This article describes the exprerience of the reception of the VLF station 'SAQ' during its commemorative emissions.
|WHAT IS SAQ
SAQ is the callsign of the swedish VLF station of
Grimeton, activated during the twenties with the purpose of granting a
radiotelegraphic link between Europe and East coast of United States.
For every detail about the station and its history
please check the official site:
Alexanderson alternator was used in several other
stations, with the same basic purpose: long distance transmissions. Here
follows some link to a couple of interesting articles:
Today the Grimeton alternator is the only one left working and operational. In 2004 it has been appointed as a World Heritage on UNESCO World Heritage list.
system is massive as well. It is composed by six 127 meter high masts.
The commemorative transmissions are scheduled on a yearly base, usually at the beginning of July, even if it possible that extraordinary transmissions take place on other periods or special events, such as during Christmas season.
Check out http://www.alexander.n.se/ to find out the official schedule.
The frequency is always 17,2 kHz, the mode is always CW.
Due to the high power used the coverage area is
very wide. In our country it can be easily received with modest receivers
and poor (short) aerials.
RECEIVING STATION SETUP
During last transmission I moved to the countryside, just few km from my home. My intention was to test my brand new self made VLF receiver with a well known signal.
It was a very cold and foggy Christmas eve, I was
late as usual and it was
The 7.5 meters long fishing rod, used as antenna. This is the
classical solution for HF activity during the holidays: light and ready in
A fishing rod is more practical than climbing trees to hook longwires and in this case the length of the aerial is more than enough.
The central wire passes from the bottom of the rod through the rear window to get to the passenger seat.
On the right:
My Inspire RS-4 is a simplified version of the original Nasa project:
SAQ TUNE-UP PHASE
SAQ station perform a tune-up phase about 30 minutes
before the real transmission, so there is all the time to get well prepared
VVV DE SAQ, well readable at 17,2 kHz, ALPHA and RTTY stations also present.
The content of the real message, at least during the summer transmissions, is very random and there is not a standard message, excluded the preamble (presentation of the Grimeton Radio) and the end (QSL info and so on).
If your purpose is to obtain a QSL from SAQ, or send them a reception report, it's better to decode the whole message.
There are several ways to do that:
SAQ is an Amateur Radio Station as well, so it is
possible to send QSL and reception reports via bureau. Do not forget to
include all (or a meaningful part) of the decoded message.
As example here follows a part of the message received at my QTH last Christmas eve: the word "CHRISTMAS" is clearly visible.
"CHRISTMAS" word is clearly readable.
The reception of SAQ is very easy. I listened it
just few kilometers from my home, in a open field, with an old receiver
and few meters of wire as antenna.
In this age of digital communications, microwave
and satellites thinking about the Alexanderson alternator and its massive
antenna system is absolutely fascinating.
Claudio Parmigiani, IZ2FER.
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