Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes from his Cook Islands Ultralight DXpedition:
Sunset on the Cook Islands
Aitutaki Sunset DX
Aitutaki in the Cook Islands had some dazzling sunsets, and [my wife] loved to take sunset pictures with her new phone. Of course, I participated as well. As a result, sunset DXing was pretty rare while on the trip, although 7 USA mainland stations crashed the Kiwi sunset skip DXing sessions later in the evening around 0700 UTC. None of the usual Vancouver-Seattle-Portland-San Francisco TP-DXing pest stations made it to the South Pacific, though– and I didn’t miss them a bit! 🙂
610 KEAR San Francisco, California (5 kW at 4,610 miles/ 7,419 km) “Family Radio for the West Coast,” Christian religious format received at fair level at 0835 UTC on 4-12:
1170 KFAQ Tulsa, Oklahoma (50 kW at 5,642 miles/ 9,080 km) Strong signal over apparent DU English co-channel with “Coast-to-Coast” ID at 44 seconds; thanks to Richard Allen for confirming the broadcast of the program on the station at 0845 UTC on 4-12:
Checking out transoceanic DX propagation at an exotic ocean beach site can provide the hobby thrill of a lifetime– if a DXer is lucky enough to choose the ideal time, place and gear to make the chase. All of these fell into place in an amazing way during a 5-day trip to Aitutaki Island (2600 miles due south of Hawaii) with Ultralight radio gear, resulting in the reception of MW stations in India, Bangladesh, Mongolia and Cambodia– all at over 6,800 miles.
Because of extensive QRM from Australia and New Zealand the total number of Asian stations received was limited, but it was definitely a case of quality over quantity. Phenomenal gray line propagation around sunrise shut down Japanese signals almost completely, but boosted up those from the exotic countries in east and south Asia. Korean station reception was limited to the big guns, which was also primarily true for Chinese signals. Except for the ANZ pest QRM, the conditions seemed custom-designed for a west coast DXer to go after the exotic stations which rarely– if ever– show up in BC, Washington or Oregon (even though the Cook Islands’ distance to them is greater).
7.5 inch loopstick C.Crane Skywave SSB Ultralight
Ocean beach propagation at sunrise was strong enough to bring in both 693-Bangladesh and 1431-Mongolia at S9 levels almost every morning on my Ultralight gear, and allow both 657-AIR and 918-Cambodia to break through ANZ QRM on April 12th. No doubt many more of these exotic stations could have been logged except for Australian QRM on 576, 594, 872, 883 and 1566, but this only added to the thrill of the chase. The overall results were exceptional for a DXer using only a 7.5 inch loopstick Ultralight radio and 5 inch “Frequent Flyer” FSL– all designed to fit within hand-carry luggage, and easily pass through airport security inspections. Thanks very much to Alokesh Gupta, Hiroyuki Okamura, Jari Lehtinen, Chuck Hutton and Bruce Portzer, who all assisted in the identification of these stations!
657 All India Radio Kolkata, India, 200 kW (8,075 miles/ 12,995 km) Recorded by accident during a sunrise check of the Korean big guns at 1641 on April 12, reception of this longest-distance station went unnoticed until file review after return to the States. The female speaker (in the Bengali language) is the third station in the recording, after the female vocal music from Pyongyang BS and the Irish-accented male preacher from NZ’s Star network. Her speech peaks around 40 to 50 seconds into the recording. The isolation of the Star network at the 55 second point was done by the Ultralight’s loopstick, not by the propagation. Thanks to Alokesh Gupta for the language and station identification:
657 Pyongyang BS Pyongyang, N. Korea, 1500 kW Like most east Asian signals the N.K. big gun sounded pretty anemic in the Cook Islands. Its female vocal music at 1641 on April 12th shared the frequency with NZ’s Star network (Irish-accented preacher) and AIR’s female Bengali speaker:
693 Bangladesh Betar Dhaka, Bangladesh, 1000 kW (7,960 miles/ 12,810 km) Probably the biggest surprise of the DXpedition, with S9 signal peaks on 4 out of 5 sunrise sessions. Frequently snarling with the Oz pest 3AW, it usually managed a few minutes on top of the frequency each morning from 1630-1700 UTC. Exotic South Asian music was the usual format, and was very easy to distinguish from the talk-oriented format of 3AW (and other Oz co-channels). This first appearance at 1652 on 4-10 featured a “Bangladesh Betar” ID by a male speaker at 8 seconds into the recording (thanks to Chuck Hutton for listening):
774 JOUB Akita, Japan, 500 kW Oddly enough, this was the only Japanese signal making it to the island during the entire trip. Mixing with a goofy-sounding 3LO announcer at 1613 on 4-11, the Japanese female speech concerns a “doobutsuen” (a “zoo” in Japanese, similar to what the frequency sounded like with the 3LO announcer):
909 CNR6 Quanzhou, China, 300 kW Strong signal with CNR ID (1:08) and Mandarin speech by male and female announcers. NZ’s Star network was apparently off the air at the time, since it was a real blaster when transmitting:
918 RNK Phnom Penh, Cambodia, 600 kW (6823 miles/ 10,981 km) Breaking through the Shandong and Oz QRM at an ideal time to dominate the frequency, its sign off transmission with the National Anthem peaked just before the 1700 TOH on April 12. Female speech in the Khmer language and exotic music are featured just before the anthem (thanks to Hiroyuki Okamura and Jari Lehtinen for listening, and identifying the National Anthem):
Shandong RGD’s transmitters were poorly synchronized, resulting in the two-tone time pips at the 1700 TOH on 4-12 (during Cambodia’s National Anthem at 1:40, in the MP3 linked below). Although actually from two different transmitters, the sound effect sounds similar to that of a “cuckoo clock,” resulting in some initial confusion about their source:
1377 CNR1 Synchros (Various) Overall this was not only the strongest Chinese frequency on the band, but was the strongest Asian station on the band as well. Awesome S9+ signals were typical each morning, as with this male speech and music at 1622 on 4-12:
1431 Mongolia (Relay Station) Choibalsan, Mongolia, 500 kW This station was easy to receive on the first attempt, with very little competition on the frequency. It typically managed an S9 signal after 1630 daily with the BBC’s Korean service, which seemed to be broadcast during the peak sunrise enhancement time in Aitutaki’s ocean-boosted propagation. Here is BBC’s Korean male announcer at an S9 level at 1632 on 4-11, with the BBC interval signal at 47 seconds into the recording:
1566 HLAZ Jeju, S. Korea, 250 kW A very poor signal was typical during this trip, with the Chinese service barely showing up under 3NE and two other DU English stations (probably 4GM and Norfolk Island). Whenever 3NE was in a fade it had a chance, since other two co-channels were running very low power. Here is the latter situation, with the weak Chinese barely audible under the DU English snarl at 1641 on 4-12:
Amazing, Gary! Thank you for taking us along on your excellent Ultralight DXpedition. With a modest portable radio and a little antenna ingenuity, you’re enjoying some outstanding DX! You’re living proof of the point I was trying to make in a post yesterday!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following note about his recent Cook Island DXpedition:
The farthest DX received during the Cook Island DXpedition (on Aitutaki island) was 657-All India Radio in Kolkata, India, at 8,072 miles (12,991 km). Recorded by accident during a sunrise check of the Korean big guns at 1641 on April 12, reception of this longest-distance station went unnoticed until file review after return to the States.
The female speaker (in the Bengali language) is the third station in the recording, after the female vocal music from Pyongyang BS and the Irish-accented male preacher from NZ’s Star network. Her speech peaks around 40 to 50 seconds into the recording.
The isolation of the Star network at the 55 second point was done by the Ultralight’s loopstick, not by the propagation. Thanks to Alokesh Gupta for the language and station identification!
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes from his Cook Islands Ultralight DXpedition:
Cook Islands (Aitutaki) Ultralight DXpedition from April 8-13
A gorgeous environment, with thrilling long range DX! Ruth and I took this trip as the 38th anniversary of out first meeting at Victoria Peak in Hong Kong (April 10, 1980).
DXing highlights were the reception of 693-Bangladesh, 918-Cambodia and 1431-Mongolia on the 7.5 inch loopstick C.Crane Skywave SSB Ultralight and 5 inch “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna (designed to provide inductive coupling gain equal to that of a 4 foot air core box loop, but in a much more compact size).
693-Bangladesh 1652 UTC April 10 (mention of Bangladesh at 8 second point; thanks to Chuck Hutton for listening):
I have spent the last two months in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean.
I travelled light and didn’t bring my radio/SDR collection with me.
A portable I saw in a local department store caught ny eye, and I ended up buying one from a local electronics retailer which had it on special at €55. It is a Sony ICF-M780SL which as turned out, is something rather special. It is a four band (LW, MW, SW,FM) DSP receiver, with an AM IF (LW, MW,SW) of 45 kHz and an FM IF of 128 kHz.
There’s too much hash in my apartment block to use it at home, but as I am a couple of streets away from the Ocean I intended to use it there.
Problem is there almost as much RF hash at the oceanside as at home. Also the Atlantic breakers crash loudly on the shore, and the wind can howl quite loudly. I did have some limited success and have included a couple of clips.
I discovered a better DX location at a small Plaza a short distance inland from the Ocean. There is an early morning peak for MW TA leading up to about 07:30 UTC (= local time)
The radio is used barefoot in each clip. There is some camera hash.
The Sony ICF-M780SL is a great MW/LW/FM performer. SW propagation has been mediocre and suffers from the RF hash QRN, so difficult to test.
Amazing, Peter! It’s hard for me to believe the reception you had of WFED (Federal News Radio). I listen to that station every time I go through the DC/Baltimore area and I think your reception is just as good. A TA crossing of almost 5,000 km with armchair copy! Quite an accomplishment!
Thank you for sharing your Gran Canaria DX with us. I’m pretty impressed with the Sony ICF-M780SL as well.
The description indicates that they are pre-owned by inmates at a Tennessee federal prison. As of this writing, there are 8 left.
The one I got was in pretty good shape cosmetically, all things considered, and works perfectly. Given that a brand new FP version of the SRF-39 is not likely to be seen again at $20, a used one such as this with a bit of history is not a bad deal for those of us that missed out when snagging one new was an option.
Although it makes me wonder what they are being swapped out for and if we might see an increase of these pre-owned ones coming up on eBay now.
Thanks for sharing, Vance! Twenty dollars (or possibly less through a Best Offer) is a fantastic deal, in my opinion, for the elusive SRF-39FP. Click here to read out previous posts about the SRF-39FP. Indeed, I’m mighty tempted to drop $20 on a spare unit myself. (Thanks for enabling me, Vance!)
It appears the seller has a stellar reputation on eBay too.
Clearing the southern coastline of Maui en route to the Big Island. (Photo by Gary DeBock)
Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor and intrepid Ultralight DXer, Gary DeBock, who shares this DXpedition summary with recordings:
Kona, Hawaii DXpedition– Pacific Island Results
by Gary DeBock
From December 17-20 a Mini-DXpedition was conducted in Kona, Hawaii with a 5 inch (13cm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna and a 7.5 inch (19cm) loopstick C.Crane Skywave Ultralight radio.
The FSL antenna was a new type designed to easily pass through TSA security checkpoints at airports, and provide inductive coupling gain roughly similar to that of a 4 foot air core box loop. South Pacific island reception was generally good from 0630-0800 UTC daily, but usually became problematic after that when powerful Asian stations tended to drown out the exotic Pacific island stations as sunset progressed over Japan, Korea and China. By 0900 daily only the most powerful Pacific island stations on 621, 846, 1098 and 1440 had much of a chance of surviving the Asian signal onslaught, and even some of those were drowned out. During a similar visit to Kona, Hawaii with identical gear in April (DXing at the same motel) the Pacific island stations were generally stronger, and had no co-channel competition from the Asians from 0800-1030 UTC. As such the South Pacific results during this trip were slightly down from April, although there were still plenty of strong signals to record.
The new 846-Kiribati on Christmas Island was a star performer as the strongest island DU station, with local-like signals shortly after the Hawaiian sunset each evening. Despite this it had an intermittent transmitter cutout issue, with the signal failing to transmit at odd intervals (including one stretch with six signal dropouts within one minute, as documented in an MP3 linked below). In addition 846-Christmas Island’s programming had a variable time delay with that of distant 1440-Kiribati in Tarawa, with both a 19-second and 35 second time delay noted. This may be related to the transmitter cutout issue, with the time delay changing after a major dropout. DXers looking for a parallel with 1440 should keep this programming quirk in mind. Although both 846 and 1440-Kiribati signed off at the usual 0936 UTC time on the first couple days of the trip, they had both switched to a 1009 UTC sign off on the last couple of days. Whether this is a permanent programming change is unknown, but the loud 1000 Hz audio tone is still being broadcast before power is cut, resulting in a very easy way to distinguish the stations at sign off time (even in heavy domestic QRM).
846 and 1440 weren’t the only exotic DU’s with transmitter issues. 621-Tuvalu came down with distorted audio on December 18th, a problem which got worse and worse on the remaining two days. By the last day it was sounding very garbled, making a bizarre combination with 621-Voice of Korea’s buzzing Japanese service transmitter. Whether 621-Tuvalu has repaired its garbled audio is also unknown.
540-2AP was somewhat weaker than it was in April, while 558-Radio Fiji One was MIA during the entire trip (probably because of Asian QRM). Efforts were made to track down 630-Cook Islands but only a weak UnID was recorded. 801-Guam was possibly received during a Pyongyang BS/ Jammer fade, but 990-Fiji Gold was given a golden knockout by 990-Honolulu. 1017-Tonga showed up for a couple of good recordings, but got slammed by Asian co-channels after 0830. Efforts to track down 1035-Solomons ran into heavy 1040-Honolulu splatter, while 1098-Marshalls became the only Pacific island station to have stronger signals than in April. Its overwhelming signals after 0700 daily were one of the bright spots in Pacific island reception. Finally the new 1611-DWNX in Mindanao, Philippines was received at a strong level at 0855 on December 19th, apparently with a major boost from sunset skip propagation.
540 2AP Apia, Samoa, 5 kW Christian worship music at a good level through the T-storms at 0751 on 12-17, but not nearly as strong as in April:
621 R. Tuvalu Funafuti, Tuvalu, 5 kW This station had very strong signals until around 0800 on most evenings, when it usually began to be pestered by Asian QRM (China, N. Korea and NHK1). It also came down with a garbled audio issue on December 18th, which continued to get progressively worse until I left Hawaii. Sign off time is still around 1006, but by that time it ran the gauntlet of powerful Asian co-channels during the December propagation.
Local employment offers read by the usual lady announcer at an S9 level at 0750 on 12-18. This was the last undistorted audio signal recorded from the station during this trip; after this the audio went “south”:
Full Radio Tuvalu sign off routine at 1003 on 12-18, but with China QRM initially. Tuvalu’s signal prevails during the national anthem, but the audio distortion is quite noticeable. The carrier apparently stays on for over a minute after the audio stops:
630 UnID While trying for the Cook islands (Rarotonga) I came across this weak Christmas music with English speech at 0742 on 12-17, although this could just as easily be a west coast domestic station playing the “exotic” to fool a hopeful DXer. Walt says this station is a notorious underperformer:
846 R. Kiribati Christmas Island, 10 kW This newly rejuvenated station had awesome signals, and was overall the strongest Pacific island station received. Of all the Pacific island DU’s it faded in at the earliest time after sunset, and maintained its strength even during strong Asian propagation — as long as it managed to transmit without its signal dropping out. Unfortunately this seemed to be a pretty common occurrence while I was in Kona. Island-type music at typical S9 strength at 0735 on 12-18:
After a prolonged 846 transmitter dropout it seemed like the programming time delay between the distant 1440-Kiribati on Tarawa Island and the new 846-Kiribati on Christmas Island would change. On December 17th I recorded two different time delays– 19 seconds, as in the following recording (the MP3 starts out on 846 at 0635, switches to 1440 at the 1:02 point, then switches back to 846 at the 1:34 point, with a 19-second time delay evident between the 1440 and 846 programming (846 lags behind):
1098 R. Marshalls (V7AB) Majuro, Marshall Islands, 25 kW This station was very strong in Kona with its island music every night, and rarely had any Asian co-channels.
S9 Island music and native language speech (and possible ID) across the 0700 TOH on 12-17:
1440 R. Kiribati Bairiki, Tarawa, 10 KW Somewhat weaker than its rejuvenated 846-Christmas Island parallel (which has variable programming delay times, as explained above), this home transmitter could hold down the frequency until around 0800 every night, after which it was usually hammered by JOWF in Sapporo. Despite this it often put up a good fight until its new sign off time of 1009, and it continues to use the loud 1000 Hz tone right before the power is cut (an awesome aid for DXers hoping to ID the station through heavy QRM).
Typical island language speech and strength level at 0830 on 12-18, just as it is starting to get jumbled by JOWF (a Japanese female “Sapporo desu” ID is at 25 seconds):
1611 DWNX Naga City, Mindanao, Philippines, 10 kW (Thanks to Hiroyuki Okamura, Satoshi Miyauchi and Mauno Ritola for ID help) Received at 0855 on 12-19, this station was a mystery until the Japanese friends matched the advertising format with that of a new, unlisted station which just came on the air in the Philippines. The propagation apparently got a major boost during sunset at the transmitter:
Thank you for sharing your Hawaiian DXpedition with us, Gary! Your mediumwave DX catches with modest equipment reminds us all that when HF propagation is poor, there is still so much signal hunting below 2 MHz!