9 MW DXing Fun
Making DXing human
Much of this hobby of ours is quite detailed and technical and quite often most of us enjoy the hobby on our own, sometimes at quite anti-social hours.
However getting out of the shack brings with it its own rewards. Travelling to exotic locations with a radio will often bring new listening opportunities. And running a DX-pedition really can reveal what is possible on the MW band. Quite apart from that it is a chance to meet up with fellow DXers.
Our research shows that MW DXers have been having fun since the earliest days of radio!
So what exactly are MW DXers getting up to these days?
No this is not some dodgy activity taking place in a nightclub, rather it’s when a simple family holiday (or even a business trip) becomes a radio listening hub. Up till the pandemic in 2020 many of us would travel away from home on vacation, but we didn’t always pack a radio. In fact one doesn’t even need to take a radio as there usually is one in your hire car, which you can drive to a quiet spot by the beach in order to spin the radio dial before you dive into the water.
Tip #1: don’t try listening in your hotel because of the electrical interference –otherwise get out on a balcony. Better still go somewhere rural.
Tip #2: all you need is a notepad, a pen and ultralight receiver and WRTH. If you can try to use a radio with an enhanced ferrite rod aerial (see photos) as it make a huge difference to what you can hear.
Whilst away you may not hear much DX but you will certainly be able to take detailed notes of what is happening on the radio dial in your temporary location – which stations are on air? That said it usually doesn’t take much effort to find a radio friendly location. The interesting bit is getting familiar with a completely new radio landscape.
Exotic band-scanning goes cruising
This sounds even dodgier! But if you are crossing the seven seas on a cruise liner you should definitely see what you can hear on a portable radio. With open sea in all directions you’ll hear some interesting stuff. And every night you’ll have a different listening spot unless you’ve been invited to the Captain’s Table. It might be cheeky asking the Captain if you can use the ship’s communications receiver, so bring along a modified ultralight radio. If you decide to lurk in odd corners of the deck, to get away from on board electrical interference, it might still be a good idea to let the crew know what you are doing. From the middle of the Atlantic at night you certainly hear North American, South American and European stations on MW.
A DX-pedition is when MW DXers (one or more) travel to a remote location for several days (or even weeks) to set up sophisticated aerials and multiple receivers. The goal is simply to hear as much interesting and unusual DX that could not be heard at home. It’s also great time to meet and collaborate with other DXers. DX-peditions traditionally are great way to try out other receivers and to learn new DX techniques. Inevitably the local scenery, food and beer goes a long way to making the trip fun – even if radio conditions turn out to be unfavourable a DX-pedition is never wasted.
In the UK MW DX-peditions started in 1985 with the first trip to the North of Scotland. Since then nearly 100 such trips have taken place over years, in Scotland, Skye, Anglesey and other locations. Even simple receivers fed by long aerials can hear amazing stuff.
In Scandinavia DX-peditions are almost a way of life in Lapland, where DXers can huddle in a snow-bound DX nerve centre surrounded by reindeer, forest and some of the best Beverage antennas pointing to all corners of the world.
Sometimes big aerial installations and expensive communications receivers or SDRs are just not possible on DX-pedition. That’s particularly true if you have to pack your equipment in a suitcase ready for a flight. In recent years MW DXers have visited Easter Island, The Cook Islands, the Karoo Desert, Hong Kong and Iceland amongst many other locations, with their receivers.
These can be a scaled down version of a DX-pedition that take place for a few hours from a DX-friendly location. They have been popular on the east and west coasts of the USA and are timed to take place at sunset on the East and sunrise on the west. The goal is exceptional trans-Pacific or trans-Atlantic reception so the best locations are right on the beach or cliff top. With modern SDRs a short trip out can grab a lot of signals for post processing and analysis back at home.
I don’t mean social media. Getting out of the shack to meet other DXers can be a great opportunity swap ideas and anecdotes. The MWC has in the past manned stands at events at radio rallies to meet members and potential new recruits. Other DXers get together informally either for club events or just to go out for a meal and few drinks. That’s great way to put a face to a name or a callsign and an email address. Amateur radio rallies and conventions are also a good way to arrange to meet other MWC members – there is plenty to see and often a presentation of interest to the MW DXer.
Basically just a social call on another DXer, but it’s a great way to see how someone else operates their radio shack. Also a great opportunity to spin a dial on an unfamiliar piece of equipment. That can be really informative if you are thinking of buying a new receiver or building a new aerial.
Finally, after a year of being locked-down in our homes due to COVID-19 we ought to be taking the opportunity to get out of our shacks. It’s also a great opportunity to meet and greet our fellow DXers.