Echten – Drenthe – The Netherlands

Echten DXpedition
The Netherlands

January 19 – 22   2007 

January 19 – 22   2007 I ventured out of my comfort zone of Rijswijk in South Holland and drove up to Echten in the Drenthe Province via Utrecht and Zwolle. It had been a nightmare month and I must admit I drove up there with trepidation but nevertheless looking forward to the dx. This was my first dx outing since my month in Gove – Northern Territory (Australia) in July 2006.

I arrived in the sleepy village of Echten at 10:30am after the 2 hour journey from Den Haag. Yes I survived the battle of wits on the A4, A12, A27, A28 etc. Holland is certainly a pot-pouri of road networks and if you blink you can miss your turn-off and end up in Germany or Stringy Bark Creek. (Or in this case Canal)

 The Echten Dx Shack

 Being early I decided on a Koffie Verkeerd in nearby Ruinen. A delightful village I had discovered a few weeks earlier. Ben Korbeeck the ‘Ice Man’ was the first to arrive at 11:45am and shortly after Han Hardonk, Marc van Gerwen and Bob Grevenstuk

The first job on the agenda was to get the antennas out. The previous few days in Holland we had endured destructive storms and the weather threatened to close in again. We put out 2 x 200 -250m beverage antennas towards Nth America. The blue beverage went out at about 300 degrees towards the East Coast of USA while my red beverage went out at 320 degrees and was more for the West Coast.

Han Hardonk and Marc van Gerwen heading off to terminate beverage

The first two nights we decided to try something that the German’s had been saying and that was to earth the beverages directly to ground. No resistor at all. It made no sense to me but who am I to argue when it comes to experiments. Craig Edwards doesn’t call me “The Fiddler” for nothing. As it turned out we put a pot on the blue bev the last night and it performed a lot better. You really need to get good nulls here in Europe to get away from all the hash and splash etc.

Ben Korbeeck and Marc van Gerwen

During the weekend both antennas performed quite well and different signals were attainable, even though they were only a matter of 20 degrees apart.

In addition to the Bev’s we had a Super Kaz antenna. And I can tell you that it was not only SUPER in name. The antenna was a wee ripper.

Max Van Arnhem had been kind enough to lend Han his huge extendable fiberglass mast. This was quite an amazing antenna and was the star performer of the trip. Not only were the signals better but they were cleaner due to directivity and the noise levels were also much better than the other antennas used.

I also took my trusty Ewe which seemed to be dwarfed in comparison to the other antennas. Even though it did not pull in the signals of the Super Kaz, I found it to be a more than useful companion. On many occasions it had stations on there through its directivity that the others didn’t… and also there wasn’t as much splash compared to the other antennas with more gain. I was delighted with how it performed.

Finally On the last evening I ran a 500m BOG out towards South America however it was not that successful other than to hear a few interesting signals such as 590 and 1470 khz. It would have been nice to get it up on poles and terminated properly.

Dave, Marc, Han, Bob, Ben

Okay a few observations on the antennas: The Super KAZ was the star performer and when it came to Asia, ME and Australia it certainly pulled in the signals. On the first two nights we were able to reverse the direction of the antenna. We won’t tell you that we forgot to change it back for the Nth Americans on the last evening.

For me there were some VERY IMPORTANT lessons learnt about this trip. Europe certainly is not an easy dx playground to be in. Splash kills a lot of dx and you have to use certain techniques to hear signals. Almost certainly you need to have the antennas directional. And in the case of beverages they have to be terminated and null stations off the back. There is no compromise with this.

The other technique which Han showed me was to use the Phaser. If there is too much splash on a channel such as 950 kHz, you tune to the adjacent channel of 954 and then phase that out returning then to 950 kHz. The signal may be degraded somewhat but it is there without most of the splash. It’s compromising dx.

The thing which spoilt the listening in some ways was that we used communal antennas. We all shared the various Bev’s and the KAZ. Although this is okay and fair for everyone, it has its bad points.

Firstly the splitters we used were passive meaning not only was there signal degradation but also there was the problem of other radio’s interacting with others. Every time someone changed antenna it affected the signal that you were listening to. In some instances signals would disappear altogether. Not a good scenario when you are recording and reporting stations. So that area would really need to be looked at in the future.

The smaller version of the KAZ but you get the idea

The house at Echten is certainly a beauty. It can bed up to 12 people and we all had our own bedrooms. No problem with snorers or sleep Dxers etc.

The kitchen was very modern and adequate. Over the course of the trip we were treated to some fine meals cooked up by Ben and Han. Everyone behaved themselves and not too much red wine or beer was consumed.

I must say it was great to meet all the guys. I really enjoyed my chats with Bob Grevenstuk about his early years in Indonesia and about Dxing in Holland. Bob was the MW Editor of Benelux DX Club for over 15 years and I picked up some invaluable tips. Ben Korbeeck of course had been Dxing far and wide. From Sweden to Sheigra and it was good to chat to him about his experiences. I’ve nicknamed him “Ice Man” because of his love of extreme cold weather. Marc van Gerwen fascinated me with his knowledge of Digital Radio.. It certainly is good technology and is the way of the future. Not so much for us MW Dxers but certainly VHF-FM. Marc showed me what was possible via Tropo. He also demonstrated his Lowe & EKI receiver which was certainly an interesting radio that came out of East Germany. Han Hardonk well you certainly wouldn’t want to get this man drunk.. I wouldn’t feel safe around him. (I mean this in a nice way) Quite a funny guy who is also an experienced Dxer having been to Sheigra and many DXpeditions over the years throughout Holland. Overall they were a terrific bunch of blokes to have a listen with.

David Onley’s  Ewe Antenna

Ewe antenna between poles

Several highlights of the trip for me.. Of course Radio Senda, Dominican Republic on 1680 0323.. Virgin Islands on 1620 0334 which I had heard before.. (Gove) but never with an ID.. I snared that very well.. thrilled with that.

930 Khz is a big mystery for me hearing French in the evening 2107 and again in the morning 0606 . I presumed it was a FF Canadian but Ben Korbeeck thinks otherwise which then leaves the Caribbean / Central American French countries.. or of course something new. It could well be something exotic like Haiti or Guadeloupe.

1320 2234 CKEC Radio New Glasgow NS was tough and the ONLY Canadian I heard on the trip. Lots of oldies like Doris Day and Eddie McMillan. Very happy with that.

I had a handful of Yanks which I came home with.. very happy to hear Boston on 1510

1690 0617 WMLB Avondale Estates GA. Voice of the Arts with classical mx.
1690 0627 WPTX Lexington MD.
1680 0623 WLAA Winter Gardens FL
1670 0602 WVVM Dry Branch GA,
1660 0704 WWRU NJ with Relevant Radio. Dominant station on this channel which at times was mixed.
1660 0749 WFNA Charlotte NC. ESPN
1650 0740 WHKT Portsmouth VA. Disney.
1640 0733 WTNI Biloxi MS. ESPN
1630 0655 WRDW Augusta GA,
1620 0347 WDHP Virgin Islands. Great ID “Virgin Islands AM” Song: Peace Train. Other times heard BBC 0500 UTC
1620 0501 KOZN NE ESPN.

1560 0801 WQEW New York. Radio Disney
1510 0346 WWZN Boston. NBA basketball. Ads for hair tonic. ID as “Boston’s The Zone”

Need to go through the tape and look at 1700 which had Spanish.. a few possibilities there, we used to hear Brownsville TX and CASH in Australia here, but think this is probably either KBGG or WJCC.

1645 1305 Radio James Bond
1620 0908 Shadow Hunter (Dutch Pirate)
1575 1629 Radio Farda
1566 1542 AIR Nagpur – Nice signal at times. No sign of Sth Korea.
1521 1502 Duba Monster of a signal // 594, 585.
1521 1630 CRI Urumqi which was huge at times as well.
1476 1620 Lamphun Thailand (50kw)
1242 1607 Voice Of Vietnam. Only briefly but them.
594 1502 Call to Prayer // 585 1521
585 1505 Call to Prayer // 594, 1521

I enjoyed a couple of Europeans as well:
1035 Northsound Two in Aberdeen
1026 Downtown Radio Belfast
1368 RAI Radio Uno. Florence (1kw)

2325  Tennant Creek & 2485 Katherine were sensational. I got home sick listening to them. On the last night Alice Springs was strong on 2310.

Overall conditions I am told were average and I’m assured signals are often S9 instead of fighting our way through the mud.

The signals were interesting to note.. 4pm in the arvo the Middle East would start to come in. Then Asia for about an hour or so..

About 11:30pm at night local.. The Canadians and yanks started to fade in. There was a peak at that time and I would then go to bed about 1am when there was a lull.. then get up at 4am.. the latins and Caribbean seem to come in well at that time. But the AMAZING thing is that we were hearing Yanks and Canadians right up until 9:15am local (0815 UTC). It was good after 8am because the Eastern Europeans were gone.

Very interesting place to dx.. but its damn tough.