Good news everyone! UVB-76 “The Buzzer!”, the mysterious buzzing Russian “number” station, that legend says is part of the the Dead Hand system, is still broadcasting! You may remember that there was some controversy over whether the station had ceased operation back in June, but according to the WIkipedia article, that was just an unfounded rumor.
What’s really interesting, is that on August 23, it made a voice transmission.
UVB-76, UVB-76 — 93 882 naimina 74 14 35 74 — 9 3 8 8 2 nikolai, anna, ivan, michail, ivan, nikolai, anna, 7, 4, 1, 4, 3, 5, 7, 4
Ahh the world of spies.
To add another level of intrigue to the station, someone on Livejournal says he has pictures of the transmission site. I don’t know if that’s true or not, but I want it to be true.
The Russian number station UVB-76 has stopped transmitting.
So what’s the big deal? Well this station has been continuously broadcasting a series of tones 24 hours a day, every day, since 1982. What this station does (or did – as the case may be) has been source of frequent speculation for almost 30 years now. It’s frequency and repetitive nature suggests that it might be used for ionosphere research, but occasionally a live voice has been broadcasted reciting numbers and letters. In light of its deactivation, the most disturbing speculation was its use as part of the Dead Hand. When the signal disappears, launch the nukes. (Given that I’m still alive, that’s obviously not the case now.)
So why did it stop? Probably something mundane, but I’m holding out for the exotic.
Update: Sun Jun 6 00:18:51 PDT 2010
According to “Jimmy Device” on /., UVB-76 is back up. Hopefully I can find another confirmation about this.
Update: Sun Jun 6 11:31:02 PDT 2010
I found a link to Internet shortwave streams: globaltuners.com . I’m going to have to check out the frequency after they approve my account. I’ll keep all zero of you updated.
Update: Mon Jun 7 11:55:44 PDT 2010
I tried earlier this weekend and today trying to find the station using Global Tuners. Last night I couldn’t find it. Today, maybe something really weak, but probably not. I just don’t know. The UVB-76 Wikipedia talk page is saying that the cessation was only a rumor because the original post was traced back to a conspiracy site, but that doesn’t mean that the station isn’t broadcasting. This seems trivial to check, and I’m inclined to believe that it has stopped, but in all honesty, I don’t know if I was using the radios correctly when I tried. It appears that the Internet has failed us my friend.
Besides jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge, one of my other unquenchable fascinations is number stations. Why? They’re terribly creepy. Then you learn they’re for honest to god spies.
If you’re not familiar with number stations, they’re shortwave radio stations that regularly broadcast literally cryptic sequences of numbers or letters. Triangulation indicates that some of these stations are typically located on air force bases and other military installations around the world. The number sequences are believed to be one-time-pad messages sending instructions to clandestine agents somewhere in the world. By using shortwave, not only can you broadcast halfway around the world, but building a receiver in-situ is very easy.
When I listen to recordings of these stations, with all the pops, whistles, distortions, and the mechanized voice repeating cryptic sequences I get unsettled. I don’t know why. It’s just bizarre.
Radio Free Berkeley is selling radio transmitters (Brand new obsolete NTSC tv transmitters are also available.) Ruggedized, and small enough to be concealed, the 40W version can transmit 8 – 10 miles.
With one of these and Yuri Suzuki’s QR codes you could create a pretty cool number station.
Video after the jump.