Kongsfjord - 70°43'N 29°21'E
KONG3 - report
Arnstein Bue and Rolf Torvik have visited Berlevåg twice. Both times, in January and in October 1997, they heard a multitude of North American and Hawaiian MW stations. This easily becomes a habit, so in October 1997 they came back to my old farmhouse in Kongsfjord, around 34 km SE of Berlevåg.
True enough, so far this season has not been to level. We are approaching sun spot maximum, this reflects itself in solar activity making MW conditions very variable. We had a poor start of the season, followed by nice conditions around September 15. The week before KONG3 we had a real solar eruption, killing all signals for two-three days. Prospects were far from promising. But what can you do with non-refundable tickets? You make the best out of it. At least something should be heard until departure time, 06 UTC Wednesday.
I picked up Arnstein and Rolf on Friday, Oct 2 at 19 UTC at Berlevåg Airport. The Asia and North America beverage was up, and I told them, inspired by Bill Gates' latest advertisements, it was plug and play. Plug in the antennas, play with the radios! The result was more like «Fatal Error», as we heard absolutely nothing! It was a dark and stormy – oh well, at least rainy – night, without the slightest sign of life on the Mediumwave band. I predicted that we would hear NA at 6 o'clock local Wednesday morning. The others found this prediction overly pessimistic.
Most of Saturday morning went without other signals than local NRK 702 and a couple of Russians. Arnstein then found out he'd check the Indonesians on the Tropical Bands. Not without success! From 1300 UTC onwards we heard and reported several, and around 16 the MW finally opened up with conditions towards Asia. Typical Aurura conditions with many Indian stations, such as AIR Suratgarh 918. During evening signal levels increased so much that we became optimistic about hearing NA at night. At 2350 UTC the MW collapsed again! From swarming with life, in the course of minutes only a few signals were left. What had happened?? After checking that yes, the antennas were intact, we phoned WWA frenetically to get the latest solar data. No help – despite rather high A indices the K index was low. Rolf, in a rush of self-confidence, promised to run naked around the house if no NA's appeared within the next 24 hours. We logged that. It was the only logging we made that night.
Sunday was half gone when conditions recovered. The TB Indonesians re-appeared and the ABC stations on 2310, 2325 and 2485 emerged at amazing levels. During evening we heard a lot of Spanish and UK stations on MW. The night however – as silent as ever...
Monday morning at 06 UTC I logged Manx Radio 1368 as one of very few audible stations on MW. At 08 we drove to Berlevåg for supplies & showers. While at home my guests were given a special treat – recordings of some Philippino stations I had heard a couple of weeks earlier, among others DZBB-594 and DWWW-774. We didn't have to wait long to get them live! That afternoon, the MW Asians surfaced much earlier than previous days, at around 14 UTC we heard the first Chinese stations. And then they came, the stations that would save this expedition from total disaster: Philippines! At 1435 UTC I heard Tagalog under Zheijiang PBS on 1530 kHz. One hour later the alarm bell went when we heard English catholic-religious on 1062. Just before 1600 we heard a beautiful «DZEC» ID. Then they came in a steady stream: 846, 666, 594, 990 etc. Great stations to listen to as both language, programming style and not least their willingness to ID is very special compared to many other stations. As night came nigh we hunted for Ceuta, a most wanted radio country, the home of RadiOlé on 1584. I found interest in hunting some Brits that are basically impossible to catch in Berlevåg. And this night: We were going to log NA!!
Nothing...Rolf was relieved from his promise to run naked around the house. After all, we were human. And we had been softened by a couple of cans of Tuborg beer...
The end of the night ended well for me though, as at 0457 for the umpteenth time I was on 1584, and then it came: Olé!
Tuesday the 6th was another Philippino orgy. Good conditions towards Indonesia on SW too. We reached another goal that day, as both English-language Hong Kong stations were heard; Metro on 1044 and Quote 864. So, back to the eternal question: Would there be NA during the night?
I was up around 0330 UTC and in fact I did hear Radio Mitre, Buenos Aires on 790. No North Americans though, but Arnstein and Rolf told me that they had heard signals from Canada at 0305 – 55 minutes before my before-mentioned prediction.
Then what? We did get a significant number of reception reports out of this. For my part it was interesting and inspiring to hear UK and Spanish stations not usually heard in Berlevåg. Many Philippinos were logged and reported, and a lot of Indonesians on SW too. And I believe my guests did get value for money with Ceuta, Australia on MW and Hong Kong, plus around 15 Philippinos.
But why was North America absent? Both the A and K indices were very low the last few days, which should account for good conditions towards NA. Judging from my own experience, after strong disturbances of the geomagnetic field it often takes time before NA stations return. Asians, and in particular the southern Asian countries likeThailand and India are often heard well then. Nothing at all in «the other end» so to speak. I heard KBRW-680 for the first time the same day as Arnstein and Rolf went home, and it's been heard since with the addition of a number of «usual» NA stations. This shows though, that we are heading for uneasy times for the Mediumwave. It is becoming increasingly more difficult to predict conditions – and the chances of not hearing anything during a DX-pedition are bigger now than during sun spot minimum. The brighter side of this is of course that you get to sleep a lot and can be social.
The antennas: We discussed whether two antennas towards Asia could be better than the one (75 degrees) we used. We don't know – at any rate its backlobe was efficient towards UK and Spain. That would work towards northern Brazil and Venezuela/Colombia too. It is 450 meters and so not overly directive, but worked exceptionally well in reducing QRM from Eastern Europe and in particular from the Middle East. We could increase length to 600-700 meters, but any longer than that and it would be too directive. Several other antennas will have to be put up to cover other areas, and that would be expensive. The NA wire at 340 degrees is for NA's only. The back lobe goes towards the Middle East, which is as exciting as hamburgers on Christmas Eve.
I also tested an antenna phaser during the DX-pedition. In short, it uses two antennas to phase out interfering stations to let the desired one become audible. The tests I did was mostly successfull. I managed to reduce NRK-702 into receiver noise, while getting Slovakia on top. But the best nulls are on stations that are so close that the groundwave signal dominate over the skywave signal. DX-ers located in the south, with shorter distance to interfering transmitters will likely benefit from this device.
Cold facts about KONG3:
Participants: Arnstein Bue, Rolf Torvik and Bjarne Mjelde at Veines in Kongsfjord, Muncipality of Berlevåg, from Oct 10, 1998 at 1930 until Oct 7 at 0530 UTC.
Antennas: 400 meters towards 340 degrees, 450 meters towards 75 degrees – backlobe used for Latin America and Spain/UK. Coaxial feedlines to splitters and preamps. Receivers: 2 x AR7030+, 1 x JRC NRD-525, 1 x JRC NRD-535D, 1 x K+D KWZ-30. Recording media: Portable MD recorders! Very handy stuff!
Weather: The meteorologist always issues a storm warning when he hears that Arnstein and Rolf are due for Kongsfjord ...