The Shadows in the Airwaves...
by, 01-21-2010 at 02:56 AM (2578 Views)
A few nights ago, I sat laid on my bed, anxiously tuning the radio next to me, flipping through the airwaves quickly, looking for just a trace of a signal. And then I stumbled on it, unexpectedly.
The signal was faint at first, but it was loud enough that it caught my attention, even underneath the Spanish Christian station that it was playing underneath. Enthralled, I quickly fiddled with the buttons on the radio, trying to find a better frequency to listen to it on. I never got the Spanish Christian channel entirely removed, but eventually the signal became way too clear to be anything else.
A quick succession of beeps filled the silent room followed soon by another, slower succession of beeps. A second time the fast beeps passed, and then proceeded to repeat themselves over and over again. Excitedly, I pulled up my notebook, wrote the time, the date, and the frequency of the signal.
I had no doubt in my mind that what I had just heard was Morse Code, passed anonymously through the skies on the forgotten bands of shortwave radio. I had found my first Number Station.
Almost since shortwave radio stations existed, many listeners have heard similar things to what I heard, or even stranger messages. These stations are referred to as Number Stations, for their tendency to broadcast dispassionate voices reciting numbers, usually in 5 digit groups. There are many forms of Number Stations, which range from Morse Code stations to stations that seem to play just random noise. There are several things these stations have in common.
Firstly, no one wants to take responsibility for them.
Secondly, they are all officially denied by all governments around the world.
And finally, no one knows what they are for.
A small group of enthusiasts has followed, tracked, and logged transmissions of Number Stations since they're sudden increase prior to WW2 and the Cold War. The most prolific theory behind these stations is that they are, or were, used by governments as a form of one-way communication to various agents in other countries who aren't supposed to be there. Others say that they are drug cartels and other sinister organizations on the airwaves too, talking to their subordinates and giving out instructions. For secret agents or drug cartels, shortwave is an obvious method of cheap, perfectly anonymous one-way communication. Since so many people have access to a shortwave radio, its impossible to tell who the message might be going to, or where it might be meant to go.
However, where they are coming from is a different story.
Using triangulation and a method similar to metal detection, one can locate and identify Number stations around the world. This has already been done by many amateurs, leading to the identification of stations in England, Europe and the US.
No matter the real reason for these transmissions, they have become a source of great interest for me personally. I have become one of these enthusiasts, and have already begun my logging of Number Station transmissions, as well as many other transmissions I stumble across on the airwaves during my searches. I know I will probably never get any answers to my questions, any trophy for my hunt. But I will continue to spend my time tuning into the shadows on the airwaves just for that little rush that comes every time I hear that rapid beep over the speakers or a dispassionate voice reciting numbers.
This blog post is also an open invitation to all those who also might be interested in Number Stations to come and join my search. I'll even start a group for us if there is enough of an interest.
Until next time folks, this is Waxy, signing off.