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ITU Zone 54 CQ Zone 29 IOTA OC-003 Grid NH87jt Local time = GMT+6.5 hours
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Update - 25th September 2017
I visited Keith at his QTH near Aberdeen this past weekend. We identified and packed into suitcases and two ski bags about 90% of the items we are taking with us. After some discussions, we have decided to take an extra ski bag i.e. a total of seven bags, each 23kg. This has allowed us to take a second 18m Spiderbeam pole, which will give us a slightly better 80m signal. We tested the IC-7300 external keypad I have made, which gives you four voice keyer memories - essential for the second station of our CQ WW SSB Multi-2 entry. We arrive on Cocos Keeling at about 1700hrs local time on Tuesday 24th October, so would hope to be QRV on Wednesday 25th, with breaks for installation of more antennas. (Our antenna set-up is less than last year, but we hope should still be effective) There are always some unexpected difficulties to overcome of course.
Sorry the 'Operators' and 'Photos' buttons still don't work - this website content will be added soon....
Update - 16th September 2017
Click here for a photo of Chris GM3WOJ testing the VK9CZ 160m antenna.
Update - 13th September 2017 - from Keith GM4YXI / GM5X :
We are looking forward to our return to Cocos Keeling and re-activating VK9CZ. Although the islands have had a few DXpeditions since our last trip in 2013, and there will be an DXpedition (VK9CI) there just a couple of weeks before us(!), we figured it will still be a fun place to visit and we will still be relatively rare DX. We will also participate in the CQ WW SSB DX contest as a multi-2 entry – as we did last year from V6Z – over our first weekend on the island.
As you may see from the photos posted on this website, the trees that lined the beach appear to have disappeared. We suspect coastal erosion, something that was evident to an extent four years ago. This has created some logistical issues. We need to take more fibreglass poles for antenna supports and this, in turn, adds weight to the inventory, meaning we have to leave something behind – probably coax! We are always right on the limit of our 6 x 23Kg bags. Rick, DJ0IP, of Spiderbeam, and the folks at Nevada Radio (Portsmouth, England – thanks to Mike, G3SED and Glynn, G4CFS) have been extremely helpful in shipping us new 18m and 12m Spiderbeam poles and providing us with some sponsorship. This greatly assists with planning our antennas in advance and removes some (but not all!) uncertainty. Compared to the last two years at V6Z, we have much less real estate to work with and will only have one antenna per band (probably). So we may well be able to survive with a little less coax. At least one remote antenna switch will be used.
The contest should be interesting. VK9C is in Oceania, so our QSO points with EU and AS are favourable. We should be a fairly scare multiplier – hopefully unique! The West island of Cocos Keeling is, with the exception of the Aceh province at the NW tip of Sumatra (YB), the closest point of land in West OC to South-East EU. We can only hope that the high bands give us some sort of propagation. The solar number predictions definitely have a ‘close to solar minimum’ feel to them but we shall see. We will certainly be on the lookout for 10m QSOs in the contest, and 10 and 12m openings throughout our stay. 15m is usually the ‘money’ band – let’s hope that can still be the case.
Apart from having fun on the radio and giving out QSOs to ANYONE who wants to work us, we will have two main priorities – the low bands and North America. The former is pretty much in our control, at least in terms of effort. Last year we did more than ever before on 160 and 80m. This year it will probably be even more so. Low band antennas are a priority, hence the need for reliable supports. Paths to North America are very challenging from VK9C. We had some interesting skew-path propagation into W4 and W5 on 80m in April 2013. We will research propagation long and short Path to NA on any band that might open and do what we can – the outcome is not in our control!
The location we use is beach side and immediately across the road from the huge airstrip which occupies a fair chunk of the west limb of West Island – see Google Earth or the photos on this web site. The beach runs roughly NW-SE so the path to Europe is parallel to the coastline, while Africa and long path to North America is straight out over the sea. Short path to the Americas is across the narrow strip of land (300-400m) to the lagoon. This year we will have better Rx antennas for the low bands. Despite the reputation beverages have for not working close to salt water, ours worked very well in such circumstances at V6Z last year. We intend to have some such arrangement running NW-SE provided there are no unknown barriers. NE-SW will have to be a Receive loop since there is no space for a long wire. Chris assures me the Rx antenna pre-amps will work this time.
We are very aware that whenever we activate a relatively rare DXCC, we always seem to ‘upset’ some folks. We are not on the correct band at the correct time, we QSY just before the band peaks, we allegedly ignore certain locations, too much SSB, too little SSB, not enough RTTY, etc etc. We cannot please everyone, we cannot do everything with our limited resources (two operators who need some sleep and who have to eat, two stations, wire antennas) but rest assured we will be doing our utmost to at least please most of you! It is likely that our usual operating pattern involving one 4 hr sleep each per day in hours of darkness may have to change if two stations are on the low bands at the same time. This is hard to predict until we are on site and know how the bands are. Sometimes on these trips we have to choose between sleep and food if certain band openings are not to be missed. In 2013, there were logistical issues in terms of getting food – the ‘motel’ restaurant was a little unpredictable as it sometimes, at short notice, had to cook for hundreds of migrants who had ‘strayed’ into Australian territory and were in the process of being repatriated courtesy of the RAAF. We could not be fed. We think this traffic may well have ceased. Also in 2013, the local shop was virtually empty as the island’s supply ship had not been by for months. I seem to recall living on powdered milk (pretty good), Cheerios (stale and way past sell by date) and instant pot noodles (yuk) for several days. What will 2017 bring?
Let us hope for safe travels, decent propagation (we know it’s gonna be tough) and loads of QSOs.
Update - 8th September 2017
We are preparing small but essential items to take with us - things like OK2ZI (W7IUV) receive preamps, lightweight switch box for remote coax switch, etc. etc. I made a 400 mile round-trip yesterday to collect larger items that we are borrowing for VK9CZ.
WSPR - I also constructed a QRP Labs U3S WSPR TX (400mW) with a Fox 924B 27.000MHz SMD TCXO. This is currently running 24/7 from Keith's QTH near Aberdeen, sending the callsign GM4YXI, using a 4ele yagi beaming to the USA, on a nominal frequency of 21096.077kHz. Despite the clever technology, we are unsure how useful as a propagation indicator this might be in reality - maybe just a few 500W CQs then check the RBN might be a more realistic assessment of band conditions?
If you do decode our GM4YXI WSPR test signal in the next few weeks before we leave, please send us a report to vk9cz..at...christran.net
Update - 4th September 2017
Thanks for your interest in VK9CZ 2017. Keith and I made 26347 QSOs as VK9CZ in 2013 and had a great time, so decided to return there again, with a slightly different operating focus. Last year we were active as V6Z in the CQ WW SSB contest - this year we plan to be a Multi-2 entry again from VK9CZ in CQ WW SSB 2017.
Cocos-Keeling is going to be very active during September, October and November 2017, with DXpeditions by Lance W7GJ/VK9CGJ on 6m and another HF DXpedition by the VK9CI team - but we hope you'll keep some RF in reserve to work VK9CZ!
The useful shoreline palm trees that we used to support some of the antennas in 2013 have gone! Washed away! Click here for before and after Google Earth images
* * Click on the 'Propagation' button to access Jari OH6BG's excellent new VOACAP-based DXpedition propagation information * *
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73 Chris GM3WOJ, Keith GM4YXI
These updates are written by Chris GM3WOJ / ZL1CT