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Diary by NØAX      PHOTOS 1 2 3 4 5 6 WALLPAPER AUDIO

Thursday, Sep 29th

So forty-meters is a shared allocation?  Shared, my eye!  Trying to find a frequency to work the US during an evening opening is nearly impossible and within the hour, "Bing, bang, blong," here comes a SW BC station opening up another program.  While we’re on the subject of pileups, it’s amazing to listen to a pileup of marginal signals coming through a long, polar path – such as Europeans.  It’s like trying to pick one wave out of the ocean – you can only do it for a second, then it’s gone. So where is Europe, anyway?  We’re hearing complaints that we’re not working enough Europe, but other than the main openings, they’re just not there.  Solar flux is in the mid- to high-seventies, so Europe disappears after breakfast and often doesn’t reappear until late afternoon.  The team is redoubling its efforts to work Europe and be sure to call "EU Only" when there’s a chance of propagation.  For example, I was calling CQ on a quiet 17-meter band, working the occasional JA and listening for Europe frequently.  9K2HN called in – quite a treat in and of itself – not once, but twice.  The second time he says that we have a great signal and that he’s put us on the packet spotting network, but not much response. This is frustrating to everybody, especially Franz and Gerd.  While we have the occasional great opening – Arnie N6HC got one on 160 that sounded great – this is, after all, the bottom of the sunspot cycle and there’s only so much that RF muscle can do. The indigenous wildlife is always fun and today’s topic is the crabs.  We don’t have big, threatening ones, like Christmas Island does.  Our are little, quick ghost crabs (all white) and small land crabs (red).  I feel like calling them "New England" and "Manhattan" style!  They invade the tents and so have to be expelled. The best technique is to approach them holding a large magazine or folder in one hand and a drinking glass in the other.  You can almost see their eyes trying to look both ways until you swoosh in with the cup, dragging it over the magazine.  The outraged crabs then rat-a-tat-tat on the inside while you go over to the tent flap and heave them out into the night.  I’m sure they’ll have great stories about this stuff to tell the other crabs.

Friday, Sep 30th

Rats – We’ve really tried to work Europe when we think there is an opening – how can we do better?  Bob and the other Kahunas decide that we’ll put a heavy emphasis on Europe whenever there is the possibility of an opening, according to Ann’s propagation predictions.  Immediately, the audience hears "listening for Europe" on most bands.  Propagation has been good to so-so, which is not bad with a solar flux of 77, plus or minus.  I joke that we could just turn the power down to 25 watts, solving both the gas and Europe problem in one fell swoop.  On the brighter side, Charlie W6KK, Arnie N6HC, and I tackle the remainder of the infamous duck pit.  Under our busy shovels the sides quickly slope away, sufficient for just about any bird or duck to get out after an ill-considered pit adventure. Just to reiterate why we’re doing this stuff, the "DOFAW" (Dept. of Fish and Wildlife – State of Hawaii) is really strapped for cash.  We agreed to volunteer some man-hours as part of our contribution to occupying staff time and resources. It does take a little time away from the pileups, but given that without the volunteerism we wouldn’t be here at all, it’s a good trade.  DXers that have the AH3C QSL.would recognize the white bird on it if they visited Kure.  These are "fairy terns" and a pair have been roosting on the tree next to our tent. At night they swoop around like bats, close to the ground and very close to people.  These birds don’t build nests, but just lay their eggs on branches or ledges and take turns holding them with their feet, like tiny penguins.  It’s interesting, as well, that the terns, which fuss and fight with the frigate birds all day, roost in adjacent trees at night.  Short memories?

Saturday, Oct 1st

After some serious back-calculating, Bob and I estimate that each generator is burning from 1/3 to ½ gallon of gas per hour.  The first figure lets us operate until the 6th, the 2nd until the 4th.  Either is cutting it a little close for comfort.  Arnie N6HC is making a closer accounting and either way, we’ll have met the overall goals of the expedition, but it’s never nice to be low on some critical component, such as gas or grub.  I think we’ve all read about the Donner Party.  Down at the beach, propagation continues to be pretty good, although we now have a Large Noise on 160 and 75 that makes those bands essentially unusable.  160 just has wide-spectrum noise that shows up about sunset.  75, on the other hand, is plagued by what I’m guessing is a surface-grazing sea radar.  It covers up about 300 kHz of the band in chunks up through 5 MHz.  Either way, if these keep up, we’re taking a big hit on the low bands. Katie’s weather sense is telling her that this might be a stormy night.  Steve VE7CT also observes that the birds are not roosting in the trees at evening, so we agree something might be up.  The sky to the east, while not imminently threatening, does look like it contains some serious clouds and so we decide to batten down all the hatches. The image of "sideways rain" sticks in our heads.  The Kingman veterans – Garry, Steve, and Ann – have all been in a real squall, so they know what it’s like.  Down on the beach and at base camp, we’re ready. Luckily, all we get is a bit of rain, but we all know we could have had worse.

Sunday, Oct 2nd

The decision is made to shut down on the 4th.  The team is OK with that, realizing that we have to have enough safety margin to account for weather or sea state, either of which could play hob with small watercraft.  Then there’s another wild card thrown our way – a generator decides not to put out any power!  A compound disaster is discovered when the backup generator from Kimo also has no output.  Fortunately we brought a backup backup on the Machias and it is sent over in a quick morning run.  This generator works, so we’re back on all bands and modes on the critical last couple of days. Back at camp, Cynthia has one more Big Chore – putting new roof coating on the main building.  I volunteer (why do I do this) to stir the cans of aluminum roofing tar – it takes a hard two hours of poking and prodding before the silvery glop is ready.  Franz DJ9ZB says, "Let’s do it," pointing out that rain could be coming again the next day, making it impossible to put down the material.  Up we go, Franz with a brush and me with a broom-sized squeegee.  The roof is now in pretty good condition – plus it’s a nice view for working.  While we’re "pushing broom", some of the team takes off with Captain Bill to do a little reef snorkeling.  Aside from an island walk hosted by Cynthia, this is the first real time off the team has had. They return refreshed.  This is good because it allows us to really hit the bands hard during the last couple of days.  Rumors of a solar flare come up, but nothing materializes and the bands are holding.  It is remarkable that with low solar flux, we’ve still had good openings and the sunspot that was bedeviling HF exited the stage around the limb of the sun just before our arrival and isn’t due back until we’re on the way home.  Lucky in weather and lucky in propagation – we’ll take it.

Monday, Oct 3rd

Planning for the offload starts heating up and a couple of loads of non-essentials make their way back to Machias.  The end is in sight. On the way home, we won’t have Katie’s wonderful food. The reality of a 9-day cruise home, against the wind and waves, starts to sink in, but we are confident in Captain Bill and scopolamine patches.  Katie and I take a walk down to the airstrip and the beach – watching out for birds, nests, chicks, and eggs on the way.  The airstrip could easily land something the size of a DC-3 or small cargo plane – not a jet – even today.  There are some bushes, but no major obstructions.  We’re all pretty tired, really, so not much to report as it’s just rise-shine-operate-eat-operate-sleep, more or less.  The novelty has worn off, but we try to knock off the low bands, modes we’re light on, and that sort of thing.  Gerd and Garry combine to push the RTTY total above 1000 QSOs.  This has become a very popular mode with the advent of sound card software and interfaces, so there is a big audience, worldwide.

Tuesday, Oct 4th

The last day on the bands is somewhat bittersweet.  There are still tons of callers, but we start a policy of "First Kure QSO only – only call if you have no QSO with Kure Atoll." (So to speak…)  While it probably aggravates the Big Guns, we get a lot of positive feedback from the little guys that have been calling for days.  We all remember what it was like when we were starting out and how frustrating it was to miss QSOs with major expeditions.  Garry NI6T gets a pat on the back for suggesting it.  Not everyone on the air complies, but there doesn’t seem to be any shenanigans as a consequence. This is also photo day, so we take a little time to put up our flags, wear our t-shirts, and thank our sponsors – NCDXF, Icom, ARRL, and Heil.  It’s very much appreciated and there’s a little clowning around.  You’ll have to wait for the DVD, though!  We’re also rewarded with the best sunset of the trip as the team rounds the final corner and pounds down the straightaway.  Franz is logging EU QSOs at a furious rate.  Garry and Arnie blast through the low bands.  We combine all operations into one tent, dropping one of the Titanexes, too.  The beach resounds with the throbbing of the generator and "Kilowatt Seven Charlie" into the night.

Wednesday, Oct 5th

I wake early and hammer out a deep 80-meter EU opening handed to me by Steve.  Ann appears and whips 30-meters into a frenzy.  And so it goes through the morning.  At 11 AM, it’s time to pull the big switch and we do so with a QSO with Mike N6MZ and Steve K6SGH – team members back on the mainland.  Wow – what a feeling of relief.  We are very close to 50,000 QSOs and Ann thinks we cracked the barrier. (Note - 52,000 is the final tally)  Not bad at all, considering conditions and such.  Field Day veterans won’t be surprised to learn that all of the gear on the beach got stowed and packed in about 6 hours.  It all comes down so easy.  Mike and Pat from the Machias are running back and forth with load after load – we’ll all be on the boat tomorrow night to set sail for Midway and home. Cynthia and Katie are coming with us that far so Kure will only be home to the birds on Friday after being such a hive of activity before.  What will they think?  Will they miss the singing verticals?  Will they wonder about all of us showing up?  They probably think that we are migrating somewhere on our yearly journey and perhaps that’s not too far from the truth.  Most DXers do get the urge to spread their wings and take a trip – we were lucky enough to find a way to fly.  If you get the chance, you should, too.  Aloha from Kure!

Thursday, Oct 6th

A short note – the sky is clear and we are off-loading like mad.  The final tally was just over 52,000 QSOs, with 18% EU, 32% NA, and 45% JA - a pretty good spread.  We should be underway by late afternoon, headed for Midway overnight.  There may be a short stop on Midway to drop off Cynthia and we will head for the Cold Beer Store – in our dreams.  Then it’s on to Honolulu – an eight-day run, at least.  We’ll see you again from our homes.  Thanks for all the QSOs and support.

Very 73 and DX is!


Copyright © 2011 Robert W. Schmieder All rights reserved. Last update: Tuesday, March 08, 2011