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Seefontein DXpedition
September 11-14, 2006

by John Plimmer

John Plimmer and wife Dawn set off from Montagu at 8.00 am on a cool cloudy day packed to the hilt with DX gear and all the necessary supplies for the four hour drive to Veldrif and Seefontein.

Almost there
Almost there...

The route is over bumpy narrow back roads, but is quite scenic for the first part, but after leaving Porterville the country flattens out to the coastal plain and the flat uninteresting scrubland, which is sparsely populated. We get to Veldrif at 11.30 and find our co-DXer's Vince Stevens and Gary Deacon outside the food supermarket topping up on supplies and getting some lunch.

They get there before us and open up the cottage and find everything ready for us. A quick bite of lunch and the serious business of laying out the various long beverage antenna's begins. Vince, assisted by Gary does his usual superb job of fighting his way through the coastal scrub and gets his wires dead straight and five feet off the deck with the bamboo rods he has brought along. The weather by this time had cleared as we neared the coast and Vince was working with his shirt off catching a dose of mild sunburn and plenty of insect bites from the troublesome horse flies and midges.

FRG-7
Most famous FRG7 in the world?

An hour before sunset (at 6.40 pm.) Vince and Gary are ready and furiously working the band for those Eastern catches which soon start coming in. I get a jumble of strong signals in various Eastern languages but am unable to identify any, but Gary, the master, is soon logging many Chinese and other stations from that area. To see him working his Frog furiously is a picture not to be missed. For those who do not know it and may be under some misapprehensions, his ancient twenty year old Yaesu FRG-7 (Frog) is not a pristine "concourse" condition radio, but rather looks its age and lineage of many coastal DXpeditions. The dials and fascia are encrusted with dust and dirt ingrained into it and the casing is showing severe signs of rust form many exposures to the damp salt encrusted sea air. Gary swears by this old machine and gets the most amazing results from it compared with Vince and my more flashy modern receivers.

Later in the evening the Chinese stations fade but Europe is coming in strongly and soon I have logged Sweden, Romania, Spain and Reunion Island. Vince and I retire early at just after nine, as we want to be up early and fresh for the main target N. America in the morning, but Gary presses on on his own into the night.

Wreck
Other less successful DXpedition

As always, Vince and I are totally impressed with the stupendous reception of rare and far distant stations due to the impressive "sea gain" experienced by inland DXer's when they come to the much more favourable reception by the sea. Gary is a bit blasé about it as he lives by the sea at Fishoek and so good reception is the norm for him.

2AM Tuesday and Vince and I are up already and at the dials, chasing our main target N. America. Gary joins sometime later and we start getting stations from the New York area. This is a pattern that will continue for the next three days, as we get mostly stations from the Northern U.S. Eastern seaboard. Stations from the U.S. mid West and West coast proved elusive. At the end of the day, it may have been a bit disappointing for us not to receive any significant catches from further than the U.S. East coast, but in any event these are all over 7,700 miles/12,500 kilometres away and are not to be sneezed at.

First light is at quarter past six and full sunrise at ten to seven and the signals are still coming in strongly. Vince points me to a nice catch at first light of WHO Des Moines, Iowa. At nearly full sunrise Vince points me to another good catch, Sunrise Radio, London, England. This is on my Kiwa Loop, as my beverage is not pointed in that direction. As usual, the Kiwa does a wonderful job and most of the U.S. signals are just as strong and clear on it as on the 300m/1000ft beverage.

Asian beverage
Asian beverage antenna

The session ends after seven with the sun well up and the two lads are exhausted and go straight for a lie-down. My day is just beginning though as I have to entertain Dawn in recognition of her braving the hardships of the powerless cottage and general hardships of Seefontein. After a leisurely breakfast I take a bath. Bathing at Seefontein is quite an experience, as the awful brown brackish salty water takes twenty minutes to fill with a small amount of luke warm water. This is supplemented by a huge kettle heated up on the kitchen gas stove (a twenty litre container is supplied with clear drinking water for tea and coffee). Later, refreshed we go to town, but first a visit to our landlady is necessary to pay her and arrange for my battery to be charged. The danged Icom and Kiwa chew about 5 amps, so even though I have been loaned a large tractor battery it soon goes flat.

A big advantage of Seefontein is it's lack of mains AC power from a radio point of view - the nearest power line is two kilometres away at the landladies farm and the nearest hamlet is Dwarskersbos five kilometres away. During sunset it is possible to hear quite loud and readable signals from the Far East that are not even registering on the "S" meter; remarkable! Only well after sunset does some minor static come in from miles away from the tropical storms far to the North up in equatorial Africa. Seefontein is truly a DXer's radio paradise, something which makes up for the primitive living conditions with brackish warm water and walking around with paraffin and gas lamps. The cottage is also a bit primitive with only the basics.

Abandoned farmhouse
Abandoned farmhouse

For lunch we get some lovely fresh fish and chips and get back to the cottage at half past twelve to find the two lads still out for the count. After a quick lunch they crash again and literally sleep the whole day away - they must have been quite exhausted after their previous weeks activities. The evening session already starts at six pm. (sunset at ten to seven) as Chinese and Taiwanese stations start coming in. Perth and other West coast Aussie stations soon follow. Again Vince and I doss down early at nine thirty and Gary goes on into the night.

The Wednesday morning session opens well with a flurry of stations from the Caribbean: Granada, Bahamas and Anguilla. This was followed by more stations from the New York area. Then there is a lull and so for a bit of fun I have a look on the LF band for some aviation NDB beacons and find "VTR" Vitoria, Brazil and "ASN" Ascension. Great catches but I wish we could get the MW station on Ascension, but nada. The morning session ends with the regular KVNS Brownsville Texas coming in, topped off with Port of Spain Trinidad well after sunrise at five past seven.

Dawn wants to go shopping in the major regional town of Vredenburg some half hours drive away, so we spend the morning there and return at lunch time for a traditional South African braai (barbecue) that Vince and Gary have been preparing. They have a good log fire burning and we wait for the coals to settle before putting on our assortment of lamb chops, boerewors (farmers sausage) and chicken. Wednesday turned out cloudless with a sun filled sky frying us in the heat and the blinding African sun. We keep cool with some chilled white wine and a few lagers. Well sated, we all head for the sack for awhile before the evening session.

Wednesday evening, our last night, China, Taiwan and Pakistan are coming in strongly and Australia's West coast appears again later. During a lull I get Gary to test drive my Icom IC-756 PRO III and although he is reluctant, has to admit that the modern receivers have many advantages over his ancient Frog, but, he says, family commitments for such necessities as a new swimming pool and other essential items take priority over new radio's....?? That evening Perth and Geraldton came in so strong and clear they were like local stations, but strangely nothing from the East side of Australia which would have been nice. Also of interest was "la city radio de Paris" not heard by me before. Gary is a bit disappointed that he does not get any Japanese stations.

We doss down for the night and are up at four on Thursday morning for our last session. My first station is with a song "God gives you wings", and it sure was as it winged away and I got no positive station identification = disappointing! The U.S. stations start off strong and Nashville comes in, but soon at 5.00 am. they are swamped by the usual Brazilians. Fighting a Brazilian, a station surfaces briefly and I get a very clear ID recorded of "CSVN". Whoopee! That should be a rare Canadian, but when I look in WRTH and the other lists, I can find no such station. So I get Gary to listen and he also confirms CSVN but cannot find it in his lists either. Perhaps, we hope and wonder, it is a new Canadian station that a web search will reveal when we get home. Then we decide to ask Vince for his opinion and get him to listen to the MiniDisc recording without telling him what we think it is. He ID's it immediately as ESPN, a high powered New York station that runs sport and the recording has news of the Yankees, a New York team to support Vince's contention. Oh well, it was a disappointment that it was not an exotic catch, but N.Y. is good DX anyway.

As dawn approaches, Vince and Gary are desperately trying to ID a station on 1700 underneath KVNS Brownsville. As the signals fade, they swear the ads in the broadcast indicate it is San Diego California. Later, back home they are able to ID the station as from San Diego and I am filled with envy for them and jealousy, as on the previous Wednesday morning session I listened to the station for a frustrating two hours without getting a clear ID - they were relaying a live baseball match and did not ID around the hour at 0400 and 0500 = very frustrating!!! This will be the catch of the session as it is 9,900 miles/15,900 kilometres away from us and will have been on only 1 kilowatt power...??!! Well done Vince and Gary.

Then its time to pack up and go, but first off is the tedious job of reeling in all the long beverage antenna's. Somehow, when you lay them out at the start it is light work, but when you have finished and are a bit exhausted from the long night-time sessions it is really hard going. Dawn and I get away at ten, but Vince and Gary are still pulling in the many long wires he has. We stop at Worcester on the way back for some shopping and have a burger at a steakhouse. Everything is in order when we get home and Dawn's 86 year old mother has been well looked after by the house-sitter. I take the hired 12 volt battery back and am overjoyed when the dealer doesn't want any payment for the loan. He obviously had an eye for the fact that my tires are balding and will soon be back to him for a new set of rubber.

So, it was a good DXpedition and we all enjoyed ourselves. Dawn had set out with a bit of trepidation that she would be cast as camp chief cook and bottle washer, but the lads were great and did for themselves and Dawn came home relaxed, and I hope, ready for the next DXpedition...???

RX'S
John: Icom IC756 PRO III
Vince: Drake R8A
Gary: Yaesu FRG-7

Antennas
John: Kiwa MW Loop and 300m beverage on ground to Australia and over the shoulder to New York unterminated
Vince and Gary: sharing 3 Beverages, all between 300 and 400m long beamed as follows:
a) Europe
b) Perth, Australia/ New York, USA over the shoulder
c) Philippines/ Caribbean over the shoulder

351 BRAZIL 0338 13/09 VTR Vitoria, Beacon (JP)
361 ASCENSION ISL. 0338 13/09 ASN Ascension, Beacon (JP)
555 ST.KITTS 0346 12/09 ZIZ R. Basseterre, pops: 'You don't bring me flowers' EE Poor (VS)
630 ROMANIA 0214 13/09 R. ROMANIA Various, //1152 w talks Rom Poor (VS)
640 UNID 0500 12/09 (Suspect RFO GUADELOUPE), Nx & talk FF Poor (VS)
666 REUNION 1826 11/09 R REUNION St.Pierre, in FF (JP)
684 SPAIN 1828 11/09 RNE Sevilla, in SS (JP)
710 USA 0443 13/09 WOR (TENTATIVE) NY, Talk show EE Poor (VS)
720 AUSTRALIA 1643 12/09 6WF Perth, in EE (GD & VS & JP)
729 UAE 1725 13/09 UAE R. Sadivat, sports commentary AA good (GD)
730 TRINIDAD 0505 13/09 TRINIDAD BC CO Port of Spain, Gospel EE (JP & VS)
730 COLOMBIA 0500 13/09 R.LIDER SF de Bogota, ID & ann SS fair (VS)"
747 NETHERLANDS 2301 13/09 R.747 AM Flevoland, news and wx good (GD & VS)
747 SPAIN 0100 12/09 RNE5 Cadiz, ID under Netherlands SS poor (VS)
756 ROMANIA 1900 12/09 R ROMANIA Lugoj, ID and news // 1152 Rom good (GD & VS & JP)
765 SWITZERLAND 0217 12/09 OPTION MUSIQUE Sottens, ID & mx FF good (GD & VS)
783 GERMANY 0140 12/09 MDR Leipzig, Talks & mx GG Poor-fair (VS)
801 GERMANY 1902 12/09 BAYERN 1 Munich, news GG fair (GD & VS)
810 AUSTRALIA 1925 13/09 6RN Perth, in EE (GD & VS & JP)
828 AUSTRALIA 1919 11/09 6GN Geraldton, in EE (GD & VS & JP)
864 FRANCE 1900 13/09 LA CITY R. Paris, in FF (JP)
882 AUSTRALIA 1856 13/09 6PR Perth, commercials & talk EE (JP) & (VS)
900 ITALY 1855 12/09 RAI R.1 Milan, Football in II good (VS)
927 TURKEY 1830 13/09 TRT1 (TENTATIVE) Izmir, Possible ID & talks Turkish? fair (VS)
954 QATAR 1705 13/09 QBS Al Khaisah, anns AA good (GD & VS)
981 KENYA 1637 12/09 ? CRI Voi, news and reports EE poor (GD)
1010 USA 0230 13/09 WINS NY, sport EE (JP)
1017 GERMANY 0221 12/09 SWF Wolfsheim Talks, GG Fair-good (VS)
1035 PAKISTAN 1645 13/09 PAKISTAN BC (TENTATIVE) Multan, in unid lingo w mentions of Pakistan ?? very poor (VS)
1040 USA 0411 12/09 WHO Des Moines, ID newstalk EE (JP) & (VS)
1050 USA 0345 14/09 WEPN NY, sports – syndicated ESPN EE (JP) & (VS)
1053 ENGLAND 0210 12/09 TALKSPORT SYNCHROS Various, ID & phone in EE good (VS & GD)
1053 SPAIN 0216 12/09 COPE (PRES) Zaragoza, Poss ID as 'Antenna1' under Talksport SS Poor (VS)
1053 ROMANIA 1830 11/09 R.IASI Ias, ID's Rom (VS)
1062 DENMARK 1850 11/09 DR P3 Kalundborg, mx, in Danish good (GD & VS)
1089 CHINA 1548 13/09 CNR2 (PRESUMED) Unknown location, talk in CC fair (GD)
1090 USA 0242 12/09 WBAL Baltimore, newstalk/sports EE (JP)
1107 UNIDENTIFIED 1600 13/09 3 stations incl one from Far East poor (GD)
1116 CHINA 1544 13/09 CNR2 Unknown location, anns and mx CC fair (GD)
1116 AUSTRALIA 1856 13/09 6MM Mandurah, Commercials and talk EE (JP)
1140 WRVA 0138 11/09 USA Richmond, Talkback EE Poor (GD)
1152 PAKISTAN 1616 12/09 R. PAKISTAN Rawalpindi, news and current affairs EE fair (GD & VS)
1161 BULGARIA 2000 11/09 R. HORIZONT St. Zagor, ID good (GD)
1179 SWEDEN 1915 11/09 R. SWEDEN Solvesborg, news headlines EE fair with good peaks (GD)
1180 USA 0233 12/09 R. MARTI Marathon Key, ID & anns SS fair with good peaks (GD)
1188 CHINA 1550 12/09 CRI Unknown location, interview EE poor with fair peaks (GD)
1190 USA 0139 11/09 WLIB NY, w gospel mx EE fair (GD)
1224 BULGARIA 1933 12/09 R.BULGARIA Vidin, Talks w many mentions of 'Bulgar' in Bulgarian good (VS)
1233 CYPRUS 1653 13/09 NX Cap Greco, in FF (JP)
1242 FRANCE 1837 11/09 FRANCE INFO Marseille, Talks FF fair (VS)
1242 OMAN 1700 13/09 R. OMAN Seeb, anns AA good (GD)
1269 CHINA 1642 13/09 UNID Chinese station Unknown location, YL singing CC (JP)
1278 FRANCE 1902 11/09 FRANCE BLEU Selestat, talk FF poor (VS)
1310 USA 0358 12/09 WCMS Newport News VA, Sports EE (JP)
1323 CHINA 1620 13/09 CRI NX Beijing, amazingly strong signal EE (JP)
1332 CHINA 1615 11/09 CRI Unknown location, news reports EE excellent (GD)
1332 PAKISTAN 1628 13/09 R. PAKISTAN Unknown location nx // 1152 EE (JP)
1341 N.IRELAND 0124 12/09 BBC R. ULSTER (PRES) Lisnagarvey, BBC WS EE Poor (VS)
1359 SPAIN 1950 12/09 RNE1 Madrid, Football SS Poor-fair (VS)
1386 UNIDENTIFIED 1835 11/09 Mx & talk GG Poor-fair (VS)
1400 GRENADA 0130 13/09 HARBOUR LIGHT OF THE WINDWARDS Grenada, EE (JP)
1413 SPAIN 0240 13/09 RNE5 Various, //1359 w 'Hey Jude' SS Fair-good (VS)
1413 MOLDOVA 1757 13/09 VOR Grigoriapol, Nx RR (JP)
1422 PAKISTAN 1558 13/09 R. PAKISTAN (TENTATIVE) Unknown location, ann: pakistani broadcast poor under Joburg stn (GD)
1431 UKRAINE 1845 13/09 VOR Kopani, ID & web address RR Fair-good (VS)
1440 LUXEMBOURG 0416 12/09 RTL R. Marnach, 'Fields of gold' GG very good (GD)
1449 ITALY 1856 11/09 R.UNO Various, Football in II Poor-fair (VS)
1449 AUSTRALIA 1648 12/09 6TAB Mandurah, racing nx EE (JP)
1458 ENGLAND 0303 13/09 SUNRISE R. London, ID & ann EE Poor-fair (VS)
1467 INDIA 1542 12/09 AIR Jeypore, EE Poor (GD)
1476 THAILAND 1658 12/09 SO. WOR. THOR Lamphun, ann, nat anthem & s/off fair (GD)
1476 AUSTRIA 2000 11/09 ORF Wien-Bisamberg, ID & Interview fair w good peaks (GD)
1480 USA 0428 12/09 UNIDENTIFIED phone interview EE fair (GD)
1485 SPAIN 0443 12/09 UNIDENTIFIED, Anns & football comm SS fair (GD & VS)
1494 FRANCE 0428 13/09 FRANCE-INFO Various, //1242 w tent ID FF Poor (VS)
1503 TAIWAN 1624 12/09 CBS/FAMILY R. Fangliao, in CC (JP)
1510 USA 0206 11/09 WLAC NEWSTALK Nashville, Wx EE (JP & GD)
1510 USA 0359 12/09 WWZN Boston, ads and ID EE fair (GD & VS & JP)
1512 AUSTRALIA 1612 12/09 6BAY Morawa, REM mx EE Poor-fair (VS)
1520 USA 0134 12/09 WWKB Buffalo, talk, ads etc. EE (JP & VS)
1521 SPAIN 0436 13/09 SER Ctra Valenci, Football - La Liga SS Fair-good (VS)
1521 SAUDI ARABIA 1748 13/09 BSKSA Duba, unusual instumental rendition of Nikita AA good (GD)
1530 USA 0156 11/09 WSAI Cincinnati, Sports comm EE fair (GD)
1539 GERMANY 2005 11/09 EVANGELIUMSRANDFUNK Mainflingen, in GG fair (GD)
1540 BAHAMAS 0450 12/09 ZNS1 Nassau, ads and ID EE excellent (GD & VS & JP)
1548 ENGLAND 0432 13/09 CAPITAL R. London, Sky & Tiscali adverts EE fair (VS)
1557 TAIWAN 1615 12/09 FAMILY R. Kouhu, Gospel CC (JP)
1566 INDIA 1554 13/09 AIR Nagpur, interview EE very good (GD)
1575 THAILAND 1531 12/09 VOA Relay Ayutthaya, Special EE (GD)
1584 UNIDENTIFIED 1815 11/09 w mx poor (GD)
1600 USA 0351 12/09 WWRL NY, talk on 9/11 EE (JP & GD)
1610 ANGUILLA 0113 13/09 CARIBBEAN BEACON Anguilla, Gospel EE (JP)
1640 USA 0445 12/09 UNIDENTIFIED w NFL sport talk EE Poor (VS)
1640 USA 0207 13/09 WTNI (TENTATIVE) Biloxi, ads and possible ID EE Poor (VS)
1660 USA 0303 12/09 WWRU Jersey City, In Korean (JP)
1680 USA 0300 14/09 KAVT Fresno or WDSS Grand Rapids, R. Disney programming EE very poor w fair peaks (GD)
1700 USA 0113 12/09 KVNS Brownsville, News (0.88 kw) EE (JP)
1700 MEXICO 0328 13/09 XEPE Tijuana, baseball comm & cash 1700 ID's EE fair with good peaks (GD)

(published on November 29, 2006)

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