Reports from NMO - A Minor Diplomatic Incident

Copyright © 1994 by Jeffrey Herman. All rights reserved.

One evening while sitting the 500kc watch and daydreaming of those lucky ops onboard their ships scattered about the Pacific my pleasant thoughts were shattered by a bcst from a Soviet ship:

TTT TTT TTT DE UBEX UBEX UBEX BT 170930Z ALL SHIPPING WITHIN 200 KM RADIUS 030-060 DEG FROM 37.42N 174.11E USE CAUTION DUE TO MISSILE TESTING DURING THE HOURS OF ...

Oh gad, he was going to send the entire text on 500 - that's a no-no for just a safety bcst. Okay, time to earn my pay as the Central Pacific 500kc cop - I'll just break in by sending a couple: BT BT but he kept right on going. Okay, I'll hold my key down for a few seconds (but not too long for long dashes will activate auto alarms on board ships): ah, silence. I'll be nice:

UBEX DE NMO NMO GE OM PSE QRT ON 500 PSE QSY 512 OK IMI K

After a few seconds of silence he proceeded to send:

TTT TTT TTT CQ DE UBEX UBEX UBEX BT 170930Z ALL SHIPPING ...

Oh geez, this guy gets the Lid-Of-The-Night award. Now I'm not happy. The Cold War on 500. I send another: and silence results. Let's try it again:

UBEX DE NMO QRT ON 500 QSY 512 K

only to be followed by:

TTT TTT TTT CQ DE UBEX UBEX UBEX BT 170930Z ALL SHIPPING ...

Now, with only 30 seconds until the silent period my concern for his unlawful bcst is quickly growing. 15 seconds, 10 seconds, 5 sec.; my log:

BEGIN SILENT PERIOD 500 0945Z OPNOTE: UBEX CONTINUING TO SEND SAFETY BCST DURING SP. SPVR NTFD. 0945Z

Having told my supervisor, I proceeded to send:

QRT QRT SP SP

but the lid kept right on sending. Now my mates on the West Coast were losing their patience too - first up is NMC (San Fran CG):

UBEX DE NMC QRT SP SP

and he stops! But a few seconds later (still during the silent period):

TTT TTT TTT CQ DE UBEX ....

oh man, this nut's got seaweed for brains. In jumps NMQ (Long Beach CG):

DE NMQ QRT SP SP

and even NOJ up in Alaska jumps in the brawl:

DE NOJ QRT SP

followed by Power House:

DE KPH QRT SP SP

but the fellow kept right on sending his bcst. Finally at minute :47 (still within the silent period) he finished. I had logged everything; but one thing I didn't log was my `QSL' to him after the silent period:

UBEX UR A LID

without my callsign, and in A1 (I always kept our 500 xmtr in A2, so with it in A1 no one would know it was me). So much for diplomacy with the Soviets...

For the most part every ship and shore station worldwide followed the international proceedures. The discipline on 500 around the world was amazing. During Coast Guard Radioman school we were reminded that what was being taught to us were not Coast Guard nor US Government policies, but rather international rules set forth by the UN's ITU, and that every shipboard operator, spanning many decades, had been taught the exact proceedures being presented to us. This instilled in us an unbroken chain of tradition with those ship's radio operators since the beginning, and all of us felt a deep respect toward 500 kc; there was a sense of mystery felt towards this frequency - very difficult to put into words.