Firstly thank you to all of you who have made a contribution towards the success of our DXpedition to Tonga – A35JT! Without the support of the amateur radio community, endeavours such as this become much harder to achieve.
At this stage, the team comprising Grant VK5GR, Andy VK5AKH, Oly VK5XDX and Steve VK5SFA is all packed and ready to head to the airport tomorrow morning. All of the arrangements have been reconfirmed and final confirmation that our freight is ready for collection in Nuku’alofa was received on Friday. Without the support of you, the donors and sponsors, the station wouldn’t have made it to Tonga. Our freight and customs bill topped ~$4500 AUD in total to bring you the best station we could muster.
So what are we taking with us?
- 160-80 Inverted L built on a 12m Spiderbeam pole + Beverage RX antenna.
- 80m inverted V (for Pacific Rim as a standby)
- 40m 4-square array
- 30m 4-square array
- 20-10m Hex Beam (MW0JZE design) mounted on a 10m Spiderbeam Aluminium mast
- 6m 6el LFA2 Yagi for EME and 6m Ionospheric work
We must specifically thank Spiderbeam and Rick DJ0IP for their support with the masts and towers. https://www.spiderbeam.com/
The stations are as follows:
Station 1 – Elecraft K3S + KPA500 or M2 Systems M6-1K2 6m Linear (for EME) & Microham Micro Keyer II + Codan 3020 Power supply
Station 2 – Elecraft K3 + KPA500 & Microham Micro Keyer II + Codan 3020 Power supply
Station 3 – Icom IC7300 (can use Station 1’s KPA500 when Station 1 is on EME) + Codan 3020 Power supply
All of the coaxial cable is from Messi and Paoloni, with some supplied via RF Solutions here in Australia. Thanks Christian and Carsten for your help with this. We are taking over 300m of cable to run the stations and the reduced weight of the 7mm Hyperflex in particular is a huge help on a weight restricted endeavour such as this.
The Codan power supplies were sourced through Ivan VK5HS at HF Radio Solutions in Renmark, South Australia. These power supplies are excellent with an ability to tolerate large excursions in mains voltage while protecting our precious radios behind them. This is one aspect we have paid some attention to as you never know how stable the power supply will be in these locations. Given other expeditions have had recent gear failure due to bumps on the mains the investment in this area will be well worth it. We have also invested in MOV suppressed powerboards and AC filters/surge arrestors to maximise the chance of the station surviving the unexpected.
Our operating plans will solidify quickly once we arrive. For the EME community, we are targeting the first operating period to be 1430-1920z on the 24th (3.30am Wednesday). More information on how to work us on EME is available here: https://vk5gr-iota.net/a35jt-eme/
On HF we will be specifically targeting Europe where A3 is still very high on the most wanted list. At the same time we will provide opportunities for everyone to work us everywhere. We have had multiple requests for 160m and so will endeavour to spend some of our night hours specifically on that band. We will alternate where we are targeting, with some nights looking at Europe/Japan and others looking at the Americas/Australia – depending on where we can shift the beverage antenna to. We only have one (ran out of weight) so that is one small inconvenience we will deal with.
Do look for us as well as we enter the CQ WW RTTY contest on the 28-29th and also the Oceania DX SSB Contest on October 6th-7th. For those who like RTTY, one night at least I will try and activate 160m RTTY too! For the JA community – note that we will operate on 1908kHz on several occasions on FT8 too (considering the JA band plan constraints on the low bands).
No word yet on whether we can run on 60m. We have gear that can, so if we can achieve permission we will give it a go. I plan to visit the Communications Ministry next week to see what we can do.
It is also our intention to try and cover as many modes as possible. The frequency plan as it stands today is included below for reference.
The Pilot Team
Another innovation (for me at least) this time has been to set up a pilot station network to coordinate and collect information on where we are being heard, so we can tailor our operating to the best times and bands.
Contact with the pilots can be made by clicking on the photos on the pilots page on the website: https://vk5gr-iota.net/pilot-stations/. Bjorn ON9CFG is our chief pilot and will be happy to take the donor enquiries if you have problems reaching me on the island.
We have also configured the logging computers to attempt to live stream contacts direct to Clublog while we are on the island. This is using a new feature that Michael G7VJR has built into the clublog platform. If it works, you should see your contacts appear here: https://vk5gr-iota.net/clublog-livestream/
The expedition in part has also received tremendous support particularly from the European DX associations. We must make a special mention of:
- The European DX Foundation
- The German DX Foundation
- Clipperton DX Club (France)
- Swiss DX Foundation
- The UK DX Foundation
We must also thank Charles M0OXO who is our QSL manager and the freight handling teams at Tayper in Australia (thanks Mala) and Pacific Forum Line in Tonga (thanks Mary) as well as the good folk at Air New Zealand who navigated the ways to get the most number of bags we could onto the planes that will get us there.
Our commercial and organisational supporters include:
- Messi & Paoloni
- RF Solutions (Brisbane QLD)
- HF Radio Solutions (Renmark SA)
- UX5UO Print – world of QSLs
After 12 months of planning we are ready to go. I never imagined this would get as big as it has. It is a big step from a small one man holiday style expedition with the family to building a large station with a 4 man team. We will do our best to make as many contacts as possible and again thank you for your faith and support in giving us much needed help to bring this expedition to life.
A35JT DXpedition Team Leader