Much has been written about number stations over the years, although little is known for fact.
We do know they often broadcast on a schedule, so with a little planning, it is quite easy to receive them for yourself. Online SDR receivers take this to a new level, and now with TDoA, we are able to learn something about the geolocation of the transmitters.
It’s probably no surprise to learn many are now being geolocated to the area of Russia and Poland.
I remember the first time I ever stumbled upon a mysterious signal reading out numbers, this was BG (Before Google) so it was hard to identify or read about the history of these stations.
Needless to say, I started to log the station’s frequency and content, and would often find the same stations time and time again.
Priyom.org provide excellent service, collating lots of information in one place. They also link to various SDR around the world, providing you with a unique insight into this mysterious world.
The strange thing is they are still around today, despite us having the internet and 101 ways to encrypt and send messages these days. The attraction of HF is it leaves no digital footprint, and messages can be broadcast to 1 or many recipients over 1,000 of miles.
The Conet Project spent many years recording these strange stations and later selling these as audio recordings on CD’s
You can listen to many of these stations on my SDR, I have been added them to the frequency dial to help identification. Over the coming months, I want to collect some recordings and add them to this page.
Pirate radio stations around 6MHz have been using that part of the spectrum for many years. They often populate that part of the band, and in the main don’t seem to cause the primary users any issues. The primary users sometimes put a STANAG signal on top of the pirate music station, I doubt they even notice the radio station.
The KIWI now has a Time Difference of Arrival function, you can use this to help identify the likely location of an HF transmission.
This evening 6316.5 KHz was active with a music station, and I guessed this may be located in the UK. I selected 3 KIWI receivers located around the SE of England and achieved this fix.
The accuracy can be very good, but much depends on the location of the receivers relative to the transmitter. I repeated this one a few times, and the location did change but always remained in and around Coventry, Solihull area of the West Midlands.
6235 kHz Energy FM (pirate radio relay)
The signal was very strong in the evening, indicating the station was likely to be 100 to 500 KM. The TDoA located it as seen below to Cirencester near Swindon UK.
A further example can be seen in this map, resulted from TDoA Radio Caroline.
Suffolk Red hosted a field weekend from their field day site at the Suffolk Aviation Heritage site near Ipswich. The weather was set fine, with temperatures close to 30C and with the option to camp out for the weekend.
George M1GEO, Chris G8OCV and I set up the operating tent and populated it with the following equipment.
HF – Icom 7610 and 1.3K Linear from expert
VHF – Icom 7100 and 300w VHF amplifier from Linear amp UK
RACAL push up mast
Power – Honda 2KW generator
The object was to try something new, so I opted for 9e LFA on the Racal push up mast and tried to work as many EU stations as I could on both phone and FT8. VHF seemed quite lively, and with good take off into Europe I was soon working into France, Germany, Denmark and Belgium.
LMR 400 coax was used to keep the losses down, and the masthead amp compensated for any RX losses.
Masthead amplifier for 144 MHz was originally published in the RSGB magazine RADCOM plus issue 1 designed by Ian White GM3SEK. The details are published on his website, detailed as the DG8 low cost, high-performance preamp for 144 MHz.
Over the course of the weekend I completed 50 QSO in 25 squares, the map is shown below. If you are new, or even not so new to FT8 you may find this operating guide helpful.
A while ago I completed the QRP labs WSPR transmitter, you can read about that project in this article. I wondered how easy it would be to set this up in the garden, solar and battery powered.
The QRP labs unit transmits around 200mW, and the idea was to have this running 24×7 transmitting around 80% of the time and band hopping. I have the multi-band option, with BP filters for 3.5, 5, 7, 14 and 21 MHz.
Searching eBay I found a low costs solar charge controller and solar panel. I also needed a voltage regulator to drop the 12v to 5v for the QRP labs unit.
The items I selected are not “high quality” it was more proof of concept. The charge controller is in fact so high quality even China didn’t put their name on it.
Using the club call M0SNB June saw another chance to operate 70 MHz outdoors in the RSGB contest, with perfect weather at 24c. The contest site at the Secret Nuclear Bunker was used, at some 110m ASL it has good take off in most directions.
Using the homebrew 6e 70 Mhz beam, and the solid-state amplifier to deliver 160w worked a treat, with our best DX EI2FG @ 568 KM.
At the SNBCG operating site we have the opportunity to out up some large antenna, and for some time we had wanted to try 472 KHz using George M1GEO WSPR transmitter.
The plan was using the onsite 50m cellphone mast* to pull up some wire, and with some work hopefully, enough wire to have a 1/4 wave on 472 kHz. We calculated it would require around 150m of wire, and we had a pully on the mast at 42m, so we could pull up the first 50m as a vertical, and then have the next 100m sloping down from the last forming an “L” shape as best as we could into the next field.
The transmitter would be grounded to the mast earthing point, and we would run the 10w transmitter at the base of the mast overnight.
*for the avoidance of doubt we have permission to use the mast from the site owner.
The antenna slops down from 42m towards the ground.With a little bit of tinkering, we had a resonant antenna on 472 KHz
We left the transmitter running overnight from JO01DQ with the call GB0SNB, and was delighted to see a number of reports all around Europe.
Here you can see the tower and yellow wire making its was up from the base, and then into an adjacent field.