Saturday, October 21, 2017

Don't forget about Halloween

I've been posting about the Global HF Weekend and sending e-mails about it, but don't forget that Halloween is the big weekend in North American pirate radio. In Europe, Halloween is pretty much just another weekend, but over here, you can expect a few Halloween-only stations to appear + holiday-themed broadcasts from a number of others.

In past years, during the prime times (about 2100-0100 UTC), we've had as many as six stations on the air at the same time. Of course, being prepared for Halloween means being there and listening. But if you have the equipment available, it also means having as many receivers as possible ready to tune in pirates and as many recording devices as possible ready to save the audio.

I currently only have one antenna up, so preparing for Halloween means that I need to set up another one, whether something specific or just a random wire so that I can tune in and record strong signals on a secondary receiver. It also means that I need to have another computer and the audio cable ready to record. I'd like to be capable of recording on three frequencies at once, but both of my 10-year-old laptops recently died and I have to ask myself if it's worth it to record onto cassette and then convert that audio to MP3 files later.

Of course, this is where the spectrum-grabbing capabilities of SDRs are truly useful--and I might just need to revisit it (imagine that). If you have an SDR and can save a chunk of the spectrum, this is the time to do it. And if you live in Europe and want to hear some North American pirates, the SDRs are useful for picking out weak bits of audio on fade-ups from a few different stations that might not be fading in for long.

Speaking of Europe and DXing pirates, given the erratic nature of pirate radio in North America, it might not be worth it for many listeners in Europe to stay up well past midnight listening, but if you want to try it, Halloween is your best bet. A few guys (unfortunately, just a few) from Europe regularly hear North American pirates and post on the HF Underground (I won't mention names in case they don't want the publicity, but some of the current active loggers are from Germany, Belgium, Italy, and the Ukraine and their reports are greatly appreciated), so signals should be audible across Europe on a regular basis. The variable here is propagation and the nemesis is local noise levels from computers, lights, signs, transformers, etc. A noisy environment can hinder or eliminate your chances of hearing some real DX.

I wanted to just write a little note about we shouldn't forget about Halloween, but this is turning into a full-out article! Sorry to babble on! Have a great weekend and, oh, Halloween-themed pirate radio tends to start a few weeks before Halloween (so that ops can get extra mileage out of their programs and because propagation varies). Just last night, Halloween Radio Shortwave was logged.

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