Have you ever wondered how far away you could be able to listen to 800 CHAB? Manitoba...Alberta...the United States?
How about 6,181 kilometres away in Lapland, Finland, that is where a group of radio hobbyists were able to hear the sweet, sweet sound of 800 CHAB.
Jari Luoma and Timo Metso, are involved in the hobby “DXing” which is the art of receiving and identifying distant radio or television signals. The two recently booked a week-long trip to Aihkiuniemi, a DXing base camp in northern Finland – 300 km north of the Arctic Circle.
On Nov. 15, 2022, at around 10:00 p.m. CST, the two were able to pick up 800 CHAB's frequency from their base camp in northern Finland.
“I heard the words an evening of inspiration on 800 CHAB,” says Luoma in an interview with Discover Moose Jaw. That was the station ID that I got that proved to myself that really was 800 CHAB.”
Luoma notes that it’s not an easy feat to be able to pick up AM radio station signals in North America.
“It requires some special conditions in the atmosphere,” adds Luoma. “You have to be lucky and have a hunch when it is possible to pick up the AM radio signal. Solar activity is a main use of this hobby. When the sun is low and it’s low in a 28-day cycle. Within the year there are lots of those cycles where it’s possible to hear AM radio stations from North America.”
Aihkiuniemi being north of the Arctic Circle, creates very good DXing conditions, as it becomes dark for weeks there, which makes for clear radio signals.
“It has to be dark! It’s [Aihkiuniemi] a very good place to listen. When the sun absorbs the signals it’s not easy to hear anything.”
Aihkiuniemi became the first-ever purpose-built AM DXpedition base in Scandinavia in 2010. The base consists of two cabins and several antennas pointed in various directions to pick signals in different parts of the world.
“To North America, there are four antennas pointing from the east to west coast all the way up to Alaska. When the time is right, we use those antennas and record the whole medium wave band.”
Throughout the camp, the antennas hang three to five metres above the ground to prevent wildlife from getting stuck in the wires.
Unfortunately, DXing isn’t a year-round hobby, as it can only be done from October to March in Finland.
In his three seasons of DXing, Luoma has listened to over 600 radio stations worldwide.
Their ability to be able to pick up these AM stations is as mentioned before dependent on the sun’s location, and antennas, but also some high-tech equipment.
They use SDR or Software Defined Radio, a specialized radio that connects to an antenna and can be amplified. The radio is then connected to a computer through a USB connection and with special software they can listen to any frequency from 540 kHz all the way up to 1700 kHz.
The recorded data then goes on hard drives and the two will listen back and check to see what radio stations they heard on that day and where they were located.
The end goal of this hobby is to collect QSLs, which is an acknowledgement receipt from the radio station verifying that was their radio station they heard.
Luoma has listened to 16 radio stations in Saskatchewan and has received 14 QSLs.
Luoma, who is a resident of the southeast part of Finland travels 800 km by train and 400 km north to Aihkiuniemi to live out his passion. A passion which started a few years ago.
“I love this hobby! I was listening to the AM radio stations in the early 80s but stopped. I’m almost 60 years old and my kids are out of the house, so now I have a lot of free time. It’s challenging but it’s a great hobby because you maintain your ability to speak English and other languages as well.”
Before getting into DXing, Luoma competed professionally in triathlons but had to stop three and half years ago due to a serious heart condition.
Watch the full interview below that Discover Moose Jaw's Jay-D Haughton had with Jari Luoma: