Thursday, April 21, 2011

QRT now - thanks for all the contacts - 1541 QSO's in 49 hours on air

Well the DXpedition is now over and we are safely packed up and off the island. It ended up being just a 49 hours operating period from 1200 UTC (10pm local) on Monday through to 1300 UTC (11pm local) on the Wednesday. So it was kind of like a WPX contest. I ended up with 1541 QSO’s mainly to North America and Europe.

After 3 days waiting in Sydney for my ear infection to subside, we flew into Townsville on the Monday afternoon. We quickly packed the car up with the gear and realised that we could get over to the island with an hour and a half of sunlight to set up the antenna. So my wife and I quickly got to work and erected the 10-15-20 Spiderbeam onto the 10m Spiderbeam aluminium mast. It was a great location right on the edge of the rocks that the seas crashed against. At high tide the cross arms of the antenna were actually over water. We didn’t have time to finish the entire antenna, so in complete darkness I’d installed the three 20m elements and the 10m and 15m driven element. I figured I could quickly install the 10m and 15m directors and reflectors at sunrise just before these bands would be open to the America’s.

In December last year, the location on the island was best for short path Asia and Europe but small hills blocked North/South America. So this visit was to address this and the new location had a clear water short path from North America through to South America which included long path Europe. There were big hills blocking short path Europe and Asia.

Mike Groom VE3VHB was emailing me about the recent good path between the east coast of North America and P29 at 1200-1400 UTC on 20m so I kicked things off at 1200 UTC on 20m short path. While the pile ups weren’t big, there was a nice steady opening into USA and Canada until 1530 UTC. It was 1:30am local time and after the flight and operating for a few hours I was feeling unwell from my flu and ear infection – but still I figured that fluids, cough mixtures/lollies and lots of medication might get me through the rest of the trip.

I could only fit in 4 hours sleep as I had to wake up at 5:30am to finish the Spiderbeam. At 2045 UTC (6:45am local) I had a great run into North America on 10m which included contacts into XE, TI, 9Y, HR, PJ2 and HP. This continued until 0015 UTC and then I had fun working into the west coast on 15m until 0100 UTC. I had to go QRT then as I had pretty much lost my voice and I was ready to crash and burn, so I had a few hours sleep.

I had high hopes for 20m long path into Europe and started at 0500 UTC. To my great relief the band was already wide open and there was a monstrous pile up into Europe which continued until 0830 UTC which was great fun. So it was then time to take more pills and potions and have the evening meal and say hello to my wife too!

I went on the air again at 1045 UTC and beamed short path USA on 20m. It was great to see the band open again with a steady stream of contacts across the entire east to west coast until 1430 UTC. I was exhausted but so relieved to be able to get my signal on a regular basis into the America’s.

The previous day 10m was open beautifully to North America, but not on the second morning. It wasn’t until 2150 UTC until things happened which was an hour later than the previous day. I chose 15m and had a great time working from the east to west coast USA and parts of the Caribbean. At 0100 UTC I took a visit to 10m and spent an hour working into USA which included TI and 6Y until the band closed at 0215 UTC.

So after a lunch break I went to the radio a little earlier for 20m long path Europe and had a ball from 0430 UTC with another big pile up. Around 0630 UTC the contacts into Europe slowed down and so I figured, OK the band is slowly on its way out. All of a sudden I’d start getting calls from all parts of the USA mixed in with the Europeans and this continued over the next hour. Then the Europeans stopped and so I rushed down to the water to spin the Spiderbeam to W/VE short path and continued working this part of the world until 0900 UTC – weird! But then to counterbalance this, conditions weren’t too good to North America in the 1200 UTC period and so I went QRT for good at 1330 UTC and packed up the station and was in bed by midnight local time.

The breakdown of contacts:

TOTAL QSO’s 1541
(1538 SSB and 3 PSK31)


718 (46.6%)  Europe
654 (42.2%)  North America
  72 (  4.7)%) Oceania
  59 (  3.8%)  Asia
  25 (  1.6 %) Africa
  13 (  0.8 %) South America


1155 (75.0 %) 20m
  227 (14.7 %) 15m
  159 (10.3 %) 10m

The boat was leaving at 8:00am local the next day and so at 5:30am my VERY UNDERSTANDING wife and I woke up and dismantled the Spiderbeam and we departed Magnetic Island for Townsville after a challenging yet fun filled 49 hour DXpedition. In just a few hours we were then jumping on a plane to visit our families in VK5 for Easter. After being away on our cruise holiday and now the DXpedition, we’d been away from our home in Townsville for almost 3 weeks, so I figured I better visit the post office and sure enough there was a big pile of 300 envelopes as a result of the OC-138 DXpedition in March, so please be patient I am working through them now as I brought them and my blank QSL cards with me to Adelaide in VK5.

So thank you so much to everyone for the QSO. In a couple of weeks we move interstate back to Alice Springs in the Northern Territory so I go back to being VK8PDX after being VK4LDX for the past 9 months in Townsville. The short stay in Townsville has been a great launching base for doing four DXpeditions to three different VK4 IOTA’s – Fitzroy Island OC-172 (October 2010), Magnetic Island OC-171 (December 2010), Horn Island OC-138 (March 2011) and Magnetic Island OC-171 (April 2011). In those four trips, it ended up with 10,200 QSOs.

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