Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Is the Japanese Whaling Fleet Using HF CW?

I was keeping this quiet because both sides of the famous "Whale Wars" dispute monitor the Internet almost as intently as the radio, looking for any information on position and course of the others. However, they have now made contact, and awareness of the existence of communication no longer gives either one useful information for location.

The "Whale Wars" are, of course, the yearly Japanese whaling expedition to the Southern Ocean every summer, and the efforts of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to shut it down. This is shown every year, a few months later, on the Animal Planet TV show with this name.

About a week ago, suspicious Morse code comms were heard on 12443 kHz CW. This frequency is in the ship CW working band, but it is not an international channel. It's one kHz off from 12442.0, the ship transmitting side of a duplex pair with 9MG, Penang, on 12943.5 kHz.

These comms, however, are simplex. The ship operator sends Morse with a standard "straight key," not a "bug" or automatic keyer. Content is mostly numbers, though the people who are able to hear this have reported non-international Morse characters that could be Japanese or other languages.

One listener in New Zealand reports that he copied the words "Sea Shepard." It's not known whether the CW op misspelled it or it was a typo. He also notes that he has heard Antarctic CW activity on 12443 kHz simplex in previous Southern Hemisphere summers.

This activity coincides with reports on the Sea Shepherd web site of a series of complex tactical maneuvers ending in their intercepting the factory ship Nisshin Maru, making it impossible to process whales and bringing the Japanese whaling to at least a temporary halt.

So, have utility listeners done the seeming impossible, and heard the Nisshin or one of its associated vessels? This is not known. It could be another vessel mentioning the activity. It's sure fun to speculate, though. Did the whaling fleet think no one would check the old CW frequencies?

But, regardless of who you think is right in this yearly dispute, anything actually associated with it would be a major utility catch. Who says there's nothing on short wave?