Four exhausted but happy operators arrived safely back to San Jose after the nine-day DX adventure (including 2×36 hours boat transfer) to Isla del Coco.
We managed to work around 30,000 contacts during 6 days of operation and considering the challenging circumstances we are very happy with the results. Low Bands were kicking and we managed to work almost 2000 contacts on Top Band, with huge amounts of EU and other DX in the log. 80/40/30 were brilliant as well.
As with all expeditions, there will be people who are very happy, and others who expected more. We are humble enough to acknowledge that any expedition has its successes and less excellent parts.
As we did not have any internet at all for 9 days, we could not get any help from the cluster or from kind hams sending emails. We had to rely on our own belief, what was best for the DX community.
Some issues we would like to clarify:
The initial plan of having a CW/SSB camp on the hilltop above Chatham Bay was a perfect one. We wanted to separate those modes from FT8, with interference as the main reason, and antenna space as the other. Chatham Bay beach location is not intended to accommodate all antennas, due to the jungle terrain.
However, the “road” from the base camp to the hilltop (600 meters of waking and 150 meters of vertical difference), had completely deteriorated and we soon realized that we would not be able to in an energy economical way transport 2 x 100-kilo generators, 500 liters of petrol, antennas, equipment, food, etc there. If we would have decided to do so anyway, we would have lost approximately 2-3 days of the limited days we already had due to license limitations.
The decision was made to combine CW/SSB with FT8. As you all can understand, this is not ideal due to the planned amount of stationed we intended to launch at the same time. and a VERY narrow and difficult jungle terrain all the way to the beach.
Nevertheless, we managed to get up full-size antennas for 160-12 meters. All of them proved to work excellently in almost all directions. The only direction with really a drawback in signals was VK/ZL. Sorry for that, but we worked some VKs via Long Path anyway.
Complaints have been raised on our CW focus. The explanation is easy: Our fellow TI9 colleagues (TI9C) had announced a very focused effort on SSB, as they do not seem to operate CW. As we did not encounter them on the vessel to Cocos Island, as expected, we decided not to cannibalize their opportunities for a future SSB expedition. Contradictory to our own assumption, that TI9C would perhaps not appear at all, one well-known and respected source of daily DX information, insisted few days before our operation, that he was assured through a personal call from that group, that operation still would take place. Due to the uncertainty of that other operation, we took the decision to lower the priority for sideband operation.
Nevertheless, we indeed spent quite some effort on SSB when we felt conditions were good enough for that, and when we maintained acceptable rates on SSB. When we felt the rate was not at a good level, we simply went to CW to ensure that people could get a chance to at least work us there.
Regarding the FT8 issues we had, what we would like to make people understand that working this mode from a remote island without ANY internet at all, is very different from sitting in the cozy DX corner at home, with broadband Wi-Fi and all other commodities. We had a portable GPS-2-USB device to ensure the synchronization. That procedure needed to be repeated with a few hours of an interval, as we understood gradually. With the extensive use of RF in the place, the GPS signal was heavily affected, and this eventually had a very serious consequence, as our drone, to be used for attaching a 160-meter Inv L wire, started to operate and move without our control. The propeller of the drone unfortunately at a high speed hit the finger of Jorge TI2JV, with the result of lots of blood all over… The paramedics in the Ranger team on the other side of the island needed to appear on a Zodiac vessel, evacuate him to the paramedic station and make three stitches on Jorge. It could have ended much worse.
Other comments are referring to the promised 24/7 hours of operation – or what appeared to be a “failure to comply with that promise”… We did indeed take a few small naps in between (on average no more than 2-3 hours per night and person). This was necessary to recover from a very intense antenna setup and walk up to the hilltop in order to evaluate the feasibility of at all work from the hilltop location, which made us simply exhausted. Sorry for that guys. However, very few hours were unattended overall and we did utilize the time on the air as much as we could.
More details will follow, but this description should “kill” most of the speculations, and understand a bit better why we did like we did. At last but not least, remember that this island is quite challenging with climate, tidewater, insects, rats (not the small ones you are used to), screaming wild pigs appearing directly at the camp, destroying antennas and whatever. AND, those rats were not only outside our abandoned ranger hut. They were our nightly friends in Cocos Island “Hilton Hotel”.