VK9CZ - Latest news 

   

ITU Zone 54         CQ Zone 29          IOTA OC-003          Grid NH87jt         Local time = GMT+6.5 hours  

These updates are written by Chris GM3WOJ / ZL1CT                Scroll down this page for older updates....

First QSO : 1625z 24th October E77EA on 30m CW       Last QSO : 2330z 6th November NK1K on 40m CW

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Update - 20th November 2017

Coming soon - 'The Story of VK9CZ 2017' - two versions - one by Chris and one by Keith.....

Update - 17th November 2017

More log corrections uploaded to ClubLog and LoTW. So far we have only had to make about 20 corrections.

Update - 14th November 2017

If you want to hear what a VK9CZ 17m European CW pileup sounded like - please click here to play or download a 5-minute MP3 audio clip (size 4.1MB). This was recorded on 4th November 2017, starting at 1317z, in a 300Hz b/w on a K3. It is unedited - you will hear me (Chris) making mistakes when I have to paddle something, me wildly guessing callsigns, etc. Most signals were fairly weak - I worked 14 stns in this 5-minute period (= 168 Qs/hr = not very fast) Every time I record a contest or DXpedition, I can copy the callsigns much more easily listening to the recording than I did in real-time - hmm.

There is a lot of preparation before a DXpedition and a lot of work after a DXpedition. For example, all of our Spiderbeam and other fibreglass poles spent 14 days in a salt spray environment, so when we got home they all needed separated out, each section washed with fresh water, then dried inside and out. If you don't do this, the coating on the fibreglass will be degraded and the life of the poles will be shortened. The photo below shows the damp, salty sand accumulated at the base of the 18m Spiderbeam pole which supported our 160m antenna on the beach, contrasting with the autumn leaves of Scotland ...

Update - 12th November 2017

Log corrections - I have uploaded the first batch of log corrections to ClubLog and LoTW - more to follow.

Many thanks to everyone who sponsored VK9CZ 2017 - I have added your names and callsigns to the 'Sponsors' page.

Here are the first of the 2017 DXpedition photos - I have posted some more pics on the 'Photos' page (click the button on the left) but it will take a few days to sort out more photos that you will find interesting. After we checked in for our departure flight, we had to wait about 3 hours for the plane to arrive from VK9X, so Peter took us on a brief visit to the stunningly beautiful South end of the island. The lagoon is shallow here and the water is warm!

                                          Peter VK9FISH (L) with Keith GM4YXI (R) 

I am wading through over 200 e-mails received during the DXpedition - I'll try to answer them all but it will take a week or two.

Update - 11th November 2017

We arrived home safely on Thursday 9th November after 5 flights in a row (initially we had to fly to Sydney which was 4 hours heading away from home).

Please check back in the next day or two for lots more information about the DXpedition.......

Update - 6th November 2017

This will be the final update from the island, but please check back later this week for some long postings from me about the DXpedition and some photos. We go QRT at 2300z today (the Virgin Australia flight leaves about 10 hours ater but we have a lot of dismantling and packing up to do. 

Keith and I hope you have enjoyed working VK9CZ 2017 - we've had great fun in the pile-ups - sorry if we did not copy YOU.  Thanks to everyone who has made a financial contribution and/or kept us entertained with e-mails.  I will try to reply to as many as possible, but it always take a few weeks to sort everything out.  We hope to finish with around 21500 QSOs - we are amazed to have worked nearly 2500 stations on 10m at this point in the sunspot cycle.  The poor internet has been frustrating - $128 for 512kbps which is only actually there about 20% of the time!

Please QSL via N3SL, but please do not send QSLs via the VK Bureau.    More news later this week......   

Update - 3rd November 2017

It's interesting how quickly two weeks passes on a DXpedition. You get into a daily routine, which hopefully includes a few hours of sleep and some opportunities to eat.  The food here on Cocos is *very* expensive - mainly because the shipping is charged at Au$8 per kg.  A 2-litre bottle of milk costs $20 = $4 for the milk and $16 for the shipping!  The local people mostly import food directly to save money, but of course they have to pay the shipping costs as well.

Yesterday we met a new amateur who is a resident here on Cocos-Keeling. Peter has had his new VK9FISH licence for one week!  We are hoping to encourage him to operate on HF in future - we will be leaving him an antenna and some other bits and pieces.  At the moment he can only run 10W but he is very keen and is studying for his full licence.

We have about 14000 QSOs in the log - our target is 20000 QSOs but it depends on conditions being good over the weekend. On Monday we will take down a couple of antennas but will continue to operate until Tuesday 7th Nov. morning (local time) - about 0000z.

We have received some e-mails about busted calls, typos etc - we will sort all of these when we get home (if they are genuine corrections).  We are not uploading the CQ WW SSB logfile until after the log submission deadline, which is in about 17 hrs from when I am writing this.

Please keep looking for VK9CZ - if you hear us, please spot us on the DX Cluster, especially on SSB. We hope to do some RTTY this weekend if possible.

Update - 31st October 2017

Our internet connection is poor, so we can't give you the daily updates we would like to give you - we also can't post any photos of the DXpedition yet.  We're just getting on with making QSOs.

We've had to repair the 160m radial system twice now - at high tide the waves keep breaking or moving wires!  We have two RX antennas installed, but neither is working particularly well - we are beside the Indian Ocean but we are also surrounded by man-made noise sources :-(  However we are copying signals reasonably well and will persevere with 160m and 80m QSOs.

We had 5.5 hrs of an opening into Europe on 10m yesterday, which was great fun.  We have over 9000 QSOs in the log and are updating ClubLog and LoTW daily if the internet works.  (We will add the 4000 Qs we made in CQ WW SSB this coming weekend)

Please spot VK9CZ on the DX Cluster if you hear us. 

Update - 26th October 2017

We are having problems updating these webpages - sorry about that. The internet works here, but is expensive and slow - so slow that the connection to the server hosting these webpages times out when we try to upload new pages.

We have arrived safely, but it has taken us longer than expected to install the antennas. We only have the 80m vertical still to install tomorrow (27th) then we will have antennas for every band. It has been windy and very hot, which has made installing antennas a tiring task.

Anyway, we are QRV and have worked some good pileups so far.  We start operation on 160m today at our SS (1131z) and will be on at every SS and SR (and before) on both 160m and 80m if possible. We don't know yet if we can operate both band simultaneously, so may have to alternate 160m and 80m, but the clear focus will be on 160m.

This may be the last update I can do at the moment (my daughter Carrie back in Scotland is uploading this, which may take until later today) but we will try. Please watch the DX Cluster Announcements for info. from VK9CZ.

Extra Update - 22nd October 2017

We have arrived safely in Hong Kong - please note that the NG3K info about VK9CZ starting on the 22nd is wrong - not Bill's fault, we sent him the wrong info. earlier this year. Note that we will never assume a band is closed - if we listen and hear nothing, we will still call CQ for at least 5 minutes on that band - if that is sensible.

This update is from Keith GM4YXI :

We are currently in Hong Kong, waiting on our third flight, down to Perth, Western Australia. Two more flights after that one before we make it to Cocos Keeling.

Looking at the greyline maps, our Sunrise is at 2300z. From 2120 approx until our sunrise, sunset passes over a good part of South America, Caribbean and East USA.

Our Sunset is around 1130z. At this time sunrise is crossing much of the East coast of the US. One hour later, it reaches a line approximately from West Great Lakes to central Texas.

This offers some interesting possibilities for mutual grey line propagation into the Americas.

We will develop our operating plan once we get QRV and know what our situation is. Obviously propagation conditions and local noise are the great unknowns. We should have two Rx antennas (beverage NW/SE and Receive Loop NE/SW) and we have a splitter to allow sharing if we can be QRV on 160 and 80 at the same time, depending on interaction between the two stations on transmit. We have packed transmit and receive filters but you never know………………..

If we can be on 160 and 80 at the same time, we will. If not, some sort of cycling during each hour will be likely. We are aware that the need on 160m is greater but we do not want to ignore 80m.

Update - 18th October 2017

We arrive at the DXpedition location at 5.40pm local time (1100z approx) on Tuesday 24th October, so don't expect us to be QRV until the following morning. We'll probably be on 40m or 30m initially, with a pause to install the 160m and 80m (+ other) antennas. (Thanks to Dado E74AW for some advice regarding the 160m antenna efficiency)

Pse QRX for the next updates which will probably be from Cocos Keeling!

Update - 17th October 2017

I've just got home from the RSGB Convention (a 1200 mile road trip which included visiting relatives and collecting some more vintage radio gear - oh no not more!) - great to see many friends there, but a few well-known faces were missing this year. I was disappointed to not be able to work VK9XI or VK9CI, but hope their DXpedition went well.

Our final preparations are going well - Keith gets back from Japan on Thursday and we leave Aberdeen on Saturday (21st Oct), arriving on Tuesday 23rd October at about 5pm local time.

One important message about QSL cards.  Some inconsiderate DXpeditions don't bother with the QSLing 'after effects' of their DXpedition i.e. the VK QSL Bureau receiving thousands of unwanted VK9/VK0 DXpedition QSL cards, which they have to deal with.                         So the clear message from VK9CZ 2017 is : 

PLEASE DO NOT SEND QSL CARDS TO THE VK QSL BUREAU !                     Click on the 'QSL info' button

We've decided not to take the QRP Labs U3S WSPR TX I built - partly due to weight restrictions but partly because we are not convinced that WSPR is actually a useful propagation tool for a DXpedition (sorry everyone who is involved in the development). With only two operators, we'll concentrate on making QSOs on the highest band that is open during our daylight and the LF bands during darkness.

Update - 9th October 2017

We have added some photos from our 2013 VK9CZ DXpedition - please press the 'Photos' button on the left.

We have temporarily deleted the 26349 QSOs VK9CZ made in 2013 from ClubLog. This will allow up-to-date Statistics to be available from ClubLog during our 2017 DXpedition.  We will re-upload the 2013 QSOs after this DXpedition (probably around the end of 2017)

Update - 5th October 2017

We will be putting up the 160m and 80m antennas in the first two days of the DXpedition. Over a two-week DXpedition, propagation on 160 and 80 can vary from poor to good, so we want to make sure we take advantage of any LF openings that might occur in the first few days of the DXpedition. We are taking two RX antennas, each with a preamp and a bandpass filter which we *hope* will allow us to operate on 160 and 80 at the same time, but that will depend on how well our other TX bandpass filters work and how much TX antenna separation we can achieve.

The 'Operators' button to the left now works, but we don't have any recent photos there yet.  The 'Photos' button will work soon, with some photos from VK9CZ in 2013.

FT-8 - sorry but we will not be using this relatively new datamode. Yes it is very clever technology which is opening up worldwide QSOs to smaller stations, but we won't be using it for the following reasons (a) we have no experience of using FT-8 (b) the QSO rate is painfully slow compared to SSB or CW (c) with only two operators we want to give everyone, especially new DXers, the best chance of an 'All Time New One' and (d) we do not like the concept of a mode which might be used to make 'automatic' QSOs - let's keep humans in the loop!  (Someone e-mailed to suggest that VK9CZ could make 'QSOs' on FT-8 while we were sleeping er ... NO)

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 on the left 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 * *

This website is slowly being built - please keep checking back and eventually all of the menu buttons on the left will work.

73  Chris GM3WOJ,  Keith GM4YXI