DROWNING IN ÆTHER

Entry

Recently I discovered a document listing the frequencies of many UHF SATCOM satellites. Most of them transmit around 250MHz so I had to build another YAGI antenna, to be able to receive those frequencies. Today I am testing it. The document states that the SATCOM satellites are all situated in a geostationary orbit along the equator, so my decision is to go to the Kralingse Plas, a lake next to my studio, that has perfect clear sight towards south. There are numerous people at the lake, today is a really warm day and everyone is swimming and barbequing next to me. Among this swarm of people, I set up my notebook on the grass next to the shore, tune the receiver and point the antenna towards south. I cannot believe my eyes as instantly at least eight different signals appear in the spectrum. Some of them are just noise, I read earlier that the military keeps the transponders active due to tactical reasons. But one looks like there is a lot of activity. I adjust the frequency of the receiver and suddenly a foreign voice appears. He sounds brazillian and definitely not like how I imagine military personnel behaves. He must be one of those satellite radio pirates I read about. Curious and perhaps attracted by the noise a man approaches me. He is in his swimsuit. We start a conversation that soon reveals that he works for the dutch military and has recognized the antenna from his training in radio transmission thus is wondering what I am doing here. While we talk, he pulls out his phone and swipes through some pictures of one of his field exercises. On one I see him with a military UHF antenna squatting in front of a tank. That is about all the information he provided me with, and even though I was, he definitely wasn’t keen on sharing much if any information about his work. The SATCOM pirates are very active throughout the whole afternoon, I record about two hours of material and experience many sonically interesting moments. I intercept a conversation between two men, one seems to listen back to himself while transmitting creating a feedback loop. He appears to enjoy experimenting with it while slowly laughing into the microphone of this transmitter. As he notices the feedback rising he repeatedly increases the intensity of his laughter. The signal is quickly overloading resulting in screeching feedback. After this loud squeal he moves away from the microphone, the conversation continues in the distance. Around two minutes later music appears in the background, the space wherein it is played is clearly noticeable in the signal. The room sounds reverberant, images of a car repair workshop come to my mind. The higher frequencies of the signal get increasingly more distorted and the music disappears in the radio noise. I think he lost connection.