It is getting closer now and most things are ready to go! A dry run of most of the station netted contacts from VK5 into Alaska on 30m and Ukraine on 40m. The backup station is now running as well and all thats needed is a backup power supply and one more travel case (which is on it’s way). So far we are under weight (but not by much) and so I am looking at what I can do to take a backup antenna should the primary be damaged. At the very least I should have enough wire, baluns and coax to be able to make a dipole to throw into a coconut tree should everything go horribly wrong.
E6AG on SSTV
Another mode I hope to operate whilst on Niue is Slow Scan TV. As I will be spending time playing tourist around the island, what better way to share the sights than to use images on the air. Look out for me on 14.230/14.233 from time to time during my stay for a unique opportunity to work E6 on an unusual mode.
I have had a few inquiries for CW operation from E6AG since announcing my trip. Until now, I have advised that it most likely wont be possible. (I am not yet a competent CW operator, and while I am slowly learning Morse, it certainly isnt up to expedition standard). However, seeing how bad the propagation has been of late, I have taken the unusual step of trying to at least pack some aides to help those who request contacts using CW to achieve a QSO.
To that end, I am pleased to report that I have received support from the author of MRP40, a very good CW decoding program I have used on occasion, to at least give me some CW capability. In my time playing with CW decoders it has certainly proved very effective in under even poor conditions at decoding many CW signals. So, if you request a CW contact, understand I cant yet hand key, and by by ear reading is still normally only at about 5WPM, but through using this software as an aide I hope to at least satisfy your desires.
If you would like to try MRP40, please visit their (website.)
Final planning for the equipment transport to Niue has begun. I am currently sourcing suitable cases as some of the gear will end up as checked luggage, and I having watched the baggage handlers at Sydney airport last week, well lets say I will be ensuring the gear going underneath has lots of padding.
What did we achieve this weekend?
Collected the antenna from Steve VK5SFA – as well as a tuner that may allow me to load it up on 80 and 160m! I’m making no promises on those bands but will at least give it a try, although it wont be very efficient. Might be a JT65 or CW only effort there. I will be using the antenna next weekend during the WIA’s Remembrance Day Contest portable from a location on the eastern shores of Spencer Gulf so will get a feel for how it could react in Niue hopefully.
Obtained the packaging for the antenna transport bag as well. Looks like the entire system including the tuner will come in at under 20kg and at a size that the airlines will accept – so looking good to have the complete antenna system in one bag.
Spent a lot of time this weekend also trying to complete the integration of the software systems for running full digital modes and logging. I have worked out most of the bugs in N1MM+ for FSK RTTY (managed some marginal contacts to Europe tonight – including OE17BEACH, R6AZ, HA5AQ and SP7SP – some tweaking on macros and we should be good there). I have also gotten the CW Keyer integration done. (While I am no wizz at CW, I will at least be able to do computer generated CW on the trip for if the conditions turn bad – not as good as a well trained ear but hopefully good enough if I need to use it.) The only thing I dont think I can easily integrate is WSJT-X into N1MM. That one might need to be a manual ADIF import/export job. If you do have a trick for interfacing N1MM and WSJT I would love to hear from you!
Next Weekend is a full shakedown of the station portable so we will have a good idea of exactly what needs to be packaged and how much it all weighs. With luck, everything will fit under the luggage allowance with room to spare. We will know within the next week – then we can plan what backup radios and gear we can take (I am hoping to also take my IC706MK2G with me as a radio of last resort). Look out for me calling CQ on 160-15m as VK5GR/P next week!
Just received word from Niue that my license is waiting for me on arrival! Time to get excited perhaps?
One thing I am still to finalise is how to to get all of my equipment through customs without any of the ports along the way trying to charge import duty. Travelling internationally with large amounts of personal amateur radio gear is an interesting challenge, especially as I have to spend a couple of nights in New Zealand each way. I would love to hear from others who have done this before to see what experience they have had getting equipment through customs.
Drop me a note through my facebook page please if you can offer any insights!
With the announcement this week of the new FT8 digital mode for WSJT, I can see some significant advantages for DXPedition Digimode operation. The 1 minute contact time is a significant improvement over JT65 and should allow even under poor conditions contacts to be made. So look out for E6AG on FT8 in September!
Welcome to my website where I will over the next couple of months post news and information about my forthcoming expedition to activate Niue, IOTA OC-040.
This will be a one man holiday style Dxpedition with family, and so operating will be at times limited. I will try and plan some days when I will definitely be active (working around solar storms etc if needed) and publicise them at little closer to the day. Other days will be family time, and completely dependent on what we are doing while exploring this island paradise.
The plan is to take a 400W station with a vertical folded monopole for 40m – 6m, which with a tuner may prove partially effective on 80m as well. The principle activity will be on digital modes (so I can operate when the family is asleep) but there will be some SSB activity as well. The rigs will be an Elecraft K3+KPA500+KAT500. The antenna has been designed and built by Steve VK5SFA. Follow this link for details. The digital interface will be a Microham Keyer II (which I hope to figure out how to get it to do FSK with the K3 before I leave ).
The trip will see is arrive in Niue on September 12th (Niue time) and I expect the station to be active by end of day on the 13th (VK stations please remember Niue is on the other side of the date line, so this will be well into the 14th of September for VK/ZL). I am in particular planning on being active during the CQ WW RTTY contest on the weekend of the 23rd/24th of September. Last day will be Monday 25th of September (as we fly home on Tuesday 26th via New Zealand).
I have been in touch with the Niue authorities and have reserved the callsign E6AG for the activation. Licensing paperwork is still in progress however so this isnt 100% confirmed (although I dont expect it to change at this stage).
We now have confirmed bookings with the airline so we are definitely going and confirmed reservations with our accommodation as well. I also need to contact the IOTA team and confirm what their requirements are to confirm the activation so it can count.
So, wish me luck, and hope to hear you all on the air from the South Pacific!