Jan 20-23, 2012
By Dr Supratik Sanatani
It had all the ingredients of a true adventure expedition. There were obstacles in reaching the venue, difficulties in setting up the shack, problem with battery backup and cancellation of some probable participants. In the end it was all made up by the sweet success of a wonderful and memorable DX listening.
Alokesh Gupta and C.K.Raman were traveling by ‘Rajdhani Express’ which was delayed by some 12 hours because of north Indian fog. Undeterred, they hired a cab from Kolkata and traveled in the middle of night to reach expedition QTH only to find the village road blocked by local festival ‘Ganga Puja’. The advance party vehicle came to their rescue. Earlier in the evening the North Vehicle carrying BG, SG, BGI, PP and PCK was stranded at the beach by high tide and had to wait for over two hours. PP’s train from Assam was delayed due to a de-railment en route but he managed to board the North vehicle just beyond Kolkata. PCK was travelling from Tripura through Bangladesh the very day when a foiled coup attempt was announced in that country. However, he did not feel a ripple ! While Raman was setting up his gear there was minor short circuit with smoke from the battery wires and at the closing hours of the DXped our battery packs ran dry. We could however tap the hotel solar powered batteries. The final obstacle was a major coronal flare – coronal mass ejection (CME) at 0613 UTC on 22nd January 2012 which finally led to a solar storm on 23rd January 2012 at around 0359 UTC leading to a M9 i.e. close to X class flare which caused major disruption of radio communication.
Mandarmani is sea side location some 180 km away from Kolkata on the Bay of Bengal. Our location was the same Resort ‘Samudra Bilas‘ which was the location of our last DXped. It had very rudimentary facilties but suited us because of the access it provided for antennas to be strung all around. This time we had a space laid with row of tables to serve as listening post. Our hotel had bare minimum solar power lamps and and generator power supply for two hours in the morning and from 6-12 pm midnight. The charm of Mandarmani is that the place still does not have electricity and the hotels run on gensets. Even with limited running of genset at our hotel we realized that much of man made RFI could ruin any DXped and man made RFI from energy saving CFL or FL choke is our new villain.
There were two new participants this time. Prithwiraj Purkayastha (PP) from Jorhat in Assam was the youngest in the group with his first QSL from 2003 and Jyoti P Chakrabarty (VU3BGI) from Rishra, Kolkata. BGI has been DXing since mid 1980 and is an active ham. Babul Gupta (Barasat, Kolkata), Sudipta Ghose (Kolkata), Supratik Sanatani (Kolkata), Alokesh Gupta (New Delhi), C.K.Raman VU3DJQ (New Delhi), Pradip Chandra Kundu (Agartala, Tripura), Swopan Chakroborty (Kolkata) and Partha Sarathi Goswami (Siliguri) were part of the last few DXpeds.
The star of the meet was a 236 mtr long beverage. On the first day it was pointing at 60 degree and on the second day we had realigned it to 40 degree. The other antenna were 100 mtr 80 degree, 70 mtr at 340 degree and 60 mtr at 110 degree. There was a Quad put up by BG and a dipole by BG which was however under utilized. We had very very decent ground with a GI rod hammered in to almost 4 feet depth.
In this meet we had a opportunity to try out and feel a variety of old and new gear. SG brought along a Perseus whose arrival was a closely guarded secret. This and Swopan’s 30 year old JRC NRD 61A were the biggest surprises. Jyoti P Chakrabarty was there with his ICOM 718 transreceiver whose receiver was being used. Jyoti also had a automatic antenna tuner while Swopan had his MFJ antenna tuner. There were Sangean ATS 909, Degen 1103, 1108 Tecsun PL 660 as well as PL600 to be tried out besides Grundig YB 400, Sony ICF 7600D and PCK was with his Anjan DTS 10. There were four ICOM R75s and one Drake R8B which were part of the last DXped. Also a FM receiver SONY XDR-F1HD but was rarely used.
Of our past four DXpeds to this area – three to Mandarmoni and one to Talsari this one was undoubtedly the best in terms of DX haul . We had success with South Americans, the American evangelists, Papua New Guinea, Australia and Indonesia on the Tropical Band and finally long wave surprises. Medium wave also provided some fine listening even though in MW we missed the spectacular success of the other bands. For the first time a Japanese MW station carrying NHK-2 program was logged.
The best catch was Radio Tarma, Peru on 4775 kHz with 1 kW on which appeared with clear exotic ID at 2330 UTC, soon there were two Brazilians R Cultura (4845 kHz) and Radio Clube do Para (4885 kHz) running with Football commentary to be followed by Havana, Marti and Rebelde ….which sent our whole team into ecstasy. Some members who were dozing off at 4 am local time were shaken up from sleep. On 22 January at 1330 UTC probably because of the ongoing coronal activity we heard Radio West Sepik, Papua New Guinea 3210 kHz and RRI Palangkarya 3325 kHz with 555 clear signal !!. Palangkarya again appeared for their morning transmission on 23 Jan at 2300 UTC with such a loud signal with Chinese chants for the Chinese New Year that we almost dismissed it as one of those Chinese broadcaster which swarms all over the bands. Solomon Island with feeble audio but Australian tropical band stations popped up with good signals . The Korean clandestine V.O.People and Echo of Hope provided regular listening. We were also lucky to hear the American Evangelists WWCR, WEWN, ETWN, Overcomer Ministry and HCJB in German from Chile with varying level of signals. Tajik Radio on parallel to 4765 kHz was the best part of Long Wave listening. There were other long wave Russians too. Maldives on 1449 kHz and the loud Thai & Philipino MW stations besides Laos 567 kHz and the regular Burmese MW were part of the MW excitement. The MW Bengal pirates from around Sagar Island between 0430 UTC – 0900 UTC were there too to provide the local flavour to exotic DX.
The Photo Session
Alokesh had produced expedition tee shirts which were designed by Rupam Sharma. We put them on for a customery photo shoot in the beach. The first one was in the sunset hours . The second session was on the beach with the Manadarmoni fishing boats in the afternoon. The results appeared impressive.
The early morning of 23rd was not very productive and we started winding up our antenna in the darkness of early morning. Taking off the grounding was probably the trickiest part. As we were traveling back to Kolkata on 23rd morning to disperse, Raman received a sms from Jose saying that a major solar storm of high magnitude had just passed . That explained the erratic reception of the previous night when the Latins were not there or very weak but RRI Palangkarya and Papua New Guinea were booming . That was the finale to a great DXpedition