No not a number station!

While on holiday last week I stumbled across some interesting transmissions on 11175kHz, my immediate reaction was some form of ‘number station’ however the messages finish with “Andrews Out” The American accent made me think immediately of Andrews Air Force base.

A bit of Internet research and I identified the transmissions as being part of the High Frequency Global Communications System (HF-GCS) and these messages being Emergency Action Messages (EAM) whilst apparently originally designed as part of the U.S. military’s strategic nuclear weapon command and control system, they must have other uses during peacetime (I hope)

There is an interesting post on the Milcom Monitoring Blog which has more details about what they may be.

Number Stations

Just before I went on holiday I happened across a strange but faint transmission which I discovered was probably a Cuban Number Station. This perked my former interest into number stations and doing a little research I have found a number of audio documentaries, from several years ago, produced by the American NPR media organisation, most of them using Akin Fernandez’s Conet Project.

Numbers Stations: Mystery Over The Airwaves <article link> <audio download>

Music by the ‘Numbers Stations’ <article link> <audio download>

Atencion: Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero: The Shortwave Numbers Mystery <old article link> <newer article link>

This last one was one produced and mixed by David Goren, and unfortunately the only audio available from NPR are in RealAudio format (shudders) but luckily David Goren has a SoundCloud page (his username Shortwaveology nice!) with high quality versions of the programs

The Shortwave Numbers Mystery by Shortwaveology

Atencion! Seis Siete Tres Siete Cero: The Mystery of the Shortwave Numbers Stations by Shortwaveology

David also has a number of other interesting audio works on his page created from raw radio reception, I particularly like this one
Mercy, So Much Noise by Shortwaveology

I also installed Ian Wraith’s RIVET program which allows decoding of some of the HF data modes used by clandestine operators.

Some other interesting links I found on my travels,
Simon Mason’s Shortwave Espionage
Spy Numbers Stations on Shortwave Radio
HF Underground
Numbers & Oddities
Enigma 2000

there is also the Engima 2000 Yahoo Group unfortunately this seems harder than the Freemasons to get into (just joking!) I tried to join just before leaving for my holiday and was then asked send a email back to prove I would be an active participant, which is reasonable enough request. I did send a detailed one back, to then be told they never received anything so I was denied membership, this seemed a little strange as all communication had been done using Yahoo’s own email system. In their defence I could have tried again, unfortunately I had neglected to save a copy of the email in my sent folder and being away on holiday at the time when I received the rejection I acted a little petulantly and decided I had better things to do. 

The Conet Project / 1111

Back when I first started listening to short wave radio I often come across no end of strange sounding stations, usually consisting of some form of repeating ‘musical’ fanfare and then an automated voice reading out seemingly random numbers. These were of course the now infamous ‘number stations

There function was a mystery but it is logical to assume they were some form of coded covert messaging system for the security and intelligence community of various countries, or for organised crime.

Some number stations sound more like experimental electronica music or performance art with strange tones and unearthly sounds and have gained a number of enthusiastic monitoring stations and Hundreds of stations have been identified by these numbers-hunters like those in ENIGMA (European Numbers Information Gathering and Monitoring Association), who publish a ‘zine tracking the transmissions.

Sadly despite making many recordings of stations on my trusty cassette recorder they have long since become misplaced and lost, however all was not lost!

Back in 1997 Akin Fernandez and the Irdial-Discs recording label released a four-CD set of recordings of number stations, called The Conet Project: Recordings of Shortwave Numbers Stations. The Conet Project has since become somewhat of a cult sensation and counts many musicians and filmmakers among its fans, often incorporating samples of it in their work.

The project’s name comes from a mishearing of the Czech word konec, or “end,” which marks the end of transmissions on the Czech numbers station.

The Irdial-Discs label has made the entire collection available for download in MP3 form on its web site completely free of charge.

Now Irdial-Dics have re-released The Conet Project in a special anniversary CD edition that includes the four original discs plus a fifth CD containing recordings of the very strange “noise stations.” Called TCP/1111 (1111 being the binary representation of 15, or 16 years if you start counting from 0)

Also back in 2005 BBC Radio 4 broadcast a lovely documentary called “Tracking The Lincolnshire Poacher” all about number stations and The Conet Project, which can be downloaded from many sources (just do a google search) or is available on Youtube with a brilliant visualisation.