Any major expeditioning effort will necessarily have a number of objectives that need to be fulfilled. Identifying these objectives is an important task if the endeavour is to successfully proceed toward a satisfactory conclusion. This is strategic planning. Modern DXpeditions require considerably more effort and planning than in the past. This is primarily due to greater demand resulting from the expansion of multi-band, multi-mode awards, such as the ARRL DXCC Challenge. Originally, it was sufficient to work a “new one” but once. Later, it became necessary to make a QSO on ‘Phone. Finally ‘Phone, CW and RTTY were considered necessary, not to mention all of the individual bands. Now, the various digital modes have become so popular that they require equal effort. And, as DeSoto said in 1935 of more entities to work: “This [list] has the added advantage…of creating a long list…and who will fail to find that an attractive feature?” DXpeditioners must be up to the task.
“Good grief! It’s just a hobby!” OK, it’s only a hobby, but it can also be pretty serious competition when an opportunity exists to work one of your last counties, which hasn’t been on for ten years, and won’t be on again for another ten years. Therefore, everyone having fun isn’t always the best argument to use in persuading DXers to behave in a satisfactory manner. Still, it is important to have fun. DXpeditioners want to have fun, and generally they want DXers to have fun as well.
We will start with the premise that the overall objective of the DXpedition is for DXers around the world simply to enjoy the effort. We also need to consider the DXpeditioners themselves. With a few exceptions, no expeditioner ever expects to profit from his DXpeditioning activities. Considerable expenses are incurred, primarily in transportation costs and loss of employment income. This is a fact; chiseled in stone! Therefore, without compensation, the DXpeditioners will also be trying to have fun. It’s also important to understand that – let’s face it – DXpeditioning is an ego trip, perhaps more so these days.
Putting as many QSOs or unique callsigns as possible in the log is an important goal. As a DXpeditioner, putting a QSO in a DXer’s log is not more important to me than someone else’s enjoyment, it’s part of the enjoyment. But, I am sure that many DXers in the end determine that the objective of getting their QSOs recorded in the DXpedition log is more important than someone else’s enjoyment, so this needs to be kept in mind. If a particular DXer doesn’t make it into the log, he’s not a happy camper. So, when a DXer from a “target area” compliments you on a great expedition, he’s having fun, and so am I! Determining after the fact how it all went by surveying the “audience” can be a worthwhile if perhaps surprising exercise. At the end of the day, if you wonder how successful your expedition was, you might be in for a surprise.
In planning a DXpedition, an early consideration will be the scope of an operation. As noted, the size and scope of most major DXpeditions has grown significantly in recent years. In the last several decades, money has been available for larger and more comprehensive expeditions. To a large extent funding has been driven by the increasing rarity of many DXCC entities and the ability of the DXing community to support greater expenditures. Decades ago, many of the now rare entities, the Pacific andIndian Oceanislands for example, were activated regularly by government employees manning weather stations or remote military outposts. With budgets shrinking and more advanced technology being used to replace technical manpower, less government money has been available for staffing these outposts. As a result, DX QSOs with these entities have been less frequent. As the activity from these entities diminished, they began to climb in the most wanted lists. DXers have responded with increased support to facilitate the desired activity.
Other changes have occurred. Many of the entities on the DXCC list are in areas that have been recognized as environmentally sensitive areas. Activating these areas now requires complex and expensive permissions, which in turn results in less frequent access. This begs for longer and more complicated activations. Again, DXers have so far responded with the necessary funding to make activation of these entities possible.
As a result of these changes, individual DXpeditions at the beginning of the 21st century have tended to be larger, more comprehensive, and far more expensive than in the past. They require considerably more logistical and operational planning. Because the demand and expense is greater, an operation will pack more operating and technology into a single expedition. The expanded operation in turn requires more technical planning, more hardware and software.
DXpeditioning Basics focuses on operating, however. Since the on-the-air persona of a DXpedition is defined by the expedition’s operators, careful attention should be paid to their operating and how it is viewed by DXers. It is critical that any significant operation should include at least one well-qualified DXpeditioner capable of supervising the operating and making adjustments as the expedition proceeds. This topic will be explored in depth in subsequent chapters.
After having fun, one of the most important objectives will be to work as many stations on as many bands and modes as possible. To be successful, this must be done in a satisfactory manner. DXers should feel that the entire operation was fun. One measure of how well an expedition has succeeded in meeting its objectives will be the total number of QSOs it records in its logbooks. But this measure alone may not tell the whole story. It may be that the country is very rare – perhaps a new one on the DXCC list – in which case it will be most important to work as many different stations as possible. If the location is less rare, it might be more desirable on CW, RTTY, the WARC bands or some other band/mode combination. It may well be that the country being activated is particularly rare in one part of the world or another. In this case it is important totarget certain geographic areas or population centers for a concentrated effort.
To be successful, a DXpedition must also carry out its on-the-air objectives in a satisfactory manner. If it isn’t fun for DXers, much of the glory will disappear. It is important for the DXpedition members to understand that they hold the primary responsibility for the conduct of the on-the-air operations. It is not useful to blame DXers for a bad or worsening pileup.
It is important to clearly define the goals for the expedition: to work as many different stations as possible, to target difficult areas, and to conduct operations in a satisfactory manner. Goal setting is fundamental, although the nature of the goals will depend heavily on the particularly entity being activated.
In 1990, PenguinIslandhad only been activated for a limited time. Few DXers had even one QSO with PenguinIslandin their logs. In planning the operating for that trip, knowing that we were limited to eight days of operating, two stations and four operators, we decided to limit our operation to as few bands as possible. In fact we had a TH5DX antenna high on the top of the island and a ten-meter monobander. Operating near the peak of the sunspot cycle, the plan was to operate as much ten meters as possible during the entire trip, thus eliminating as many “band dupes” as possible. Since this was only the second operation ever made from this potential country and since only about twelve thousand QSOs had been previously made we felt that there were still many DXers who were awaiting their first QSOs.3 In the end we were able to boast a two-to-one total QSO to different callsign ratio. More DXers were able to claim a Penguin Island QSO even though some might not have been able to make their customary twenty-five band-mode QSOs.
To plan DXpedition operating,
a) Determine the areas that have the greatest need for the country and pay special attention to propagation to these areas.Work them at all times when propagation allows.
b) When resources, time and stations are limited, and depending on the rarity of the country in question and the length of the operation, it may be desirable to minimize the number of different bands on which the operation is conducted. This will maximize the number of different callsigns in the log.
c) Properly executed QSO mechanics and pileup management will optimize the number of QSOs in a given period of time. Make sure the operating team is well versed in good pileup technique. This is not an innate skill.