Having a bunch of radios in the same office as where I’m supposed to be working is one huge distraction that’s more often to blame for not getting stuff done than I’d care to admit. In an effort to have a full productive day and still get some radio time in something simple was needed that didn’t have me keep fiddling with that dial.

Propagation Beacons

IARU Beacon Transmitter

IARU Beacon Transmitter

For those that have never come across these beacons before they can be a handy tool for the radio hobbyist in telling how well the bands are doing. By operating on a fixed frequency and at a stable power output the only thing effecting the signal reaching your receiver is propagation (and interference).

Interest in the shortwave bands from a business point of view is dwindling at the moment as broadcasters take advantage of the new digital systems to reach their audience. This lack of use doesn’t effect the beacons much as there are enough volunteer organizations who’s members still benefit from the beacon systems.

Taking full advantage of the new found need to fill this website up with plenty of audio the plan was to get recordings of the beacons heard from the home QTH. All the signals were received using Realistic DX394 and a long wire of just over 20 meters, MP3’s were recoded and produced with the free Audcity software.

IARU Beacon Project

One of my favorite networks is the IARU beacon project because it has multiple beacons all on the same frequency and operates across 5 bands. By transmitting the same sequence on 14100 kHz, 18110 kHz, 21150 kHz, 24930 kHz and 28200 kHz it gives a true indication of propagation over a wide section of the upper HF band.

Running through all the beacons in a short 3 minute loop with every transmission having its own time slot also gives a clear indication of which beacons your receiving (or not). To have some continuity between beacons each one runs 100 Watts to a modest vertical.

The beacons transmit in 22 words per minute Morse code so if you’ve never learn’t or are a bit rusty there are always the options of using free sound card decoders like Multipsk or Fldigi.

Plonking myself firmly on 14.1 MHz I settled down for a day of work and hopefully hunting down at least some 18 beacons listed below that transmit on this frequency.

Beacon Locations

1 United Nations 4U1UN New York City
2 Canada VE8AT Eureka, Nunavut
3 United States W6WX Mt. Umunhum
4 Hawaii KH6WO Laie
5 New Zealand ZL6B Masterton
6 Australia VK6RBP Rolystone
7 Japan JA2IGY Mt. Asama
8 Russia RR9O Novosibirsk
9 Hong Kong VR2B Hong Kong
10 Sri Lanka 4S7B Colombo
11 South Africa ZS6DN Pretoria
12 Kenya 5Z4B Kariobangi
13 Israel 4X6TU Tel Aviv
14 Finland OH2B Lohja
15 Madeira CS3B Santo da Serra
16 Argentina LU4AA Buenos Aires
17 Peru OA4B Lima
18 Venezuela YV5B Caracas

The Waiting Game

Got a little taste of the US and Canadian beacons about 9am (GMT) then everything died away very quickly. Even though the rest of the 20 meters band was pretty lively throughout the afternoon I still couldn’t make out any beacons and hoped things would change later in the afternoon.

With 20 meters being one of the more popular ham bands it can be noisy at times and this does alter things when you trying to listen for something just above the noise floor.

By about 4pm I was getting a little crazy listening to static on 20 meters and went off to the other bands to see if the beacons were showing up there. 18 MHz gave a faint hint of a beacon signal but not enough to make out or do anything with and everything above that was dead.

Not a very successful day but at least I got some work done 🙂

Best Beacon Audio of the Day

Would have been nice to put some beacon audio here if it had been a better day but don’t fear the minute I get something useable it will be added to this page.

Its a bit of a lazy way to spend the day but even though the shortwave bands aren’t as important as they once were to global business the beacons still play a big part in judging propagation for the many radio hobbyists around the world.

For more information on the IARU Beacon Project you can visit their website Here

Beacon Transmitter Courtesy of HFunderground/Strange Attractor

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