Freq out: Coast Guard ceases monitoring channel 2182 kHz

 

Communications Station Kodiak radio towers

Coast Guard members participating in the tower climb training rotate through the begining stages of rescue training by ascending and descending from the 150-foot point of the 300-foot tower at Communications Station Kodiak Aug. 25, 2003, in Kodiak, Alaska. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty officer 3rd Class Sara Raymer.

In this digital era, new technologies put endless information at our fingertips. However, as we trudge into a future once imagined only as science fiction, older technologies become outdated, joining cassette tapes, camera film and floppy discs in the back seat of history.

On Aug. 1, the Coast Guard stopped monitoring radiotelephone medium frequency 2182 kHz, an internationally known distress frequency designated for mariners 65 years ago.

“As satellite communications become cheaper and more accessible, mariners begin to rely less on HF (high frequency) communications,” said Chief Petty Officer Nathan Fairchild, an operations specialist at Coast Guard Communication Station Kodiak. “Satellite communications, especially in the Lower 48, have a great signal, whereas 2182 kHz in the Lower 48, or anywhere for that matter, can be very staticky and hard to hear.”

Advancements in satellite, digital, very high frequency and high frequency radio equipment are not the only factors making medium frequency radiotelephone communications obsolete.

According to a Coast Guard Notice published in the Federal Register July 15, the site deterioration, costly upkeep and extensive maintenance required to support this legacy medium frequency system, as well as the relatively minimal use by mariners, led the Coast Guard to discontinue supporting it.

“2182 kHz would have periods up to 30 minutes in length where mariners were required to stay silent, allowing only serious emergency calls to come through,” Fairchild said. “The frequency became somewhat of a taboo, and mariners began using other channels to conduct communications.”

Fairchild also explained that time of day had an effect on the quality of the transmission, as solar rays interfered with the signal, making it most reliable at night.

Many countries stopped using frequency 2182 kHz after 1999, but the Coast Guard kept watch over the signal to support smaller vessels operating 20 to 100 miles from shore. Those vessels were not subject to the Convention of Life at Sea regulations followed by mariners today.

Although 2182 kHz was not a primary frequency, mariners need to remain vigilant and ensure they have multiple forms of communication while operating on the open water.

“If you are within 20 miles offshore, VHF radio channel 16 is the best way to hail the Coast Guard,” Fairchild said. “Any further than that you need to have an HF radio tuned up to the 4125 kHz frequency, or if you could get your hands on it, satellite phones would be ideal.”

The 2182 kHz emergency frequency was established during the International Telecommunications Conference in Atlantic City, N.J., in 1947.

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