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Newfoundland DXpedition 11

November 1 to 10, 2002

by Jean Burnell

The eleventh DXpedition to Cappahayden, Newfoundland, posed new logistical problems. Previously, I had lived only 100 km away in St. John's, but I had taken a new position at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, over the summer. This time, I was flying to Newfoundland, like the other DXers. A couple of kilometres of wire, a hundred metres of coax, splitters, switches and other hardware: this is pretty heavy for air travel. I was worried that the airline would object to the outrageous weight of my luggage.

"How many bags to check in?" the petite CanJet ticket agent asked. I indicated two, a large suitcase and a very large box. I did not volunteer that they weighed more than she did. Then, ticket in hand, I scurried towards the departure area with my Drake R8A under my arm before I was called back to explain the weighty baggage. The flight to Halifax was uneventful, and my suitcase and box arrived as well. Unlike in previous years, I had to use valuable time to pick up a rental car, buy ground rods at a hardware store, fill a large container with drinking water at my ex-neighbour's house in St. John's, and buy groceries.


Jean Burnell

I managed to get to the DX site in Cappahayden by the middle of the afternoon. What calamity the old "DX Inn"? The lawn was littered with broken toys, pieces of rotten wood filled with rusty nails, pieces of sodden cardboard, and a piece of seal blubber that I presumed was meant to sustain the forlorn black dog. Floorboards had rotted on the deck, and there was a ragged hole though the deck with a diameter matching, probably not by coincidence, the diameter of average human hips. The key did not work properly on the back door, so I had to make my way through the front of the house. It was not locked, and there was nobody at home.

Inside our bedroom and shack area, an extension at the back of the house, there were more unpleasant surprises. I phoned the owners at their home in Cape Broyle. The owners did not seem to be surprised or concerned that someone had walked away with three of the five beds. They had given the place to their son, and he clearly had no interest in maintaining it. We were going to have a less than comfortable time, but I was very relieved that at least my two folding tables, which I had kept for six or seven years at the DX Inn, had not been pilfered. They were leaning against the wall of the first bedroom. I dropped my suitcase in that bedroom, and pulled a spool of wire from the gargantuan box. I had to make the most of this situation, so I raced outside to get an antenna up before dark. I did manage to deploy about 600 metres of a southern Beverage along the beach.

The dog, who seemed amazed that anyone should offer him any attention, came along to bark at the seals and the gulls. (He was later rewarded with slices of ham.) Back in the cold shack - why wouldn't the heat come on in some of the rooms? - reception conditions seemed to be at best fair. There were some signals at decent levels coming from Brazil, but these were dogged by very heavy thunderstorm noise. Signals from the Plata region were uncharacteristically weak, and remained so throughout the DXpedition. Even stations like Radio Del Plata (1030 kHz) that had always been very strong were inaudible that night and for most of the week.

John Fisher
John Fisher

John Fisher (Kingston, Ontario) arrived while I was asleep, at around 3:30 in the morning. He climbed wearily under to covers of the other bed, and froze. He had innocently bunked in one of the unheated rooms.

I was much better rested than John was the next morning when we extended the southern Beverage to its usual length, one kilometre, and terminated it. We then set up a 350-metre terminated antenna towards Europe. The European antenna happened to be aimed "off the back" towards the southwest, which in later days led to some welcome catches from that direction just before our sunrise.

John set up his Drake R8, and we switched on the receivers a few hours before sunset. Neither antenna produced much excitement on medium-wave that evening. Signals from northern Europe were weak; Iberian pests dominated. Once again, high levels of noise made reception of Brazil difficult, if not painful, on our southern antenna. John and I drifted up to higher frequencies to listen to Indian and Chinese stations on 60 metres and to the many European pirates in the "48 metre-band." The weather, which had been quite pleasant during the day, became extremely unpleasant during the evening. Until the last day of the DXpedition the weather was "normal" for that time of year in eastern Newfoundland. It ranged from poor to appalling. The European wire was broken twice by the high wind and heavy surf.

Neil Kazaross
Neil Kazaross

Neil Kazaross (Barrington, Illinois) drove his rented car from St. John's though a blizzard to arrive in Cappahayden late that night (November 3rd). He recounted the close calls he had had on his harrowing drive as he set up his Drake R8A and his unique phasing unit.

He attacked the Brazilian signals, and was disappointed in their levels. Over and over it was the same story. A massive static crash would obliterate the feeble signal just when we knew it was finally IDing. Overall, we did not unearth the number of "new" Brazilians that our joint efforts deserved!

Jim Renfrew
Jim Renfrew

Jim Renfrew from Rochester, New York, arrived on November 4th. We extended a shorter wire (approximately 100 metres) southeast, towards Africa. This turned out to be mainly a waste of time, although I think Neil used this wire as a counterpoise in attempts to reduce some QRM by phasing. Jim set up his Drake R8 and DXP-4 phasing unit, and he set out once again to prove that he can be more sleep-deprived than any other DXer. It was easier for him to avoid sleeping during this DXpedition than on any previous DXpedition - Jim did not have a bed. Jim and John slept on the floor in sleeping bags. Neil appropriated the bed in the room with no heat. I alone luxuriated, guiltily, in a bed in a room that was not hovering near freezing. I thought it would placate the others when I told them that my mattress was a little too soft. The others still don't believe my choice of that room had been purely by chance!

Propagation remained poor during the evenings of November 3rd and 4th. Signals from the east were weak, and reception from the south was marred by terrible noise. I only logged one "new" station from the "Deep South," which is our euphemism for the Argentina-Uruguay-Paraguay region, and that was the new Argentinean X-bander Apocalipsis II on 1690 kHz. When medium-wave was not producing anything useful, Jim maintained his spirits by logging long-wave beacons, and some of these were excellent catches.

Conditions were somewhat improved for transatlantic signals on November 5th we were hearing many British local stations. Nevertheless, all of these had been logged previously from Newfoundland, although there were some changes in slogan and one change in frequency (BBC Somerset Sound, now on 1566 kHz). Radio Caroline from Ireland on 1593 kHz was a "new" catch. We noticed that the French transmitter on 1377 kHz was cutting in and out. The people of Lille may have been deprived of their late-night listening, but in Newfoundland four DXers were cheering. We logged the 80-watt Asian Sound Radio with unprecedented clarity. Some stations from further away were also getting stronger. We landed some Russians, and I was pleased finally to have the opportunity to untangle the Romanian signals on 1593 kHz. Arutz Sheva on 1143 kHz was heard for the first time, too. Herman Boel's excellent "European MW Guide" once again proved to be immensely useful.

Some of the noteworthy catches from the Americas included an off-frequency Haitian, Radio Guinen on 1029.90 kHz, far from its nominal frequency of 1050 kHz, and Radio VEA on 1570 kHz. The latter was heard "off-the-back" of the European antenna. Central America is a very tough region to hear from Newfoundland. This was only the second Guatemalan ever heard from Newfoundland on MW.

John Fisher had to leave a day before the rest of us. His return was made especially exciting in Halifax. (He explains below.) On the morning of November 10th Neil had to leave to catch his flight to Chicago. The weather improved dramatically, so bringing in the wires should not have been arduous, but I inadvertently made it so for Jim. I had forgotten to tell Jim that I had tied the far end of the European antenna to a scrawny conifer half way up (or down) a precipice. We packed the two folding tables in their boxes, and leaned them against the wall of the bedroom. (I never saw them again.)

On the return trip, the airline once again had no objection to my ridiculous luggage. In Halifax, there was snow on the sides of the roads from the blizzard of the previous days, but everything had been cleared up. My wife, who I thank for allowing me to disappear for a week, picked me up at the airport. It was back to normal life, where DX highlights consist of stations that are garbage QRM in Cappahayden. What was depressing about this DXpedition was not that we had encountered below-average conditions. In spite of the poor propagation and the privations, the DXpedition had been tremendous fun. What was of concern was that we no longer had a venue for another Newfoundland DXpedition. We had all agreed that we could not return to the DX Inn. I hoped this would not mean the end of the Newfoundland DXpeditions, but I was not optimistic.

John Fisher wrote:

Although this was my fifth Newfoundland DXpedition, they continue to remain the highlight of my often sporadic DX season. I have come to view these events much like some folks view their annual trips to a hunting camp - a chance to get together with friends once a year to do something that we often have little time to do through out the rest of the year, swap stories and generally enjoy each others' company. And, oh yes, the Spartan accommodation conditions that we have are increasingly becoming more like those of a hunting camp.

Having been to Newfoundland for several of these adventures means that it is becoming an increasing challenge to hear new stations (a rather pleasant challenge I must say), but there is always something new to try for depending upon where signals are propagating from. During the first couple of times that I was there, it was like being a kid in the candy store; there were just so many new things to hear. Now, we find that we tend to pass by the "easy stations" (only from Newfoundland would I say that these are easy!) such as Belgium, Azores, and Italy, and focus on fewer, but harder, targets. The logs reflect this focus, I think.

On the whole, we found medium wave reception probably a little poorer than normal. For the first few days, the usual reception of low powered British regional stations was almost non-existent, however, not much else was popping up on their normal channels to take their place. But by Nov 5 they were starting to make their appearance with loggings of the 200 watt Irish relay of Radio Caroline on 1593 and the 80 watt Asian Sound Radio on 1377 thanks to France having transmitter problems. Other highlights for me were finally getting a solid, clear log of Kenya on 1386 and hearing the AFN station in Keflavik, Iceland on 1530.

As I was there over a Sunday morning UTC, I made it a point to try for some European pirates in the 48 meter shortwave band and boy were they audible! I heard many new stations and had several other unidentified stations that I am still trying to ID from the tapes.

Unfortunately, I had to leave one day earlier than originally planned due to an upcoming business trip, and that was an adventure of its own. I had to layover for the night in Halifax and managed to have this coincide with Halifax's first snowstorm of the season. I am not sure which was the best part: packing my clothes at 4 am in darkness since half the city had been hit with a power failure, walking down 15 flights of stairs with all my radio luggage because the elevators weren't working, the 2.5-hour bus ride to the airport, having the bus go off the icy road into the ditch or finally reaching the airport and finding out that all flights had been cancelled anyways! Fortunately, I did get home, only several hours delayed.

Jim Renfrew wrote:

My airline did not go bankrupt the day before my journey began (as it did last year!), so from the start this was a much better experience. Who could have imagined that I would be in Newfoundland DXing in my fifth year since 1995? However my status as a Newfoundland veteran appear to have weathered my youthful features, as the cashier at Zellers asked to see my "senior" card for a discount! I'm only 48, so let's not rush things, please! Other than the lack of a bed to sleep in, the rest of the week followed the usual Cappahayden routine: up all night, sleep at dawn, go out for lunch, and then back to the dials as the first TA signals begin to roll in around 2:30 pm with the sun still high in the sky.

Crossing the border back into the US at Lewiston NY resulted in a trunk search (my first), and a brief conversation about radio equipment. I probably told the border agents more than they wanted to hear about my reasons for visiting Canada. Then they asked me why I hadn't registered the equipment with US Customs before crossing over to Canada. I explained that I had never heard of such a thing, and that seemed to satisfy them. So it looks like that's what I'll do next time. But after thinking about it, I wonder if they mistakenly concluded that I was an amateur operator.

As far as DXing, it's not as easy to find new ones, now that we have picked off all the easy targets through the years. So, as is the case at home, DXing takes a lot of digging (looking for that weakest of the three programs on a channel), patience (hoping for the fade-in to occur at the top of the hour), and luck (such as French and Irish stations going off the air with transmitter problems). Enhancing our chances, of course, is the teamwork that gets multiple ears working on an elusive signal, along with the rich repository of DX knowledge in the room.

During quiet moments, I did some longwave beacon DX'ing, and the TA, Caribbean and South American stations heard were very encouraging. The highlight was ASN from Ascension Island, also heard by the group in Miscou NB in September.

DXpedition Log

Published on DXing.info on March 7, 2005

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Newfoundland DXpedition 11 Log

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