St. Pierre & Miquelon
The 2004 FP/VE7SV DXpedition Story©... written by Paul B. Peters, VE7AVV
This two-part story was published in TCA (The Canadian Amateur) magazine: March/ April & May/June 2005
Since the 1950's, amateur radio operators have been visiting the islands of Saint-Pierre & Miquelon. Whether for casual operating, a contest or a mix of radio and family vacation in the midst of French culture, they all agree that operating from this location produces endless pile-ups! During our ten-day DXpedition we would come to realize this fact only too well.
While the FP prefix is not rare by any means, it does rank 144th on the 2003 DXCC Most Wanted list – that means a great number of operators will consider this genuine DX and most likely a new country. With only a few active radio amateurs on Saint-Pierre and none on Miquelon, there has been insufficient activity to satisfy the ongoing needs of the world audience.
This tiny archipelago (consisting of 8 islands) is about 25 km off the southern coast of the island of Newfoundland, Canada. The islands represent the sole remaining vestige of France's once vast North American possessions. Portuguese explorer José Alvarez Faguendez was the first to visit the archipelago in 1520. In 1604, the French established the first permanent fishing settlement. The islands became a French overseas territory in 1946. In May 1985 the islands were given a new status as a Collectivité or a self-governing territorial collectivity of France. French pride is extremely strong here. The 7,000 inhabitants speak French, adhere to traditional French customs and most are Roman Catholic. The total area of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon is 242 square km of which 215 square km are considered to be part of Miquelon. While the island of Saint-Pierre is only 27 square kilometers, it has almost 90 percent of the total population and is the administrative and commercial center for the territorial collectivity.
While there have been numerous amateur radio activations from Saint-Pierre and Miquelon over the years, the popularity of the Islands -- for those of us here in North America (and specifically Canada), has grown dramatically in the last decade. The allure of having this DX opportunity in our own backyard was known only too well by the founders of our Team. Upon their return from the 2002 WRTC in Finland, Team Canada members Dale, VE7SV and Andy, VE7AHA had been musing about the notion of an expedition to Islands – specifically Miquelon. From VE7-land, the FP prefix seemed a good balance between its rarity for the worldwide ham community and the relative ease of transport and setup to deliver an operation.
In late 2002, detailed planning for FP/VE7SV began as the natural outcome of our desire to activate the FP prefix in a big way. “Team Miquelon”, our self imposed group title was established. From the outset the objective of our DXpedition was twofold: activate the FP entity for the Deserving as a DXpedition and participate in the 2004 CQ WW SSB contest. To be truly successful at both we'd have to be loud and that would require big antennas and big amplifiers. This objective became the central focus in our massive planning process that spanned the next 21 months.
Team selection for our adventure began early and focused on bringing together the best of the best from our circle of operators. Team Miquelon would be a collection of operators that were proven performers who could develop concepts, implement portable solutions and work well together under the constraints of the DXpedition locale. Based on the needs of mounting an event of this scale, Team Miquelon was born and our 8-member operator team from the internationally recognized BCDX Club was assembled. Most team members brought a tremendous level of experience from their participation in previous international DXpeditions. Others however were newcomers who would get a taste of what drives the engine of success from the operational side of the DXpedition radio.
With an impressive DXpedition background that spans more than 40 years of operating from locations around the world, Dale, VE7SV our team leader, was now ready to lead the Team onto the world stage. The overall Team included: Andy, VE7AHA – power and equipment manager; Jason, VE7AG – 6m specialist; Lee, VE7CC – low band antennas; Steve, VE7CT -- equipment support; Dave, VE7VR – official photographer and shipping agent; Paul, VA7NT – computer support; Dick, N7RO – QSL manager; Ramon, XE1KK -- donation coordinator and digital mode specialist and Paul, VE7AVV – webmaster, pilot and team communications.
A few weeks prior to leaving, a last minute business conflict would unfortunately prevent our 6m specialist Jason, VE7AG from traveling with us. His place was in turn offered to Alan, VE7SZ who immediately said yes he’d like to become part of the Team. Alan brought a wealth of contest and low band operating experience and we all welcomed him as the newest member of the Team.
While the primary goal of the Team was to achieve a high QSO total for the DXpedition, our secondary goal was to give an FP/VE7SV contact to as many operators as possible. We were committed to having operational blocks of time set aside specifically for JA, VK, ZL and the Pacific -- as well as other areas from which working FP as a new one is particularly challenging. In addition, the Team wanted to provide a massive effort on the low bands where the opportunity for working FP is limited. We had no idea how surprised we’d be when it came to working the low bands from the Island.
To be truly successful, a DXpedition needs to generate significant
awareness of the upcoming event prior to activation. In so doing, you
prepare the Deserving for your performance, you offer them information
they can use actually use and you keep them informed in those critical
hours leading up to going QRV. To deliver an unparalleled level of
information about the Team and our daily activities meant development of a
world-class website. The FP/VE7SV website was launched six months before
activation by Paul, VE7AVV and that gave us plenty of opportunity to raise
both global and sponsor awareness. The website is located at:
Traveling with Lee, VE7CC was his wife Melissa, VE7MMI. While not an official member of Team Miquelon, we would later learn that her experience as a member of the 2001 YK9A DXpedition meant we’d have an onsite expert for working with the legendary Battle Creek Special antenna. We would come to appreciate her expertise and familiarity with this lowband monster during assembly and installation.
As the Team members began arriving in St. John's, Newfoundland we reflected back on the past two years. As was our tradition, many of us had met socially and talked through every aspect of deployment on Miquelon during our regular Tuesday evening ‘wings night’. While these sessions allowed us to develop many different contingency plans prior to departure, the one single element we could not control was the propagation we’d experience. Would the prediction charts developed for us by renowned propagation guru Carl, K9LA reflect reality once we arrived? Only time would tell. The final countdown had begun.
We were poised to begin delivery of a truly memorable performance for the Deserving with a quality of operation that previously had never been associated with the FP prefix. Our collective objective was simple: be loud on all bands, concentrate on the areas of the world that are path challenged to Miquelon, set a record with our overall QSO total, put a specific effort towards the low bands and place well in the CQ WW SSB contest. A tall order but well within the grasp of our group!
Our departure to Miquelon on Friday, October 22 was scheduled for late in the day which meant we had the afternoon to see the sights of St. John’s. True to the international spirit of ham radio, a group of VO1-locals offered to drive us around their town. We’d like to thank VO1AU, VO1MP, VO1TA, VO1HE and VO1HJ for their hospitality, generosity and time.
Without question, the highlight of our sight-seeing tour was the stop at historic Signal Hill. Here we visited the VO1AA club station run by SONRA (Society of Newfoundland Radio Amateurs). The importance of this location in radio history, on the day before we were to begin our DXpedition, was overpowering. Operating from the Cabot Tower within the Signal Hill National Historic Site, VO1AA is the site where Guglielmo Marconi received the first wireless transatlantic signal from Poldhu, Cornwall in England, a distance of 2100 miles. On December 12, 1901 at 12:30 pm, Marconi distinctly heard dit-dit-dit the letter S in his single earphone. Unimpeded by the curvature of the earth, a radio signal had traversed the Atlantic. History had been made at this place.
Marconi said, “I was at last at the point of putting the correctness of all my beliefs to the test”. With that thought in mind, this seemed liked a serendipitous point from which to begin our DXpedition. We had planned everything we could; now it was time to put the correctness of our beliefs to the test.
Our late afternoon flight to Miquelon with Air Saint-Pierre was via Saint-Pierre where we cleared customs. Back on board the aircraft we made the short hop northwards to Miquelon arriving just after 6:00 pm local time. Greeting us at the airport was Christina, the manager of the Maxotel; this would be our DXpedition home for the next 11 days. After 10 months of exchanging email, fax and phone calls with Christina, it was a great pleasure to finally meet the lady who had helped us with so many details. We gathered our luggage and piled into our rental vehicle for the short drive to the Maxotel.
We set foot on the beach of the Maxotel for the first time just as darkness fell. The excitement of finally being ‘on ground’ was magical. The activation phase of our journey had begun. It was now time to build everything we’d been planning on paper for the last 21 months. We hoped the Deserving were eagerly awaiting our first CQ.
One of the many things Christina had done was clear our shipment through local Customs and have everything transported to the Maxotel. As we opened the door to Room #10 we saw our gear for the first time in 38 days. It looked none the worse for wear after its trans-Canada journey. While we had shipped most of the equipment, Dale decided to leave nothing to chance and carried one of the ICOM 756 PROII radios as hand luggage. Other Team members carried laptops, a power supply and enough kit to get us up and running – just in case something had gone astray, but this contingency plan was not required. Our entire shipment was intact and accounted for here on the Atlantic coast.
Before any work began, Team Miquelon gathered to review our operational plans. We were a long way from home and Dale reminded us that safety was – as always, of paramount importance. Drawing on over 40 years of operating experience from a multitude of countries, he also talked about the challenges each of us might face through the coming days of this DXpedition.
Darkness had now fallen and each member of the team had instinctively begun work on their specific phase of station activation. All the crates were opened and we began to assemble what would become the biggest signal ever heard from the FP prefix.
The night air was cool with a light breeze coming off the Atlantic Ocean. In the days to come we would witness the power of the wind here on Miquelon. With a combination of outdoor lighting and our flash lights, we began work on the first of our numerous antennas. The SteppIR multiband vertical was our first project. Once the radial network was laid out the antenna was raised, the guy ropes were secured and the coax was run into Room #10 via the small kitchen window. We used this entry point for all our cabling.
For our contest operating setup, we had initially planned three operating positions; two run stations and a multiplier station. Given ICOM had provided us with four brand new 756 PROII radios, the thinking was we’d always have a spare radio. In the final days prior to our shipment leaving Vancouver, there was a question as to whether the ACOM 1000 amplifiers would arrive on-site in time. They were being shipped from the factory in Bulgaria via New York and then direct to Miquelon. Not wanting to risk being without amplifiers, Dale decided to send his two prized Alpha 86 amps as backup. That way if the ACOM shipment was delayed, we’d be on the air using the Alpha’s. As it turned out, the ACOM shipment arrived on Miquelon just days before our arrival which in turn meant we now had 4 big amplifiers to match up with our four brand new ICOM 756 PROII radios. Instead of three operating positions, we’d now have four!
One of our many contingency plans dealt with what to use for operating tables. We had seen pictures of the small circular tables in the Maxotel rooms and knew these would not accommodate our massive amount of equipment. Little did we know that Christina was already a step ahead of us by providing four large tables from her Dining Room. Each measured 2’x 8’ and we simply moved two of these tables together and made two 4’x 8’ tables; one for each two operating positions.
The decision had been made early in the planning process to activate each station on completion of the building process. We had been on Miquelon for less than 3 hours and Station #1 was now ready for the first QSO. It was decided that Dale should have the honor -- so at 0055z on the night of October 23, 2004, with everyone gathered around, Dale sent the first CQ on our announced 40m CW frequency. The importance of this moment can not be overstated; it was the culmination of a vision born two years earlier. A second later, the CQ was answered by PR7FB who became the first entry in our log. This was followed moments later by QSO’s with VE3DN, K7AO, YO7CFD and SP8AJK. These were the first five entries in our log. The FP/VE7SV DXpedition had officially transitioned to its operational phase. We had stepped onto the world stage and were now poised to present our performance to the Deserving. Every facet of planning would now be exercised as word of our operation spread on DX clusters around the world. It was show time!
Focus now shifted to getting Station #2 operational. Before long the antenna crew had the 30m vertical up and sitting atop its base insulator, an empty Heineken beer bottle. As work proceeded, we frequently heard the phrase “who has my flashlight” being uttered by the outdoor crew. About one hour after the first QSO on 40m, the first contact was logged on 30 meters.
Our build plan for the first night was to work until 3:00 am and then we had an option: catch a few hours rest or run on empty throughout the first full day of the operation. While we were eager, we also realized the demands of the new day would be better served with a few hours rest.
As would become our routine, we enjoyed a quick breakfast of freshly baked croissants and coffee in the Maxotel dining area. By the light of a new day came our first real look at the Maxotel’s spectacular location at the northerly end of the island. Looking out the front door of Room #10, you’re facing east across 250 feet of gently sloping beach to the pounding Atlantic surf. At the waters edge there is sand, but the majority of the beach is covered in pebbles. To say it was awe inspiring does not begin to do justice to this location. There is a vastness to the Atlantic landscape that defies description, but suffice to say in the vastness of this landscape there was a multitude of DX patiently waiting for Team Miquelon to complete their work.
In the course of our antenna building activities on this sunny, but cool Saturday morning we had a very unexpected, but pleasant surprise that was quite literally out of this world. Ramon, XE1KK was our digital mode specialist and while he had previous experience working multi-mode satellite contacts, nothing would prepare him for the almost unbelievable chain of events that were about to unfold.
During a break in antenna setup, Ramon was checking for signals from various known satellites available to our location. Using his standard setup -- a Kenwood TH-D7 handheld in combination with an Arrow II Satellite antenna he tuned through his preprogrammed VHF frequencies. He heard some chatter on the ISS frequency. Experience in other countries suggested to Ramon this could be a pirate operating on the ISS frequency – but such was not the case. He distinctly heard astronaut Mike Fincke -- the ISS Expedition-9 science officer and flight engineer sign clear with his previous contact. The callsign given was NA1SS and Ramon knew this was the real thing!
Fortunately for Ramon, the rest of the Team was nearby and all work stopped as we crowded around, eagerly listening to this “shared moment of excitement” between Astronaut Fincke (whose home call is KE5AIT) and Ramon. Mike responded to Ramon’s first call and they enjoyed several uninterrupted minutes during this very unexpected and historic QSO.
Ironically, this was the last day of the ISS Expedition-9 – they had been in space since April 18, 2004. The Expedition-9 mission concluded with undocking from the station and safe landing back in Kazakhstan later in the day on October 23, 2004. In addition to the 187 day mission aboard the ISS in which Lt. Col. (USAF) Mike Fincke logged a total of 16 hours EVA time in four spacewalks, he can also add working the FP/VE7SV DXpedition to his list of extraterrestrial accomplishments.
The level of excitement on the beach was joyous! Ramon had just gone one-on-one for several minutes with the orbiting International Space Station – a truly long path contact if there ever was one. What a great way to start our day! What a great way to start our DXpedition!
The days events proceeded quickly and everyone forgot about lunch until Andy arrived from a quick visit to the village bearing gifts. Wonderful fresh French baguette bread, cheese, meat and of course red wine -- after all we were in France! After the hearty lunch work resumed and proceeded throughout the day and into the evening which in turn saw Station #3 and #4 brought on the air. With the exception of the 80m 4-square and Battle Creek Special, we now had everything operational. The four one-kilowatt stations operated flawlessly without the slightest hint of inter-station interference due to our use of ICE bandpass filters and good antenna separation.
We utilized TR Log running on laptop computers for our logging system. This in turn allowed us to establish our station network linking the four operating positions. Paul, VA7NT prepared the laptops, set up the network and kept it in-service for the entire operation.
While antenna construction was the focus of our outdoor activities, serving the Deserving was clearly the focus of our on-air Team. Throughout the day we alternated operators and antenna builders between indoor and outdoors activities. That way everyone had a chance to warm up while they offered up FP/VE7SV to the world.
Without question, one item that consumed much of our planning process was how to deal with the 220v electrical supply on Miquelon. We wanted a strategy that required the least amount of rewiring yet offered us the most universal approach. Miquelon is European and French in many ways and the electrical distribution system is no exception. We learned before our departure the Maxotel had a distribution panel with circuit breakers in each room. We didn’t know the exact shape or configuration of the 220v receptacles but after some research, gambled on the standard round French outlet configuration. This turned out to be correct.
Each station had a power bar that accepted 115v plugs from our equipment. Using a $10 universal power adapter plug, we were able to plug the 115v power bars into the 220v receptacles. This approach meant no rewiring of any plugs so all our gear (converted to 220v) reminded intact.
The ICOM 756 PROII radio power requirements were easy to satisfy. We simply moved the voltage selector jumper in their PS125 black-cube power supplies. It actually took longer to get the lid off the power supply than to move the jumper. The ACOM 1000 amplifiers plugged directly into our universal power adapter plug and then to the 220v mains. The Alpha amps required more amperage so we made extension cords for those two amps and hard-wired them into the distribution panel. The panel construction was first class and had lots of extra capacity as well as several 220v 20a circuits. The room had a small refrigerator and electric stove each on 20a breakers which we disconnected so the circuit breakers could be used to supply the Alphas.
There were a few items (i.e. cell phones, 2m radio chargers, Comtek antenna switchboxes etc.) that needed 115v so we utilized a 220/110 transformer purchased at Main Electronics.
Using lessons learned while operating from both Slovenia and Finland in the WRTC events, both Dale and Andy constantly stressed we should never take any power outlet values for granted. While we had escaped the wrath of Murphy thus far, we made a point of measuring the voltage at every plug before connecting anything! Thanks to a masterful job by Andy, VE7AHA our station power grid worked flawlessly throughout the operation. The only problem was with the 220/110 transformer. It was wired incorrectly at the factory but Lee, VE7CC quickly diagnosed and corrected the error.
So with station layout, power distribution and antenna construction under control or completed, it was time to move into high gear in terms of giving FP/VE7SV to the Deserving. Our strategy from the outset was to not operate SSB on contest bands prior to CQWW SSB contest. It was our hope that we would have many stations wanting to work us to complete their all band, all mode sweeps of FP/VE7SV during the contest. Many stations asked “when SSB?” and our reply was always “in the contest”. It was our belief that we would benefit from this strategy but it wasn’t until after the contest that we came to appreciate just how much of an advantage this strategy provided.
The two remaining antenna assembly projects were the Battle Creek Special and the 80m 4-square. Both of these tasks fell to Lee, VE7CC (aka Mr. Low Band). Melissa, VE7MMI subsequently took control of the erecting the Battle Creek Special. We were fortunate to have her expertise to get this beast up and operating. The antenna ships in a custom-made wooden box about 6’ long and 10” square and the call signs that adorn the box read like the who’s who of DXpeditions. Under Melissa’s guidance, the project was completed in record time. On the air, this antenna played like nothing any of us had ever had the privilege of using. With some of the radials literally in the Atlantic Ocean, this antenna – coupled with our superb propagation, allowed us to deliver a huge signal on 160m. Some Europeans said we sounded like locals. Nodir, EY8MM told us we owed him a new radio as we had broken his S meter. Steve, VK6VZ said our signals were just amazing. He went on to say, “This is not just DX’ing on the edge; it is DX’ing over the edge”. The positive comments from the Deserving on 160m were fabulous for the Team spirit.
With the Battle Creek Special in service, Lee was now able to focus his efforts on the 80m 4-square antenna. From the outset of our planning process, he was unwavering in his determination to build a 4-square on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. Without question, the design is labor intensive and requires a massive effort, but in return it delivers unparalleled performance. In the summer of 2004, Lee finalized the design of his portable 4-sqaure project.
From the bottom up, each vertical element started with a 10 ft length of galvanized 1-3/8” diameter steel pipe commonly used in chain-link fence construction. Fastened to this pipe were two 15 ft lengths of fiberglass pole-vaulting pole and to top it off was a 30 ft MFJ (telescoping) fiberglass pole which brought the overall height to 70 ft. Wrapped around the fiberglass portion of each vertical was #16 wire which created the radiating element. This design eliminated the need to insulate the steel pipe base of each element. Each vertical employed two one-quarter wave radials approximately 6-8 feet above ground.
With guy points at 10, 25 and 40 feet, each vertical element employed four 6 foot lengths of 3/8" steel rebar for anchor points. The top 30 feet of each element was not guyed. In retrospect, the 1/16 inch yellow poly rope used for the guys was marginal at best, but it worked. Lee said, “I didn't realize just how much this rope would stretch in a 60 mph wind – next time I’ll use black Dacron rope”. In total, 2000 feet of rope was used for the guying system.
The first vertical was erected during the daylight on the day after we arrived and given it performed very well and withstood the wind, Lee proceeded with the second vertical two days later. There was a minor delay in construction while Lee was attended to for a severe cut to his CW sending finger. Somehow (and perhaps only Murphy really knows the circumstances), Lee’s finger got between the sledge hammer and the top of the rebar used for guy anchors. Ouch! With the finger bandaged, Lee and Melissa worked well after dark on Tuesday night to build the last two verticals and complete the project.
After several days of demanding physical effort in less than ideal working conditions, the 4-square was now operational with outstanding results. The 80m pileups had been sizable, but the 4-square made them huge! On receive, the directivity of the 4-square allowed us to hear the weaker stations. To control the array, we used a Comtek ACB-80 phased array switch box which worked flawlessly.
In the coming days, we settled into our individual routines. While we had each planned to take time for sight-seeing and perhaps even a day trip to Saint-Pierre, we soon discovered our time was consumed by keeping the 4 stations operating 24 hours per day. This afforded us enough time to eat, sleep, shop for food and work on antennas. On the rare days when we had good weather we were able to get away for 2 to 3 hours of sightseeing in our rental car-- which everyone did at least once or twice.
Given our staggered work schedules, we utilized the small kitchen in our room for most meals except breakfast which we collectively enjoyed in the communal dining room. We tended to share food preparation duties with our room mates. While Miquelon has a very well stocked hardware store, food services are somewhat limited. Some coordination was required given the bakery was only open from 7AM each morning and was usually sold out by 10AM. The grocery store was open in the morning but closed from noon until 4:00 pm each day. Running out of food meant going to the local "Snack Bar" restaurant which had an extensive menu.
During our shifts on-air, we continually attempted to work down the endless pileups. We rarely called CQ and always worked split frequency. With this volume you might think it difficult for any one contact to standout above all the others, but for Alan, VE7SZ, it’s easy to remember one particular QSO. He was working the low bands at sunrise and was called by JA8ISU on 160m CW. Alan says, “We worked and that was the only JA that made it into our 160m log. I kept looking for more after him, but nothing -- except he called again 15 minutes later to keep me going”. This was surely a memorable QSO for Alan and JA8ISU.
Sporadically throughout the week, Ramon, XE1KK worked RTTY when time permitted and the popularity of this mode proved overwhelming. The dedicated equipment setup for the mode was simple; a small Sony laptop running Writelog connected through a West Mountain Radio RIGblaster nomic to the 756 PROII. Ramon says, “Working RTTY from Miquelon was a very exciting experience for me. The pileups started with the 2nd or 3rd call so I went split (5 up) immediately. But again very quickly I had to call for "5 and up" and during the most intense levels of activity, I had a 40 KHz spread of stations calling”. Signals from Japan and the Far East (UA0) were not very strong and had severe artic flutter, but almost without question, every signal heard was worked. In total Ramon logged 1008 QSO’s giving a ‘new one’ to many of the Deserving.
As the weekend approached we began our final check of preparations for the CQWW SSB contest. There really wasn’t much to do; everything had been running so smoothly all week. By late in the day on October 28 we had just over 35,000 Q’s in the log. Band conditions had been fabulous all week. Dave, VE7VR was heard to say at one point, "40m is just as busy at 4AM as 15m is at mid-day".
Band conditions sounded great as the contest began and we hoped our strategy of not working SSB until the contest would produce results. During the contest we were divided into 2 groups of four people and operated 4 complete stations; 4 hours on and 4 hours off, for the full 48 hours. There were no operating shift conflicts and everyone seemed to have as much on-air time as they wished. Given our compliment of operator expertise, we were able to maintain some very significant hourly rates during the contest. At one point Dale, VE7SV had a run rate of 300 per hour on 10m!
During the contest we made one equipment change. Given the 2-el 40m vertical array would be operating during daylight hours in the contest, we relocated our 20m 2-element PVDA (phased vertical dipole array) to a point nearer the water. With all off duty operators working together this move was accomplished in approximately 20 minutes. Ironically the move took place just as the French TV news team arrived to film our activities.
In the heat of the contest, Dale worked our friend Martti, OH2BH operating as ZA/OH2BH. In a brief exchange after the contact was logged, Martti said to Dale, “the Deserving are happy”. Knowing Martti as we do, we realized we could receive no finer compliment for the quality of our operation. The master had spoken and we were delighted with what we had heard!
At the close of the contest we had 15,302 contacts in the log with 163 zones and 637 countries for a total of 31,540,000 points. We hoped it was enough – it was all that we had to give. We each knew we had done our best. In the months after the contest we found it was good enough to hold a tentative position of third overall in the world M/M (HP).
On Monday, November 1, we had an opportunity to work a few stations on 6m using the SteppIR yagi. While the band appeared noisy, some beacons were heard. Given the often fickle nature of this ‘magic’ band, conditions proved to be nothing short of amazing. The first entry in the 6m log was F6GEX at 1230z. The opening lasted for just less than 3 hours and we logged a total of 31 contacts; Ramon made the first 13 on SSB and Dave wrapped up the opening with 18 on CW. Ironically, these were the very first 6m QSO’s Dave had ever made – what a great introduction to the band. This unexpected, but very exciting opening certainly made a few operators in France and Italy very happy indeed.
While the wind had been more or less constant for our entire stay on
the Island, it had one last surprise for us on Monday night. Mother Nature
proved in no uncertain terms she could move even the best antenna anchors.
The wind howled at speeds in excess of 60 miles per hour for most of the
night. At one point, a picnic table that we’d used for a set of guy
anchors was dragged several feet along the beach. That in itself is
surprising, but given it took 4 of us to lift the table, you can begin to
appreciate the power of the wind.
By the light of day on Tuesday morning we could see just how powerful the wind had been through the night. Many antennas had been blown over, but we had no real damage to speak of and besides this was the day to tear-down the antenna farm. We’d just had a little help to get started. As the station was being disassembled and packed, Ramon remained on the radio. Towards the end of the tear-down, the 20m station was whittled down to the bare essentials. We had literally taken the station apart around him. Throughout these last hours on the air the pile-ups remained, but the DXpedition had drawn to a close. At 1949z on November 02, NS6C was the last contact in the log -- FP/VE7SV was now QRT.
We had operated for 10 days and had just short of 60,000 contacts in the log. The DXpedition had come to the end of its run on the world stage. The Deserving had received our best performance and we knew they were happy. We didn’t have a single equipment failure; there was nothing that we had forgotten to pack – not a single item. The curtain had fallen and we reluctantly walked off stage. It was a great run and for all but one of us, the performance had ended. For Dick, N7RO our QSL Manager, the opportunity to serve the Deserving would continue through the coming months.
We have many people to thank for making our dream a reality. Behind the scenes our many supporters were there for us every step of the way. Wives, children and loved ones all made sacrifices so we could live our dream. But most of all, you -- our audience made us understand the wisdom of Red Eyed Louie when he said “ DX is” and the eternal question of “Where do we go next?” is asked.