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The Visalia Marriot Hotel and Convention Center.

I’ve just returned from attending the International DX Convention, held at the Visalia Marriott Hotel and Convention Center. This was a great event, very well attended by many DXers from all over the Globe.

Event organizers, John-K6MM, Kevin-K6TD and Rich-KE1B and their many volunteers did a masterful job of organizing this event. I also attended the top-band dinner organized by Steve-WB6RSE and I really enjoyed it as well.

My favorite part of the International DX Convention was seeing many old friends again and meeting new DXers/DXpeditioners that I have admired from afar. One of those was Ken Opskar-LA7GIA who was awarded the Dr. William Howard Myers-W6OL Award for excellence as a CW Operator award by the Northern California DX Club.

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Ken-LA7GIA with the NCDXC’s William Howard Myers-W6OL Award for excellence as a CW Operator on a DXpedition.

DXpedition Announcements and Rumors:

Everyone looks forward to the DXpeditions that are announced at IDXC and the many rumors of DXpeditions in the pipelines. While there were no official announcements, there are many DXpeditions under development and multiple teams are forming. Multiple groups have applied for permits to Baker/Howland and Johnston Atolls and they are awaiting permission. Given last years sabotage of P5DX and one DXpeditioner’s propensity to jump in front of other announced/planned DXpeditions, I feel that DXpeditioners are being more guarded about revealing their plans for future DXpeditions. I know of several but I promised not to divulge their plans.

Probably the most surprising news is that the 3Y0Z-Bouvet 2018 team is now looking at chartering a larger ship, complete with a hanger for two helicopters. They are about to travel to South America next week to close the deal on their new ship.

New Products: There were many new products that appeared at IDXC for the first time this year. Probably the most anticipated products were Elecraft’s new KPA1500 solid state amplifier and Flex Radio Systems new Power Genius XL solid state amplifier.

Some of the other new products on display were KF7P’s new “tower crane”, ICOM’s new IC-7851, Connect System’s CS108G SDR transceiver, Expert Electronics new MB1 SDR transceiver, SteppIR Antennas new 6-40 meter Yagi, and lastly, a generic kit-form solid state amplifier. Sadly, ICOM’s new IC-7610 was not yet available for the convention.

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The new Elecraft KPA1500 running 1500 watts all day long.

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The Expert Electronics MB1 SDR transceiver

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The ICOM IC-7851 transceiver

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The Flex Radio Power Genius XL solid state amplifier.

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Connect Systems CS108G SDR transceiver

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KF7P Metal Works “tower crane”.

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SteppIR Antennas new 6-40 meter Yagi on a US Towers tower trailer.

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The generic kit form solid state amp. More info to follow on this.

Other sights at Visalia IDXC 2017

Dave-WD5COV and I enjoy a moment with Oms-PY5EG. Glenn-W0GJ and Bob-K4UEE

give a passionate talk on DXpedition funding. Mike-K6MKF and Frank-N6OI sell raffle tickets.

Chris-KF7P sells his products. The Expert MB1 in action.

Bob W6OPO operates as John K6YP looks on.

Eric WA6HHQ of Elecraft answers questions about the new KPA1500.

John-K6MM, Kevin-K6TD and Rich-KE1B at the Saturday night banquet. There was also dancing and singing.

Chip-K7JA does a masterful job as MC. Bob-K4UEE and myself with the raffle certificate from Flex Radio.

The Bouvet DXpedition Team held a raffle for a Flex Radio 6500 and I was thrilled to have the winning ticket!

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Bob-KK6EK gave a passionate talk about the VK0EK DXpedition and his thoughts on “systems theory” and how it ought to be a part of future DXpeditions.

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Rusty-W6OAT asks the DX Forum panel a question. Most of the questions concerned deleted entities, LoTW and other ARRL issues.

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Craig-K9CT and Bob-K4UEE enjoy the Top Band dinner.

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Rob-N7QT and Gene-K5GS enjoy a moment.

Erling-LA6VM and I enjoy a glass of “Bouvet” Champagne. Bob-GU4YOX gave a comedic talk on “the Funny Side of Radio”.

In closing, the 2017 International DX Convention was an outstanding event. This event gets bigger and more important each year. It is the fulcrum for DXpedition Leaders and avid DXers to meet and to discuss their wants, needs and challenges in one fantastic event. It is also the ideal venue where many vendors and manufacturers choose to showcase their new products each year.

Here is looking forward to IDXC 2018!

What do you think?

 

Seb1

From the International DX Convention, Visalia California:

The Intrepid-DX Group is pleased to announce the recipient of the annual “Intrepid Spirit Award”. We are pleased to have received so many worthy nominations to consider.

This year’s award goes to a notable Dxer and Dxpeditioner that we have come to respect and admire greatly, Mr. Sebastien “Seb” Poulenard-F5UFX.

This award is to recognize Sebastien’s outstanding efforts to activate Juan de Nova Island as FT4JA and Tromelin Island as FT4TA. Sebastien and his teams are largely responsible for fulfilling the need for these rare and difficult entities. We recognize Sebastien’s unselfish acts to activate these challenging and much needed entities on behalf of a grateful Global DX Community.

We acknowledge Sebastien’s pursuit of operating excellence in assembling the best operators available for these important activations. It is for these reasons that we honored him with our Intrepid Spirit Award, presented at the International DX Convention, Visalia, California on April 20th, 2017.

This “Intrepid-Spirit Award” is made in memory of our fallen friend and member, James McLaughlin, T6AF who was killed in Kabul, Afghanistan in April, 2011.

The award is intended to recognize and honor those individuals or teams that boldly activate rare entities where their own personal safety is secondary to their pursuit of providing contacts to the DX Community. While we do not encourage Dxers to go into harm’s way, we recognize that circumstances sometimes require that and we recognize those Intrepid Dxers with the Intrepid Spirit Award.

Thank you,

Paul S. Ewing

Vice President & Founder

The Intrepid-DX Group

 

 

My favorite Blog posts…

Posted: April 17, 2017 in Uncategorized

This week, I will be taking some time away from my Blog as I will be attending the International DX Convention in Visalia California. At IDXC 2017, the Intrepid-DX Group will announce this years recipient of the Intrepid Spirit Award. After the event, I will write about this annual DX gathering.

In the mean time, here is a list with links of my favorite Blog entries that I have made over the past several years:

Interview with Nigel Jolly: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/interview-with-nigel-jolly/

Tour of the RV Braveheart: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2016/03/10/tour-the-rv-braveheart/

The biggest threat to future DXpeditions is: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2015/10/12/the-biggest-threat-to-future-dxpeditions-is/

Dxpedition Unsung Heroes: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2015/08/26/dxpedition-unsung-heroes/

Interview with Baldur Drobnica-DJ6SI: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/11/27/interview-with-baldur-drobnica-dj6si/

So you want to go on a Dxpedition: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2015/05/07/so-you-want-to-go-on-a-dxpedition-2/

Interview with OH2BH – Martti Laine: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/12/09/interview-with-oh2bh-martti-laine/

Interview with the Italian Dxpedition Team: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/10/16/interview-with-the-italian-dxpedition-team/

Intrepid-DX Group 2014 friendship tour of Iran: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/09/30/intrepid-dx-group-2014-friendship-tour-of-iran/

Planting “seeds” in North Korea and Iran: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/09/18/planting-seeds-in-north-korea-and-iran/

Interview with James Brooks-9V1YC: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/09/01/interview-with-james-brooks-9v1yc/

A conversation with Monk Apollo-SV2ASP: https://n6pse.wordpress.com/2014/08/08/a-conversation-with-monk-apollo-sv2aspa/

 

What do you think?

 

 

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The assortment of communications gear used in addition to HF.

I am often asked how Dxpedition teams communicate with their Pilot stations and upload their logs to Clublog from the far flung and remote locations that we visit.  In this Blog entry, I will describe the data and voice technology available to enable a Dxpedition to communicate with the outside world in addition to the HF radio gear.

When operating from a Fly in/Hotel venue, communications are usually pretty straightforward. We can use a local SIM card in our cell phone for voice communications for the outside world. Most hotels have some form of Internet/Wi-Fi that is available for Skype calls and uploads of logs to Clublog.

Although, as we found in Iraq and Eritrea, the Internet speeds were insufficient to handle daily log uploads and we had to use other means to upload our logs. In Asmara Eritrea, a BGAN was used to upload logs as the hotel internet was too slow to achieve an effective data rate.

Operating on a remote island is much different than a fly in/hotel situation. Voice communications are generally done via an Iridium satellite telephone. Iridium operates a satellite constellation of 95 active satellites used for worldwide voice and data communications. These satellites are in low polar orbits at 485 miles above the earth. Iridium is optimized for voice calls and they work pretty well. Data handling is limited to short text messages. Larger messages and files can be transmitted via BGAN (see below)

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Our Iridium Extreme 9575 satellite phone.

The Intrepid DX Group uses two Iridium phones for extra redundancy.

In addition to Iridium phones for voice calls, we employ a DeLorme In Reach SE for simple text/data communications with our Pilot stations, friends and family. The DeLorme In Reach also uses the Iridium network and has global coverage. The In Reach SE also has a built in GPS and can send coordinates at regular intervals using the beacon function. Our In Reach SE was attached to the antenna structure of the RV Braveheart and provided hourly beacons and map positions of our travels to South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands. Using the DeLorme IPad application, the In Reach SE was my primary means of communications with our VP8 Chief Pilot-Tony EA5RM.

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Our DeLorme InReach SE provided real time text and GPS beaconing.

We also use a Skyroam global Wi-Fi hotspot for our travels to exotic foreign countries that have cellular networks. The Skyroam takes the headaches out of finding and negotiating Wi-Fi networks. In can allow up to five devices to connect as a Wi-Fi hotspot using the local cellular network.

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Our Skyroam global hot spot.

For managing robust data communications such as file transfers, log uploads and email, a pair of Hughes BGAN terminals are deployed for +1 redundancy. BGAN stands for Broadband Global Area Network. This network consists of three Inmarsat satellites in a geo stationary orbit over the earth. This is line of sight technology and is optimized for moving data. Data speeds of half a megabit per second are possible under ideal circumstances. From South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands, we were only able to make limited contact with the satellite based over Tunisia as it travelled in a figure eight pattern throughout the day. We found that we could only make access at the same precise time each day.

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This map shows the coverage “foot print” of the Inmarsat satellite network.

While voice calls are possible over Inmarsat, the quality is poor as compared to Iridium. It’s important for the Dxpedition organizer to understand the limitations for BGAN/Inmarsat as it moves data whereas Iridium is optimized for voice and does a poor job with Data as Iridium’s data rates are about 1/10th that of Inmarsat.

BGAN terminals work in locations where there is no wireless service. They work on land or sea. An external antenna can be coupled to the terminal to use on a ship or to receive signals outside while the terminal is used indoors.

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We use two Hughes BGAN terminals for redundancy.

BGAN service is very expensive with rates of $4 to $7 per Megabyte transferred. The data usage for our VP8STI/VP8SGI Dxpedition was over $1,500 to update our logs once a day to Clublog. BGAN terminals cost from $2,000 to $12,000 or more.

So, to effectively move voice and data, the Dxpedition Leader must acquire Iridium and Inmarsat knowledge and equipment to meet the ever-increasing expectations placed upon the Dxpedition team for daily log uploads and effective communications with Pilots and others.

What do you think?

 

Fun with 5U5R…

Posted: March 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

5u5r_team

The 5U5R DXpedition from the Republic of Niger has just concluded. This DXpedition was organized by the venerable Tifariti Gang. The team made 75,327 contacts from March 9th to March 20th, 2017.

This was a very good DXpedition for a number of reasons. This team really knows how to make effective use of their location and antennas. They always select a quiet location which helps them hear the weakest of signals.

They use light weight Spiderbeam and Hex beam antennas that perform very well. This team really excelled with their low band effort. They worked 30-160 meters very hard and were heard on 160 meters as far away as the Hawaiian Islands. Many of us on the US West Coast were really pleased with their effort as many of us scored a contact on 80 and 160 meters which is a very difficult contact to make.  Their signals on 30 and 40 meters were very strong. Their operating team was highly skilled and a pleasure to work.

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This team worked extremely hard with considerable time working the bands and reducing the pileups. They reached nearly 10,000 contacts each day for their initial operating period. This is a significant feat that can be accomplished by using the strongest operators available.

They operated in a logical and effective style, much like the Italian DX Team, the Tifariti Gang choses several bands for that day and works it until there is simply no more propagation left. 

There have been many DXpeditions from Niger over the years but I cannot recall any that were as much fun to work as the 5U5R team.

My hat is off to Tony-EA5RM and his team for a fantastic effort!

What do you think?

Unsung Heroes of DXing…

Posted: March 21, 2017 in Uncategorized

Today, I’m writing about some of the unsung heroes of the DXpedition realm. DXpeditions require funds to achieve their goals. Some DXpeditions require more funds than others.

There is a group of men that work tirelessly, day after day and year after year to help make DXpeditions happen. These are the fine men that run the nonprofit foundations that support and fund DXpeditions.

The two main organizations that enable DXpeditions to be funded are the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) and the International DX Association (INDEXA)

These men attend the various ham radio events and club meetings, tirelessly raising money in advance of the many requests of the DXpedition Leaders that are seeking funds. Probably one of their most difficult tasks is rejecting or turning down a request for funding. This is necessary as not every DXpedition can be funded and some DXpeditions cost considerably more than others.

A DXpedition to a South Pacific Island that is activated every few years does not have the same need and importance of the big expensive DXpeditions such as 3Y0Z, VK0EK or FT5ZM. DXpedition organizers need to be realistic and accept the limitations in funding. There is only so much money available in this hobby and these men carefully decide where it is needed most. These men make DX happen. Without the important work that these men do, many DXpeditions to the most important places simply may not happen.

Won’t you support their efforts today with a donation?

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http://www.ncdxf.org

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http://www.indexa.org

What do you think?

Expert1.5K

I am a big fan of solid state amplifiers. I really enjoy my Elecraft KPA500 and my Expert 1.3K-FA solid state amplifiers. They perform extremely well and I don’t miss the three minute warm up time of my former 8877 based amplifier.

This past weekend at the Montichiari (Italy) Ham Fest, SPE Expert Amplifiers revealed a new solid state amplifier in their product offering. It is the Expert 1.5K-FA amplifier. This amplifier comes standard with the built in automatic tuner. It weights just slightly more than the Expert 1.3K-FA amplifier in the same form factor.

This new amplifier uses the latest NXP device MRF 1K50. Power is evenly distributed across the bands, about 1600 W on 1,8MHz and  14MHz, on 6 meters (50MHz) about 1580/1590 W.

According to SPE, the Expert 1.5K-FA will be on display in May at Dayton Hamvention

Photos by IK4UAY.

What do you think?