Ray ZL4TY (home call VK4DXA), Paul ZL4PA and Paul ZL4M (home call ZL4PW) activated OC-203 Stewart Island March from Friday 12th March till Monday 23rd March 2010.
ZL4TY – Ray (home call VK4DXA). Ray is manager of the VK4 QSL Buro
It was the first dxpediton for all of us and hopefully the first of many!
This was a 2-station operation using Spiderbeam pole verticals for 160 – 30m and a Spiderbeam for 20 – 10m borrowed from Holger ZL3IO (many thanks!).
It could be several things, the location (horizon-blocked from the North right through to East – i.e towards the Americas), the solar conditions and proximity to the South Pole auroral area or the relatively low gain of the hex beam (I’m used to a 3 element SteppIR in a good location!). Maybe a combination of any or all of these. Whatever, 30 – 80m were very good and I’d certainly use Seabreeze Cottage again as it was a modern facility, lots of room for antennas, no neighbours and the added bonus of the use of a car to get around!
Maybe a linear to run with the hex beam would be the answer. Another option would be to use verticals (e.g. groundplanes) for 17, 15, 12 and 10m as on the last day after the beam was taken down, we had a good run on 15m from JA just using the 40mb vertical with 2 elevated and 2 ground-level radials.
We ran barefoot at all times and judging by the size of the pile-ups, we were getting out really well. Some of the “real” signal reports we were given were very encouraging.
Whilst on the island, we scouted for possible alternative locations with several key factors in mind. Principally, a location with minimal horizon-blockage. The terrain of the inhabited area of the island is very hilly, with sharply rising bush-clad hills, even around the main township of Oban. Most of the housing is either near the waterfront or partially surrounded by hillside so we went looking for something on the top of the hills.
We also needed something self-contained, not in shared accommodation like a backpackers, lodge or motel. Sharing facilities and running antennas wires around properties would be an imposition if we weren’t the only ones there.
We also needed room around the location to erect antennas, radial wires, guys etc.
So with all this in mind, we would recommend DXpeditions look at places like “The Letterbox House” or “Cowleys Holiday Home” which would seem to fill all of the above requirements.
And we left the 7m mast used for the hex beam under Seabreeze house for future operations.
And a word about the noise we had to deal with… it was not a problem on most bands as signals were strong enough to make QSOs. It was at its worst on 30m but fortunately the K3’s noise-blanker did a great job of removing a great deal of it. Over 1500 Qs on 30m shows that QSOs were possible with persistence.
We’ll publish a band-by-band synopsis here soon.
Also it is worth knowing that as of writing this blog, there is no Vodafone cellphone coverage (only Telecom) and that the local internet posts do not allow file uploads.
Now, a BIG thank you to Holger ZL3IO (ex-DL7IO) for the loan of the hex beam and to Stewart Islander, Mona Whigg for all her help.
Transceivers: Elecraft K3, Icom IC706MKIIG.
Antennas: 20-10m hex beam (thanks to Holger DL7IO for the loan), wire verticals suspended on 18m Spiderbeam and 9m Spiderbeam poles.
Tuners: SGC SG-230 coupler, Icom AH-4 coupler
Bandpass filters: Dunestar 600 6-band box (2 of) and Dunestar 300-series 12, 17, 30m single band filters
Logging software: Logger32 and N1MM