Tune below the regular AM broadcsat band some evening and you will find a different type of DX challenge -- this is the territory of the low -frequency Non Directional Beacon (NDB), low-powered aeronautical navigation beacons. Continuously identifying themselves in slow CW every ten seconds or so, it is not unusual to hear beacons from many hundreds of miles away on most evenings. On nights of exceptional propagation, beacons from the Canadian Arctic, the Caribbean, South America, Alaska and the South Pacific might find their way into your logbook.
Using my GPS unit, I recently hunted down and photographed some of the local NDBs near Vancouver, B.C. -- NDB DX for you but 'blowtorch' signals for me! To learn more about the challenge of DXing NDBs, watch this page or check out the LINKS at the bottom. In the meantime, feel free to e-mail any questions you may have about 'DXing Down Below '.
XX - 344 kHz
The 'XX' NDB is located just a few miles SW of the Abbotsford Airport, about 40 miles east of Vancouver, B.C. Abbotsford is the 'alternate' for YVR traffic and when the fog sets in on the coast, Abbotsford gets very, very busy. The Abbotsford Airport is also the home of one of the world's biggest annual airshows in mid August.
The 'XX' NDB has a great radio location as it is positioned on the top of a rolling hill which provides a good take-off in all directions. The mountain peaks visible in the background are in Washington state, as XX is very close to the U.S. / Canadian border. The tower appears to be about 90' high (somewhat standard with the 'big' Canadian beacons) and with a transmitter power of 500W, 'XX-344' gets out extremely well, often heard back east as far as the Great Lakes and further. It was recently reported heard in Massachusetts. If you need British Columbia in your NDB log, 'XX-344' is one of your best bets!
WC - 332 kHz
The 'WC' NDB is located just a few hundred feet from the Canada - U.S. border, about 25 miles south east of the Vancouver International airport and about 20 miles west of the Abbotsford airport. I suspect it is an 'enroute' locator for both facilities.
The beacon is located on a quiet residential street, nestled between well kept homes and towering fir trees. The antenna is an inverted 'L' end-fed Marconi about 65' in height with a flat top of about 200'. The downlead is barely visible in the above photo as it angles its way back to the transmitter shed.
Heard regularly in California, 25 watt 'WC' is not as widely reported as is 'XX -344', especially from points east. As the system is similar to what a typical amateur LF installation might be, I would be very interested in any reception reports of 'WC' by DXers to the east. 'WC's modulation frequency is ~ 390Hz so look for it on 332.390 in the CW mode.
AP - 378 kHz
The 'AP' beacon is located on Mayne Island, B.C., at the entrance to Active Pass. If you have ever taken the ferry trip from Tsawwassen to Victoria on Vancouver Island, then you have passed right by the beacon. 'AP' is mid-way between the very busy Vancouver - Victoria flight path and most VFR flights pass directly over the beacon. For such a perfect seaside location, 'AP' does not radiate too well, and is only rarely reported in California, points to the east and recently in northern Texas.
'AP' runs 25 watts into a 50' top-loaded vertical with what appears to be a very minimal ground screen. I noticed a few ground rods at the base of the tower but the entire site is built on sandstone rock, with little opportunity to lay down a good ground system. This probably explains why it is not often reported. I would be interested to know if you log 'AP-378'.
LU - 214 kHz
The 'LU' NDB is in a breathtaking location, high on a mountain meadow at the foot of the North Cascade mountain range. In spite of the towering mountain peaks to the east and to the south, 'LU' is well heard, being reported as far east as Massachusetts and as far west as Hawaii.
The antenna is a 100' top-loaded vertical with, presumably, an extensive ground system as this is a very large site. The transmitter is a 500 watt Nautel. 'LU' is about 20 miles north-east of the Abbotsford Int'l Airport, Vancouver's alternate.
VR - 266 kHz
The 'VR' NDB is located at the outer marker for runway 26 at Vancouver Int'l. Situated on farmland in Richmond, B.C., the antenna system for 'VR' appears to be a closed inverted triangular loop suspended between two 60' wooden poles and fed at the bottom corner near the shack. Although 'VR' runs only 50 watts, it is often reported in California, the western states and east to North Carolina, probably as result of the excellent and somewhat soggy ground in the area.
YJ - 200 kHz
The 'YJ' ndb is located in downtown Sidney, B.C. just a few hundred yards from the ocean's edge, nestled amongst the beach homes on the east coast of Vancouver Island. It is the marker for the Victoria International Airport, Vancouver Island's largest airport.
The antenna is a standard 70' top-loaded vertical. 'YJ' runs 100W with a 400Hz identifier. Listen for it on 200.400kHz in the CW mode.
Although not often reported, 'YJ' has been heard as far east as Illinois and North Carolina, no doubt due to its excellent oceanfront location. I would be interested in knowing if you can hear 'YJ' from points further away. (Photo: Hew / VA7HU - Sidney, B.C. - with thanks!)
NDB DX LINKS
Th NDB List Page - All sorts of interesting information here!
NDB's Reported in North America - The 'NDBRNA' contains the latest data on what is being heard and by whom. Print out your own copy of the 'handbook'