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!!