Marathon Ultralight Radio Track Down of 362-WK (25 watts at 11,017 km)

Gary DeBock

If anyone ever wondered why a DXer would want to set up on the side of a plunging ocean cliff at 0500 local time and go all-out to track down "impossible" transoceanic DX on "hopelessly" humble gear, the Rockwork ocean cliff on the Oregon state coast delivered a perfect example on August 13th-- the last day of my DXpedition with Tom Rothlisberger.

The Longwave NDB-DXing hobby is based on advanced SDR receivers and state-of-the-art filters, which can track down and isolate extremely weak NDB's at long range when assisted by large broadband loop antennas. On the other hand the Ultralight Radio NDB-DXing hobby is based on a cheap, AM-mode-only $50 pocket radio, which gets somewhat of a boost from a 12 inch (30cm) diameter Longwave FSL antenna if a live DXer is lucky enough to track down a long range beacon during good propagation while stuck in the AM mode (with a wimpy DSP filter, which allows reception of anything within 3 kHz). So why does this wacky hobby exist? Because of the supreme challenge of tracking down any long range Trans-Equatorial NDB's with such basic gear, and the supreme feeling of accomplishment when you beat all the odds and score a rare success.    

On August 13th the South Pacific longwave propagation was exceptional at the cliff, and I knew I had a fighting chance to score some choice DX with the Ultralight + FSL combo. I had uploaded a list of Tom's record-breaking 2019 South Pacific NDB results into my phone, and during peak propagation the New Zealand and Cook Island beacons seemed to be scoring big, while others were MIA. The 50 watt flea-powered New Zealand beacon 366-SF in Springfield had just made a return appearance at a weak level (after 8-8) at 6,822 miles (10,977 km). So why not push my luck for all it's worth and go after a 25 watt beacon in the same area-- 362-WK in Whakatane? (6,846 miles/ 11,017 km)

On 362 kHz there was indeed some weak Morse code from the South Pacific, but even after 2 minutes I still couldn't be completely sure of the call letters in the wickedly noisy ocean cliff environment. The signal seemed to tank just when I had identified a "W," and I thought my chances might be toast. But the weak signal came back gradually, and while going through this marathon I thought to myself, "WK must stand for "weak!" But finally there was a boost in signal strength, and I could clearly make out the "WK" signal identification after the thrilling 3 minute marathon (which was fully recorded, and is posted at the following link for those who wish to relive the excitement of the ultimate live DXing challenge without the ocean cliff's 18-wheeler noise, which made it much more difficult at the time)

25 watts at 6,846 miles-- I almost felt like jumping into the Pacific for joy!

Gary DeBock (DXing at the Rockwork ocean cliff near Manzanita, OR, USA)
7.5inch loopstick Tecsun PL-380 Ultralight + 12 inch Longwave FSL


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