Interview with the Italian Dxpedition Team

Posted: October 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

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The Italian Dxpedition Team, led by Silvano Borsa-I2YSB is one of the most active Dxpedition groups of our time. They go to rare and often dangerous places and they activate the bands in a unique style with considerable passion and zeal to ensure that everyone gets a needed contact. Here is just a partial list of their activations:

5U7JK/5U7B, TX4PG, FO, ZK3, 5W, 6O0N, 6O0CW, J20MM J20RR, 9L1X, 9J2T, 9G5TT 9G5XX, 5V7TT, 5M2TT, XT2TT, TU2T, 6O0CW 2012, TT8TT, TO2TT, TY1AA.

Paul-N6PSE: How was the Italian Dxpedition Team formed?   

The Italian Dxpedition Team: The IDT team is basically a group of friends sharing a common passion. For us, being friends is more important than radio amateurs. This is the very secret of our style, which allows us to face even extreme situations in our Dxpeditions with a relaxed team spirit. For formal reasons IDT must have a president, deputy president and secretary, but all decisions are taken by mutual accord and each member has the same weight in them.

Paul N6PSE: What is the special passion or goals of the Team?

IDT: Our main goal is carrying out Dxpeditions in any country of the world. Obviously, none of us can invest large sums of money in this activity, which in most cases limits our operations to countries that are affordable from the financial standpoint. In addition, one of our goals is to bring help to local radio amateurs or to the population, by means of donations in kind and money.

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The TY1AA Team in Benin.

Paul N6PSE: We all know that EU pileups can be very difficult to manage. Does your team use any special techniques for EU pileups?

IDT: For us Europeans (but for Mac JA3USA), the pileup from Europe is not as tough as for non-European hams. In our Dxpeditions Mac takes the obvious lead with Japanese and USA pileups, whereas we concentrate on Europe, mainly on SSB. It is a fact, however, that the instructions of the operators are disregarded more often by European operators, thus creating confusion and annoyance to the operator on our side. A successful method for dealing with these situations is simply that of repeating instructions (e.g. “outside Europe”) frequently, speaking slowly and clearly (or slowing down our CW). We often repeat instructions also in other languages, such as Spanish, French and Italian. Many hams are not fluent in English, thus generating unintentional QRM. Moreover, on CW many hams do not know the Morse code and can use only decoders. This forces us to slow down further…sad but true!

Paul N6PSE: What have been the most favorite places the IDT Team has visited?

IDT: Each country that we visited, with its own history, traditions and habits, left a mark on us. It is therefore difficult to make a choice. Surely, our heart is in the eyes of the children whom we met in the Galkayo hospital in Somalia, even though those glances do not belong to the world of radio…

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The XT2TT Team in Burkina Faso.

Paul N6PSE: Where does the IDT team dream of activating in the future?

IDT: Who does not dream of activating North Korea or Navassa? For some locations our only limitation is of financial nature (e.g. islands in Antarctica or the Pacific Ocean, which require renting ships and/or helicopter for landing). Another aspect has to do with licensing, almost impossible in some countries. As a consequence, we specialized in African countries, and their list is still quite long!

Paul N6PSE: Does your team take any time to visit or sightsee during a Dxpedition?

IDT: Most of the countries that we visited so far are plagued by poverty, which subjects those populations to insecurity and political instability. As a consequence, we never indulged in “tourism” but always followed the suggestions of our local contact persons. On some occasions we were advised not to leave the compound of our accommodation. In case of problems it was always necessary to have a local escort for our security. It has become normal for us to remain isolated in a hotel for the entire Dxpedition….At any rate, we travel for operating and not for tourism, otherwise we would choose very different places!

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The TU2T Team.

Paul N6PSE: What are your biggest challenges in doing a Dxpedition?   Is it getting permission or enough financial support?

IDT: We would say both. One of the major difficulties in planning a Dxpedition is licensing. In some countries radio amateurs are considered with suspicion as spies who could give out information to unidentified enemies. In others there is no specific legislation on our service, and we must explain at length who are we and our intentions in the country. We remember the case in Zambia when we got a license with an aeronautical call! It took us endless phone calls to make the authorities understand that what we got was the wrong authorization and a wrong callsign!

In addition, but not less important, the economic aspects. Our typical budgets do not allow us to plan expensive Dxpeditions, and this constraint is coupled with that of security. Within our budget we must choose protected locations, with the necessary infrastructure (generators, internet …) and with the right cost/security ratio.

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The 9L1DX Team

Paul N6PSE: Has your team experienced any danger or great fear on your trips?

IDT: Luckily, this has never been the case, but for a couple of events in Somalia. Once, while at dinner, we had to take shelter hastily under the table because of a shooting outbreak between rival gangs. In another case, we were exposed to a possible robbery by some militiamen who attempted to divert our car on the road to the Galkayo hospital. Our escort reacted bravely and all had a happy end, but we realized that, in some places, one’s life is not worth even the T-shirt that one is wearing!

Paul N6PSE: Do you feel that your team is adequately financially supported before and after a Dxpedition?

IDT: This is a delicate issue. We are often asked about how much one makes on a Dxpedition. We usually smile at this query and suggest trying setting up even a modest one, saying one week long in an easily accessible place. This is the only way for realizing the level of costs, commitment and efforts that are required to get things straight, and the level of difficulty and pain which are involved in even a modest initiative. We do it just for passion, and spend personal money in just the same way as others invest in their holidays. We invest in our Dxpeditioning, and any help is always more than welcome. Unfortunately, almost all DX Foundations contribute financial support based only on the rarity of the country. This happens even if, by our direct experience, the actual demand for these countries may differ substantially from their rankings in the most wanted lists. It would be most useful and generally productive if these Foundations would award their support taking also into account the experience, reliability and organization of the teams involved.

Unfortunately, costs increase year after year. We do our best to fit within a strained budget, but – beyond the actual Dxpedition – we cannot afford to invest personal money also in the QSLing process, to mention one case.

Paul N6PSE: I applaud your implementation of a $1.50 OQRS fee to get a Bureau Card. How has this been received by the DX Community?

IDT: The DX community reacted very well to this solution, and about 90% of the donations in the case of our Express LotW service exceed the posted minimum. This is rewarding, since it shows that the majority of Dxers is aware of the costs incurred in running a complete Dxpedition, from beginning to end.

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The TT8TT Chad Dxpedition QSL Card.

Paul N6PSE: Your team uses a real time logging system. Can you tell us how it works?

IDT: We are proud of our Online Log system. It is our friend Giacomo (IH9GPI) who is to be credited for this success. He understood in detail the specific needs of our DX community and developed a software package able to overcome all the problems, mainly due to unstable connections, that we so often meet in African countries. In spite of this real-time service (we upload our logs every 60 seconds!), we regret the still large and constant number of dupes. This year, at TY1AA, with a total of 81200 QSOs we established a new (negative) record with more than 3100 duplicate QSOs!

Paul N6PSE: Your team enjoys “fly in” DXpeditions much as my team does. We know that equipment weight is always an issue. Can you tell us what kind of antennas and amplifiers you bring?

IDT: Over the years we improved our equipment and the luggage to be checked at the airport, in order to minimize extra costs. Unfortunately, overweight is a constant case, as can be easily imagined. We eliminated all aluminum antennas, replaced by Spiderbeams and fishing rods for the verticals.

We made special aluminum containers with weight and dimensional constraints in mind, in order to meet the size limits imposed by airlines. We purchased watertight suitcases for radios and amplifiers. We also reduced to the very minimum the accessories of each station (3 complete stations at least); all their components are fully interchangeable in order to face possible faults.

Finally, we use Elecraft K3 transceivers, Elecraft KPA500 amplifiers and normal laptop computers. The logging software is the well tested N1MM in the Dxpedition version.

Paul N6PSE: How do you feel about propagation predictions?  Are they accurate or just a big guess?

IDT: Normally, each operator follows propagation predictions every hour by means of specific tables worked out before the Dxpedition. These predictions are correct in most cases, though the experience of the operator is most valuable and at times even more important.

Our operators are well versed in issues such as Grey Line propagation, with special attention for rare openings to distant countries. On other cases we call VK ZL W6 and JA in order to exploit all possibilities at any given time.

Paul N6PSE: You have just announced that you will cancel plans for ZD9TT in 2015 and will no longer announce your plans in advance. Can you explain why you don’t wish to announce your plans in advance anymore?

IDT: During our TY Dxpedition we got news from Tristan de Cunha that our 6 reservations for 2015 were no longer available. At the moment we only have 4 unconfirmed reservations. We were also informed that these 4 may be cancelled, even partially, within 2 days of departure.

In this light, we cannot invest time and money with the risk of remaining in Cape Town at the last moment. It is also not possible to reduce the number of operators. Regretfully, the whole team then decided unanimously to cancel the operation. This situation raised considerable problems, of both personal and financial nature. In fact, the expectations for this operation were high, and we had to refund our sponsors who had already provided their support.

The resulting deep concern of our team members led us to decide not to announce our intentions in advance, but only when license, accommodation and transportation would be secured without any doubt.

Paul N6PSE: Please tell us about your Somalia Ambulance Project?

IDT: We were quite shocked by our first experience in Somalia: never before had we been exposed to the sight of a hospital in such conditions and of so many malnourished children. It was the professionalism of the doctors (most of them had studied in Italy), their sureness in injecting some positivity in all actions, their enthusiasm which raised in us a strong determination to help. The initiatives that we set up, at both personal and group level, are numerous. Thanks to IK2CIO and IK2CKR we managed to ship two ambulances to Galkayo, in 2008 and 2014. Many Italian OMs support the hospital, which is very rewarding. We shall stick to these activities within our limits, in the hope of dragging others in the same direction. ONE US $ is sufficient to save a child from sure death of dysentery!

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The Italian Dxpedition Team has donated two ambulances to the Galkayo, Somalia Hospital.

Paul N6PSE: What message would the IDT like to tell the global DX Community?    What could make things better for you and your team?

Marcello, IK2DIA, celebrated his 72nd birthday while on the Zambia Dxpedition (9J2T). When he blew on the candles he expressed the hope to be with us until he will be 80, at least.

We all wish that this be true, we wish nothing more!

Paul N6PSE: Silvano, please convey to your team that your humanitarian work and your activations in Africa and elsewhere are greatly respected and appreciated. Your team does an amazing effort where ever they go. Your team sets an example for others to follow. You are Heroes each and every one of you!

You can learn more about the Italian Dxpedition Team and follow their activities at http://www.i2ysb.com

What do you think?

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Comments
  1. Silvano Borsa says:

    Ciao Paul, very nice, thank you 73 Silvano i2ysb

  2. One of the great dxpedition teams they alwys listen for vk and give us a decent chance and me personally many rare new ones with my 100w and sometimes small signal. thanks for being there Silvano and crew. steve VK3MEG

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