The just-ended Heard Island VK0EK DXpedition logged more than 75,000 contacts, but the under-the-radar, contemporaneous VK0LD operation also put a new one into a few more logs. VK0EK logistics team member Mike Coffey, KJ4Z, operated as VK0LD from California, remotely controlling one of the VK0EK Elecraft K3S operating positions. He used a K3/0-Mini and the free RemoteHams.com RCForb client and remote server software to work 41 stations on 20 meters.
“More than a year before the Braveheart set sail, I knew I wanted to try to operate a remote ham radio station from Heard Island during the VK0EK DXpedition,” Coffey said. “Co-organizers Bob Schmieder, KK6EK, and Rich Holoch, KY6R, were enthusiastic and gave me the green light.” From Tennessee, Coffey, who was off the air from 2003 until 2014, is once again active from California, and, he said on his QRZ.com profile, “eager to make up for lost time.”
Lacking the expertise to set up and configure the equipment and connection for the remote operation, Coffey approached Elecraft, which supplied the K3S transceivers for VK0EK. Eric Swartz, WA6HHQ, and Brandon Hansen, KG6YPI, introduced him to the Elecraft K3/0-Mini remote control panel — basically a K3 front panel sans radio — combined with Hansen’s RemoteHams.com software. Leading up to the DXpedition he conducted tests from Elecraft to verify that operation with a satellite connection and the Remote Hams RCForb client software was possible.
On April 4, VK0LD transmitted its first CQ from Heard Island on 20 meter CW, with Coffey at the helm from his home in Palo Alto. “Over the course of the next 50 minutes, VK0LD logged 41 QSOs across Asia and then Europe as the band began to open up,” he recounted. Alan Cheshire, VK6CQ, is the licensee of VK0LD.
On DX Summit, one Australian station declared VK0LD to be a pirate. “NOT a pirate!” KY6R posted in response.
“Finally, control was handed back over to regular VK0EK operations,” Coffey said. “But for 50 minutes, I was having the amazing, incredible experience of working a pileup from a Top 10 DXCC entity on the other side of the world.” Coffey said the K3/0 setup made it “almost like being there.”
“I was sorry to stop,” he said. “I would have happily worked the pileup for hours.” — Thanks to Elecraft via Eric Swartz, WA6HHQ