Shortwave Pirate Radio 2020 – A Year In Review

To gauge shortwave pirate radio activity in 2020, I analyzed the Shortwave Pirate loggings forum of the HF Underground (http://www.hfunderground.com). A computer script parsed the message thread titles, as well as the timestamps of the messages. This information was used to produce some statistics about the level of pirate radio activity. Of course, as Mark Twain has written: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” A fourth might be pirate logging message titles. Don’t expect all the numbers to exactly add up. Still, let’s see what we can learn.

There were 15,545 messages posted to 2,400 unique threads, 29% and 10% higher than last year. Shortwave pirate activity is at historically high levels. Back in the 1990s, it was not uncommon for an entire month to go by with only a handful of pirate stations logged. If you want to know when the “golden age” of shortwave pirate radio was, I would say it is right now.

Ideally, each thread represents an individual pirate station transmission. Also ideally, each message posted to a thread represents one logging. In reality, there is some error involved. Let’s dive in.

First, we can look at the transmission mode used:

USB again leads AM, with the other modes rarely used.

Next, we can see how much activity there is for each day of the week:

Weekends (Friday, Saturday, Sunday) are still the most active, but almost a third of broadcasts were on other days of the week.

We can also look at the number of logging threads per month, to gauge activity:

Some seasonal variability, but still very active throughout the entire year.

We might be interested in knowing the best time of the day to try to hear a pirate station. Here’s a plot of the start times of the logged broadcasts, binned
by UTC hour of the day:

Evenings are most active as expected, but still lots of morning and afternoon broadcasts. The wee hours were very quiet, probably due in part to the low solar activity levels.

Here’s a graph showing the number of broadcasts per day of the year that were logged:

Halloween really sticks out this year!

Finally some graphs of the number of logging threads per frequency:

And zoomed in vertically to see the less commonly used frequencies:

The shift to the 4 and 5 MHz bands for many stations is quite evident, driven by the solar minimum conditions making 43 meters useful mostly for just long distance propagation at night. Still, it is the most active pirate band.

If you’re interested in hearing pirates, the best ways to keep up to date on what is being heard is via the HFUnderground.com message board, as well as the real time Rocket Chat. Rather than finding out about a transmission after it is over, you can tune in while it is still on the air. Also visit our Facebook group.

And of course, your loggings and other posts on the HF Underground are most welcome! This is how we find out what stations are being heard.

Shortwave Pirate Radio 2019 – A Year In Review

To gauge shortwave pirate radio activity in 2019, I analyzed the Shortwave Pirate loggings forum of the HF Underground (http://www.hfunderground.com). A computer script parsed the message thread titles, as well as the timestamps of the messages. This information was used to produce some statistics about the level of pirate radio activity. Of course, as Mark Twain has written: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” A fourth might be pirate logging message titles. Don’t expect all the numbers to exactly add up. Still, let’s see what we can learn.

There were 12,078 messages posted to 2,186 unique threads. Activity levels are essentially flat, down slightly from 2018, but still at historically high levels. Back in the 1990s, it was not uncommon for an entire month to go by with only a handful of pirate stations logged. If you want to know when the “golden age” of shortwave pirate radio was, I would say it is right now.

Ideally, each thread represents an individual pirate station transmission. Also ideally, each message posted to a thread represents one logging. In reality, there is some error involved. Let’s dive in.

First, we can look at the transmission mode used:

USB beat out AM as the most popular mode, but both account for virtually all transmissions.

Next, we can see how much activity there is for each day of the week:

Weekends (Friday/Saturday/Sunday) are by far the most active, but the rest of the week still accounts for over a third of broadcasts.

We can also look at the number of logging threads per month, to gauge activity:

No summer slump this year, summer was in fact the most active period.

We might be interested in knowing the best time of the day to try to hear a pirate station. Here’s a plot of the start times of the logged broadcasts, binned
by UTC hour of the day:

Most activity is in the evening as expected. But there’s still a fair amount of morning/afternoon activity.

Here’s a graph showing the number of broadcasts per day of the year that were logged:

Finally some graphs of the number of logging threads per frequency:

And zoomed in vertically to see the less commonly used frequencies:

6925 is by far the most active frequency, and 43 meters is busy overall. Old Time Radio on 6770 sticks out. We’re starting to see more activity on the 4 and 5 MHz bands, most likely driven by the low solar activity conditions.

6925 is the place to be, and most activity is on 43 meters, but there’s still a fair bit elsewhere. Old Time Radio on 6770 AM really sticks out.

If you’re interested in hearing pirates, the best ways to keep up to date on what is being heard is via the HFUnderground.com message board, as well as the real time Rocket Chat. Rather than finding out about a transmission after it is over, you can tune in while it is still on the air. Also visit our Facebook group.

And of course, your loggings and other posts on the HF Underground are most welcome! This is how we find out what stations are being heard.

Shortwave Pirate Radio 2018 – A Year In Review

To gauge shortwave pirate radio activity in 2018, I analyzed the Shortwave Pirate loggings forum of the HF Underground (http://www.hfunderground.com). A computer script parsed the message thread titles, as well as the timestamps of the messages. This information was used to produce some statistics about the level of pirate radio activity. Of course, as Mark Twain has written: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” A fourth might be pirate logging message titles. Don’t expect all the numbers to exactly add up. Still, let’s see what we can learn.

There were 12,785 messages posted to 2,216 unique threads. Activity levels are essentially flat, down slightly from 2017, but still at historically high levels. Back in the 1990s, it was not uncommon for an entire month to go by with only a handful of pirate stations logged. If you want to know when the “golden age” of shortwave pirate radio was, I would say it is right now.

Ideally, each thread represents an individual pirate station transmission. Also ideally, each message posted to a thread represents one logging. In reality, there is some error involved. Let’s dive in.

First, we can look at the transmission mode used:

AM leads USB, with the other modes much less often used.

Next, we can see how much activity there is for each day of the week:

As expected, weekends are by far the most active, but there’s still pirates to be found during the weekdays.

We can also look at the number of logging threads per month, to gauge activity:

There was a bit of a late summer / fall slump, but a very active holiday season.

We might be interested in knowing the best time of the day to try to hear a pirate station. Here’s a plot of the start times of the logged broadcasts, binned
by UTC hour of the day:

Most activity is in the evening as expected. But there’s still a fair amount of morning/afternoon activity. Not much in the wee overnight hours.

Here’s a graph showing the number of broadcasts per day of the year that were logged:

Finally some graphs of logging threads per frequency:

And zoomed in vertically to see the less commonly used frequencies:

6925 is the place to be, and most activity is on 43 meters, but there’s still a fair bit elsewhere. Old Time Radio on 6770 AM really sticks out.

If you’re interested in hearing pirates, the best ways to keep up to date on what is being heard is via the HFUnderground.com message board, as well as the real time Rocket Chat. Rather than finding out about a transmission after it is over, you can tune in while it is still on the air. Also visit our Facebook group.

And of course, your loggings and other posts on the HF Underground are most welcome! This is how we find out what stations are being heard.

Shortwave Pirate Radio 2017 – A Year In Review

To gauge shortwave pirate radio activity in 2017, I analyzed the Shortwave Pirate loggings forum of the HF Underground (http://www.hfunderground.com). A computer script parsed the message thread titles, as well as the timestamps of the messages. This information was used to produce some statistics about the level of pirate radio activity. Of course, as Mark Twain has written: “There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” A fourth might be pirate logging message titles. Don’t expect all the numbers to exactly add up. Still, let’s see what we can learn.

There were 13,903 messages posted to 2,550 unique threads. Activity levels are essentially flat, but still at historically high levels. Back in the 1990s, it was not uncommon for an entire month to go by with only a handful of pirate stations logged. If you want to know when the “golden age” of shortwave pirate radio was, I would say it is right now.

Ideally, each thread represents an individual pirate station transmission. Also ideally, each message posted to a thread represents one logging. In reality, there is some error involved. Let’s dive in.

First, we can look at the transmission mode used:

AM and USB are tied for first place, with everything else essentially noise.

Next, we can see how much activity there is for each day of the week:

As one might expect, Saturday and Sunday are the big winners, with Friday in third place. But don’t give up on weekday listening! About a third of all transmissions are on a Monday through Thursday.

We can also look at the number of logging threads per month, to gauge activity:

Not much of a summer slump as in past years, activity is relatively constant throughout the year.

We might be interested in knowing the best time of the day to try to hear a pirate station. Here’s a plot of the start times of the logged broadcasts, binned
by UTC hour of the day:

Peak activity in the evening hours is clearly evident, but there is still a good amount of morning and afternoon activity, and low amounts at random overnight hours.

Here’s a graph showing the number of broadcasts per day of the year that were logged:


Looks like the peak was Labor Day weekend?

Finally some graphs of logging threads per frequency:

And zoomed in vertically to see the less commonly used frequencies:

6925 is still the big winner, and 43 meters overall is where most activity resides, but there’s still lots of pirates to be found elsewhere.

If you’re interested in hearing pirates, the best ways to keep up to date on what is being heard is via the HFUnderground.com message board, as well as the real time Rocket Chat. Rather than finding out about a transmission after it is over, you can tune in while it is still on the air. Also visit our Facebook group.

And of course, your loggings and other posts on the HF Underground are most welcome! This is how we find out what stations are being heard.

Listening To Pirate Radio Stations from South America

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Looking for a new DX challenge? In addition to shortwave pirate stations in the USA, and Europe (Europirates as we call them), there’s a relatively new group of pirate radio stations being heard in North America, those from South America.

It’s really only been the previous year that we’ve confirmed that there’s a significant number of pirate radio stations in South America that can be received here. Radio Pirana has been known for some time, and I believe thee were a few reports of it, and at least one other station that I cannot remember the name of, but that’s about it. For years there have been logs of very weak UNID stations heard on the 43 meter band (6800-7000 kHz), presumed to be pirates of some sort, and it is possible some of these were South American pirates.

Most of these stations use homemade transmitters, often of the “Lulu” design, with a IRF510 or similar MOSET RF final stage. That means they are generally in the 15 or 20 watt carrier range, although some are higher power. That also means that unless otherwise noted, all of these stations use AM mode, and in general the frequency is highly variable, easily varying 100 Hz or more from night to night, or even during transmissions.

One important caveat: Since most of these stations use relatively low power, and due to the long distances involved, signal levels are generally weak, although occasionally when conditions are excellent (especially if there’s grayline propagation), they can put in stronger signals. I am fortunate to live in a rural area with relatively low noise/RFI levels, and have several high end receivers and large antennas. My primary setup for catching these stations is a netSDR receiver and a 670 foot Sky Loop antenna. You’re going to want to use the best receiver and antenna you can for catching these stations, you’re not likely to have good (or any) results with a portable SW radio, RTL dongle, or small/indoor antenna. Also, I record the entire 43 meter band nightly on my netSDR, and then go through the recordings each morning. This lets me catch stations that may only appear for a brief period of time. That said, you can still hear them with a reasonable HF setup, although it may take persistence, checking each night, until conditions permit reception.

It’s well worth checking the Latin American Pirate logging forum on the HF Underground website, to see what is presently being heard. The HF Underground is the best way to keep up to date with the hobbyist radio scene in general, with dedicated forums for North American Pirates, Europirates, and of course radio in general.

And for those of you into collecting QSLs – many of these stations are reliable QSLers!

In general, the easiest station to hear is Lupo Radio from Argentina. It is on the air most evenings on 6973 kHz in AM mode. At least at my location, it puts in the strongest and most reliable signal. Usually in the SIO 222 to 333 range, sometimes stronger. There are frequent IDs. I use Lupo Radio as a “beacon” to gauge how good conditions are to South America on 43 meters.


luporadio@hotmail.com

Another station that is often on the air is RCW – Radio Compañía Worldwide from Chile. They use 6925.13 kHz, and their carrier is more stable and usually on this offset frequency, which makes it easier to determine that it’s likely you’re hearing them vs a US pirate station.


rcwradio@gmail.com

New to the scene is Radio Marcopolo on 6991 kHz.


Marcopoloradio@hotmail.com

Also new to the scene is an as yet UNID pirate from South America on 6934.9 kHz. I have received them for several weeks now in the local evenings, usually starting around the 2300-0300 UTC window. They put in a respectable signal (relatively speaking), strong enough for Shazam to ID songs. They have frequent breaks in their transmission, with the carrier often going off and on many times during a broadcast. They also occasionally transmit audio test tones, and sometimes seem to relay audio from licensed stations in Argentina such as Radio El Mundo. This could be someone testing a new transmitter? A new mystery to solve!

Radio Dontri is somewhat unique in that they use USB mode, on 6955 kHz. They also send SSTV, which is sometimes easier to receive than music, and helps to verify that you’re actually hearing them, vs a US pirate on 6955. They tend to drift a lot, however, which can make decoding the SSTV transmissions challenging.


radiodontri@gmail.com

Outside the 43 meter band, there is Rádio Casa 8000 kHz. I have only received weak carriers from this station, although partly that may be because I do not frequently check for it, and it does not turn up on my overnight SDR recordings.

Radio Triunfal Evangélica is other station outside of the 43 meter band, they use the nominal frequency of 5825 kHz, often closer to 5824.9 kHz. Again I have only received a carrier from them. As the name implies, they are a religious station, affiliated with a church.

Now that we’ve talked about the pirate stations from South America, we should probably mention things you are likely to hear that are not pirates. Specifically, what we call Peskies (or Pesky as the singular), short for pescadores, the Spanish word for fishermen. Peskies generally use LSB mode, and can be heard on many frequencies in the 43 meter band, engaging in QSOs. Years ago, pirate listeners started to call these stations pescadores, since some of them were indeed fishermen, and could be heard discussing related matters. It might be better to think of most of them as freebanders/outbanders, much in the tradition of those transmitting on 11 meters. There’s a logging forum on the HFU dedicated to Peskies, if you’re interesting in learning more about them.

Occasionally they use AM mode. We’ve logged several on 6965 kHz (+/- of course), that at first were thought to be pirates. But they never transmitted music, and after some discussions with DXers in South America, it was determined that they were more properly considered peskies.

An UNID Pirate Station on 1710 kHz

Several pirate stations use 1710 kHz, but reception here is difficult, due to the Hudson County NJ TIS station, which puts in a strong signal. It’s an annoying pest, and seems to just play the same 3 or 4 pre-recorded messages over and over. I doubt anyone in Hudson County actually listens to it.

Last night, I started to hear some music on 1710 around 2350 UTC (6 February 2018), so I decided to stick around and listen. I also started the SDR recording. Glad I did!

The station was fading in and out, so my reception was alternating with the TIS.

Here’s what I heard. Some songs were ID’d with Shazam, so they could be iffy, plus there could be another station in there:

2352 Eagles “What Do I Do With My Heart”.
2356 “Green Hornet Theme”
0002 Neil Diamond “Stones”
0005 “You Only Live Twice”
0042 Oliva Newton John “Let Me Be There”
0044 Country song?
0047 Johnny Mathis “Wonderful! Wonderful!”
0052 The New Seekers “Look What They’ve Done To My Song Ma”
0055 Jose Feliciano “High Heel Sneakers”
0057 Jewel “Standing Still”
0106 Donna Summer “Macarthur Park”
0109 Elvis “Don’t Be Cruel”
0112 “Wiggle Wobble”
0114 Conway Twitty “Hello Darlin”
0117 Colbie Caillat “Realize”
0121 Howard Jones “No One Is To Blame”
0125 “Heart Of Gold”
0128 “Little Bit O’ Soul”
0130 “As Time Goes By”
0133 “Ahab The Arab”
0148 “How Do You Do It?”
0150 “Nobody But Me”
0203 “Bittersweet”
0210 “Cinnamon Girl”
0217 “It Might Be You”
0221 “Baby, I’m Yours”
0223 “Sara”
0227 “Freaky Behavior”
0234 QRT I think.

I ran the SDR recording files through my Carrier Sleuth app, and produced this high resolution waterfall of 1710 kHz. Click on the image to view it full sized.

The pirate is the carrier around 1710.009 kHz that goes QRT around 0234 UTC. The carrier around 1710.0025 kHz is the Hudson County TIS. I think one of the carriers is another TIS in PA, I heard a mention of an address in PA at one point. Probably KID-761, Bedford, PA, the Flight 93 Memorial.

Look at all the other carriers on 1710! One is probably the Springfield MA TIS, others may be pirates? I am not sure how many other TIS stations are authorized on 1710.

It’s very interesting how there is another carrier around 1709.995 kHz that went QRT the same time as the pirate. It is weaker, and does not have the same wiggles as the pirate carrier, so I do not think it is a locally produced image. I am not sure what it is, or if the sign off time is coincidental.

If the operator of the 1710 pirate sees this post, and would like to send me a QSL / eQSL, it would be greatly appreciated!

Some More Old Pirate QSLs

While going through some old books, I found a long lost binder of pirate QSLs. I’ll post several of them over the next few days.

QSL #6 from Channel Z Radio, they have been around quite a while, this is from back when they were first starting, in 2004:

Voice of the Angry Bastard, run by Pigmeat Martin:

Radio Pigmeat Internaltional, also run by Pigmeat:

The legendary pirate station KIPM. Run by Alan Maxwell, who wrote his own SciFi/Suspense themed radio programs.

Radio Al Fansome, Al has been in the radio community forever. He taught Marconi everything he knew:

CRED must have been a Canadian pirate, I have no memory of it. Could have been a once and done station?

WSKY was prolific back in the 90s. 200 watts, probably used a boatanchor transmitter like a Viking?

Oh and here’s another Voice of the Angry Bastard QSL:


15 watts, so probably a Grenade style transmitter.