OBX Mini DXpedition: Intro

As part of our family summer vacation, we tent camped at the Cape Point Campground located on Hatteras Island at the Outer Banks of North Carolina.  The campground features a grassy open flat area and nice views of Cape Hatteras Lighthouse.  Though very scenic, this is an operational lighthouse that illuminated the tent during darkness when the beacon’s light rotated towards the direction of the campground.  The kids loved it!

G15 site at Cape Point Campground, Hatteras Lighthouse in background

All three of the National Park Service campgrounds were considered on OBX: Oregon Inlet Campground, Cape Point Campground, and Frisco Campground.  Reservations cannot be had for any of these three campgrounds, so some pre-planning was necessary for each campground prior to arriving in case a desired site was occupied.  Despite several hours of pre-planning and studying aerial photos of each campground in anticipation of stringing out a long beverage antenna, it was difficult to judge the terrain of the campgrounds without physically being there.  Oregon Inlet Campground proved to be too hilly, surrounded on all sides by tall dunes which would prove difficult laying out a wire to the nearby beach.  Aside from this, I found the campsites to be a bit small and crowded.  Frisco Campground was the most scenic and offered beautiful views of the ocean from many of the sites, however the dunes were steeper with thicker growth surrounding the campsites, which would prove impossible for stringing out a beverage antenna.  This campground was out.

Cape Point Campground offered the best opportunity at this particular time to lay out an antenna.  Though less scenic than the others, it was ideal due to the flat open ground and larger campsites.  As a bonus, the front half of the campground was closed (rows A through F) and unoccupied by other campers.  These rows were blocked with pylons which deterred motorists from driving through the front of the campground.  Setting up camp in spot #G15 allowed me to string out a beverage on the ground approximately 850 feet long through the middle of the campground (free of obstructions)  during the evening hours without fear of anyone coming into contact with the wire (except for the Geese and Deer that frequently visited).  The BOG wire was reeled back in during the morning, aided by a cordless drill.  I estimate the bearing of the antenna at about 70 degrees, not ideally situated for Europe, but sometimes you just have to make due with your given surroundings.  “Aiming” the antenna on a more Northerly bearing directly at Europe would have meant crossing the wire over the well traveled outside loop of the campground – probably not a good idea!

Google Earth image of Cape Point Campground
Approximate layout of beverage wire antenna

Daytime DXing didn’t permit me to use the beverage wire through the middle of the campground as I had done at night, simply because the Park Service was active through the campground during the daylight hours, mowing the unattended campsites where the wire lay at night.  Between family activities, I managed one daytime DX session for about two hours from 1pm (near solar noon) to about 2:30pm EST to test the famed medium wave “salt water path” that this area is so famous for.  For this session I used a DX-440 portable and a Quantum loop.  The best reception (in terms of distance) was 610 WIOD Maimi, FL. at 703 miles.  A close second was WEFL Palm City, FL. at 617 miles.  The big NYC stations were strong at 400 miles distance and sounded like locals.  Unfortunately, I ran out of time before checking the whole dial.  The Bermuda channels were checked during this listening session with nothing heard but faint unintelligible audio that could have been coming from anywhere.

Two night sessions were had using the Perseus and MSI Wind U100 netbook.  There are no electrical hookups at the Cape Point Campground, so everything was DC powered using four 6 volt SLA batteries.  Three powered the netbook supplying 18 volts, while the fourth powered the Perseus using a homemade 6-12 vdc to 5 volt regulated converter.  Two nights of recordings lasting several hours per night were made with the batteries before the laptop batteries finally discharged enough to shut the netbook off.

Cape Point Campground looking NW from site G15

Despite being in a fairly remote area I was a bit disappointed by the amount of noise and interference being picked up by the beverage, especially on longwave.  I attribute this to the overhead powerlines that run down the middle of the campground which supply power to the restrooms and bath houses (sodium vapor lamps used at night on the outside of these buildings).  Perhaps grounding the receiver and/or beverage at the feedpoint would have helped had I been able to.

All in all this was a fun experience and the first time that I’ve brought the radio gear out of the shack and into a remote location.  I would definitely like to come back to OBX, but with a different antenna as the long length of the beverage proved difficult to work with.  Perhaps something like a broadband super loop or a phased array would be more flexible to work with and offer good directional properties in a tighter amount of space.

More details will follow in future posts as I go through the spectrum recordings taken during the evening hours.

One thought on “OBX Mini DXpedition: Intro

  1. Lisa rader

    I am looking for an image of the campground in 1976 at cape point. There was an outdoor amphitheater made of concrete and showed a lot of surfing pictures between 1975-1976. If anyone has information on this please contact me. I have been through all channels to find this. Thank you!

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