Friday, January 30, 2015

Its all Greek to me

Thursday night was an interesting one on the pirate MW band. Zwarte Boer was an early catch from the Netherlands with a long music programme on 1629 kHz. I first heard him at just after 1700 utc and he was still going strong three hours later. And at around 2000 a clutch of other low-power stations were doing great work.



On 1611 kHz Malibu had some great peaks with a sinpo of around 44444, while Digitaal (1617), Johnny Camaro (1620), Vrolijke Fluiters (1640) and Nachtzwerver (1656) were also doing well. Then as the clocked ticked round to about 2100, the propagation conditions became longer skip and 180m+ was chock full of Balkan pirates with decent signals and the Dutch pirates suddenly became much weaker.

One station in particular was getting plenty of attention. Now, I don't pretend to speak or even understand any Greek, but the operator of this station appeared to be using Iann's Pirate Radio Chat, where many station operators and enthusiasts can often be found lurking. I believe he said the station name was Aeneas, and he definitely said he was broadcasting from a height of 5,500 metres in the Greek mountains using a power of 90 watts with a transmitter made in his country.

The signal here was not bad at all, although it was better in the Netherlands. It was also arriving very well on remote radios located in Italy and Bulgaria, which certainly suggests the station was transmitting from one of the Balkan countries. However, I'm not sure about that claim of 5,500 metres. With the help of my good friend Wikipedia, I learn the highest mountain range in Greece is Olympus, which comes in at just under 3,000 metres. And huge transmitters of 10kw+ are commonplace among Balkan pirates, so I'm not sure about only 90 watts being used.

Still, there was no denying the signal was hitting our part of the world pretty well, and it's interesting to get a glimpse of a different pirate scene every now and again. But I've spent 20 years trying to master the Dutch language and all it's variations with only very limited success, and trying to understand anything said by these Balkan pirates is nigh-on impossible! And my wife tells me that sustained listening to Dutch polka will send listeners to a lunatic asylum. Goodness only knows what she would make of some of the music I heard last night!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

A bit of late-night Baro

I spent Saturday at work and didn't arrive home until about 0030. Instead of heading straight to bed, I thought I'd pop on the radio and see who was about. Straightaway there was a big signal on 1616 kHz and it was great to hear it was Barones. I made this recording in the minutes before he closed down for the night at 0100. A great signal and a fine sound as always.





I'm about to hit the hay, but as I write this, Vrolijke Mijnwerker is very strong on 1632 while qsoing with Moby Dick and Jeneverstoker. And around an hour ago Digitaal was coming in loud and clear on 1627 kHz, while Keizer en Keizerin was busy playing some pop tunes as their regular Saturday night programme came to an end.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Ingredients for a pirate weekend

It's Friday night and the weekend has arrived. So, an evening listening to pirates is just the ticket while the wind howls outside and the rain comes down. But there are a few requirements:

1) Good propagation conditions for reception from across the North Sea

Yes, we have that

2) A plentiful supply of beer

Yes, we have that, imported personally from the Netherlands last summer



3) Plenty of pirates to listen to

Yep, it's a full house

Right now there are three pirates with fine signals here in the UK. Sterrekijker is playing away on 1620 like he does every Friday, and he's in the party mood as well, as you can see . . .




Up the band on 1640 is Wadloper and the Pier Clan with a great signal and powerful modulation. There's some good music coming from the studio tonight and it's always great to listen to a station when you've been there yourself and you can picture the scene. And you can take a look too, with these images sent from the scene . . .






Just a few clicks on the dial above Wadloper is Kristal. He's broadcasting on 1645 kHz from Twente and is also very strong.

There are some other signals around as well, like the one on 1611 and the one on 1629. And there have been various stations testing throughout the evening like Titanic on 1627, Skywire on 1656 and Twentana on 1629. It was also nice to hear Columbia really well earlier on 1655, peaking with probably the best signal I've heard from him. 


Anyway, it's time to sit back and enjoy the music at the top of the MW band and crack open another beer. Cheers to the weekend!

Monday, January 12, 2015

The sound of Havanna

This morning I was working at my computer when I thought I would take a look at the Twente SDR to see if there was any MW pirate activity. I can only usually receive the Dutch pirates here during the hours of darkness as I am not near the sea. Signals can be audible in the hour or two before darkness and for a little while after sunrise, but generally I can listen on my own receivers only while the sun is down.

I found a signal on 1636 kHz using the SDR and listened to non-stop Dutch and German music. Reception was great and the modulation was impressive. After a few minutes I flicked on my own radio and to my great surprise I could hear the same signal. The time was 0913 and the SINPO was in the region of 25342, but perfectly listenable with no interference. This was a good hour after sunrise, so quite unusual to hear. Within ten minutes the signal had dipped, but it was actually still audible at just before 1000.



There are not many stations with the strength to beat the ionosphere, and I suspected I might be listening to Radio Havanna. I stayed listening to all of the broadcast with the better reception at Enschede, and sure enough came the ID I thought. It was en enjoyable 90 minutes, and good to hear the following qso which included Bannbreker, Noordzee and stations I haven't heard for a good while - Curacau, Silvia and Cobra. It was also a pleasant reminder of when I spent some time in the studio of Havanna during the summer with Herman from Radio Zeewolf. 

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Archive footage


With conditions abysmal this evening on the MW band and activity nil, I've spent a little time digging around various websites. Following on from my post about Radio King a few days ago, here's some fascinating footage focusing on London-based pirate Thames Radio/Radio Britannia, which operated between 1968 and 1975.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

What I've been listening to . . .

Early-evening conditions are some way down as I sit in the radio room at around 1800 and Dutch pirates who would usually be rocking the receiver are nowhere near as strong, and others are struggling to move the meter. So, while all is quiet, I thought I would give you a log update as I've not done one for ages. Here are the stations I've heard this year, together with some observations. All times are in UTC as usual

Friday, January 9, 2015
1648          1626         Luxemburg 25222-35333 testing 
1620          1641         Sterrekijker 35333-55544 music programme

Thursday, January 8, 2015
1620          1711         Pontiac 44444 qsoing
1648          1713         Luxemburg 34443 music programme
1620          1716         Monza 44454 qsoing
1620          1721         Digitaal 25452 qsoing
1651          1741         Turfsteker 35333 testing
1615          1744         Karel De Kaper 25332-35333 long music programme
1653          1751         Turfsteker 35333 testing
1622          1800         Dageraad 35333 music programme
1659          1824         Nova 4 55454-55555 asking for report
1635          1835         1604 25322-35433 testing with report for Nova 4
1649          1842         Nova 4 55444 qsoing
1635          1929         Batavier 25222-35333 music programme
1651          2213         Turfsteker 35333 music programme
1625          2247         WDR 35333 music programme
1630          2308         Pandora music programme


Wednesday, January 7, 2015
1620          1718         Jamaica 55444 qsoing
1622          1720         Pontiac 55444 qsoing
1647          1722         Zeewolf 25332 qsoing
1645          1726         Spanningzoeker 55444 qsoing
1622          1802         Digitaal 25322 qsoing
1664          1812         Paradiso weak signal (small traces of audio) qsoing
1625          1812         Wegpiraat 34333
1645          1818         Batavier 25222-35333 music programme
1625          1925         Dageraad 35333 qsoing
1629          1932         Johnny Camaro 35333 music programme
1640          2020         Batavier music programme
1647          2022         Mustang 55444 testing
1638          2314         Calimero 55444 music programme

A look inside the transmitter of Wegpiraat
Many thanks for Wegpiraat for sending these images 

Tuesday, January 6, 2015
1631          1816         Wegpiraat 25322-35333 qsoing
1639          1821         Klaverboer qsoing
1638          1826         Osaka 25322-35333 qsoing
1635          1828         Baanbreker 25332 qsoing
1620          1846         Schaduwjager 55444 qsoing
1620          1850         Derdeman 25222 qsoing
1636          1857         Havanna 53544 qsoing
1625          2115         Quintus 35443 music programme
1656          2124         Nachtzwerver 25332-35333 music programme
1627          2130         Sapporo weak signal report for Quintus
1630          2202         Toulouse 55444 asking for report
1630          2204         Marianne 35443 report for Toulouse
1625          2206         Noorderzon 34333 qsoing
1650          2214         Valkenster 35333 music programme

Monday, January 5, 2015
1629          2206         Benjamin 34443-44444 testing
1638          2208         Calimero 55544-55555 music programme
1645          2209         Torpedojager (Twente) 45444 music programme
1630          2252         Monte Carlo 33333-34443 report for Torpedojager

Saturday, January 3, 2015
1636          2057         Keizer en Keizerin 24322 music programme
1648          2120         Moby Dick 35333 music programme

Friday, January 2, 2015
1670          1818         Hooiberg 35443-45444 music programme
1656          2217         Snowman 25222-35333 music programme
1615          2221         Desperado 25222 music programme
1641          2313         Ridiculous weak signal report for Hooiberg
1622          2359         Soerabaya 25232 asking for report
1629          0024         Napoleon 35333-35443 music programme

Thursday, January 1, 2015
1670          1639         Batavier 25332-35443 music programme
1655          2258         Turfsteker 25232-35333 music programme
1625          2330         Noorderzon 24322-35333 music programme

Observations

  • Conditions midweek were pretty good, and there was lots of activity too. The most interesting evening for me was Thursday when I heard no less than three new stations
  • WDR from North West Overijjsel was relayed by Noorderzon, who has previously rebroadcast other stations. The signal was perfectly listenable here, and WDR hopes to make further transmissions on MW via this method
  • 1604, who I heard broadcasting from Twente with a report for Nova 4, is a name that has been used in the past. Whether this is the return of an old station, a new pirate, or somebody using a different name, I'm not sure. Herman from Radio Zeewolf told me the story of this interesting name, which comes a song about a pigeon returning from a flight - the best pigeon has the number 1604. The name has traditionally been used by pirates as they often keep pigeons somewhere near their transmitter
  • The third new one for me on Thursday was Karel De Kaper. This pirate from Friesland has previously used 1512 kHz but was busy with a very long programme on 1615 kHz. I heard him just before 1800, and he was still going strong nearly six hours later. The transmitter power is around 50 watts, and the signal was peaking quite nicely here
  • On the subject of low power, it was very interesting to hear Digitaal trying out just ten watts on Wednesday and Thursday. The signal on 1620 kHz was fading around but was pretty good when it peaked. On Wednesday evening, Digitaal was qsoing with Paradiso. I have heard of this station before but never received the signal. This time I was able to detect the carrier and some slight traces of audio, which isn't too bad considering I believe he runs only a few watts of power
  • Also with low power (about 55 watts), Luxemburg has been testing over the last few days. It had been a while since I heard him (October 7, 2013 according to my logs), so that was a welcome return. Also logged for the first time in ages during the last few days was Benjamin. He had a visit from his technical man, who made some adjustments to get the equipment working properly and the result was a good signal and strong modulation on 1629 kHz on Monday night

Friday, January 09, 2015

King of the Midlands in the 1980s

Although never as prolific as the MW pirate scene in the Netherlands, England had more than its fare share of illicit broadcasters on the band during the 1970s and 80s. The south-east, in particular, was renowned for a proliferation of pirates, many of whom would qso just like their Dutch counterparts and others who would come on air with a full line-up of presenters. Considering the dearth of MW pirates from this side of the North Sea nowadays, it is hard to believe how it used to be. 

One of the stations on the scene in the Midlands was Radio King, which was a sister station to Mystery Radio, and came on air for the first time in 1980 on 229 metres (1305 kHz). 

In those very early days a homemade transistorised transmitter with just a couple of watts was used before an upgrade the following year to 12 watts and then around 25 watts. The station, like many at that time, hit the airwaves each Sunday, transmitting full programmes from around 8am through to 5pm. 

Some months ago Radio Pacman sent me a recording of Radio King made during a marathon 48-hour broadcast on August Bank Holiday weekend in 1982. A borrowed 100 watt transmitter was doing the work on that occasion and beaming the signal from a back garden shed in Leicester Forest East to the local area and further afield to neighbouring cities including Birmingham, Nottingham and Northampton, and no doubt further.



The aerial system spanned the entire garden from its highest point, which was a pole at the apex of the house which was twice the height of the top of the house, down to a wooden post sticking out of a tree at the end of the garden, and then back to the shed. It reversed all the way back. True pirate style!

The transmission you hear on the recording used an FM link from the studio, which was in a friend’s house approximately two miles away.

All good things must come to an end and in September 1982 King was raided and taken off the air by British Telecom.

Several transmitters were taken from the MW site including a spare transistorised 100 watt unit and a 10 watt valve transmitter being built for a friend who ran another station in Leicester. The studio was raided in sync with the MW site, and two other stations in Leicester were raided at exactly the same time of 5pm. With more pirates than legal stations on the dial in Leicester at this time, the authorities clearly took the business of ridding illegal signals from the air as quickly as possible.


Radio King was also active at that time on shortwave. Most transmissions were made on 6230 kHz and used the same antenna and the 25 watt mediumwave transmitter with a coil change and retune.

Rumour has it that Radio King held the record for the longest MW pirate in Leicester on air without being raided. Many other stations in the area, such as Radio Gloria and Radio Conquest, were caught regularly with raids or attempted raids every week.

If you have any archive recordings of British MW pirates, please send them to me and I will post them on this blog together with any details and history I can find. The email address is mwpiratereview@gmail.com

Friday, January 02, 2015

Quiet start to 2015

Well it's a Friday night and typically the top of the MW band would be busy with pirate activity from the Netherlands. But it's very quiet, perhaps due to stormy weather and high winds on the other side of the North Sea, which might have resulted in pirate operators lowering their antenna masts.

As I write, I can hear three stations. On 1615 kHz is Desperado with a music programme, but the audio seems a little over-modulated. Next up is Snowman from Friesland on 1656 kHz. He uses only very low power, but his signal as usual is arriving here quite well - there is some fading, but it's perfectly listenable, especially on the peaks. The best signal, though, has been from Hooiberg, who has been on 1670 for several hours and has just closed down. I first heard him today just after 1800 utc, when he was coming in very well indeed. It seems this sort of time is still currently best for reception of the Dutch guys here in England. Just a shame there aren't more stations on air. You can get a flavour of how I was receiving Hooiberg from this recording . . .




Yesterday night, although I wasn't listening all evening by any means, I heard only Batavier, Turfsteker and Noorderzon with identifications -  all low power using in the region of 60 watts. It's still great fun to hear these stations running just a few watts of power, though. Another one I suspect was using low power last night was the station playing non-stop Dutch music on 1699 kHz. I listened for some time and heard no speaking, so I haven't got a clue who this might have been, but it was certainly an interesting choice of frequency and not one I have heard used before. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Happy New Year

A very happy new year to everybody out there - pirate radio fans, listeners and station operators. Many thanks for all the good wishes we received via email, which are always a pleasure to see. I hope 2015 brings you everything you wish for. 

I did some listening to the MW band during the early evening yesterday when there were some fair signals coming through. And it was good to hear Radio Driland back on the band for the first time in a while, using 1656 kHz for a long music programme. 

There were celebrations going on across the globe last night to celebrate the start of a brand new year - and it was no exception in the Netherlands, where plenty of pirates marked the start to 2015 in their own style. This picture was taken on the other side of the North Sea just after midnight.


Celebrating the New Year - Dutch style

The festive season often sees a few old name pop up with the odd broadcast, but there has not been so much to report this year, although conditions have not been particularly good and the noise level here has been creeping up in the last few weeks. I caught Sapporo qsoing on December 26, however, and it was good to hear Wilskracht with a fine signal during his music programme on December 30.

Going back to just before Christmas - December 19 - and Johnny Camaro was doing very well on 1629 kHz at around 1900. It was one of those occasions when conditions were just right for reception of the Dutch pirates here in England, and the signal was probably the best I've ever heard from this low power station. Take a listen . . . 

MW Free Radio