Monday, December 13, 2010

Now QRT - 1115 QSOs into 70 DXCC entities

The weekend DXpedition to Magnetic Island is now over. During the 60 hours on the island there was around 42 hours of actual operating when you factor in sleep and meals. Propagation was definitely not as good as Fitzroy Island, for instance in the first 60 hours of operating there I made 1739 QSOs versus the 1115 made here.

Mind you this IOTA is not as rare and has been activated once this year by a JA operator to another island. Nevertheless it was still lots of fun. 20m was terrible in the evening and very few Europeans there were contacted however 15m to Europe was great. North America continued to be a bit of a no show on all bands so that’s a shame.

Here’s a breakdown of the contacts made:

1071 (96.1%) SSB
    43 (3.8%) PSK31
      1 (0.1%) RTTY

608 (54.5%) 15m
242 (21.7%) 20m
135 (12.1%) 10m
130 (11.7%) 40m

551 (49.4%) Europe
382 (34.3%) Asia
153 (13.7%) Oceania
  24 (2.2%) North America
    3 (0.2%) Africa
    2 (0.2%) South America

Just for interest sake I’ve done a quick comparison between this weekend trip on Magnetic Island OC-171 in December and the weeklong trip to Fitzroy Island OC-172 in October. The clear difference is the poor 20m conditions to Europe in the late evening but fortunately 15m in the late afternoon/early evening meant that many Europeans needing this IOTA were satisfied. Poor conditions to North America continued. Another difference to the past DXpedition was the it was the ARRL 10m contest so there were quite a few VKs there to push up the Oceania percentage.

SSB                96.1% (OC-171) and 90.7% (OC-172)
PSK31             3.8% (OC-171) and 9.2% (OC-172)
RTTY                0.1% (OC-171) and 0.1% (OC-172)

15m    54.5% (OC-171) and 21.6% (OC-172)
20m    21.7% (OC-171) and 65.4% (OC-172)
10m    12.1% (OC-171) and 11.7% (OC-172)
40m    11.7% (OC-171) and 1.3% (OC-172)

Europe                       49.4% (OC-171) and 70.0% (OC-172)
Asia                            34.3% (OC-171) and 25.6% (OC-172)
Oceania                     13.7% (OC-171) and 2.7% (OC-172)
North America            2.2% (OC-171) and 1.4% (OC-172)
Africa                            0.2% (OC-171) and 0.1% (OC-172)
South America           0.2% (OC-171) and 0.2% (OC-172)

Saturday, December 11, 2010

1 day down, 1 day to go

It's just over the half way point of the short trip. I'm spotting myself on the cluster everytime I change band to give people a chance to work OC-171. So please excuse all the self-spots but with a 100W and a vertical its not like I'm lighting up any spectrum analysers with my little signal and I'm trying to make the most of the limited band openings here.

Conditions to North America have been terrible. As expected the hills are blocking long path on 20m and there is no short path prop on 20m this time of year. Nothing on 15m short path and the best hope, namely 40m has been incredibly noisy. I did work a few stateside last night on 40m with the dipole but I was spending most of my time calling and calling and listening to the noise. At the same time I had a great opening on 15m to Europe so I ended up spending time there. I'm glad I did because 20m last night was pretty useless here which was a big surprise.

So will such a short time here it's just a matter of working what's open.

I'll keep trying for 40m tonight for North America in case I have more luck. Yesterday there was a total of 702 QSO's made. 73s

Friday, December 10, 2010

40m dipole up finally

After the small pile up of JA's got their Q's on 20m SSB and PSK31 this morning, at 930am local time or 2330 UTC I did the game of "let's get the 40m dipole up" again.

In blazing sun and ridiculous humidity I was able to get it up at a lower height but it's in the clear with a good SWR and a LOT LOT LOT less noise than the vertical. So tonight I'll try for North America on SSB, RTTY and PSK31 in the 0900-1300 UTC period.

Up and running but conditions not great

I'm up and running. The QRN and radar levels on 40m have been really bad. The palm trees are very high and late yesterday afternoon I just couldn't get the support rope up into the palms after many many frustrating throws. The vertical is too noisy for 40m and I really need the dipole up, so fingers crossed today. Email reports last night from W/VE indicate conditions between VK and North America weren't great anyway.

20m to Europe last night wasn't as good as I experienced on Fitzroy Island a couple of months ago. I did get a decent run during the 1300-1400 period including some W/VE's too.

40m tonight

Sorry everyone, 40m is full of radar noise and QRN levels are s7-9+.

I've only been able to get into JA tonight up until 0940 UTC, I will check later tonght hopefully, I'm off to 20m

On the air

I'm now set up after some delays late this afternoon and early evening. I only have the multiband vertical up and the noise on 40m is horrendous. I hope to get the dipole up tomorrow which will be a lot quieter on that band. So tonight much of my time will probably be on 20m if I cant hear anyone on 40m.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Latest OC-171 Operating Schedule

I’ve come up with an updated operating schedule that makes best use of the current propagation here in north Queensland so that North America, Asia and Europe all get a chance of working OC-171.

The focus will be SSB, I don’t do CW but I may do some RTTY and PSK31 if I’m not getting through on SSB. I’ll be using vertical antenna, so there’s no need to worry about beam headings, it’s all up to band choice and propagation.  

I’ll be arriving on Magnetic Island at 4pm local time (0600 UTC) on Friday afternoon and I hope to have the station operational by 0800 UTC which is my greyline at sunset. So the operating schedule will be:

Friday December 10th (UTC)

0600 UTC arrive at island and assemble station

0800-0900 UTC 40m (for America's) or 15m (for Europe) 
0900-1100 UTC 40m
1100-1300 UTC 40m (for America's) or 20m (for Europe) 
1300-1700 UTC 20m
1700-2000 UTC 40m
2000-2300 UTC sleep
2300-0000 UTC 15m

Saturday December 11th (UTC)

0000-0700 UTC 15m
0700-0800 UTC 10m or 15m
0800-0900 UTC 40m (for America's) or 15m (for Europe) 
0900-1100 UTC 40m
1100-1300 UTC 40m (for America's) or 20m (for Europe) 
1300-1700 UTC 20m
1700-2000 UTC 40m
2000-2300 UTC sleep
2300-0000 UTC 15m

Sunday December 12th (UTC)

0000-0700 UTC 15m
0700-0800 UTC 10m or 15m
0800-0900 UTC 40m (for America's) or 15m (for Europe) 
0900-1100 UTC 40m
1100-1300 UTC 40m (for America's) or 20m (for Europe) 
1300-1700 UTC 20m
1700-2000 UTC 40m
2000 UTC go QRT and dismantle station
2200 UTC depart island

I’ll be sleeping at 2000-2300 UTC, this will be my ONLY time to sleep. I know that this is a time for long path North America on 20m, however I’m pretty sure that the hills to my south west will block this path. If I can work into the America’s at this time, then I’ll just stay on air during this 60 hour period until I drop – hi hi!

At times when there’s propagation to North America, I’ll be listening above 7175, 14225 and 21275 for the US Generals.

I’ll have internet access and so I can spot myself on the DX cluster to let everyone know where I am.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Reconnaissance visit to DXpedition site

Fortunately Magnetic Island is easily accessible from my QTH in Townsville, the problem is finding a spot to operate that ensures you can contact the parts of the world that need this IOTA. The mountain top locations are inaccessible by road and the only accommodation is in deep U shaped bays that have steep hills that can block signals for an arc of 270 degrees. I found this out the hard way in July during the IOTA contest where I decided at the last minute to jump over to Magnetic Island for the weekend. I was only able to get a backpacker style eco-tourism cabin as it was the peak of tourist season and everything else was way too expensive or booked out. On that unsuccessful trip only 124 QSO’s were made as JA, short path America’s and long path Europe were blocked by hills. I was able to expel those IOTA demons with the successful trip to Fitzroy Island in October which had a lot better planning. Goes to show you can’t rush or force an IOTA DXpedition!

During my first failed attempted at Magnetic Island in July I looked for future potential sites and so with this info in mind and some recent Google earth analysis, a QTH was chosen and booked. So last weekend my wife and I took a Saturday half-day trip on the passenger ferry to visit my future operating location. I had arranged with the property owners to visit the location to investigate the outside area and the inside of the place. It’s a beach house on a small street running along the foreshore, it has a nice little front yard for the vertical that is only 30m from the beach, which is similar distance from the waters edge to what I had on Fitzroy Island.

So I can ground mount the Butternut HF9V in the front yard and put out the radials within the confines of the beach house property. After checking the compass headings, I have a clear water take off on the short path to Europe (long path South America), Asia and through to JA. I’m relieved to say that the short path to North America is looking good with a clear water path as well. The mountains do block off short path South America/long path Europe and short path South Africa/long path North America. See photo on the blog page.

After more investigation of the beach house property, it looks like I can erect a full size 40m dipole between a couple of palm trees and the orientation will be north-south so that will give me the chance to work the America’s on 40m in my early evening before I go to 20m (say 0800-1100 UTC) and the chance to work Europe after 20m closes, say (1700-2000 UTC).

As with Fitzroy Island, I’ll be spending the majority of my time operating SSB, however I may spend a little time on the Friday night looking for 40m PSK31 for the America’s if there isn’t much happening on SSB, I won’t do this Saturday and Sunday night (early morning in the America’s) as USA have their PSK Death Match contest so that band segment will be full of signals.

I only have Friday afternoon through to sunrise Monday morning to be on air, so I wanted to know exactly what was there so that I can arrive and quickly assemble antennas and equipment and be on air within 2 hours. This isn’t a holiday style trip, my wife has ‘given approval’ for it to be a radio only trip, so while she’s kicking back and relaxing on the island, I’ll be in a 60 hour contest style mode of operating. I’m hoping to be on as much as my sleep depravated body will allow from Friday (0800 UTC) through Monday (2000 UTC), then we go back to the mainland. It’s only a 15 minute drive from the barge terminal in Townsville to our home, so I can spend the Monday catching up on lost sleep.

Knowing the propagation from this area at the moment and from my recent experience on Fitzroy Island, I’ll come up with an operating schedule to give a fair and equitable share between Europe, Asia and the America’s. 10m is showing the odd pulse here at the moment, on Fitzroy Island there were 3 afternoons open to Europe and during CQWW SSB just recently, it just barely opened here to USA on the Saturday and was quite good during the day to JA/BY/UA0 but didn’t quite get going for western Europe. Then during the Ukrainian contest last Sunday afternoon, I worked some Europe on SSB and then on PSK31. So I’ll have a plan A and B that takes into account potential life on 28 MHz. Fortunately I’ll have wireless internet available at my operating position so that I can use the DX cluster to let people know instantly when I’m trying 10m or doing things like going to 40m PSK31 or RTTY, etc. With such a short time on the island it’s just a matter of making the best use of my time there. I can’t see myself making another IOTA DXpedition to OC-171 especially after doing OC-172 just a few weeks ago, and then when you complicate things further with the past two months of CQWW RTTY & SSB, and Oceania, SAC and All Asia SSB contests. It’s fair to say that another IOTA DXpedition couldn’t be put on the table for another 6 months!!  

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Announcing a short DXpedition to OC-171

After the fun of the VK4LDX/P DXpedition to Fitzroy Island on IOTA OC-172 during October 16-22 2010, see, my wife has agreed to another trip to a different IOTA. So a shorter 3 day expedition over a single weekend with my XYL Michelle is being planned for December 10-12 2010.

I will be using the same strategy by using a multiband vertical close to the beach. There are two key improvements I need for this trip. Firstly to have the accommodation grounds to myself so I don’t have to worry about upsetting guests or managers with antennas, especially the radials. Secondly and most importantly, to find a location that still has the same water path to JA and Europe that Fitzroy Island did, but to also have a good take-off to North America. I believe I’ve ticked both of these boxes with the location I’ve booked.

Magnetic Island is in close proximity to my home QTH in Townsville, so my wife and I will be having a little afternoon day trip on the Ferry so that I can scope out the place I’ve booked, figure out antenna locations, take compass bearings for short path Europe and North America and ensure that the mountains aren’t blocking me. This kind of reconnaissance will put my mind at ease about antennas and allow me to make the best use of the short time I’ll be there. Even though I’ll only be operating over a period of 60 hours, on the Fitzroy Island DXpedition, the first 60 hour operating period resulted in 1950 QSOs. So I’m hoping for 1500-2000 QSOs if things go to plan.