Monthly Archive: February 2019

A35JT Expedition – February News Update

There is a lots happening behind the scenes in the past 2 months with preparations for the A35AG DXpedition to Tonga. Our flights are booked, our accommodation is confirmed and the dates are set!

22nd Sept – 7th Oct 2019


License Approved

We have completed licence application procedures with the Ministry of Communications and have had our callsign confirmed. (Well almost – the original email confirmation from the Tonga MIC stated A35AG was ok – but the callsign on the licence when it finally came through was A35JT – ce la vie!)

 

We are now officially A35JT!

 


Seeking Sponsorship

The team is now seeking sponsorship to help with the transportation and customs processing costs for the trip. We have encountered operational weight limits with the airlines servicing the Pacific Islands. This means that some of the station will need to be separately freighted to Tonga. Early quotes for those additional costs are substantial and are stretching the teams resources. Asking for sponsorship is not something we do lightly either, as we recognize that accepting money brings with it obligations too. Having said that, we want to bring the widest range of DX opportunities possible to all DX Chasers wanting Tonga in their logs. This seems to be the most likely way we will succeed with those objectives.

If you would like to become a supporter of this expedition, please click on the donate button!

All donations will be acknowledged in our supporters page and for donations >$10USD you will receive your direct QSL cards for free.


Station Planning

Planning what to take on a weight limited DxPedition is a serious challenge. Flying in by air means the team has to be very conscious of everything being taken. It is a balancing act determining what is essential verses what can be obtained once we arrive, verses running out of space and weight. We need to pack EVERYTHING into 6x23kg bags. Due to the limits on Pacific Island flights out of Auckland, New Zealand, we cant take more and be guaranteed it will arrive. Therefore, the core station has to fit within those limits.

Currently the plan is to activate the following bands and modes:

  • Bands: 160m, 80m, 40m, 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m
  • Modes: CW, SSB, FT8, RTTY

The station will consist of:

  • Station 1 – Elecraft K3 + KPA500 Linear + KAT500 Tuner + Microham micro KEYER II
  • Station 2 – Elecraft K3s + SPE 1K5 Linear + Microham micro KEYER II

Antennas currently planned include:

  • Low Band 160-10m Vertical – modified multi-band CrankIR Vertical with elevated radials and a full size folded 80m monopole + 160m Inverted L mod
  • High Band 20-10m G3TXQ HexBeam by Ant MW0JZE

Antennas we also hope to take:

  • Beverage RX Antennas for 160-40m
  • 40m 4-Square Array (with a possible 30m variant as well) – by Oly VK5XDX
  • 160m EFHW wire antenna and balun (using the coconut trees as supports)
  • 6m 6 element Beam for Moon bounce and terrestrial (if any) activity

Currently all of the “wish list antennas” are subject to finding either a cheaper way to freight items to the island or the expedition being able to attract some sponsorship. So far all of the expenses and equipment are being self funded from within the team.


Your Questions!

Since the expedition was announced we have received numerous requests to activate certain bands and modes. Some of the common questions are:

Question: Can you operate 160m from Tonga?

Our QTH on Tonga

A common question I receive as an expeditioner is “could I operate 160m please?” Past experience has shown that this is a band that can consume a lot of time and effort for low returns. On Niue in 2017, it took away a lot of valuable EU 20m and 40m opening time. On Vanuatu in 2018, lots of time was lost fruitlessly chasing down RFI that ultimately rendered my ability to use 160m a zero.

The end result for Tonga 2019 is that 160m is planned but will be intermittent  Expect most of the activity on the band to be FT8 or possibly CW. If we are running FT8 Fox and Hound mode, look for us down on 1811kHz (which is a frequency available to all countries that have access to the 160m band).

Question: Can you operate 6m Moon Bounce from Tonga?

One of the recent requests received from Lance W7GJ was whether we would consider attempting 6m EME from Tonga. This set the team pondering whether we could!

The first step at least was to learn how it works and what was needed to achieve it. So, after assembling the components required, we headed out into the field, teamed up with a local amateur who had the necessary QRO permits and gave it a go! The result, contacts with 6 countries and 8 stations over one moon rise-moon set. We were duly impressed! It did however reveal how much effort it would take and divert from our primary objectives on Tonga – something we are deliberating on.

Ultimately, for 6m EME to become part of the expedition, direct sponsorship from the 6m EME community will be needed. We have no way of getting the antenna to site within our airline allowances and our early sea-freight quotes have ranged in the order of $1200AUD return. Having said that, investigations are continuing! Your sponsorship support will go a long way towards helping the decision.

Photo by VK5TST – Moonset at 4am after working S57RR on 6m EME during the trials in VK5 – February 2019

Do you have more questions for us?

We are always happy to hear from DXChasers seeking that elusive new one, be it for DXCC, IOTA or any other awards program. If you would like to contact us, please email:

a35jt.tonga (at) gmail.com

See you from Tonga in September 2019!

73 de Grant VK5GR, Oly VK5XDX and Andrew VK5AKH