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Mount Isa, Queensland, Australia

"No Boss, I'm not suffering from a hangover, I'm suffering from being a DXer"

Craig Edwards

February 12-15, 2005

In January 2005 I handed in my resignation so that my very homesick wife and I could leave Townsville in Queensland to return back to Adelaide in South Australia. I was very lucky to quickly secure a three-year contract back in South Australia in Murray Bridge, only an hour away from the famed Coorong DX site. Now what on earth has this got to do with Mount Isa I hear you ask?

Well three weeks prior to my departure from work, my boss offered me a visit to handover some of my work in person to our Mount Isa unit. So I jumped at the chance. Having visited Mount Isa in Queensland for work in October 2004, I realised that the possibilities for interesting Asian mediumwave DX was there. At the same time though I realised that the inland location with lots of high voltage lines for the mining machinery everywhere would be a limiting variable.

aerial from plane
A barren wide open countryside en route to Mount Isa

What made the deal oh so sweeter was the fact that I'd be departing on the Friday afternoon, work only a few hours Saturday morning, have Sunday off and then work all day Monday with a flight back Tuesday morning. This effectively meant I had four consecutive sunrises to listen.

On my last visit I didn't have the company car so I was confined to a noisy hotel room with only 20 metres of wire randomly strung outside. This time I had 200 metres and use of the company car so I could go on the outskirts of the city and listen from the vehicle. This was more dangerous (bulls, snakes, drunken cowboys, serial killers, etc) but the rewards would surely be much better.

Now in all honesty I planned the business trip like a DXpedition where instead of analysing tapes, writing reports and sleeping during the day, I'd have to drag my bleary eyed ass to work. Now remember this was the organisation I was leaving in a couple of weeks so I'm sure as fellow DXers that you'll understand that my focus for these few days was 95% radio and 5% work.

4LM studios
4LM 666 kHz studios

Actually early in the week I was wondering whether this trip was going to happen at all. With the memory of my cancelled DX trips in January 2005 fresh in my mind, the Mount Isa adventure was almost cancelled. I was booked to fly out Friday, however on Monday morning I woke to see on the TV that Tropical Cyclone Harvey had formed on the coast directly north of Mount Isa and was heading south. It started as a category 1 but quickly grew to category 3 as it hit land on Monday afternoon. Fortunately it weakened Tuesday afternoon and by Wednesday morning I woke to hear that it was no longer a cyclone, just a nasty storm carrying nasty 'low' full of thunderstorms which headed north east away from Mount Isa, not to mention the flight path from Townsville. Phew! I dodged a bullet there. The skies were clear on Friday for take off. That's just one of the issues that you're faced with when planning DXpeditions around the tropics in the wet season.

The plane to get to Mount Isa is quite small and hence the amount of luggage is very limited. Despite this I was able to sneak in the Icom R75, tape deck, headphones, pre-amp, patch cords, 12V rechargeable mini-battery (for R75 and pre-amp), 1.5V fan, 200 metres of wire, disposable batteries, want lists, texts, oh and clothes and toiletries, all in one suitcase and carry on bag for the R75.

ABC studio
ABC Radio North West Queensland studio

For this trip I planned on waking up very early and listen until sunrise for Europe, Africa and the Middle East. As far as this visit, Asians would be considered pests like the Australian stations. This is because Townsville in the morning is sensational for South East Asia but these dominate any attempts to hear Europe, Africa and the Middle East. Don't get me wrong, that's not a complaint, the monsoon rains in January meant I couldn't get out of town to do DXpeditions hunting North America, so instead I had to stay home and go for Asians and it was very rewarding hearing over a hundred during that month, but it was time for something different.

This trip was very timely as it gave me a dress rehearsal for my biggest and most challenging DXpedition yet which was to begin a month later in early March. This will be a 14-day (8 days driving, 6 days not driving) adventure as my wife and I return home to Adelaide for good. It will entail a drive from Townsville, through Mount Isa to Tennant Creek. Then we head up to Katherine and stay there for 4 days. We then head south via Alice Springs, Uluru and Coober Pedy en route to Adelaide.

Mt. Isa
Is it just me, or is this giant copper mine a bit close to the town?

The 'DX from the car' set up will be identical except there will be 300m terminated instead of 200m unterminated and hopefully a couple of EWE's might be utilised too. So the Mount Isa trip would allow me to test equipment out and enable me to log the easier to hear Africans, Middle Easterners and Europeans and to see what is on offer from this region of the world. This way if conditions are excellent on one particular morning I won't waste my time on reporting stations that can be heard even when conditions are average.

On Friday afternoon I touched down at Mount Isa airport and quickly headed to the supermarket for food and checked into the hotel. It was now 5:30pm (0730 UTC) and I had an hour before dusk to find an antenna site on the outskirts of town before the roads would be riddled with kangaroos and it would have been too dangerous to risk driving around in the company car. My plan was to listen from the side of the road and string out the 200 metres along the ground. My direction of choice was 270° to North Africa, I figured this was a fair compromise between going for Africa and Europe and pointing away from South East Asia.

4LM transmitter tower
Oooops there's the 4LM transmitting tower, better not choose the northern road out of town to listen from.

There are 3 major roads into town. I tried the south side of town but this was riddled with bulls and cows roaming free in unfenced areas and I didn't fancy facing one of these critters at 3:00am in the morning while I ran out my wire, they also would have surely got themselves caught up in it.

Option 2 was the north side of town however the road went north without any kinks and the airport non-directional beacon and the 4LM 666 kHz tower was just on the northern outskirts, so scratch that idea. By this time I was peeved off and had about 15 minutes to find something, so I drove through town to get to the western side with my fingers crossed. Luckily the road although pointing straight to town, did provide me with the direction I wanted and five minutes drive from my hotel was a huge gravelled area where truckies could stop off. Fortunately there were no amenities here and the truck drivers would opt for the monster service stations with asphalt truck parking, fuel, showers, 24 hour food etc. On the four mornings I had there, I only ever saw one road train pull up.

On Saturday morning I woke at 3:00am and headed out to the site to string out 200 metres of wire on the side of the road and then a random wire of ~20 metres which was my earth wire - a compromise due to no other earthing options. I always get a bit weary at a new location because I never know what the movements of the locals are - both human and creature - and I never know how I'll be received in the event of an encounter. DX'wise I wonder whether it's going to be any good, especially as Mount Isa isn't exactly my number one spot in Australia to listen for Africa/Europe/Middle East as it is so far inland. This was probably the best morning of the trip with some interesting signals from Europe.

flooded road
I figured work wouldn't appreciate me testing this flooded roadway.

The Sunday morning was WOEFUL. The strongest signal of the previous morning, Farda 1575 khz was raising barely a whimper and there were no Africans or Europeans to be heard. Thank goodness this wasn't the 1st morning otherwise I would have thought there was something wrong with the antenna set up or location. What made this worse was that I'd woken up especially early at 2:00am to drive to the outskirts of town again and run out the wire. So I was really impressed to be welcomed by crappy conditions. I tried to make the best of it by logging Western Australian stations I hadn't QSL'ed like 6PR 882, 6WH 1017, 6TZ 963, Vision Radio 1431 and 6KW 819. I was so tired I'd find a WA station, switch on the tape recorder and close my eyes for 20 minutes before moving to the next one. There's no worse feeling than being this exhausted when the DX is cold.

Road troubles
The southern direction out of town had it's fair share roadside wire tangling beverage destroyers to contend with.

For the Monday morning I had to wake a little later as I had work, mind you 4:00am still felt early! On Tuesday the morning of my flight back, I woke at 2:00am!!! Oh boys and girls I was barely human that day. These last 2 mornings the Europeans and Middle Eastern stations came to the party and it gave me a chance to confirm a couple of unid's I had and add a few more items to the log. I really enjoyed the chance to target this part of the world again and it certainly gave me a number of reports to send out to stations that I haven't been able to hear while in Townsville. Very pleased with the trail considering this was a business trip and it was a big improvement on the previous Mount Isa visit.

Loggings by (CE) Craig Edwards DXing in a car by the side of a road using Icom R75 and 200m (600ft) unterminated wire to Middle East/Europe

630 2013 RRI Makassar, Sulawesi, Indonesia. Very good with call to prayers heard well over 4QN (CE)

702 2020 BBC, A'Seela, Oman. Presume the one here with AA news commentaries (CE)

760 2047 Radio Sana'a, Alshahr, Yemen. Strong het but poor modulation with non-stop male AA talks (CE)

909 2032 VOA, Sebele Pikwe, Botswana. Fair with VOA news in EE well over threshold RRI Sorong signal (CE)

Road troubles
Do I make you horny baby? OK I might give the southern road a miss…

936 1959 DXIM Cagayan de Oro, Philippines. Came across AA like talk for a few moments when sudden sign on of this one destroyed potential Trans-Indian catch. Full legal English ID for DXIM and Radio ng Bayan at very good levels (CE)

972 1659 unid. Middle Eastern up tempo music noted initially. Difficult reception due to mixing with 5PB and RRI. Big mess at 1700 with BBC WS from 5PB but unexpected US EE accented noted for a few seconds on hour underneath but no ID - definitely not from the Philippines. Following this was male and female talks in unid Middle Eastern language. On other mornings could only detect RRI and 5PB. In Townsville the other contender is HLCA but no sign of them in Mt Isa due to antenna set up. High power Tajik Radio station must be a chance here - need to go through tapes properly yet (CE)

1080 2045 IRIB, Abadan, Iran. Presume the one here with non-stop male talks in Middle Eastern language, I'm assuming Farsi (CE)

1134 1910 AIR Calcutta, India. Good here with usual National program music show // 9425 and 9470 (CE)

1170 1854 Radio Farda, Al-Dhabbaya, United Arab Emirates. Male presenting popular music in presumed Farsi over HLSR. Noted on the hour phone numbers then Radio Farda ID. Later in the morning around 2000 this was totally dominated by DXMR (CE)

sunrise DX
DX HQ, this time in the 4WD Holden at sunrise looking back along the antenna pointing west to Mount Isa, the Middle East and Europe

1179 1947 RSI, Solvesborg, Sweden. Fair here over 3RPH (playing BBC WS) and JOOR. Noted with German commentary (CE)

1179 2009 unid. Noted during Sweden fade with male announcer in SS with sound effects and animated talks. Thought this might be sign on of unlisted Philippines station but it wasn't (CE)

1260 2015 Radio Sawa, Rhodes, Dodecanese Island. Fairly good here over 4MW and DXRF with non-stop AA commentary (CE)

1440 1836 BSKSA Damman, Saudi Arabia. Usual strong signal in AA well over JOWF and 2PB (CE)

1449 1920 IRIB Bandar-e-Torkamen, Iran. Fair hear mixing with 2MG with prayers (CE)

1458 1940 Radio Vision, Pamandzi, Mayotte. Fair here at various times on all but one morning (when conditions were dead), non-stop talks in FF (CE)

1458 1952 VOA Fllake, Albania. Tentative as no ID heard but we've noted this in the past on DXpeditions with openings to Europe like this morning. Fair here in unid Euro language noted for only 5 or so minutes but then disappeared under usual Mayotte and background Philippines and China mess. (CE)

1467 1848 Vatican Radio via Roumoules, France. Poor here with Vatican sermon and talks in eastern block like language. Retuned just prior to the hour to note it buried in the mush and splatter from 4ZR 1476, never surfaced again during the trip (CE)

sunrise DX
DX HQ at sunrise from another angle

1494 2004 Radio Jordan, Al-Karanah, Jordan. Nice signal here with AA programming noted // 9830, although MW was stronger!! Another signal noted underneath but not the expected DXOC, had talks with European language so perhaps the Russian station, but Jordan was too dominant on the channel. (CE)

1521 1721 BSKSA Duba, Saudi Arabia. Non-stop male talks in AA (CE)

1530 1903 VOA, Pinheira, Sao Tome & Principe. Poor in French at this stage but peaked nicely on retune at 2030 with VOA news in EE mixing with DZME (CE)

1548 1715 DW Trincomalee, Sri Lanka. Not a bad strength but swamped by 4QD monster signal, easily detectable German talks noted during an interview with lots of pauses on ABC. (CE)

1548 2028 Radio Sawa, Kuwait City, Kuwait. Poor under dominant 4QD playing AA pop tunes until ID and animated talks at 2030 (CE)

1566 1705 AIR Nagpur, India. Good here with typical National program music show // 9425 (CE)

1575 1730 Radio Farda, Al-Dhabbaya, United Arab Emirates. Fair here with presumed Farsi talks with upbeat modern music - had me stumped as I clearly heard the Radio Farda ID when I quickly checked tape later that day. But it didn't register while listening that this was a new outlet for Farda so I didn't check if it was // 1170. When I returned home and got to the MW e-lists I realised this only came on the air a few days prior to me hearing it - thanks for the Scandinavian DXers for help on this one, also noted on East Coast USA by Mark Connelly so the new transmitter is doing a great job. Was the most reliable Middle Eastern station noted each morning. (CE)

published on March 31, 2005

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