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VK5KI DXpedition News 5th July 2020

VK5KI DXpedition to Kangaroo Island – IOTA OC-139 – UPDATE

Preparations are almost complete for the VK5KI mini DXpedition to Kangaroo Island. We are on track to depart Monday week (July 13th) on the Sealink Ferry to the island, part of the South Australia State East Centre IOTA group.

Andrew VK5AKH and I are preparing to take two stations, the first comprising an Elecraft K3S+KPA500, with the second consisting of an Icom IC7600 and SPE 1.5K-LFA (the amplifier that didnt make it to Tonga). We will have a HexBeam on 20-10m, a dedicated 40m vertical and a multi-band vertical for 160-10m.

We will be operating SSB, CW and multiple digital modes, including FT8. We do not expect to run Fox/Hound mode this trip but stay tuned on the clusters as we could switch over if we are receiving excessive calls.

So why Kangaroo Island?

IOTA Chasing is something you do with a long haul horizon in mind. In my own IOTA chase I have accumulated 300 credits over in 3.5 years. It is clear that this is no quickly DXCC in a weekend activity using FT8. IOTA chasers are dedicated souls who loose vast amounts of sleep digging weak signals out of the noise to add to their tally! No one makes any progress however unless these island groups are activated. As Kangaroo Island is relatively easy to access, it seemed a worthy candidates to place on the air, especially given many other destinations are currently not reachable. Details about IOTA group OC-139 can be found on the iota-world.org website.

This is a Holiday Style expedition

Credit: Kenny Douglas-Hill (Facebook) – Kangaroo Island Fires Jan 2020

VK5 is not rare nor are we most wanted. In IOTA terms, Kangaroo Island (OC-139) has been claimed by an average of 48% of all IOTA award applicants in the last 5 years. As a result, we are going to be on the island more with a view to operate and experiment than chasing hard for a big QSO total. We are also down there to escape the reality of the world in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic for a few days. As such, it is a time for us to unwind, and relax with family.

Having said that, we know there are people out there who need OC-139 in their quest for IOTA awards. We will be happy to give as many ATNi (all time new Islands) out as we can! We will be monitoring the clusters and our social media pages on Facebook so if you are desperate for OC-139 drop us a line and we will see if we can help you with a sked!

While we are down on KI, we also will do our small part for the economy of the island which was so badly damaged by the bush fires in January 2020. We will be spending some time visiting much loved attractions and businesses, spreading a little cheer and the word that (at least once Australia’s borders reopen), Kangaroo Island is still here as wild and beautiful as ever. We will blog about our activities and give you a small look at how the Australian bush recovers from fire as a result of our time on the island as well.

Finally, as always, I will prepare a special bi-fold QSL card that you can request via our QSL manager. The card will feature some information on the bush fire recovery and how it is going on Kangaroo Island.

VK5KI On Air Plans

So when will you see us on air? We will be arriving on the island by ~midday on Monday July 13th. Myself and Andrew will then set about constructing the station while our families and partners head into Kingscote to obtain provisions for our stay.

  • Monday night (~0700Z) 13th July – We hope to have the station operational on at least 40-10m by then – through until at least 1400z.
  • Tuesday July 14th – The 160/80/30m antenna will be erected by lunchtime Tuesday. There is a fair expectation that we will be on air more much of the day looking for whatever openings we can find on a wide range of modes. Particular focus will be placed on EU Short path in the morning on 20m, NA/AS during the day and EU long Path after 0400z 20m. Nightime will likely be 30/40/80m into NA and AS/OC and some attempts will be made to run 80/40/30 early morning into Europe.
  • Wednesday 15th – Friday 17th – we will have usually one station active early in the morning 2100-0000z and probably again with stints between the hours of ~0400-0800z plus after 1000z (until we need to get to sleep). One or two nights will see activity on 80m and possibly 160m (depending on conditions). There are no guarantees however of activity in any of those windows, and activity may occur at other times as well subject to what is happening elsewhere with the family.
  • Saturday 18th – The station will be QRT most likely before 2200z on the 17th (~7.30am 18th July)

Partial tear down will occur Friday afternoon 17th July. We haven’t planned exactly what will be pulled down when. We have a 1.30pm Ferry ride home on Saturday 18th July, and need time to pack and get to the terminal. The multi-band vertical may be the only antenna on air on Friday night but at least it will give us flexibility to operate on any band we choose.

Directed Calling

While this expedition simply operating with the view that we will work everyone, we will preference stations further away if there is a worthwhile opening. If we are, please be aware that we maintain the following policy (as per our other expeditions)

The team has agreed that if you are located in Oceania, South America or Africa, we will accept your call at any time, regardless of which specific region we are calling.

This will apply to VK, ZL, Oceania, South America and African stations only. All other regions, please stand by if your region isnt being called, or please look for us on another band.

Conclusion

We hope to see you on the air! CQ IOTA de VK5KI!

73s de Grant VK5GR

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