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Author Topic:   Great Lakes Rescue21 and Canadian MCTS Locations
jimh posted 09-21-2014 12:57 PM ET (US)   Profile for jimh   Send Email to jimh  

[UPDATE: there is now a more comprehensive article about RESCUE 21 sites avaialble. Please see

for more recent information about RESCUE21 facilities.--jimh]

Location of VHF Marine Radio Shore Stations for Great Lakes Region for RESCUE21 and Canadian MCTS

I have been collecting information on the location of shore station facilities for the Great Lakes region for Canadian Marine Communication and Traffic Service (MCTS) centers and for United States of American Coast Guard RESCUE21 stations. The Canadian government is quite open about the location of their stations, and finding information on them was not very difficult. The United States of America government seems to think the location of RESCUE21 shore stations is something to keep secret, and finding the location of these stations has been rather tedious. A Coat Guard program was begun some time ago to use RESCUE21 shore stations as AIS base stations, and as a result these stations transmit their exact location in their AIS broadcasts. Not all RESCUE21 shore stations are AIS base stations, so there are many whose location required some detective work to find, including actually driving to the suspected sites to verify there was an installation there. The list of RESCUE21 stations is very incomplete. I welcome contributions of additional locations that have been found.

Canadian MCTS Centers

The following Canadian MCTS centers have been plotted:

Lake Superior: Thunder Bay, Horn, Bald Head, Gros Cap

Northern Lake Huron and Georgian Bay: Silverwater, Killarney, Point Au Baril, Tobermory, Wiarton, Meaford

Southern Lake Huron, St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, and Lake Erie: Kincardine, Sarnia, Grande Pointe, Leamington, Rondeau, Port Burwell

Lake Ontario and Inland: Fonthill, Trafalgar, Orilla, Cobourg, Kingston, Gananoque, Cornwall


The following RESCUE21 stations have been plotted:

Lake Superior: Maple Hill, Grand Maris, Detour

Lake Huron, St. Clair River, Lake St. Clair, Detroit River: Port Austin, Halfway Corners, Forester, Lakeport, Casco, Wayne

Lake Erie: Avon Lake, Conneaut, Ripley, Eden

Google Earth Places
These locations are available as Google Earth .KML place files. (See below for link). The .KML files contain additional data (when known) about the FCC tower registration for the site, the height of the tower, and the height of the RESCUE21 antennas on the site.

Great Lakes Rescue 21 sites
Canadian MCTS Centres

From the above two URL-hyperlinks you can download the two .KML files for use with GOOGLE EARTH.

jimh posted 12-15-2014 10:24 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
I am reviving this article to ask if anyone has downloaded the .KML files I posted. They show the location of many shore stations for the coast guards of the USA and Canada in the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Huron.
saumon posted 12-15-2014 11:35 AM ET (US)     Profile for saumon  Send Email to saumon     
If I could make a suggestion, I think a link to a custom map directly on Google would be more user-friendly. Here's an example: showlabs=1&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF8&msa=0&t=m&z=10&vpsrc=0&err=1 .

Custom maps are really easy to make, edit and share, via a free Google account ( ).

jimh posted 12-19-2014 10:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
SAUMON--I don't have any experience with the alternate format you suggest. Can you explain what advantage there will be with the alternate format for presenting the data I have collected? At present, the format I am using shows the location of the stations plotted on the Google Earth presentation, and, if known, the following data:

--the latitude and longitude

--the MMSI

--the tower registration number

--the height of the transmitting antenna

--the station or site name designation

How would presentation in an alternate format enhance this information? If you could explain how that would occur, I would consider undertaking a study of how to create the information in the alternate format. At the moment it is not clear to me what would be gained in the usefulness of the information if it were to be presented in another way.

patmcqueen posted 12-21-2014 12:04 PM ET (US)     Profile for patmcqueen  Send Email to patmcqueen     
Very interesting. Are not all of the shore stations now Rescue21?

The coast guard web site has this image: which shows dozens more Rescue21 antennas.

If you take that image and then use the FCC tower registration KML from

You get a great starting place to find the towers. For example "Bliss" shown in the image at the tip of Michigan is most likely in Bliss Michigan. When you search the FCC database you get:

While I can't independently confirm that this is for sure a Rescue21 tower I suspect it is a very safe bet.


saumon posted 12-21-2014 12:36 PM ET (US)     Profile for saumon  Send Email to saumon     

the advantages I see of a custom Google map over a list of waypoint plotted on Google Earth are numerous:

- there's no need for the user to download and install a rather large program in which he'll have to open a previously saved file. The cusom map is simply a clickable link that bring you directly to the map.

- being a link, it's also constantly up-to-date, as opposed to the saved file where the user need to constantly download the latest file.

- as seen on the example that I previously posted (a map of the fishing areas, charters, boat launches, marinas and harbours of the Bay of Quinte, Ontario region), in addition to the informations you provide, there's also the possibility to add to each point of interest some photos, videos and links.

(please forgive my bad english)

jimh posted 12-21-2014 01:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
SAUMON--The files I uploaded are very small in size. One is 12-kilobytes and the other 20-kilobytes. They are miniscule files. If the user is interested in the data, they just save it to MY PLACES on their GOOLE EARTH application.

The custom maps require the user to launch their browser application. I guess you assume the user will always have a browser application open while perhaps might not have GOOGLE EARTH running.

jimh posted 12-21-2014 01:56 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pat speculates:


You get a great starting place to find the towers. For example "Bliss" shown in the image at the tip of Michigan is most likely in Bliss Michigan.

The notion that the USCG name for the RESCUE21 site includes some sort of geographic name for the location of the site is also held by me. All the RESCUE 21 sites I have found have USCG site names that are geographic names.

Pat suggests a method to locate USCG RESCUE 21 sites:

The coast guard web site has this image: jpg

which shows dozens more Rescue21 antennas. If you take that image and then use the FCC tower registration KML from

You get a great starting place to find the towers.

Pat--if you employ your method to find more USCG RESCUE 21 antenna sites, please share your results.

Perhaps it is not made clear, but my data includes the FCC tower registration information (when known) for a RESCUE 21 site. I have used searching of the FCC tower registration data base by using geo-position search limits to help identify possible towers.

When one goes for a drive in the country these days they are astonished at the radio towers that dot the landscape now. The notion that in one particular place the only towers with FCC registration will be USCG RESCUE 21 towers is not a good assumption. To find the RFF CASCO site I searched the suspected area for registered towers and found several dozen. It was only by driving around and looking at them that I could locate the RESCUE 21 site.

If Pat has a method to accomplish this without actually driving around and finding the sites, I very heartily encourage him to utilize his method and find more USCG RESCUE 21 sites with it. It will save a lot of driving around.

jimh posted 12-21-2014 11:29 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pat--Thanks for pointing to the .KMZ file from the consulting engineering firm that plots all the towers in their database onto Google Earth. I don't know if they have every registered tower in the USA, but the sure have a lot of them.

The location of the towers in the Broadcast Services (AM/FM/TV) plotted on Google Earth can be quite handy.

ASIDE: There is an interesting function in Google Earth for looking at radio paths over land. Use the ruler to draw a straight line path from a radio tower to your location. Save the path.

You can Control-click on the saved path in Google Earth's listing, and find an option to SHOW ELEVATION PROFILE. An elevation profile appears below the Google Earth view, showing the elevation of the path. As you move the cursor along the path on the elevation profile, the matching point in aerial view moves in unison.

jimh posted 12-22-2014 10:37 AM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
Pat--Re your suspicions about the location of the RESCUE 21 site BLISS: there is only one tower shown in the database of registered antenna structures in the Google Earth .KMZ file that is close to the little village of Bliss, Michigan. This does make a good case for that tower being likely to be the RFF BLISS site. However, one problem I noticed with the site, as seen in the aerial view of Google Earth: it looks like there is only one dog house or transmitter shack at the tower base.

In all the USCG RESCUE 21 sites I have personally visited, the USCG has its own, separate, secure, locked transmitter shack. Antenna transmission lines from the other users of the site might all run to a common transmitter building, but the USCG RESCUE 21 transmission lines run to their own building. The USCG usually has their own generator, too, I think. Unless the USCG is the only user of the tower at Bliss, Michigan, or unless that image is too old to show the latest improvements there, it doesn't quite fit the bill for a RESCUE 21 site. Until Google Earth gets updated imagery, the best way to find out what's on that tower is to go out there and look. Do you live nearby?

dfmcintyre posted 12-22-2014 06:45 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
The BLISS site is part of the state 800 system, much like the Casco and Lakeport sites.
jimh posted 12-22-2014 07:46 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
It is clear from the FCC registered antenna structure database that the State of Michigan owns the tower near Bliss that Pat mentions. And there are several instances of RESCUE 21 sites being located on towers owned by the State of Michigan. The State of Michigan seems like an accommodating host for RESCUE 21 installations. I think that means the State of Michigan over-built their towers and have a lot of unused room on them. But towers seem to acquire more antennas over time, and I am sure eventually they will get so many antennas on the State of Michigan towers they'll be at the wind loading limits. This happened many years ago to a tower that I am familiar with. Erected in c.1950, the 1,000-foot structure only had guy supports at three levels, 300, 600, and 900-foot levels. In c.1990 a re-evaluation of the wind loading found that the guys had to be added at 450 and 750-feet to keep the tower safe with all the antennas that had been mounted to it over 40-years.
jimh posted 12-22-2014 07:49 PM ET (US)     Profile for jimh  Send Email to jimh     
For more about tracking down RESCUE 21 remote fixed facility (RFF) sites, see my report of my hunting in

dfmcintyre posted 12-23-2014 04:20 PM ET (US)     Profile for dfmcintyre  Send Email to dfmcintyre     
I recall some sort of dust up between the state and Oakland County, when they wanted to co-locate some of Oakland's new radio system on the states towers. State refused, citing concern over wind loading limits. They were at a standstill until an engineering firm hired by Oakland pointed out that the state was, uh, being miserly in their limits. State rolled over.

It was almost like the state didn't want anyone else on their towers, but they'd allow Oakland to join the state system.


Hoosier posted 12-23-2014 08:57 PM ET (US)     Profile for Hoosier  Send Email to Hoosier     
I believe the same thing happened with the tower at Goetzville in the UP, everybody's on it, State Police, DNR, Rescue 21, Border Patrol, etc...

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