The days are dwindling down to a precious few for the Heard Island VK0EK and Juan de Nova FT4JA DXpeditions. The VK0EK crew will start packing in advance of an April 10 planned departure. FT4JA will be on the air for 1 day longer. The two major operations have been racking up impressive contact totals, sometimes despite marginal conditions at times, not to mention the detrimental effects of deliberate QRM and stations calling the DX ops simplex on their transmit frequencies instead of operating in split mode. According to a plan the two DXpeditions worked out in advance, VK0EK is listening down from its transmitting frequency, while FT4JA is listening up. Some pileups have extended 10 to 15 kHz or more.
On April 5, “Amateur Radio Roundtable” host Tom Medlin, W5KUB, conducted his third and final live interview — the second live video chat — with the Heard Island crew, speaking this time with Bill Mitchell, AE0EE. Mitchell told Medlin that over the past weekend, conditions conspired to the point that VK0EK operators found it tough to make contacts a lot of the time. “Other times it opened up wonderfully,” he said. Mitchell told of working a pileup while operating RTTY, facing “a solid wall” of stations spread down the band and finding it nearly impossible to copy any single station. Mitchell said the VK0EK operators have been keeping a close eye on the log to single out stations the DXpedition has not already worked. “We’d really like to get everyone we can into the log from Heard Island,” Mitchell told Medlin.
The quality of the video via satellite telephone from the sub-Antarctic island was marginal at best due to video latency but an improvement over the previous week’s interview with DXpedition leader Bob Schmieder, KK6EK. As April 6 drew to a close, the VK0EK operators had logged nearly 64,000 contacts — more than 47,600 of them on CW. DXers can follow the action and the statistics from Heard Island on the DXA website.
In much warmer climes off the coast of Africa, the French FT4JA team on Juan de Nova off the coast of Africa has been enjoying similar pileups and propagation but also has confronted high winds and very high tides — enhancing ground conductivity — due to some stormy weather. On April 5, the Juan de Nova team was unable to get on 160 meters because its 26 meter (85.3 foot) tall vertical was detuned when a strong wind gust dislocated the capacity hat. FT4JA had to take a few breaks during storms to fix various problems and to protect its three generators. The team reported a “very noisy” 80 meter band and a lot of lightning but they soldiered through at least for part of the night. On April 6, FT4JA reported that signals on the high bands “are not what they were last week,” and that the bands have been closing earlier.
FT4JA reached the 50,000 contact mark on April 4 and reported that operators were trying to exploit all bands from their opening until propagation drops out. The DXpedition also noted a lot of duplicate contacts cropping up in the log, despite the online log available through ClubLog. FT4JA has requested that DXers not call again if they have already worked the DXpedition until they are able to check the online log. In contrast with the chilly conditions on Heard Island, the FT4JA team was enjoying strictly shirtsleeve (or less) weather, with temperatures well above 50° C (122° F) inside the shelters.