I've known about this tool for quite a few years, and I know of a number of Amateur Ops who have used it before. Some are using it as an Tropospheric Ducting range indicator. So I guess its time to raise the subject and see if we can maybe get a few more participants.
Marine Traffic .com live ship map - http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/
Freq asked questions - http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/faq.aspx?level1=160
At a simple guess, AIS means Automatic Identication System. Ive only been looking into all this today so am fairly new to it all myself. Basically marine ships transmit there position and other data which can be received by anyone with a received capeable of hearing FM on 161,975 MHz or 162,025 MHz with output to a computer with a specific AIS program installed. This gets uploaded to server.
One DXer who uses it quite a lot is Phil FR5DN on Reunion Island. This is a link to stats gathered from Phils AIS RX station - http://www.marinetraffic.com/ais/statio ... ion_id=329
You can see in some of the graphs Phil has at times been able to hear out to over 1200 miles (2000 Km) at which times he has gone on to make contacts with South Africa.
Since we cant put beacons out on floating bouys half way across the Bight, perhaps this is the next best thing. Particularly suited to those stations living close to the coast.
Im going to look into it further, I think I have my AIS RX running, but I need a vertical antenna to have any real luck with it. Yes, I am a long way from the coast, but quite often I hear to the waters edge, how far beyond it goes, maybe I can find out using this method.
Ive attached a map, sourced from Phil, FR5DN site showing some of his AIS 'spots' during a time of good ducting.