Friday, April 3, 2015

QRT – thanks for the QSOs

This was a one man operation in the classic tent and generator DXpedition style. After 2 days of driving I arrived in the town of Ceduna in the remote far west of South Australia. St Peter Island was only a 30 minute charter boat ride from Ceduna, I had so much gear that it actually took longer to load the boat than the boat ride itself. There was concern that I wouldn’t be able to land on the island on Sunday due to the tide times and forecasts of winds coming from an unfavourable direction. Fortunately there were no winds on the Sunday morning and the seas were like glass.

To sustain life and build a station to put out a good signal requires a lot of equipment and I had to bring extra food, water and fuel in case the weather and tides didn’t allow a pick up on the agreed day of Thursday morning. The captain and his wife held the boat in place and passed gear from the boat as I carried equipment in thigh high water and up to the beach. So as you can imagine it took a lot of effort to offload the gear from the boat to the beach especially those 25L water containers and 20L fuel containers.

Once I offloaded the gear onto the beach, the boat departed and I was alone on this uninhabited island for 4 days. I was pretty exhausted and I hadn’t even started building camp yet. It was a hot day and with absolutely no breeze, the offloading of gear and building camp and erecting antennas on the beach was so exhausting.

Lots of gear

.....and more gear.....
home for the next 4 days
By 0730 UTC (6:00pm local time) I was finally on the air on 20m SSB. It was the second day of the WPX SSB contest and so I had to operate simplex and even then there was massive QRM problems and the QSO rate wasn’t great because people were asking for contest numbers. At grey line sunset on 0900 UTC as advertised I went to 40m to try for North America but this only yielded 33 stations in 45 minutes so I went to 20m and had a good run of North America, Asia and Europe for 5 hours. The QRM from Europe in the WPX was eventually too much, a brief visit to 17m only yielded 33 stations in 30 minutes. So after a very tiring station set up followed by 8 hours of operating it was time to collapse in bed at 1600 UTC (2:30am local).  I was up again at 2230 UTC on 15m but it mainly produced JA for an hour so I tried 10m at 2330 UTC, I figured people would still be around for the last half hour of the contest so I could see what band conditions were like there.

I built the 10m vertical dipole very close to the water and I decided that if the tide knocked it over, then so be it because I built the other antennas at a spot on the highest possible tide mark so that they’d be safe. The good thing about a 10m vertical dipole made of aluminium piping is that its lightweight enough to avoid guying and so at high tide at this time of the morning the water was just lapping at the base of the wooden support pole. Over the next 2.5 hours 10m was open to North America and Japan which was lots of fun, especially after 0000 UTC when the contest was finally over.

On day 2 when 10m closed at 0200 UTC (12:30pm) it was really oppressive in the tent with the weather. There no wind again this day and my little temperature gauge was revealing the scary reading of 42.5 degrees C!!!!! It was fair to reflect back now and realise that during this second day I was experiencing heat stroke. After trying to rest, rehydrate and recover I was back on 20m at 0600 UTC (4:30pm local) where it was still 42 degrees C in the tent to see if long path to Europe and short path North/South America was open. Over the next two hours it was mainly JA and the EU big guns getting in the log but I then changed to 15m where signals from Europe were quite good over the next 4 hours. At 1200 UTC I decided to QSY to 20m to make myself available for North America. I did this because 15m at this time gives Asia and Europe the opportunity to make a QSO, but by being on 20m it gives the whole world a chance. Signals from North America were good and the east coast were getting into the log as well as Europe and Asia, the fun continued for another 7.5 hours at 1945 UTC (5:45am). After 14 hours on the air I went to bed at 6:30am local time.

short path to Europe/Asia

short path to North America

Call me crazy but I decided to wake up 3 hours later because I had to give 10m a try again to get North Americans in the log. So I started day 3 at 2330 UTC (10:00am local), I wasn’t really awake and hit the auto CQ button and I swear to God a station came back to me after the first call and then a nice run into North America and JA occurred until 0200 UTC just like yesterday. This was fantastic because now I knew I had 2 periods of getting W/VE’s into the log, namely 10m at 2300-0200 UTC and 20m at 1100-1400 UTC. So it was 0300 UTC on day 3 and based on propagation I knew that I needed to be on the air as late as 1900 UTC and it was 37 degrees in the tent and I was sleep deprived already. So I tried to rest/sleep from 0300 to 0600 UTC (1:30pm to 4:30pm local).

When I woke up and had a meal it was 0700 UTC in my late afternoon and I decided to try 10m for Europe considering this band was so good in my mornings for North America. Well a great European pile up resulted from 0700 to 1100 UTC and then it was time to visit 20m. Yet again conditions were great and lots of North America got in the log along with Scandinavian stations early on and then the whole of Europe was coming in later on. In the 1700 UTC onwards period a lot of QSOs were made with the UK and the band closed at 2000 UTC. So it was wonderful to have another long session with me being in the chair non-stop for 13 hours. The only problem was that it was 2000 UTC/6:30am local and I had to be on the air at 2300 UTC/9:30am local for 10m North America. Hello more sleep deprivation……

I didn’t end up using 30m because 20m stayed open so late and trying 80m at sunrise just wasn’t practical as I needed to sleep for a few hours and then be on the air for 3 hours in the mid morning every day.

So day 4 pretty much followed the same successful pattern as the previous day, 10m into North America/Asia from 2300 to 0200 UTC, then rest and try to grab some sleep which was easier to do because it was much cooler on day 4. The only problem was that the wind really was quite strong and I needed to secure the camp in the afternoon rain showers. Then 10m was open again to Europe from 0730 to 1030 UTC, it was a bit early for 20m so I hit 15m at 1030 UTC to 1230 UTC for Europe/JA and went to 20m at 1230 UTC until the last QSO at 1816 UTC.

My way of judging my IOTA DXpeditions is to aim for 1000 QSO’s per day and have greater than 10% of the total with North America and to also focus on two bands to maximise opportunities with the whole world whilst at the same time minimising people logging me on multiple bands and giving stations with modest set-ups a chance.

So after 3.5 days of operating it resulted in 4194 QSOs. The breakdown is as follows:


SSB      4194 QSOs      100 %


20m     2370 QSOs      56 %
10m     1303 QSOs      31 %
15m      455 QSOs       11 %
17m        33 QSOs         1 %
40m        33 QSOs         1 %


Europe                2598 QSOs      62 %
Asia                      808 QSOs      19 %
North America      669 QSOs      16 %
Oceania               104 QSOs        2 %
Africa                    11 QSOs      <1%
South America        4 QSOs       <1%

There was concern from people prior to the DXpedition about people from Scandinavia and the UK getting into the log due to southern and eastern Europe having better propagation. Many got in the log though:

226 QSOs into the United Kingdom and Ireland
169 QSOs into Scandinavia (66 SM, 41 LA, 39 OH, 22 OZ and 1 JW)

Thank you everyone for the QSOs, this was one of the most physically demanding DXpeditions I’ve done but it was great to get over 4000 QSOs. It was also fun to be doing this while Iman was on OC-252 as YB4IR/7 and Din on OC-250 as YB8RW/3. Hopefully lots of people got 3 new IOTAs this last week. I know I did!

The QSLs have been ordered and paid for with Gennady UX5UO and so it should arrive to me sometime in late April/early May.

Thank you for those people donating already with the OQRS. For those people generous enough to send in donations, this will be used to fund my next IOTA DXpedition.

1 comment:

  1. A great write up Craig. I'm not sure many people understand the amount of effort required to get a station onto an island - even for a day!

    Well done and here's to the next one!