*EDITORIAL* The DXpedition Experience

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water…”

43DA102 Geoff in the field

As the DA-RC slogan suggests, our club is dedicated to the thrill of making DX adventure more of a reality than a dream.

“DX adventure is a pretty broad term,” you might say and that’s certainly true, but DA-RC members see DX adventure as more than just undertaking a DXpedition.

To us, DX adventure involves a whole range of communications related pastimes…  Working DX, seeking DX, undertaking special DX activities from the home shack, the portable, or in the field – even technical DXperimentation – all meet our definition of ‘DX Adventure’.

The DXpedition experience, however, is arguably the most exhilarating of all adventures associated with the hobby, and a priority of the Dx Adventure Radio Club.

Defined by us as a ‘journey with radio’, a DXpedition is a trip to what’s usually considered an exotic place by radio operators, perhaps because of its remoteness or maybe because there are very few radio ops in residence there.  This ‘exotic place’ could be an island (IOTA), a country (DXCC), a state or region.  In modern times, it could also be a lighthouse, light or lightship (LOTA), a castle or fortress (COTA), or in the case of DA-RC’s new SWOTA project, a shipwreck.

Some DXpeditions are organised around various radio contests that happen throughout the year such as the Oceania Contest or the World Wide Radio Organisation’s Islands Festival.  Usually these are activated to help operators who need to contact that area/structure to obtain a new award, such as DA-RC’s IOTA Chaser Award, or a previously unworked or confirmed
DXCC, SWOTA, IOTA, COTA, LOTA etc.  In layman’s terms, DXpeditions are also said to put rare countries on the radio map!

43DA001 Darren in the field

A ‘country’ or ‘entity’ for 11m radio purposes is any location that is both politically and physically remote from other jurisdictions/locations.  Even though Alaska (33 Division) and Hawaii (17 Division) are politically part of the United States, for example, they are listed as separate DX countries.

On the other hand, many DXpeditions take place from QTH’s with adequate access to power and supplies.  Many Caribbean and Pacific island nations, as well as European micro-states, for instance, have small populations, but have hotels, reliable power, and supplies.  Therefore, these states are regularly activated by nomadic DX’ers, often in combination with a family holiday.

Holiday operations from DXstinations where there are few resident operators are often more leisurely affairs, nonetheless the operator will seek to make as many contacts as possible in the operating time available, with the result that contacts are often extremely brief, limited just to an exchange of signal reports.

DA-RC IOTA station

Other jurisdictions such as North Korea (334 Division) and Iran (154 Division), take a more stringent view of individual access to communications equipment and as such are regarded as juicy contacts because visitors find it almost impossible to gain permission to operate there.

This is especially so when you consider that 11m radio operations outside the allocated frequencies are illegal in many countries.  In some cases, taking a radio to a country for the purpose of DX work might even be considered a death wish!

Finally, some locations are rare due to their extreme inaccessibility – examples include Macquarie Island (129 Division) or Chatham Island (261 Division).  When DX’ers travel to remote QTH’s such as these they must first obtain permission to operate from that location.  A check into local rules governing the operation of radios on certain frequencies should obviously be done before travel arrangements are made!

While some operators undertake a lone pilgrimage to isolated islands for the purpose of DX work, DXpeditions are more usually group affairs since the desire is to make as many contacts as possible from the location.  Round-the-clock operations, therefore, are typical and usually involve rostered stints with the mic amongst the DX team members so that individuals can rest their vocal chords.

darc (2)Once operating permission is assured, or at the very least tolerated by ignorance, then transportation must be arranged.  This can be both expensive and dangerous.  Some DXstinations are coral atolls that are almost submerged at high tide; others are sub-polar islands with inhospitable climates.

The DXpeditioner must also take care of basic necessities such as food, water, and power.  Often these are not available at the place of DX due to remoteness and the absence of any real infrastructure, so they may need to be packed and taken on the trip.  Generators are large cumbersome devices but are often necessary where power is not available.  (And of course, don’t forget the petrol)!

14DA049 Fred for IOTA

DA-RC IOTA station

In addition to survival issues, DXpedition participants devote much attention to the radio equipment they use.  In an extremely rare location, many thousands of stations may be calling the DXpedition at any one time so it is important that the team be well equipped to work them.

Many DXpeditioners will aim to use high power and gain antennas in order to achieve a loud signal worldwide and keep control of the inevitable pileups that occur.  This will also enable the operation to make a substantial number of contacts with parts of the planet which have unfavourable propagation from the area visited, lying perhaps on the opposite side of the polar region from it.

In some cases, however, smaller transceivers which run off of 12V DC and antenna systems such as verticals which are more easily transported are favoured over larger and more difficult to transport equipment.  They also add to the challenge of DX-pedition work by making contacts more difficult!

DA-RC Team for Fiji IOTA

Those who’ve experienced the sensation of DXpedition adventure will testify that undertaking any DXpedition work is truly an unforgettable experience.  In addition to the adrenaline rush of setting up your portable station in the field and then logging your first station or working through a massive pile up of eager DXers determined to steal a progressive number from you, the satisfaction you get for having provided an opportunity to your fellow DXers is priceless.

73 de Darren

13DA110 Uli for IOTA