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Author Topic: VP6D - Ducie Island DXpedition  (Read 8573 times)
K5GS
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Posts: 32




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« Reply #360 on: November 14, 2018, 01:14:47 PM »

I’ve read the comments here and on various other reflector, THANKS.

We had a great team and a great crew on Braveheart. It all came together like a finely tuned race car and kicked off with a bang, at ~10,000 Qs  a day.

Not in any particular order:

- I got home on Friday night and spent Sat / Sunday / Monday working on busted calls and several hundred waiting e-mails

- The first 2 days on the island were very hot and humid. Then it started raining. Two or three days of rain, everything wet and damp. Some sleeping tents were wet (inside) and the SSB tent had water on the floor.

- The antenna team did an excellent job building the VDAs used on the HF bands. We had 4 squares on CW 40 and 30, and a 40m SSB 4 square.

- All the antennas except the SteppIR were near the water.  The SteppIR at SSB was about 100 meters inland.

- They assembled the 6m EME antenna in the wind / rain (no fun).

- The logging issues were N1MM and WSJT-X not playing nicely with one another. We knew this would be a challenge but our solution proved too complex.

- We received many complaints that we were transmitting on the wrong FT8 sequence. It took a while to realize that the same Control Key is used in WSJT and in N1MM. Depending on which is in focus it's possible to change the WSJT transmit sequence.  Some of the emails gave me the impression the world had ended, a lot of needless drama.

- The island topography was a bit of a surprise, as was the density of the jungle. They caused some problems with the wifi link between the SSB / CW camps which were over a kilometer apart, separated by a dense jungle.

- DXA worked well, but because of network issues was sometimes unavailable, or not real time.

- Far too many people were confused between the online log (updated once a day) and DXA usually within minutes. We will review the wisdom of having both active. Those of you that know me know that I am not a fan of using too much technology. It requires people on the island to oversee the operation, they lose operating time when something breaks.

- We had 8 Elecraft K3s stations.  During periods of peak propagation all the seats were filled.

- Someone reported DXA busting calls – DXA didn’t bust calls.  DXA is nothing more than a copy of the N1MM QSO record. If it’s wrong in DXA is going to be wrong in the VP6D log. DXA worked exactly as intended. For near real time reporting DXA has a dependency on the BGAN satellite and local area networks being available.  We had some network issues that negated the real time reporting. Our on-line log was updated once per day, this caused confusion when people expected to see their Q in the on-line log and on DXA within minutes of each other. We will review our wisdom of using both.

N1MM and WSJT-X didn’t play well together. We had to do a lot of gyrations to remove almost 5,000 WSJT-x RR73 generated dupes and merge the N1MM and WSJT logs. This was very difficult to do while the DX-pedition is underway. Thanks to Pista HA5AO and Steve W1SRD for doing all the heavy log lifting, merging and auditing.

- There were nights when the bands died and a single operator ran 2 or 3 FT8 stations from the SSB tent.

- Why did we leave early, the weather maps didn’t show bad weather - Ducie has no natural harbor. In order to get to water deep enough for the zodiac you must walk out into the water. At low tide we walked out on a rocky coral (slippery) sea bed with extremely poor (dangerous) footing. High tide in knee high+ water. We formed a chain gang to get the equipment from the Zodiac to the beach.

On about Oct 30th the skipper reported that over the next few days the seas and winds would make it very dangerous to extract the team and equipment as the seas and winds shifted. He decided not to take chances, he was right.

The extraction process took a long time and looked like something out of a Hollywood action movie with the operators being pushed into the Zodiac at just the right moment, and the skipper hitting the gas. It didn’t seem funny at the time, but in retrospect it was “very” exciting. This is clearly a young(er) man’s game.

The other risk was missing the flight from Mangareva to Tahiti. There is only one flight a week, on Tuesday afternoon. Miss that flight and you have a real problem. The skipper didn’t want to take chances with the weather by waiting until the last minute to remove us from Ducie. In retrospect, of course he was right. We had plenty of time to make the flight without worry.

- Working NA was like a walk in the park. One of our goals was to fill the void in EU. This morning I received an e-mail from EU. We had good sigs in EU to the degree that QRP ops easily got in the log.

- I never cease to be amazed by some of the comments I read after the DX-peditions. I wish those people were on the island, maybe they would learn something (or teach us something) Wink

- The pilot team (3 of which are here on e-ham Glenn / Mason / Luke) did an awesome job. We had your comments summarized so we could quickly read and take action, when appropriate.

- I was on Skype this morning with Tim M0URX. The number of busted calls is lower than anticipated. We did have an issue with some LoTW slots not being loaded, still trying to figure out the root cause. I have none left in my work queue, but expect some more will come in.

- It is our practice to process LoTW for early donors - while we're on the island. Our donor database is linked to the log, if you work us the LoTW gets uploaded within 24 hours (usually sooner). That's why some people reported almost instant LoTW.

- The equipment will return to the USA from New Zealand probably early January. Several of us will be in California to unload and return borrowed / loaned equipment and then bring the remainder to Tucson. Many thanks to Elecraft, SteppIR, Arlan Communications (RadioSport), Jim Sansoterra K8JRK,  The Intrepid DX Group - Paul Ewing N6PSE, Bob Schmieder KK6EK,  the DXA team of Peter W6OP and Rich KY6R for their support and/or equipment loan. And a special thanks to Penguin Computing, Fremont, California who helped us with equipment consolidation, storage and shipping. If I missed anyone I apologize.

- I think you'll agree that the operators did an unbelievable job, 10,000 Qs a day at the bottom of the cycle.  Makes me wonder why there were comments (before we left) about the wisdom of doing a DX-pedition at the bottom of the cycle. One writer thought we should wait 3 years.

- The Braveheart crew was as much a part of this project as the radio operators. An amazing group of men.

Thanks to you for the great pileups.

Many of the team will be at Visalia, Dayton and/or Friedrichshafen where we’ll tell you the rest of the story.

Cheers,
GS K5GS
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K0UA
Member

Posts: 2923




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« Reply #361 on: November 14, 2018, 01:23:35 PM »

You all did one heck of a job. Sure there were a few hicupps with the FT8 and DXA etc, but this is all very minor. I was very pleased as an early donor to see the LOTW posts so soon. It really pushed me to keep going and keep filling slots. I had more fun with your DXpedition than any I have worked. Once again, a job well done.
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