It was an eventful day here in Tonga. The team was in the radio room working away when Oly VK5XDX says “can anyone hear crackling”. They look outside and see an approaching scrub fire. Very quickly the fire brigade was called, the antennas dropped to make way for the tender and preparations were made to warn off ember attack. As the team are all from Australia thoughts immediately turned to the worst, given VK’s history of bush fires. This however was very different as there was a grassy paddock the other side of the green tropical foliage next to our accommodation blocks. When the fire reached that it stopped and burned itself out.
It was made all the more stressful as Grant VK5GR (team leader) was off site picking up his family from the airport plus food supplies for the crew and couldnt be reached. He returned to the site in disarray and a lot of very nervous people at the point of the fire’s closest approach.
In hindsight the threat was probably pretty low given the way the fire was burning, but it set the team on edge for sure. We are all safe and well now and returning to normal operations. The only antenna that probably wont go back up is the 6m beam (we had planned on ending the EME sessions as of Sunday anyway.) the 30m 4sq and 40m 4sq are restored as is the HexBeam. We will see you on the air!
Emergency is over, everyone is safe and no damage done. The antennas are back in the air and operations will resume shortly https://t.co/xYn4mSJ2ko
This is a timelapse of the 6m beam erection shot by Andy VK5AKH. The beam is supported by a 10m Spiderbeam Aluminium mast (Thanks yo Spiderbeam for their support with this). The Coax is using Messi & Paoloni HyperFlex-13 Coax to minimise weight and losses. We worked 24 stations and heard over 60 stations in total via the moon using this system.
It has been a busy 3 days here in Tonga and we now have over 3000 contacts in the log. The station build has taken longer than anticipated. However we finally have the three stations operational since Wednesday night local time. We will be stepping up our efforts to target Europe and USA east coast from Thursday, particularly after the team gets some rest following the build.
So far we have seen success to Europe on 160m greyline FT8 and CW as well as to North America on their Sunrise. We are also seeing Europe at 1800z short path 20m and on 17m in the Tongan evening hours. We will look for North America on 15m during the day today as well. We have added an 80m inverted V as well in the coconut trees to see if we can get both 80 and 160m running concurrently. We will announce more openings we see over the next 24hrs.
Conditions were very good on Wednesday from 17m and below. We have yet to look at the higher bands but will start those today.
We have two remaining station bugs we will have to work around. One is that the HF is knocking out the internet (we are on a DSL line here). So we are seeing frequent dropouts (particularly on 30m where the phone line and antennas are very close together). The other is that we had a power supply failure on one of the laptops, so we are having to hot swap the power supply back and forth between station 2 and 3 when they are both running. If we vanish suddenly it could be we didnt swap it fast enough 🙂
6m Moonbounce Success
We have also been experimenting with 6m EME. The station here is small compared to the big stations in NA and EU but we are very pleased to have worked 21 stations so far with a couple more days to run. Based on what we are seeing on the lowwer bands, today might be hard for EME if the Sporadic E that was around last week manifests itself again. Will have to wait and see… A more detailed report on EME will be prepared in a day or two’s time. A huge thank you to our individual donors towards the 6m EME part of the activity too. Many of you have been successful in making contact with Tonga and claiming a 6m ATNO in the process. While we are still relative newcomers to EME, it has been great to see the support we have received. The feedback we have had has kept us going even when we were ready to give up so thank you for the positive comments,
The team is in good spirits and is raring to get on the air and call CQ! We hooe to get you in the log! We are indebted to our sponsors, SpiderBeam who supported us with the mast hardware we use on the 6m beam, the Hex Beam and the multi-band vertical. Also to RF Solutions (Brisbane) and Messi and Paoloni (Italy) who helped with the coaxial cables plus HF Radio Solutions (Renmark) for our Codan 3020 power supplies,
We must also again thank our donors EUDXF, German DX Foundation, Swiss DX Foundation , CDXC-France, CDXC-UK and RSGB. Without your support the 4-square antennas would not have made it to the island due to the transport costs.
Finally, a huge thank you to everyone who has given us an individual donation. Every amount helps and your support of our endeavours to bring Tonga to the airwaves for you is greatly appreciated.
A35JT has made it to Tonga! We have the first station setup and just before sunset we managed to complete the first of our antennas (the multiband vertical). We rigged the antenna for 40m and put several hundred contacts in the log on 40m SSB. Later we fired up the digital station and started out with FT8 as well.
This morning the station is off air while the team completes the big antenna build. The aim is to have the bulk of the antennas completed today. It is likely we will have 80m running tonight on low band plus 40m with access to all of the others as well.
We look to be on track to start 6m EME operation as well, although our take off angle to the east is a little compromised. We may need 3-4deg extra elevation in that direction to clear a slight hill.
The A35JT Expedition team left Australia this morning with a further 180+kg of gear and has successfully arrived with everything and everyone accounted for in Auckland New Zealand. We will overnight here before setting off for Tonga in the morning.
The A35JT DXPedition team has revised our frequency plan. It is going to be very crowded on the bands with up to 5 concurrent expeditions. We have reviewed all available data and have made some changes accordingly. Please see the latest information here:
1840kHz (1908kHz for JA)
80m (for JA)
3775kHz DOWN 5
On 6m EME look for us on: 50.203MHz
The team will monitor the DXClusters if possible and will further adapt the plan according to band usage. See you on air in about 4 days time!
A35JT is pleased to announce that we are going to trial using Clublog’s new Live Logging system. Congratulations to Michael G7VJR for this fantastic addition to Clublog!
Software integration of the logging agent has been achieved with our N1MM network (thanks to software from N2AMG) and testing under VK5GR has been completed. While it is all dependent on our internet access once we reach Tonga we have been advised that internet is available.
We had some great news today. Our antenna shipment has cleared customs and quarantine processes and is ready for us to collect on Monday! A huge thank you to Mary and all of the staff at Pacific Forum Line in Nuku’alofa as well as to the good folk in the Revenue and Customs Ministry who helped facilitate this on our behalf. We look forward to thanking you all in person for your help and support next week! Thank you also to Mala at Tayper Freight Forwarders back in Australia for handling this end of the shipment.
Meanwhile, back in Australia, two of the stations are packed into their travel cases and the third is being finalised now. The low band antennas and Spiderbeam 12m fibreglass pole were also packed today (they are flying in with us as luggage). The team is now getting excited to get out there and get on the air!