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VK9AA - CQWW from Cocos (Keeling)

Bernd Lšnger (vk2ia) on March 1, 2005
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Click here for full story incl. PHOTOS, background info and links.


Since migrating to Australia from Germany with my XYL Claudia in 1997, I have been contemplating about going to the Cocos Islands for CQWW. Back then you had to spend at least two weeks on the islands for a contest as flights only departed Perth on Saturdays/Sundays and my personal circumstances just didn't allow a two weeks break. Well, a few years have passed since then, life has settled and NationalJet are now offering flights ex Perth on Mondays and Thursdays which brought Cocos back onto the agenda.

I left Sydney on Sunday, 21 November to Perth. Stayed at VK6DXI Mireks place over night. The next morning when boarding my connecting flight to the islands I bumped into Charlie (W0YG/VK9XG), his XYL and Burt (W0MY) who were on their way to Christmas Island on the same flight. Arrived on Cocos (West Island) after about 6 hours on the plane and 2 stop-overs. The Cocos Keeling Islands are an Australian Territory located in the Indian Ocean at Latitude 12 deg 10' South Longitude 96 deg 50' East. The islands lie 2,950 km north-west of Perth, 3,700 km due west of Darwin, approximately 900 km south- west of Christmas Island and approximately 1,000 km south-west of Java and Sumatra. The islands consist of two atolls, North Keeling and South Keeling, comprising 27 low coral islands. Most of the islands except for two are uninhabited: West Island is the commercial center with police & customs, airport, dive shop, and other tourist facilities while Home Island has about 500 inhabitants of Malaysian descent. The climate is sub-tropical with mean daily maximum temperatures ranging from 28.0 C (August) to 29.9 C (February/March) and mean daily temperatures ranging from 23.4 C (August/September) to 24.9 C (March/April). Relative humidity ranges from 72% to 78%. The islands are affected by cyclonic conditions, but are rarely in the direct path of cyclones. On 6 April 1984, the Cocos community, in a United Nations supervised referendum, voted overwhelmingly to integrate with Australia. The ABS Census of 2001 recorded a total population of 618 persons of whom about 80% are resident on Home Island.

My home for the next week was the Cocos Beach Motel formerly known as the West Island Lodge on West Island. The container with my gear had arrived in the meantime on Home Island across the lagoon along with the monthly supply for the islands. A public holiday was extending the weekend so that no progress had been made on shipping the containers over to West Island. And then there was Cocos time Eventually managed to get my stuff on Wednesday thanks to the great help of Alan who is in charge of the Island Co-operative. While waiting for the container to be unloaded, I had a good look around the island on a push-bike discovering a few potential sites for a contest station on Cocos, one of them with two 35m towers, 3 or 4 verticals and plenty of space on the northern tip of West Island. Im in the process of finding out more about it

Back to reality, my first job was to assemble the spiderbeam which I then put on a 7m high telescopic mast. Great portable antenna! For my quarter wave 40m vertical I got some unexpected help from Des who is NationalJets manager for Cocos and CI. Logically, Des knows of any radio movements to and from the islands. Got on the air at around 11 UTC that night with DL9LM being the first contact. It was one of the first times I really had plenty of time the Friday before the contest.

My strategy for the contest was: Run Europe whenever you can, work JAs when nothing else is possible and S&P for low band multipliers a SO2R set-up sure would have been handy. North America is quite a difficult path from Cocos with most of the continent hidden behind the pole except for a stretch of the West Coast. Its strategic value lies mainly in a few multipliers, not in the QSO numbers that you can gain from other parts of the world (including Australia). JA is the closest ham population from here approx. 7,000 km away, Perth is almost as far away as Sri Lanka and the distance to Central Europe still is 11,000 km.

The Strategy

More...

The Contest

The contest started Saturday morning at 7.30 am local time which is almost perfect as it allows you to get a decent sleep the night before. Decided that 15m was the band to be for the first couple of hours with the path to W6/7 still open. A few hours into the contest I noticed a fair bit of fast QSB and half an hour later the band went dead as did all other bands. First I thought it was a faulty antenna switch or cable connector but after some time of trial and error I went outside for a stunning discovery: the two ropes which I had used for fixing the antennas direction (manual rotator) had loosened in the constant sea breeze causing the antenna to spin around like a vertical windmill. This had lead to a mess of coax, ropes and aluminium and also had damaged the coax cable. Sorting out the mess took me almost 3 hours. After settling back in my chair I did enjoy a few good runs into Europe on 10m which sure brought back the good vibes.

The range of signal strengths of incoming signals was just amazing. Stayed then on 10m for almost 7 hours until 1315 UTC working a number of Carribean multipliers before moving down to 15m for one hour and then to 20m. Strong signals from the Carribean half way around the globe made me to spend a bit of time back on 15m at around 1600 UTC for some easy new ones (would have been great to have SO2R in place for these and other moments). 1700 UTC was low band time. Made my one and only contact on 160, fought QRN and distance on 80 and finally got a EU run on 40. Things were pretty slow with a few messy pile-ups and after a few band changes and multipliers I decided to have a quick nap. Got up again before our sunrise at 2300 UTC to work new multipliers on 80, exclusively by S&P. Finished day 1 with 2,000 QSOs in my log, less than what I had planned.

Day 2 started on 15 and 20m with good runs into JA. Focussed on 15m during daytime after the 10m driven (wire) element snapped off the insulator. This time I decided to QSY to 40 and 80 before our sunset for more needed multipliers on these bands. After the sunset peak, 20m was the band of choice working EU, EU and more EU. The low bands were as boring as the night before. Morale and flesh had so much deteriorated by then that I decided to have another nap. After 3 hours a bit too long for a micro-sleep I just couldnt get my feet on the ground anymore. Finished the contest with a newbie on 10: zone 4!

Contest summary (claimed score):



BAND  QSO  QSO PTS   PTS/QSO ZONES COUNTRIES

160     1     3       3.00     1       1
80     38   104       2.74    17      37
40    284   840       2.96    24      70
20    789  2349       2.98    33     100
15   1395  4149       2.97    36     111
10   1122  3348       2.98    27      92
---------------------------------------------------

Tot. 3629  10793      2.97    138     411 => 5,925,357

Continent statistics:

   160  80   40   20   15   10   ALL    %

NA   0   0   12   46   99   22   179   4.9
SA   0   0    2    8    9    4    23   0.6
EU   0  15  209  508  727  786  2245  61.4
AS   1  16   51  206  540  298  1112  30.4
AF   0   2    6   16   14   14    52   1.4
OC   0   5    6    9   18    9    47   1.3


The Future

Plans for 2005 are shaping up now: I have booked flights and accommodation (room #28, of course) for CQWW CW in November 2005. Hopefully I will have a new transceiver by then which would allow me to do SO2R. Charlie, W0YG will be on the island before my arrival and will leave his low band antennas up which should give my signal some boost on 40 to 160.

Feel free to email me for any comments and suggestions.

Thanks everyone for the QSOs. PSE QSL via DL8YR.
73 and see you again from Cocos in 2005!

Bernd VK2IA - VK6AA - VK9AA - DL1VJ -


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