No seasoned shortwave DXer can forget one of the most distinctive interval signals ever–the “barnyard animals” which marked the beginning of the broadcast day of Radio Botswana, Gaborone, for decades.
On its long-time frequency of 4820 kHz, Botswana was an occasional catch for me from the Seattle USA area. I yearned for clearer, more reliable reception of this station and other Africans which my East Coast USA DXer pals enjoyed!
Zebras mingle with other animals at Chobe National Park, Botswana.
It was always fun–and a DXing challenge–to catch Radio Botswana’s interval signal and sign-on announcements, but it was typically mid winter for reception in Seattle. Propagation on 60 meters needed to be favorable to enjoy anything other than a weak, barely listenable signal. Imagine my surprise and excitement when on the evening of December 27, 1987 I came upon the following signal booming in on 4820 kHz, far, FAR better than any previous Botswana reception. Indeed, their signal that evening surpassed in clarity even the Papua New Guinea and Indonesian “regulars” I would hear on the tropical bands from the Northwest USA.
This recording begins with the famous barnyard animals interval, the beautiful Botswana national anthem (Fatshe leno la rona, or This is Our Land in English) and is followed by a full list of broadcasting frequencies and times in English and the (presumed) Setswana language. That information is followed by a flute instrumental version of the Christian hymn Beautiful Savior, which introduces a short devotional or scripture message. The 10 minute recording wraps up with an a cappella children’s choir.
Great Circle route from the Gaborone transmitter to Seattle receiver location.
My receiving setup for this 1987 recording was an ICOM IC-R70 and a 300 foot long random wire antenna. Such a long antenna is unusual for the middle of an urban area, but I took advantage of living in a 3rd floor apartment across from a small city park. One midweek day, while most folks were at work, I managed to string out this long antenna with very small diameter braided steel wire from the 3rd floor apartment balcony to a distant treetop. This “sloper” antenna had significant directivity to the northeast, which happens to be the bearing for many African stations heard from the Pacific Northwest USA. The small diameter wire was suspended so high that it was virtually invisible from ground level.
Antenna orientation for 1987 reception of Radio Botswana. I’m sure this urban location is plagued by QRM and radio frequency interference now in 2016! My ICOM IC-R70 receiver handled the strong signals from nearby MW & FM broadcasters surprisingly well with the addition of a Grove Tun3 Mini-tuner preselector.
I continued to log Radio Botswana occasionally on 60 meters until the station eventually left the air (early 2000s I think), but I never heard them again with such a strong, clear signal as in late December 1987!
Guy Atkins is a Sr. Graphic Designer for T-Mobile and lives near Seattle, Washington. He’s a regular contributor to the SWLing Post.