AN OPERATION TO ACTIVATE ANOTHER DXCC FOR THE FIRST TIME ON 6M EME
View toward Sunset
Providing the first ever 6m contacts
to the United States from VK9C and VK9X in 2017
and from C2 last fall is a tough act to
follow! This year, I am activating two rare
DXCC that have never been on 6m EME before. Nobody
in the USA has contacted S7 on 6m for many years,
and I understand it also is still quite rare in
Europe, Africa, Asia and other countries. Since it is the bottom of a very poor
solar cycle, there is little chance of making
any long distance contacts on 50 MHz via the
ionosphere. However, I believe I have located a
good site to operate EME (moonbounce), and will
be active there during optimum days of the month
and at a time of the year to take
advantage of the superb EME conditions afforded at
this point in the low solar cycle!
Since this country is VERY rare, I am
looking forward to providing a new DXCC with
practically every half million mile contact. In order to provide sufficient advance
planning for stations wishing to contact me
while I am in S7, I am providing plenty of
advance notice of this DXpedition. I urge you to gain experience with JT65A and
follow my Step-By-Step JT65A Setup Checklist
to make sure you are using it properly for
EME! And especially review the QSO
PROCEDURE that I use most effectively on
these DXpeditions. Remember also to use
messages (the two tone RO, RRR and 73) in
JT65A! I look forward to contacting you on
As you know, a
good location can mean everything to the success
of one of these DXpeditions. The above
photos show you some of the key reasons that make
this a highly desirable location. Most of
the time I will be elevated, and everything
southwest of 330 degrees azimuth is out over the
ocean; all the moonsets are between 265 and 295
degrees azimuth. I will be 100' east of the
beach, and expect to have good ground gain on my
moonset, although there probably will not be very
low lobes, since I will only be 44' above the
ocean and there are islands only a few miles
offshore. There is a rise to the east, but
it may be possible to have a ground gain lobe
between 7 and 13 degrees elevation on my moonrise;
all my moonrises are between 65 and 90 degrees
site does afford reliable AC power, a source of
food, a secure and safe location for the
equipment, and an open spot to be able to set up
and operate the antenna immediately to the north
of the station. And, in the event there IS
some ionospheric propagation, I have a clear shot
over the water toward Europe. And the power
lines are to the east, which is a direction I will
rarely be pointing.
My equipment is described in detail here. As you can see from reviewing the results on my web pages from previous 6m EME DXpeditions, many contacts were made with single yagi horizon-only stations. The smallest station contacted from all the DXCC so far was N3CXV with his single 6M5X yagi (and 8877 amplifier) and extremely short, low loss feedline. If you have a good yagi, good ground gain, a quiet QTH, good power and lots of patience, we should be able to complete, even if you are a horizon-only single yagi station!
If you copy me, please spot me on the DX Cluster so people will know the correct grid locator, as well as the frequency and my status. I will diligently try to be QRV during all my moonrises and moonsets as published on the operating schedule. The antenna will be installed at a height of 44' above the ocean, and it will soon become clear after a few moonsets and moonrises which elevations are best for my ground gain lobes and what effects, if any, the trees to the east and west of my antenna have (in terms of attenuation and also as possible obstructions preventing aiming in certain azimuths/elevations). Please watch the ON4KST EME CHAT page and/or the DX Cluster for updates on what people are copying and when.
Please keep calling me even if you copy me working someone else. As long as you are not on the same frequency as the other station, you will not be interfering with them. Please coordinate your calling frequency with others on the ON4KST EME CHAT page to prevent interfering with each other - ideally, stations should be spread out every 200 Hz. I try to decode all callers every receive sequence, and I make a note of each caller and their DF (or "offset:") so I can reply to you as soon as I am able, or use that frequency to identify you later if you are copying me (by sending me OOO - see the special DXpedition QSO Procedure link above). Therefore, NEVER change your transmit frequency after you start calling - pick a clear frequency nobody else is using and stay on it! I will try to contact any callers I can copy, but first priority will be given to people who are copying at that particular time, contributors, and stations with shorter common moon windows. I also will be giving priority to those stations who have demonstrated their unselfish commitment to 6m EME by their willingness to accept schedules as requested by other DXers who still need their DXCC.
NOTE TO ALL STATIONS: Remember that I am using a single yagi, and it can be elevated only to a maximum elevation of 65 degrees, and if the guy ropes are wet, the elements are shorted out causing high SWR, making operation impossible. I have a lot better success when my elevation is below 45 degrees. So....even if you figure we have plenty of common window time, PLEASE don't wait until my elevation is too high to work you - if you are horizon-only, I encourage you to try to contact me when my moon is lower than 45 degrees elevation if at all possible! There is also another reason for trying to contact me when my moon is lower - Because my antenna is only 24' above the ground, I do get some additional ground gain when my moon is below 45 degrees elevation. That is one reason why I have been so successful on 6m EME with only a single yagi! You will also notice that I have very short common moon windows with all NA stations during my moonset. If you are in EU and you have a 6m EME array with elevation, PLEASE call me before moonrise in NA. I will be giving priority to NA stations during their moonrise. There is lots of time to work EU while we are both elevated and/or during your moonrise - MNI TNX!!!
On the above tentative operating schedule spreadsheet, I have indicated times when the elevation is over 50 degrees by marking the time periods with diagonal lines throughout the cells. If possible, I will try to remain QRV when the moon is high and elevate as high as I can, especially during the days of lowest Degradation. However, if nobody seems to be around, I may choose to go QRT when the moon is above 65 degrees. Please check on the ON4KST EME CHAT page for updates regarding my activity during such periods.
Please also note that heavy rains can create a 1.5:1 SWR on the antenna, which is high enough to shut down the amplifier. So, I may have to be off the air at times. Please just keep watch on 50.190 and I will try to stick to the published schedule as well as I can.
As explained above, I expect to be able to send out daily updates to the MAGIC BAND EME email group and revise this website daily with a list of the stations worked. Please watch the MAGIC BAND EME email list for updated information. Please also share any updates with others on the ON4KST EME CHAT page. If there is some question regarding a contact, please DO call again. However, once you have confirmed a contact with me, please do not call for a second contact - some of the common moon windows during the lowest Degradation periods are extremely limited, and many stations are expected to be calling during those short windows.
Sorry, no LOTW, eQSL or other newfangled ways of confirmation. I will be using old fashioned photo QSL cards. Please QSL DIRECT with SASE (foreign stations include a current IRC or $2 USD for postage) direct to:
Lance Collister, W7GJ
Frenchtown, MT 59834-0073
If we have completed an EME contact, I am happy to QSL direct to you for free. However, I will very much appreciate receiving your card and a self addressed envelope to relieve some of the burden of looking up all your addresses! On my last DXpedition, I had two cards that I sent out direct that could not be delivered because the address on QRZ.COM was incorrect - PSE make sure your correct mailing address is listed on QRZ.COM! MNI TNX!
FREQUENCY AND SEQUENCE
For EME, I plan to operate on 50.190 and will always transmit in the first sequence JT65A mode. I will be using WSJT-X and will transmit on an "offset" of 1270 Hz, to align with DF=0 for people still using JT65A from WSJT10. With the "Wide Graph" of JT65A from WSJT-X, and my wide, flat bandwidth receiver, I should be able to see callers from an offset of about 150 to 2550 Hz. However, remember there could be a 100 Hz doppler shift on your signal, so please don't try to get too close to those band edges, or I may never be able to find you! It is always safest to have your signal fall within + and - 1000 Hz of 1270 Hz.
Please check the ON4KST EME CHAT page for news from other hams in case I have to change this frequency due to receiver birdies at my end ! If you should copy me on some ionospheric mode while I am pointed at the moon and calling CQ on JT65A mode, please answer me on JT65A mode and let's make a quick contact! It is very inconvenient for me to switch modes while I am calling CQ or working EME stations on JT65A mode, so please do not call me on CW, SSB or FT8 and expect me to switch over to answer you. When I am not aimed up at the moon, I very well may be on FT8 mode. For FT8, I will be using WSJT-X on 50.313 MHz. My QTH appears to be around 15 degrees south of the geomagnetic equator, so there very well may be some ionospheric propagation somewhere - please spot me if you copy me on a direct path (my DT=0).
It is extremely expensive to haul a 6m EME station halfway around the world. Too many times, we hear DXpedition stations say they can't take a 6m beam and/or amp because "they are already overweight and cannot afford the excess baggage fees". If you want to do a good job and are committed to going halfway around the world to succeed, this unfortunately is a large part of the necessary expense. Although I always keep my costs as low as possible, my travel, excess baggage and lodging costs alone to activate this rare one will be over $8000. Therefore, any contributions toward the DXpedition are greatly appreciated! If you would like to contribute, please send your contribution by check or cash to my QRZ.com mailing address, or directly via PayPal to my email address, which is my current PayPal account. I am only able to do these long distance 6m EME DXpeditions every year because of the continued support from the 6m community and I am extremely indebted to you for your continued support. I have the time and equipment to go more often than once a year to new rare DXCC, but I just don't have the finances available. Many thanks to the following hams who recognize that a large percentage of the costs are incurred before leaving, and have already very generously contributed to this DXpedition:
K2ZD, N7IP, KJ9I, SP4MPB, JA7QVI, K5QE, SM7FJE, G8VR, ZL3NW, JG1TSG, K7CW, ON4IQ, ON4GG, OH7KM, GM3POI, N3XX, K6EME VE1JF, OH2BC, N8GTI, W8PAT, I4EAT, I4YRW, N4II, W3UUM, UR0MC, SP3RNZ, S57RR, YU7EF, LY2IJ, W8OI, KL7HBK, JO1PSX, G8BCG, N6JV, W6UC, S51DI, F6BKI, N1DG, SP7VC, K4PI, K4RX, KB7Q, W6XU, K6QXY, K5NA, K5DU, N8RR, YL2AO, ZS4TX, K7KX, S59Z, G4BWP, K2ZJ, IW5DHN WB9Z, NV9L, W5NZS, OZ4VV, W5ADD, K7RWT, K8CX.W9GA, W9JN, G3WOS, DK8NE, PC5C, VK4MA, N4WW, HA0DU, KX4R, VK5PJ, MM0AMW, PA5Y, G5WQ, W8HC, PA7MM, K1SIX, UW7LL, OA4TT, KG7H, W7JW, OH7KM, W3UUM, JE3GRQ, N7NW
PHOTOS AND UPDATES
FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 20. Our flight from Dubai landed at the airport on Mahe Island around 0630 local time. By 0700 we were through immigration and customs and waiting in the terminal with our luggage. Out shuttle bus transporting us to the Ferry Terminal showed up at 0925 and we just made it to the Ferry in time to pay for our excess baggage and get on the ferry to Praslin and La Digue Islands. By 1230 local time we were checking into our bungalow...50 hours after we left our house in Montana! By dark that evening, I had the antenna location measured out, the guy line anchors properly located, and the mast assembled and installed waiting for the 6M8GJ yagi to be put on the end. I also began assembling the 6M8GJ boom sections and assembled all the yagi elements.
|SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 21. I assembled
the 6M8GJ and by 1330, bolted it to the end of the mast,
and raised it. The 50' of LMR600UF coaxial cable was
fitted through a window and the opening stuffed with foam
padding I had used to cushion the contents of the
suitcases. Then I assembled the station in the
bungalow bedroom just to the south of the 6M8GJ. I started
the first moon pass at my moonrise, which was on Saturday
GMT, but was after local midnight. The location of the
beach bungalow we rented was inside a national park, with
underground utilities, and empty fields to the
north. It proved to be a good quiet location,
although the large granite outcrop to the east seemed to
block signal on my moonrise until around 10 degrees
elevation. Degradation was up around 6 dB, but the
larger 6m EME stations has good signals.
|SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 22. I completed the
first moon pass around mid-day, working 25 stations off
the moon. I was able to finally take a nap before
dinner. After dinner, I went back to bed to rest up
for the second moon pass, which started at 0130 local
|MONDAY SEPTEMBER 23. I finished the
second moon pass, adding 18 more contacts. Most of
the moon pass was also in the middle of the night for
European stations, which kept the activity from that part
of the world lower than it otherwise would be. The
same situation faced the operators in North America, who
needed to get up in the middle of the night for their very
limited moonrise windows. The cumulative results are shown
in the SUMMARY section below.
Went to bed at 1800 local time, just as a couple people from the hotel management arrived and wanted to tallk about complaints from locals who didn't know what the antenna was and were complaining about my being allowed to have it and always running in and out to adjust it. It can only be seen from the beach at the northwest corner of our property, where they like to hang out and drink beer (and throw the empty bottles). I have an appointment at 3pm Tuesday to show them all the official government paperwork.permitting this operation.
|TUESDAY SEPTEMBER 24. Degradation was down around 2.5 dB most of the third moon pass, which was great for band conditions! I completed with another 21 stations. Below is a photo of theS79GJ antenna up around 63 degrees elevation, just as the moon was coming up in North America.|
|WEDNESDAY SEPTEMBER 25. (Fourth Moon Pass)
Degradation was down to -0.6 dB at moonrise, and headed
further down to an amazing -0.2 dB at the end of the pass,
which was really great! However, the day was totally
overcast with rain on and off all day, so there was no
visual tracking at all. Also, I made no contacts
while aimed at the horizon on my moonrise - possibly
because all the trees and foliage was so wet from all the
rain. I did complete with 12 more stations, as shown in
the SUMMARY below. We were pleased to hear that the
potential problem with the hotel management about the
unusual (and quite marvelous, in my opinion) antenna that
we put up for 6m moonbounce was resolved, and we are
planning to continue operations through Sunday as
scheduled (and previously approved by the hotel
|THURSDAY SEPTEMBER 26. (Fifth Moon Pass)
6m EME this week is like a feeding frenzy, with 3 rare
DXCC (S79GJ, HB0/S59A and A35JT) all being
activated at the same time! ;-) I haven't
had a visual sighting on the moon for several days now,
because of the continued overcast and rain...and now it
is of course getting closer to the sun, so during the
daytime it will be very difficult anyway. But the
Degradation was below 0.2 dB all day, and I was able to
complete 11 more contacts. This brings the total
contacts so far to 87 - thanks to everyone for making
the effort to get up early for a contact! The
entire log is shown at the bottom of my web page:
As my moonset moves into the late afternoon hours, I am
concerned that the high TEC region in the ionosphere may
interfere with the EME signals when I lower the antenna
to the western horizon. This is especially becomes
a problem for North American stations, since our only
common moon window is when my moon is near
moonset. If you have a choice, please try to
contact me when my moon is higher and my antenna is
Good luck to all, and see you tomorrow on moonrise!
|FRIDAY SEPTEMBER 27. (Sixth Moon Pass) The
moonrise here started out rainy and overcast again. but
the Degradation was down to a great -0.1 dB However,
I think it was the low Kp Index that caused me to be
totally locked out from the moon by stalled Faraday
Rotation for the first 2 hours at moonrise. Because
the moon is now rapidly moving in southern Declination, I
had to stop operation around 0630Z and wait for the
moon to come back down close to the maximum elevation of
By the time of the NA moonrise, the Degradation had moved up a tiny bit to -0.2 dB - still outstanding conditions - and ended at moonset at -0.4 dB I was not able to operate on the horizon at moonset, and had to go QRT at 17 degrees elevation because there were too many people on the beach directly in front of the antenna for me to lower it to the horizon . However, that issue was academic anyway because we lost power for an hour right then.
The good news is that during the power outage, I
tied down the antenna toward moonrise tomorrow morning,
and see that the moon should come up just to the south
of the big granite outcrop :-) So, I am planning
to get moon around 5 degrees elevation in the morning
instead of 10 degrees!
|SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 28 (Seventh Moon Pass) The Degradation was under -1.4 dB all pass, but the Kp index was 5. I completed with 8 more stations today.|
|SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 29 (Eigth Moon Pass) The
Kp index was 4 and the Degredation was -2.2 but the Kp
index was still up at 4. As predicted, the high Kp index,
and high TEC over S79, coupled with the extremely high
moon (almost directly overhead), made contacts toward the
end of the DXpedition very difficult. It also didn't
help that I had no visual sighting of the moon all week
On moonrise, I only worked one station - FK8CP. I had to take take a break for several hours during the middle of the pass, when the moon was simply too high for me to reach. Then in the middle of the day, a birthday or wedding reception party started just to the northwest of the antenna. But thankfully I didn't seem to interfere with their live band's PA system. It was very easy to monitor it, since it was VERY loud inside the ham shack!
However by moonset, the Kp index had dropped down again to K=2, and I was able I complete with two more stations, bringing the total worked to 106. I had a nice visit from NI6G, who came to spend a couple hours here at the shack before leaving the island to head home to the USA ;-) Before bed, I was able to complete a contact with S79 by working S79KW on tropo using FM on 50.200 ;-)
Contrary to my published schedule, I will NOT be QRV on moonrise Monday. I have to spend the day taking down the antenna and packing for departure to a different place.
Thanks to all who made the effort to get out of bed in the middle of the night to take advantage of the good conditions earlier in the week! My operations from the tropics are always much better if I can operate during the local night time, unhampered by high TEC activity during the daytime. I greatly appreciate your dedication and the time you invested in trying to contact me I will be updating the web page to also include all the "copied but not contacted stations" as time permits.
Until the next rare DXCC, MNI TNX and VY 73, Lance
|MONDAY SEPTEMBER 30. Took down the antenna
and packed up all the gear today. And tonight was
the first clear night in a week, with good visual on the
setting moon! Oh well...
|TUESDAY OCTOBER 1. Checked out of the
lodging used for EME and relocated to a hotel on the
northeast tip of the island.
|THURSDAY OCTOBER 3. Tried to activate the
only SOTA peak on the island, using my KX3 and some long
wires. Story with photos is here: https://reflector.sota.org.uk/t/attempt-at-first-activation-of-s7-sc-011-nid-d-aigle-on-la-digue-island/21497
|SATURDAY OCTOBER 5. Checked out, took ferry over to Mahe, bus to the airport, and began flying back to Missoula, Montana via Dubai and Seattle.|
|SUNDAY OCTOBER 6. Arrived home at
2130 local time (0330Z Monday October 7).
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
|The antenna was set up on the north side of
L’Union Chalet #96 in the Union Estate Park in the
southwest corner of La Digue Island. There are only four
bungalows inside the park, all managed by the La Digue
Island Resort. The bungalow afforded air conditioning,
reliable 230 VAC and Wi-Fi. The sandy grounds on the north
were large enough to erect and operate the 6M8GJ yagi,
although there was a very large granite outcrop just to
the east of the property, which blocked the moonrise below
10 degrees elevation. On moonset, a very large tree at the
edge of the beach seemed to block signals to the west.
Ground gain (when the antenna was not elevated), in
general was less than expected. This may be due to
irregular granite formations under the sandy surface
layer. Otherwise, it was an ideal QTH!
The 6m EME station this trip was: M2 6M8GJ yagi, Portable Mast & 6M1K2 PA; 50’ LMR 600 Ultra Flex coax; Yaesu FT-857 transceiver; RIGblaster Plug & Play interface; ARR MSP50VDG preamp modified for output to a separate receiver; NESDR .5 ppm USB RTL Dongle used as a separate receiver; W7GJ manual elevation mount; Daiwa CN101-L wattmeter; Powerwerx SS-30DV 12 VDC 30A and Meanwell RSP 3000-48 switching power supplies; and Dell XPS-13 9370 64 bit laptop with Win10 v1903. Other software used was SDR Console v3.0.13, VAC v126.96.36.1991 and WSJT-X v2.1.0. Conditions toward the end of operation were challenging due to areas of high TEC in front of the antenna, and a geomagnetic storm. As predicted, conditions were much better during the week but that required people in NA and EU to get out of bed in the middle of the night to contact me. Some found the sacrifice worthwhile, and I completed 106 EME contacts in 31 DXCC. 29 more stations in 6 more DXCC were decoded but not contacted. I did also make a 6m FM ground wave contact with S79KW for DXCC #32.
I did try a SOTA activation from S7/SC-011 with my KX3 on October 2, but I was unable to contact anyone on HF during the middle of the day when I was on the summit.
The operation was 8 complete moon passes, except for a few hours when the moon was almost directly overhead, and an hour one day during moonset when beachgoers had settled down right in front of the antenna. Details of stations worked as well as stations only decoded are shown in the table below. Thanks again to all the stations I contacted, for making the effort to get up in the middle of the night for your moonrise. Thanks also to all the supporters whose contributions made this trip possible.