Tag Archives: DXpeditions

St. Bandon (3B7A): An all-SDR DXpedition

3B7A Antenna Layout (Source: SunSDR)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Mike Hansgen (K8RAT), for passing along this press release from SunSDR:

The 3B7A Saint Brandon team is now active from Saint Brandon and we are exited! This is the first major DXpedition that will be using only SDR transcievers in its setup.[…]

SunSDR2 Pro

Using past experience from their successful FT4TA expedition to Tromelin island and FT4JA Juan de Nova island Expedition, the experienced team lead by F5UFX Seb build their St Brandon setup around the SunSDR2 PRO transceiver, the SPE 1.3K-FA amplifier and ModMic attachable boom microphone.

3B7A will have 5 x HF stations on air simultaneously. Each station will have a SunSDR2 PRO with E-Coder hardware controller, an amplifier, and a ModMic. Logging is done using WinTest in network configuration and all stations will be able to operate CW, SSB or RTTY.

All 5 stations will have will have identical configuration from the keyboard to the amplifier. This will keep the operator focused on the pile-up and improve redundancy in case of any equipment failure.[…]

Click here to read the full article at SunSDR.

Note that I believe the January 2018 Bouvet Island (3YØZ) DXpedition would have also been one of the first major ham radio DXpeditions to use SDRs (FlexRadio SDRs). Sadly, due to weather and engine problems, 3Y0Z were not able to activate.

The Sony ICF-M780SL: Peter catches some serious MW DX on Gran Canaria

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Peter Wilson, for sharing the following guest post and DXpedition report:


Sony ICF-M780SL MWDX on Gran Canaria

by Peter Wilson

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

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.

Here are the highlights:

USA Transatlantic

1500 WFED booming with ID 5736 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

790 WAXY with ESPN Radio ID 6369 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1540 KXEL 6935 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1530 WCKY 6373 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

770 WABC 5459 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1520 WWKB

ESPN Radio with sports talk. 5841 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

Ocean front around dusk

1350 TWR Armenia 5377 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1521 Duba Saudi Arabia 5004 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

1458 Lyca Radio, Brookmans Park UK 2914 km

Click here to view on YouTube.

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.

Post Readers: make sure you check out Peter’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Click here to search Amazon.co.uk and click here to search eBay for the Sony ICF-M780SL.

Radio Day at Mount Mitchell State Park

Troy Riedel preparing the Tecsun S-8800 and Grundig Field BT for a comparison review.

Shortly after publishing my review of the Tecsun S-8800, SWLing Post contributor Troy Riedel contacted me and asked if I would consider comparing the S-8800 to the Grundig Field BT. Of course I was very curious how the $130 Grundig Field BT might compare with the $268 Tecsun S-8800, but I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment and didn’t really want to purchase another large portable.

Long story short: Troy found a honey of a deal on a perfect Grundig Edition Field BT via eBay. He ordered it and we decided to bring the two radios together yesterday at beautiful Mount Mitchell State Park the highest point east of the Mississippi river.

Yesterday was an ideal day, too. The weather was picture-perfect, the park was (surprisingly) not too busy and propagation was the best I’ve experienced in weeks.

Troy left early in the morning and embarked on the 6+ hour pilgrimage to Mount Mitchell–I only live an hour away, so it was a casual drive for me. We met at noon.

Parks On The Air

After a quick lunch, we deployed my Elecraft KX2 with EFT Trail-Friendly antenna and made my first Parks On The Air (POTA) activation.

You might recall I was very active during the ARRL National Parks On The Air (NPOTA) program last year, but since then I’ve done few field deployments. It was great fun to get on the air again and do a park activation for the World Wide Flora & Fauna POTA program.

While we didn’t log a lot of stations, I was still impressed we worked stations from Texas to Quebec to the Azores. Not bad for 10 watts SSB!

Sure, I only worked a handful of stations, but this activation was essentially unannounced so chasers had no advance notice. No doubt, many more POTA activations are in my future! The bug has bitten!

Radio Fun

Except for a break to eat dinner at the park restaurant and a short hike to the peak of Mount Mitchell,  we played radio until about 8:00 PM. It was amazing, uninterrupted fun.

Troy spent a lot of time comparing the Tecsun S-8800 with the Grundig Field BT and made several videos. No doubt, he’ll post his thoughts and review in the near future!

Being a bit of radio geek, I couldn’t help but bring a few “extra” radios and accessories. Here’s what I packed:

We were a little disappointed to discover that both my Tecsun PL-680 and Grundig Satellit exhibited flaky behavior.

During my S-8800 comparison tests, a few weeks ago, I did notice that sometimes when I turned on the PL-680, it was absolutely deaf. Next time I turned it on, it worked fine. Yesterday, the PL-680 simply didn’t want to perform. I’m not sure what happened.

The Grundig Satellit, on the other hand, worked great, but sometimes if you touched either the antenna or even brought your hands near the radio body while tuned to a station, it would go deaf. You could correct this by tuning off frequency, then back on–still…very strange! It’s as if the AGC or RF gain were hanging up.

Have any Post readers experienced this before? I’ll look into the issue this week and reset both radios. Perhaps that will help.

A great “Mini DXpedition”

Thank you, Troy, for suggesting the meet up and for making the pilgrimage. It was great meeting you in person! I also thoroughly enjoyed watching someone else do comparison tests and exploring a new radio–Troy certainly has a knack for doing radio evaluations!

This has encouraged me to do more meet-ups, perhaps during my travels. Great fun!

Post Readers: be on the lookout for Troy’s comparison of the Grundig Field BT and Tecsun S-8800 in the coming days/weeks (no pressure, Troy!).

UPDATE: Click here to read Troy’s comparison.

Preparing for Your Next DXpedition – New Videos

Regular readers of the SWLing.com blog will be aware that I am passionate about going portable/mobile with my radio listening hobby. There’s just nothing like communing with both nature and a bunch of electrons whizzing along the wire!

As a follow-up to an article I wrote several years ago, I have now prepared two new YouTube videos entitled Preparing for Your Next DXpedition – Parts 1 and 2.  

Part 1 covers:

– why we should even think about bothering to go portable with the radio

– the goals to consider when undertaking a DXpedition

– planning your listening depending on the time of day and time of year

– the all important decisions regarding location


Part 2 discusses:

– choosing the right radio for portable operations

– your options for powering the radio

– the antennas you could consider including on the trip

– handy auxiliary equipment

– references and notes to take along with you

– the importance of operator comforts while away

– developing a checklist…..so that you don’t forget to take something important!

These videos will be of interest to shortwave radio listeners and new amateur radio operators. Hopefully, they may be able to assist you in further enjoying our great hobby. They are embedded in this blog post below. You can also view these and other videos on my YouTube channel at Rob Wagner’s YouTube Channel

 

As always, thanks for watching and your comments are always welcome. 73 and good DX to you all,

Rob VK3BVW

Rob Wagner, VK3BVW, is the author of this post and a regular contributor to the SWLing Post. He also blogs at the Mount Evelyn DX Report.

Gary DeBock’s April 2017 Kona, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Gary DeBock, who shares the following notes and recordings from an Ultralight DXpedition in Kona, Hawaii:


April 2017 Kona, Hawaii Ultralight DXpedition

The first long-range test of a “Frequent Flyer” FSL Antenna

By Gary DeBock, Puyallup, WA, USA April 2017

Introduction

Ever since the U.K.’s Graham Maynard published his innovative article about the “Ferrite Sleeve” antenna in early 2011 an enthusiastic group of DXers and tinkerers has continually refined and upgraded the design, with most of them going in the pursuit of maximum possible gain. Monster FSL models were designed with weights of up to 38 pounds (17 kg), and considering the size, weight and subversive appearance of the typical model, the general assumption was that this new type of antenna was highly unsuitable for air travel, since it would send airport security personnel into a serious panic.

This situation continued for a full 6 years, during which the FSL antenna became a star performer in the related new niche of ocean cliff transoceanic DXing. But was there another possible application for the antenna’s compact performance advantage? What if a very lightweight, high-performing model could be designed which would not only provide a huge boost in DXing gain, but fit inside a hand-carry suitcase, and routinely pass airport security screening inspections around the world? This was a tough design challenge, but well worth the effort if successful!

Since the new antenna would need the maximum possible performance for its small, lightweight size, the use of the Russian surplus 100mm x 20mm x 3mm ferrite bars was mandatory. Every possible effort would be used to make the antenna as compact and lightweight as possible, although the choice of the highest-sensitivity 1162/46 Litz wire was critical for best performance. The PVC frame would be shrunk down to the smallest practical size. Finally, in a major experimental effort here over the winter season, the first of the new 5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL’s became a reality. The finished antenna had a very non-subversive appearance, and could fit inside a custom-sized plastic tote within a hand-carry suitcase. Most importantly, it could still deliver a serious amount of inductive coupling gain– roughly similar to that provided by a 4 foot (1.22m) air core box loop, but with the advantage of somewhat lower noise reception.

Because the Russian surplus 100mm x 20mm x 3mm ferrite bars are extremely scarce (without any current supply source) only five of these original “Frequent Flyer” models would be made, although alternative models using the commonly available 140mm x 8mm ferrite rods were also designed. These antennas would be somewhat heavier and larger, but these “Baby FSL” ferrite rod models could be easily assembled from parts available on eBay, fit inside the hand-carry suitcases, and still deliver a lot of DXing performance (while routinely passing airport security screening). Finally, an economic model using the commonly available 62mm x 12mm x 4mm Russian surplus ferrite bars was also designed. This lightweight FSL can be constructed for around $65 US, and can still provide a serious DXing gain boost to a stock Ultralight radio. For want of better terms, these three classes of “Frequent Flyer” FSL antennas are called the “first class,” the “business class” and “coach class” models, with FSL sensitivity scores (ferrite length x coil diameter) of 585, 490 and 300 respectively.

From April 9-12 a Mini-DXpedition was conducted on a 6th floor oceanfront room at the Royal Kona Resort Motel in Kona, Hawaii. This was the first of many long-range DXing trips based upon the performance boost provided by the compact new antenna– which was specifically designed to easily pass through airport TSA security checkpoints. A 5 inch (127mm) “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna was packed inside a matched-size plastic tote within a hand-carry suitcase, and breezed through TSA security screening in both the Seattle and Kona airports (without even a single question ever being asked). This was one of the “first class” Frequent Flyer models described previously, and was used to boost DX station gain on a 7.5″ loopstick C.Crane “Skywave” Ultralight radio. This combination was effective enough to track down many exotic Pacific Island stations (540, 621, 1440, etc.) at S9 levels during transmitter-site sunset skip propagation into Kona, as well as Asian TP-DX of varying strength around local sunrise.

This Kona trip was primarily designed as an anniversary celebration with my wife, so before we took off I had (somewhat reluctantly) agreed that DXing would have a secondary priority to sightseeing over the four days. Because of this there were many frequencies that could not be investigated in Kona, but I knew very well which Pacific island stations were tough challenges in both North America and Japan, and I was determined to go after them with a vengeance. 540, 621 and 1440 would all receive serious attention in Kona– not because they were great challenges in Hawaii, but because most DXers in both North America and Japan needed all possible information about them if they were to have any chance of reception at all. Besides this I was eager to try my long-range luck chasing exotic Asians around local sunrise with the innovative FSL antenna, but I knew that east-west propagation was almost totally dependent upon solar activity– and as it turned out both the A and K indexes shot up after our arrival.

Overall the Kona MW propagation to the Pacific islands was exceptional around local midnight (as expected), but the sunrise propagation was somewhat challenging for long range Asians. Perhaps the biggest success of this entire trip was the interest and excitement that the “Frequent Flyer” FSL antenna series (the major experimental project here this past winter) has inspired among DXers who routinely travel to foreign countries and other faraway venues. As I write this Craig Barnes of Wheat Ridge, Colorado is conducting his own 5 inch “Frequent Flyer” FSL- based DXpedition to Hawaii. Good luck, Craig!

Recordings

[Note: a selection of audio files have been embedded in the post below, but all audio is available to download and stream via the links provided.]

531  6DL?   Dalwallinu, Australia   Presumably the one with the same-sounding announcer and program as the one on 630-4QN at the time (at 1547 on 4-9; see MP3 for 630-4QN), but it didn’t seem to be exactly parallel (maybe a time zone delay?)
https://app.box.com/s/7bg1hruxrufccuys5axc4yzumexr3q36

540  2AP   Apia, Western Samoa   This station features a lot of Samoan music (with both male and female announcers), and dominates the frequency in Kona at night as long as it transmits. Unfortunately it doesn’t follow the listed PAL sign off time of 1000, but runs past this time routinely, which made it tough to track down an exact sign off time during my limited sessions. My guess is that it signs off sometime between 1030 and 1100. The following MP3 is of S9+ level Samoan Christian worship music at 0931 on 4-9. This overwhelming signal was one of the most awesome recorded during the entire DXpedition:

https://app.box.com/s/8ejvx8s7udh5ibtqymtxs5ew65mquqcl

Energetic Samoan music at 0956 on 4-12. This is typical of the station’s music format

https://app.box.com/s/tbo84s7gb2jci6gfxkawo7rsqpmpkyp3

More typical Samoan choral music at 0835 on 4-11 — a staple of programming in the station’s format

https://app.box.com/s/z8ecbvx14fyqx0tpjtw2ahy2r7omhst4

Relaxing Samoan choral music at 1013 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/v50700yxviojl4qkkdgh9omdx1hf0yrl

The usual male announcer in Samoan at 1028 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/03xy87zls2aqqz52oiz8pbobi9f433rt

The usual female announcer in Samoan at 0856 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/6rkd8ckcd1005fyc5itupxowaf6jqhex

558   Radio Fiji One   Suva, Fiji   Somewhat of an underperformer considering its South Pacific location and (nominal) 10 kW power level. My guess is that the station has some transmitter and/ or antenna issues. Here is some fair level male speech with island music at 1001 on 4-9, which was the strongest signal it managed during the entire trip

https://app.box.com/s/ly0u5y34rg85e1aotimyjjj1bksunsd3

558   UnID-TP    Once again, this weak signal sounded a lot like the 630-4QN program at the time (1548 on 4-11), so my guess is that 6WA in Wagin, Australia is the most likely possibility

https://app.box.com/s/10plmz0gumpjk7ymwi6ay44oqzo67ong

603   HLSA   Namyang, S. Korea   One of the common Asians which ran the gauntlet of dicey solar activity. It was fairly good at 1521 on 4-12, but was MIA during a couple of days

https://app.box.com/s/9s3g67w2j5ge9ggsj31kwuwnqmfdiyh9

621   3RN   Melbourne, Australia   This LR network station would start to fade in just when Radio Tuvalu was about to sign off (around 1000), although it never provided any serious competition for the exotic station. This MP3 was made just after Tuvalu’s sign off at 1006 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/x0k4bnu3jmytorhzjphz5a6nqyet4h5r

621  Radio Tuvalu   Funafuti, Tuvalu   A very tough station to track down on the mainland, but certainly a “piece of cake” in Kona. Routinely has sign off at 1003 UTC, preceded by island choral music and the national anthem (sung by the same choral group). Around 0950 a female announcer begins the routine by giving a monolog news broadcast about 5 minutes long, typically followed by an island music song right before the fixed 5-minute sign off routine. The latter two features are included in the following 8 minute recording (at near S9 strength) made at 0955 on April 10

https://app.box.com/s/3z2ql91i5afhhi6kmjsnvos4p9q2j56y

The usual female announcer with her 5 minute news broadcast at near S9 strength at 0955 prior to the sign off routine on April 11. The lady giving the correct pronunciation for “Tuvalu” is at the 11 second point

https://app.box.com/s/knpjrxdb40p7hfe9xx7djlwyz3fzf8j3

Around five minutes of typical Island choral music at good-level strength at 0921 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/0vouj030pvoxy96o7xtvg45zq0uxed1n

Here is a different recording of the female-announced news broadcast just prior to the sign off routine at 0956 on 4-9 (at very good strength)

https://app.box.com/s/u0rg1xlye0le5jth12x8wccw6nc5sv99

630   4QN   Townsville, Australia   This 50 kW station was far and away the strongest Australian signal heard throughout the trip. Unfortunately it wasn’t in the same time zone as fellow LR network stations on 531 and 558 in Western Australia, making parallel checks seem dubious. Here is a typical signal at 1543 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/j82og05m8v4umqacm78e41cs1xht21to

657   Pyongyang BS   Pyongyang, N. Korea   This bizarre station was far and away the strongest Asian heard during the trip– almost like it was a South Pacific semi-local. When solar activity cooled off it could blast in with serious power, such as at 1555 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/9exi01zvab4y2fjemxbqhz6ma1q3gv8o

For those who really don’t mind wacky-sounding music (this is your final warning), the 3 minute long version of this signal is posted at

https://app.box.com/s/m69fuqcxrjul7y06wu5f5ge63bap3cka

693   UnID-TP   This mystery signal showed up at 1604 on 4-9, after NHK2 (JOAB) sign off. Obviously there is male speech and some kind of backup music at various times, but I’m totally unfamiliar with stations on this frequency (except for JOAB). Any hints or suggestions? This station only showed up on 4-9; rising solar activity brought in only 690-Honolulu splatter on the other three days

https://app.box.com/s/8yabwqs7llyac52tsfv4taannfuggedq

774   JOUB   Akita, Japan   Solar activity limited the usual potent signals from this NHK big gun, but it did manage fair strength at 1505 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/uigxcvv382u7ryq1k1xqcsvw7uuj5bd9

972   HLCA   Dangjin, S. Korea   Another Asian big gun taking somewhat of a hit from unfavorable solar activity at 1517 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/uigxcvv382u7ryq1k1xqcsvw7uuj5bd9

1017   A3Z   Nuku’alofa, Tonga   Island music at very good strength at 0944 on 4-9; this station was strong every evening at this same time

https://app.box.com/s/6cq35g3lio356v4hserwpehi5o3cofcc

Live play-by-play of a sports competition at 1015 on 4-12, with a “goal” at the 10 second point in the recording

https://app.box.com/s/umg0rj0as6h97wmwqsrqni57scs1woee

The usual male announcer in the Tongan language at very good strength at 0835 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/4ngp7fhuru3l6rmvgxnkqftu9nzmu3sn

The same Tongan male announcer at good level at 0953 on 4-11, obviously on “island time,” with very long pauses in his speech pattern

https://app.box.com/s/4y59xljxk0d24kvtbab8yjvnc5q1gc71

1035   Newstalk ZB   Wellington, NZ   Received late in sunrise enhancement at 1611 on 4-12, this was a rather modest signal from the Kiwi big gun, which never seemed to get anywhere close to its Oregon cliff strength during the entire trip

https://app.box.com/s/1lwotewd38bn4z26l786ihjv5eyuklzf

1098   V7AB   Radio Marshalls   Majuro, Marshall Islands   One of the regular Pacific island stations received in Kona, and one of the best bets for Mainland reception. The frequency has very little QRM, although Newstalk ZB could be weakly received in between the island music songs after around 0900.

Strong island music at 0955 on 4-9 (its best performance during the trip)

https://app.box.com/s/cmqbngvvtnfvkm201jqlpcbws4te5wk5

More energetic island music at 0958 on 4-9

https://app.box.com/s/nvljx11f8tvrnrb2hyelci4fsxjwff93

Typical island music on the same night at 0948 (4-9)

https://app.box.com/s/znb2botiiuzq7201xponc35c7o06blov

1098   Newstalk ZB   Christchurch, NZ   Heard only once in between island songs on V7AB (at 0957 on 4-9); and never really strong enough to compete for the frequency with Radio Marshalls

https://app.box.com/s/x1i5e35rxkzgx6wxrnome06r9g2122j5

1440   Radio Kiribati   Bairiki, Kiribati   Because of its domestic frequency this obscure station is another of the toughest Pacific island stations (and countries) to receive on the Mainland, but some very helpful identity clues were discovered in Kona (where the station is a breeze to hear). The station routinely signs off at 0936 UTC each evening, with a very loud 1000 Hz audio tone right before it cuts power. The sign off routine includes station ID’s in both the local language and English around 0932 prior to the choral music national anthem, although because of her heavy accent the fact that the female announcer is talking in English might well go unnoticed. The full sign off routine is included in the following MP3, preceded by an Island music number (during which a 1440 Spanish pest attempts a run on the frequency, only to be immediately drowned out)

https://app.box.com/s/s9sgwesnmi3ljjf1fkuhlsb08st7ty5y

The station uses a distinctive 4-bong time signal on the half hour, as in this recording made at 0929 UTC (at the 35 second point).

https://app.box.com/s/ks6n49yjreqdykdu2am76jl7qqj9mvyu 

The American country music format can be heard prior to the 4-bong time signal.

Prior to the sign off routine this station also uses its female announcer to give a final news update (like 621-Tuvalu). This recording is of such a news update at 0925 on 4-11, with several mentions made of the American president

https://app.box.com/s/a1zx6jelrvhguyzjfy6b5dgwlfjfceij

This station plays a lot of American country music (of all formats). Here is typical programming at 0912 on 4-11

https://app.box.com/s/fdtbl3tk01yz7u2y5lb7xyaaauc33km8

1566   HLAZ   Jeju, S. Korea   Fairly regular with its Chinese Christian service around 1530 each morning in Kona, but never at very great strength (possibly due to unfavorable solar activity). Here at 1609 on 4-9 it is the music station playing the Chinese version of “I Would Rather Have Jesus,” in a mix with the (presumed) Mainland Chinese Yanbian Jammer

https://app.box.com/s/m66yi638bm6r1vrigiewo9680yuydvk6

1566   Yanbian, China   (Presumed location, Jammer)  Because of Chinese inflection this is the apparent co-channel of HLAZ in the same recording at 1609 on 4-9; it was also received at 1600 on 4-10 with Chinese 5+1 time pips (thanks to Chris Kadlec for his assessment)

https://app.box.com/s/m66yi638bm6r1vrigiewo9680yuydvk6

1593   CNR1   Changzhou, China   Good strength at 1525 on 4-12, with co-channel NHK2 quite a bit weaker underneath

https://app.box.com/s/3shbri3d8hfpaej6kvzyklkz6kl1oq4j

1593   NHK2   Matsue/ Niigata, Japan   In a mix with CNR1 at about an equal level around 1520 on 4-12

https://app.box.com/s/my9bdqgobvo4iuvgd3hhrkh9yap28xgr

The “Business Class” Frequent Flyer FSL antenna


Many thanks, Gary, for sharing your Kona DXpedition report and audio with us! It sounds like you had a great vacation and some excellent DX to boot!