Thursday, February 17, 2011

Recognisance visit to Horn Island completed

A hectic fly in and fly out visit occurred to check out Horn Island. I flew out first thing in the morning to Cairns and then took a flight to Horn Island and arrived by mid-morning. I was picked up at the airport by one of the friendly Wongai Beach Resort staff and shown around the area by another staff member. She showed me my room which was to be DXpedition HQ, the last self contained shack, the last in the in the row with nothing but a fence and about 40m of land to the water.

I have permission to set up the vertical antenna and Spiderbeam in between my shack and the pool and no one will get in the way of my radials …. actually it should probably read vice-versa! The room has a bed, air conditioner, fridge, ensuite bathroom and table to operate from. The pub is also nearby, so when the bands are quiet around noon local at 0200-0300 UTC, I can see the daily ritual of a counter lunch and a few beers occurring as my main meal of the day. I’ll also be able to put one end of the 40m dipole of the Spiderbeam mast pole and then send the other end over a large 15m high tree with my newly acquired antenna slingshot launcher.

It’s great to have the manager of the accommodation so welcoming and allowing antenna’s to go up, it’s always a big relief to know you have permission. It’s also a load off my mind to know that the antennas will fit. The day trip added hundreds of dollars to the self-funded DXpedition budget, but it’s a worthwhile investment to get this kind of planning and piece of mind done.

It’s 2½ weeks to go now, so just a practice run with the antenna assembly on the weekend is left before I start figuring out how to fit everything in. I ended up booking two seats for myself to ensure I can take the IC-706MKIIG, ATU, CAT interface, headphones, power supply, SWR meter, camera and laptop on with me as two hand luggage bags. It also means I’ll have 46 kg of stowed baggage allowance for the HF9V vertical, 10m Spiderbeam mast, Spiderbeam antenna, coaxial cable, guy ropes, radial wires, leads, clothes etc.

Horn Island is at a fantastic latitude for 10m and 15m propagation so fingers crossed the improved solar conditions will allow some action on 10m. I can see myself spending early morning, all day and early evening on 15m and 10m when it’s open. Unlike the Fitzroy and Magnetic Island DXpeditions, Horn Island has no mountains and is nice and flat. So there is no beam heading that is going to be blocked, it’s all up to the DX gods. I have a complete water take off to short path JA and Asia, short path and long path North America, short path Europe/Middle East/Africa and long path South America. That afternoon I flew to Cairns and then to Townsville with hopes and spirits high.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

DXpedition now brought forward to March 10-14

Due to a clash of other commitments I've had to change the date of the DXpedition. Rather than postpone, I have brought it forward to March 10-14 and it's now only a few weeks away. So I'm getting excited already!  This weekend I'll erect the antennas at home which I'll take to the island, namely Butternut HF9V vertical, 40m dipole with slingshot launcher and spider beam for 10/15/20.

I'll only be operating SSB, PSK31 and RTTY as I don't do CW. I'm also not licensed for the WARC bands so I'll be on 40, 20, 15 and 10m.

With PSK31 I'll be operating split to avoid the QRM nightmare, I did that on Fitzroy Island on 20m PSK31 to Europe and it worked really well and the QSO's were happening at one per minute rather than the usual 3-4 minutes per QSO.

At that time of the year there's a chance for long and short path 20m openings to Europe and the America's, so I'll be on the bands as much as possible, probably 18 hours per day with a focus on SSB but then going to digital modes if the QSO rate drops or I'm not being heard. 15m should also be alive and kicking to Asia and then Europe during the day and early evening. Hopefully 15m will offer something to the America's in my local mornings, I'll also constantly check 10m for openings. 40m PSK31 and RTTY has been great to North, Central and South America over the past few days on the dipole that I'll be using on the DXpedition, so I'll be sure to visit 40m in my local evenings for this part of the world.

I should have internet access at the radio and I'll be able to announce where I am and when I do band and mode changes. I'll also do daily updates on my blog during the DXpedition like I did to Fitzroy Island in October last year to let people know what the band openings are likely to be and where to find me.

Hope to see you on the bands de Craig VK4LDX