DXpeditions are the solution for urban DXers trapped in a noisy environment, lacking the real estate for erecting long aerials and yearning after a DX-fix. The solution is to find an electrically quiet environment (preferably near the sea) where aerials can be installed without threatening life (human or fauna). And some DXers go to extreme lengths to obtain these requirements, for example the Scandinavians who frequent Lemmenjoki in the Finnish Arctic Circle and suffer the extremes of weather conditions.
Because DXpeditions are often in remote, electrically quiet conditions, a mains power supply may not be available, with the nearest power-pole some distance away (hence the need for battery-operated receivers and tape recorders). Other non-existent luxuries like hot water, telephone (& internet) connections and nearby shops make planning important. In such circumstances the DXers ingenuity is challenged as everything from cooking meals to charging batteries to staying clean and staying in touch becomes a consideration.
Sleep-deprivation, bad weather, lengthy journeys and all the other ‘negatives’ are usually more than off-set by the quality of the reception, the chance to experiment with aerials, receivers, splitters etc and above all by the comradeships formed. Days are spent collecting firewood, the odd aerial maintenance chore, recounting the previous night’s experiences, tales of ‘the one that got away’ or sleep (MW DX is best at night so the candle often gets burned at both ends and in the middle too!).
And a successful DXpedition usually doesn’t end when you’ve arrived home. There will be numerous reception reports to write and magazine articles to prepare (having a lap-top on the DXpedition is a great idea!).
Some famous DX-sites
Grayland, Washington, USA
Cappahayden, Newfoundland, Canada
Te Araroa, Tiwai, Waianakarua, Opunake
Choosing A Site
There are numerous factors to consider when looking for a site. Ideally, it should be in a remote area, away from nearby power-lines, miles from the nearest MW/LW transmitter, close to the sea, having a comfortable place to stay and large enough for long aerials.
Remote areas usually mean farmland. Ideally flat ground with the odd tree to assist erecting aerials. The presence of fences can be handy though a note should be taken that even with all-wooden posts, the chemical treatments to prevent the posts rotting away (eg. tanalising) leaves them conductive (albeit with a relatively high resistance but a concern nonetheless). If you’re going to use a fence, either insulate the wire wherever it touches the posts, or run a separate wire along the top.
In New Zealand, the preponderance of electric fence units can ruin an otherwise promising site. A quick check with an AM radio listening for tell-tale clicking is a good test. Electric fences are usually their noisiest during a dry period and a good rain fall lowers the level of noise by improving their ground conductivity and washing insulators tracking high voltage across dusty paths. Electric fences are generally only found on stock farms so other rural land uses like extensive horticulture may offer a lower noise level than in a dairying area,
Overhead power lines, particularly high voltage varieties should also be avoided. If the choice is between a quiet, battery-powered DXpedition and an “all the comforts of home” mains-run version, I’d take the former any day! Noisy power lines also benefit from a good rain to clean insulators etc. Underground power supplies are a good deal quieter as there is no exposure to the elements to cause noise (and they’re fairly deep as those poles are quite long!).
And the further away from MW & LW transmitters the better as well. Even with directional aerials, locals will be a pest though you’re invariably going to be better off than DXing from home. Other possible sources of RF interference like non-directional beacons (marine and aeronautical NDBs), GPS stations and the like should be checked too.
A site close to the sea is also a benefit. Absorption of signals by ground attenuation is more pronounced the further inland you go. So saying, my Beverage site at Waianakarua is 7km from the coast and reception there is very good. I’d tend to exclude anything more than 10 – 15km from the sea.
When To Go
My favourite months for DXpeditions are around the Autumnal and Vernal equinox, which are late March and late September respectively in the Southern Hemisphere, the opposite in the Northern Hemisphere). Reception from near-polar paths is best around these times though good signals on mid-latitude paths also occur in January/February and October/November.
If you’re into long-term planning, the lowest point of the solar cycle is also the time to chase signals. That means 2006 through 2008 will be prime DXpedition years and I’ll certainly be looking forward to then!