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Nhulunbuy (Gove), Northern Territory, Australia

Just another day at the office

Craig Edwards - November 2006

If this was an episode of 'Alias' or one of the Bourne Identity movies, intelligence reports would indicate that MW DXer Craig Edwards had fallen off the grid. I admit that many may question that 'if he's in a DX paradise, why no recent loggings on the newsgroups or no articles in the DXing.info DXpedition pages?" Yes fair question.

Aerial view
The tiny homeland community in the middle of nowhere

I must explain that since my DX partner in crime Dave Onley came to visit me a couple of times in June and July I haven't been very active. We had many nights and mornings of exciting Asian and Pacific DX from my house using EWE's and some fun DX sessions from the car at sunset parked on the beach using BOGs. Interspersed with this were naughty nights at the topless Animal Bar; morning recovery sessions with a slow wobbly walk to the bakery for a cafe latte and a vanilla slice; and photo and video documentaries walking through the crocodile mangroves. Highlights for me were an evening at home logging V7AB 1098 Marshall Islands and V6AH 1449 Micronesia. Also the beachside reception of two new countries for me with WDHP 1620 US Virgin Islands and Radio Apolo, Venezuela on 1290.

Another highlight was to visit the Animal Bar after a beach DX session on a Tuesday night around 8pm. It was a patriotic evening during the Australian World Cup Football campaign where Dave and I led the "Aussie-Aussie-Aussie Oi-Oi-Oi" chants while the topless barmaid led the Mexican wave - hmmm, a night for the archives.

Plane
This plane may look small - that because it is!

Since then I've been very busy conducting flights every week to remote Indigenous communities throughout East Arnhem Land in the Top End of Australia's Northern Territory. I basically work with health clinics, community councils and schools with nutrition and physical activity programs. Due to airplane weight restrictions, it is impossible to bring any decent DX equipment. Once you bring clothes and education materials, I'm already at my 13kg (28lb) baggage limit. I did recently purchase that sexy portable receiver the Eton E1 in the event that some trips could allow me to bring the rig along. The occasion did occur when I was able to sneak one on. So here is a typical work week for me, but this time, along came the new Eton E1 portable radio.

Monday morning, life is unusually normal. I'm in the office today with plenty of time up my sleeve for a change. After catching up on emails and phone messages from my previous week out bush, I spent the rest of the day preparing lesson plans for young Aboriginal men where I'll be joining them on a boys youth camp. I savour the day knowing that Wednesday to Friday there'll be no showers, no air conditioning, no phones, no refrigeration, no cold drinks, no house to live in and no electricity. I spend Monday night practising ultra light weight packing. My only DX equipment is the Eton E1, 2 sets of D batteries, 20 m of wire and simple earpieces (no headphones). There was no chance to bring a Pacific Asia Log or WRTH, only a 3 page printout of what I'd already heard from home in Nhulunbuy. This is a tight weight restriction situation, they don't only weigh your luggage, but you have to stand on a set of bathroom scales out on the tarmac so the pilot can weigh you before stepping on the plane.

Buffalo
This water buffalo may look big - that's because it is!

It's Tuesday morning at Nhulunbuy airport, as I stand under the fixed wing of the light aircraft for shade waiting to be weighed, the weather is 32oC (~94oF) and 95% humidity, I can't believe it's only 8am in the morning, this is going to be a hot and sweaty trip. My clothes are saturated already, the sting of sweat in my eyes is a sensation that is to become all too familiar over the next few days, hell even my frozen water bottle has already melted. Strangely enough my 5 seater little airplane is empty, only the pilot and I are travelling. So weight restrictions for my first flight this trip is passed with flying colours. As I sit squashed in my seat up front next to the pilot, I lament my height of 6ft, only Yoda could stretch his little green feet out in this form of transport. I close my eyes once we're in the air, madness to some, but I've been spoilt and the awe inspiring majestic coastal/bushland landscape at low altitude is common to me now. The allure of sleep, despite the loud single engine propeller buzzing was much more appealing to me than the panoramic views.

The reason behind no other passengers on my flight soon becomes apparent after landing. As we taxi down the tarmac I managed to negotiate a lift into town in the back of a troopy (Toyota 4WD people carrier). After all there are no taxi's here in this 900 person community, hell there's not even a little tin shed at the airstrip. Mind you the tarmac is made of bitumen, so it's better than some I've experienced which are just dirt. I'm greeted by the comment from our driver "geez you're brave to come here today - ah well - you're a big fella you'll be right" Hmmmm OK. From the back of the troopy on a hot, dusty and noisy drive on the corrugated dirt track into town I could just overhear and figure out there was trouble in town last night. Alcohol was smuggled into this community where it is prohibited and some family fighting had occurred. As I was dropped off into town I did the usual unpacking in my visiting officer quarters. This is a very secure building which is like a mini-compound surrounded by barbed wire razor fence and a steel cage encasing the building - yes - security is an issue here.

On the beach

Once unpacked I thought I'd stroll to the community store, only to find it closed. Come to think of it the school was closed, the council was closed and nobody was on the streets. It was like a ghost town - this was very eerie. A friendly Aboriginal Elder walked up to me and tells of last night's riot. There were machetes, spears and guns being used. I'm not surprised by the machetes and spears, but the use of guns are scary. I'm appreciative of this friendly encounter and the Elder warns me to go back and lock up the compound and wait the day and night out. As the afternoon progresses it reminds me of scenes from East Timor on TV as police 4WD's patrol the streets and young people congregate, the tension was incredible. I find it hard to sleep as rocks continue to land on my roof until around 1:00am.

Wednesday morning - the town is quiet. The fighting has passed, as if it didn't happen, except for those walking the streets with their injuries. The school has re-opened so we prepare to depart for the boy's camp. Another light aircraft, this time the bigger 7 seater. We fly for half an hour to an incredibly remote homeland community made up of only a handful of tin houses in the middle of no-where on the east coast of East Arnhem Land. This is god's country, majestic and untouched. As we fly toward it, a single hairline dirt track is the only evidence of man's existence here. We touch down on a tiny narrow dirt airstrip in the middle of thick bushland. The boys are excited to be in such a culturally strong place and I can't believe how I'm being paid to visit such a location, I feel like I'm on Discovery Channel or National Geographic. We all pile into another troopy 4WD after being joylessly greeted by the Traditional Owner who is excited to show us his country.

Tent
My office

Fortunately having been in this job now a year, I knew what to expect in terms of facilities at a homeland. I knew that as I spend the next few days in a little dome tent that that there'd be no lighting or refrigeration. We had eskies to keep food safely cold but there wasn't enough room for cold drinks and of course there are no shops. There was freshwater at this coastal location, the locals could walk around the beach and point out fresh water pools as the tides changed. Solar panel powered pumps would supply fresh water and bore water to the few houses and to community taps and the two shower huts. This meant the water was always warm, not very thirst quenching in the oppressive heat, but it kept us alive. The good old 'drop toilet' is something that needs to be experienced to be believed. Imagine a spider infested tiny hot tin shed out in the middle of the bushland with a metal drum, a toilet seat of sorts and this elegantly covers the hole where you experience the nasal delights of the previous couple of months worth of wee beige jobbies.

Catch
The biggest non-radio catch of the trip

Cooking was all done on open fire and one third of our food was bush tucker that had to be caught. The lucky thing about running a nutrition and physical activity program with the boys is that this translates into crab catching, berry collecting, fishing and playing beach soccer and bush football. In addition to this I had to run the more traditional class based education, mind you our classroom was a hand woven mat under a tree! Suffice to say that this was a pretty wild and exciting trip and the days were long and tiring. Radio is tough to do because I am one of a few adults responsible for the safety and well-being of many boys. But I did find the time during a couple of evenings before going to bed to give the Eton E1 it's first test drive with just a simple 20m of wire. There was no noise here obviously and a proper antenna system without the responsibilities of looking after the boys would have produced some great catches I'm sure. But the catch 22 situation is that I wouldn't be allowed to come to this place for recreational purposes, it is permit restricted.

Watch for snakes
On a bush tucker berry collecting trip - just watch for the snakes

We had numerous encounters with dangerous wildlife. The bushland was full of wild horses, wild red bulls and the dangerous water buffalo. We had to do fishing in pairs, one with the hand reel and the other was the crocodile spotter - crazy stuff! There was always a danger of snakes as we went on berry collecting trips in the bushland, luckily the traditional owner was a snake expert. I always made sure I was only a couple of steps behind him!!!

The crab hunting on the beaches wasn't too dangerous, you just had to watch out for giant box jellyfish, irikanji stingers, stingrays and sharks in the knee deep water, again I was always a couple of steps behind the traditional owner who had his spear at the ready… my life insurance salesperson would not be impressed. As I was waiting to catch my flight out on the Friday morning I was quite relieved to have not been bitten by a snake, spider, crocodile, marine stinger or been gored by a water buffalo, my only injury was 20 or 30 nasty infected sand fly bites on my legs. But as we were about to take off in the plane, a herd of water buffalo trotted out from the bush and crossed our airstrip so we had to quickly abort the take off - my QSL card collection flashed before my eyes. Let's just say on our second take off attempt the pilot found altitude so quickly I thought I was in a Harrier Jump Jet!!!!!!

TRAIL

(CE*) Craig Edwards, DXing on the east coast of South-East Arnhem Land, NT with Eton E1 and 25m wire

531 1323 DXGH Santos City, Philippines. Fair with DZRH IDs. Nov 16 (CE*)

549 1130 CNR Fujian, China. Monster signal with CC music program. Nov 16 (CE*)

558 1134 DZXL Manila, Philippines. Good with ID's & news updates. Nov 16 (CE*)

567 0835 KGUM Agana, Guam. Good here over 4JK with usual syndicated talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

Classroom
My classroom with the boys

585 0839 Radio Sandaun, PNG. No sign of NBC Port Moresby here or on 4890, so could get Sandaun in the clear with local pgm & ID. Quickly checked at 0900 & they had NBC National News. Nov 15 (CE*)

594 1149 JOAK Tokyo, Japan. Good with JJ NHK1 program mixing with DZBB. Nov 16 (CE*)

603 1153 HLSA Namyang, South Korea. Good with KK talks. Nov 16 (CE*)

610 1157 Voice of the People of Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Fair and good to see the Eton E1 could detect & hear this with the big mix of signals from 612 present. Nov 16 (CE*)

612 0902 KUAM Agana, Guam. Poor with public service announcements. Nov 15 (CE*)

612 1200 DYHP Cebu City, Philippines. Good with RMN IDs // 621. Nov 16 (CE*)

621 0853 DXDC Davao City, Philippines. Good with RMN ID's. Nov 15 (CE*)

666 1203 Voice of the Strait, Fuzhou, China. Good with CC talks // 4940. Nov 16 (CE*)

702 1207 DZAS Valenzuela, Philippines. Fair with US evangelical preachings. Nov 16 (CE*)

Crab
This crab doesn't realise that I'll be eating him in 45 minutes

729 0905 RRI Nabire, Papua. Excellent with call to prayer. Nov 15 (CE*)

747 1210 JOIB Sapporo, Japan. Fair with NHK2 pgm // 828 (CE*)

765 0907 RRI Tual, Maluku. Good with call to prayer. Nov 15 (CE*)

765 1215 CNR Fujian, China. Good // 549 with CC talk. Nov 16 (CE*)

774 0908 RRI Fak Fak, Papua. Excellent with call to prayer. Nov 15 (CE*)

801.1 0856 Pyongyang Bansong, Hwadae, North Korea. In early with usual mx format. Nov 15 (CE*)

810 0910 RRI Merauke, Papua. Excellent with male talks & local ID. Nov 15 (CE*)

828 1210 JOBB Osaka, Japan. Good with NHK2 pgm // 747. Nov 16 (CE*)

837 1218 DYFM Iloilo City, Philippines. Fair with Bombo Radyo IDs. Nov 16 (CE*)

945 1223 CNR multiple locations, China. Good with CC talks // 6030. Nov 16 (CE*)

960 1225 KQKE San Francisco, CA. Fair with talk. Nov 16 (CE*)

972 1234 HLCA Dangjin, South Korea. Very good with KK talks. Nov 16 (CE*)

999 1237 DYSS Cebu, Philippines. Fair with Super Radyo pgm. Nov 16 (CE*)

1026 0914 RRI Serui, Papua. Good with mx show // 4605. Nov 15 (CE*)

1040 1240 KLHT Honolulu, Hawaii. Fair with gospel mx CD ad. Nov 16 (CE*)

1050 0916 KCTC San Mateo, CA. Good with sports talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

1053 1244 JOAR Nagoya, Japan. Fair with JJ techno mx show. Nov 16 (CE*)

1080 1248 KCBS Haeju, North Korea. Good with KK talks // 2850. Nov 16 (CE*)

1090 0919 KPTK Seattle, WA. Poor with usual talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

1098 0830 V7AB Majuro, Marshall Islands. Fair with beautiful music pieces battling with 4LG. Nov 15 (CE*)

1116 1250 CNR Fujian, China. Good with CC talks // 549. Nov 16 (CE*)

1120 0923 KPNW Eugene, OR. Poor with C2C. Nov 15 (CE*)

1134 0925 JOQR Tokyo, Japan. Good with JJ talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

1140 0927 KHTK Sacramento, CA. Presume the one here with talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

1160 0930 KSL Salt Lake City, UT. Fair with talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

1170 1253 HLSR Gimje, South Korea. Big signal all evening long, no sign of RRI or DXMR (CE*)

1179 1256 JOOR Osaka, Japan. Good with JJ talks. Nov 16 (CE*)

1278 1301 JOFR Fukuoka, Japan. Fair with JJ mx show. Nov 16 (CE*)

1296 0939 DXAB Davao City, Philippines. Strong with usual zany news reports & IDs. Nov 15 (CE*)

1332 0941 JOSF Nagoya, Japan. Good with JJ pop mx show. Nov 15 (CE*)

1395 0944 RRI Wamena, Papua. Threw me for a moment, good with EE pop songs like Bon Jovi, then noticed // 4870. Nov 15 (CE*)

1410 0955 CFUN Vancouver, Canada. Fair with talk, hint of a Mexican on fades. Nov 15 (CE*)

1413 1306 JOIF Fukuoka, Japan. Fair with JJ pop mx show. Nov 16 (CE*)

1422 1357 JORF Yokohama, Japan. Good with JJ talks. Nov 16 (CE*)

1440 0958 JOWF Sapporo, Japan. Good with JJ talk. Nov 15 (CE*)

1460 1005 KABL Salinas, CA. Fair with oldies with no sign of KHRA. Nov 15 (CE*)

1470 1335 CJVB Vancouver, BC. Nice surprise to hear this with CC talk & oriental mx show. Nov 16 (CE*)

1500 1309 KUMU Honolulu, Hawaii. Poor here with CNN Radio News. Nov 16 (CE*)

1510 1010 KGA Spokane, WA. Poor with talk, impressed the Eton E1 could separate this from DYAB 1512. Nov 15 (CE*)

1512 1014 DYAB Cebu, Philippines. Strong here and along with DXAB the first Ph to come in. Nov 15 (CE*)

1530 1315 DZME Bulacan, Philippines. Fair with upbeat jingles and noted mixing with ARDS Darwin. First time I've heard ARDS in East Arnhem Land on 1530 kHz, possibly they've had a power increase? Nov 16 (CE*)

1540 1018 KREA Honolulu, Hawaii. Good KK music show. Nov 15 (CE*)

1584 1025 T8AA Voice of Palau, Koror, Palau. Great signal with island talks and beautiful music. Nov 15 (CE*)

1593 0847 V6AK Moen, Chuuk (Truk). Poor with local lang talks, this one hasn't been a good signal since late December last year. Nov 15 (CE*)

1593 1330 CNR, China. Good in CC over mix of others // 4460. Nov 16 (CE*)

Published on December 1, 2006

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