Long-Path Lunacy

By Paul Ormandy

I had been hoping that my long weekend ( Friday, Saturday, Sunday & Monday, 4th – 7th of October 1996), would bring a few new long-path Europeans – I wasn’t to be disappointed! They faded-in just prior to 0500z (5 p.m. local) with the sturdiest Spaniards vaporizing around 0640z.

Friday night saw in the “usuals”, R Monte Carlo 1467, Spain 1107 & 1485, V of Russia, Wachenbrunn, Germany 1323 and Deutschlandradio, Heusweiler 1422. All of these logged previously but the latter was so good (and as yet unverified) that I re-logged it. Nothing new yet promise of things to come with carriers and weak pieces of audio on a good number of channels namely 963, 999, 1062, 1089, 1503 & 1593.

Saturday night started with a surprise – Switzerland on 1566 followed by Spain 1107, another Spaniard mixing with semi-local 4YQ 1134, SWF Rheinsender, Germany 1017, V of Russia back on 1323, SER synchros toppling NZer 2XA on 1602, TDF Nice audible through NZer 2ZH on 1557 then I decided to venture lower down the dial and was pleasantly greeted by weak bits of audio on 576, 657, 693, 738, 747, 774 and a loggable signal from TDF Limoges 792 from 0539, towards 0600 someone was interfering, switch aerials and hey presto! – SER Sevilla! Started logging them but the signal soon faded. Then back up the dial checking possible Spaniards and settled on 1485 who was really going strong, 0621 came local id for 2kW R Santander followed by a promotional announcement. After 0630 things dried up.

Sunday night was slow to start with a few weak signals of the previous nights but nothing substantial. I checked the bottom end of the band again and took a double-take when I hit 702, normally dominated by NZer R Pacific, there was something underneath, within a few minutes AA talk came up stronger and stronger eventually on par with the NZer! It was DW via Monaco! From Radio Monte Carlo’s Mt ngel transmitter. They faded 0540 so off I went still gob-smacked at hearing long-pathers on such a low frequency when I hit 747, something weak at first so I grabbed the WRTH and noticed that Canary Is were here, expecting the unexpected I stayed put, however when the signal peaked a bit I could tell that it was Dutch! Another first – The Netherlands! They held in till 0608 before sinking under. I checked out 693 again hoping for the BBC and could have convinced myself that the weak talk was English but couldn’t be sure. Off up to 792 and this time SER Sevilla held on past 0630 for a good log.

Monday night -the last night. Could it last? – yes! First up was RFE Holzkirchen 1593 in Czech then later in Slovak, (an unid with EE on 1197 under NZer 2ZW – VOA Munich?) followed by R Euzkadi on 963 and the RNE synchros on 774. What a pity that I wasn’t staying for the whole week – or two weeks! Now to write the reports…..

It was very exhilarating, DXing with the WRTH open to the African/European pages and dodging the usually hunted 10kHz splits in favour of the long- pathers – so guess where I’ll be next October!

I found the temptation too hard to resist so went to Waianakarua again on the 15th of October to see if the long-pathers were still there and if they were, to log Switzerland “R Eviva ” 1566 and/or R Free Europe 1593, well the latter wasn’t strong enough however Switzerland was. The stations faded in about 20 mins later than last week, i.e. around 0520. 1593 dropped out around 0545 and 1566 at 0555. Then found Portuguese on 693 – the AZORES!!!! with news 0603 and Spain on 774 also all-news, until clobbered by Fiji fading up around 0630. 693 faded out about 0655! A lot of stations heard the previous week were still there but not as strong so I would rate this night not as good as last week but also different in that the Azores came through well where as last week it didn’t appear at all.

The rest of the night wasn’t characterized by poor signals from the USA, in fact there were some good East-Coasters like WABC, WFAN, WCBS, KDKA, KYW, WQEW and best signal yet from WJDM 1660. Spent some time listening to a religious program on 960, hoping it would be something unusual but it turned out to be CFAC! They have fooled me before with a sports broadcast, a break from their standard C&W format.

My receiver is a Drake SPR-4 and the two aerials used for the above were one of 400m (1400ft) aimed at Mexico/Florida which brought in the Spaniards whilst all the others were best on an aerial of similar length aimed at Peru. Solar activity was very, very low with A & K indices around 3 and 1 respectively. Overall conditions to the US and Latin America were good in the early evening taking a real nose-dive after 0700 every night. Morning conditions were mediocre at best with even usually reliable Vatican R 1611 patchy and the long-wavers not the greatest either. Really, when you’re logging signals that have travelled over 20,000kms (NZ’s antipodes are off the coast of Portugal) – then anything else is an anti-climax!

And as a follow-up. The promise of a return match in October ’97 fizzled out, the long-pathers didn’t want to play! Just weak signals from TWR 1467, Spain on 1107 and 1485. Solar activity was much higher so I guess ’96 was that one occasion in the 11 year solar cycle when everything was dead right. I spent a couple of weekends during October of ’98 chasing any remnants only to find similar conditions to 1997.

On the bright side, all have verified except SER R Sevilla 792 and R Bleue, Limoges also on 792, and I haven’t given up yet!