Arthur de Maine (left)
and Paul Ormandy (1998)
The way I discovered DXing is
probably no different to many fellow devotees. I'd
had a keen interest in electricity even as a youngster,
pulling apart perfectly functioning torches to see
what made them work and borrowing library books
on electrical basics. Around age 11, I started tinkering
with crystal sets and after many dismal failures,
finally made one that worked and after discovering
that I could hear stations 100kms away, I was keen
to hear more distant stations, thus by accident
I became a DXer (though I never knew there was a
name for it!).
By constantly improving the
crystal set with a better aerial, earth etc, then
upgrading to a ZN414, I was able to hear more distant
stations all the time. Of course, night-time was
best and there were many stations audible, though
because of the size of the dial, I often had only
a rough idea of the frequency!
The only other radio set in
the house at the time was a modern Sanyo transistor
job which could easily pick up stations 250kms away
and I decided to hook up an external aerial and
see just what I could eke out of it. I was amazed
at just how many stations I could hear! And foreign
languages too (the poor old thing was over-loading
badly and SW images were omnipresent...). I would
have liked a SW receiver though with my meagre savings
I couldn't afford any of the sets for sale in local
I continued to dabble with my
parent's radio, fiddling with all the tunable coils
to maximise performance. Then one of those precipitous
events. At age 14 I went fishing with a school-mate
(Lindsay Tsukigawa) and en-route to the local wharf
visited his father's printing business for the first
time. Ito was a keen radio fan and tuned in all
the various sports events around the country. He
had a large valve radio and this funny looking 40
inch square perimeter-wired box for an aerial. This
strange device piqued my interest and a flurry of
questions followed. As it transpired, not only was
there a name for this obtuse hobby, there was a
club for DXers in Oamaru! Ito soon introduced me
to a guy who worked right next door at Perpetual
Trust, Peter Grenfell and it wasn't long before
I was invited to the meeting of the North Otago
Branch of the New Zealand Radio DX League in April
I didn't know what to expect
at this meeting and took along my soldering iron
and pliers (in case there were more radios needing
"attention") and after an explanation
about the hobby, including the revelation that stations
sent verification cards for reception reports, I
was well and truly hooked, especially after logging
Radio Netherlands on 9715kHz and sending off a report.
(My first QSL was from Radio Japan 9505kHz).
Apart from Peter and Ito, other
members helped shape my interest. Trevor Herron,
Alistair Stewart, Ted Sutton and others talked about
stations and countries I'd never heard of (let alone
heard) and these guys were hearing US stations on
mediumwave - incredible!
Thanks to Ted Sutton, my crystal
set and ZN-414 radio were replaced with a Philips
7-valve set complete with shortwave and a whole
new world opened up for me. Before long, all my
earnings on after-school jobs were being blown on
postage, and after saving for a few months, I joined
the New Zealand Radio DX League in August 1974.
I had read of other DXers exploits
in the North Otago Branch's "Dial News"
and the NZRDXL's "DX Times" and was awestruck
by the number and variety of stations that could
be heard, especially on MW! Most enticing were the
Yanks (as they were in a language I could understand)
even though I was able to hear Australian stations
with ease using my home-built loop and staying up
Friday & Saturday nights waiting till midnight
when almost all New Zealanders signed off. I was
then able to log an Aussie every 15 minutes and
8 a night was easy going. (I had to modify the set
to drive headphones so I could furtively DX without
disturbing the family). Still, no US stations! I
has assumed that I needed a better set or a better
Then one night, I stumbled across
this strong signal with what sounded like an American
accent... it turned out to be KNX Los Angeles 1070kHz!
And that's all it took, the ice had been broken
and before long, numerous US and Hawaiian stations
entered the log book. The chase was soon on for
anything remotely foreign and I used DX Times logs
as targets. Asians, Latins, Pacifica, Middle Easterners,
all eagerly chased and caught.
During this formative period,
I became a DXer, that is a chaser of exotic hard-to-hear
stations and seeker of QSL cards as opposed to a
shortwave listener. I have never been much of an
SWLer, other than to listen to DX programmes or
cricket commentaries from Radio Australia! (I found
that I could combine fishing with listening to the
cricket during summer... somewhere close to paradise!).
And if New Zealand was one of
the best countries in the world for DXing, due to
it's relative isolation and favourable propagation
paths, then Oamaru was (and still is) one of the
best places in NZ for DXing, again due to it's relative
isolation, as well as lack of local radio stations
(we only have 1) and low levels of electrical noise.
I was able to visit the shacks
of other members of the North Otago Branch which
boasted an impressive array of ex-military sets.
Ted Sutton lived very close to me and Ted kindly
encouraged visits to use his Marconi R-1155A. Peter
Grenfell's aerial system and Eddystone 680X were
also trailed on occasion as was Trevor Herron's
Marconi. The performance of these specialist receivers
was so far above my set that the hunt began for
a better receiver.
Friends in Dunedin were aware
of my interest and loaned me a modern Philips valve
radio with much better band-spread on shortwave
and better performance, still it wasn't what I was
after. At the time I was a member of the Air Training
Corps and managed to convince the adjutant to loan
me a ZC-1 (restricted to 3 - 6mHz) which was a great
performer though lacked MW. Unsatisfied with the
compromises, I needed more money!
It wasn't until a job over the
Christmas holidays at the local freezing works in
1975, that I had enough money to buy a decent receiver...
the venerable Barlow-Wadley XCR-30. Now I had a
receiver with real "grunt" and also a
full-time job having secured an electrical apprenticeship
with the Waitaki Electric Power Board. This receiver
served me well for a number of years until early
1981 when a Kenwood R-1000 was purchased. This set
was modified with a Radio West 1.9kHz mechanical
filter to further improve performance and another
modification to remove attenuation from the MW circuitry.
The R-1000 is an under-rated receiver and would
make a fine set for the average DXer.
Despite my primary interest
in DXing, I had also passed my examinations as a
radio amateur and was receiving the NZART's magazine
"Break In" which had a good "Buy,
Sell or Exchange" section. I placed an ad for
a Drake SPR-4 and before long had swapped the R-1000
for the receiver I'd wanted for 10 years!
It was still unmodified and
thanks to Bryan Clark, I obtained modification details
and a copy of the manual. The set was slightly tricky
to alter though has been a fantastic performer ever
In 2000 I obtained a Sony ICF-SW55
primarily as a portable and also for checking parallel
frequencies. This set has also been under-rated
and has provided surprisingly good performance even
on MW (and I haven't taken the back off to "adjust"
I've also experimented with
aerials over the years and now have a combination
of aerials, matching transformers, coax and earthing
that makes the system as quiet as possible, both
at Waianakarua and Oamaru. Please read the articles
on the website.
Another valuable asset has been
the MFJ-1026 phaser. When you're running a great
receiver with a great aerial system and you feel
like you need something extra... this won't disappoint.
A huge positive for me right
the way through my involvement, has been the camaraderie
between DXers. It is a rather selfish hobby yet
the willingness of DXers to share tuning tips and
advice has always been a feature. Face-to-face meetings
with colleagues continue to be looked forward to
and have been the inspiration for attending various
The North Otago Branch is very
active, given the size of the region and in the
70's and 80's hosted many of the NZRDXL's national
Annual General Meetings. These events were very
well attended by Administration Committee members
from Invercargill, which gave me the opportunity
to meet some of the leading lights in MW DX, i.e.
Arthur Cushen, Merv Branks, Eric McIntosh, Ray Crawford
& Sutton Burtenshaw. Bryan Clark from Wellington
(later Auckland) was also a regular visitor and
In December '75, the family
visited relations in Invercargill and a call to
Ray Crawford resulted in a trip to Tiwai, a legendary
place for exotic DX! Ray picked me up and his wife
Raewyn provided us with dinner, then we collected
Laurie Boyer and began the journey down to Tiwai.
Ray had a Barlow Wadley and Laurie a Kenwood QR-666.
And this was my first taste of DXing with a Beverage!
The US stations were amazing and graveyarder KVEN
1450kHz was an easy log. I also made the first of
many trips to 212 Earn St on this holiday.
In February 1976, I attended
my first NZRDXL Convention at Otaki, hosted by the
Wellington Branch. At this Convention I was introduced
to the Drake SPR-4. Wow! What a receiver! Yet it
would be another 10 years before I actually owned
With the tremendous help of
other North Otago Branch members, I've organized
conventions at Camp Iona, not far from Waianakarua,
in 1994, 1998 and 2002).
My first DXpedition with the
R-1000 was in April 1981, the search was on for
a decent aerial site to give it a work-over. I hired
a crib (a South Island colloquialism for "cabin")
at Taipo, some 10km South of Oamaru over Easter
and used nearby fences and temporary longwires for
aerials. The first night of listening on MW was
woeful though SW showed promise and on subsequent
mornings logged Gabon 4890, Iceland 12175, Kenya
4934, Namibia 4965, Azad Kashmir R, Pakistan 4980,
Sao Tome 4807, Niamey 5020, Maldives 4754 &
Then another precipitous event...
the establishment of a Beverage site at Waianakarua
- which is well documented here.
Mark Nicholls, Linda and myself
spent a week at Tiwai in February 1984 and conditions
were variable. Logs were taken of WRBQ 1380, WXVI
1600, WEUP 1600 500w, KRGO 1550 500w, ZNS-1 1540,
WNBC 660, KFKA 1310, WSB 750, WDAY 970, KYW 1060,
KFRO 1370, Vatican 1611, Tunisia 1566, Dubai 1481
& XESP 1070 1kW (flattening KNX!)
I've also been to another of
the "hallowed turfs" of DX fame... in
1988 Mark Nicholls and I spent a week at Te Araroa...
not easy to get to though well worth the effort.
Logs include KSAI 936, Algiers 1422, KUIK 1360,
WWNK 1360, KPOP 1360, KSAL 1150, KOFY 1050#, KPRZ
1210#, OBX4X R El Sol 900, KBLX 1400, KDIF 1440,
LRA29 R Nacional, San Luís 1310, HCRC2 R
Caravana 750, HJBI Ondas del Caribe 840, RNE Sevilla
684, SER Sevilla 792, CJVI 900, KPLY 1270, XERP
1330, KUTR 860#, CKRD 700#, CHQT 880#, KIXI 880#,
KIEV 870#, KMJC 910#, KIQI 1010#, KBAI 1150#, KAHU
1060, La Voz del Tropico 4747 & R Globo 11805.
(The # indicates stations logged in the wee small
hours either as they signed on or changed from night
power to higher daytime power).
I have been a regular contributor
to the "DX Times" since 1975 and have
sub-edited various sections since 1985 (MW Mailbag,
Broadcast News, Dxísimo and more recently
a new section specialising in pirate and clandestine
stations called "Unofficial Radio"). My
interest in technical matters and DXotica has also
resulted in various articles, bandscans and specialist
lists, serving as the League's Competitions Secretary
in the 1990s and now maintain the radiodx.com website.
I've also belonged to several
other DX clubs (some briefly), New Zealand DX Radio
Association, the Australian "DXers Calling".
International Radio Club of America and Danish Shortwave
Clubs International. Now with the internet providing
a catalyst for uniting DXers, the fraternal spirit
is stronger and larger than ever. Actually getting
to meet and greet international guests has been
a very rewarding part of the hobby. Through the
years we've hosted many overseas DXers both at home
and at Waianakarua. Harry Weatherley, John Lund,
Chris Martin, Rex Gillett and Bernhard Gruendl.
Somewhere in between all of
this, in 1982 Linda and I were married (I took my
R-1000 on the honeymoon!), Mark was born in August
1989 and Scott in July 1992, I moved house 5 times
and I'm still working (indirectly) for the Waitaki
Electric Power Board!
In 1996 Kelvin Brayshaw of the
Radio Reading Service in Levin, asked if I could
contribute a monthly radio program featuring DX
tips for their radio listener's programme, centred
around AWR's "Wavescan" rebroadcast. This
lead to the show being hosted by AWR and when requested
by Radio New Zealand International, a tuning tips
programme has been prepared every two weeks which
has since been picked up by AWR for inclusion monthly
on "Wavescan", as well as on HCJB's "DX
Partyline" and more recently, fortnightly on
Radio Korea International's "Multiwave Feedback".
The North Otago Branch, through
the auspices of Peter Grenfell has long been involved
in the League's archives. The League has Peter to
thank for the foundation and maintenance of the
archives since the early 1970's and for it's final
resting place at the Hocken Library in Dunedin.
I've recently taken over the
role of archives custodian from Peter and they'll
be big shoes to fill! My interest in archives has
been reinforced since David Ricquish initiated the
radio heritage collection at radiodx.com. You'll
find a large number of very interesting articles
on the history of radio and DXing, particularly
in the Pacific.
The North Otago Branch had a
"shack" for meetings and casual DX. The
shack was on a reserve above Oamaru, around 150
metres above sea-level. Reception was very good
with low levels of noise and several aerials to
chose from. Initially, aerials at the shack ran
through pine trees, and when they were later felled,
a short wire was run to a set of rugby goal-posts
about 50 metres away in the paddock (it was with
this simple wire that I logged many good catches,
including WIZM La Crosse WI 1410kHz).
In need of something more permanent
and to maximise surrounding land, we obtained some
telegraph poles and with the assistance of Stan
Vincent and a truck, we dug holes and strung up
a new antenna approximately 150 metres long in an
This antenna also provided many
good catches (best being Radio Trinidad 730kHz one
night when auroras had flattened everything else)
however, civilisation was advancing on us with new
houses (and much increased levels of interference)
debilitating the sites DX potential. The effects
of new-found neighbours, rising rates and electricity
costs, forced us to abandon and demolish the shack.
Ahhh!!... the memory of fish'n'chip suppers and
Muriel Bloxham's scones..
I recall John Newman (a branch
member resident in Twizel about 2 hours drive inland)
inviting me for a spot of DX at the shack one night
in 1975... John didn't use the shack, he sat the
loop on the roof of his car adjacent to the shack,
and DXed with his Barlow Wadley inside the car.
With this combination we heard numerous Yanks including
KXYZ Houston TX 1320kHz at good levels.
Trevor Herron used to live around
the corner from me and often gave me a ride to Club
meetings. On one occasion, we drove to Lookout Point,
about 200 metres above sea-level, high over the
harbour, and with his car radio we were able to
tune into several Yanks including KOB Albuquerque
NM 770kHz at very good levels.
Such were the DX-properties
of Oamaru, that in the late 70's I used to DX with
my car radio at Waitaki Boys High School, prior
to the start of night-classes and I recall vividly
one night when R. Tropicana from Ecuador was belting
in on 540kHz!
My early DXploits were in Reed
St, where Dad had run an aerial from the house into
the back yard. This aerial powered my crystal sets
and the mantle radio though at this early stage
I didn't know what DX was, and hearing 4XO in Dunedin
and Radio Hauraki in Auckland were my chief accomplishments.
I attended my first North Otago Branch meeting shortly
before we shifted.
In April 1974 we moved across
town to Stour St, and an aerial was quickly installed
down the section. I lived there till Linda and I
married in 1982 and by that time, there were several
aerials in place and the Philips', ZC-1 and Barlow
Wadley had all aided in lifting my QSL tally.
When we first married, we lived
atop Eden St in rented accommodation and the only
aerial possibility was a short wire from the spare
bedroom down the section for about 15 metres. DX
from Waianakarua was much better so little listening
went on, yet on one very memorable occasion I was
tuning around and found a signal with C&W music
on 570kHz... not knowing what to expect, I stayed
listening and was stunned when the station identified
as WNAX Yankton, South Dakota!
We purchased our own place in
Avon St. later that year, high over Oamaru with
good views out to the sea. My indoor loop aerial
performed very well under the concrete tile roof
which suggests that they don't perform so well under
metallic rooves. From Avon St. I managed some great
logs, namely R Seychelles 1368kHz, Reunion 729kHz,
Bahamas 1540kHz and pride of place, Manx Radio 1368kHz.
In 1991, needing a bigger section
and more convenience, we shifted to Greta St. Also
with a concrete tile roof, the loop once again proved
itself with MW logs of several Brazilians, Uruguayans
and Argentines. An 11-metre high pole provided a
good position to run wires from, yet reception seemed
to deteriorate largely due to the onset of a noisy
The problem of electrical inference
became so severe (due to every new appliance seemingly
emitting injurious QRM), that I embarked on a process
of eliminating the noise as much as possible, yet
retaining marital bliss (i.e. thoughts of replacing
our flash, new electronic washing machine with a
wash-board weren't considered for very long). A
new, efficient aerial system capable of returning
DX to the dials resulted.
As mentioned earlier, I have
always been more into DX than SWLing, and despite
the poor verification rate and relative difficulty
in receiving them, MW Latins have drawn me like
a magnet! At first it was definitely the difficulty
in hearing them that enticed me, then coming to
grips with the language and overcoming the stigma
of poor reply rates. End result, after hundreds
of hours swooping across the dials - over 300 MW
Latins verified... and I ain't finished yet!
Like most DXers, I went through
a relatively quiet spell. In 1980 other matters
(a steady girlfriend - later wife) seemed more important.
I even sold the Barlow Wadley and was receiver-less
for about 6 months.
My radio interests weren't strictly
limited to SW & MW. I did have a fling with
utilities on a couple of occasions and chased FM
DX from 1986 till 1992, verifying 5 countries including
KSBS Pago Pago, American Samoa, 92.1MHz 3kW and
4100km distant! I also owned a CB set and was very
active in the late 70's, and operate as a licenced
ham in the mid 80's... yet none of these diversions
tempted me like MW & SW DX and were 'shelved"
for a future date!
My first Convention was at Otaki's
"Tatum Park" in February 1976. Fellow
North Otago Branch members Peter Grenfell, John
Newman and Phil Hope flew north to Wellington where
we were met by Wellington Branch members are driven
to a rendevous at Avalon before heading out to the
site. Notable DXers in attendance included Tony
King, Bryan Clark, Chris Martin, Barry Williams,
Tony King, Harry Weatherley, Robin Chambers, John
Durham, David Ricquish & Ray Crawford.
We were assigned cabins to sleep
in though I quickly spied a Drake SPR-4 belonging
to Derek Benfell (and now owned by Bryan Clark)
which Ash Nallawalla and I shared for some memorable
logs. Reception was very good and I'm sure propagation
was favourable. Net result: very, very little sleep
until the flight home and a heap of reports taken.
Reports were sent to Singapore
790, AIR Rajkot 1070, Hong Kong 610, VOA Rhodes
1259, Burma 955, CFRB 1010, Muich 1602 and heaps
Other things to lodge in the
memory were the famous "Radio Guano" broadcast;
Bryan Clark running around in his night-shirt to
talk to CJVB's Theo Donnelly on the phone; bad weather
- good reception; Copal digital clocks; Paul Edwards
and I falling asleep during one of those awe-inspiring
talks; fish pie (oh! how I hate fish pie..); a super-hot
curry enjoyed enormously by Ash; a visit to Avalon
hosted by the late Bill Pearson; Nigel Robins waxing
lyrical in Russian; the plane home delayed by 6
hours; Cook Islands specials; logging Afars &
Issas on Tony Marr's R-4.
The following year off to another
Convention. We rendevouz'ed at Bob Boundy's for
lunch then a visit to Radio Avon and off to the
site, the ex-army barrack complex of Otokitoki Camp
at Godley Heads, overlooking the Pacific. What a
beautiful site for DXing! Some top DXers participated,
e.g. Paul Aronsen, Keith Barton, Merv Branks, Sutton
Burtenshaw, Ian Cattermole, Norm Maguire, Ernie
Moore and Zmike Smith.
Logs were made of R Caymans
1555, HJER R Pacifico 1030, HJPM R Galeon 1450,
R Paradise 1265, OBZ4N R Union 880, VL2NI Norfolk
Is 1570 50 watts, KHLO 850, R Jumbo 545, HCNY2 R
Cristal 870, ZYD71 Relogio Federal 4906.5, RRI Semarang
3935, Sana'a 9780, RTM Tanger 9615, Sri Lanka 15425,
AIR Lucknow 3205 &, RRI Mataram 3223.
Lingering memories: Keith Glover
from Radio Australia enchanting us all; KFC for
dinner; a trip to Akaroa in Phil Brooks' low-level
flying machine; Brian Withers' car running out of
water on the way up the steep hill; Professor of
Overalls Gerald Harper's exact compass pointings;
Norm MaGuire losing his contact lens in the latrine;
Chris Martin running aerials down a cliff; "Yellow
Bird" emanating from R Caymans on 1555kHz;
good weather - good reception; more sleep this time!
For the third year in a row,
it was off to a convention. This one at the legendary
Tiwai and a number of top DXers were in attendance,
amongst them Steven Greenyer, Eric McIntosh, John
Allchin & Eddie Macaskill.
Expectations were for some terrific
loggings. Amongst them HJEW R Reloj 1110, R Paradise
1265, Vienna 1476, Kosice, Czechoslovakia 1520,
HJLK R Calidad 1230 & Sennar, Sudan 1296.
Eventful moments: Leo Meizenbeek's
pantry; DXing on Ash Nallawalla's homebrew KR-1000
receiver; logging Sudan 1296kHz by gas-light in
the caravan with Bryan Clark; the ship-wreck on
the beach; lunch at the Avenal; the 4ZA/E test;
strange goings-on in the shearing shed.