Fans of the TV show Lost will remember one of its first mysteries that involved the radio signal the stranded passengers picked up that was eventually tracked to an earlier castaway, Danielle Rousseau, who recorded the distress message loop that had been broadcast from the uninhabited tower for at least 16 years. Lost fiction meets Russian reality in a swampy area near St. Petersburg where an empty radio station has been broadcasting nothing but two mysterious tones and some occasional numbers and words 24/7 for over 40 years. Is this the real abandoned headquarters of the DHARMA Initiative?
According to a new report by the BBC, the mystery of the radio station is not its location but its purpose. It’s know as “MDZhB” (originally UVB-76, which some still refer to it as) and its signal, broadcast at 4625 kHz, can be picked up by any shortwave radio tuned to that frequency. The radio towers and abandoned buildings are visible from behind an iron fence and have been located there since 1973 when the signal began broadcasting. Other than the buzzing noise, odd Russian words are broadcast every few days. The ‘station’ has a fan base that listens to it religiously, refers to it as the Buzzer and keeps track of odd broadcasts like this one from Christmas Eve, 1997:
“Ya UVB-76, Ya UVB-76. 180 08 BROMAL 74 27 99 14. Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 7 4 2 7 9 9 1 4”
The most famous transmission came on January 24, 2013, when listeners heard this:
“Command 135 initiated”
That message, coupled with the station more recently broadcasting from a second location near Moscow, has some speculating it’s military related … not a surprise in Russia. One is that the operation is a “Dead Hand Switch” – an autonomous system set to launch nuclear missiles in the event that no humans are left to push the button – seems kind of futile at that point, no? Another is that it’s used by the Russian as part of a missile tracking system. Then there’s the theory that it’s a way for Russian spies to send each other secret coded messages. The “Command 135 initiated” message in 2013 has some suggesting it was a signal of full military readiness for … something.
On the other hand, it could be some sort of signal jammer rather than an actual signal itself. Along the same lines, it’s possible that the signal doesn’t mean anything at all and is being broadcast by Russia just to mess with us.
Whatever the buzz is, it’s been buzzing since 1973 and we’re still here, so it may truly be harmless. The good news is, unlike that mysterious hum so many people are hearing, this buzz can be turned off.