BY MELANIE BUCK –
There are few people in this world that still connect with AM radio, but for some that do, it provides a passionate hobby. And to hear an AM band halfway around the world is an unlikely chance, but on rare occasion, it happens. Such is the case with KENA 1450AM and Finland citizen, Hannu Niileksela.
Niileksela, is a long distance AM radio reception enthusiast who spends weeks at a time in Northern Finland listening for anything he can hear come across the airwaves and the further they come from, the better.
On the evening of April 8, 2016, Niileksela was sitting at his station, listening to the 1450 band when he caught a faint sound of call letters. “…on Good News 1450 KENA.” Excitement took over and he began researching where this sounder came from.
He was able to track down contact information for the station and sent a copy of the recording for confirmation and indeed, it was from Mena’s local AM station. “Hearing KENA on 1450 AM is an achievement based on a “long journey.” I have learned to sniff out what parts of the U.S. the atmospheric skip is favoring at a certain moment and go after stations from that area. But on a frequency like 1450 AM with some 170 stations operating on it across the U.S., it is always also a matter of good luck with what you may hear.”
He also said that 1450 AM is a difficult frequency in Finland, since it is just 1 kHz apart from the European channel 1449 with lots of strong stations. “But as the sun started rising at this end, the signals from Europe started to get weaker, and from your direction, still in the dark, I heard a gospel song ending and a male voice announcing. I’m glad to report that the atmospheric skip was quite favorable in the direction of your great country,” explained Niileksela.
Niileksela is an avid AM enthusiast and his passion began decades ago. “I spent my high school year in Carlisle, Iowa and graduated there with the class of 1970. As the evenings got dark, I used to take our kitchen tabletop radio and listen to stations in the AM band. In a while, I realized that having a 30-foot wire hanging out of the window would give a better reception of most stations, and bring in even some far away stations. That is how I picked this hobby back then and brought it with me upon returning to Finland at the age of 18,” explained Niileksela.
When he moved back, he lived in the suburbs of Helsinki, the capital of Finland. “I started experimenting with more sophisticated radios and antennas. That was some 46 years ago, but still today at the age of 64 I am “hot” as ever for U.S. stations on the AM band.”
Now, a CPA auditor by day, he finds his hobby to be a great balance to his everyday work life. He and a group of enthusiasts began to experiment with how AM reception would be in the very northernmost places of Finland, beyond the Arctic Circle, where in mid-winter the sun never rises for several weeks. They have nighttime-like conditions in the area 24 hours a day, and are far away from man made noise and interfering European stations. “That place has proven to be ideal for North American AM radio reception,” he said.
“Every now and then, I spend a week or two there, with a hope for distant signals with my communications receiver and 3000-foot longwire antenna. And sometimes miracles happen,” he said.
Airwaves must cross land and ocean to travel to Lemmenjoki, Finland, the base of Niileksela’s hobby, more than 5,000 miles. He said that capturing Good News 1450 AM, “would definitely be one of my greatest success stories in this hobby. Thank you very much for extending your signal all the way over here.”