Thursday, April 14, 2011

Unidentified Warbling Objects

My oldest memories of shortwave radio are of sounds. Interval signals come to mind first. For those of you not in the loop, Shortwave stations usually broadcast a short song, or just notes before signing on. This made it easier to find the station you were looking for back before direct frequency readouts were affordable. Many stations still use them today, but it's not as necessary. Utility stations created the most interesting sounds. I learned quickly that almost everything that seemed like noise, was actually some form of communication, except for static of course. I figured out from reading my guides and magazines what most of these were.

There were two mystery noises though that were very interesting. The first was only a mystery for a little while. The woodpecker. On several bands at once, a noise like a woodpecker would travel across the frequencies. It was usually annoying, and sometimes would be powerful enough to cover up what you were listening to. It had been speculated that the noise was some sort of over-the-horizon radar. This theory was confirmed after the fall of the USSR, and was in fact called Duga-3. The woodpecker disappeared altogether in 1989. The other noise I never figured out. I always described it as bagpipes. It would play a short sequence of about 10-20 notes, and repeat. The tune was almost always the same. It also seemed to be on multiple bands at once, but not spread across many frequencies like the woodpecker. Does anyone else remember this? The only other detail I remember is that the tune changed slightly before it disappeared for good.

Photo: nate steiner, Flickr

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