Coorong, South Australia,
by Craig Edwards
The 50,000 hectare Coorong
National Park begins 150km south of the capital
Adelaide in South Australia. It was declared in
1966 to conserve the distinctive landscape, coastal
dune system, lagoons, wetlands and coastal vegetation
and the great variety of birds, animals and fish
that live in or visit the area. As a habitat for
numerous species of migratory birds and as a refuge
for birds in times of drought, the Coorong is important
in a national and international sense and is included
on the list of 'Wetlands of International Importance'.
The Coorong is also an archaeological site of national
importance giving evidence of Aboriginal occupation
over many thousands of years from the peoples of
the Ngarrendjeri Nation. Taken together, these factors
account for the Coorong National Park's significance
in regional nature conservation and recreation and
for its special importance as an area of national
and international biological and heritage significance.
Well sure that's all well and good, but the Coorong
is also a site of International DX significance.
It is for this reason that DXers in South Australia
and Victoria think about the Coorong and smile.
Not for the 42 degrees C heat in summer, not for
the stinking smell of rotting seaweed on a summer's
afternoon, not for the cold showers on a frosty
winter morning, not for the constant fear of snakes
when putting out beverages, not for the abundance
of red-back spiders in the toilet
Coorong is popular for entirely different reasons.
March 1987 was my first ever DXpedition with the
now defunct Southern Cross DX Club in South Australia.
Since then the club was constantly on the lookout
for new locations to conduct DXpeditions with a
focus mainly on tropical band DXing as there weren't
many members interested in serious medium wave DXing.
Over the ensuing five years the club ventured to
numerous locations within a 100km radius of the
capital Adelaide only to enjoy minor success in
DXpedition results. This all changed in 1992 when
a fishing shack owned by the Strathalbyn Fishing
Club in the Coorong came to the attention of club
members Leigh Morris and Steve Perkins.
View of Coorong
while sitting in the shack
The shack at the Coorong was
modest yet perfect for the needs of DXers. It was
located on the waters edge with facilities such
as electricity (not too noisy usually), 2 kitchen
tables, chairs, kitchen, fridge, running (slowly)
water, shower (luke warm at best - but it took the
chill off the cold water) and a separate room with
enough beds for 6-8 DXers. It even had a TV antenna,
so on a long summer DXpedition we could bring our
TV and get fuzzy reception of the cricket matches.
The shack was the last one in
a row of half a dozen or so. This meant we had no
problem running long beverage antennas out in an
arc that covered the Middle East through to Europe/Asia.
The length of such wire was limitless and the longest
one that Dave Onley and I put out one summer was
1100 metres (3600 feet)!!! Shorter wire could be
put in the direction of USA but the length was usually
no more the 60 metres (200 feet) and didn't really
work that well except for a couple of occasions.
The fishing shack was located
only ~20km from the town of Meningie which had all
the required facilities: pub, petrol station, pub,
mini-mart, pub, fish 'n' chip take-away and pub
- on occasions we would frequent the local pub.
The regulars to the Coorong from South Australia
included myself, Steve Perkins, Lew Chapman, John
Smith and Leigh Morris. Once word had gotten out
about the MW potential of this site, it wasn't long
before Victorian DXers Dave Onley, Dave Headland
and David Martin became regular visitors also. Dave
Onley and I made an annual week long summer pilgrimage
to the Coorong for a week of DX and drink in 1994,
1995, 1996 and then for one final fling in the summer
of 1999 - this was the last time either of us
listened from the shack.
Dave Onley and Craig Edwards with the Coorong
DX shack in the far distant background across
An early visit revealed a sneak preview into what
was about to come. It was June 1993, from memory
my first trip to the Coorong where good signals
were heard from VOA Rhodes 1260, DW Malta 1557,
SR Germany 1422, Vatican 1611 and WDR Germany 1593.
This certainly was encouraging to see these Europeans
on MW punching through to be heard in Australia.
1988 saw virtually the end of MW DXing in Australia
as all ABC stations became 24 hours. It spelt doom
and gloom as almost every 9kHz split frequency was
now occupied and made reception of Asia, Middle
East, Africa and Europe in the wee hours of the
night and morning extremely difficult. So much so
that most seasoned MW DXers either stopped altogether
or severely reduced their MW DXing. Fortunately
for me I only really started MW DXing in 1987 and
so by the time this event happened, my interest
levels were still high and I continued on. Fortunately
so did Dave Onley and we spurred each other on in
this specialised field of the hobby. So while these
catches were ho hum 'regulars' in pre 1988 days,
they were certainly exciting in 1993! Plans were
already afoot for another DXpedition at the October
long-weekend just four months away.
DXing in the shack with a couple of old Drake
SPR4's and Trio 9R59DS
It's rare to remember DX sessions
from 10 years ago but I have no problem with this
one. October 1993 was the DXpedition that put the
Coorong on the map as a genuine spot to hear European
MW DX in south-east Australia. The short 3 day DXpedition
produced Turkey 162, Morocco 171, Sweden 1179, Yugoslavia
1269, Czech Republic 1287, Spain 1359, Germany 1422,
Albania 1458; Austria 1476, Germany 1539, Moldova
1548 and the Vatican 1530! This was an exciting
time and I couldn't race to the phone fast enough
when I got back to Adelaide to let Dave Onley know
that it was time to get over here ASAP.
Over the next few years Dave
Onley and I heard many stations from Europe, the
Middle East and North Africa. In the period 1993-1996
and then one trip in 1999 we heard the following:
Azerbaijan 1296; Cyprus 1233; Iran 837, 1404, 1431,
1449, 1494, 1557; Iraq 1035; Jordan 1494; Kuwait
1548; Oman 1242, 1413; Qatar 954; Saudi Arabia 1440,
1512, 1521; Turkey 162, 927, 936, 1062; UAE 1314,
Algeria 198; Canary Islands 621; Egypt 621, 819,
1107, 1341, 1359, 1368; Libya 1251; Morocco 171;
Sudan 1296; Tunisia 1566; Western Sahara zone 1544
Albania 1458; Austria 1476; Belarus 171; Belgium
1512; Czech Republic 1287; Bosnia 612; England 1296;
France 162, 1350; Germany 1422, 1539, 1575, 1593;
Hungary 540; Kaliningrad 1215; Latvia 576; Luxembourg
1440; Malta 1557; Moldova 1548; Monaco 1467; Poland
1080; Rhodes 1260; Russia 1089, 1359; Spain 1359;
Sweden 1179; Ukraine 972, 1431; Vatican 1530, 1611;
Yugoslavia 1269, 1413
Unfortunately the path to Africa
was never explored because within 20 metres of going
on the required bearing we would hit water (saltwater).
Even attempts to run wires over the water supported
by tomato stakes proved useless. So apart from North
Africa, the only sub-Saharans to make it through
were VOA Botswana 909; Mayotte 1458; Reunion 666;
Kenya 1107 and 1386 and VOA Sao Tome 1530. This
was before the days of the EWE antenna's popularity.
Craig Edwards enjoying a Bundy Rum and VB Beer
in the waters of the Coorong - picture taken
by Dave Onley attempting to stand up
With Europe only possible in
the early morning, it left us with not much to do
in the afternoon and evening. At local sunset Australian
DXers focus on the Pacific and North American stations.
However the Coorong wasn't known for this, firstly
because South Australia has traditionally been very
ordinary for this area and secondly because no decent
length antennas were possible. We would usually
occupy our time chasing Queensland commercial stations,
especially the low power ones which had sometimes
up to four other stations fighting it out. This
was done without phasers and a couple of my favourite
catches at the Coorong were 4BU 1332 and 8HA 900
of all things. However on occasion some west coast
North American stations would appear and I have
heard and verified from the Coorong KFRE 940, KTWO
1030, CJME 1300, CFUN 1410 & KXEL 1540, but
this has only occurred rarely (this was before the
X-band days too).
An hour after sunset there were
openings to Japan and the Philippines which would
occupy our time. We would normally stay up and gauge
Asian conditions until around midnight. If nothing
much new was around from Indonesia, which was usually
the case most of the time, we'd go to bed for a
few hours ready for the 330am wake up call.
There was one distinctive occasion
where conditions were very different than normal.
We noticed one evening that signals from the Philippines
were coming in much earlier and a little later were
very strong. Quick checks of Indonesian marker stations
on 630 RRI Ujung Pandang; 855 RRI Medan; 909 RRI
Sorong; 999 RRI Jakarta & 1206 RRI Denpasar
revealed that something funky was going on. Usually
on any evening 2 or 3 of these stations would be
fading in and out with the Aussies, but on this
evening they were all there and solid. A bit more
tuning revealed heterodynes on off channels like
1535 and 1591, so much so that they became more
regular and stronger over the ensuing 30 minutes.
Dave and I looked at each and dived into a listing
of off-channel non-RRI stations. This was before
the days of Bruce Portzer's Pacific-Asia Log unfortunately!
Over the next couple of hours we'd driven up and
down the band as fast as possible, which is tough
to do as we were both using Drake SPR4's. We were
looking for hard to hear RRI stations and off channel
Indonesian commercial stations and pirates.
This is where we coined the phrase
'panic tuning'. What do you do, stay on a strong
off-channel het and hope for audio or do you go
for a hard to hear RRI outlet where there's a good
chance of sending a report and maybe a QSL? What's
a DXer to do? Certainly the highlight of that experience
was being lucky enough to receive QSLs from RKPD2
Blitar 950 kHz & RSPD2 Situbondo 1363 kHz, both
in the 400watt range of transmitting power. The
problem was we were discovering off 9kHz split commercial
and pirate stations that simply were not listed!!
This situation lasted a couple of hours as sunset
swept over Indonesia. Eventually the strong hets
began to disappear in the mush. A check of 1134
revealed that All India Radio in Calcutta was coming
in. While not a super rare catch, AIR 1134 is tough
to hear at the Coorong because local 5MU on 1125
khz (5kW) and only ~60km away and 3CS Colac on 1134
puts in a mighty strong signal too. So we scoured
the bands for some elusive Indian outlets. For some
reason India has never propagated well to the Coorong
except for AIR Nagpur 1566. Fortunately we managed
to land 1530 Agra and 1305 Parbhani with the General
English Service news bulletins and so these happily
sit in the QSL album now. It's not often that an
Asian evening outdoes a European morning, but this
one certainly did. So this DX session didn't fit
the regular Coorong pattern.
Normally by 4am the first signs
of European action would appear. We had a pattern,
if by 4am you could get early audio from Ukraine
1431, SR Germany 1422 and Vatican 1611 then it would
be a good morning. The beverages to Europe would
inevitably point to South East Asia. So even on
the few occasions where there were no European openings,
we would occupy our mornings chasing the Philippines,
Japan and Indonesia.
Interestingly most of our DXing
was done in the summer months. This was certainly
not for any theoretical reasons, it's just when
we had time off from work and study. Listening was
either done in the October long-weekend or for a
week or so in January. It would have been interesting
to see what was available on the band if more winter
DX sessions were done.
No more DXing from the shack
As with all hobbies the interest wanes at times
and we tend to get side-tracked with other pursuits.
My DXing abruptly stopped in early 1997 as my girlfriend,
then fiancé and now wife came on the scene.
The next time I turned on the radio was interestingly
as Dave and I did our final DXpedition to the shack
in January 1999 (right after my engagement party!!!!).
Since then the Coorong DX gang went their own ways
as the fishing club shack was bought and is no longer
for hire. The Victorian DXers didn't venture over
again and Leigh Morris and John Smith drifted out
of the hobby. Steve Perkins and Lew Chapman continued
their DXing but from other sites with not much luck
on MW. As for me, my SPR4 was switched off in January
1999 and was not turned on again until my wife and
I moved for a year from Adelaide to Townsville in
2004 - 'Born Again DXer'
After a solid 10 months of DXing in Townsville that
included 8 DXpeditions, there was no way I was giving
up DXing when we returned to Adelaide to live again.
There was a sign from the DX Gods when I landed
a job in Murray Bridge, 100km away from our home
in Adelaide. It was in fact 100km in the direction
of the Coorong, at work I was only 70km away from
Meningie. Needless to see it wasn't long before
I investigated some future DX possibilities.
So with the shack now unavailable
it means that new and exciting adventures will now
occur at the Coorong DXing from all sorts of places
like caravan parks, car, tents and hopefully some
established shacks. This all depends on our enthusiasm
and commitment to the hobby. With the solar minima
approaching this is our opportunity to capitalise
on this wonderful DX location once again.
I urge you to visit the DXpeditions
page over the next few years and have a look
at the adventures which myself, Dave Onley, Steve
Perkins and Lew Chapman hope to have at the Coorong
Check out our early fact finding
mission report as Dave Onley and I attempt to reincarnate
ghosts of the past to discover a new Coorong
The first official Coorong
reunion DXpedition for 5 days has now occurred
and you are welcome to check out the report. It
has made us put up the theory for Coorong DXing
- Summer = Europe while Winter = Africa. Only time
Craig Edwards, South Australia
email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
on September 11, 2005