The WeeklyDX™ Helpful Hints No. 29 from the DX University™*
The Nature of Future DXpeditions
The following question was asked on one of the DX Club chat reflectors last week: “Will DXpeditions Change in the Next 10-20 Years?” Without a doubt, DXpeditioning will change in the next 10 – 20 years, though it’s pretty much a guess as to what it will be like that far out. Nevertheless, let’s look at some likely trends in DXpeditions that exist today.
The DX Century Club award (DXCC) is different than other operating awards. Unlike most awards, DXCC is often a life-long pursuit. For DXCC, the minimum requirements are fairly easy for most DXers, but it doesn’t stop there. To get to the “Top,” considerable investment – mostly in time – is required. Many of the rarest countries are activated only periodically, hence the DXpedition. Here are some considerations about where DXpeditioning is going.
· In the post-WWII era, many entities were activated continuously by military or government personnel. Some of these entities were military bases, and some were weather and scientific station, often operated by ham radio operators. For many years the activities at these rare places satisfied the demand, particularly in the more difficult regions, such as in the southern Antarctic regions.
In recent years, however, many of these remote islands of the world have become much rarer because the locations or their facilities have been either abandoned or automated. Some have been turned into wildlife sanctuaries. Under DXCC rules, no particular reason exists to remove these entities from the DXCC list, so they remain, and are becoming increasingly rare. DXpeditions to these locations are extremely expensive. In order to activate them, extraordinarily expensive transportation, and logistics are necessary. Add regulatory wrangling to that and the difficulties multiply.
· Ham radio operators are an aging demographic. The age of the average ARRL member is well over 50 years. As well, DXers interested in DXpeditioning are increasing in age. DXpeditions to many rare places demand stamina beyond the capabilities of an increasing number of DXers. While fewer younger DXpeditioners are available, those who are available are better off financially.
· The sunspot cycle is always a factor. Since DXers from around the world participate in the DXCC program, DXpeditions must be capable of making Qs with these DXers on as many bands as possible. Past solar cycles – 18 through 23 – have presented great opportunities for DXpeditions. The current cycle offers considerably less. If future cycles are similar in their lackluster characteristics, fewer DXpeditioners will be motivated.
· The current trend toward more expensive expeditions implies that their success depends on their ability to raise money. While many early mega-DXpeditions to rare and even not-so-rare locations have successfully raised the necessary funds, this probably can’t continue. Already there is considerable discussion about the level of activity and the funds necessary to mount efforts to very rare destinations. Mega-DXpeditions to marginally rare entities – vacation sites – will probably fail in the future.
· One possibility for the future is that DXpeditions will evolve into a series of smaller, less expensive niche operations, specializing on low bands, particular modes or simply a limited number of bands. The sharing of transportation has been used with success in the past. While we already see this type of operation, it may well become more popular.
· On the other hand, as DXCC awards tend to grow in scope, demand increases. As demand increases, the ability to raise the necessary funds may increase as well.
In the end, as long as the necessary funds for extravagant, comprehensive DXpeditions can be raised, they will be conducted. There are inherent efficiencies with the larger expeditions, especially to entities with access limited by regulation and bureaucracy. There is and will continue to be considerable discussion – some heated – about how and for what the funding will be obtained, but above all, only when the funding for the largest expeditions dries up will their planning and execution be curtailed.
Looking further into the future, consider this from another old-timer:
“The way things are going with DX, working expeditions in 10-20 years will be automatic….no operators will be needed….. Automation will have completely taken over. Machines will do it all…Skimmers have set the pace for that.”
There may be some truth in the above assessment. (There was more, but you get the idea.) Already, newer DXers have lesser skill in making sure they have a “good contact,” because of the backup provided by on-line logs. The “cluster” pileups are legend. Skimmer spots go further. Maybe a dependent society is a natural progression. Regardless, DXpeditioning will evolve right along with DXing, or is it the other way around? To expect it to remain as it always was – in the thirties when DXCC was first introduced – is pure fantasy. Would we want it any other way?
Next week, I’ll discuss observations of the just completed Swains Island DXpedition.
*The DX University™ is a day-long session for DXers new and experienced wishing to hone their DXing skills. The third running of DXU will be held on Friday, July 27 inBryce,Utahat the 2012 ARRL Rocky Mountain Division Convention.