WHO TO WORK
When a DXpeditioner sits down to work a large pileup one of the first things he must do is to determine who to work. Although he will likely begin by working anyone, this is not usually the best approach. The pileup will quickly become very large and unmanageable. It’s better not to go there, even in the beginning. It might be possible to keep the pileup station density reasonable by allowing the pileup to grow indefinitely, but this is no longer an acceptable practice. The resulting “Band Trashing” should not be tolerated.
The pileup must be divided in order to limit frequency range that it occupies. Dividing the pileup makes it possible to work stations at a high rate and to make the best use of the existing propagation. “Who to work” asks how to divide the pileup should that be necessary. Eventually the DX op should work everyone. At the same time he knows that propagation varies, the number of DXers in a particular area varies greatly and the demand will vary according to the relative difficulty of propagation between the two areas. So, determining whom to work at a particular time is not a trivial task.
The DX world can be thought of as consisting of three major population centers: Europe, Asia (Japan) and North America. For any DXpedition location, working at least one of these three population centers is likely to be difficult simply because of its geographic location. (It is important to note that a target area is not comprised solely of one country. That is, Asia is more than Japan, and North America is more than just the United States. Indeed, working North America would include working Central and South America.
The most difficult of the three areas is called as the “target area”. Note that it is possible that there is more than one target area from some DXpedition locations. It is important to know where these population centers are relative to the DXpedition location and the size of the DXer populations within each area. A rough idea of the number of DXers inhabiting each of the countries in these population centers is important so that one knows how to allot the time targeting each area. For example, from the Pacific it is not enough to work only ten thousand Europeans out of one hundred thousand total QSOs. The operation should invoke all of its resources in order to take full advantage of each and every opening to the distant target areas.
It has been found that concentrating all resources on real target areas seldom lessens the chances of DXers in other areas of the world. Since propagation to the target areas is by definition poor, with relatively short openings, the desired number of QSOs with the target area is not usually reached even with strict adherence to targeting. Because of this, one or more of these areas will have a greater need for this DX location. It is also possible to define the areas with the greatest need with surveys, formal and informal.
PROPAGATION AND OPERATING SCHEDULES
Propagation predictions can be used initially, but observations of actual conditions should be made after the operation has begun. Often, operators unfamiliar with the propagation at expedition destinations will miss important openings and thousands of QSOs to difficult areas. Inputs from experienced DXers in the target areas can be used but take care in evaluating real time feedback from DXers still needing a QSO. As the openings are identified (and more openings may be found as the operation progresses) an operating schedule should be made which will ensure not only that the operators are active during the necessary openings, but also that the most qualified operators will work those openings.
Again, work only the target areas when the propagation permits. Every opportunity to work the target centers should be used in that effort. This is the most effective technique for balancing QSOs to all of the population centers. Those in the areas with better propagation will take care of themselves.
Notes from 1990: Around midnight one night during theJarvisIslandexpedition (AH3C/KH5J), Martti, OH2BH came running to the CW operating site yelling that ten meters was open toEurope. We didn’t believe him at first but since we were targeting Europe heavily we checked and found that indeed ten meters was open toEurope. We set up quickly and worked several hundred Europeans during that opening. Martti had been using a spare radio and antenna looking specifically for additional openings. When the QSL cards arrived, one from a YU station noted “it was noon and there was nothing on ten meters except noise and AH3C/KH5J.
Notes from 9M0S, 1993: One of our biggest challenges was attempting to work the east coast of theUSfrom Palau Layang-Layang, 9M0S in theSpratlyIslands. Preliminary propagation predictions indicated that openings to that area would be few and quite short. As a result, we considered several options to maximize the number of East Coast QSOs. One option was to be prepared to operate several stations on an open band. I also considered making greater use of the WARC bands than had been done in the past. The propagation on thirty meters looked particularly good but as I promoted this idea prior to the expedition a question was raised among several DXers about whether there were enough DXers on that band to make a big effort worthwhile! Well! I guess if I am in a rare country and the best band is thirty meters maybe some resourceful DXers might even erect a simple dipole in order to make a QSO with the rare one! An open band is a resource to be exploited and in fact the WARC bands produced a significant percentage of the thirty five thousand QSOs from Layang-Layang. While many more DXers utilize the so-called WARC bands today, DXCC totals show that they aren’t most favored.
DEFINING THE PILEUP
Ideally we would not have to reduce the pileup size by working call areas or continents. When the pileup is large, however, it might be best to divide the pileup by working call areas or some other subdivision in order to avoid excessively wide pileups. While DXers could certainly justify – in their minds – the use of the extra bandwidth by invoking numbers, it isn’t really worth arguing. So, we it’s probably best work continents or call areas whenever the pileup exceeds the desired band space. This technique also increases the DXers’ perception (especially those with smaller stations) that they will be able to make the desired QSO. Working call areas tends to increase the penetration to a desired area since it allows a specific pileup to be worked down to a level where low power stations can be successful.
Do not try to work an area during poor propagation to that area. If propagation requires, maybe only certain areas should be covered during a particular session. Be sure that the callers are certain when you will return to working their area. Return to that area during a better opening. It is imperative that the operator permits no noticeable exceptions to working the current call area. To make exceptions invites and actually justifies calls from other areas. If you think that DXers in the pileup aren’t really listening, just work one zero when you are calling fours!
It is important to work all subdivisions that have been identified. If numbered areas are being worked, all of the numbers in an area should be completed before a major change in operation occurs. Stations signing with a portable suffix constitute a minimal problem. The issue of portables is discussed in the PROBLEMS section. If a station has used more than one portable you should ignore him. Otherwise don’t worry about it.
It should be noted that it is possible to work call areas or other subdivisions on CW as well as SSB. It is necessary, however, to repeat the instructions at the end of nearly every QSO, since some will assume that one omission will be a signal that the designated area is being abandoned. This is necessary on SSB as well as on CW, but it is particularly important on code. On CW, it might even be useful to slow your sending while issuing instructions. Newer keyer memories make these speed changes very easy.
Prejudices about certain groups of DXers on the part of a DXpedition operator should be suppressed. There is no typical European DXer, for example. Europeis a widely diverse region. To dislike “European” pileups is simply a failure to understand the problem and how to deal with it. The operator’s approach to those DXers in a pileup may be the most important factor in how a situation is handled. A serious problem may result from a poor attitude on the part of the DXpedition operator. There is no good pileup or bad pileup. Working the Europeans just as smoothly as working the Japanese is possible since the pileup’s behavior accurately mirrors the DXpedition operator who runs the show.4 The most experienced DXpedition operators know that it is they who are ultimately responsible for the character and perception of the operation.
An assumption has been made to this point: that everyone interested in working an expedition will be able to do so if the expedition operators are efficient enough and manage the operation properly. There is another concern, however. There exists a group of DXers who simply lack the experience or the necessary equipment to work a rare DXpedition under the usual circumstances. Therefore, some thought should be given to what might be done to accommodate as many of these DXers as possible.
Perhaps the most important consideration is the total amount of time allotted to the expedition. If time is limited and even experienced DXers are finding it difficult to make a QSO then the inexperienced must just fend for themselves. It makes little sense to slow a CW operation to twenty words per minute to accommodate those who are not capable of copying thirty two words per minute, if it is, at the same time, possible to work nearly twice as many stations in the same amount of time. Alternatively, however, those who lack the skills to work a split pileup or simply prefer to work in a net environment might be accommodated in other situations where sufficient time, operators and equipment are available.
The advent of no-code licenses has likely increased the use of electronic code-readers to facilitate DX operation on CW. Code readers vary in their effectiveness. Some are better than others. Having anything but best possible knowledge of what is going on in a DX pileup will cause some difficulty to the individual DXer and other DXers in the pileup. On the other hand who among us is willing to say that a DXer interested in trying CW operation should not do so with the assistance afforded by a code reader. We can hope that these individuals will persist and increase their CW skills in time.
In any case a complete DXpedition should consider the needs of all interested DXers and attempt to provide QSOs for everyone. CW QSOs can be made in the General-Class segments of the U.S. CW bands, especially on forty meters. Slower code can be used later in the expedition when the overall hourly QSO rate drops. SSB QSOs can be made with general class DXers by listening in the appropriate band segments. However, the overall goal should be to contact the largest number of different stations possible, and under no circumstances should the DXpedition management allow less than the most efficient form of operation.
As mentioned earlier, this discussion presumes that the large DXpedition may be relying on at least partial funding support from a DX-oriented group or groups which have responsibility to contributing DXers, in which case certain funding conditions apply. It goes without saying that if a DXpedition group is entirely self-supporting it is responsible to no one and may proceed accordingly.