Soon now — perhaps just days from now — a group of radio amateurs operating from Newfoundland will likely be officially recognized as the first to transmit signals across the pond and be heard in Europe on 2 meters (144 MHz). Except, just maybe, I heard voice signals from Europe a dozen years ago and have some audio files to document it. Who's got a professional audio lab, the desire, and the time to inspect my files and make a determination, gratis?
The group in Newfoundland is running 750 watts and a 43-element, 98-foot-long beam antenna with a stated forward gain of 23.9 dBd. And they are using digital techniques that imply an additional advantage for receiving signals that are below the noise. Theirs is an effectively automated 24-hour operation, so it took just two days from the start of the expedition to be heard in England. The details haven't come out yet, but it appears they bridged the gap of 2,000-2,200 miles by bouncing signals off random meteors, versus using e-skip (July is the big month for that) and/or tropospheric conditions to get across.
Their feat was not a surprise to me, but more congratulations are in order if the Newfoundland group also secures two-way communications with sufficiently equipped stations in Europe.
Far from disparaging their record for technological overkill — one thing radio amateurs do is develop current technology — I nevertheless may well have heard above-the-noise signals from a station in Europe, or at least outside North America, in 2002 using traditional equipment and a 17-element yagi pointed east/northeast. It was during the memorable Leonids meteor shower on Nov. 19, a shower that was fairly rare in that it also had a double-peak a few hours apart.
Yes, it's a long shot, but that implies there were more than enough meteors crisscrossing the Atlantic at all times, opening the door to double-hop reflections off the rocks. With some luck and perhaps other anomalous propagation, signals may have incredibly spanned a path of 3,200-3,400 miles from New Jersey to Ireland or Portugal or England with my 450 watts. Or perhaps they got at least to the Azores. What station did I hear, and/or what station heard me? I need to know.
I wouldn't have even given my files a second thought had it not been for just one too many coincidences. Unbeknownst to me, the frequency of operation (144.155 MHz) was being occupied by a radio expedition in Europe at the time of the actual reception. And the call came through roughly at about the peak of the shower in Europe. The aforementioned frequency was not yet generally employed by US amateurs for meteor scatter or much of anything until digital techniques took off for VHF several years later. The band for US-to-US contacts was otherwise virtually silent.
Back in 2003, I sent my files along to both Rutgers University as well as the sponsoring organization in Ireland running the transatlantic challenge to see if they could help me out. Both said they'd get back to me but never did. A few years later, I again requested from the European group that they look at my files, but they appeared annoyed. I concluded they didn't have the facilities to do it.
There are audio labs in the US. I looked a few of them up early, but I'd been told the minimum fee would be $1,000-$2,000. I didn't have it. I still don't. But I did the smart thing. I kept the files. I played them for a local ham who at the time had better hearing than even I did. Without my prompting him, he confirmed what I thought I heard. But I needed something official.
Somewhere along the line, a friend who would know had told me that our government has software that can take even the poorest audio files and tell you not only what is being said, but also the speaker's nationality. I can well believe it. But these files weren't a matter of national security. So, do you have such capable software? If so, I'd like to hear from you.
I've got several of these files I'd like you to hear: the original audio I recorded coming out of my transceiver and the original file I tried to process for better intelligibility or at least to glean more information. I used Cool Edit 2000. You'll hear me making a general call for stations and then 3.4 seconds of mystery. Can you make a dispassionate (as in unbiased, versus “unpassionate,” as in “I don't care”) effort to solve the mystery?
Contact me to hear the files. I'm at email@example.com.
Please register on Planet Analog and give us your comments on this article.