Hard-Core-DX.com: Aitutaki, Cook Island Ultralight DXpedition

Aitutaki, Cook Island Ultralight DXpedition

Monday, April 16 2018

From April 8-14 I had the awesome opportunity to chase long-range transoceanic DX on an ocean beach in Aitutaki, one of the Cook Island group in central Polynesia (about 2000 miles south of Hawaii, in the Southern Hemisphere). The island is famous for a gorgeous snorkeling lagoon featuring a dazzling variety of tropical fish, but for me the dazzling feature was no MW transmitters within 150 miles. The Cook Islands are administered by New Zealand in a "free association" arrangement, and as such the Maori-speaking islanders are very friendly, and security is good.

For this trip I decided to bring along a modified (7.5 inch loopstick) C.Crane Skywave SSB Ultralight model and a 5 inch (127mm) "Frequent Flyer" FSL antenna-- a compact, TSA-friendly model that provides inductively coupled DXing gain roughly equivalent to that of a 4 foot (1.3m) air core box loop. As usual, all of this gear easily breezed through TSA screening throughout the entire trip.

My Tamanu Beach Resort motel was located right on the lagoon on the northwest side of the island, and as such there was an unobstructed path to Asia, the DU islands and North America. A 150m high hill was in between my location and the South American direction, though, and this may have been partially responsible for the lack of signals from that area. As usual there were some RFI issues inside our motel room, necessitating a short walk to the lagoon beach to set up my Ultralight gear. A photo of the 7.5 inch loopstick CC Skywave SSB model, the 5 inch Frequent Flyer FSL and a new 40 inch (1.1m) PVC base on the Aitutaki beach is posted at https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/1s2u2ymggo16siwcuelucph0bd226ira

It was certainly a crash course to adjust to freakishly strong transoceanic propagation on this DU island. Concepts of chasing weak signals went out the window immediately as the main challenge became using the loopstick nulls to separate S9 signals during sunset skip to New Zealand and eastern Australia. 1 kW Kiwi stations were routinely maxing out the Ultralight's bar graph signal strength display. During sunrise sessions the 7.5" loopstick CC Skywave alone could typically track down even exotic Asian DX (Bangladesh, Mongolia, Cambodia).at S7 levels, while the 5" FSL simply boosted them up to S9 levels. A skillful TP-DXer knowledgeable in Asian languages and exotic station frequencies could have had equivalent results with only the hand-held (modified) Ultralight alone. The best DX received during the trip were three east Asian stations that have a reputation for being very tough catches on the North American west coast. The distance from Aitutaki to two of them (Bangladesh and Mongolia) is greater than that from Grayland, Washington, but because of the ocean-boosted propagation and favorable gray line patterns the Ultralight gear had all three of them pounding in around 1700 UTC:

693-Bangladesh 1652 UTC April 10 (mention of Bangladesh at 8 second point; thanks to Chuck Hutton for listening) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/94j756mjptm1fuaij381dw2wbsqkrâ; https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/94j756mjptm1fuaij381dw2wbsqkre91

918-Cambodia 1659 UTC April 12 (Khmer female speech, National Anthem with "Cuckoo Clock" time pips at 1:41; thanks to Hiroyuki Okamura for listening) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/14kwjqoxuvur64g1ghq9h2kbwe90yâ; https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/14kwjqoxuvur64g1ghq9h2kbwe90ygqo
1431-Mongolia 1631 UTC April 11 (BBC Korean service interval signal at 46 seconds; thanks to Hiroyuki Okamura for listening) https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/fwim89p1b3owm6tqluz3045aya1t2â; https://dreamcrafts.box.com/s/fwim89p1b3owm6tqluz3045aya1t249f

Gary DeBock (in Puyallup, WA, USA)