VK9NI Norfolk Island Dxpedition 2009
By Allan Mason VK2GR and Tommy Horozakis VK2IR
Originally planed by the Hellenic Amateur Radio Association of Australia to use the call of VK9AAA. The callsign was changed to VK9NI three weeks prior going on air, because many of the VK DXers were suggesting that a VK9N callsign was important to the DX community to better identify the geographic location of the expedition.
An advanced party of Tommy VK2IR, Peter VK3FGRC and Keith VK3FT arrived on Sunday 19th July to erect the antennas. A delay with customs clearance put them a day behind. The remainder of the party Peter VK2FPGR, Raffy VK2RF, Allan VK2GR, Chris VK3FY, Tony VK3TZ, and Andrey VK5MAV arrived on Wednesday 22nd July to find Spider beams and low band verticals erected and operational stations ready to go.
Two Spider beams 10m high for 20, 17, 15, 12, 10 metre bands (Ref. 2)
A 40m 2 element beam at 12m on an aluminium tower
An 18m high twin lead Marconi vertical with 16 radials for 80m (Ref. 3)
An 18m high twin lead Marconi vertical with 16 radials for 160m (Ref. 3)
Dipoles for 6m 17m, 30m and 40m
Two 200m long Beverage receive antennas for the low bands
While all of the antennas performed well, of particular note was the 40m 2 element beam that was fantastic for receive and transmit, a rotator motor would have been great when it was raining. The low band verticals set up by Keith VK3FT were great for transmit and receive although after a few days, Tony VK3TZ set up two Beverage antennas that considerably improved the receive capability on 80m and 160m. Unlike our city environments, the band noise level on the island was below S1 most of the time.
One morning at about 3am the 160m vertical stopped working. In daylight next morning we fount it tilted over as a precarious angle and on investigation, found that a tractor had broken some of the guy cords for the 18metre squid pole and cut up many of the ground radials. The low band antenna team set to work and had the antenna operational again by sunset.
The station antennas were erected on the northwest tip of Norfolk Island, 112m above sea level, over soft rich red volcanic soil. Due to the rocky cliffs, no beaches were available for a salt water antenna erection at that part of the island.
The equipment: four IC7000 transceivers, four HF linear amplifiers, two RTTY interfaces, and a pile of power supplies and cables. Standby radios: IC7000 and FT897D
Although propagation prediction was considered be poor, the 9 operators were kept busy most of the time. All bands died on a couple of mornings.
In the pileups, the JA discipline was excellent, the North Americans reasonable while many of the European stations just kept calling even though it was obvious that they could not hear us. Unfortunately, as is often heard with Dxpedition stations, there was considerably jamming activity on the CW frequencies.
The IOTA contest was entered with callsign VK9IR due to the single transmitter contest rules. This allowed the other stations to continue operating as VK9NI on the other bands. Some 650 IOTA contest QSOs and 227,448 contest points were realised.
The last 80m QSO on our departure date was with EA8, about 40 minutes after sunrise. This is a very respectable distance of 19,700Km for this band.
Many team members were concerned about the lowering of the 40m beam and tower. We were fortunate that the lowering was incident free prior to the rain commencing. Believe it or not the aluminum 40m tower was dissembled into a package 1m long and 1/3 round.
The cost for this Dxpedition was over $30,000. Many thanks go to the sponsors who assisted defraying some of this cost for the participants. Sponsor list: The Hellenic Radio Club of Australia, ICOM, WIA, Norfolk Air, Strictly Ham, Step IR, Rippletech Electronics, Spiderbeam. Viking Fleet, HQ Antennas, West Mountain Radio, AT Electronic and Communication International, G3LIV Interfaces for Datanodes, Amateur Transceiver Centre Sydney, The pest Control Company
A post expedition review by Chris VK3FY summed it up well and is repeated here with minor changes and additions; It was great to have spent a week in the company with you all; from our experience and considering the band conditions were not in the best shape, we did extremely well; the team deserves a good pat on the back; everyone played a part in making this an extremely successful Norfolk Island IOTA OC-005 activation.
The Positives: the cooks were great; the low band verticals worked a treat;
The use of a two element 40m Beam was a gutsy move, but the results speak for themselves, Spiderbeams work great; the he SPE 1k-FA amplifiers proved there worth on this trip and the other linears worked as expected; a big thank you, to the CW operators. (yes more CW contacts than all the others) Especially to Andrey, Allan and Chris
Overall contacts across all modes 12,000 QSO’s plus not a Bad effort; having openings on all HF bands even if only for a short while on some bands.
The Negatives: we under estimating the popularity of RTTY;not enough CW operators; competing in the IOTA contest caused some confusion and at the cost of some QSO’s;not having enough band pass filters; missing the 6m Sunday morning skeds; the band conditions were to say poor; no antenna rotators
The Learnings: find a good wanted DX location; we need to look at having a dedicated RTTY station on any next activation (with multiband antenna and band pass filters); greater antenna separation and geographically separated operating stations would better assist in activating CW, SSB and RTTY operation on the same band; avoid contest weekends unless a contest is the main goal, have complete sets of band pass filters; have a 6m beacon set up permanently.
Good planning, a lot of hard work prior to and during the expedition and many operating hours by the team realized some 12,000 contacts at a time of very poor propagation.
Anyone considering VK9N, it would be hard to go past Pacific Palms (Ref. 4) as there is plenty of antenna room and many Norfolk Island pine trees string with wire antennas.
QSL cards for this expedition go to VK3HR.
To all the team, thank you for your specialty expertise and for making this VK9NI activation memorable. Where and when is the next activation?