In Summer of 2023, I decided to organize an expedition to
Chatham Island (ZL7). I was there with friends 16 years ago and it was my first activity from a remote place in the South Pacific. Organizing the expedition seemed simple at first. Chatham, as part of New Zealand, recognizes CEPT licenses, and Poland has a visa-free tourist agreement with New Zealand. My close friends ZL2DZ and ZL2UO, based in Wellington, were able to facilitate logistics and provide a time buffer if, for example, luggage was late or the plane was delayed in arrival or departure. As usual, excess baggage was a problem, but by getting higher class tickets, I managed to fly with Emirates to Wellington with 35 kg of checked baggage and 10 kg of cabin baggage. The only obstacle was finding a suitable location in Chatham. The place I used before (Awarakau Lodge) specialized in group visitors only. The local Tourism Board was unable to help, and the only hotel on the island did not respond to my phone calls and emails. I must admit that I was very clear about being a potential nuisance guest, while working SSB in CQ WW DX using the night propagation. After three months of tedious attempts to contact the hotel owners and several other potential places to stay, I managed to rent a bungalow. It was far from the planned optimal location, but in a place that would not disturb any other guests. After arriving on the island, I realized that my QTH was not exactly at the bay as I expected. It was separated from water by a several dozen meter high dune, blocking the North direction. Well, another place was out of the question. Propagation seemed good, and that same day I set up the antenna (a lightweight version of SP7GXP’s GP7 multiband vertical dipole) and started working on the bands. However, it turned out that on the way to Chathams, I caught an infection that almost took my voice away. It was a disaster for the SSB operator. When I managed to soothe my throat even a little, after a few hundred calls more I became “unreadable” again. Fortunately, after a few days, I was a little better. During the Contest, despite the poor location of the antenna, I managed to make over 800 QSOs (mainly on 20 meters). Some short openings on 10 and 12 meters significantly improved my mood. An additional attraction was the visit of Chris ZL7DX and Holger ZL7IO. The latter achieved a great result in the CQ WW DX SSB contest, taking advantage of Chris’ location, who lives on a high hill overlooking the ocean.
During my two weeks on the island I made a bit over 6,000 QSOs working exclusively on SSB, including a small number of contacts on 80 meters (only one with Europe!).
Getting off the island turned out to be quite a problem. The weather disturbance caused the local Air Chathams planes to suspend all connections and my return flight was canceled six times. This allowed me to make more QSOs at the expense of having to pack and unpack the equipment multiple times. Rebooking my flights to Europe was another problem. Then, on the way home, I caught another infection, which ended in an antibiotic treatment.
Overall, I am very pleased with the dxpedition. Especially with many positive on-the-air comments about being an expedition dedicated to SSB in the era of FT8. Many of my correspondents found the QSOs with me as a nice complement to their achievements in this mode.
Looking at the log, I have the impression that a large part of European stations are MDXC members! Congratulations. Thank you for your support.