Home :: News :: News #21 - 2008 Feb 25
Highlights:
... Fireworks at Ducie Island ...
... VP6DX breaks record for largest number of contacts on an expedition ...
... Other band and mode contact records also broken ...
... Pileups remain large ...
... Long path contacts made on 160m band with Ducie Island ...
... Description of stations ...
... New Pictures online ...

On 2008 February 25 Monday at 0437z, after 13 days 7 hours and 37 minutes of continuous operation, RA0ALM contacted the Ducie Island expedition on the 10 MHz band for the expedition's 168,723rd contact.

According to documents maintained by Jari Jussila OH2BU, this contact breaks the record for the largest number of contacts made by any radio expedition. The record was previously held by the Five Star DX Association's expedition to the Comoros Island (D68C) during 2001 Feb 8-28.

A few moments later, the pre-moonrise starry skies above Ducie Island sparkled with a barrage of flares launched from the deck of the M/V Braveheart in celebration. The thirteen operators and six Braveheart crew congratulated each other with handshakes, hugs, and some strong coffee. But deep pileups of European and North American stations were still calling. Soon the seven on-duty operators were back in front of the radios, while the others crept off to their cots to catch up on sleep in the cool of the evening.

The Ducie Island expedition has broken other expedition records in recent days, including:

  • largest number of RTTY contacts, previously held by the Swains Island N8S expedition of 2007 April.
  • largest number of SSB (voice) contacts, previously held by the Comoros Island D68C expedition.
  • largest number of contacts on the 40m band, previously held by the Libya 5A7A expedition of 2006 November.
  • largest number of contacts on the 30m band, previously held by the St Brandon Island 3B7C expedition of 2007 September.
  • largest number of contacts on the 17m band, previously held by the Swains Island N8S expedition.
  • largest number of contacts with North America, previously held by the Comoros Island D68C expedition.
  • largest number of contacts with South America, previously held by the Peter the First Island 3Y0X expedition of 2006 February.
  • largest number of contacts with Africa, previously held by the Rodrigues Island 3B9C expedition of 2004 March-April.

As this message was transmitted by Iridium satellite from Ducie Island, the expedition contact total crossed 170,000 contacts... and continues to increase at about 415 contacts per hour. Most contacts now entering the logs are with European stations during their morning twilight period. In an hour or so the focus will shift to North and South America, east Asia and the Pacific, where it will remain until dawn at Ducie Island.

Long path contacts on 160m with Ducie Island

Earlier, we reported that a contact on the 160m band had been made with A45XR in Oman, at the opposite side of the planet from Ducie Island. This contact occurred on Feb 18 near Ducie Island sunrise. All of the stations contacted in Europe were in their late afternoon, with the sunset terminator approaching.

On Feb 21 a series of long path 160m contacts were made between Ducie Island and stations in Ukraine and southern European Russia. Eleven stations were worked during 1345-1430z. Signals were best on the 225 (Ukraine) or 195 degree (Russia) beverages and inaudible in other directions, confirming a long path route with very little or no skew.

Contacts with southern European Russia used a path from Ducie Island south-southwest over Antarctica, then north across the southern Indian Ocean (Heard Island, Mauritius), across the Persian Gulf and Iran into Russia. These paths are 23000 to 24000 km long.

For the Ukraine, signals followed a south Pacific Ocean path into the Southern Ocean below New Zealand and Australia, then near the Maldives, the Persian Gulf, and finally towards the Ukraine.

During the same time period, a station in the Moscow City oblast was also contacted. This signal clearly arrived on the short path, crossing over Scandinavia.... Signals were loud on 015 degree beverage antenna and was barely audible on the 195 antenna.

Scandinavia and northwest Russia stations looking for a 160m contact with Ducie Island should check this time for a short path opening. Stations in Ukraine and southwest Russia should look for the long path.

During the hours leading up to and including this long/short path opening to Europe, Oman, Mongolia, and Tajik stations were also contacted on their short path directions.

Of course, we looked for the same opening the following morning, but without success. The 160m operator team will keep checking through the final day of operations. Departure from Ducie Island, now scheduled for February 28 Thursday at 2000z, has been delayed by 1-2 hours so that a final attempt can be made to work more eastern and northern European stations during this unique opening.

Description of stations

We have received inquiries about the equipment and antennas used on Ducie Island.

Each operating position uses:

  • Elecraft K3 radio. The outstanding receiver and transmitter characteristics allow us to run two positions simultaneously on any band -- even the very narrow 30m band -- with absolutely no interference. Good design makes the complex appear simple: the ins and outs of this sophisticated radio were quickly mastered by the operator team, none of whom had seen a K3 before the expedition.
  • Microham microKeyer II computer interfaces: plug in, turn on, call CQ and get to work.
  • Acom 2000, 1000 or 1010 amplifiers: quietly getting the job done without trouble. The position used on 160m includes an OM 2500 HF amplifier.
  • 200 W W3NQN bandpass filters from Array Solutions and 2 kW bandpass filters from 4O3A.
  • WinTest logging software runs on Durabook ruggedized laptops.
  • Honda EM65is and EM30is inverter supply, gasoline generators -- 100% reliability to date. The inverter system has been very tolerant of the widely varying loads presented to the generators as multiple operating positions switch between transmit (high power consumption) and receive (low power consumption), a vast improvement over previous gasoline generator designs.

The seven operating positions are divided into two sites: east (four positions) and west (three positions). The operating sites stand about 1km apart, a 15 minute walk over a coral shelf bordering the island's inner lagoon. Each site has its own WiFi network, and a microwave link ties the two sites together. Sleeping tents and meals are located at the east camp.

The antennas include:

  • 160m: Titanex vertical. (west)
  • 80m/30m CW: Titanex vertical. (west)
  • 75m SSB: SpiderBeam 4-square. (east)
  • 40m: two SpiderBeam 4-squares. (one at each site)
  • 30m: Spiderbeam 4-square. (east)
  • 20 thru 10m: two Spiderbeam 2-element vertical Yagi arrays on each band, one located at each site.
  • 6m: 5-element Yagi

An array of beverage receiving antennas sits mid-way between the two sites. Each beverage is constructed using DX Engineering two-wire beverage kits, providing two directions for each installed antenna. At present four beverages (eight directions) are in available to the 160m, 80m CW and 75m operator. Each operator has independent choice of his receiving antenna. The receive antenna distribution system includes DX Engineering pre-amps, packaged with custom filter, switching, and protection hardware designed and built by K3NA and W2VJN. On-site construction was done under the hot sun by Robin WA6CDR and Milt N5IA (who sacrificed most of their operating time to date to make this happen!)

Receive antenna directions available to the operators are:

  • 015 - western USA, eastern Europe short path. (about 200m in length)
  • 045 - eastern USA, western Europe (two parallel 200m beverages, combined)
  • 085 - Caribbean, northern South America, Africa. (about 350m length)
  • 125 - southern South America (about 200m in length)
  • 195 - long path eastern Europe & Scandinavia (reverse direction of 015)
  • 225 - long path eastern Europe & Scandinavia, Australia, New Zealand. (reverse of 045)
  • 265 - southeast Asia, western Pacific, northern Australia (reverse of 085)
  • 305 - Japan, China, northern Asia. (reverse of 125)

This beverage system came on-line on Feb 16 and has been an outstanding success in reducing tropical thunderstorm static, improving our ability to copy weak signals and look for unusual propagation paths.

All this hardware is here on Ducie Island to help make it easy for you to contact us. No matter how simple your antenna, or distant your location, please check our transmit frequencies. If you can hear us, we can probably hear you -- so give us a call! Even a make-shift temporary antenna should yield some surprising results. But hurry! On-air operations will shut down soon as we prepare to return home.

New pictures online

Have a look at http://ducie2008.dl1mgb.com/pictures/index.php.