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Monday, March 30, 2009

Rockall Island - MMØRAI/p - A True DX Adventure

Have you heard of Rockall Island? It's a foreboding chunk of rock protruding out of the North Atlantic Ocean some 187 miles West of Scotland. It counts for Scotland (GM) for DXCC purposes but is possibly the "Most Wanted" location for IOTA hunters (it is EU189.) The island is about 83 feet by 100 feet at the base and some 70 feet high. There is a small "ledge" some 13 feet below the summit which is 11 by 14 feet. Those who have seen the Scarborough Reef photos would say it's a pretty good sized location. However, with near vertical cliffs on all sides and a being battered by huge waves, I'd much rather take my chances on Scarborough.
For the past 7 months a group of Five Belgian Amateur Radio Operators have been planning and training for a 2-day operation on this desolate rock. This is a VERY difficult location to put on an amateur radio operation. It is a 2-day sail from Scotland and then they have to scale the rock out of the sea! There is NO place to land and they will need to scale the rock using mountain climbing techniques which the team has been practising.
They plan to have two stations with verticals and a rotatable dipole. Because you only need to contact an Island in the IOTA program once regardless of band, they ask that you not make duplicate QSO's and leave an opportunity for others to make the QSO. The operation is expected to begin around April 30th.
You can check out their web site HERE and read about their extensive preparations. Also, you can view a video of Tom McClean landing on Rockall. He set up a shelter and stayed on the rock for 40 days! Tom was the first person to row across the North Atlantic in 1969 - solo!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

QSL'ing "Hints"

I've been doing some "QSL Catchup" tonight and thought I'd post a few "Hints" for those who may not be aware of these resources. If you have any "Hints" that I have overlooked, send them to me or the WVDXA Reflector and I'll modify this Post.
Pathfinder Web Client allows you to enter the call you need a QSL route for just once and check a dozen sources of information. Very handy to check and see if several sources have the same info before you spend the bucks to mail the QSL.
IRC/GS Chart will give you information about the number of IRC's or "Green Stamps" needed to get that precious QSL back to you. This page also has some neat "Conversion" lists to help you identify that old QSL or that Russian QSL to tell what country it is for. You can download the IRC/GS chart in a Spreadsheet format so you don't need to be online to use it.
N6DHC's IRC Chart is another page similar to the one above. And, K4HB's List is even more extensive with a note that some of his information comes from Bill Plum.
HB9BZA's LoTW User List is a great place to check and see if the station you need a QSL from is a known user of LoTW. Save those stamps and Green Backs!
Addressing International Mail is a page on the U.S. Postal Service web site that gives information on how to address an envelope for international mailing. I'm sure we all know not to put callsigns on the envelope and to make it look like it is mail that does not contain anything valuable to prevent it being pilfered.
N6HB's IRC Primer gives some basic information about the IRC. HERE is a link to a photo of what the current IRC's look like. Note, unlike the old IRC's that never expired, the current IRC can only be redeemed through December 31, 2009. I plan to use up my stock of IRC's before June to give the receiving station time to exchange them.
QSL'ing Tips is a compilation of tips that were posted on the DX Reflector.
Finally, for the trusty old Buro route, here is the ARRL Outgoing Buro information. This is the most economical way of exchanging QSL cards (except for LoTW) and you also need to keep envelops on file at the 8th Region Buro. Doing that alone may result in some QSL's arriving at your door that you never even sent for!

I'm sure some of you have even better ideas than those I've listed here. If so, please share them with the other WVDXA members by posting to the Reflector or emailing me directly. DX IS - but you need to QSL!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

VK9LA - Lord Howe Island

The VK9LA DX'pedition is now well underway. Some of the WVDXA have worked them on at least one band and WVDXA callsigns are already showing up in the online log HERE. They have had some equipment problems already but are continuing to brave the QRN to hand out QSO's from Lord Howe Island. Don, N1DG, the VK9LA Pilot has written about the equipment: "The ACOM [amp] was DOA and one AL811H blew a tube. One IC7000 has failed after 2 days. So while their equipment means less coverage of the bands, they will always be on LF bands QRO."

You can listen to some of what they are dealing with as Stan, SQ8X, one of the VK9LA Operators has posted some MP3 files on his Blog HERE. He also has posted several photos of their operation. The main VK9LA web page is located HERE. GL to all who need this one.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

VK9GMW - Mellish Reef - March 22 to April 6

AA7JV and HA7RY are on their way to activate Mellish Reef as VK9GMW. They are currently at Marion Reef (about 1/2 way from Australia to Mellish Reef) and waiting on the weather to improve before heading to Mellish. Check out their web site HERE. They will be operating on all HF bands but will have a strong low-band focus. For equipment they will have an Elecraft K3 and an Icom IC-746 PRO along with two 500-watt amplifiers. Interestingly they have designed an antenna for mounting not on the beach, not close to the sea but actually "IN THE SEA." Mellish Reef is about 8,700 miles from West Virginia so it's not a "chip shot." Look over their web site, especially the photo gallery, and imagine yourself on that 56-foot boat traveling through rough seas in Cyclone Season for some 560 miles across open ocean. Yep, that's a DX'pedition!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

K4M, Midway Island, October 2009

Woo, Hoo! The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized another DX'pedition to a rare DX location, Midway Island. This will be the first radio activity from this location in 10 years! A team of 19 operators will have 10 days to work the world.

This will be a VERY expensive operation. Travel to Midway is only allowed by chartered aircraft and the size of the aircraft will only allow transportation of the team. Equipment will need to be sent by ship some months ahead. This leads to high expenses for transportation, daily fees and other USFWS charges. If you can afford to do so, please consider a donation for this operation. I would like to see the WVDXA come together like we did for Desecheo and make a substantial donation on behalf of the WVDXA. So, start putting your spare change in a piggy bank now.

Midway is 5,300 miles from West Virginia. That means it will be a little more difficult to work than Desecheo but not much more difficult than Hawaii. Since the operation is scheduled for October, propagation should be good on all bands. But, with only 10 days to work the group, you need to be prepared.

Team members are AA4NN, EA1IR, DJ9ZB, KH7U, KI6TVS, KL2A, N1DG, N4PN, N4XP, N6GQ, N7CQQ, WB4JTT, W6KK, W6OSP, WA7NB, W8CAA, W8GEX, WA8NJR, and OK1KT. Off site support is being provided by AA1V, W5DNT and W6XA. A web site has been established HERE.