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Tuckers Rocks DXpedition
July 16-21, 2007

by John Schache, Craig Seager and Phil Ireland

Craig and I had often discussed the possibilities of a DX-pedition to the North Coast of NSW. Although we had the benefit of a noise-free location at the family farm, it was tucked away in a valley with our long antennas pointing straight at a high point in the mountain range. We are well aware of the advantages of a coastal location and, in addition, it is always good to go and do something new with your hobby whatever it may be.

We had decided that a location no more than a day’s drive away and as close to the sea as possible was the way to go. A search of the net came up with a few possibilities with Tucker’s Rocks Cottage (25 km south of Coffs Harbour and 550 km north of Sydney) being the final choice. A search of Google Earth and an aerial photo supplied by Phil confirmed what the agent had told us – only two houses were nearby, the closest being 100m away.

It is on the edge of a National Park and only 250m from the beach. A booking for five nights was made, leave was arranged and a couple of get-togethers sorted out the logistics. Craig and I would drive the 800 km or so on the Monday with Phil coming up by train on the following Wednesday.

Tuckers Rocks Cottage and a couple of stray DX-ers doing something odd with wire.

Day 1: Monday 16th July

We had packed the day before and somehow managed to cram all our gear into Craig’s car ready for a 6 am start. We headed north, along the inland route, on a road which is infested with kangaroos at this time of day. Sure enough, we had one close call not far out of Bathurst and had to keep our eyes peeled until full daylight. Our journey took us through the country music capital of Tamworth to the old university town of Armidale, then down through the lush greenery of Bellingen to Urunga where we were to pick up the cottage keys. A quick trip was made to the supermarket to grab some supplies and a slab of beer, then we were off to the Promised Land of DX … or so we hoped!

The cottage proved basic but more than good enough for our needs. We re-arranged the furniture and set up DX-Central in a sun room with a view of the bushland and the sea. For the first night we just ran out 100m of wire to the east and were set up by around 0700 UTC. Our receiving equipment was a Dansk RX 4000, Rhode and Schwarz EK 890, NRD 525 and Icom R75. We both had MP3 recorders with a cassette recorder each as back-up. In addition, I had a laptop with Geoclock, the B-Log logging programme and Total Recorder all available. For those interested see the article entitled “Emerging Techniques of High Tech DX-peditioning” on the DXing.info website. I can only endorse the comments made in this article as all three are easy to use and I now consider a laptop highly desirable on a DX-pedition. There were some noise issues (which had not been the case at home) for some reason but they were not serious.

DX Central
DX-Central. John (foreground) and Craig hard at work

Upon switch-on we found the 0 channels dominated by Spanish, mainly Mexican stations, with the US not as evident as we would have thought. Not being Spanish speakers, we had lots of fun trying to sort things out and, at the same time, explore the MW band in a location well away from our usual haunts. Apart from logging some of the regulars for the record, highlights were: R. Rebelde 1180 and 710, KOKE Texas (500/250 watts) 1600, and KSTP 1500. We lost listening time when the frozen pizza in the oven decided to turn to charcoal and we had to dash to Urunga, arriving at the Chinese restaurant only just before it closed!

Day 2: Tuesday 17th July

We awoke to sunshine and birdsong – a big difference to Bathurst with its cold and grey weather at this time of year.

First item on our agenda was the question of antennas. The terrain to the east and north drops away steeply and is heavily vegetated. We could have ran beverages into the national park, left the wire laying across a gravel road and used them unterminated, but did not like that idea. Instead we eventually constructed 2 x EWEs (4/10/4 and 6/20/6 at 0 and 80 degrees) as well as stringing up a random wire. We also found a pathway that led to a headland and we ran out 200m at 145 degrees, terminated with a pot set to null a station to the rear. This last antenna proved deaf for some reason. We eventually decided the penguins in Tierra del Fuego were not broadcasting and altered the bearing to 120 degrees. This improved matters but it was still rather deaf. Either the bearings did not coincide with propagation or the tall trees it ran through were detrimental somehow.

A trip into Coffs Harbour for essentials including scotch and Coke as well as groceries was timed so that we were back at the dials at 0530 (3.30 PM local). Signals were starting to fade in already, again with a preponderance of Spanish to be heard. Radio Formula on 1470 was logged as was Radio Educación on 1060 at 0700. I followed a station on 910 at 0717 which I suspect to be either Venezuela or Columbia. Again, the tapes have yet to be reviewed. A mysterious station was heard on 846 behind Tarawa playing the same hymn continually. Maybe there is something new testing?

At 1037 R. Minuto de Dios 1370 from Colombia was heard, thanks to sunrise enhancement. From Mexico, XEB was strong, being easily heard in wideband mode. After around 1230 some of the east coast US stations hang on for an hour or more after their local sunrise and the Hawaiian stations are more easily heard without all the clutter.

Day 3: Wednesday 18th July

Craig was up bright and early to catch the St Helena broadcast but heard zilch! So it was back to bed for a sleep-in before arising once more for a bacon and egg breakfast. The morning was occupied playing with antennas and feeling smug; while I was strolling on the beach, others were back home in the snow and ice. At one stage I looked out to sea and saw two whales walking past about 300m off-shore. We could also spot them from the deck outside the cottage. So how good is that! After picking Phil up from the railway station that afternoon we headed back to the dials once again.

The view from the 200m beverage looking south

KOKE made another appearance at 0718, Tonga 1017 and Kiribati 846 were heard as expected and KMRB was heard with its Chinese format. Of particular interest was the strong SS speaking station on 1470 during the evening. We suspect it may be the Peruvian but there is still a fair bit to review on the recordings we made during the evening. Again, there was lots of Spanish around. Reception tapered off around 1130 so we took a couple of torches outside to try and spot koalas by night. None seen, so we think that they are actually mythical beasts.

Day 4: Thursday 19th July

The morning was spent having a look at some of the local bric-a-brac (read junk) shops which are always interesting. You never know if you might find an old Watkins-Johnson at a good price … We wound up in Coffs Harbour for a late lunch before heading back mid-afternoon. A walk on the beach was solitary as the surf was heavy, there were no whales, and no people to be seen either. Back at the dials at 0530, the highlight of my evening was reception of Radio Latina, Venezuela on 1470 at 0719. In general, reception was flat after about 1130.

Phil, who had gone to visit a fellow antique radio collector, returned early evening and asked us who had stolen our front gate! Well, Craig and I rushed out to make sure he was not delusional and, sure enough, the gate was gone! The mystery would be explained the next day, but all we could do that night was to notify the Real Estate agent of the theft. On top of this, a resident marsupial had invaded our supplies and ruined two packets of cashew nuts as well as some chocolates we had left on the kitchen bench. NOT GOOD.

Day 5: Friday. 20th July

The day was spent on a day trip to the village of Bellingen up in the hinterland. There were lots of things to see, great coffee and apple crumble (Phil had to have his fix) and I got a chance to find a gift for my other half. Before leaving, we made a trip to the fruit bat colony on Bellingen Island. It’s well worth a look even though the odor is strong and it is best not to stand directly underneath their roosts for obvious reasons.

That afternoon, fade-in was a very early 0515 UTC, nearly 2 hours before local sunset. First station in was CPN Radio, Peru on 1470 followed rapidly by our other marker stations. Despite this promising start, reception was not particularly good this evening. Craig was greatly amused by the 20 minute advertorial for colonic irrigation on KKLF 1700 and I was pleased to hear an old friend in the form of KNX 1070.

Day 6: Saturday 21st July

Pack-up day. The antennas were soon taken down and our pile of luggage crammed into the car – no mean feat, I can tell you. Just out of Dorrigo the car failed to proceed in a forward manner. After limping back, the diagnosis was a collapsed catalytic converter and clogged exhaust system - we were not going any place soon. A hire car from Coffs Harbour was booked with one of the locals driving us back to pick it up in return for suitable monetary consideration. We transhipped most of the gear to the new car and finally departed south. To the sounds of the southern blues of John Lee Hooker and the rhythms of Mali’s Habib Koite we drove into the night, through the hamlets and towns of the Northern Tablelands, and back to our homes and loved ones after a great week away.

Don’t stand underneath these guys!

Epilogue: A Nasty Surprise and a Mystery Solved.

Our trip to Tuckers Rocks was a lot of fun and well worthwhile in terms of DX. As a location, it was generally quiet but with some noise from the adjacent house on our 200m Beverage. There is scope for long antennas but they would have to be unterminated for reception from the Americas. The EWEs performed very well and it did not matter than the forward lobes are broad as we found that reception would sometimes change rapidly from one station to another as if a switch was thrown. Fade-in was from around 0530 and fade-out of the US stations was around 1230 or so which left the Hawaiians in the clear.

The cottage is more than comfortable and we indulged in plenty of non-DX activities such as bush walking, photography, whale watching and walking on the beach. We were an easy drive from Coffs Harbour and the local tourist attractions. The mystery of the missing gate was eventually solved; it was taken by the NPWS ranger for repair and returned the next day.

On the Monday after getting home Phil called me, and said that he had been bitten by a brown snake while dismantling the antennas. He had not received a full dose of venom and, other than feeling very weary, had no other obvious signs and did not find the puncture marks till the next day. Thankfully he is OK, but it is a warning to all those who venture forth with long wires in long grass!

Trail from Tucker’s Rocks

This listing is a combined listing and does not cover SW loggings. New Zealand stations are omitted but many were heard and often dominated their frequencies.

153 R.Rossii, Komsomolsk. RR nx 1305, weak on 19/7. (Seager)

164 R.Mongolia, Ulan Bator. Mongolian nx 1305, then brief mx piece, weak 19/7. (Seager).

189 R.Rossii, Belogorsk. Fair ion RR 1338, talks 19/7. (Seager)

279 R.Rossii, Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk. The best of the LW Russians this night, fair 1343 w/RR talks, //189 etc., 19/7. (Seager)

540 Samoa Broadcasting Corp., Apia. Fading up and down w/Radio Rhema and ABC 0745. Also heard at 1000 w/NA on 17/7. (Seager)

558 R.Fiji 1, Suva. Quite good xed 4GY, nx in Fijian 0726, 17/7. (Seager, Schache)

585 NBC, Port Moresby. Very strong xed 2WEB w/election coverage interviews 1430, //3290 etc. Normally off at 1400, 17/7. (Seager)

590 KSSK ,Honolulu. 17/7 1309. Well heard at 1309 with EZL music with ID preceding. Heard earlier but not so well. (Schache)

666 Noumea. Radio Nouvelle Caledonie. 17/7 0500. Heard through the day, even at noon. Improves late afternoon of course. (Seager, Schache)

680 KNBR, San Francisco. Baseball discussion 1027, ESPN IDs, good 17/7. (Seager)

684 R.Fiji, Labasa. Island singing group 1027, well under c/c 2KP, but surprised to hear it at all as 2KP is basically the local ABC outlet, //558, 18/7. (Seager)

690 KHCM, Honolulu. C&W songs, ID 1015, quite good on 19/7. (Seager)

710 R.Rebelde, La Julia. OK, despite QRM from Aussies on 711, male vocalist 0838, 16/7. Also good at 0857 17/7. (Seager, Schache)

729 R.Nouvelle Caledonie, Touho. Good xed 5CL, but nowhere near as good as //666, 0744, pops, 16/7. (Seager)

730 Ecuador. Radio Guayaquil. Reviewed the tape and found a nice ID at the start. Fair strength on a peak but faded down after a few minutes. Very pleasing. (Schache)

760 KGU, Honolulu. Religious session 0819, good and regular, but xed another this night, 17/7. Also 1307 17/7. (Seager, Schache)

770 KKOB, Albuquerque NM. Talkback discussion about exorcism 0721, promo for Coast to Coast/Art Bell 6-10pm Saturdays, 19/7. (Seager)

820 WBAP, Fort Worth TX. ID for the Midnight Trucking Radio Network 0826, talk format, ID 0829, nx 0830, wx 0833. Px sponsored by a particular model of truck, 18/7. (Seager)

830 KHVH, Honolulu. Good w/talk format 1328, ID 1329, nx 1330, adverts 1331, including one for Aloha Power Equipment, 19/7. (Seager)

846 R.Kiribati, Tarawa. Mixed up with the Aussies here 0751, not all that strong, talks in vern. 19/7 (Seager) Strong at 0717 on 1/7. (Schache)

846 Unidentified., 17/7 0725 - Strongly heard at 0730 continually playing the instrumental version of a well known hymn. No announcements, so wonder if this was something new testing. (Schache)

910 KNEW, Oakland. Promos that mentioned stn. Call letters 1105, talk format. Heaps of grief from the NZer on 909, 18/7. (Seager)

927 R.Fiji, Sigatoka. Mixed up with the Aussies here 1029, but easy to pick out with the mx selection & //558, 684, 18/7 (Seager)

1017 A3Z Nuku'alofa. 18/7 0758. In a mix with 2KY and R. Hauraki at this time. Also noted 0747, 16/7 KSSK. (Seager, Schache)

1020 KTNQ Los Angeles.16/7 1225. Heard at 1225 in SS. Not as strong as I would have thought given this is a regular at home. Also 0813 19/7. (Seager, Schache)

1040 KLHT, Honolulu. Religious session 1307, preacher, not one of the stronger Hawaiians in recent years, but regular, 17/7. (Seager)

1050 KTCT, San Mateo. Sports discussion 1046, up and down with the Mexican, 16/7. Still audible at 1318 17/7, well after sunrise at the transmitter site. (Seager, Schache).

1060 XEEP, México City. Equal level w/6185 on peaks, classical mx 0738, occasional measured SS anncts. 17/7. (Seager, Schache)

1070 KNX, Los Angeles. ID of sorts 0859, talked about covering Los Angeles and Orange County, CBS nx 0900, good 18/7. Also 0708 20/7. (Seager, Schache)

1090 XEPRS, Rosarito. EE Sports discussion 0648, ID as “Sports Radio”, xed another w/talks, 20/7. (Seager)

1090 KPTK, Seattle. ID as “AM 10-90” 1135, talk format, phone number given, 19/7. (Seager)

1100 KFAX, San Francisco. Preacher 1152, kinda unique sounding guy, quite animated. Good on 17/7 and 18/7. (Seager, Schache)

1110 KAOI, Wailuku. “Coast to Coast AM” px 0847, fair only on 18/7. (Seager)

1120 KPNW, Eugene OR. “Coast to “Coast AM” px 0845 w/call-in, fair 18/7. (Seager)

1150 KTLK, Los Angeles. IDs as “AM 11-50” 1255, dropped away quickly, but good on peaks, 17/7. (Seager)

1180 R.Rebelde, Villa María. Very good 0835 w/musica romantica, //5025, 16/7. (Seager, Schache)

1200 WOAI San Antonio, Texas. 19/7 1051 - ID after advert block.
Heard at home but surprising it was not much here. (Schache)

1220 XEB, México City. Good w/slow romantic mx 0755, brief slogan 0757, ID 0833 re-check, following nx, 16/7. Huge at 1148 17/7. (Seager, Schache).

1270 KNDI Honolulu. 17/7 1333. Here with rock mx and advert for dance club. (Schache)

1280 KXTK, Arroya Grande. ESPN pxing w/IDs 1258, xed SS speaker, fair 19/7 (Seager)

1320 R.Monitor, México City. Good 1201, piano piece, running //1560, also well heard, 17/7. (Seager)

1370 KUPA, Pearl City. Seems to be a txer active here, piano mx 1450 & at earlier times. Propagation patterns point to Hawaii; standard reference sources have always been vague about the operation here, 17/7. (Seager)

1370 HJBO, Minuto de Dios, Barranquilla (Columbia). 17/7. Up from the slush at 1047 with sunrise enhancement before fading quickly down. Splash from the New Zealander on 1368 made this difficult. (Schache)

1410 XECF, Los Mochis. Continuous mx, ID 0641 as “La Mexicana”, advert for Banco de México, 17/7. (Seager)

1420 KKEA, Honolulu. Sports talk format 0810, good on peaks, 16/7. (Seager)

1430 KMRB San Gabriel. 18/7 1237. Almost certainly the one here with CC pxing in the general mix. Only peaked every so often. (Schache)

1420 KKEA Hawaii. 18/7 0622 - ESPN Sports radio ID. Nice level and near word perfect on the Nth EWE. (Schache)

1460 KION, Salinas. Nx 1204, TCs UTC-7, adverts. 1209, mention of Monterrey County, two IDs 1211, then wx. Xed presumed KHRA, 17/7. (Seager)

1460 KHRA, Honolulu. Songs 1355 t/in, brief KK anncts. 1359, then back into mx. Recently reactivated. 17/7. (Seager)

1470 KUTY, Palmdale CA. PSA for Public Information Offices for the city of Los Angeles 0753, xed SS speaker, 20/7. (Seager)

1470 YVJW Radio Latina, Valencia (Venezuela). 19/7. Heard on sunrise peak. Rapid-fire news items, IDs at 1037 and 1041. Disappeared a few minutes later. I can die happy now but Craig reckons that that will be inconvenient! (Schache)

1470 CPN Radio Peru. Heard on several occasions with fast-paced news and network IDs such as at 0755 18/7. Also heard as early as 0515 fade-in and with religious programmes. (Schache, Seager)

1470 XEAI Radio Formula. 17/7 - ID at 0535. Up for several minutes. Heard on subsequent evenings. (Schache)

1500 KUMU, Honolulu. Discussion about terrorism 1325, nx 1330, ID as “KUMU Radio” 1332, adverts, promo for “KU-MU AM 1500”, steady signal 17/7.Also 16/7 at 0829. (Seager, Schache)

1500 KSTP Saint Pauls, Minnesota. 16/7 0933. Faded up over KUMU with news. Adverts for leather goods. (Schache)

1520 KOKC, Oklahoma City. ABC nx 0800, advert. For mortgage broker 0802, ID 0805. Good, xed another, 16/7. (Seager, Schache)

1540 Unidentified, 19/7 0615. Heard with continual music, no announcements till 0720+. Also heard later in the evening. Bahamas possibly. At least that is what we were hoping for. (Seager, Schache)

1540 KREA Honolulu. 17/7 0700. Heard with KK programme 0755 and 0848. Not strong and mixed with others. Was hoping for Bahamas but no such luck. Possibly this is the one often heard as a het at home. (Seager, Schache)

1560 R.Monitor, México City. Good w/classical piano piece 1158, through the hour, over another SS speaker, 17/7. (Seager)

1570 XERF, Cuidad Acuña. Fast-paced Latin mx 0730, brief anncts. which were at a lower level, fair 16/7. Big in SS each evening and heard from around 0530. (Seager, Schache)

1580 KBLA Santa Monica. 18/7 0625. Dominant over R. Disney 0637 with excited religious harangue. (Schache)

1600 KOKE Pflugerville. 18/7 0638. News and talk px. Well heard with topics such as health care and Iraq. ID 0700. Is 500 / 250 watts. (Schache)

1640 KDIA, Vallejo. Nx, wx, ID as “KDIA, San Francisco” 1304, devotional message, good on 19/7. (Seager)

1660 WCNZ, Marco Island. Talkback/interview, religious themes, ID as “Relevant Radio” 0617, good 17/7 over another. Also good 18/7. (Seager, Schache)

1660 USA Merced, CA KTIQ. 17/7 1239. Fading out at 1239 with SS format. (Schache)

1670 KHPY, Moreno Valley. SS talks, seemingly religious 0807, xed another, 16/7. Also 17/7. (Seager, Schache)

1680 KAVT, Fresno. Assume this, rather than lower-powered KDDZ, both listed for Radio Disney, promos 0958, xed SS mx stn. 18/7. (Seager)

1680 Unid. SS speaker, possibly KDOW, Seattle. SS adverts 0620, accordion mx, OK on 19/7. (Seager)

1690 KFSG, Roseville. Latin mx 0827, fair on 20/7. (Seager)

1700 KKLF, Sherman TX. Short fade cycle, only in for a few seconds at a time, TC for 7.30 at 1130, then into nx. Xed 2 x SS speakers, 17/7. (Seager)

1700 KVNS, Brownsville TX. Latin mx 0705, ID “Esta es la musica ….La Preciosa”, annct. advert. 20/7. (Seager)

1700 XEPE, Tecate. Extended infomercial for a product called “Dual Action Cleanse”. Did you know that the average male has 5-22lb of undigested matter stuck in his colon? Illuminating! Phone-in with testimonials 0711, ID as “Cash 1700, where money talks”. Mentions of San Diego, 20/7. Also 17/7. (Seager, Schache)

Published on September 12, 2007

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