Preparation breeds confidence. Your confidence that you will get your ATNO depends on your preparation. One great way to prepare is to first look at the geography of long and short path. VOACAP Online has this in an easy to use visual tool. In the above plot, from my QTH in Orinda to Heard Island (Atlas Cove) the short path is 215 degrees. The VOACAP prediction looks GREAT!
There’s a potential problem: Mawson Peak (the volcano on Heard Island). I hit the jackpot with a 9000 foot mountain right in the path upon getting onto Heard Island. The propagation prediction shows 20 and 17M being very good for many hours. But what about that volcano? We had N6BV, Dean Straw run HFTA with the volcano in the way and the results are posted in the Propagation Section of this site. Please read that section – its important. Here is the one image I need to really understand:
What this chart says is low angles will be cut off by the volcano at about 11 degrees and below. Ironically, my QTH is down in a bowl, and when I ran HFTA at my QTH, I found that my nearby hills block signals at 11 degrees and below. So – what do I lose with a volcano in the way at Heard and the hills around me in Orinda? About 3 – 6 dBi. This is really good news because I understand something about propagation. I am prepared. I know that when a band opens and closes, the angles of arrival change – usually go from lower to higher or vice versa. This does vary by band, but between the loss at the higher angles not being too terribly bad, and that the arrival angles at least for a short time being “good enough”, as long as the team is listening from Atlas for the West Coast or Central US “at the right times” – then a QSO on 20 or 17M should be possible – even when the team is at Atlas Cove. So – what would “the right times be”?
In 2005, I worked FT5XO at these times:
On 20M, where I have 3 elements at 50′, even with Mawson in the way, sunrise and sunset on 20M and 17M should be good. If they were going as originally planned last December, I would be really out of luck because both 20 and 17M would be closed at these times. 40 and 30M probably would have been “OK”, but because VK0EK will be there during the Vernal Equinox, we should see some very interesting propagation. The “numbers” all match FT5XO – time of year, position and numbers in the sunspot cycle.
Another crucial thing is that the East Coast and Europe will be in dark or light when the West Coast and Heard Island are in mutual grey line. YOU need to always know when either YOU or VK0EK are in the grey line. If at least ONE of you are in the grey line – all kinds of interesting possibilities open up for you. The best is that you may have a path where other highly populated areas of the world (your “competition”) do NOT have a path on that band or bands. This is the way the little pistol gets in the log easily with 100 watts and a dipole or vertical!
This means I now have more confidence than I originally had about working Atlas Cove from the West Coast than I did during the DXpedition planning.
Here is Atlas on the Long Path from Orinda. The volcano is not in the way, and the probability and time open really drops. Furthermore, this path goes over the East Coast, Africa and the Middle East. I also have the tallest hill in my way – so I have very low confidence in this direction – BUT I would be foolish not to try this path later in the DXpedition when they are begging on 20M and 17M. (Or when the VK0EK ops ask for West Coast only at 0300z when they are only at Atlas Cove). This is really a long shot and wishful thinking. The probability is MUCH higher that I will work them short path – even with the volcano in the way.
Here is Spit from Orinda with an all water path. Surprisingly, it doesn’t look a whole lot better than Atlas, but this is because we aren’t taking terrain in consideration. For this you really need to go to the K6TU propagation site and follow instructions for detailed instructions and easy to use “widgets”. Please see the propagation section for links.
Bottom Line: Spit Bay will offer the West Coast, Central US, VK/ZL, OC and parts of Asia a clear path, but since Spit will only be activated for about a week in the middle of the DXpedition, its NOT a good idea to just wait and rely on working them when they are on Spit. The better idea would be to understand that even with Mawson in the way, higher angles during opening and closing of the bands could be your ticket to an ATNO!
And having confidence that you have:
- Prepared your antenna farm
- Prepared your power – more is better once you have done #1 above
- Looked at all of the valuable information on VK0EK.ORG
You will get in the log. I just saw cluster spots where the ops were asking questions that have been answered on this VK0EK.ORG site. These are the same kind of ops that jump into a pileup and start asking “Where are they listening?”
But YOU know better – YOU have planned and you will make your Q while others are scratching their head. They will be no competition to you, and hopefully they won’t cause DQRM, but the more I think about it – the more I think DQRMers are people who simply aren’t prepared. They are just frustrated.
Knowledge is Power! May the Force be With You!