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2004 CQWW SSB as VK9XD

David E. Burger (vk2cz) on January 11, 2005
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2004 CQWW SSB Contest Trip report as VK9XD.

David Burger VK2CZ

Sydney, Australia

11 January 2005.

The decision to do the 2003, 2004 and 2005 CQWW SSB contests from Christmas Island was made late 2002. Up until that time I had operated from VK8 and more specifically Darwin. This report covers trip number 2.

With the 3 year program to VK9X in mind, it allowed the mobilisation of certain equipment that would not normally be taken on a DXpedition trip. It also meant that the freight logistics needed to be sorted out well beforehand, and the use of the monthly supply ship became attractive. The style of trip in my mind was to be classed as a major high-power station, rather than simply hand carrying a 100watt rig and some wire in a suitcase, this way the smaller stations ‘out-there’ would have a decent shot at working VK9X. Judging by the response I received in 2003, there were many first timers.

The initial trip in 2003 was effectively a shakedown trip, and while I had never been on the island, I did leverage knowledge from other hams who had visited the Island in more recent years, Steve VK3OT and Charlie W0YG. The sorts of things I was looking for were a venue away from residences – especially minimising any change of QRM or RFI both ways, cheap and secure accommodation, island basics. While the economy of the island is limited, I put some discretionary spending off until I got to the island, ie, tee shirts, haircut, embroidered callsigns, cap, sunblock etc..

The 2004 trip was for a 10 day period, shorter than the 18 days in 2003 when a flight was cancelled, noting there are flights to/from Perth just twice a week. The choices of travel times and given the need to have a complete weekend to operate meant that 10 days was the minimum practical stay. It is possible to get by with less time to operate a full weekend, but station setup and teardown times come down to hours – and not days.

Personally, I hate QSL cards, so conscious decision to only operate the duration of the CQWW SSB Contest only, as many contest contacts do not attract QSL cards. Mental note, flawed logic here, this was first VK9X activation in 2004, and had over 80 cards waiting on PO Box on my return to Sydney.

The diary of events that unfolded (using local date):

  • February 2004, secure VK9XD licence, noting ACA generally issue license only for duration of stay on the island.
  • August 2004, ship TL922 amplifier, 40kg of aluminium tubing from Perth, and from Sydney - ship yagi brackets, 40m wire array, pennant antenna pre-amps, laptop charger, duplicate rig interface cables, spare connectors, el-cheapo power tools.
  • Sunday 24th Oct, Fly to Perth, have 11:00pm meeting with Mirek VK6DXI at airport coffee shop.
  • Arrive at Christmas Monday 25th Oct, sit beside some RAAF guy’s trying to fly an F18 around Sydney on their Defence issue laptop – and crashing ! Makes one wonder. Secure access to CI Cricket and Sporting Club, get rental car upgrade, check freighted equipment, find 2 broken feet on TL922, locate stored kit from 2003. Discover long boom yagi sleeving machined 1mm too small, file one out, takes 2 hours. Realise the 8ele, 15m yagi may not happen.
  • Tuesday 26th Oct, Fix the 4 inch water pump at the CI Resort – running water important to ongoing stay. Confirm destruction of the 43m high crane used in 2003, fail to negotiate a satisfactory deal with sole crane operator on the island now who has a 35m crane. Twilight at 0520 local. Being 4 time zones from Sydney meant I was getting up early, also practical given it is hard to work outdoors in the heat of the tropical day.
  • Wednesday 27th Oct, Built and erected the Force 12-40XK antenna on 20m. Tiny antenna, but worked brilliantly. While not a yagi, it did given good reports and fatuously loaded up on 75m with the feedline active. Erected 40m wire array between 50’ palm tree and 21’ plastic irrigation pipe. Not high enough to give proper DX low angle signals, but at least access to 40m band. Noted that many shortwave stations between 7.220 and 7.320 were +50 to +60 over 9, which did affect background noise down at 7.030~7.160. Make mental note to look for a IC756pro3 when I get back.. Big 8ele 15m yagi not happening, cannot get it in the air (it weights in at 64kg, 24m long, wind loading beyond any available antenna supports).
  • Thursday 28th Oct, get hacksaw and pop rivet gun to make two monbanders, a 5ele 10m yagi and a 4 ele 15m yagi. Recognising that 10m and 15m and 20m are the money bands in the CQWW Contest, and that I did not have enough time to arrange a mast support for a 20m yagi. Scrounge a 2nd driven element insulator from 32mm electrical conduit and 25mm copper tube from adjacent building site bin. Start work at 5:00am local. The road between the CI Resort and the CI Cricket club was closed permanently at 8:00am, meaning the short 4km drive turned into a marathon 17km drive – while roads at Christmas are good (some very dusty), they are tight and speeds of 40km/h to 70km/h are only practical there. It belies the number of very high performance cars on the island !! (another very interesting story). There maybe speed limits, but no acceleration limits !!
  • Friday 29th Oct, erect both 10m and 15m monobanders, confirm my maths on hairpin matching and balun with antenna analyser – no adjustments required on yagis !! I used the free-ware program Quickyagi 4 to design the two boom compensated taper element yagis I built. Applied my own design criteria with some lifted from ARRL Antenna Book for hairpin match’s, plus knowledge of the previous 8 or so HF yagis I had built.
  • Sat 30th Oct, get on site at 0600 local for a 0700 contest start (0000z). Flick between 10m and 15m for next 6 hours. Have the odd visitor dropping by, club also hosts a running track.
  • Sun 31st Oct, head back to Resort for 90minute sleep and shower around 2am. Load up on 75m for just 4 QSO’s, securing 2 zones and 2 countries, heard VK6DXI on 75m , but no cigar. Really should have put up proper 75m antenna, but accepted I was so tired from setup anyway.
  • Mon 1st Nov, head back to Resort for 90minute sleep and shower around 2am, run flat out until 0700 contest finish. Take rest of day off to veg out, chat with a dozen or so locals and get the real story behind the Tampa visit and appreciate how wrong the media can be, including the details on the Australian SAS regiments quarantining the port and much of the Cove apartment blocks, and making the locals walk km’s to get to their homes. A best seller story awaits, and some frightening covert photos by locals of the Australian Army taking over a town.
  • Tuesday 2nd Oct, tear down whole station, store yagi’s, continue veg out, meet with CI Business development Council. Go to Melbourne Cup lunch / drinks, many people unable to walk or talk coherently. Look at 2nd hand cars on the island (there is no car dealer on Christmas, but if you ever get there, do check out the cars parked in the main drag with sale signs.)
  • Wednesday 3rd Oct, Morning tea with the Stevedores, noting they get a lot of interference to their port operation from Broome and Darwin on 156Mhz. Discuss the new maritime radio safety system being installed. Finding the mobile phone network is moving to GSM from Analogue in Dec 2005 by the flood of Telstra/NDC staff cruising around. Setup ground work for impending visit by Charlie W0YG, erect 80m antenna and prefab 30m antenna. Review log and go to internet café and upload 3830 rumour report. Worked out that if I entered the 10m single band category, I would set new zone 29 record with good 20% margin !! Just imagine if there were good conditions and bigger antenna – mental note for future 2009 visit.
  • Thursday 4th Oct, check out the defective electronics on a 50ton earthmover, identify fault in control circuit and get the operator to order the part. Fly to Perth for 6 hour stopover.
  • Friday 5th Oct, Return to Sydney on 6am flight, mental note, spend longer in Perth, meet the locals an have a sleep in.

There is interest by the CI Business Development Council in assisting visiting hams in some way, and to that effect I have prepared an extensive proposal to see what can be initiated. The approach to funding and implementation is far from conventional, suffice to say that it is expected to see some good infrastructure in place for those that want more than a just wire or buddy pole out a hotel window.

Trip planning for 2005 is nearing completion as well, noting it will include some VHF and EME operation, a first at VK9X. Am coordinating with Bernd as well, as there will be an overlap to Cocos-Keeling.

All the best for 2005,

David Burger VK2CZ (also VK9XD, 4W3A, K3HZ)

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