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.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

End of day 3, last day today

Hi all, 3 days down and 3360 QSO's into the log.

Heat not the issue today but the wind is. Hope everything holds together.

Only managed 3 hours sleep again because 20m stayed open to Europe until 1930 UTC (600am local) and then I had to be awake by 2300 UTC for 10m which was open to NA until 0200 UTC.

Feeling REALLY REALLY REALLY exhausted but at least the risk of heat stroke is gone with the cooler weather today and tomorrow.

The auto CQ button on the Icom IC7000 is my most treasured possession right now :)

If you are not in the log then dont worry I'll keep calling CQ CQ no matter what because the band openings to different parts of the world are so variable. This is my favourite part of the DXpedition because the logs are under my belt and the pile ups are very manageable and sometimes non-existent so that people with low power and modest antennas have a chance to get through.

PLAN FOR REST OF TODAY - this is based on what happened last night where:

- 10m was open to Europe from 0700 to 1100 (especially 0800 onwards)
- even though there were no pile ups to North America, I had reports of booming signals on 20m when I was there at 1200 UTC and I found a large amount of OH, LA and SM's calling as well because it wasn't open to southern Europe until after 1400
- from 1400-1900 UTC band was wide open to all of Europe and after 1730 I worked a huge number of UK stations.

So here's what I'm thinking of doing today:

0500-0700 UTC: Just resting and a little bit of calling CQ on 15m SSB

0700-1000 UTC: 10m SSB for Europe/Asia. If 10m isn't open then I'll be on 15m SSB

1000-1230 UTC: 15m SSB for Europe/Asia. If 10m is open I'll still be there though

1230-1900 UTC: 20m SSB for North America/Europe/Asia

Monday, March 30, 2015

End of Day 2

Hi all, I'll be quick and do the full story of things later. Very very tired as this is a one man tent and generator DXpedition Yesterday the temperature in the tent reached 42.5C.

End of day 2, 2 days to go and 2078 QSO's in the log.

Based of the propagation I'll be operating as follows today on 31/3

0700-0800 UTC on 20m or 15m or 10m SSB

0800-1000 UTC on 15m or 10m SSB

1000-1200 UTC on 20m or 15m or 10m SSB

1200 onwards on 20m SSB (last night 20m finally closed at 1945 UTC)

sleep when 20m closes

2230 UTC onwards on 10m SSB

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Up and running

Hi everyone

Tough going with the WPX contest so I had to operate simplex but I wanted to be on 20m to give North America a chance and conditions were good the USA last night.

I couldn't do an all nighter last night as I'm getting over the flu and setting up a tent and generator DXpedition on the beach all by myself really knocked me around so I needed sleep.

Hope to be on the air longer today and at least the contest finishes soon so I can work split again

I have internet access so I'm frequently uploading logs

on the air now

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Operating Plan

Now of course this all depends on propagation, but here are the plans. Feel free to email me any questions before the DXpedition at vk5ce@yahoo.com.au


SSB (majority of QSO’s to be SSB for DXpedition) or PSK31. 


400W on SSB powered by two Honda EU10i generators


The main focus will be on 20m and 15m to give out as many unique call sign QSOs as possible. I will only operate on 30m digital when 20m has closed to Europe, this is typically in the 1600 or 1700 UTC period depending on band conditions. Just for fun, I will be on 80m SSB at my local sunrise in the 2000 to 2130 UTC period to take advantage of using a vertical at the beach for this band. My operation of 30m digital and 80m phone is not intended to provide massive amounts of QSOs, this is just for a bit of fun and to try something different. 

80m (look for me around 3779 – 3800 kHz)

40m (look for me around 7160 – 7220 kHz)

30m (look for me around 10140 – 10144 kHz)

20m (look for me around 14240 – 14265 kHz)

17m (look for me around 18140 – 18160 kHz)

15m (look for me around 21240 – 21270 kHz)

10m (look for me around 28450 – 28480 kHz)

On the Sunday of WPX SSB I could be anywhere. Hopefully I'll have internet access to spot where I am


All verticals so no need to worry about where I am beaming. All antennas will be at the high tide mark of the beach. For 40m/80m there will be a HF2V duoband vertical with 32 x 20m radials. For 10, 15, 17, 20 and 30m I have quarter wave monoband verticals made of aluminium tube sections, whenever I need to change a band it takes just 1 minute to do it by inserting or removing sections. This means I only need to have one radial field for this ground mounted antenna and I have 50 radials for this antenna. 

Club Log

There should be internet access on the beach, and so I will do Club Log uploads twice a day. If the Club Log is not updated during the DXpedition then you'll know that mobile reception isn't working.

Pile ups

I’ll be listening for ‘North America only’ at various times particularly on 20m as propagation to North America is much tougher and for shorter windows compared to Asia and Europe. When I call ‘North America only’, stations from North America, Central America, the Caribbean, South America and Hawaii can call me. I'll be on 20m in the 1000 to 1400 period on day 1 and 2 to maximise QSOs into North America. On days 3 and 4 I may be on 15m to maximise QSOs into Europe, especially northern Europe. It just depends on what propagation is doing.

On the last day (Wednesday) you may hear me calling for "United Kingdom and Scandinavia only" at times to give northern Europe a chance to get through. 

Operation Plan

Sunday March 29

From Ceduna SA, I’ll be going by boat to St Peters Island, the actual arrival time depends on the tides but I’m hoping to be there by lunchtime around 0100 UTC. This is a classic tent and generator DXpedition and I will be all by myself on the island as the boat is only there to drop me off and pick me up – WILSON!!!!!!

 My intention is to be on the air by late afternoon around 0600 UTC.

Anticipated operating plan for Sunday March 29:

I could be on various bands at various times on Sunday due to the WPX contest being on. The negative is there'll be lots of QRM but the positive is that there'll be lots of people looking on the bands. The schedule of operating for Sunday will probably look something like this:

0600 – 0900 UTC:              20m SSB (or 15m SSB)               

0900 – 1000 UTC:              40m SSB (or 80m SSB)               

1000 – 1200 UTC:              20m SSB (or 15m SSB or 40m SSB)               

1200 – 1700 UTC:              20m SSB (or 17m SSB)

1700 – 2000 UTC:              30m digital (or 40m SSB or 40m digital)

2000 – 2130 UTC:              80m SSB (or 30m digital) 

2130 – 0000 UTC:              15m SSB (or 10m SSB or 20m SSB)

Anticipated operating plan for Monday March 30, Tuesday March 31 & Wednesday April 1:

0000 – 0200 UTC:              15m SSB (or 10m SSB or 15m/10m PSK31)

0200 – 0400 UTC:              Break for sleeping 2 hours

0400 – 0900 UTC:              20m SSB (or 15m SSB)

0900 – 1000 UTC:              20m SSB (or 15m SSB or 40m SSB)               

1000 – 1700 UTC:              20m SSB or 15m SSB (or 17m SSB)

1700 – 1800 UTC:              30m digital

1800 – 2000 UTC:              Break for sleeping for 2 hours or maybe staying with 30m, 40m, 80m

2000 – 2130 UTC:              80m SSB (or 30m digital or 40m SSB)
2130 – 2200 UTC:              Break for sleeping for 2.5 hours or maybe staying with 20m 


The good thing about St Peter Island is that it is around 600km west of my QTH but at a fairly similar latitude and so the propagation between home and OC-220 would be quite similar. I’ve been pretty active over the past couple of weeks and so I know what to expect on the bands.

North America

I was deliberately active in the ARRL SSB contest just recently to see what my best chances are for W/VE QSO’s. Normally with North America on my IOTA activations there is:

almost nothing on 20m long path in the 2000-2300 UTC period
 a little bit short path on 15m in the 2300-0200 UTC period
a little bit short path in the 0500-0800 UTC period
good conditions on 20m short path in 1000-1400 UTC period

WELL………. not last weekend. Rather than search and pounce, I figured the best way to see what my signal was like was to run on a frequency and see if people could hear me in the QRM rich contest environment. There was:

almost nothing on 20m long path in the 2000-2300 UTC period, so I expected that
there was virtually nothing on 15m short path in the 2300-0200 UTC period which was a surprise. But on 10m there was a nice run of stations into the west coast mainly but also CT, NJ, NY, KY, PA and AL.
conditions were SENSATIONAL across east to west coast in the 0530-0900 UTC period which was a really big surprise.  
conditions were not great in the 1000-1400 UTC period at all

To verify this, yesterday I was chasing VP2MEL for an ATNO. They were very poor long path around 0000 UTC on 20m, they were OK on 15m at 0100 UTC but I couldn’t get close to breaking the JA wall, but then later in the day on 20m at 0730 UTC I was able to beat the EU wall and work them within 15 minutes. That’s a classic example of how the best chance of working me in North America may be better in the 0530-0900 UTC period on 20m short path. I know this is very early in the morning in the middle of the night, but rest assured I will be there each day and regularly listening for North/South America. When you look at my operating plan, I’m sure that if you’re in North/South America you’ll see that I’m in places where there is a chance for you to work me.

On 20m at 0400-0800 UTC and 1000-1400 UTC will be competing with Europeans that are likely going to be much stronger. But don’t worry, I’ll be regularly listening out for North America. One thing that I’ll do is listen out for North/South America only on every half hour, i.e. 0430, 0500, 0530, etc.

I'll be on 20m in the 1000 to 1400  UTC period on Sunday and Monday to maximise QSO’S North America. I cant guarantee I'll be there at this time on Tuesday and Wednesday.

For those who know my IOTA DXpeditions you know that I typically make 60% of QSOs with Europe. Even though there is a lot of comments made about pile ups to this part of the world, I admit to really enjoy working big European pile ups and I’ll always give the pile up instructions of where I’m listening and if I’m listening for a certain station I’ll stick with you and not let bullies trying to call over the top win. The key is just keeping discipline to control the pile up. So when you hear me calling for North/South America only, it’s not that I don’t value the European QSO’s, it’s just that I know I have longer and stronger band openings with Europe. This isn’t a holiday style operation, its EAT-SLEEP-DX-REPEAT non-stop, my goal is to be operating 18 hours a day, so you’ll get in the log eventually on 20m or 15m. Remember there will also be club log uploads twice a day to minimise you fighting hams doing dupes.

The great news is that I’m hearing you in Europe really really STRONG on 20m long path in VK5. I’m also hearing you well on 15m both long and short path and later on 20m short path. You’ll see from my operating schedule that I’ll be in the right places for you, especially at 0400-0800 UTC on 20m long path, 1000-1700 UTC on 20m or 15m SSB short path. For a bit of fun I’ll also be on 30m digital after 20m closes, I’ll announce that on the DX cluster. At my sunrise in the 2000-2130 UTC period I’ll be trying 80m SSB or 30m digital also just for a bit of fun, again I’ll announce myself on the DX cluster.

On Sunday and Monday I'll be on 20m in the 1000 to 1400 UTC period to give North America a chance too. But on Tuesday and Wednesday I may be 15m instead. 15m could be open to Europe short path as late as 1400 UTC. At times I may be calling for "United Kingdom and Scandinavia only " to give northern Europe a chance. 

Well it’s safe to say that even if you run QRP or a magnetic loop from your apartment window, you’ll make it in the logbook. I’m on the air at many times that are favourable to Asia all day long as you can see from the above schedule.

South America
Even though there is only a small number that ever make it in the log, I’m always listening out for the regular band of South American IOTA chasers especially from people like XQ1KY, HK3JJH, PY7ZZ, PT7WA, PY1SX, etc. Remember when I’m listening for North America, anyone from South America (and Central America/Caribbean) can also call. I’m thinking that 20m short path in 0500-0900 UTC is the best chance for you, and perhaps on 15m short path at 0000-0200 UTC. Also look for me ar 0800 on 40m

South Africa
A few ZS stations pop up in a European pile up. If you are a ZS station and want to give yourself the best chance of getting in the log, send me an email at vk5ce@yahoo.com.au and I’ll listen out for Africa at certain times you think that band conditions are best for you.

Operating location

This is a one-man tent and generator operation. The campsite location is going to be on the beach and the vertical antennas will be as close to the high tide mark as possible. There is a clear water take off short path JA, short path Europe and short path North America. The take off to long path Europe and long path North America is also very good. This is a unique situation to have so many clear water take offs to so many key directions to the world.

St Peter Island, South Australia

St Peter Island was named in 1627 by Pieter Nuyts after his patron saint. It lies in relatively shallow water 5km from the mainland. Due to its size and accessibility, St Peter Island was used for agriculture from 1859 until its addition to the Nuyts Archipelago Conservation Park in 1988. The island is part of the Nuyts Archipelago Conservation Park while the waters surrounding its shores are in the Nuyts Archipelago Marine Park.

St Peter Island is classified as an Important Bird Area so identified by BirdLife International because it supports over 1% of the world populations of Short-tailed Shearwaters, White-faced Storm-Petrels and Pied Oystercatchers.

The biggest concern is that St Peters Island has a large population of Black Tiger Snakes and the mortality rate of this snake is up to 60%, considering I’m by myself on the island I need to take great precautions to avoid this venomous snake. The camp will be set up on the beach to avoid any grassland and hopefully to lessen the encounters with them. They do feed at night and so I need to be careful refuelling the generator etc.