The 15th June 1951 is the first date in my first log book, an entry for VLI6 Melbourne on 6150 kcs. However, I believe my first interest in radio, was born as a youngster listening to the BBC news during the war. Later, as a teenager, and with the help of my elder brother, I went through the phase of building crystal sets and one or two valve radios, always endeavouring to see how far I could hear. 2YA always seemed to be the limit. In attempting to hear further I turned to the family 6 valve Pacific dual wave radio and discovered shortwave.
This led me to start refering to Arthur Cushen’s shortwave listings in the Lamphouse Annual.
In 1951, aged 15, I joined the NZ Radio DX League and shortly after, I bought my first WRHB, a 1950 edition, and then the QSLs began arriving back. I was hooked on a hobby that has fascinated me for the last 50 years. The growing desire to hear rare DX meant I had to have a decent antenna. During one school holidays I earned 5 pounds which was promptly spent on purchasing the Oregon
flagpole from the old French Consul’s house in Remuera. I still have that 38 foot mast today. This gave the extra height needed and now even the odd North American could be heard on the broadcast band. Using the family radio only gave me limited access to listening and my auntie helped out by giving me a 1940s Courtney which covered 9 to 15 megs. Despite my early limitations I logged one of my rarest stations, 2AP Samoa with a special rugby relay of
Samoa versus Fiji heard on 6040 kcs.
In April 1954, Rod Barkworth, another keen Auckland Dxer, called a meeting of interested Auckland League members, and the Auckland Branch of the NZRDXL was duly formed. At last I was in personal contact with other like minded Dxers, which added a new dimension to my growing passion for the hobby. A few months later at a branch meeting, I met Lloyd Clayden, the top broadcast Dxer in the North Island at that time. By 1955 Lloyd’s farm at Whangaparaoa had become established as one of the top DX sites in NZ. The Clayden’s hospitality enables many young and keen Dxers to use his antenna farm to hear stations they would never have heard at home. The Clayden farm was at the end of the Whangaparaoa Peninsular, about 20 miles north of Auckland. An ideal location for Dxing and with several beverages, the longest 2000 feet, all continents were heard on the broadcast band. We could match the South Islanders, except for South America, Europe and the East Coast Americans when opening. These areas have been, and still are, better heard the further south one goes. On shortwave we did match the southerners. With Lloyd’s ability to climb the 100 foot pine trees we had SW antennas up to 80 feet high and 400 feet long. We experimented with V beams and rhombics. But the beverage for broadcast and the random long wire for shortwave were the best.. At times there could be four of us Dxing, each on a different antenna. Often on a weekend there would always be someone Dxing over a 24 hour period.
50 years of Dxing, has seen me use several different receivers. I have great memories of my favourites. The Hallicrafter SX25 that my brother brought back from Canton Island for me, gave me my first communications receiver. At last I could read the frequency reasonable accurately. Later I used my all time favourite r dio, the Eddystone 680X, which today sits besides me at my listening post. This receiver, along with the army surplus Class D wavemeter enabled me to finally accurately measure the frequency down to one kc.. During the late 50s, most military surplus receivers were tried by different branch members. The outstanding one was the Bendix MN26C compass receiver, which, when modified became the most sensitive broadcast band set I have used.. During the 70s the new breed of transistorised digital readout receivers came on the market. I used a R1000 but eventually purchased a Drake R4C which I later swapped for the older, but more versatile Drake R4B. This set I still have. During the 60s Lloyd acquired a reel to reel tape recorder which helped immensely in identifying stations. I often wonder what we might have logged then, with the aid of the modern receiver with memories. Monday night was when the American tone tests were on and I am sure, had we had all the 250 watt frequencies on memory, many more stations would have been identified as they quickly faded in and out.
One interesting aspect of the hobby of Dxing, is everybody’s different approach to it. From the serious Dxer to the general listener, to the constructor, the QSL hunter or the antenna builder, we all get something out of the hobby. The number of loggings or verifications a Dxer has, is interesting but means little other than the time spent in front of a radio. I measure the ability of a DXer by the number of countries verified taking into account the location he is Dxing from. There is a growing trend today, to just log that rare station, but for me, QSLing has always been the purpose for my listening.. For me, there is no greater pleasure than to verify a new country or rare station. Verifying some station could be considerable more difficult than hearing them I now have the problem that many Dxers over the years have had to deal with; maintaining interest. These days I still monitor Deutsche Welle and tune the shortwave bands as a general listener. For some years I have had an interest in the history of Dxing, and am now spending more time and energy in compiling a detailed history of the evolution of Dxing in New Zealand.
For 40 years I have been a radio amateur but it has always taken second place to my first love, Dxing. However since the erection of a three element beam, ham radio Dxing has resurged and I have now set myself a goal of working and verifying 200 countries over the next 4 years. Despite being retired, time available for radio still seems to be limited, as many other retired hobbyists will tell you. Dxing has been a fascinating hobby for me over the years, and I hope it will continue to occupy my time in the years to come.