The DXpedition of the Year
The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 43 From the DX University™*
For many years, awards have been given for the “the DXpedition of the year.” These awards are given to groups who volunteer their time and resources to put rare countries, IOTA islands, lighthouses, etc. on the air. DXpeditions involve substantial expense and time. They also offer the rewards of fame and/or notoriety. DXpedition awards may serve as a small incentive to various groups to activate rare entities and perhaps to work members of the sponsoring organization. The awards seldom include monetary prizes, so they usually serve solely as an honor.
Although often sponsored by clubs ARRL sponsored a DXpedition of the Year award for several years until about 2000. The ARRL DXpedition of the year was written up in the Leagues DXCC Annual publication. In subsequent years, this award has not been given. Why did the ARRL stop honoring DXpeditions in this way?
DXpeditions vary in their difficulty, and in the obstacles that each face. Becoming significant enough to be a DXpedition of the Year usually involves overcoming some particular hurdle. We might define three areas of difficulty. One is simply the physical and logistical realities involved. An example is the country that is in the Antarctic, and just getting there with the necessary personnel and equipment is a challenge in material and transportation expense. Heard Island, Bouvet Island and Peter I come to mind in this regard. Recent discussions involving DXpedition funding are aimed at this difficulty. Ships capable sailing in the Antarctic are extremely expensive – in the multi-six-figure range – and require substantial contributions from the DXing community. (The cost of expeditions to far off locations with hotels and commercial airline service are usually considered within the reach of most DXpedition teams, without extraordinary funds being necessary.)
Another area of difficult is that of licensing. Amateur radio in a number of unsettled and/or war-torn areas is not an area of high priority for many governments. Of course, we think Amateur Radio it is the highest priority, but that isn’t universally the case. In some cases, the local custom is followed, paying large amounts of money to “encourage” government officials to grant operating permission. Lloyd Colvin, W6KG once told of meeting an official – following a meeting with other officials – who promised a license upon payment of a large, five-figure amount of cash. Of course, they refused and moved on to another country.
A third area of difficulty that might raise an effort to DXpedition of the Year status is that of gaining access. More and more islands of the world are being set aside for environmental purposes. “Landing permission” is becoming more and more conditional. Often, lengthy negotiations are required and sometimes large costs are involved. Various restrictions can increase the costs, as well.
In addition to these exceptional difficulties, there is another hurdle to overcome. That hurdle is simply putting on “a good show,” once access to the rare entity is achieved. In light of the exceptional efforts required to do the preliminary work and actually travel to the destination, we are often disappointed by the level or operating skill exhibited by the performers on the DXpeditioner stage. With more and more DXers with greater expectations, the cast of operators isn’t always up to the task.
Overcoming any or all of these challenges could qualify a DXpedition for DXpedition of the Year status. But, what about more than one excellent DXpedition in a particular year? What about only one – perhaps less than stellar – expedition in another year? Should the “best” DXpedition in a year receive an award even if it wasn’t all that good?
Over many years, I have observed situations where several expeditions have performed admirably, and selecting one over the other would be patently unfair. In such a case, how is an award committee to determine which effort should win out over the others? Or, should an award be given to the only DXpedition regardless of its success? Aye! There’s the rub!
I have witnessed several occasions where in my opinion more than one expedition should be selected the DXpedition of the Year. But, of course, there are many opinions. Clubs can vote. The Web can provide a forum for discussion and a selection by popular ballot. Mathematical expressions have been written that normalize variables such as number of QSOs, number of operators, cost, band conditions, etc. That seems a bit too deterministic. In the end, if often turns out to be a popularity contest base on who knows what. There are just too many variables.
This is the primary reason that ARRL discontinued its DXpedition of the Year award. Other organizations have done likewise, but some still promote the awards. It has been said that – as self-serving as it might seem – such an award might even attract QSOs to members of the issuing organization.
Most DXpedition sponsoring groups, very familiar with the work required for their own effort, will likely feel that they deserve the honor. Others will just as likely feel the same about their production. In some cases, in fact, team members have become significantly steamed with unpredictable results. I witnessed such an occurrence recently: It was not a pretty sight.
Is the practice of honoring a “DXpedition of the Year” in the best interest of DXing? Should the practice be continued? Are there more hard feelings generated than otherwise? It’s worth a thought – or two.
*The DX University™ is a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. The second running was held at the convention center in Visalia California on Friday, April 27, 2013. More than 120 DXers participated. You are welcome to join us at future sessions. For more information, go to www.dxuniversity.com