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John Plimmer, South Africa

John PlimmerI started DXing in 1966 in Zambia up near the Congo border with an Eddystone 840. Local radio programming was in the vernacular, so it was necessary to try and get the BBC which only broadcast from UK in those early days with relatively low power TX's.

Later I settled in Johannesburg, the commercial and industrial hub of South Africa. There I upgraded to a Barlow Wadley XCR-30, a radio that I had great fun with and much good DX. In 1984 on a business trip, I picked up a Sony 7600D and was awed at this tiny revolutionary radio's performance that quite outclassed my old Eddystone 840.

From 1988 came a succession of more serious tabletops - Yaesu 8800, Icom 71, Kenwood 5000, Drake R8, R8A and then the R8B. In 1988 I also joined the S.A. DX Club and later became chairman, and editor of the S.A. Shortwave Listener, the club's monthly magazine. However, sadly the club became defunct in 1998 as a result of many more channels of TV and local FM radio and the rise of the personal computer and the worldwide web.

SADXC members went on many DXpeditions, some with exotic names like the "crocodile" and "rhino" DXpeditions. Perhaps the best results and most comfortable DX site was Copperton (near Prieska) where some of the more serious DXer's would go.

In 1999 I retired to the small town of Montagu which is 200 kilometers inland from Cape Town. This is not an ideal radio location as the town is at an altitude of 240 meters but surrounded by 1,400 meter high mountains of the Langeberg range. This tends to cut off the very low angle long distance DX, but now and again I get an opening and something interesting comes in. I was horrified to find that my trusty WINDOM wire antenna design would not work at all in Montagu, so hence my antenna for the home QTH is the RF Systems DX-1 Pro, from which I get excellent results.

The big plus is that I can now go to nearby seaside beach DX sites and get some really awesome catches. There is no doubt that a seaside location gives far superior DX results than an inland location. Sadly though, much of the coast is now developed and it is very hard to find a site where you can run out long beverage antenna's. As a result I now DX at the seaside "electronically" with my Kiwa MW loop and my small portable Datong AD 270 active antenna for tropical bands.

Some of my greatest thrill's over the years:
# My first real DX catch on my Eddystone valve radio was listening to a ham in Katmandu working a guy in Honolulu in the 60's
# Following a Springbok flight all the way from Jan Smuts (Johannesburg) to Cairo on AM before the days of SSB on my Eddystone
# Kiribati at 0600utc (8.00 a.m. local time, well after sunrise) on the Crocodile DXpedition with Australian news
# Cambridge Bay aeradio in the Arctic circle - took me a year to get a QSL out of them
# Probably my biggest thrill of all -> Radio St. Helena on 1548 MW - took a year and several pleading letters to get a QSL
# Listening to the aircraft flying from Honolulu to Aussie and working Nandi (Fiji) aeradio on the way.
# My first really low powered Indonesian = RRI Serui
# Listening to the live horse races on the totalisator channel from Mudgee in Eastern Australia
# Always thrilled to listen to AFN from Pearl Harbour
# Catching WWKB Buffalo, NY on my portable in Mountain Zebra Nat. Park (near Cradock in the Eastern Cape)
# Listening to the local news and traffic report/weather from KTBZ, Tulsa, Oklahoma - a guy was reported killed after he fell out of his boat and it circled around and ran him over, the prop chopping him to pieces!
# Following the rescue operations on the Oceanos and being first to hear and relay the message "All passengers are off the vessel" (Oceanos was a tour ship with 700 passengers and crew aboard that sank off the Eastern Cape coast in a howling gale. The S.A. airforce helicopters did an astonishing job of getting all off the liner with no casualties).

Since retiring to Montagu in 1999, life has been leisurely and allowed me to spend as much time on my radio's as I want. When I got to the lovely little village the RFI/QRM was negligible, but as the town has developed, so the amount of RFI has got worse and worse Now in 2008 a supermarket has opened only 500 meters away from me making the noise even worse, so I am seriously considering obtaining one of the noise cancelling devices like the Timewave/ANC 4.

My Drake R8B gave me sterling reception until Jan 2005 when I got the bug and decided to upgrade to a top class DSP radio. So after much shopping around I settled on an Icom IC-756 PRO III which gave me outstanding service. Then the superb but monstrously large Icom IC-7700 came along and I just had to have one, which arrived in April 2008 - spending the children's inheritance! This really is the Rolls Royce of radio's and has every feature imaginable. See:
It has given me much pleasure to operate such a fine radio.

Montagu has given me some reasonable catches on my RF Systems DX1 Professional MkII. Sometimes the signals do come over the high mountains into my little valley. Europe and the U.S. come in when conditions are good and two highlights were:
- 1570 la Podorosa Mexico 15 kw power and 14,500 km's /9000 miles away
- 1410 WWKP McDonough GA on only 58 watts nightime power to which I got an astonished QSL reply.

When MW and HF bands are not running I have been playing around on LF with the NDB beacons and some of the highlights there were:
VTR Vitoria Brazil
ASN Ascenscion Isl and the furthest overland catch has been
KT Kitwe Zambia 2,500 km's away

The big plus of living not far from the coast has been the discovery of two excellent DXpedition sites, Jongensgat and Seefontein, where I can go and take advantage of the "sea gain" phenomena. See:
I have been lucky enough to go there twice a year with my dear wife Dawn and some of the Cape DX lads. Conditions there have been marvellous and some really memorable catches have been obtained, resulting in a catch of a lifetime on the September 2007 Seefontein DXpedition, when I got 1410 CFUN Vancouver BC, Canada which is 10,000 miles/16,000 km's away from the DX site. Quite a thrill, especially when I got their QSL. See: http://www.dxing.info/dxpeditions/seefontein_2007_09.dx
It is extremely rare in South Africa to catch anything West of the Rockies.

John Plimmer, Montagu, Western Cape Province, South Africa
Email: plimmer [at] telkomsa [dot] net
South 33 d 47 m 32 s, East 20 d 07 m 32 s
Icom IC-7700, Icom IC-756 PRO III with MW mods
ERGO software
Drake SW8. Sangean 803A
Sony 7600D, GE SRIII, Redsun RP2100
Antenna's RF Systems DX 1 Pro Mk II, Datong AD-270
Kiwa MW Loop.
updated Christmas 2008

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DXpeditions in South Africa

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