Let’s talk Geography….

Posted: March 31, 2016 in Uncategorized


One of many examples of the US West Coast

One aspect of DXpeditions that I enjoy is working the most difficult, hard to reach areas. When I have gone to Iraq, South Sudan, Yemen and Eritrea, the most difficult-hard to reach area is the West Coast of North America. As a DXpeditioner, its exciting to work the weaker signals that are far away and see the “magic” of propagation working. In contrast, working local callers hour after hour gets rather mundane. It is also enjoyable to hear the excitement in the contact being made at the other end. We love hearing “Thanks for the new one!” or 5NN TU NEW1. That is a small part of the reason why we go to these places. We like to make guys happy. It is fun and enjoyable for us. We don’t like to reward cheaters and dishonorable hams. That grates at all of us.


Another example of the West Coast.

For my purposes, I define the West Coast as British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada and Arizona. One could also argue that Idaho and New Mexico are in the West Coast of the USA and I would accept that.

I’ve been chagrined lately when I am on Dxpeditions or when I have heard Dxpeditions calling for the West Coast and I hear stations in Colorado, Wyoming and states east making their calls.


This area is generally considered the West Coast.

To me, these Dxers are ignoring the desire of the DX station and they are essentially “thumbing their nose” at all of the Dxers on the West Coast who are sitting in their shack listening to this.

I have blogged about this topic before as less than honorable behavior and it continues. Yesterday, I was listening to the FT4JA Dxpedition to Juan de Nova. They are about as far from California as you can get.


I include British Columbia with this version of the West Coast.


A smaller more defined area of the West Coast.

At VP8STI/VP8SGI, I made notes on a notepad of out of turn callers and less than honorable callers. Each shift there would be 4-6 “special people” who made their Hubris known to me. I did not acknowledge their calls and I did not work them. Sort of a black list for the extent of my shift. Other Dxpeditioners do this too. There is one certain Dxer in Oregon that makes such an obnoxious pest of himself that it is amazing that he gets in the log at all.


Another example of the West Coast.

I believe that “tough love” works for troubled teenagers and less than honorable Dxers. If you act tough, you ought not to get the love.

What do you think?

Follow Up to Original Post:

So I have received some input both on the Blog and private email from guys in Colorado. They are a bit miffed for being called out as “geography challenged” or as dishonorable because they don’t understand what the West Coast is (thus the purpose of this discussion)


I’m adding a great circle map, centered on FT4JA, Juan de Nova. As you can see, Colorado and the West Coast are about equal distance from FT4JA. However, having operated from Eastern Africa, the Middle East etc, I can tell you that the Propagation is much different. On the higher bands, propagation rolls across the USA much like a tidal wave would starting in W1, moving across W3, W4, W8, W9, W0/W5 and then W7/W6. Propagation is not the same for guys in W0 as it is in W6 from a signal source based in Eastern Africa or the Middle East. Interestingly on this map, Arizona and New Mexico appear to be about as far from FT4JA as you can get.

When a DXpeditioner asks for a certain call area on their first day, they are most likely trying to gauge and record propagation to pass along to the team. Often in the first days, you may ask for a certain area and have no one call back to you. In contrast, you can often be surprised by an opening that you didn’t know that you had.

Now then, a signal from Juan de Nova to the West Coast is nearly a polar path. Much more so to W6 than to W0. Signals are weaker on the West Coast because of absorption, not just distance.

A competent DXpeditioner will make notes of when openings take place to all remote regions. You cannot expect a French Operator on the FT4JA team to know that the N-zero is in Colorado when he is expecting to get calls from W6’s on the West Coast. But we can reasonably expect the guys in Colorado to resist the temptation to call when the DX is asking for the West Coast. Now if the DX is asking for areas West of the Mississippi or the Mid West, by all means they should make their calls.

What do you think?





  1. Warren says:

    You are spot on, Paul.
    Now if you could just figure out how to get rid of the DQRMers then you’d be a shoo-in for the DX Hall of Fame . . . : ) Warren, NW4C

    • Laurie Margolis says:

      Seen from Europe Paul, Colorado would probably get away with being “west coast”, or at least “west”. Ditto New Mexico, probably the Dakotas, and certainly the 7 mountain states, which for us are far rarer than Washington and Oregon. No one would object to them replying to a CQ West Coast call. Operating from T32C, I found it took time to think of the East Coast as tough, and the 6’s and 7’s as routine.
      73 Laurie G3UML

  2. Roger says:

    It would help if there was an accepted definition of “West Coast”. Some DXpeditions break up the USA into “West Coast” and “USA” [i.e. everything else]. Propagation from some places where DXpeditions take place and portions of the USA between the Mississippi and the Rockies can be just about as difficult as W6 – W7.

    I don’t recall a DXpedition ever listening for “Central USA”.

    However, at least on phone, working by numbers seems to work OK. With CW, working by numbers is not feasible because not enough CW ops would be able to understand the directions.

    73 Roger K5RKS

    • Gary K9GS says:

      You’re exactly right Paul. I’d also like to add to what Roger said. Too often there is an East Coast and West Coast when DX-peditions are listening for US stations. The Central US is either lumped in with the East Coast or forgotten completely.

      If the DX-pedition is in Africa/Middle East, we have a huge wall of East Coast to go through and then they listen for “West Coast”. Often times if the DX-pedition is in Asia or the Pacific rim, they show up way past our sunrise and only work West Coast.

      I guess that’s why they call it the “Black Hole”.

    • n6pse says:

      Hi Roger, yes I am trying to define “West Coast” it may contain Idaho and New Mexico but certainly not Colorado. Central USA is not difficult to work from most places, of course you have to contend with the East Coast “Wall” I have used working by numbers many times, most DXers indicate to me that they hate it, but it does help on the DXPedition side. VK0EK on the other hand should ask for the Central USA areas as they are grossly underserved and having a very tough time. That is a good reason to have Pilots in place to make the on Island team fully aware of that.

  3. Gary says:

    I didn’t know what the guys meant by “Sufferin’ Sevens” til I got into DXing in 90′ K7ZD

  4. w9rpm says:

    Roger is right. Numbers on phone would generally be better. I have heard many DX stations say West of the Mississippi. The DQRM is the worst though.

    73 John W9RPM

  5. Roger says:


    Yeah, I guess W9, W0, and W5 are in the “black hole” — aka “flyover country”. It would be interesting to look at the log of the VP8 operations or Juan de Nova or Heard Island etc. and compare the number of calls from each district. This might give some idea of how well “various parts of the USA” are represented.

    Of course, this is not an exact science because some guys have calls outside their traditional radio districts. Also, the total number of hams in each district is not equal to start with. Of course there are way more hams [and hence DXers] in California than Oklahoma. But if some allowance is made for this I wonder if it would be the case that the number of QSOs in DXpedition’s logs [on a ham per-capita basis] would be more or less the same across all of the 50 states.

    At least in theory it would be possible to know this. If I had [a] the FCC roster for all 50 states — this would allow me to assign a state for each station regardless of their number in their call, and [b] the log from a few recent DXpeditions, then I could do a study myself. In my previous life as a software engineer I used to do data mining [this would be “mini” data mining) like this.

    73 Roger K5RKS

    • Mike KJ4Z says:


      I have actually been generating such reports for the VK0EK team for several days now, using data out of ULS. Of course, factors like RHR and such mean even that is not entirely reliable. But the guys on the island have seen the numbers and are aware. I hope they are going to use the data to help get more regions in the log.


      • Mike Crownover says:

        BTW Mike (I just recognized your call)….I managed a QSO with VK0EK on 17m at 1239z this morning…….73…Mike AD5A

  6. John says:

    Here’s what I think would be interesting. For a given DXpedition, take the data from a set of similarly equipped reverse beacon stations across the USA and plot the snr db levels. This might give as close to an objective idea of where the really tough spots to reach are and might produce some surprising results. And I bet if this was analyzed CO would be closer in terms of propagation with CA than it would be with NJ or IL. Looking forward to Visalia!

  7. N0CWR says:

    Being in the DX black hole of North America I’ve wished many times that they might ask “NA NOT the east coast”.
    We don’t have those coastal westerly or easterly band openings.
    Zero’s before ones
    de Kansas

    (I write this as I watch the endless spots for VK0EK on 10m from the east Coast again this morning)

  8. Jeff Schwartz says:

    I think calling for ITU Zones 6, 7 or 8 would be more reasonable as it geographically defines what is west, central or east. If one was inclined to split it up further then a defined West Coast Zone, Rocky Mountain Zone, Central Zone and East Coast Zone would be even more specific.

    Living in Colorado I realize I don’t live on the West Coast (it’s a nice place to visit…) but I don’t particularly feel like I’m in the Central US either. Horace Greeley said “Go WEST, young man…” and the people he inspired founded the town eventually named after him, Greeley, Colorado.

    New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana make up the Rocky Mountain States. Maybe it’s time that DXpeditions get more specific from a Geographical standpoint so as not to leave out one of the least ham populated geographically distinct area of the US. Why New Mexico is a 5 call area, Colorado a 0 call area and Wyoming a 7 call area is beyond me. I think it reveals the schizophrenic nature of the situation and why so many people have strong opinions on the matter.

    For me, I just work them when I can and know I don’t live in California, Oregon or Washington…

    Best 73 de Jeff / ki0kb

  9. Chet Jensen W6XK says:

    Jeff said:

    Jeff nailed it. However, I recommend that DXpedition operators substitute “ITU” zones with “CQ” zones. Zones 3, 4 and 5 clearly delineate the three major geographic areas of the continental U.S. Plus, most hams are aware of their zone because of CQ Magazine’s internationally recognized contest and awards programs. Finally, DXpedition ops wishing to work “by the numbers” would only have to rotate through 3 geographic areas rather than 10.

    Chet W6XK

    • Jeff Schwartz says:

      Chet, I meant to convey that I believe that ITU Zones 6,7 and 8 more clearly represent what I feel are the three geographic areas of the US since they use the Mississippi River to divide the east from the central US. Perhaps the CQ Zones 3,4 and 5 reflect a more accurate division of the ham population, I have no idea and I don’t know what was used to define the CQ zones. I did hear a DX station once ask for stations west of the Mississippi and I distinctly recall a guy in Ohio call him which I found entertaining. I think the bottom line is some of us don’t know where are…. even on a good day… Hi Hi
      73 Jeff / ki0kb

  10. Jeff Schwartz says:

    I was just listening to the most recent plea for west coast stations from FT4JA on 17m. One of the problems is that the operator is taking call numbers besides 6 and 7 which unleashes the ham bullies. Several 1’s, 2’s and 3’s continue to call as if their radios don’t have receive capabilities. They are all on the East Coast on QRZ. I think the operators should call for “6 and 7 calls only on the west coast”. If you are a 1, 2, 3. 4. 5. 8. 9 or 0 living on the west coast…. tuff… change your call otherwise use /6 or /7. I suppose those hams that call out of turn and know it are misfits that are generally unhappy individuals who feel that rules don’t apply to them in all aspects of their life. I think the DXpedition should make the contact but not log the guy so at least they go somewhere else. If hams end up not in the log after a contact it might hit them where it hurts……
    Jeff / ki0kb

    • n6pse says:

      Hi Jeff, yes I am listening and hearing this as well.

    • Mike KJ4Z says:

      Hi Jeff,

      There are a lot more of us non-6es living in 6 land than you might think. Call districts have not been all that relevant for a while now. I think the burden is clearly on the callers to behave, not on those of us with out-of-district calls to change them.


      • Jeff Schwartz says:

        Mike, I realize that and I think if for that contact a /6 or /7 was used it might calm some of the inpatient masses elsewhere waiting around for their turns. I heard a few today that were using the /6 designation and I personally think it might help… maybe not? I suppose a lot of sneaky hams would abuse that too to make a contact. I think increased servility on the air is the answer but I don’t get the impression that is happening much lately….. Jeff / ki0kb

    • Mike Crownover says:


      There is the other side of this argument. What about 6’s and 7’s who live on the East Coast. Do they get a free pass to call:-)


      Mike AD5A

  11. Paul, VE7BZ says:

    I applaud the author for acknowledging his definition of the west coast actually includes British Columbia (BC). All too often calls for stations on the west coast of NA are further defined by a DX station as being limited to W6’s and W7’s.

    The west coast does not end at the Canada – USA border.

    73 Paul, VE7BZ

  12. Rick says:

    Since Denver is “The Wild West” I consider that the West Coast. Actually just about everything West of the Mississippi could be considered West Coast.

    The idea of a DX station asking for the West Coast is to have the East Coast stations yield to those in the West. Lately that doesn’t seem to help since people keep yelling no matter what.

    Why not just address the rudeness and lack of knowledge of a tremendous amount of operators who have no clue how to operate their radio.

    I remember hearing the great OH2BH working across the country as the grey line moved. Marti started working the Mid-West and West and held his guns to only working the West.


    • n6pse says:

      But Rick, Denver is almost 1000 miles East of San Francisco. At 5,000+ in elevation it has a tremendous propagation advantage over the real West Coast. Now you are in Arizona and part of the real West Coast but no way is Denver the West Coast.

      Paul N6PSSE

      • Rick says:

        How come you don’t like Denver? They are Super Bowl champs, have some of the best DX’rs on the West Coast, The top DX Marathon winner the last few years lives just outside Denver and they have some of the Best Micro-Breweries in the country!

        Well, my feeling is that when the DX asks for the West Coast, the East should QRX.


  13. n6pse says:

    Rick, I have nothing against Denver or Colorado for that matter. I know how tough it is to work the West Coast from Eastern Africa and the Middle East and I think it is shameful how some guys in Colorado, Wyoming and other states East of the Rockies make their calls when the DX is asking for the West Coast. These guys are making themselves look bad. Some care and some don’t.

    Some hams respect their peers and some don’t.

  14. Mike Crownover says:

    While the point is well taken and some hams truly don’t accept who the expedition is calling (and probably never will), if the only QRM you have on calls for the West Coast are the guys in Colorado and Wyoming, then you still have a good shot at getting through. How many serious DXer’s can there be in Wyoming anyway? At least most expeditions recognize the difficult path to the West Coast and asks everyone to standby, not for a continent, but a specific call area. As one commentor said, we don’t get that treatment in W5/W0 and we have two coasts to beat out depending on the DX, which is especially tough on the low bands. As pointed out, the path from W5/W0 to VK0EK is extremely tough, but no-one is leaving the lights on for us. Prop predictions called for a short opening to W5 on 17m at 1300z, and on two consecutive mornings they QSY’ed precisely at 1300z just as their signal was building. Definitely no preference to our geographical situation. So I would say be happy with the recognition that the path is tough and make the best of the special calls while the rest of us stand by, except for Colorado and Wyoming:-).

    As we’ve seen by the responses to this blog there is not a consensus on what “West Coast” means. It’s up to the DX-pedition to define that. They know what they mean when they say “West Coast” and I’m sure that definition even differs among expeditioners. If you want west coast, tell the deserving exactly what you mean and enforce it. To enforce it means that you have to look up QRZ.com on every QSO and that chews up precious time. Perhaps integrate the callbook into N1MM and call out the violators. Without enforcement, any rule is meaningless and a minority of hams will create chaos.

    I will digress a little. These same issues have been around since I became a ham. DQRM’ers aren’t going away, neither are guys who call out of turn or /portable to a specified call area, tuners will always be with us, cops will be on patrol as will guys who can’t copy code or operate a VFO, along with the myriad of other crimes committed on the air waves. I don’t like it and I’m just as irritated as the next guy, but nothing has changed in my 27 years as a ham. So, I’ve decided it’s part of the game and I just deal with it, get my QSO and move on. What human beings will do when they can remain anonymous is pretty sad and unfortunately unless we get the FCC to put enforcement in every town, the perpetrators of these ham crimes will remain anonymous. If there is something that any of us can do about any of these things, other than manage ourselves with integrity, I’d love to know.

    Let’s go find someone to work. After all, this is a wonderful hobby we have, let’s make the best of it.


    Mike AD5A

  15. Roger AC6BW says:

    Good blog entry, Paul. Many don’t realize just how challenging the propagation can be from the “Forgotten Coast”, so it’s good to remind others once in a while.

    Bravo for blacklisting the out of turn callers when you were on VP8. I wish more DX ops would do this. Then, maybe the callers will start to realize that their shenanigans won’t result in a QSO. I almost lost a QSO with VK0EK last night on 40m CW to an out of turn caller who insisted on constantly calling on top of my sig WHILE I was trying to make the QSO exchange. Fortunately, I got the busted call corrected, and it was corrected in less than 2 hours (kudos to the VK0EK support team!).

    Congrats on DXCC HR !
    73, Roger- AC6BW

  16. Ken Lawson says:

    FT4 and vicinity are not so hard from the west coast if they will beam long path. With my small station (wires + 500 watts) the FT4JA crew was easy to work long path from Mayotte on 30 meters — at 200 watts. Salt water path. No joy yet for me to JdN, but hope remains. Barely hear them..

    VK0EK is >11,000 miles from me, but all salt water. ATNO.

    Just an amazing crew that picked me out of the pile-ups at VP8STI/SGI. Mostly salt water. Fantastic Ops! 2 ATNOS.

    Salinity is the biggest thing going for the west coast! The 450 foot hill to the NE is really bad news to JdN short path. If I could only put up a 500′ tower….but 282 confirmed since getting back on the air in 2008; all CW. No skimmer here — I suspect no code guys play a big role in the pile-up mess.

    Congrats on HR! 73, Ken W7NUW

  17. Roger says:

    In the ideal world there would not have to be a discussion of what constitutes “West Coast”. That is because DX ops would be breaking down the pile BY THE NUMBERS. If what most people call the West Coast — that is W6 / W7 — needs a longer shot then the DXpedition can give the 6 and 7 guys a longer shot than say the 0 and 5 guys.

    Calling by numbers would be more efficient since there is no fudge factor on the number in your call as opposed to whether or not you are “West Coast”. Also, at any given time the potential number of guys in the pileup is smaller when going by the numbers.

    I sent a note to the FT4JA pilot for NA asking them if they would consider “going by the numbers” for NA.

    I used to be on the West Coast [San Jose CA]. I think that for most of AF, Middle East, and Central Asia W6/W7 is generally a harder path than for W5.

    73 Roger K5RKS (ex NQ6C) Oklahoma City

    • Mike Crownover says:


      For extended openings I agree, however, for short openings, i.e. the 30 minute opening from VK0EK to W5 on 17m would become a 5 min opening if you went by the numbers. This has happened to me multiple times. The 17m opening to the east coast is multiple hours, so during the W5 opening the east coast will chew up more than half the short W5 opening.

      There is no one answer for this and no formula that works in all cases. There is no substitute for both expeditioner and chaser to understand what the propagation conditions are and then behave accordingly. I’d rather an expedition take all-comers until those short openings, on difficult paths, occur and then let the affected area have a shot to make QSO’s.

      Working expeditions to tough places is a challenge for me. It’s a little like solving a mystery. How will I get through? I’ve found that studying predicted paths and then observing actual results usually provides a solution. So part of the burden rides with us as chasers to understand when we can expect to make a QSO.

      I made #1 Honor Roll in 16 years from being licensed and have ~2800 band countries with a log periodic at 50′ and wires on low bands, while working full time. I have 180 countries on 160m with a simple Alpha Delta DX-A mounted on my tower at 50′ and no receiving antenna. It can be done if you do the homework. I just retired and am building a contest station at a second QTH, (wished it were finished for this series of expeditions), that should help me achieve 3,000 band countries, one at a time.


      Mike AD5A

  18. Carl Clawson WS7L says:

    In a related vein, note that W7 is the only US district that extends all the way from Mexico to Canada. East to west it covers two time zones and abuts a third (barely). There’s a big difference between propagation to Arizona and the Pacific Northwest. Talk about sufferin’ sevens! Those AZ guys work stuff that I can only dream of here in NW Oregon. So if a DX calls for W7, then works a dozen or two AZ, NV, and UT stations, they haven’t really covered W7. Wait an hour (or maybe try an hour earlier?) and try for OR, WA, ID, MT, AB, and BC! Totally different propagation. Up here we feel like we are the unknown and forgotten black hole. (On the plus side, VK0H is near our antipode so they haven’t been hard. FT4JA on the other hand is a toughie.)

    73, Carl WS7L

  19. Bill AA7XT says:

    I may be guilty of this (thinking Colorado is west coast). Colorado may be slightly better propagation-wise to Middle East / Africa / Indian Ocean that CA OR WA BC, however, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a DXpedition call for “mountain west States” or “Mountain time zone:” I do hear “west coast only” pretty often. I guess my convenient excuse is I’m WEST of the Rocky Mountains! Stations in Denver / Boulder are EAST of the Rockies. Rain that falls at my QTH drains to the Pacific Ocean, is that a mitigating factor? (Denver hams can’t say that!)

    Bill AA7XT
    Glade Park, Colorado

    • n6pse says:

      Hi Bill, When in Africa and the Middle East, I have called many times for “North America West of the Rockies” or North America West of the Mississippi. When in Myanmar in Asia, I was often calling for North America East of the Rockies or East of the Mississippi.

      Paul N6PSE

  20. Ria N2RJ says:

    Tough call for this one. I always thought that “West Coast” was numbers 7, 0 and 6. I have heard some European hams call “West coast, numbers 7, 0, 6 only.” While I do understand that technically 0 and some 7s are not part of the West Coast, I have never heard those areas specifically called by any DXpedition. I have never heard “CQ midwest” or “CQ west of midwest.”

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