A35V and A35X DXpedition to the Kingdom of Tonga 4th -> 18th April 2014 Scotland Chris GM3WOJ / GM2V / A35V and Keith GM4YXI / GM5X / A35X Tonga
ITU Zone 62 CQ Zone 32 Tongatapu Island - IOTA OC-049 Local time = GMT+13 hours
Friday 16th May These updates are written by Chris GM3WOJ / A35V
Click here to read the story of A35V and A35X. This story is nearly complete now, but please keep checking back for more.
Tuesday 22nd April - 1400 GMT
Keith and I are now safely back in Scotland and sorting out all the DXpedition equipment and antennas. We are also looking at your e-mails about log corrections, etc. and will upload corrected logfiles to ClubLog and LoTW several times over the next week or two.
After our VK9CZ DXpedition last year I made the mistake of waiting too long before writing the story of VK9CZ, so we intend to write about A35V and A35X soon - starting in the next few days if poss. I hope to upload some of our hundreds of photos to this website soon too - it used too much of our limited internet allocation to upload photos from Tonga. We were too tired to look at photos in Sydney.
Combined Leaderboard - A35V and A35X - congratulations to JA1HGY and KH6CG who both made 26 QSOs with the 2 callsigns. European top score was OK2PAY with 24 QSOs and Scottish top score was GM4XMD with 11 QSOs.
Thursday 17th April - 1900 GMT
A35V and A35X are now QRT ! Thanks for all the QSOs and the great pile-ups. Sorry if we missed you.
We spend today dismantling and packing up 10 antennas and our gear and leave Tonga at 2300 this evening, arriving home in Scotland on Monday morning. Please check back here for some photos in the next day or two (from Sydney)
73 Chris A35V and Keith A35X
Wednesday 16th April - 1700 GMT
About 26000 QSOs in the two logs so far - we are into the last 48 hours of the DXpedition, so this will probably be the last update of this webpage until we get home next Monday. Thanks for all the QSOs - we have been lucky with conditions on most days.
Photos - we have loads of photos, but uploading them to this website is difficult with our limited internet allocation. Please check back here after Monday to see them.
We'll also look at all your e-mails about log corrections next week. We'll be on low power for about 7 hours today, but still trying to work as many of you as possible before we close down - on Friday about 0800 local time ( = Thursday 1900z approx) .... We will also upload the logfiles to LoTW and ClubLog again then. 73
Tuesday 15th April - 1747 GMT
Good to work about 400 stations on RTTY so far. We lost AC power again for about 40 minutes earlier, forcing us to miss QSOs - conditions have been outstanding to Europe on some bands.
We only access the internet every few hours, so please be patient if you don't see your QSOs in the online logcheck with ClubLog - they will be there a.s.a.p. Likewise with LoTW.
60m - not looking good - both our TX frequencies are blanketed by the S9 radar transmissions which are here in the South Pacific - we heard the same loud transmissions at ZK2V. We will listen and call tonight at US SR/SS times (on 5371.5 or 5403.5)
Tuesday 15th April - 0400 GMT
An eventful 24 hours with some great pileups and some quieter hours. Our 230V AC power has just come back on as I am writing this - they are upgrading the overhead cables to this NW corner of the island. The power was off for 7 hours from 2100z until 0400z but the resort owner Sven hooked us up to a 4kVA diesel generator. With other loads, we were running about 100W o/p during these 7 hours. I worked a load of stations on 12m RTTY with just 40W o/p. The power will be off again on Thursday during the same times.
Propagation seems a bit better today than yesterday. We have also given up on 80m - too much time spent calling CQ with not even a trace of a reply. The radiation efficiency of our vegetation-challenged 80m antenna must be about 1%. We have changed the 80m vertical to a 60m vertical for the last days of the DXpedition.
We are now QRV on 60m - I will e-mail Joe W8GEX with the times for our activity tonight and tomorrow night.
ClubLog and LoTW will be updated as soon as we can. One fake spot for 160m has caused us a lot of hassle.
Monday 14th April - 0030 GMT
Zero QSOs on 80m again this sunrise. We have spent another hour on the 160m antenna but it is not viable - we just can't get enough wire up in the clear. We know a lot of you will be disappointed - we are too - but the low number of QSOs on 80m does not make 160m worth spending more time on - sorry.
Thought for today - when working A35V or A35X in a CW pile-up does sending any of these help speed up the QSO ? ... answer 'No' .... all we need is 5nn (assuming we have sent your callsign correctly) ..... DE CFM R TU BK 73 GL QSL UR GM GA GE A35V A35X Repeating your callsign Your name Your state (The most annoying is 'DE' - universally disliked by CW DXpeditioners!) OK - TU and 73 are appreciated, hi
Sunday 13th April - 1530 GMT
Busy working stations - about 21000 QSOs now.
80m - please note we will be back on 3521.3 +/- around our sunrise 1752z
Saturday 12th April - 0900 GMT
Disappointing results from our efforts to get the 160m antenna to work. We spent 3 hours in the +32oC heat trying to get the 160m antenna (which is shared with 80m) to resonate on 1830kHz. We have a lot of experience with antennas and know a lot of ways to resonate and match antennas, so this was very frustrating for us. The problem is lack of space and too much vegetation around the antenna - for example on 80m the antenna resonance moved from 3520 to 3720 when the nearby vegetation dried out. We have not given up completely on 160m - we will try again on Monday.
Please note that we will be on 80m at our sunrise - 1752z - but will now be on 3551.3 listening 1 up.
LoTW and ClubLog will be updated soon. Hoping the strong Aurora dies down soon....
Friday 11th April - 2130 GMT
We are now approximately half way through our DXpedition time, considering the time needed to dismantle everything. We have 10 antennas installed, with 160m being installed today. We are hoping to work lots of stations this weekend who have not been able to work us during their working week.
Thanks for all the e-mails - most are positive but some show no understanding whatsoever about a DXpedition situation where you have to eat meals at set times (to suit the resort) and sleep and all sorts of other things that need done - all of which reduce the time available for operating. Our main antenna changeover arrangements here are time consuming, but we reckon it is worth it with the good signal reports we have been receiving. We have added another 17m antenna to give us more operating options.
I'll let you know our 160m plans for this weekend a.s.a.p. We have not been on RTTY yet, so any activity on RTTY is a pirate operation! I will try to activate A35V on RTTY at some time over the weekend, probably on 12m or 10m.
Thursday 10th April - 2220 GMT
We are able to work more stations now - combined QSO total now 11800. Yesterday it rained all day so we did not do any antenna work. 17m and 15m have been very good into Europe and elsewhere. We will attempt to sort out the 160m antenna today. We are receiving a number of e-mails about 160m which are completely unrealistic. Let's consider what would be required for us to work Europe on 160m ...
1. More mutual darkness e.g. February or March 2. Low sunspot years i.e. better LF propagation 3. A bigger DXpedition with a dedicated LF operator able to call CQ for hours (not a sensible use of time for a 2-man DXpedition) 4. minimum 1500W output. 5. A 'band opening' etc. etc.
Despite these factors, we will try to work stations on 160m soon. We will let you know here when we are QRV. At our sunrise today I worked 9 stations on 80m which was encouraging.
One last point - some ops are losing QSOs because they do not acknowledge their report quickly enough - the pileup restarts after about 2-3 seconds and they disappear. We will be updating LoTW and ClubLog soon.
Wednesday 9th April - 1630 GMT
Conditions continue to be good to Europe, even with the sunspot number below 100. We are now QRV on all bands except 160m and 60m, both of which we hope to sort out soon. We have had a lot of distractions in these first few days but things are settling down.
We have 5 Moxon antennas (20,17,15,12 and 10) spaced out along the edge of the beach - mostly pointing North, but to get to them to change over one or other of our 2 feeder cables we have to walk 200m, the last 70m of which is in soft sand where your feet sink 10cm into the sand. This makes changing bands take about 15 minutes! We were not allowed to put our antennas on the beach or in the water because of other visitors, but they seem to be working well where they are.
Because of the electrical storms, we could not operate on 80m (or any band) for about 4 hours yesterday before our sunrise, but things are much better today, so will be on 3521.3 +/- before SR at 1751z. Hoping to post some photos on this website soon.
Tuesday 8th April - 1700 GMT
The solar flux has dropped a bit but conditions continue to be good for us, at least on some of the bands. The weather is very unstable - hot and sunny then sudden torrential rain. As I am writing this I have been waiting 2 hours for an electrical storm to go away. I was on 20m SSB and had to QRT suddenly and disconnect the antenna. These electrical storms arrive without any warning - just a big flash of lightning which seems just outside the shack window!
We have installed the FO0AAA RX loop so hoping for better receive results on 80m - if the storm has moved away before our sunrise.
The real-time logging seems to be working well, but quite a few callsigns are being uploaded to ClubLog before I can correct them, so please keep checking ClubLog each day before e-mailing. (The real-time logging system links our WinTest software to ClubLog) If our internet voucher runs out, the system will stop until we can get more internet access.
Monday 7th April - 1800 GMT
80m - we heard nothing at our sunset, but worked 5 Eu stations at our sunrise which is encouraging. The noise level is S8 and we are looking for space to install our FO0AAA receive loop - this is not a big antenna so it shows how little suitable space we have to work with. Terrific pileups on 12m and 10m.
We are puzzled that we have not worked more USA/Canada - we think we are just not in the right place at the right time, but we have not heard any good W/VE openings so far. This will be our focus in the next few days, with other bands as well. 40m and 30m have been disappointing so far and we have not been on 20m seriously yet. We are always looking for weaker DX amongst the strong pileups, so please keep trying if you are in Africa or the S Atlantic (our most difficult paths)
The updated A35V logfile is on LoTW, A35X is on ClubLog and should be on LoTW later today or tomorrow. We have received some e-mails about log corrections - we have sorted some but will leave most until we get home.
Monday 7th April - 0340 GMT
We are now QRV on 80m - our Sunset is 0527z - we will be on 3521.3 +/- from 0515z onwards and again at our Sunrise which is 1743z. It took us 4 hours to install the 80m antenna so we are planning to spend the next day or two working stations and not doing any more antenna work. We will test the 160m antenna soon.
Sunday 6th April - 1700 GMT
Yesterday was a better day. The rain went away and we had the chance to install more antennas. We now have antennas for 40, 30, 20, 17, 15, 12 and 10m - we intend to install the 160/80 antenna today if poss. and 60m later in the week. The main problem is that the edge of the beach is 60m from the shack, so we have had to use more lengths of feeder to reach the antennas than we expected. Another problem, esp. for 160/80, is lack of space - there is a lot of vegetation and few clear areas. We have identified two 20m high palm trees so are now trying to get a cord to the top of one or the other. (Palm trees are not easy cos the cord can easily tangle in the fronds)
We hope to upload the A35X log to LoTW and ClubLog today. A35V is already there and will be updated. The real-time log seems to be working but can only be used by one or the other callsign.
Great conditions on 12 and 10 - we sometimes have to QRT suddenly to sort things out, but by tomorrow should have a more settled operating pattern on more bands.
Saturday 5th April - 1800 GMT
Yesterday was a tough day. Heavy constant tropical rain all day made antenna installation an exhausting activity. We managed to install 40m, 17m and 12m - today we hope to install 15m and 10m to take advantage of good HF propagation and possibly 30m and 20m. We have only a weak wi-fi signal in the shack, but might give the real-time logging a go today. By tomorrow we should have more bands QRV and more operator energy !
Just to clarify things - we expect to be allowed to operate on 60m (5371.5 and 5403.5) and on 30m, but both depend on us finding enough useful spaces to install antennas. There is about 5 times more vegetation here than at VK9CZ, which will make installing our 160m/80m antenna a slow job.
Please note we have to travel to collect our licence docs tomorrow, so will probably be QRT for a couple of hours - maybe 2000UTC - 2200UTC.
Friday 4th April - 2100 GMT
We have arrived safely at the DXpedition QTH and have started installing antennas. The weather is bad - heavy rain - the 'tail end' of a large weather system covering most of the W/S Pacific. This is the same storm that is affecting VK9MT. However the rain is warm and there is not much wind, but antenna work will be much slower than we hoped.
There are also several local difficulties that we could not have anticipated (we did not get much helpful info from previous visitors here) - for example a 1.5m high barbed wire fence between our shack and the beach. Don't worry we will overcome most of these problems. We won't be able to install the low band antennas today, however.
So - pse QRX for activity later - we are setting up the stations when the rain is heaviest, then antennas when the rain eases a bit.... 73
Wednesday 2nd April 2014
2200UTC - Keith and I have arrived in Sydney and reach Auckland this evening local time. We then have a 19 hour wait before travelling on to Tonga.
Thanks to Jim GM0NAI for constructing and aligning our 3 new 5B4AGN single-band filters for 15/12/10m - these, with sufficient antenna separation, should allow us to operate 12m with 15m or 10m simultaneously.
We will update this 'Latest News' section as often as possible to keep you informed but there will be no other updates to this website during the DXpedition. You can e-mail us during the DXpedition - click the 'Contact Us' button above
We will be concentrating 100% on making QSOs. For example, if the Real-time logging does not work, we will not spend hours trying to make it work. Our aim is clear - maximum number of QSOs with as many Uniques as possible !
We arrive at 2110 local time on Friday 4th April (0810UTC), so please don't expect activity until late UTC on Friday or Saturday 5th April. We are going to install the 160m/80m antenna first - this may lose us a few hundred HF QSOs, but will allow us to be on 160/80 for most of the two weeks. We are aware of the diminishing darkness overlap with Europe, etc.
Click here to see a Google Earth image of our DXpedition QTH. Please click on the 'Propagation' button above to save or open one or more PowerPoints prepared by Keith using VOACAP online. Keith has included propagation prediction charts for many different parts of the world, for April 2014. These PowerPoints should give you a very helpful indication of possible propagation to A35V and A35X from your location.
Alternatively, on the Propagation page there are Bitmap charts for 72 different locations around the world. Below is a sample VOACAP online prediction chart - for Tonga <-> Argentina in April