The SWLing Post
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dan Robinson, who shares the following guest post:
Ultra-Rare Tristan da Cunha QSL: The Art of the Hunter-Killer QSL Pursuit
by Dan Robinson
Those in the QSL collecting community are likely to have noticed the recent appearance on Ebay of one of the rarest QSL cards in existence.
The QSL from Tristan da Cunha showed up around March 19th with a six day auction window, by a seller in France who also listed a number of other older QSLs.
For a description, the seller wrote: “QSL card from radio station ZOE the broadcasting service of Tristan da Cunha 1973. A very rare and sought after QSL. Seldom seen on Ebay. . .”
Understatement to be sure. Along with QSL letters directly from Biafra, the breakaway state in Nigeria many decades ago, QSLs from Tristan da Cunha are pretty much NEVER seen.
ZOE Tristan was a station intensively sought by thousands of DX’ers when it occupied the 90 meter frequency of 3,290 kHz with a power of only 40 watts.
Only a handful of DX’ers ever heard and QSL’ed Tristan. In this story still accessible online–three persons from South Africa are described as having received QSLs, along with two others, in the UK and in Florida, USA.
As a young DX’er, I remember reading the entry in the WRTH and the feeling of frustration with the reality that it was impossible to hear with my receivers, largely due to its limited broadcast time and hour of transmission which I recall was 2000 UTC.
As the hours ticked away in the auction, the number of bids increased. The ending time fell in overnight hours EDT. This increased chances of obtaining the card for a lower price, though bidders in other parts of the world would surely be stationed at their PCs and on their phones in the final hours of the auction.
I have been one of the most active QSL hunters in the world, and there are specific strategies involved in competing for QSLs.
For purposes of this article, I’ll just note that these involve constant attention, especially toward the end. As an auction nears conclusion, it’s important to “test” the bid level to assess the likelihood of the item selling at that or a much higher price.
Some cards or verification letters have the potential to bring hundreds of dollars. I assessed that this Tristan card could bring as much as $500-$1,000 depending on whether someone had “gone high” with an automatic “knock out” bid using either the Ebay system or other auto-bidding site.
As you can see in the image, from a starting price of $4.00 on March 19th the Tristan card had reached only $50.00 several days later on March 23rd. The $100 mark was reached on March 26th. One bidder retracted his $150 bid at one point.
On the final day March 26th, it was anyone’s guess how high the Tristan card could go. The card only inched up in small bid increments, surprising given its rarity.
If one assumed that any of the four bidders involved placed a “knock-out” auto-bid, and if two had placed such a bid, in the final seconds the Tristan QSL could quickly shoot up from the $142.50 level to whatever the extremely high maximums would be.
Due to the rarity of the card, my bid fell in the “knock out” category. I went to sleep reasonably confident, but concerned the competition could drive the price of the card through the roof.
When I awoke the next day, I was relieved — the Tristan card, complete with its original postage stamp, rubber stamp mark, and signature by the station, was mine. The price: an astoundingly low $145.
Such is the excitement involved in being a “hunter-killer” QSL card collector. As I noted in SWLing Post last year, I now own three of the world’s rarest QSLs.
These include possibly the last remaining QSL letters sent directly from Radio Biafra, a QSL from Portuguese Macao, and now this wonderful ZOE Tristan da Cunha card.
That is–actually two ZOE QSLs. About a decade ago, while scanning Ebay listings for QSLs, I was astounded to see a ZOE card listed as part of a group of amateur radio QSLs being offered by a seller in Europe.
I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. Until that point I had seen not a single ZOE QSL appear since the Ebay market for QSLs began to heat up in the late 1990s
This particular card, which you can see posted at the excellent “SWL Card Museum” site has “ZOE” printed in large letters, like the card that I recently won, a date of reception as “June 1, 1977” but no signature.
The card did arrive with the original envelope in which it was sent to a European DX’er, complete with a postage stamp and postal mark for Tristan.
Why that particular ZOE card was not signed by someone at the station, and why it was placed in an envelope rather than post marked on the card itself, remains a mystery.
Back to the story noted above, about the group of South African DX’ers who were among the few worldwide to have heard Tristan da Cunha.
In that article, the author notes that two other DX’ers, one in the U.S., one in Europe, had received QSLs from Tristan.
With a bit of online sleuthing, and help from some fellow DX’ers, I was able to determine that one of those two, Dave Sharp, is indeed still with us.
In response to an email inquiry, Dave provided the following history:
“I forget when exactly I heard the station, but it was 1984 or just prior, as I was still in high school. I was in Florida at the time and was using a rotatable three element beam ham antenna. [I] heard threshold talk from a woman with a deep voice and this apparently matched to voice of the Radio Tristan announcer at the time.
[I] received a reply from Pat Patterson, the Tristan postmaster and a Ham radio operator himself. Since my reception report was tentative, I felt a QSL wouldn’t have been issued if they hadn’t been reasonably confident of reception.
I received a personal letter, stamp bulletin, and a small QSL, bright green on white background, with “ZOE” across the front.
Long story, but many of my personal belongings were lost over the years and this includes my entire QSL collection (which had been left in possession of my sister).
Needless to say, I received a fair bit of ridicule after coming forward with the QSL. To emphasize, my report was tentative and they decided to issue a reply.”
It remains to be seen if other ZOE/Tristan da Cunha QSLs will surface in the future, and of course it is unknown how many of the cards that were sent out to the few DX’ers who heard, or claim to have heard, the station, still exist.
Wow! Thank you for shedding light on the history of ZOE Tristan Da Cunha QSLs. At those meager power levels, from such a remote location, and during that broadcast window, I can see why ZOE must be one of the rarest of QSL cards. I’m happy to know you obtained the card, too, Dan as you have such a long history of properly archiving and sharing your cards. As you just did. Thank you!
Ultra-Rare Tristan da Cunha QSL: The Art of the Hunter-Killer QSL Pursuit 2019/04/21 17:11
Classical Music on shortwave – broadcast Sunday afternoon in Europe & USA
Encore – Classical Music this weekend Is being broadcast as usual on WBCQ at 00:00 – 01:00 UTC Monday 22nd April.
Channel 292 is off air at the moment for servicing so the normal 15:00 UTC Sunday 21st April transmission will not happen this week.
The show will start with a Boccherini quintet, then some ballet music from Swan Lake.
There will also be some French wind band music, an organ work from Bach and some interesting works for the human voice.
As usual reception reports and requests for pieces to pay in future programmes will be very welcome.
Broadcast times are:
15:00 – 16:00 UTC Sunday, and repeated 19:00 – 20:00 UTC Friday on 6070 kHz (Channel 292 Germany).
00:00 – 01:00 UTC Monday on 7490 kHz (WBCQ – Maine).
(Channel 292 is off air for ten days from Monday 16th April.)
Brice Avery – Encore – Radio Tumbril – www.tumbril.co.uk
Classical Music on Radio Tumbril, April 21 – 26 2019/04/20 19:00
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Alan Roe, who shares this Radio France International article and interview with Issa Nyaphaga, the tour de force behind Radio Taboo.
Here’s a video of the interview:
Thank you so much for sharing this, Alan.
Readers: what Alan didn’t know is that I’ve been working with Issa via Ears To Our World and can confirm that this station is having a most positive impact on its community!
I was originally introduced to Issa via one of ETOW’s long-time supporters and friends a couple years ago.
At ETOW, we wanted to help establish more Radio Taboo listener groups, so we sent an initial batch of radios to be used in this very rural and remote part of Cameroon.
The radio we sent to Radio Taboo is the Tecsun GR-88 (or “Green-88”). This radio used to be branded by Grundig as the FR200, but Grundig no longer markets this model so we purchase them from Tecsun.
In fact, in a recent email to friends and supporters of Radio Taboo, Issa shared the following photo and noted:
“This man next to me is one of the first beneficiaries of the crank radios donated by Thomas Witherspoon, the founder of “Ears To Our World” a U.S. non-profit. They donated a dozen of these radios to some Radio Taboo’s listers. Radios made it in the Cameroon this week.”
I should mention it’s a logistical challenge to get radios to this part of the world (especially in the summer when the roads are nearly impassable due to rains) but we’re looking into a service that might be able to help in the future with a much larger donation of radios.
Alan, thanks again for sharing this story and giving me an opportunity to tell about our first-hand experience working with Radio Taboo!
Radio Taboo: An amazing community radio station in rural Cameroon 2019/04/19 12:22
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Emilio Ruiz, who writes:
I’m sending you and The SWLing Post readers these screenshots from the cult
movie Sneakers; a great movie about incipient world of hacker security
(phreaking, hacking, cryptography, etc).
In a scene with Robert Redford and Dan Aykroyd, it looks like a radio communications receiver in the background, but i don’t know what brand is.
Could you help for identification?
Great job spotting that radio in the background! Readers: please comment if you can help Emilio identify this rig!
Can you identify this radio from the 1992 film, ‘Sneakers’–? 2019/04/18 12:03
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Back when Superboy encouraged kids to build radios with razor blades 2019/04/17 13:30
At first glance, you’ll see a similarity between the ALT-512 and the LnR Precision LD-11/Aerial-51 SKY-SDR. The LD-11 and SKY-SDR, are very similar, save the LD-11 is marketed to North America (via LnR) and the SKY-SDR to Europe. The SKY-SDR had several iterative upgrades, most importantly the dual-threaded software used in the firmware, which cut CPU latency in half. Both the LD-11, SKY-SDR and now the ALT-512 are made in Europe.
According to Aerial-51, the new ALT-512
is built on the LD-11/SKY-SDR platform, has the same chassis design but has many improvements over the SKY-SDR:
- 4m Band
- 2.4 in. Color Display
- Improved receiver pre-amplifier
- 2 transistors in the transmitter PA (was 1)
- Waterfall in addition to the Pan-Adapter Bandscope
- 4 additional front-panel buttons
- User friendly front-panel adjustment of often used parameters (formerly embedded within the software menu)
- FULL TS-2000 command set implementation
- Built-in Sound Card; Digi Modes run using only one USB-2 cable connected to the PC. No additional hardware required.
If the ALT-512 performs as well as or better than its predecessor, it’ll certainly be a great little QRP radio and an excellent general coverage receiver for HF broadcast listening.
Pricing has not yet been posted, but Aerial-51 plans to make this transceiver available in the next few weeks.
The ALT-512: A new general coverage QRP transceiver 2019/04/16 12:26
(Source: Southgate ARC via Eric McFadden)
Join us this Easter, our 55th Birthday, for our Annual Fundraiser.
We will be broadcasting Radio Caroline North live from our radio ship, Ross Revenge, anchored in the estuary of the River Blackwater, from 9:00 am on Easter Friday until 2:00 pm on Easter Monday (all UK times).
You will be able to hear us on 1368 AM (courtesy of Manx Radio) in the north west of the UK (and parts of Ireland) and on our own 648 AM frequency in the south east, and also round the world online at www.radiocaroline.co.uk and on our mobile app.
In addition, you will be able to hear our regular Radio Caroline album format and Radio Caroline Flashback programmes on their normal channels, when they are not carrying the Radio Caroline North programmes.
It’s been quite a year, with our 648 AM and London DAB transmissions both building a substantial new audience for Radio Caroline.
However, with each expansion, our annual running costs increase substantially. And there’s lots more we would like to do.
This year, we have created a stylish Radio Caroline Bell teeshirt, based on a design that was originally used for the Radio Caroline Roadshows.
Starting on Easter Friday, and ending at midnight UK time on Easter Monday, if you are able to make a one off donation of 25 Pounds or more, or join the Radio Caroline Support Group (for a minimum monthly donation of 7.50 Pounds, cancellable at any time), we will send you your Retro Radio Caroline Bell teeshirt.
And remember, donations of any amount will always be gratefully received.
The donation button will go live on our website early on Easter Friday.
After deducting the cost of the teeshirt, we are planning to use approximately one half of your donations to maintain and expand our broadcast operations, and the other half for the maintenance and upkeep of Ross Revenge.
Radio Caroline North via Ross Revenge for Easter fundraiser 2019/04/16 12:11
From the Isle of Music, April 21-27, 2019:
No guest this week – instead, we honor Jazz Appreciation Month with an hour of excellent Cuban Jazz from some outstanding artists living in the United States and Mexico.
The broadcasts take place:
1. For Eastern Europe but audible well beyond the target area in most of the Eastern Hemisphere (including parts of East Asia and Oceania) with 100Kw, Sunday 1500-1600 UTC on SpaceLine, 9400 KHz, from Sofia, Bulgaria (1800-1900 MSK) Station website: www.spaceline.bg
2. For the Americas and parts of Europe, Tuesday 0000-0100 UTC (New UTC) on WBCQ, 7490 KHz from Monticello, ME, USA (Monday 8-9PM EST in the US).
Station website: www.wbcq.com
(Channel 292 is off the air this week due to transmitter maintenance.)
Uncle Bill’s Melting Pot, April 21, 2019:
Episode 109 is dedicated to the music of Haiti.
The transmission takes place:
1.Sundays 2200-2230 UTC (6:00PM -6:30PM Eastern US) on WBCQ The Planet 7490 KHz from the US to the Americas and parts of Europe
(Channel 292 is off the air for transmitter maintenance this week.)
FTIOM & UBMP, April 21-27 2019/04/16 04:04
Though sunspots have been rare this year, Sunspot AR2738 has been producing bursts which have been heard as radio static – that sounds like “ocean surf” – on shortwave.
This was posted early this morning at spaceweather.com – along with a recording:
If you have a shortwave radio, you might have heard some unusual sounds this week. Big sunspot AR2738 is producing strong bursts of radio static. “They sound like ocean surf,” says Thomas Ashcraft, who recorded this specimen on April 13th using an amateur radio telescope in New Mexico:
Credit: Observation of Thomas Ashcroft via Spaceweather.com
Please refer to the Spaceweather.com Archive for more info.
Guest Post by Troy Riedel
Big Sunspot Produces “Ocean Surf” Sounds on Shortwave 2019/04/15 09:09
SWLing Post friend, David Goren (the same fellow behind Shortwaveology and the Brooklyn Pirate Radio Sound Map) has just produced and presented a BBC World Service documentary about the pirate radio scene in NYC.
Spoiler alert: it’s amazing–!
Below, I’ve included the description and audio links from the BBC World Service:
New York City’s pirates of the air
As the workday winds down across New York, you can tune in to a clandestine world of unlicensed radio stations; a cacophonous sonic wonder of the city. As listeners begin to arrive home, dozens of secret transmitters switch on from rooftops in immigrant enclaves. These stations are often called ‘pirates’ for their practice of commandeering an already licensed frequency.
These rogue stations evade detection and take to the air, blanketing their neighbourhoods with the sounds of ancestral lands blending into a new home. They broadcast music and messages to diverse communities – whether from Latin America or the Caribbean, to born-again Christians and Orthodox Jews.
Reporter David Goren has long followed these stations from his Brooklyn home. He paints an audio portrait of their world, drawn from the culture of the street. Vivid soundscapes emerge from tangled clouds of invisible signals, nurturing immigrant communities struggling for a foothold in the big city.
With thanks to KCRW and the Lost Notes Podcast episode Outlaws of the Airwaves: The Rise of Pirate Radio Station WBAD.
Producer/Presenter: David Goren
Radio Doc: New York City’s pirates of the air 2019/04/14 12:50
(Source: Radio Tumbril)
Classical Music broadcast on Sunday afternoon in Europe & USA
Encore this week will start with a beautifully lyrical Piano piece by Sibelius, then we’ll have a movement from Elgar’s Cello Concerto in an historic recording by Jaqueline du Pré.
There will also be a song from Gluck, two string quartet pieces by Janacek, some of Mahler’s 5th, Copeland’s clarinet concerto, a little Bach organ music and some Albinoni.
Broadcast times are 15:00 – 16:00 UTC Sunday on 6070 kHz (Channel 292 Germany) and 00:00 – 01:00 UTC Monday on 7490 kHz (WBCQ – Maine).
(There would normally be a repeat on Friday 19th on on 6070 kHz but 292 will be off air for ten days from Monday 16th April for adjustments)
Brice Avery – Encore – Radio Tumbril
Classical Music on Radio Tumbril this week 2019/04/14 11:54
(Source: VOA News via Michael Bird)
VOA’s Learning English program is bringing its decades’ long expertise of teaching foreign audiences the English language to refugee camps in Bangladesh. Learning English is VOA’s multimedia source of news and information for millions of English learners worldwide.
At the end of March, a VOA Learning English team travelled to the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, to train 100 English teachers using a range of multimedia materials. The training program includes follow-up virtual classroom sessions, as well as VOA Learning English content accessible at the camp’s learning centers and though mobile devices.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees invited VOA to provide six days of intensive training on teaching techniques and methods for selected teachers. The teachers, in turn, will use the acquired knowledge to train another 3,000 of their colleagues in order to provide English lessons for refugees in the camp. The refugees requested this training during a visit by VOA Director Amanda Bennett at the Cox’s Bazar camps last year.
Rahma Rashid Toki, one of the selected teachers, told the VOA Learning English team he was ready to quit on the first day of training. By the end of the course, Toki commented: “When I came to the first day of training, I felt nervous. I decided I will not continue. Already I had applied to leave. But my P.O. (personnel officer) would not accept my application to leave. He said to me that this training is important and necessary. Now that the training is finished, I realize it’s really important for me and my students!”
Francis Nath a UN Education Associate at Cox’s Bazar who assisted with the training, said “you can see the [teachers’] level of English competency improve dramatically by the second day.”
VOA’s Learning English service uses clear and simple vocabulary to teach American English on radio, television, Internet, and mobile.
Learning English began as Special English, which VOA launched in 1959. Special English newscasts and features were a primary fixture of VOA’s international shortwave broadcasts for more than half a century. In 2014, the line of products was expanded to include more English teaching materials, and the service became known as Learning English.
“VOA Learning English Team Trains Rohingya Refugees in Bangladesh” 2019/04/14 11:49
Many thanks to Brice Avery who writes:
Thanks for all the quality work at the SWLing Post.
I have recently started a weekly programme on SW playing Classical Western Music.
There is hardly any now and there used to be a lot more.
The show is called Encore and goes out on 6070 kHz from Channel 292 at 15:00 UTC on Sundays with a repeat on Friday at 19:00 UTC.
WBCQ broadcast Encore in US between 00:00 and 01:00 UTC Monday (Early Sunday evening in the US).
We are now at Programme 6 and the feedback is excellent.
[…]Please visit the website for more information (If you click on the valve LOGO you get the ‘story’ page).
Thank you for sharing this, Brice. I’ll certainly tune into your new show as I’m a massive fan of music over shortwave and, as you say, there are few outlets these days for classical music. Good luck with the new show!
Encore: Classical music over shortwave 2019/04/12 18:44
Wow! Thank you so much for sharing this with us, Andrea! I’m most impressed with their auditorium which can accommodate both a full orchestra and an audience!
Andrea visits Radio Bulgaria studios 2019/04/12 13:40
However, I’ve got quite a number of books in my to-be-read stack at the moment, so Hear My Voice lay in wait on my bookshelf until this past Sunday, when I decided to read the first chapter––just to get a taste of it.
Although I had a very busy day in store––working on a home renovation and making several trips into town––nevertheless I struggled to pull it from the stack, and having rapidly consumed the first chapters, had a hard time putting the book down. By the day’s end, I found I had read the entire book.
While those who know me know I’m a bit of a WWII history buff, I only knew that Hitler’s seizure of the Czech Sudetenland was but a hint of what was to come. The history I’d read previously had provided a bit of insight into this crucial lead-up to the war, but not as Vaughan’s book does: in what feels like a first hand account, through the eyes of an interpreter and broadcaster. I was hooked.
Hear My Voice clearly indicates how transformative the medium of radio was in this era, and how deliberate and insidious Nazi propaganda became in the Sudetenland years before Czechoslovakia ever took notice.
All in all, it’s a great read. I think you’ll find Hear My Voice as intriguing as I did.
You can purchase Hear My Voice via:
- Amazon.com $11.99 shipped (affiliate link supports the SWLing Post)
- Book Depository $12.16 shipped
- Barnes and Noble $11.99
Read our previous post which includes a Radio Prague audio interview with the author.
Hear My Voice: Radio’s role in Hitler’s annexation of the Sudetenland 2019/04/11 12:32