Home :: News :: News #9 - 2008 Jan 31

... The M/V Braveheart continues across the Pacific, on schedule ...
... Good European signals heard on 160m during the crossing ...
... Operators preparing to leave home ...
... Today's background information: geographical balance.


Robin WA6CDR reports from the M/V Braveheart that, as a result of the typhoon that passed through the area, seas were somewhat rough immediately after departure from New Zealand. The ship slowed down to 5-7 knots, but in the last few days sea conditions have improved dramatically. The weather has become mild, traveling over calm seas with a small long swell.

Robin has been working on cables and other pre-assembly tasks that can be completed on board ship before the expedition reaches Ducie Island. For relaxing, an Elecraft K3 radio, amplifier and tuner has been attached to a wire antenna strung over the ship from bow to stern. With 500 W power output, Robin has been enjoying good low band propagation. During the WW 160 CW contest last weekend many top band signal from Europe went into the log.

Robin also reports the Braveheart crew is "superb", and the operators will have to be very disciplined to avoid putting on weight from all the good food!

As of early Jan 30 Wed (GMT) the M/V Braveheart was at 28 S 145 E, about 1000 km SSE of Tahiti. This ship is on schedule, planning to arrive at Mangareva Atoll this coming Saturday/Sunday.

The remaining 12 operators will be leaving their home countries during the next three days, converging on the Sofitel Hotel in Papeete, Tahiti, capital city of French Polynesia on Feb 3 Sun-Feb 4 Mon. On Feb 5 Tue 1500z the operators depart Tahiti for Mangareva. Once at Mangareva, the operators will immediately board the ship, clear immigration/customs, and depart.

During the passage to Ducie Island, the M/V Braveheart will make a midnight call at Pitcairn Island to drop off medical supplies. Longboats from Pitcairn will come along side in the dark to take the delivery to shore, and the ship will depart immediately thereafter. This stop will not delay the schedule for Ducie Island: we will still arrive at Ducie in the pre-dawn darkness of Feb 9 Sat (weather permitting).

Background information: Geographical balance

One big challenge for any expedition is to give DXers in all parts of the world a reasonably equal chance of working the expedition. There are three roughly-equal geographical concentrations of DXers: eastern Asia, Europe, and North America. As a goal, the number of QSOs on a particular band-mode (e.g., 80m CW) should be roughly equal for these three regions.

For Ducie Island, Europe (and especially eastern Europe) is the most difficult area to reach. The "short" path is over 8000 km, and short path signals to eastern Europe (zones 15, 16 and 20) travel through the auroral ring. Propagation openings on most bands will be much shorter than openings to east Asia or North America. At the bottom of the sunspot cycle, on the bands above 10 MHz, Europe opening times and durations will change significantly from day to day. Signals from Europe will be weaker.

We plan to use a number of techniques to help achieve geographical balance:

1. Station assignments:

With seven stations, we can't be on every band-mode 24 hours/day. Stations will be assigned to band-modes at times that will help achieve geographical balance. As an example, if 17m SSB contacts to date are 50% North America, 25% east Asia, and 20% Europe, station assignments will emphasize times when the band-mode is open to Europe or Asia.

2. The "10 minute check technique":

On the higher frequency bands, openings to distant areas may be weak, with spotty propagation. For example, the Europe 15m CW opening may be a few minutes of weak signals, then some time with no signals, then some signals from a different part of Europe, then no signals, etc. It doesn't make sense to just call "CQ Europe" during this kind of opening, since there will be no Europe signals for some of the time. Instead, Ducie Island operators will use the "10 minute check technique": working the pileup of louder signals (e.g., North America)... but stopping every 10 minutes to ask for Europe or other parts of the world with weak openings that are under-represented in the log on that band-mode. The "10 minute check technique" benefits from the cooperation of DXers with better propagation/signals. When the Ducie Island operator says "Stand by...Europe only please...", it will only take a minute to work the very few audible Europe signals IF other stations stand by.

3. The "check back later technique":
On the lower frequency bands, openings to the most difficult regions of the world are more predictable. For example, on 160m we expect Europe to be heard from Ducie Island sunset (about 0300z) until the end of European sunrise. That opening is only 1 hour for zone 17, about 2.5 hours for zone 16/20, about 3.5 hours for zone 15, about 4.5 hours for zone 14, and finishes at 0800z for Ireland and Scotland. Stations in zones 16, 17 and 20 will be much weaker that stations in zones 15 or 14. But, when the sun sets on Ducie Island, 160m is also open to all of North America, where operators are just relaxing in front of the radio in the evening. Of course, North America signals on 160m will be MUCH louder than zone 16 or 17 signals. The logical approach is to ask the North American stations to "check back later", near the end of the European opening. At 0730z, very few European signals will be left on this band... but we still have over 6 hours of propagation to North America... overlapping with 5 hours to east Asia. DXers can expect to hear the low band operators asking for Europe until about 0700-0800z, and announcing every 10 minutes that VP6DX will be ready to start working North America at, for example, 0730z. North American DXers should "check back later" at the announced time.

A special note for low band DXers: the VP6DX operator team has MANY excellent, experienced low band operators. Eight of the 13 operators prefer to work the low bands: Dietmar DL3DXX, Carsten DL6LAU, Andre DL8LAS, Tonno ES5TV, Eric K3NA, Milt N5IA, Robert SP5XVY (75m), Andy UA3AB and Robin WA6CDR. When you hear VP6DX on 160m, 80m CW or 75m SSB, one of these operators will be listening for you. We plan to have a signal on each of these three band-modes during the entire time the band is open. And we will be checking for long and skew path signals into zones 15, 16, 17 and 21 during 02-04z and 13-15z. (We expect some nice long path openings on 40m and 30m bands as well...)


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