Topband: Ducie odessey begins

Milt, N5IA n5ia at
Sat Feb 16 22:04:16 EST 2008

Greetings fellow Topbanders,

Tomorrow, Saturday 2 Feb., I travel by vehicle from my home in New Mexico to Phoenix, AZ (360 kM).  My flight to LAX and on to Papeete, Tahiti is Sunday, 3 Feb.

All the VP6DX team will be in Papeete by the early morning hours of Monday, 4 Feb.  The team will have it's first official meeting in the afternoon after a lunch with local FO hams.

The flight to Mangareva in the Gambier Islands is early Tuesday, 5 Feb.  As quickly as possible the team will clear immigration and customs and board the Braveheart.

The Braveheart is now at dock in Mangareva.  I have been in daily contact with Robin, WA6CDR, for the last 4 days, via 40 Meter SSB.  Last night they were approximately 160 kM from Mangareva.  The Braveheart and crew are waiting for us.

Cruise time to Ducie is 72 hours with off loading to the island to begin at first light the morning of Saturday, 9 Feb (~1400Z).  Construction of the camps and seven operating stations/antenna systems is planned to take 3 full days.  Operation, with all seven stations coming on the air near simultaneously, is anticipated to occur near sunset on Monday, 11 Feb. (~0400Z, 12 Feb).  The most unknown element in all the planning is the weather.  Please invoke the weather gods in our behalf.  

Then let the fun begin.  Nonstop, 24/7 operations of 7 stations for approximately 18 days.  That by 13 ops.  Figure it out folks.  That is essentially a 12 on/12 off schedule for each op for the entire DXped operating period.  Shifts will most likely be in the 3-4 hour range.  Eating, sleeping, personal hygiene, laundry, etc., all have to take place in the limited time off periods.  This is not your normal "working vacation".  Wish us wellness and the stamina to make it all happen.

I recommend the reading of News Release # 9 on the website.  Go to

For those who might not want to do that, I am pasting a very important piece from that news release.  Please read the following about the operating procedures as they relate in particular to the low bands.
------------------------------------------ Quote ------------------------------------------------------

"3. The "check back later technique":
On the lower frequency bands, openings to the most difficult regions of the world are more predictable. For example, on 160m we expect Europe to be heard from Ducie Island sunset (about 0300z) until the end of European sunrise. That opening is only 1 hour for zone 17, about 2.5 hours for zone 16/20, about 3.5 hours for zone 15, about 4.5 hours for zone 14, and finishes at 0800z for Ireland and Scotland. Stations in zones 16, 17 and 20 will be much weaker that stations in zones 15 or 14. But, when the sun sets on Ducie Island, 160m is also open to all of North America, where operators are just relaxing in front of the radio in the evening. Of course, North America signals on 160m will be MUCH louder than zone 16 or 17 signals. 

The logical approach is to ask the North American stations to "check back later", near the end of the European opening. At 0730z, very few European signals will be left on this band... but we still have over 6 hours of propagation to North America... overlapping with 5 hours to east Asia. DXers can expect to hear the low band operators asking for Europe until about 0700-0800z, and announcing every 10 minutes that VP6DX will be ready to start working North America at, for example, 0730z. North American DXers should "check back later" at the announced time. 

A special note for low band DXers:   The VP6DX operator team has MANY excellent, experienced low band operators. Eight of the 13 operators prefer to work the low bands: Dietmar DL3DXX, Carsten DL6LAU, Andre DL8LAS, Tonno ES5TV, Eric K3NA, Milt N5IA, Robert SP5XVY (75m), Andy UA3AB and Robin WA6CDR. When you hear VP6DX on 160m, 80m CW or 75m SSB, one of these operators will be listening for you. We plan to have a signal on each of these three band-modes during the entire time the band is open. And we will be checking for long and skew path signals into zones 15, 16, 17 and 21 during 02-04z and 13-15z. (We expect some nice long path openings on 40m and 30m bands as well...)"

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I know it will be difficult to control the urge to call when the operator is calling during the EU window and the JA window for those areas.  The Pacific Northwest of the USA will still be in darkness when the sun rises on Ducie.  Therefore we will NOT have any exclusive opportunity to work JA (Asia) when there is not propagation to the USA.  f

VP6DX will operate in the CQ 160 SSB contest at the end of February.  This period of time will be the prime opportunity for Topband SSB contacts with the expedition.

I am looking forward to being the operator when many of the Topband contacts are made.  But as noted above, this DXped is most likely the best equipped ever (operator wise) for Topband.  

Please be patient and follow instructions.  You will make it into the log if there is propagation.  We will be operating approximately 18 days if all goes as planned.

73 for now de Milt, N5IA

A team member of the VP6DX, Ducie 2008 DX Expedition

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