play Dutch folk music and QSO in Dutch, it might be difficult for you to get appropriate programme details. To spare this trouble, you can enclose an MP3 recording of the reception, which is always highly appreciated by the pirates. But if you do send an audio report, also record some other stations you have heard as this is likely to interest him as much as his own signal.

If you receive a response and a QSL you should always send the station a note of thanks for the reply. This may sound unnecessary, but it is self-evident that politeness is much appreciated by the pirates. It also helps the next DXer's report gets a reply as well.

Radio equipment and antennas
Any radio receiver that covers the required range can be used to DX the Dutch MW pirates. For the best results, however, a communications receiver that has good selectivity and sensitivity and a digital frequency readout is what you want. The best antenna to use for Dutch pirate DXing is a loop, either indoor or outdoor.

My very first receiver was a Russian-built Vega Selena 215, and I have happy memories in the early 1990s listening to the likes of Radio Barones. There was no digital display, and tuning to certain frequencies was all rather hit and miss. I've heard the strongest Dutch pirates on all sorts of radios, some very inexpensive. Reception is largely down to the antenna. Get that right and you're guaranteed to hear plenty of stations.

After the Vega, I remember a Sangean ATS803A, a Sony ICF2001D, and a Lowe HF150. I still have all these, but now mainly use a Lowe HF225 and a Kenwood R5000.

When I first started out I built my own little box loop antenna. High-tech it was not - in fact, it was a very crude design. However, it worked well and pulled in plenty of Dutch MW pirates. I later upgraded to an octagon design, and used it with an amplifier, which again gave very good results.

These days I have a couple of portable loops for holidays, but mainly use a Wellbrook loop antenna pointing straight towards the Netherlands, and it really is very good. 

Most residential areas have plenty of local interference, and I get my fair share here, too. So, in order to combat this and get noise-free reception of the pirates, I use a noise cancelling unit. This requires two antennas (the loop and, in my case, a shortwave inverted v) and uses one against the other to null out the offending signals. I find it an essential piece of kit.

I hope this information has been useful and provided an insight into a sometimes confusing part of the radio spectrum. 
If there is anything I've missed or something specific you would like to know about the Dutch MW pirates, I'll always do my best to help. Just drop me an email at

Originally written by Derek Taylor and Stefan Printz (August 1992)
Updated by MW Pirate Fan (October 2016)

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Pirate tales from the past

Here's a video you must watch with some great stories from the days of MW pirate radio here in the UK . . .

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

O wow

I've just been listening to 1655 kHz. The station on the frequency was O Superman. The difference with today's broadcast from this Dutch pirate is that he was using only 0.5 watts. I've heard him on the last two Wednesdays - using 20 watts on the first occasion, and then 100 watts last week. Both times I was amazed at the reception considering the output power involved. But tonight has really surprised me.

I remember a few years ago hearing Relmus from Friesland with 800 milliwatts, but to hear a station with 500mw, and broadcasting from further inside the Netherlands is stunning. Take a listen to the recording and be ready for a surprise!

Monday, October 10, 2016

A raid, a comeback and plenty of activity

First, some bad news from across the water in that the AT paid a visit to the Blonde Zwerver on September 30 after reports the station had been causing interference over the PA system at a local church. Other pirates have received warning letters and even a knock at the door from the authorities but continue to broadcast one way or another, so there is always a chance this might not be the end of another station.

Some of you might have seen my recent post about Radio Delta, who used to operate on SW with the P.O. Box 41 Elburg address, and were on MW way back in the 1970s. They have been testing again on 1.6 MHz, trying out different audio processors and the like, and the plans are still there to hit the band with some international programmes.

Dutch pirates in general have long fascinated me. There are some who really capture my imagination for one reason or another though, and one such station is O Superman, also known as OSM Radio. He can be silent for months, then all of a sudden will appear in the air. I've heard him a few times recently, with a simply stunning signal on October 5, even more so when you consider his transmitter power at the time was 100 watts courtesy of two of the famous 807 valves. He was reportedly using 8x807s in his modulator, which explains why the signal meter here was swinging around every time he spoke or played any music. You can see a video and recording below.

Early Sunday morning continues to be a good time to catch Dutch pirates on air, and reception is getting better and better at this time over here in England as the sun rises later and later. The Bootsman was doing good work last Sunday before a nice qso including several other pirates.

Time now to bring the logs up to date:

Monday, October 10, 2016
1632          2105         Bluebird 55444-55555 music programme
1650          2020         Vrijevogel 25222 music programme
1640          2024         Veronica 35333 music programme
1625          2026         Witte Raaf 35333 music programme
1624          2308         Soerabaya 25222-35333 music programme

Sunday, October 9, 2016
1620          0556         Bootsman 35333-45444 music programme
1620          0615         Zwarte Bouvier 25222 report for Bootsman
1620          0637         Noordzee 35333 qsoing
1629          2106         Zwarte Panter (Oldenzaal) 34333-45444 music show
1647          2110         Witte Tornado 45444 music programme
1629          2217         Monte Carlo 35333 report for Zwarte Panter

Friday, October 7, 2016
1645          1709         JB 35333
1620          1715         Sterrekijker 25222 at 1758 music programme
1650          1755         Relmus 25222-35333 music programme

Thursday, October 6, 2016
1636          0603         Torpedojager 25222-35333 music programme
1638          1815         Bluebird 35333-45444 music programme
1630          2108         Alpenjager 35333 testing
1640          2108         Professor Sickbok 45444 qsoing
1645          2110         Turfsteker 25232-35333 qsoing
1645          2113         Noordzee 45444 qsoing
1620          2117         Meteoor 45444 qsoing
1635          2120         Monte Carlo 25332 qsoing
1620          2122         Bonte Specht 25232 qsoing
1640          2127         Monte Carlo 35333 qsoing
1642          2137         Noordzee 45444 qsoing
1625          2218         Pandora 55444 report for Alpenjager
1627          2225         Jeneverstoker 25332-35333 report for Alpenjager

Wednesday, October 5, 2016
1620          1940         Turftrekker 44444 qsoing
1624          1940         Wadloper 44444 music programme
1613          1942         Batavier 23222-34333 music programme
1636          1948         Blauwe Koe 44444 qsoing
1620          1955         Sapporro 32432 qsoing
1629          2014         Barones 54444 testing
1655          2057         OSM 35443-55454 qsoing
1634          2100         Vrolijke Mijnwerker 45444 music programme
1620          2106         Noordzee 33433-44444 music programme
1640          2110         Anton 44444 asking for report
1640          2130         Professor Sickbok 44444 report for Anton
1636          2130         Toulouse 34433 report for Anton 
1620          2138         Anton 44444 qsoing
1655          2200         Monte Carlo 45333-45444 qsoing
1645          2220         Noordzee 45444 qsoing
1645          2224         Monte Carlo 45444 qsoing
1650          2252         Delta 35443 testing     

Tuesday, October 4, 2016
1620          1629         Digitaal 35333 music programme
1638          1630         Sylvania weak signal, 25343 at 1823 music programme
1650          1632         Vendor 25232 
1647          1747         Nachtzwerver weak signal qsoing
1629          1822         Admiraal 25432 qsoing
1633          2153         Barcelona 45433 music programme
1625          2243         Pandora 55434 

Monday, October 3, 2016
1611          1805         Atlantic 54444 music programme
1645          1810         Zwarte Boekannier 44444 music programme
1640          1811         Veronica 34433-44444 music programme
1650          1813         Vrijevogel 34443 music programme
1629          2007         Blauwe Koe 45444 music programme
1665          2030         Zwarte Panter 25222 testing
1634          2112         Bluebird 55555 music programme
1645          2137         Monte Carlo 35443-45444 report for Veronica
1629          2142         Noordzee 44444 report for Veronica
1621          2143         Pioneer 35222-35333 asking for report
1640          2218         Casablanca 55444 qsoing
1629          2232         Monte Carlo 44444 qsoing
1650          2246         Monte Carlo 45444 qsoing 

Sunday, October 2, 2016
1636          1524         Bizon 34433 at 1745 music programme
1647          1542         Witte Tornado much stronger later music programme
1620          1658         Turftrekker 35443 report for Bizon
1625          1732         Turftrekker 25322 qsoing
1625          1736         Sapporro weak signal qsoing
1638          1747         Admiraal 23432 qsoing
1629          1754         Speedygonzales 35333-45444 at 1803 qsoing
1630          1801         Admiraal 35433 qsoing
1629          1810         Barones 45444-55555 qsoing
1635          1826         Havanna 45434 qsoing
1620          2100         Noordzee 34433-44444 qsoing
1615          2113         Monte Carlo 35333 qsoing
1649          2139         Kaimaan 25222 report for Witte Tornado 
1644          2205         Monte Carlo 35333 report for Kaimaan
1611          2212         Pioneer 33333 report for Monte Carlo
1645          2250         Pioneer 35333 qsoing

Friday, September 30, 2016
1629          1640         De Friese Piraat 25322-35333 music programme 
1620          1640         Sterrekijker 25342 music programme
1655          1736         Relmus 25222-35333 music programme
1640          1759         Studio Friesland 25222 report for Friese Piraat
1620          1802         Brandaris 33433 asking for report
1629          1813         Studio Friesland 34333 qsoing
1615          1820         Batavier 34333-44444 music programme
1611          1850         Kooiplas 34333 music programme
1643          1847         Digitaal 55444 music programme
1621          2109         Uniek 35333-45444 music programme
1655          2110         Wilskracht 35333-45444 music programme
1640          2128         Professor Sickbok 55444 music programme
1645          2128         Relmus 33433 testing

Wednesday, September 28, 2016
1629          1752         Blauwe Koe 35333 music programme
1611          1758         Eldorado 44444 music programme
1633          2130         Barcelona 44444 qsoing
1630          2145         OSM 23212, 35433 at 2245 qsoing
1625          2227         Pandora 45434-55444 qsoing
1621          2257         Monaco 35333 qsoing

Tuesday, September 27, 2016
1611          1930         Turftrekker 45444 music programme
1645          1933         Twentana 45444 music programme
1630          1935         Marrianne 35333-55444 music programme
1613          1936         Digitaal 43433 testing
1646          1946         Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444 music programme
1646          2110         Turfsteker 25322-35333 music programme
1635          2113         Ruisbreker 35333 music programme
1629          2114         Noordzee 45444 report for Marrianne
1655          2115         Snowman 25322 music programme
1633          2116         Barcelona 54444 qsoing
1665          2122         Polkaman 25322
1629          2145         Snowman 24422 music programme

Monday, September 26, 2016
1640          1543         Professor Sickbok weak signal qsoing
1638          1620         Bluebird 25222 music programme until 2230!
1620          1659         Schaduwjager 35333-45444 qsoing
1633          2152         Barcelona 54444 qsoing
1625          2231         Pandora 55444-55555 report for Bluebird
1650          2249         Delta 35333 testing with non-stop music

Sunday, September 25, 2016
1647          2156         Nachtrijder weak signal qsoing
1630          2156         Driland 44444 qsoing
1645          2202         Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444
1641          2205         Casablanca 55544 qsoing
1655          2220         Driland 45444 qsoing
1611          2243         Technical Man 44444 testing new T antenna

Friday, September 23, 2016
1643          1650         Pecon 25332
1630          1704         Alaska weak signal
1626          1707         Musky weak signal, 25332 at 1803 music programme
1620          1726         Sterrekijker 25232-35333 music programme
1655          1737         Relmus 35333 testing
1611          1838         Turftrekker 54444 music programme
1646          2113         Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444 music programme               
1665          2206         Polkaman 25222-35333 music programme
1641          2234         Casablanca 55444 report for Mijnwerker
1650          2257         Delta 35222-35333 testing for first time on MW since 1970s

Wednesday, September 21, 2016
1620          1633         Schaduwjager 35343 qsoing
1625          1649         Akai 25242 qsoing
1620          1652         Skywire weak signal qsoing
1622          1653         Monaco 24332 qsoing
1611          1654         Mike Radio 35443 testing in USB, then AM
1629          1738         Edelkampioen 54444-55555 music programme

Monday, September 19, 2016
1630          1634         Digitaal 25222 testing
1645          1635         Zwarte Boekanier 25222 music programme

MW Free Radio