My Disappointing Longwave DXing

Every shortwave radio I have ever owned has offered four bands: FM, AM (or mediumwave), shortwave, and longwave. The FM, AM, and shortwave bands are always filled with stations (although shortwave less so these days) but the longwave band for me has always been empty. In all my years of attempts at longwave DXing, I have only ever picked up two stations. These same two stations are beacons that endlessly repeat two or three characters in Morse code. I can only occasionally receive their faint signals and they are overpowered by normal electrical interference.

Beacons, specifically non-directional beacons used by pilots and sailors for navigation, are about the only longwave signals I could hope to receive in the United States. Longwave was once widely used for broadcasting in Europe, Asia, and the former Soviet Union. There are still some longwave broadcasters in those regions. For example, the BBC broadcasts BBC Radio 4 on 198 kHz from their transmitter site in Droitwich, England (although the days of that transmission are numbered). But those types of signals are too far away to receive here under normal conditions.

During a six-hour long power outage, I was finally able to make out the Morse code call letters broadcast by those beacons. One of the few good things about a power outage is that it eliminates nearly all of the electrical interference that normally plagues radio reception. By using the call letters and the frequencies, I was able to find both beacons in this list of North American longwave beacons. To my surprise, both beacons are at nearby airports. So it turns out that in all my attempts at longwave DXing, I have never received any station more than ten miles away!

5 comments on “My Disappointing Longwave DXing

  • Ron Hermann wrote:

    Join the club! I can hear exactly one morse code beacon from a small airport north of here. A friend from Boston was able to pick up European longwave stations at dusk but I’ve never gotten more than that beacon.

  • Ryder Upton wrote:

    The nearest I got to a broadcast on longwave was an automated voice weather report from a local airport. I always wanted to hear a real longwave broadcast but it not likely now.

  • Evan Parry wrote:

    I’ve found that the secret to distant longwave reception is a good antenna. You can still hear European longwave stations at night on the US East Coast during fall and winter. I use a 75-foot long Beverage antenna but other people prefer a vertical loop. For more antenna information, you might want to check out the DX Information Centre and the Longwave Home Page. There are still quite a few longwave enthusists who are willing to answer questions.

  • Thanks for the links. I didn’t realize people could still hear European longwave on the East Coast. I may have to string an antenna and give it a try.

  • Evan Parry wrote:

    Glad to help. BTW, the best time to try longwave DXing is when both transmitter and receiver are in darkness.

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