3D2C Dxpedition to Conway Reef
September 26th – October 4th, 2012
By Paul S. Ewing-N6PSE
Sometimes a team sets out to do a Dxpedition and for many varied reasons, you don’t meet your intended goals. Sometimes it takes another attempt to accomplish what the team has set out to do. Dxpedition leaders often have an idea or a goal in mind that is not satisfied until the DX community says “bravo-well done”.
Hrane Milosevic-YT1AD is one such determined leader. He first activated Conway Reef in February, 2001. His team was comprised of eight operators and their goal was to satisfy the many needs for a Conway Reef contact.
Hurricane Paula was making its way towards Conway Reef with only four days and 29,000 contacts in the log when the team was forced to abandon their plans and quickly evacuate the island. They packed up their equipment and motored for 40 hours back to Fiji to ride out the hurricane.
Following hurricane Paula, the team returned to Europe but immediately began to make plans for a second attempt to complete their Dxpedition to Conway Reef. They set a goal of a second attempt for October 2001. Later in October, a team of 11 members made their way towards Fiji. Their timing and schedules were heavily impacted by lost items in their luggage that delayed the start for 3-4 days.
After six days of waiting for their lost gear, they went QRV from Conway Reef and made 37,000 contacts.
Following this activation, the team still felt there was an unmet need and decided to wait ten years and to try again for Conway Reef. In 2009, a group of Germans activated Conway Reef, but due to poor propagation, the needs of Europe were not fulfilled. We had planned to go to Conway Reef in 2010, however based on the German Team’s 3D20CR activation; we delayed our plans and went to Rotuma Island-3D2R instead.
This gave us more time to study the need for Conway Reef. We found that Conway Reef was #35 on Club Log’s most wanted list and this was reason enough. We reviewed the activation in 2009 by the German 3D20CR team. We found that due to poor propagation conditions in 2009, there was still a significant need in Europe for a contact from Conway Reef. Our decision was made; we would plan to activate Conway Reef with a significant presence and impact to the remaining need.
Our team leader, Hrane Milosevic-YT1AD is very experienced at leading Island/Tent/Generator DXpeditions. We were fortunate to have for our use much of the same equipment intended for 3D2R-Rotuma Island Dxpedition that we conducted only a year earlier. In addition, many of the team members from 3D2R wanted to return to Fiji and be a part of the 3D2C team. I was personally and particularly delighted that we were able to add three new members to the 3D2C team that were participating in a Dxpedition for their first time!
Hrane arranged for the Russian team members to arrive in Suva, Fiji a few days in advance of the main team. They would unpack the shipping container and examine and make the necessary equipment tests. To their horror, it was discovered that corrosion had attacked two of our generators and they were unable to be run and tested. Upon Hrane’s arrival in Suva, he set out to buy three new replacement generators at a cost of $2000 each!
While Hrane procured the replacement generators, the remaining team members loaded our vessel in preparation for the 36 hour voyage to Conway Reef.
We arrived at the reef on the morning of September 26th. We had heard reports that the reef had significantly diminished in size and that there was no vegetation, however it was easy to see plenty of vegetation, however there are no trees on the island. The south side of the reef is protected by a significant barrier reef on three sides of the island. We anchored on the north side of the island in fifty feet of water which would better enable us to approach the island and cross the reef at high tides. This effectively made it impossible to enter or leave the reef at any time except at high-tide. We decided to plan our shift changes and meal breaks to coincide with the tides.
As soon as we were at anchor, Hrane and the small boat crew would explore the reef and chart a path for us to cross the reef each day. Small buoys were placed in a dotted line across the reef, which even at high tide was very shallow and almost impossible for our small boat. We could see that there were three shipwrecks at Conway Reef, one of them very recent. We wanted to avoid being the 4th!
Once a path was found across the reef, we quickly broke into loading and unloading teams. The unloading teams went ashore while the loading team staged all of the gear at the stern in preparation for loading on our small inflatable boat that would make approximately ten trips back and forth across the reef to get all of our gear on the island.
I did not envy the unloading team already on shore who would have to lift the heavy generators out of the small boat and carry them across the beach to our camp.
Soon, all the gear and the team were ashore and we began to set up the two large tents and various antennas.
The team sets up one of the four three element Yagi antennas that we would use on Conway Reef. In addition, we would have separate verticals for 30, 40, 80 and 160 meters.
Conway Reef “Light & Power” was set up on the beach away from the Operating tent. You can see the Island Dancer II in the background at anchor outside the reef. Pictured are three new diesel generators
that were fueled twice a day. The only wildlife that we encountered on the island was the many “boobies” guarding their eggs on the beach and the many hermit crabs and ticks. More about the ticks later!
Our first impressions of Conway Reef were that it was surprisingly cold there. We had expected warm tropical weather as we enjoyed in Fiji, however our voyage had us moving south – west and we were much closer to the climate of New Zealand than we were to Fiji which was further north. While we had some nice warm afternoons, the morning and evenings were quite cold and some of us were unprepared!
The tents, tables and chairs quickly move into place.
Soon, we had the tents in place and most of the antennas erected and it was time to get on the air!
We were thrilled to find that band conditions were excellent! We enjoyed incredible openings on 10 and 12 meters during most of the Dxpedition. 15 & 17 meters were quite good at times. Only 20 meters was disappointing with only a brief opening for a few hours each day but nothing like the great conditions enjoyed on the higher bands.
Alex-UA4HOX and his low-band antenna team set up our 160 meter inverted L on the beach,
next to the sea with many radials running out into the reef. This antenna was quite effective.
Here you can see the Operating tent on the left and the resting tent on the right. The bulk of the team would sleep on the island each night, while 7-8 dayshift operators would return to the vessel at night after dinner, only to return with breakfast the next morning.
Each morning, the dayshift team would arrive from the boat with breakfast for the night team. Here you see the boat-crew bringing scrambled eggs and fried potatoes. In order to increase our effectiveness, we decided to have only two meal breaks each day having breakfast as the day team arrived and enjoying dinner just before sunset. While not intended, most of the team members found that they would lose ten or more pounds of weight during this adventure without really even trying!
The boat crew was very adept at fishing and we enjoyed fresh fish each day while on the reef.
What was it like there?
I’m often asked when I make my various Dxpedition presentations, what was it like there?
Well, it was really fun! Imagine playing radio with massive pileups of excited contact seekers almost as much as you want! The food is good, the radio is great, but best of all is the camaraderie and the new friendships that you make on each Dxpedition. You miss the many comforts of home, but you are having so much fun that you really don’t notice.
Mike-K6MKF operates SSB from 3D2C. Miguel-PY3MM operates at full speed despite having a dislocated shoulder earlier that day!
During our break times, we often went exploring on the reef at low tide. The water was very clear but not as warm as you would expect
We marveled at the beautiful corals and the many colorful fish. Three white tipped reef sharks 3-4 feet long lived inside the reef but never bothered us. At low tide, we could walk out to two ship wrecks including this Chinese long line fishing vessel.
Our first casualty!
One afternoon, I was enjoying a relaxing conversation with our team physician, Alan-K6SRZ when Miguel-PY3MM approached us in obvious pain. He had been swimming on the reef when he somehow had dislocated his left shoulder. Alan, being a retired Physician, quickly knew what to do and had Miguel sit down as he began to manipulate his arm to get it back into place. Within seconds Miguel’s pain subsided and he was overjoyed that Alan was able to fix his shoulder with so little effort.
Most of the team members were also plagued by the many ticks that were in the sand. We regularly felt the ticks as they had hopped up on us and were boring into our bodies. We found that Deet and bug repellent had no apparent effect on the ticks. They were merciless; in fact some of them hid in our belongings and even came home with us!
Dragan-YT3W was our skilled IT expert. He kept all of the laptops and interfaces working during all hours of the day or night. Here he is seen uploading our logs to the on-line log server. These uploads would take as much as four hours each day and consume many satellite telephone minutes.
Here you see the night team ramping up for the many EU contacts they would make each night. Note the jackets and sweat shirts being worn. It got really cold at night.
Hrane-YT1AD the team leader gives a “thumbs up” when asked how the band conditions are.
Our team worked EU on many bands throughout the night as well as North America and Japan on the low bands. During the day our propagation on the higher bands followed the sun as we worked across North and South America and then the opening to Japan started mid-day and stayed with us well into the evening. There was no particular area that was difficult to work. We worked EU, the Middle East and Africa with ease.
As soon as breakfast was consumed, the night team would retreat to the relaxing tent for the many naps that would be enjoyed in between operating shifts.
Alan-K6SRZ enjoys our nightly bonfire in preparation for cooking fish over the flames. We had planned to operate for seven full days, however the ship’s captain urged us to shut down early as the voyage to the reef had taken longer than planned and our return voyage would be against the winds and currents. We began to wind down our operations after making over 7,000 contacts with EU stations on our last night!
All in all, we are very satisfied with our results from Conway Reef. We are very pleased that we were able to satisfy the many needs throughout the globe, particularly from Europe where the need was greatest.
|QSO chart:||Continent distribution:|
|SSB CW RTTY SSTV PSK31 band
160m 0 812 0 0 0 812
80m 729 1785 0 0 0 2514
40m 1361 4937 0 0 0 6298
30m 0 3287 0 0 0 3287
20m 5208 5064 122 0 0 10394
17m 7437 4344 322 0 0 12103
15m 4497 8433 145 10 192 13277
12m 6269 4512 63 0 0 10844
10m 4431 6055 402 0 0 10888
6m 676 600 0 0 0 1276
mode 30608 39829 1054 10 192 71693
|AF – 0,33%
AS – 25,21%
EU – 37,25%
NA – 33,33%
OC – 2,73%
SA – 1,15%