Wednesday, February 08, 2017

Hunting for Dutch pirates: now and over 20 years ago

Conditions are pretty good tonight with a fair bit of activity, so I made a short video while tuning the band. Take a look at what I heard at around 2120 local time:



And now let's spin back in time. I was asked recently to post anything I could find from the Pirate Chat magazine that I operated during the 1990s. I featured plenty on the Dutch pirate scene, detailing my various trips across the North Sea to pirate land, profiles of some of the bigger stations of the day, regular logs and news. Here's a page from the edition of July 1996



Monday, February 06, 2017

Why do we listen to AM in this day and age?

The operator of longtime British AM pirate Radio Blackbeard asked an interesting question on his Facebook page on Monday evening. He wanted to know if anybody listens to a SW or MW station longer than the time it takes to get an identification. Good point, and one I often think about.

As readers of this blog will know, I provide lists of the Dutch pirate stations I've heard on MW, which means I spend a fair bit of my time tuning around the band. I guess, in a way, that means I am a collector of station names. However, it goes a bit further than that with me - I don't listen just to catch a station name so I can send off a reception report for a QSL card. 

For me, there are so many strands to our hobby. Many of the stations I hear are very low power... many talk little English... some don't have the greatest modulation... some broadcast on the same frequency and at the same time as other stations... all these are complications that I enjoy trying to master. 

I also like to let the station operators know I have heard them - that signal report can bring a great deal of pride for somebody who has built his own transmitter bit by bit, trial and error over several months. I remember the first time I heard Radio Soerabaya. So does the station operator - he has the date written on a bottle in his studio. He simply couldn't believe it when I got in touch to tell him that his little transmitter was sending out a signal right across the Netherlands and into the UK. It more than made his day.

And I actually like the AM sound - those warm, rich tones you get from listening to the stations still using this old-fashioned method of transmission. You can't beat getting a cracking signal and putting it through a decent amplifier and speakers and enjoying the sheer quality. 

Today I listened to a recording I made on Sunday night of the Zwarte Panter from Oldenzaal. I was busy with other things while he was on air, so I spent over two hours enjoying his programme this afternoon - unable to tune away to hear anything else - just his signal. I also listened to some other recordings I made last week - Barones, Bluebird and others, appreciating their sound and the effort I know they sometimes have to go to just to get a signal on the air.

When you have listened to as many Dutch pirates as I have, you are often able to work out who they are before they even open the microphone fader. The strength of the carrier... the stability of that carrier... the quality of the audio... the music being played... the depth of the modulation... the frequency... all clues to the station you are listening to, and I always enjoy trying to work out exactly who it is before any announcements. For me, that is another slice of the hobby that entertains me. Yes, I could switch on my FM receiver and listen to the local legal station, but where is the excitement? You'll be waiting a long time to hear music that is anywhere near slightly obscure, and most of the presenters may as well be robots. In fact, many stations are merely computers late at night, with no actual people in sight. Sure, there is any number of internet stations to tune into these days but, again, for me there is little excitement.

There is also a social aspect to our branch of the radio hobby. I've been tuning around for over 20 years and have made many friends in this country, in the Netherlands and around Europe. And it is always a bit of a thrill to hear those friends in the air, playing music for me. I know there are probably not many listeners - but I am listening, part of an exclusive club, a special band of people.

So yes, I write down the names of the stations I hear and share them here on the blog, but that is just a tiny part of my interest in the AM radio scene. 

Perhaps I am a rare breed, but in my case I certainly do listen for longer than the time it takes to get an ID.

Let me know your thoughts. Leave a message on this post, drop me an email through the site, drop by the Facebook page, or make contact through Twitter. In the meantime, here are some logs from the first days of February:

Monday, February 6, 2017
1651       1628       Vrijevogel weak signal, 35333 at 1703 music programme
1628       1659       Zwarte Schaduw weak signal asking for report
1628       1709       Digitaal 35343-45444 report for Zwarte Schaduw
1655       1722       Batavier 25222-35333 qsoing
1620       1724       Johnny Camaro 25222-35443 music programme
1660       1738       Batavier 35333 qsoing
1665       1742       Digitaal 35343 qsoing
1635       1755       Digitaal 35333 qsoing
1635       1816       Vrij Drenthe 35333 qsoing
1655       1849       Batavier 45444 testing
1630       1855       Moonbreaker 35333 qsoing
1629       1857       Spanningzoeker 55444 qsoing
1611       1930       Meteoor 44444 report for Moonbreaker
1634       1950       Toulouse 35333-45444 qsoing
1611       1957       Poema 34433 qsoing. Modulation problems
1611       2006       Malibu 34433 qsoing
1611       2028       Digitaal 44444 qsoing
1635       2029       Ruisbreker 35333-45444 music programme
1629       2034       Malibu 24222-35333 music programme
1665       2037       Batavier 45434-55444 testing
1647       2222       Armada 45434-55444 music programme
1629       2222       Noordzee 35333-45444
1611       2223       Batavia 33333 music programme
1625       2230       Monte Carlo 35333 asking for report
1650       2241       Wilskracht 35333-45434 reporting
1645       2300       Monte Carlo 35333 report for Wilskracht
1652       2301       Alabama weak signal report for Wilskracht

Radio Batavier was doing lots of testing on
Monday evening. The reason? He's trying out
this new transmitter which is working very well

Sunday, February 5, 2017
1615       1853       Illegaal Kabaal (Zwarte Panter) 34333-45444 
1626       1854       Twentana 35333-45444 music programme          
1635       1854       Relmus 25322-35333 music programme
1647       1854       Witte Tornado 35333-45444 music programme 
1620       2200       Alabama weak signal-25222 report for Zwarte Panter
1645       2326       Monte Carlo 35333 report for Witte Tornado

Wednesday, February 1, 2017
1623       0600       Eskimo 35443 qsoing
1629       2203       Noordzee 35333 music programme
1610       2206       Anton 34433
1635       2221       Bluebird 45434-55555 music programme
1620       2221       Anton 35333 report for Noordzee
1629       2235       Barones 43434-54444 testing new microphone amplifier
1625       2314       Barones 45434 testing

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Busy end to the month

While Sunday and Monday were much quieter on the MW here than Saturday had been, Tuesday night was very busy. There seemed to be a bit of a nosedive in propagation at around 2000 UTC, but signals picked up again a couple of hours later.

Although I was unable to hear anything during the daytime, I entertained myself listening to the SDR at Twente and to various Dutch pirate signals. There was a nice qso during the early afternoon between Havanna, Sterrenboog, Noordzee, Utopia and Johan. 

I've heard Sterrenboog on my own receivers only once here in England, so it was nice to hear him again even if it was on the SDR. I wondered, however, given his transmitter had been on, if he might flick the switch again during the evening, which would give me a chance to hear him properly. And, sure enough, he did just that and put a decent signal into my location. He was qsoing with Brandaris and Bizon, and I made some recordings, which you can hear below.







Regular readers of the blog might well have seen the list I put together in the first days of 2017 detailing all the stations I heard during 2016. There were 167 in total.

January leaves me with the impression it has been a busy month for the Dutch MW operators, so I thought I'd count up the stations heard. And, incredibly, with just one month of the year gone, I've logged 101 pirates. I reckon three of those have used two names, which brings us down to 98 individual operators. Some feat for just one month. 

Although the rest of the year will see many of these stations logged many more times, I reckon hearing over 200 stations is certainly possible for 2017, which indicates the AM pirate scene is thriving. At a time when the Dutch authorities are cracking down on the hobby and many operators are getting older, this amount of activity is a real positive for the future of the Dutch pirate scene. Long may it continue!

It was particularly pleasing to catch Skywire with a good signal on Tuesday evening. In fact, reception of the station was the best I have ever had. As you can hear from the recording, his 80 watts was doing particularly well. I heard Arizona for the first time in a long while, and Charlie Brown from Twente is a new addition to the band.




Here are the logs for the last few days:

Tuesday, January 31, 2017
1620       1639       Sterrenboog 25222-35333 asking for report
1645       1648       Digitaal 35443-45444 report for Sterrenboog
1630       1649       Rodester 45444 report for Sterrenboog
1643       1701       Charlie Brown 25322 qsoing
1630       1717       Noordzee 35333 qsoing
1640       1728       Brugwachter 45444 qsoing
1645       1744       Batavier 34333 testing with wire antenna then coil
1635       1745       Nachtzwerver weak signal qsoing
1661       1804       Arizona weak signal qsoing
1634       1831       Blauwe Panda weak signal qsoing
1646       1835       Skywire 25332-35333 music programme
1620       1921       Brandaris 35333-45444 asking for report
1623       1930       Bizon 35333-45444 report for Brandaris
1611       1941       Zwarte Boer 23322-34333 music programme



1630       1941       Marianne 44444-55444 music programme
1655       1942       Batavier 35333 report for Brandaris
1640       2027       Batavier weak signal
1660       2217       Batavier 34433 music programme
1614       2219       Monaco 24222-35333 report for Marianne
1645       2219       Monte Carlo 35333 report for Marianne
1633       2237       Barcelona 45434-55444 qsoing
1620       2245       Monte Carlo 44444 qsoing



Monday, January 30, 2017
1642       0944       Noordzee weak signal. Testing, also on 1636 and 1630
1645       1631       Digitaal 25442 calling for qso
1650       1636       Digitaal 25442 calling for qso



Sunday, January 29, 2017
1647       1856       Witte Tornado 44444 music programme
1620       1857       Weduwe 45434-55444 music programme
1611       1936       Jonge Boer 23422 music programme
1635       1949       Yogi Bear en Einstein 45434

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Super Saturday

It's been a long time since I can recall a Saturday quite like this. In fact, I don't think I've ever known one. I heard a couple of Dutch pirates first thing in the morning before the signals faded down as the sun came up. But at around 1300 local time the signals started arriving once again from across the North Sea - three and a half hours before sunset and a very rare occurrence. 



Sure enough, those pirates heard during early afternoon were weak, but sometimes the signals came up and were perfectly listenable. And from around 1500 they became stronger and stronger, and there were more and more of them. In fact, take a look at the list and there is an incredible amount. A quick count up and I made it 37 pirates during just the one day - and there would have been others I didn't log.

Nice to catch some different names, too - a couple of new pirates, some I haven't caught before and some returning after a break. Here's the rather long list:

Saturday, January 28, 2017
1620       0600       Rode Rover 45434 music programme
1620       0704       Zwarte Bouvier 25222-35333 music programme



1610       1259       Drukstroomjager weak signal asking for report
1628       1310       Drukstroomjager weak signal qsoing
1620       1320       Moonbreaker weak signal qsoing
1635       1323       Golfbreker weak signal-25342
1620       1334       Omega weak signal-25342 testing
1611       1345       Nachtzwerver weak signal
1620       1409       Marskramer (Friesland) weak signal testing
1623       1411       Relmus 25342 testing
1611       1438       Mike 25342 testing
1620       1514       Columbia weak signal asking for report
1612       1528       Pontiac 35333 qsoing
1646       1534       Zwarte Bizon 25222 qsoing
1638       1558       Friese Piraat 25222 music programme
1610       1600       Anton 24322 qsoing
1620       1604       Moonbreaker 25332-35343 qsoing
1640       1605       Brugwachter 35443 report for Friese Piraat
1650       1605       Batavier 25332, 35443 at 1621 report for Friese Piraat
1645       1609       Kamelen Boer 25322 report for Friese Piraat
1620       1610       Omega 25332 qsoing
1620       1617       Digitaal 35333 qsoing
1632       1626       Alaska weak signal qsoing
1638       1633       Osaka 25222-35333 qsoing
1670       1648       Digitaal 45334-55444 music programme
1638       1656       Brugwachter 55444 qsoing
1634       1708       Keizer en Keizerin 34443, 45444 later music programme
1620       1708       Columbia 35343-45444 music programme
1645       1747       Casablanca (Twente) 35343 music programme
1614       1800       Waterman 24222 music programme
1656       1815       Nachtzwerver 24322-45444 music programme
1635       1831       Yogi Bear en Einstein 44444 testing. Switched to 1638  
1625       1947       Barones 55444 music programme
1630       1948       Polidor 33433-44444 testing
1611       2258       Utopia 33433-44444 music programme
1650       2259       Lotus 55444 qsoing



1650       2309       Snowman 25222 music programme
1625       2309       Scotland 45434 qsoing
1655       2312       Batavier 45444
1629       2313       Monza 34433 qsoing
1647       2319       Nachtzwerver 34333 music programme
1625       2324       Napoleon 44444 music programme
1620       2326       Musky 33333 music programme
1629       2336       Blauwe Koe 34433 music programme
1643       2341       Adje 45444 music programme
1650       2350       Monte Carlo 34333 qsoing
1650       2353       Digitaal 44444-55444 qsoing
1632       0026       Vrolijke Mijnwerker 55444 music programme



Friday, January 27, 2017
1630       1533       Vrolijke Mijnwerker 35443-45444 short music programme
1634       1755       Golfbreker 25222-35333 
1646       1759       Zwarte Bizon 34333 qsoing
1655       1801       Dikke Betta 55444 music programme
1645       1805       JB 45444 testing



1629       1814       Columbia 35333-45444 testing
1620       1821       Relmus 25222-45444 music programme
1494       1826       Coast FM 34333-55544 relay 
1638       1842       Casablanca (Twente) 25332 qsoing
1638       1917       Admiraal 34333
1611       1919       Utopia 24332, 44434 at 1935 report for Columbia
1630       1939       Moonbreaker report for DB
1615       1944       Mosterdboer 35333-45444 music programme
1629       1955       Malibu 25222-35333 music programme
1646       1958       Kristal 55444 music programme
1611       2215       Malibu 24222-34333 music programme
1660       2216       Twentana 25222-44444 music programme
1655       2217       Batavier 35333 music programme
1650       2223       Batavier 35333 music programme


Thursday, January 26, 2017
1629       1530       Rebecca weak signal
1634       1550       Bizon 25222 testing

Wednesday, January 25, 2017
1638       2350       Bluebird 44444-55444 music programme
1641       0012       Orion 35333 qsoing
1649       0016       Monte Carlo 35333 qsoing
1655       1644       Batavier 25222, 35333 at 1812 music programme
1629       1652       Noordzee 25222-35333 music programme
1663       1714       Digitaal 25222-35333 qsoing
1660       1718       Noordzee 25222-35333 qsoing
1663       1744       Paradiso 25222 qsoing
1658       1748       Nachtzwerver weak signal qsoing
1634       1829       Blauwe Panda weak signal
1647       1831       Nachtzwerver weak signal-25222 music programme
1638       1945       Casablanca (Twente) 35333 music programme

Observations

  • There was a nice surprise on Wednesday evening when I heard Orion qsoing with Monte Carlo. 1641 kHz has long been his frequency, but he had been absent for some time. In fact, a look at the logs reveals I hadn't heard him since October 19, 2013. Welcome back!
  • Great to catch Rebecca on Thursday afternoon. I was sitting in the living room watching TV and thought I'd have a quick check on the radio - and there he was coming through. The signal wasn't strong but it was over an hour before sunset.
  • There were two new names on the band on Friday night. Golfbreker was the first. The operator of the station had previously been part of an FM team but has decided to try MW. He purchased a transmitter from another station in Friesland and, with a little help from Melkbus, has got everything working well. The power is 120 watts and the signal here was pretty good. Nice to have a new station on air.
  • The other station on Friday evening that I hadn't heard before was Mosterdboer. I turned detective and recruited a few helpers to try to find out a little more information about this one and it seems this was actually an FM pirate being relayed on to MW, although I'm not sure by who. The signal here was very good.
  • During Saturday's marathon listening session and some very favourable propagation conditions it was good to catch some pirates I hadn't heard in a good while - Roderover, Zwarte Bouvier, Drukstromjager/Pontiac, Alaska, Lotus and Scotland. And again there was a new addition to the airwaves. This time it was Omega, who was testing his antenna. I also heard Waterman for the first time. This is a famous name from the past, but a different station now. Also on Saturday, Kamelen Boer was a new name for me, although the station is a regular under a different name. Some oldtimers may well recognise his voice. Adje is a name that hasn't appeared in my logs either, although the operator has (Black Bandit, Johnny Tobacco anyone?)

Monday, January 23, 2017

Remembering the DPRS

A few weeks ago I came across something that caught my eye on the Facebook page of a Finnish pirate enthusiast. It was a bulletin from the Dutch Pirate Radio Service from the mid-1990s.

The DPRS was run from Preston in the north-west of England by Derek Taylor, a fanatic of the Dutch pirate scene who knew everybody and everything. If you had a question about free radio from across the North Sea, Derek was your man. He even once appeared on the Radio Netherlands show Media Network talking about his pirate passion.

As well as running the DPRS, which put listeners in touch with the pirates and even sent out qsls on behalf of the stations who did not acknowledge reception reports, Derek also offered his address for letters connected with my Pirate Chat magazine.


I met Derek several times and even spent a day at Blackpool with him and Dutch MW pirate Technical Man about 20 years ago. I can remember sitting in a bar on the Pleasure Beach talking about all things radio and also playing some of the slot machines on the Golden Mile. I still have some photos of us all somewhere.

Derek suddenly disappeared from the scene some years ago and nobody has managed to get in touch with him. I know that Radio Barones, for one, has called various numbers but with no success. Perhaps he will reappear at some point. Radio seems to be like that... people come and go but often come back again. And that was what I thought as I read through his bulletin from July 1996.

Have a look yourself and you will see many names from the pirate scene who are still going strong today. Stations like Blauwe Piraat, Blauwe Ster, Driland, Electron, Noordzee, Scotland can still be heard. Some are no longer with us having sadly died - stations like Nooitgedacht, Tijdbreker and Pelikaan - three stalwarts from the Acterhoek who would regularly be heard back in the day. Some stations have gone from the radar, but perhaps they will be back.

I had a bit of a blast from the past myself on Sunday morning when I was tuning around at about 0730 local time and heard Radio Curacau for the first time in several years. When I first became interested in the hobby in the early 1990s he was a regular on the band but I have heard him on only one other occasion since I starting listening to the pirates again in 2011 after a lengthy break. It's great when these stations pop up on the band... a reminder of yesteryear, a voice that you had forgotten that you know again in an instant. 





Time for my latest logs. Have a look and see which of the stations listed were active in 1996. A fair few as it happens.

Monday, January 23, 2017
1651       1710       Vrijevogel 25222-35333 music programme
1620       1752       Jonny Camaro 25222-35333 music programme
1625       1754       Derdeman 25222-35333
1625       1807       Digitaal 45444 qsoing
1625       1827       Spanningzoeker 55444 qsoing
1611       1833       Blackstone 24222-34333 qsoing
1645       1905       Oldtimer 45434 music programme
1629       1918       Monza 45444
1611       1925       Jonge Boer 24222-34333 music programme
1647       2220       Noordzee 35333-45444 music programme

Sunday, January 22, 2017
1630       0728       Curacau 23422-33433 qsoing
1615       0739       Mike 24422 music programme
1610       1630       Anton 23432-33433 music programme
1629       1632       Duranza 25322-35333 music programme
1647       1632       Witte Tornado 45434 at 2022 music programme
1620       2015       Santana 33333-44444 music programme
1628       2017       Barones 44444-55444 music programme

Friday, January 20, 2017
1630       1612       Anton 45444 music programme
1620       1626       Sterrekijker 25222 music programme
1655       1713       Dikke Betta 45333-55544 music programme
1646       1718       Zwarte Bizon 35333 report for Anton
1629       1721       Monza 35333 testing
1636       1842       Dolfijn 25222-35333 music programme
1655       1856       Relmus 35333 music programme

Monday, January 16, 2017
1630       1649       Digitaal 35333 qsoing
1652       1655       Turfsteker 25332 qsoing
1629       1715       Friese Piraat 25222 music programme
1657       1734       Digitaal 35222 qsoing
1617       1800       Mike 35333-45444 testing antenna
1636       1827       Admiraal 24222-34333 qsoing
1650       1840       Kristal 44444 music programme
1629       1845       Zwarte Arabier 45444-55555 music programme
1640       1854       Veronica 44444 music programme
1645       1900       Oldtimer 35333-45444 music programme
1648       1910       Admiraal 34333 report for Kristal 
1611       1914       Zwarte Boer 33433 music programme
1655       1937       Batavier 34333 testing
1620       2011       Malibu 34433 
1620       2014       Blauwe Piraat 34433 report for Malibu

Wednesday, January 11, 2017
1635       1715       Digitaal 35333
1625       1727       Johnny Camaro 25222, 45444 at 1812 music programme
1637       1734       Skywire 25222 music programme
1647       1734       Telefunken 25222 report for Digitaal
1646       1739       Digitaal 35333-45444 qsoing
1611       1815       Utopia 35333-45444 short music programme
1645       1830       Turftrekker 25222-25442 testing
1655       1903       Telefunken 25222
1643       1911       Nachtzwerver 25222 testing
1645       1942       Paradiso weak signal qsoing 
1646       1954       Digitaal 35222-35333 report for Nachtzwerver
1642       2007       Digitaal 35222-35333 music programme

Monday, January 9, 2017
1640       2110       Veronica 35333 music programme

Sunday, January 08, 2017

Catch of the day

The last few days might not have seen a huge amount of MW pirate activity, but some of the Dutch stations heard here in England have raised plenty of talking points.

It is usually the case with morning reception that signals fade out when the sun comes up. So when I got to my receivers at around 0830 on Saturday morning I didn't expect to hear much. Had I have been a few minutes earlier I would have caught Barones on 1627 who had been on air with a rare morning programme for a couple of hours. Havanna was still going strong, however, peaking up to a SINPO of 45444 at just after 0900. Imagine my surprise when I could still him an hour later. Yes, the signal was weaker, but he was clearly audible at 1000. 



Those good conditions on Saturday morning also gave me the chance to hear IJsselstein for the first time. He is often on air at this time on various in-band frequencies but propagation doesn't usually allow me to hear him. Unfortunately, those favourable conditions weren't repeated on Sunday when signals were way down until much later into the evening than usual.

Sunday, January 8, 2017
1620       1602       Pioneer 25442
1647       1631       Witte Tornado 35333 music programme
1625       2118       Barones 45434-55444 music programme
1611       2128       Batavia 33322-34443 music programme
1615       2339       Johan 55444 qsoing
1645       2346       Monte Carlo 35333 qsoing
1630       2351       Jeneverstoker 25222 qsoing
               
Saturday, January 7, 2017
1635       0831       Havanna 45444 music programme
1615       0832       Johan 35343 music programme
1620       0848       Zonnester 35333, 45444 at 0858 report for Johan
1616       0850       Noordzee 25332 report for Johan
1512       0856       IJsselstein 23422 music programme
1622       0916       Marskramer (Friesland) weak signal music programme

Friday, January 6, 2017
1630       1833       Friese Piraat 35434-45444 music programme
1636       1850       Dolfijn 44444 music programme
1656       1906       Transparant 35222-35333 report for Friese Piraat
1494       1928       Laser Hot Hits 33522-45444 music programme
1645       2130       Sallandse Boer 35333 music programme
1615       2153       Torpedojager (NWO) 35333-45444 music programme
1636       2200       Odynn weak signal music programme
1655       2230       Relmus 25222-45434 music programme



Observations

  • Good to catch Barones on Sunday night - the first time I've heard him this year. It seems I missed an epic broadcast on December 31 when this legendary pirate from the Achterhoek was on air with a marathon eight-hour programme. I can only imagine the amount of German beer and wine consumed during that length of time!
  • When I heard Friese Piraat on Friday evening I assumed he had upgraded his transmitter from the usual 100 watts such was the signal strength. He tells me, however, it was his usual transmitter, which suggests conditions were at their optimum.

  • Transparant is rarely heard in England, In fact, I have to go back to October 31, 2011 to find my one and only log of the station. He's not on air often and transmissions usually take place during the afternoon.
  • Another station mainly on air in the daytime is Sallandse Boer, so it was a surprise to catch his lengthy music programme on Friday night. His SK050 transmitter was putting out a decent signal into the UK.

  • Nice to have Odynn back on MW with a long broadcast on Friday night. There were just 15 watts of power going into his 15-metre-high coil antenna. The signal was weak here, but the occasional peak brought the station up out of the noise.
  • Laser Hot Hits often pops up on 1494 these days, sometimes with live output. The signal on Friday night was up and down with fading at some points, but later in the evening was pretty steady and sounding very powerful.

MW Free Radio