Expedition News

Press Release #5: Final 2 Days in Tonga

The team has today passed 12,800 contacts with 123 DXCC Worked.We wish to express our sincere appreciation to amateurs around the world who have taken the time to make contact with us. We have had a lot of fun doing so, including opening some unusual slots such as RTTY and PSK yesterday. The feedback received has been amazing to our little expedition so thank you very much indeed for your support.

A reminder too that we are going to be looking for All Time New Ones (ATNOs) today and tomorrow. We want to give the little stations a chance to get Tonga into their logs for the very first time.

Thanks to our Sponsors

We must again say a huge thank you to our sponsors and supporters. SpiderBeam, RF Solutions, Messi & Paoloni, HF Radio Solutions, European DX Foundation (EUDXF), Swiss DX Foundation (SDXF), Clipperton DX Foundation (CDXC-F), Clipperton UK DX Foundation, German DX Foundation (GDXF) and RSGB. A huge thank you to our individual donors as well. We will acknowledge all donations once we get to New Zealand and have 5 minute spare 🙂

With less than 48 hours to go before we close, pack up and return to Australia our thoughts have turned to what remaining bands and modes we have operators, equipment and antenna combinations for.

Remaining Operating Plans

30m: We know we have requests for more 30m and plan to fill those with station 2 during the Oceania DX SSB contest running FT8 or CW.

160m: We will also make an attempt either tonight (Friday) or Saturday around 1000-1100z for 160m either CW or FT8 seeking eastern North America

80m: We will try and find one more window for 80m FT8 as well (and who knows perhaps even 80m RTTY). Look out after 1130z tonight.

40m: SSB to VK tonight starting sometime after 0900z

Opportunities during the Oceania DX Contest

A35JT will operate this year during the Oceania DX contest on SSB. This will be your last opportunity to work us. Look out in particular for:

20m: We also have requests for more 20m SSB to Europe which again we will look for during Saturday and Sunday evenings here on Tonga (06-12z + 18zboth days).

40m: Europe Sunset greyline

80m: We will be operating 75m SSB one more time also during the OCDX SSB Contest particularly for North America.

Top Band Activity: The little antenna that could…

Since we started here at A35JT we have been working 160m as much as we can on ours, NAs and EUs greylines. So far we have had 209 CW QSOs, 246 FT8 QSOs and 4 RTTY QSOs (yes you read that right – we were mad enough to have some fun on RTTY on 160m).

How did we do it? With 500W or less and a 12m high inverted L antenna built on a Spiderbeam pole out of parts from a CrankIR 80m extension kit. This little antenna has performed wildly beyond our expectations. Hats off in particular to Steve VK5SFA who worked on the design and to the operating team for this little creation.

Press Release #4: A35JT Enters Week 2

L-R VK5XDX, VK5SFA, VK5AKH, VK5GR

As A35JT enters Week 2 things are going well. We are hugely appreciative of the kind feedback we have recieved and wish to thank everyone for your contacts with us from Tonga. We continue to explore different band openings and times looking for the unexpected. We also are capitalising on greyline openings on 160m and will do more on 80m in the next few days.

At the same time we will as far as resources allow target the main EU 20 and 17m openings (noting we cant operate 40-20m together and we cant operate 20-17m together). 30m will receive more attention in the next couple of days as well.

Finally, we have been alerted to some potential 12m and 10m openings to South America around 17-18z through our pilot network. We will attempt to exploit those if they are there tomorrow.

ATNO Friday (UTC)!

We also want to open up some lesser used slots and bring some RTTY back to expeditioning. We continue seeking to target more ATNO QSOs for first time contact with Tonga and will call for CQ ATNO (All Time New One) on Friday looking for the smaller stations seeking their first contact with this DXCC.

Team Member Departs – Week 2 More Relaxed

We also said goodbye to one of our team members last night. Steve VK5SFA was unable to stay for the entrie expedition so we are down to 3 operators. The second week will be more relaxed as a result. We have been working ~1500 stations a day with the full team. We expect that to decrease as we take some time to also explore the island a little. Team leader Grant VK5GR has also been joined by his family and will be taking some time off during the day to be with his wife and daughter. We will still try to maintain 1 station on air for as many hours as we can in the second week so keep looking for us here in the South Pacific.

Contesting Plans

We are also planning an effort for the Oceania DX contest, but may not be able to run the entire event. The problem we face is the contest finishes at 0800z which is 9:00pm local on Sunday. We fly out at 1.40pm Monday so packup will be starting during the contest.

Our effort in the CQ WW RTTY contest was more to provide multipliers in the end. Too many other demands on the station meant a full RTTY effort was unable to be mounted. We will submit our log as a CHECKLOG due to the number of broken contacts unfortunately caused by DQRM. At least some of the contesters will be able to get verification of working A35JT this way.

Thanks and see you on air!

Finally thanks again to everyone who has donated to the expedition! It is hugely appreciated! Your support both in terms of encouragement and financial is humbling. We are not a big expedition and many of the team members are new to expeditioning. The feedback received has had a huge impact on the team and for that we say thank you!

73 and see you on the air!

 

Pres Release #3: An Exciting Day (in the wrong way)

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!

Press Release #2: Finally up and running!

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.

Progress Report

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,

Conclusion

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.

Press Release: A35JT On the Air!

Andy VK5AKH Operating, Oly VK5XDX observing

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.

More to follow….