Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012: The DX Year in Review

2012 will go down as one of my better DX years. I had to drop a few AM stations from the log due to the fact that these tests ran (all of the logs I dropped were from 1994), along with some good E-skip openings. I reached a milestone in February with the log of my 1,300th AM radio station. It was originally WSPO 1390 Charleston, SC, but after dropping three stations from the log, that title went to KBMO 1290 Benson, MN on the evening of February 23. When 2012 ended, I had 1,395 AM stations in the logbook. Among the state milestones I made in 2012 were the 110 AM station mark from Illinois, along with 90 from Missouri (getting closer to 100 as I write this), 70 from Alabama, 50 from Kentucky and Wisconsin during 2012.

There were a few pre-season tropo openings, including one on Valentine's Day. One of the best pre-season logs came in a March 22 tropo opening, when I pulled in WXN85 Fairfield, IA on 162.400 MHz. That same opening brought two Springfield area FMs that are usually blocked by digital sidebands from local stations, WSCT 90.5 Springfield and WYMG 100.5 Chatham, formerly licensed to Jacksonville. During the summer months, I noted several good E-skip openings. The first opening of the year was on June 2 into Florida; some of the stations I heard included WJKD 99.7 Fort PierceWOLL 105.5 Hobe SoundWZZR 94.3 Riviera Beach and the station on 99.5 in Palm Beach Gardens. One of the early season openings was into New England and Atlantic Canada on June 7; two of the stations I pulled in were CHSJ 94.1 St. John, NB, along with Bangor, ME stations WHCF 88.5 and WEZQ 92.9, shifting to upstate New York; one of the stations I heard from that area was WAMC-FM 90.3 Albany, NY. June 28 was one of the hottest days of the year, with a high in the St. Louis area of 108 degrees F. I also stumbled across an early morning tropo opening into Illinois and Iowa. I did pull in two new digital TV stations, KGCW 41 (26) Burlington, IA and WCIU 27 (26) Chicago, IL. I also pulled in WBBM 780's FM simulcast partner, WCFS 105.9 Elmwood Park, IL, as well as a call letter change on a "Franken-FM", WKQX-LP 87.7 Chicago. Among the other Illinois FM stations heard were WPMJ 94.3 Chillicothe, WONU 89.7 Kankakee  Another Illinois tropo opening was on July 11, pulling in NOAA Weather Radio stations KZZ58 162.525 Kankakee and KZZ81 162.425 Lockport, near Joliet. Among the FM stations heard: WJEZ 98.9 DwightWYYS 106.1 Streator and WJWR 90.3 Bloomington. Perhaps the biggest opening of the year was the E-skip opening on July 24, which reached a maximum usable frequency of 162.475 MHz, where I heard KIH28 Philadelphia, PA. Also heard from Philly were WMMR 93.3 and WWIQ 106.9 from nearby Camden, NJ. From Washington, DC, I recorded clips from WMZQ 98.7 and WRQX 107.3. One of the more interesting catches of that opening was WRAU 88.3 Ocean City, MD. I had this signal in Stereo, along with the station it was relaying, WAMU 88.5 Washington, DC. The shortest E-skip log in the 20 years since I returned to the St. Louis area from metro Atlanta was noted in this opening, with the reception of WFHG-FM 92.9 Bluff City, TN at 470 miles. The action shifted to the west in the evening hours; among the U.S. stations I recorded during this time were KTZA 92.9 Artesia, NM, and also logged a few new ones from Texas, including KTEP 88.5 El Paso and KIVY-FM 92.7 Crockett. One Texan I haven't heard in a while was heard on this opening: KBNA 97.5 El Paso. The opening wrapped up with a couple of late-night Mexicans, XHBW 93.3 Chihuahua, CI and XHBP 90.3 Torreon, CL. Other tropo openings in July came on the 21st, in which I logged such stations as KXBZ 104.7 Manhattan, KS (which I also posted on their Facebook page), KUSQ 95.1 Worthington, MN and KATO 93.1 New Ulm, MN (which I also posted on their Facebook page). July 27 brought stations from MO and AR, including KAIT 8 in Jonesboro. Among the FM stations I heard were KIGL 93.3 SeligmanKUPH 96.9 Mountain View and KBHI 107.1 Miner, all in Missouri. Another station I caught on that opening is one usually blocked by the sidebands from a local on 103.3: KDAA 103.1 Rolla, MO. That opening wrapped up the FM DX season.

One of the biggest surprises on the AM side in 2012 was WCSZ 1070 Sans Souci, SC, a suburb of Greenville. I made this recording in November. They were having trouble switching from day to night pattern and power, allowing me to hear this one at night. This recording was made prior to 5:00 p.m. St. Louis time (2300 UTC). WDLR 1550 Delaware, OH helped me reach another milestone: my 30th AM station from Ohio. This was when they were broadcasting in Spanish, with an ID in heavily accented English at the top of the hour. After Christmas, the station flipped to a simulcast of WQTT 1270 Marysville, which broadcasts an Oldies format in English. Also in November, I recorded a clip from WIMS 1420 Michigan City, IN. For comparison, I also made a recording of the same station on October 24, 2011. Recordings made in 2012 also included a late afternoon reception of WLAC 1510 Nashville, TN, sunset DX from WEBY 1330 Milton, FL and nighttime low-power DX from the likes of WSLM 1220 Salem, IN and WRAM 1330 Monmouth, IL. Another station I recorded in 2012 was WGAD 1350 Gadsden, AL, which I caught later in the year simulcasting WTDR 92.7 in nearby Talladega.

On the shortwave side, one of the most interesting catches of 2012 came on 7105 kHz in November. This turned out to be the Sound of Hope from Taiwan, mixing with a Chinese "Firedrake" jammer. Another interesting log came in September, when I logged Radio Australia on 19 MHz. It's the only one I've heard in the 17 meter broadcast band (not to be confused with the 17 meter Amateur Radio band around 18.1 MHz). It was sad to hear that Radio Netherlands ended broadcasts on shortwave in English in 2012; I was lucky to record this broadcast on January 25 on 11615 kHz via Madagascar. I was lucky I was listening to shortwave as the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians reached a heated level in November, I recorded the BBC on 15400 kHz via Ascension Island on November 17. It was also on November 17 that I made a recording of the Voice of America on 15580 kHz via Greenville, NC. Compare this with the recording in October 2011 on the same frequency via Botswana. With Greenville at roughly 700 miles from my location, that relay boomed in like a local AM station. On the utility side of things, I was able to make a recording of WLO Mobile, AL on 13310 kHz in late September. Among the traffic I recorded in 2012 were U.S. Air Force MARS traffic on 4875 kHz in August and a communication between various trans-Atlantic flights and New York Oceanic air traffic control five days before Christmas on 5598 kHz. When I recorded this, New York Oceanic was contacting an Air France flight. Among the shortwave pirates I recorded in 2012: Channel Z Radio on 11428 kHz in February, Red Mercury Labs on 6925 kHz in August and Radio Casablanca on 6940 kHz in December.

Who knows what 2013 will hold? I've already logged my 1,400th AM station. I only have one station to go to log my 150th digital TV station, and 22 stations shy of 1,200 on FM radio. I don't know if I'll also hit 1,500 AM stations in 2013. In over 30 years of DXing from two locations in Hazelwood, as well as from two locations along the Cobb-Cherokee County line in Georgia, I have seen good years and bad ones. Let's hope 2013 is a good year.