By Lucky Kidd
VANTAA, Fin. / IOLA, Kan. — Under normal conditions, the signal of 1370 KIOL going north from Iola will extend out around 75 miles or so, a bit further to the west of Lawrence. At night it’s much less than that due to the low power we use after sunset. Last Fall, KIOL managed to get out a lot further than that.
Mika Mäkeläinen, a 58-year-old foreign news journalist for the Finnish Broadcasting Company, has a hobby of DXing, or listening for radio signals from great distances. Last November 24th, just after 1 AM Iola time, he was in northern Finland on a DX expedition, and by “rare combination of luck, experience and effort,” was able to pick up a faint signal from 1370 KIOL.
There was a lot of background noise on the recording Mäkeläinen sent to Iola Radio, but you could make out “iolaradio.com” and the call letters of KIOL, received 4,497 miles from Iola. What was even more remarkable was that it was just 58 watts of power we were using at the time.
It’s a very popular hobby in that part of the world during the winter months for people to see how many radio signals they can pick up. Mika used a communications receiver with a 3,000-foot-long wire antenna to make this reception.
“Listeners picking up KIOL internationally couldn’t be more timely than right now,” Mika said, noting that tomorrow, Feb. 13 is International World Radio Day.
It’s not uncommon for radio stations in this part of the Country to be heard in northern Scandinavia during the winter months.
Mika explained that conditions for AM listening are ideal up in Finland’s northern region Lapland, far above the Arctic Circle, because there is ample space for long antennas, and hardly any man-made electrical noise or interference.
One station in Salina whose nighttime antenna pattern has a lobe roughly pointed towards Sweden is a very frequent catch, and there are three other Kansas stations with night antenna patterns that can easily make the trip across the north pole, along with two Kansas City area stations and one in Joplin, Missouri. They all run much more power at night than KIOL, which makes this reception even more remarkable.
Some hobbyists also try to receive FM radio stations from great distances, which take advantage of atmospheric “ducting” that occurs during certain weather conditions and can be much more difficult to achieve.
There is a man in Dunmore, Alberta, Canada, just east of Medicine Hat, who had been able to receive two of Ad Astra Radio’s FM stations, most recently earlier this month when he briefly picked up the signal of 98.9 KGBK from Larned. A couple of years prior to that he picked up the signal of 94.7 KSKU in Hutchinson at the same location, a signal he was able to hold for several minutes.
As remarkable as all this sounds, it’s not the longest distance a current Ad Astra station has been received. In December 1948, while overnight equipment tests were being conducted prior to the launch of what is now 1540 KMCP in McPherson, the 250-watt signal was picked up by a group of ham radio operators in Australia.