SKRUNDA SIGNAL
RIXC (Latvia) and Bureau d'etudes / SIC (France)
2007/2008

“Skrunda Signal” is an artistic research project in to the mythical past of a Soviet early warning Radio Location Station (RLS) operating from 1967 to 1998 near Skrunda, Latvia. Internationally known as ‘henhouse’ radars, these powerful transmitters emitting impulse type signals (detected in the West as ‘woodpecker’) were allegedly responsible for shutting down radio transmissions on at least two occasions for up to 7 minutes in the 1970's. A metaphysical investigation into spectral ecology, Cold War politics and electromagnetic myths manifest in “Skrunda Signal” video. It is complemented by the “Electromagnetic pollution” map that positions Skrunda case into a broader context of technical, geopolitical and spectro-ecological debate on the effects of electromagnetic radiation.


SKRUNDA SIGNAL. Installation by RIXC and Bureau d'Etudes / SIC, consiting of large-scale map and video-wall. Proposal, 2008.

– concept and context: “spectral ecology”

The intent of this RIXC's and Bureau d'etudes / SIC research co-project is to encourage a debate on technical, geopolitical and spectro-ecological aspects of electromagnetic radiation. RIXC in their “Skrunda Signal” film extensively investigates these issues by taking the case of the Skrunda RLS (Radio Location Station), a highly important strategic ABM site for USSR, located in the west of Latvia (near Riga), that was dismantled in 1998. SIC has extended this research by creating a large-scale map of “electromagnetic pollution” that displays results of a co-research on giant scale Anti Ballistic Missile radars (ABM) alongside with other most influential radiofrequency radiation sources (such as TV and radio transmitting towers, wi-fi and mobile base stations, etc.). The map shows what effects such facilities can have on nature and humans living in their everyday surroundings.

Besides geopolitical issues and ecological effects of electromagnetic radiation, Bureau d'etudes / SIC and RIXC consider it to be important to take into consideration the sensitive equilibrium of the biosphere in general and the possible consequences of electro-smog. While scientific research in this field often have 'misty' results, RIXC and SIC in their artistic interpretations are 'tracing' both – most successful scientific research data and inexplicable electromagnetic myths...

– an introduction to Skrunda RLS (1967-1998)
The early warning Radio Location Station build in Skrunda was operating for more than 30 years – from 1967 to 1998. It was located 150 km from Riga, near the town of Skrunda. Skrunda RLS was designed for controlling the Soviet air space as a part of ballistic missile warning system. The function of the station was to fix the altitude, speed and trajectory of a flying object.

Skrunda RLS was a so called “Dnepr” type station. It was composed of two separate sectors (i.e. stations), each consisting of two “wings” (i.e. radars). Each radar wing consisted of a pair of long (250m x 17m) antennas. Antennas were fixed and the operational control was electronic (frequency scanning mode).

Officially, the power of the station was held to be 1,25 – 1,8 MW, but it could be increased up to 3 MW and more. The mean power of each transmitter (all together 16 radars) – 50 kW. Frequency range 156-162 Mhz (which was TV frequency in 70ties/80ties); peak duration – 0.8 ms. The distance of surveillance was >6000 km, altitude up to 3000 km. Radars viewed a 186° angle sector in the north-west direction. The station was of continuous operation until 1998.

After developing project for a more effective and modern station the construction of “Daryal-UM” type early warning location station begun in Skrunda in 1985 but due to the pullout of USSR military forces in year 1992 the building of object was put on hold. On May 4 1995 the unfinished building of Location Radar “Daryal-Um” was blown up; and from 1998 until 1999 the RLS “Dnepr” got dismantled.


On May 4 1995 the unfinished building of Location Radar “Daryal-Um” was blown up. Videostill.

– Skrunda signal: a ‘Henhouse’ or a ‘Woodpecker’?
The powerful radar of Skrunda RLS alongside with its 'regular' transmissions (on frequency range 156-162 Mhz) was transmitting a specific impulse type signal due to which Skrunda radar – as well as other similar Soviet stations build around USSR borders – was known by the international military as a "henhouse" radar. Is it the same as “woodpecker” signal, detected in the West by radioamateurs (on short-waves)? Both signals made a little pecking noise about ten times per second. It is extremely low frequency. Signals of this nature are 'blamed' for affecting the way the people behave – they can effect the ability to be calm, the ability to rationalize... After having interviewed Skrunda researchers, it became clear, that Soviets (at least in Skrunda case) were more interested in developing 'cold war' weapons and espionage tools, and not in mind-controling experiments... So, this could be most likely the solution.

The signal pulse carried a sophisticated code in order to detect approaching object with extremely high accuracy. Thus it resulted into the over-the-horizon-radar system, which could see incoming objects many times further and more precisely than any ordinary radar of the same power at the same distance (even if they are totally out of line or sight). In order to be able to observe space over long distance (that is to have the signal bouncing off ionosphere) – and to stop all TV and radio broadcasting in the world for about 7 minutes, a radar needs to be extremely powerful. So was Skrunda RLS – when working at maximum of the power. And although it couldn't destroy 'cosmic objects' (i.e. ballistic missiles flying in Earth orbit), it could damage radio facilities of the satellites – which was confirmed by the Skrunda main designer himself...

– ecological effect
While the power of radar station was regulated by international and soviet standards, the impulse type signal didn't carry any limitations at all. A special attention in this investigation was paid not so much to military missions as to the station's side effects. Skrunda RLS was located in an agriculturally developed area near Skrunda town, in a valley of Venta river, 150 km from Riga, Latvia. Its signal interfered with local TV and radio transmissions and had an obvious ecological effect on human and living nature, which was scientifically proved in the unique research made by about 50 Latvian scientists of different fields during the past 10 years of Skrunda RLS operation. Among other, a successful research (on pine-trees growth) was conducted by Dr. Valdis Balodis. His results showed significant decrease in tree growth starting with 3 to 5 year period after RLS begun operating and continuing to the end of his study.

– myths
The station was 'surrounded' by myths, local stories and unverified experiences – besides many complaints about their health, local inhabitants of Skrunda area had observed a green, fluorescent flare over the meadow near the radar (~800m) in the autumn; have heard hallucinations during the night time – hearing a loud, low noise like a tractor (when there isn’t any); a Betacam camera of foreign journalist crew burnt and hardware crashed while setting up for shooting very near the radar. Nevertheless, one has observed that a pigeon had made its nest on one of the radar wings, although the bird population near the radar was low...

 

VIDEO: Interviews with Skrunda RLS researchers:

Both – scientific reserch and electromagnetic myths are the key areas of this research. Skrunda Signal video includes an introduction of the case and interviews with four Skrunda researchers:


Ints Folkmanis, public observer and member of international EDSO board was the first who regularly was observing RLS operation (measuring its power, etc.) for almost 13 years until shutting it down in 1998.


Dr. Valdis Girts Balodis of University of Latvia from 1989 - 1998 conducted a broad study (involving more then 50 scientists from different fields) about effects on living nature.


Dr. Antons Kolodinskis, director of psychophysiology laboratory and researcher of Institute of Biology, University of Latvia, he has conducted several research relating biological and health effects of electromagnetic fields on humans.


Janis Abelitis - physician, cardiologist, since 1988 conducted a medical research on negative effects of electromagnetic radiation on people living in region of Skrunda RLS.

– references (for Skrunda Signal research)
T. Kalnins, R. Krizbergs, A. Romancuks. 1996. Measurement of the intensity of electromagnetic radiation from the Skrunda radio location station, Latvia. Sci Total Environ., 180: 51-56
A. Kolodynski, V. Kolodynska. 2006. Electromagnetic fields: legislation and research in Latvia. Proc. Latvian Acad. Sci., 60: 34-38
Zinātnes Vēstnesis, Latvian Science Academy publicaiton. http://www.lza.lv/ZV/zv020400.htm
Upmalis I., Latvija – PSRS Karabāze 1939. - 1998., Zelta grauds, Rīga, p 61-77, 2006
A. Maurins, Skrunda issue rose once again. Diena, 1994. June 17.
I. Magone. 1996. The effect of electromagnetic radiation from Skrunda Radio Location Station on Spirodela polyrhiza (L.) Schleiden culturesSci. Total Environ., 180: 75-80.
V. Balodis et al. Does the Skrunda Radio Location Station diminish the radial growth of pine trees? Sci. Total Environ., 180: 57-64
T. Selga, M. Selga. 1996. Response of Pnus sylvestris L. Needles to electromagnetic fields. Cytological and ultra structural aspects. Sci. Total Environ. 180: 65-73
Z. Balode. 1996. Assessment of radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation by the micronucleus test in Bovine peripheral erythrocytes. Sci. Total Environ. 180: 81-85
A. A. Kolodynski, V. V. Kolodynska. 1996. Motor and psychological functions of school children living in the area of the Skrunda Radio Location Station in Latvia. Sci. Total Environ., 180: 87-93
A. Kolodynski, V. Kolodynska. 2006. Electromagnetic fields: legislation and research in Latvia. Proc. Latvian Acad. Sci., 60: 34-38
Y. Grigoriev. 2006. Mobile telecommunication: Radiobiological issues and risk assessment. Proc. Latvian Acad. Sci., Section B, Vol. 60, 2006, No. 1: 6-10
and more.

MAP: Electromagnetic Pollution

The large-scale map of “electromagnetic pollution” displays the results of the research on giant scale Anti Ballistic Missile radars (ABM) alongside with other most influential radiofrequency radiation sources (such as TV and radio transmitting towers, wi-fi and mobile base stations, etc.). The map shows what effects such facilities can have on nature and humans living in their everyday surroundings.


– references (for Electromagnetic Pollution map)
Tonascia, J.A. and Tonascia, S., 1969: "Hematological Study: progress report on SCC 31732", George Washington University, Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, February 4, 1969.
Balode, Z., 1996: "Assessment of radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation by the micronucleus test in Bovine peripheral erythrocytes". The Science of the Total Environment, 180: 81-86.
Garaj-Vrhovac, V., Horvat, D., Brumen-Mahovic and Racic, J., 1987: "Somatic mutations in persons occupationally exposed to microwave radiation". Mutation Research 181: 321
Garcia-Sagredo, J.M. and Monteagudo, J.L., 1991: "Effect of low-level pulsed electromagnetic fields on human chromosomes in vitro: analysis of chromosome aberrations". Hereditas 115(1): 9-11.
Haider, T., Knasmueller, S., Kundi, M, and Haider, M., 1994: "Clastogenic effects of radiofrequency radiation on chromosomes of Tradescantia". Mutation Research, 324:65-68.
Maes, A., Verschaeve, L., Arroyo, A., De Wagter, C. and Vercruyssen, L., 1993: "In vitro effects of 2454 MHz waves on human peripheral blood lymphocytes". Bioelectromagnetics 14: 495-501.
Maes, A., Collier, M., Slaets, D., and Verschaeve, L., 1996: "954 MHz Microwaves enhance the mutagenic properties of
Macs, A., Collier, M., Van Gorp, U., Vandoninck, S. and Verschaeve, L., 1997: "Cytogenetic effects of 935.2-MHz (GSM) microwaves alone and in combination with mitomycin C". Mutat Res 393(1-2): 151-156.
Vijayalaxmi, B.Z., Frei, M.R., Dusch, S.J., Guel, V., Meltz, M.L. and Jauchem, J.R., 1997a: "Frequency of micronuclei in the peripheral blood and bone marrow of cancer-prone mice chronically exposed to 2450 MHz radiofrequency radiation - a correction". Radiation Research, 148
Lai, H. and Singh, N.P., 1995: "Acute low-intensity microwave exposure increases DNA single-strand breaks in rat brain cells". Bioelectromagnetics 16: 207-210.
Malyapa, RS., Ahem, E.W., Bi, C., Straube, W.L.., LaRegina, M., Pickard, W.F. and Roti Roti, J.L., 1998: "DNA damage in rat brain cells after in vivo exposure to 2450 MHz electromagnetic radiation and various methods of euthanasia". Radiation Research 149(6): 637-645.
Malyapa, R.S., Ahern, E.W., Bi, C., Straube, W.L., Moros, E.G., Pickard, W.F. and Roti Roti, JL., 1997b: "Measurement of DNA damage after exposure to electromagnetic radiation in the cellular phone communication frequency band (835.62 and 847.74 MHz)". Radiation Research 148: 618-627
Dr. NEIL CHERRY, Childhood cancer incidence in the vicinity of the Sutro Tower, San Francisco, 29may00, www.mindfully.org/Technology/Sutro-Tower-EMF-Cancer29may00.htm
Kolodynski, Motor and psychological functions of school children living in the area of the Skrunda radio location station in Latvia. Sci Total Environ 1996;180:87-9
Upmalis I., Latvija – PSRS Karabze 1939. - 1998., Zelta grauds, Rga, p 61-77, 2006]
A. Maurins, Skrunda issue raised once again. Diena, 1994. June 17.]
I. Magone. 1996. The effect of electromagnetic radiation from Skrunda Radio Location Station on Spirodela polyrhiza (L.) Schleiden culturesSci. Total Environ., 180: 75-80.]
V. Balodis et al. Does the Skrunda Radio Location Station diminish the radial growth of pine trees? Sci. Total Environ., 180: 57-64
T. Selga, M. Selga. 1996. Response of Pnus sylvestris L. Needles to electromagneticfields. Cytological and ultrastructural aspects. Sci. Total Environ. 180: 65-73]
Liepa,V. and Balodis V. Monitoring of bird breeding near a powerful radar station. Baltic Birds-
Conference on the study and conservation of birds of the Baltic region. Vilnius: 39. 1993.
"http://www.werple.net.au/~ints/skrunda1.htm”, etc.

Authors / artists
"Skrunda Signal" installation consists of "Skrunda signal" video and "Electromagnetic pollution" map.
Video produced by RIXC team (Raitis Smits, Rasa Smite, Martins Ratniks, Linda Vebere), 2007/2008.
Map made by Bureau d'etudes (Léonore Bonaccini and Xavier Fourt) / S.I.C. (Spectral Investigations Collective), 2007/2008.