November 6-14, 2004
by Jean Burnell
I had visited the venue for the
14th Newfoundland DXpedition twice before. At the
Round Cove B&B I am now almost part of the family
of the wonderful hosts, Ollie and Ken Perry. The
location is only a couple of kilometers from the
old "DX Inn," in the village of Cappahayden
on the Avalon Peninsula of eastern Newfoundland.
The terrain around the B&B is not as well suited
for long antennas as our old place, but my previous
visits had shown that it was certainly good enough!
Jim Renfrew (Byron, New York)
got the DX ball rolling with his annual "What's
happening this Fall?" e-mail in the summer.
I proposed some dates, and asked John Fisher (Kingston,
Ontario) if he would join us. The B&B has only
two bedrooms for guests - as a "member of the
family" I sleep on a folding-bed - so we decided
to test the location with only this small group.
DXpeditioners at the most eastern point in North
America, Cape Spear NL. Left to right Jean Burnell,
Jim Renfrew and John Fisher.
I arrived first on November 6th,
laden with two receivers (Drake R8A and Icom R-71A),
two cassette recorders, lots of wire, antenna splitters,
switches, pre-amps, tools, etc. I set up two antennas,
one towards Europe (ca. 400 metres in length) and
the other towards eastern South America/southern
Africa (ca. 500 metres long).
The European one was a fairly
easy job, over fields and along a rocky beach. The
southern wire was a different story. Trailing wire,
I pushed for hours through extremely dense coniferous
woods to emerge into the sunlight of a large open
area that I had not seen before. It was dotted with
the rotting remains of pitcher plants, Newfoundland's
provincial plant. They live on bogs. I had to trail
carefully around the perimeter of the bog, still
paying out wire, and contrive to pull all the wire
straight. Then, it was through more woods and finally
to a cliff-top overlooking the Atlantic.
It was dark when I stumbled back
into the house, cold and scratched, pine sap in
what is left of my hair, and bog-water swishing
in my boots. I switched on the receivers, hardly
breathing with anticipation. Almost nothing! Conditions
were extremely poor to the south, and only marginally
better towards Europe. "If real DX were easy,
it wouldn't be fun," I've smugly said, but
at moments like this it is difficult to be philosophical
about traveling hundreds of kilometers by air, and
then risking life and limb in the wilderness, to
log stations that can be heard with ease at home.
I had a shower, drank a beer with Ken, and flicked
on the receivers again. Things were getting better.
Radio Barones on 1645 kHz faded up, and it was playing
Roxy Music's "Avalon" for the Newfoundland
John Fisher arrived during the
evening, but his luggage did not. Always bring spares!
We chopped the connectors off the ends of a coax
lead-in so that we could connect his insurance receiver,
a Sony 2010, to the antennas. We logged some transatlantic
signals, but nothing spectacular. John did add Djibouti
to his MW country list.
John's luggage caught up the
next day, and he was ready to DX more seriously
with his Drake R-8. The evening of November 7th
was looking very ordinary, with the arrival of the
usual stations from the Middle East and eastern
Europe. Then, so suddenly that initially I was sure
the antenna had broken just outside the window,
the transatlantic signals disappeared, but on the
southern wire ragged reception of Brazilians began.
Meanwhile, near Rochester, New York, Jim Renfrew
was beginning his trip to Newfoundland. As he went
to his car he noticed the southern sky was ablaze
with northern lights. Auroral conditions began in
earnest, and they remained with us for the rest
of the DXpedition. Even the monstrous NRK on 1314
kHz, usually a stronger signal than the St. John's
stations at night, was not heard again.
We picked up Jim at the airport
on November 8th. He brought his Drake R-8B and a
Quantum Phaser. In the next days, we all concentrated
on the signals from the southern wire. In the early
evening of the 8th almost every station in Botswana
made an appearance. Also, we began working on the
Angolans. Bié on 1403.67 kHz was the first
"new" one in the logbook. The Nigerians
Radio Jigawa on 1026 kHz, previously logged only
once, and R. Kebbi on 945 kHz, a first-time log,
were noted, and they returned every night. Radio
Pulpit (656.98 kHz) and Radio Metro (576 kHz) from
South Africa, each logged only once previously,
arrived with robust signals. And there were Brazilians,
lots of them!
On subsequent nights we teased
the Angolan from Malanje on 1196.70 kHz away from
Family Radio in Lesotho (1197 kHz), and other Angolans
logged were Moxico on 1457.64 kHz, Bengo on 1134
kHz, as well as the previously logged Kuanza Sul
on 1485.50 kHz and the Radio Nacional outlets. We
tracked, and eventually unequivocally identified,
Radio Cidade from Swaziland on 1377.05 kHz. (The
interference on 1377 kHz that we had to battle was
from Tanzania. A DX challenge of a few years ago
is now a pest!) I was disappointed that I was unable
to ID an African in English on 1422 kHz. I suspect
strongly that it was Malawi. It's the big fish in
the pond that I will be trying to catch next time.
The most extraordinary reception
was during the evening of the 9th. At 2235 UTC,
John noticed that the All India Radio outlet on
1566 kHz was exceptionally strong. I checked 1134
kHz, looking for the powerful Indian station at
Mogra, but what I found was Chinese, and loud! China
is extremely rare in northeastern North America,
and within minutes we had also found a second Chinese
broadcast on 1377 kHz, coming in with SINPO 34444!
The cherry on the cake was Radio Saranrom from Thailand
on 1575 kHz, not a remarkable catch in Europe, but
never previously heard in this part of the world.
By 2300 UTC these Asian signals had faded away completely.
Although we checked every subsequent evening, no
hint of a Far Eastern station was heard again.
For the rest of the week, our
bread-and-butter logs were DX caviar. We heard dozens
and dozens of Brazilians, including a number of
"new" ones. The big stations from Argentina,
Uruguay and Paraguay made respectable showings.
Indeed, four or five new stations from that region
were identified. Also, Radio Corporación
on 1380 kHz from Chile is not news in Europe, but
it had never been logged in North America. Now it
has! It was also very satisfying to add a Bolivian
to the log: Radio Bahá'í on 1000 kHz.
They had announcements in an indigenous language
and played that typical Andean music that is more
familiar in the tropical bands.
We usually try to avoid the North
American stations, but WVCG from Coral Gables, Florida,
was interesting. A Jamaican-accented host was playing
music and taking some phone calls. He received a
call from a man in North Carolina who was asking
why he could suddenly hear WVCG. The program host
explained that he had been researching the topic
of long-distance medium wave reception, so he would
explain. He expounded that this was an example of
"skip," and with a good antenna it was
possible to hear long distance AM via "skip."
Nevertheless, the host was very excited to be heard
even "as far away as North Carolina."
I wonder what would have happened to his heart-rate
if we had phoned from Newfoundland!
John made his goodbyes on Saturday
the 13th. On the morning of Sunday the 14th, Jim
and I packed up the "shack" and brought
in the antennas. The weather was a bit foggy, but
there were no problems in Cappahayden or in the
drive to St. John's. Jim's flight to Toronto left
on time. Mine was delayed for hours because of blizzard
conditions in Halifax. When I did finally arrive
home, I had plenty of time to ponder the return
to the normalcy of everyday life as I shoveled the
snow in the driveway until 1 a.m.
At the end of a DXpedition, some
acknowledgements are required. We thank our families,
who allowed us to escape from normal duties for
a week. Ollie and Ken Perry were generous with their
hospitality and friendship in Cappahayden. Also,
I am grateful to many friends in the RealDX group
who took the time to listen to my noisy recordings
and to offer their expert comments and suggestions.
They deserve to be named: Henrik Klemetz, Mauno
Ritola, Gert Nilsson, Rocco Cotroneo, Chuck Hutton,
Bjarne Mjelde, and Jan Alvestad. Also, I thank my
PhD-student, Liang Zhao, for listening to my Chinese
say, "Let's do it again!" Forget a few
scratches and soakings in the bog - it was fun.
We will do it again.
on February 28, 2005