Receiving Station Utlandshörn [Snow Catastrophe, Winter 1978/1979 | My Last Contact]

Receiving Station Utlandshörn

We said that December 6, 1971 was my first day with Norddeich Radio, and it was shortly after earning my First Class Radiotelegraph license.  I had firmly decided that I had put sea-faring behind me.  I had learned my "Handwork" in six years of sea-faring, and needed management to see that.  For six weeks I planned to work through a manager to accomplish it, and came of nothing.  Then the Christmas traffic was in full flow, and no manager could be found, so I ran through a short demonstration and knocked out the first six weeks only telegrams.  That is, I only took telegrams from ships, and transmitted only to ships.  

The operating center near the dike.
On the 1st floor of the wing on the left,  radio-telegraphy was conducted until the end.

I remember very well my first contact.  After sitting beside an active radio operator for one or two hours, the watch leader, Tamme Heyen, said it was time for me to become active.  My first ship was, of all things, at that time the largest German passenger ship, "Bremen," (DDQP) for which I had a whole pile of telegrams.  I was the same as a beginner on my first ship!  What radio operator hasn't lived through this experience?  With anxiety about the key, and cramping and sweat breaking out, I sent the first telegram, and my opposite, the operator on the Bremen sent "QSG." (send ...telegrams at a time) (Who knows these Q-Groups?)  For QSG I have a funny story - read it under Episodes.
At the end of my watch, my morale was terrific when the watch-leader clapped me on the shoulder and said, "that was a good run." Did he seriously mean it?
Every year the days before and after Christmas were the high point in radiotelephone and radiotelegraph traffic.  Often the workers were at the limit of their work-load capacity.  Most often 25 to 30 ships were waiting on every band (8, 12, 16, and 22 mHz.)  It was

a hard time, but also fun.

Distress and calling position 2182 kHz and VHF
channel 16, still in the old building, 1975. Left,
the watch receiver "Siemens E311"

I have often thought about how many telegrams I handled in 25 years of working; a careful extimate is about 12,000.

The service from Norddeich Radio ran around the clock, naturally with reduced personnel at nighttime. There were about 180 people at the receiving station, and about 45 people at the transmitting station at Osterloog.

It was becoming not very attractive to see the different work places with always the same people sitting there.  On this basis one could develop a seating chart:

1.  500 kHz watch (International emergency and calling frequency for telegraph.)
2.  8 mHz watch, DAJ  ( Watch and working frequency for short-wave telephone, hourly callup for short and border wave.)
3.  Telegram working place (Starting and delivery for radiotelegrams for all frequencies.
4.  Watch on 2182 khz and Channel 16 (156.8 Mhz.) (International emergency and calling frequencies)
5.  Sitor (Executing written traffic)
6.  One-way radio traffic (Preparation of different transmissions current readiness plans.
Preparation and transmission of 2'nd hour traffic list on respective frequencies.
Preparation and transmission of Nautical Warnings, (NX) and Time signals.
Preparation and transmission of Telegrams in long-distance traffic
7.  Telegram work place for middle-wave. (Starting and delivery of radio telegrams exclusively for
MWfrequency  474 khz, transmission of nautical warnings and urgent messages.)
8.  Channel 1,  2,614 kHz, (Acceptance transmission of nautical warnings and urgent messages
9.  16 mHz DAJ watch (Watch and working frequency for short-wave radiotelephone, calling ships on other frequency pairs, for
example DAK, DAI, DAH, DAP)

The watch time with Norddeich Radio was organized to accomodate the daily traffic flow, and was typically
Day 1    1:00 to 8:00 pm
Day 2    1:00 to 8:00 pm

Day 3    7:00 am to 1:00 pm, and 8:00 pm to midnight
Day 4    Midnight to 7:00 am
Day 5    Free time
Day 6    Free time
Day 7    4:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Day 8    9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm to midnight
Day 9    1:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Day 10    7:00 am to 1:00 pm and 8:00 pm to midnight
Day 11    Midnight to 7:00 am
Day 12    Free time
Day 13    Free time
Day 14    Free time

Note that we are not using the so-called Pick-Up Procedure in radiotelegraph for short-wave work.


After 3 days, the first watch relieved in the receiving station Utlandshörn

We could not find our cars under the high snow-drifts

No passage available...
Snow Catastrophe, Winter 1978/79

For many people in northern Germany the snow catastrophe in February 1979 is an unforgetable memory.  Continuous snowfall and strong east wind caused deep snow drifts in many places. Anyway, the Norddeich Radio receiving and transmitting stations were not closed.  Many radio operators at sea think they remember that all day in the CQ tape there was a Notice of Attention to Reduced Service.

After three long days the snow plows and excavators had cleared the way to near the stations.  Then I heard from the 'Volunteer Troops" that they needed relief.  With a truck we could get within about 1 km from the station, and the rest of the way we fought through 3 foot deep snow.  Inside the buildings our disheveled and unshaven colleagues waited with pleasure that the end was in sight.  They had had no problem with hunger and thirst because there was a deep-freeze chest full of various things to eat, but we of course brought essential eating and drinking reserves anyway. Luckily we had sufficient personnel to keep the station going.  We endured two more days, and then the station slowly returned to normal.








Night shift during the blizzard. 48 hours of service remaining.

My last Contact

Over the end of Norddeich Radio there was much reported in the media.  Television, radio, and the newspapers reported daily, and I don't want to repeat it all here.  It was unpleasant for us, the afflicted, to watch the business slowly stall.  One by one the individual services closed; radiotelegraph on medium-wave and short-wave, radiotelephone on short-wave and coastal telephony.

On the last day of radiotelegraph service on short-wave, I had already found a new job in the same building, and packed away my telegraph key and headphones.  My last ship was between Cape Town and Durban.  The call sign began with TC...  Their reason for using hf was because the SatCom equipment on board wasn't working.  It was somehow reflected in his keying that he had not used a hand-key in a long time.  After receiving the telegrams, I gave the acknowledgment of receipt, and slowly sent a leave-taking text in "Plain English."  "...After 30 years in marine radio this is my last contact with a ship, and I wish to say goodby and wish for a good future for my colleagues on board."  After a long pause came a short answer: PSE RPT.  (Please repeat)  That was not what I was expecting; I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.  At last I tuned the receiver off, packed my key and headphones away, and began my new job.  I was not becoming sentimental.

So that was the end of maritime radio for me, for ever.

back to summary "Norddeich Radio Photo Gallery Receiving Station Utlandshörn until 1981
  Photo Gallery Receiving Station Utlandshörn 1981 - 1998