Sunday, April 29, 2018

Animal and Insects in Radio - Part Two

On this occasion here in Wavescan, we present another episode in the story of animals and insects in radio - literally!  We begin with a story from Australia, back in the middle of the year 1936. 

            It just so happened that a wayward field mouse crept stealthily into the transmitter building of a medium wave station located in a country area adjacent to the River Murray in the state of New South Wales.  The radio station was the government-owned ABC mediumwave outlet, 2CO, which was located a few miles north of the town of Corowa and the mouse was a common field mouse.

            During his intrusive explorations, the mouse crawled unobserved into the 7½ kW transmitter itself.  Being unable to read, and not knowing just how dangerous this excursion could be, he crept stealthily over the high tension areas of the transmitter.  Unwittingly, he shorted the high tension to earth, there was a brilliant flash, and the medium wave channel 670 kHz went silent for half an hour.

            Likewise, there was a similar event at the small AWR shortwave station located at Forli in Italy.   The 10 kW Collins shortwave transmitter there had previously been on the air with the programming of Radio Free Europe in Holzkirchen in Germany, though with AWR in Forli the power level had been reduced to 2½ kW.  Back in October 1993, two mice entered that transmitter, they were electrically roasted, and they successfully put the station off the air.

            On at least a couple of occasions the American radio journal, Radio World, has drawn attention to the technical problems mice can cause in radio transmitters.  In 2002, they published a story about a radio engineer who had found on one occasion a large mouse nest inside a phasor housing unit.  Five years later, they also reported a suggestion from another radio engineer that copper wool or stainless steel wool could be stuffed into small openings to prevent them from otherwise being used by mice to gain entry into technical equipment.

            The larger rodent, the rat, can also cause its share of damage in the electronic equipment of a radio station.  The AWR shortwave station KSDA on the island of Guam reports that a rat entered one of their transmitters back in 1993; in so doing, the large rodent was roasted, and the transmitter turned silent.

            In a very interesting incident, Popular Communications (now no longer in print) reported that an American army Brigadier General was on service in South Vietnam during what Americans call the Vietnam War, and the Vietnamese call the American War.  The army officer was interested in Morse Code, and he would sometimes practice sending Morse Code on his own little Morse key and oscillator in his underground bunker.

            One evening, he was awakened by the sound of very irregular Morse Code coming from his little oscillator; and he was surprised to discover that a rat was playing with the Morse Code key and enjoying the sound it made.  The army officer stated that this unusual event occurred on several subsequent occasions.

            In the same issue of that now defunct American radio magazine Popular Communications, there is also a report that a swarm of flies put a radio station off the air in southern Sweden.  The small FM station, Radio Active in the town of Ystad, maintained a small transmitter building adjacent to their studio building.

            Unbeknownst to the staff, a swarm of flies had laid their eggs inside the transmitter equipment and when the eggs hatched, the new flies swarmed and disabled the transmitter.  When the main door to the small building was opened, many thousands of newly hatched flies swarmed out into the open air.  It took the staff another three hours to install new equipment and thus restore the station to its regular programming.

            That reminds me of another animal story that occurred here at WRMI in central Florida.  We have a very large C-band satellite dish which we use to receive the signal of Radio Japan.  We rebroadcast the Spanish service of Radio Japan live at 0400-0430 UTC on 5985 kHz. 

            Well, a year or so ago, we suddenly started having trouble getting the Radio Japan signal via the large satellite dish.  It was sporadic; sometimes it came in, and sometimes it didn’t.  We checked with the engineers at Radio Japan to see if they had made any changes to the satellite parameters that might account for the problem, but they said there had been no changes. 

            Our engineers scratched their heads and tried all kinds of things to try to figure out what was going on.  Finally, they went out to the dish, took the LNB receiving device off and looked down inside.  Much to their surprise, they found a wasp nest in there, and it was blocking the signal.  They very carefully removed that wasp nest and its inhabitants, and our listeners in Central America were once again able to hear NHK World from Tokyo.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 478)