We are back in Broome

After 3 days at sea we arrived at the Ashmore Reef Marine Park late in the afternoon on November 7 and were boarded by Australian Border Force personnel to inspect the boat and assess the permits and documentation of our operation, the bird researchers and the vessel itself. A key issue was to ensure that we had appropriate life support on Ashmore Reef and could safely arrive and leave the island based on the tides there. With 2 hours of sunlight left, Border Force Officers gave us approval to land on Ashmore Reef and build our camp and erect antennas, but it meant that by the time we were finished it was dark and they would not allow us to safely return to the boat. This scenario was ideal as it meant we could operate at times that were favourable to Europe and North America, this was the case for the first three days. The downside was that we could not operate for a fourth day because the boat needed to depart at 9am local time and the tides would have left us stranded on the reef.

 

AB5EB Mike, AD5A Mike and VK5CE Craig operated as VK9AR (OC-216) for 2.5 days (2 days 13.5 hours) and made 8167 QSOs. AB5EB and AD5A operated CW and VK5CE was on SSB. QSOs were Asia (50%), Europe (33%) and North America (13%) with . We would frequently ask for North America only or Europe only to maximise QSO’s to the harder to reach DX destinations such as the United Kingdom, Scandinavia and the north-east of North America. This worked well with many north-eastern W/VE, over 100 EI/UK stations and over 200 Scandinavians getting in the log.

 

On the return journey from Ashmore Reef to Broome, there was an opportunity for the bird researchers to do a quick 2-4 hour visit to Browse Island to do some bird watching. This presented us with the chance to do a quick activation there as well. We had no choice of the arrival/departure time or length of stay, this was purely for the birdwatchers. But considering this IOTA was activated once only in 2000 and was only claimed by 10.2% of chasers, we made the effort to get it on the air with 2 stations for as long as we could. The boat arrived at the island in the dead of night and we were on the back of the deck ready to go at 330am (1930 UTC). As Browse is surrounded with a rocky coral reef and there was a nasty swell at the reef, we could not land there during the dark. The earliest the captain could safely let us depart was 445am (2045 UTC). We landed on the steep beach and quickly brought up the tent, generator, antennas, rigs, amplifiers etc and 45 minutes later we were on the air with one station on 20m CW (300W) and the other on 17m SSB and CW running barefoot. Due to the safety issues of landing, it was unfortunately too late in the morning for Europe and only some got in the log. To our great surprise conditions on both 20m and 17m were good across the entire continent of North America (even with 100W SSB on 17m). We operated as VK9AR/6 (OC-234) for 3 hours and made 725 QSOs with Asia (72%), North/South America (21%) and Europe (1%) with 62% CW and 38% SSB.

 

The weather on Ashmore Reef and Browse was oppressive. Setting up these tent and generator operations in 35C and 80% humidity was incredibly tough but exciting at the same time.

 

The logs and OQRS for VK9AR and VK9AR/6 are now available on Club Log.  

 

The story will come out later and we’ll be designing and ordering QSL cards by the end of the month.

 

73s Craig, Mike and Mike

 

 

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Ready to leave Sunday morning 0000 UTC

Hi everyone. We had a very busy day running around in the heat and humidity of Broome to hire and buy all the remaining equipment. We’ve filled up the vehicle twice today and took it to the boat ramp for the captain to load the boat. We’re doing this to be able to leave as early as possible. We looking to leave Broome WA around 730am local time. Its 5pm Saturday night local time. So we’re just finishing off final packing before heading off to dinner and early bedtime. We need to be ready to leave the hotel at 6am local.

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Mike AB5EB and Mike AD5A at Broome town beach boat ramp

As per the schedule, the boat it likely to arrive at Ashmore Reef around midday Tuesday Nov 7 (approximately 0400 UTC). Then it’s the mammoth job of unloading all of this gear. The weather here is oppressive, very hot and humid and so it’s going to take a long time to safely. But ofcourse we’ll be on air as soon as we can. 73s de Craig VK5CE

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Car load 1 of 2 to the boat

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One week to go

Mike AB5EB, Mike AD5A and Craig VK5CE have all paid for the boat in full to Ashmore Reef, this was the most expensive component of the DXpedition. The boat has confirmed the dates and times of our journey. We depart Broome WA on the morning of Sunday November 5. We arrive at Ashmore Reef around 0500 UTC or noon local time on Tuesday November 7. We hope to be on air as soon as we can in the afternoon, please be aware there is no infrastructure on the reef and we need to bring equipment via zodiac. The biggest issue is the weather with temperatures going to be over 35C and very humid. It’ll be slow going.

 

We need to depart Ashmore Reef by 0100 UTC or 9am local on Saturday November 11. As we are only allowed to be on the island during dawn in the morning to dusk in the late afternoon/early evening, it means our operating times are around 2100 to 1000 UTC. See the “PROPAGATION” page on our website to show you how to get in the log and where we will be. I spoke on the phone with the Commonwealth Government on Monday and the dawn to dusk rules still apply. If there are problems with tides or weather, then it may mean we are able to be on the island longer, but you can’t rely on that happening.

 

Prior to departing for OC-198 I freighted up some equipment to Broome that I didn’t need for VK5CE/8 such as a Honda Generator, Dunestar band pass filters, etc. These have all arrived now. After the OC-198 DXpedition, on the way back when I reached Alice Springs I freighted the second Honda Generator to Broome and its currently in transit. This means we can have a high power SSB station, high power CW station and 100W SSB/CW station on the air at the same time.

 

At the end of next week we all jump on a plane and meet up in Perth WA on Friday November 3 and we are on the same flight up to Broome later that day.

 

So not long now. On behalf of Mike Sr and Mike Jr and myself, we look forward to giving you another rare IOTA…….hopefully a few days after you also work those crazy rockhoppers in Liberia!!!!

 

Cheers Craig

New call sign and extra team members

At the February 2017 IOTA Bash in Texas I announced the VK5CE/9 DXpedition to Ashmore Reef for November. Due to the nature of the research charter vessel it needed to be a one-man operation. I was also looking to operate from Rowley Shoals at a similar time with Mike Jr.

 

In April I was told by the research expedition that the booked vessel fell through and would not be available. Disaster!!!!!! Then a light of hope where a new vessel was located. The change of plans meant that I could no longer do Rowley Shoals this year which left Mike with nothing. I pleaded my case to the research team leader and he informed me that I could bring Mike AB5EB along and he jumped at the chance. 

 

A couple of weeks later I made a passing remark to the expedition leader about letting me know about any further available spots. He later offered another place. Based on my time at the IOTA Bash in Texas talking with Mike Jr and Mike Sr, I knew that this would be a wonderful opportunity to give them a chance to join forces again. Mike Sr then joined the team.

 

So this makes a 3 person team with me doing SSB, Mike Jr AB5EB on CW and SSB and Mike Sr AD5A spending most of his time on CW.

OC-216 Announced

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I’m very excited at the 2017 IOTA Bash to be able to announce that a DXpedition will be occurring to Ashmore Reef in November 2017. OC-216 is incredibly rare at 3.2% claimed and its almost like activating a brand new IOTA as there were only ever 467 QSOs made in 1996. I’ll be doing updates on this blog page. 73s de Craig VK5CE

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