Visiting the Punta Brava antennas of the Uruguayan Navy

By: Martín Butera
PT2ZDX – LU9EFO

Accompanied by the Chief of the Communications Division and the weapon’s public relations officer. We made a visit to the antenna field, for military security reasons, they did not let us take pictures inside the building, but they did let us work freely on the photographs of the base antenna field.

In one of the many trips to the neighboring country of Uruguay, together with my friend Mark Melzi (LU3DU), we toured this complete and interesting field of antennas of the Uruguayan navy.

Drone image, where you can see all the antennas of the Uruguayan Navy field.
Another drone image, from afar where you can see all the antennas of the Uruguayan Navy field.

The Punta Brava Transmitting and Receiving Station is currently operated by Communications Personnel of the Fifth Division of the Navy’s General Staff, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, operating communications systems that allow them to fulfill the tasks assigned to them. the station.

These activities include daily communications with the contingents deployed in Haiti, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Captain Miranda Training Ship during its voyage, Navy ships in the Antarctic Mission, as well as all communication requirements.

Arriving at the antenna field of the Uruguayan Navy.
Martin Butera (LU9EFO – PT2ZDX), observing the large number of antennas of the Uruguayan Navy.

Award for Best Station of the Inter-American Naval Telecommunications Network

The Punta Brava Receiving Station belonging to the Uruguayan National Navy obtained the award for Best Station of the Inter-American Naval Telecommunications Network in 2009, an international distinction that is the result of a competition between 17 Navies of the Continent, which is awarded by this body year after year since 1989.

The Uruguayan Navy detachment obtained the highest score for the high professional level of its members and for the excellent work it performs as a key organism in the structure of the force of the sea, a distinction that it achieved for the best qualification, rewarding good performance. , high degree of training and good use of human and technological resources.

The Inter-American Naval Telecommunications Network was created in 1962 and since 1989, it grants this distinction to those who stand out in their work each year.

Uruguay being the first to receive such a distinction, since then several member countries of the RITN have been distinguished with this recognition.

Rhombic antenna of the Uruguayan Navy, these antennas are characterized by relatively high gain associated with their simplicity.
We can see another formation of Rhombic antennas and a large mast, where crosses one dipole horizontally and others in an inverted V shape from the mast main that are confused with the tensioners of the same, belonging to the Navy of Uruguay.

Radio Nautica notices

Nautical radio advisories are messages that are transmitted to ships in order to provide “urgent information” pertinent to safe navigation, in accordance with those established in Rule 4 of Chapter V of SOLAS, 1974. Together with Radio Advisories SAR and meteorological information, comprise what is called MSI (Maritime Safety Information).

Due to the urgency with which they want to reach sailors, they have as a means radio and / or satellite transmissions.

The information transmitted is presented in the clearest, most unequivocal and concise format possible.

In view of their urgent nature, the Advisories of Radio Náutica are frequently based on incomplete or unconfirmed information.

Sailors must take this into consideration when deciding how confident they will be in the information.

Nautical radio advisories are broadcast in support of the global service concept WWNWS (World Navigational Advisory Service).

This consists of a coordinated service, nationally and internationally, for the dissemination of Nautical radio advisories regulated by the relevant legislation established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) and the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO).

Mark Melzi LU3DU (left), next to a large logarithmic antenna, & Martin Butera (right), next to a large mast of the Uruguayan Navy

Radio Nautical Warnings and Weather Bulletins

The SOHMA (Oceanography, Hydrography and Meteorology Service of the Uruguayan Navy), originates the following types of Notices to Navigators:

Message transmitted by means of telecommunications and containing urgent information related to navigation safety.

The Nautical Radio notices are broadcast by:

  • The coastal stations of the National Naval Prefecture.
  • The coast station of ANTEL
  • Other means for internal use of the Navy.
Classification of Notices to navigators, by SOHMA
General Notices

They communicate to sailors all information or instructions that, by their nature, do not alter a specific nautical document, and therefore do not imply corrections to the Nautical Charts and Publications.

Definitive Notices

They report a permanent change in the affected charts and / or publications, including corrections to Nautical Charts and Publications, they are made up of globs for the Letters and Publications, as well as new pages, include or replace, for Publications.

Preliminary Notices

They warn in advance of events of any nature, which are going to occur in the field related to Nautical.

Temporary Notices

They report news or alterations of a transitory nature.

The Preliminary and Temporary Notices are separated so that they can be extracted from the brochure and have them in a visible place on the bridge or track room of the ship.

Coastal stations in CW

On January 31, 1999, the World Maritime Distress and Signaling – a non-morse system: using satellite and digital sequential calling (DSC), Comsat, COPSAS and others replaced wireless telegraphy for the most part in the Maritime Service.

Now it is very rare to have CW stations.

The Uruguayan Navy in telegraphy (Morse code), still maintains this service to this day passing information, on the frequency 8.602 Khz cw (continuous wave), if you do not know about telegraphy, just search the internet for a program to decode in time real.

Also the Uruguayan Navy is sending SVH in 4,346.

Martin Butera (LU9EFO – PT2ZDX), inside the antenna field, showing the work of underground coaxial cables from one of the antennas.
Mark Melzi (LU3DU), standing under one of the rhombic antennas of the Uruguayan army
Martin Butera (LU9EFO – PT2ZDX), next to the Uruguayan Navy logarithmic.

VHF Channels and Marine Frequencies

Every seafarer must know how to use VHF equipment on board, whether fixed or portable.

It is part of the ability of the navigator. And that knowledge comes from the knowledge of the channels and frequencies used in the VHF band of the Maritime Mobile Service.

Channel 16: Frequency 156.800 MHz

It is the channel and frequency established throughout the world for making emergency, distress and security calls.

Additionally, the regulation allows the use of channel 16 for the establishment of communications between a shore and a ship and for the announcement of messages that are transmitted by another working channel.

Channel 70: Frequency 156.525 MHz

Channel 70 is coded for the exclusive emission and reception of alerts through Digital Selective Calling (LSD). It is useless to try to transmit a voice message over this frequency.

This channel is mandatory “listening”. Although in reality there is nothing to listen to. Devices equipped with LSD (mandatory in zone 3, 2 and 1) emit an audible signal when they receive an alert, indicating the type of message.

It is also an international channel, with which coast stations, individual ships, groups of ships or all stations in coverage can be diverted to a second working channel. Its presence on board provides added security, being able to issue an alert in case of emergency with the push of a button.

Channels 75 and 76

Despite the distance, they are the channels that occupy the frequencies before and after channel 16. Its use is limited to issues related to navigation safety and its purpose is to serve as a “firewall” to keep it as clean as possible. the emergency frequency of channel 16. It can only be broadcast at 1 W. It is used by coastal areas.

Channels 10 and 11

Similar to the previous ones, they are adjacent to channel 70. Like channels 75 and 76, their use is limited, being the coast stations the ones that predominantly use them for the purpose of safety in navigation.

Channel 13

Worldwide, it is the channel used for the security of port operations, for which it is assigned to Port Pilots. If there are nearby ports or the radio traffic is very high, the successive channels 14 and 15 are added.

Channel 6

The internationally established channel for safety and rescue communications involving ships and airplanes. This frequency is shared with the airborne radio spectrum and is for exclusive use in Search and Rescue (SAR) operations.

Channel 6 is also used for low-power, non-safety inter-ship communications exclusively.

Channel 9

The channel of the nautical and sports clubs. Many portable VHFs have a button to automatically change from 16 to 9 in order to maintain a more or less effective listening of maritime traffic and communications with the marina.

However, channel 9 is not a channel for communications between ships, but rather its use is limited to establishing communication between ship and marina and vice versa, the pattern having to use the minimum power (1 W) so as not to interfere with nearby ports.

Channels for talking between ships

The above are channels reserved for the safety of navigation. However, the radio spectrum
of VHF is much broader. There are a number of channels that are intended for inter-ship
communications for no safety purpose (talk-to-talk channels): 6, 8, 72 and 77.

Several images of the antenna field of the Uruguayan Navy.
The last antenna is special, it is a nuclear antenna, used for electronic wars, donated by the United States.

The day I participate in a rescue by Radio

Cover of an important newspaper in Argentina, where it appears “in cover”, Martin Butera “A ham radio that saved a sailboat in the storm”
Internal note of the newspaper recounting the action of Martin Butera.
Below is a summary of the newspaper article to Martin Butera

Due to the intense storm that hit part of the metropolitan region and Greater Buenos Aires, in the Argentine Republic, which left a balance of one death and at least 500 evacuees, on the last Friday, March 21, 2008.

It had as its protagonist an Argentine radio amateur, who thanks to his radio operation was able to save a sailboat that had been stranded in the middle of the relentless storm on the Rio de la Plata, in Buenos Aires.

Martín Butera (LU9EFO) was in his radio room, listening to different frequencies, when around 7 in the afternoon, his team stopped on the maritime emergency channel, channel 16 (frequency 156,800 Mhz), which is used by the Prefecture Naval Argentina for emergencies.

Martín heard something that caught his attention, it was a voice that repeated May Day, May Day, May Day (Mayday is an emergency code used internationally as a call for help, derived from the French M’aider.

It is used as a call for help by many groups such as: police forces, pilots, brigade members and transport organizations. The call made three times, means danger, for example risk of losing your life).

Far from thinking that it was a joke, due to the strong storm that was hitting a large part of Buenos Aires and listening to the repeated, almost desperate calls of May Day, May Day, May Day and who seemed not to listen or copy the Naval Prefecture, Martín Butera He was present on the frequency and after identifying himself as a radio amateur with the distinctive LU9EFO signal, he responded to calls for help.

It was the captain of the sailboat named “Aragón”, who had set sail in the afternoon in good weather for a walking trip and was surprised by the storm, taking him in and laughing practically blind due to the weather conditions.

The captain of the sailboat, told him that he had used up all his hand flares and he only had one flare with parachute (parachute flares are the ones used to shoot directly into the sky, for viewing), that his cell phone did not have signal and that the sailboat had anchored, so as not to go higher (anchored means that it had anchored so that the current does not carry it further from the coast) and that it only depended on its radio, but it could not communicate with the coast guard for its rescue.

At that time Martín Butera (LU9EFO) asked the coordinates of him, the captain of the sailboat and he told him the following numbers 34-23-807-58-08-589.

With that data in his possession, Martín calls again on channel 16, requesting a copy from a member of the Prefecture for a ransom.

LU9EFO is copied after a few minutes, by the officers on duty and they invite him to switch to channel 73 (frequency 156.675 Mhz), to make contact with the COAST GUARD identified as P.N.A. GC-73 “CABO CORRIENTES”, once on that channel it asks you to indicate to the sailboat “Aragón”, to also go to channel 73 and to keep QAP (listening) as support and until the sailboat and the ship Coast Guard can communicate and obviously inform the sailboat that they were already assisting in their rescue.

Once the coast guard was approaching these coordinates, they could be copied without problems and the ship’s captain repeats all the data that he previously communicated to LU9EFO and everything was left in the hands of the Argentine Naval Prefecture that around 2 o’clock 3 hours after the call for help they were able to rescue the sailboat.

Martín continued to support him as he listened and even offered the captain of the sailboat if he wanted to communicate by phone with a family member so that they could stay calm, but the captain of “Aragón” replied that at the moment he did not have that need and that I thanked him very much.

About the Author

Martín Butera has been a Radio Amateur since 1992 with the Argentine callsign LU9EFO and the Brazilian PT2ZDX.

Martín is a Radio Amateur with more than 30 years of experience, and has participated in DX expeditions throughout South and Central America.

Martin collaborates, writes and compiles information for various radio bulletins and magazines that cover the topic of world radio, his articles are published in several languages.

Martin is the founder in Brazil of the CREW called 15 point 61 (15.61), now called only 61 sixty-one, dedicated to DX expeditions of BCL, radio listening.

Martín Butera is a journalist, documentary maker and was a founding member of Radio Atomika 106.1 MHz (Buenos Aires, Argentina) https://radioatomika.com.ar/

He currently lives in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil, with his wife.

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