Friday, August 3, 2012

Getting Ready for Swains Island

Photo: Tim Stinespring, K8RRT
Alrighty then!  Just 29 days from today I'll be boarding a plane in Charleston on my way to operate as NH8S from Swains Island in the South Pacific.  The clock is ticking and I'm frantically trying to get all my ducks lined up and quacking in unison.  This is going to be one HECK of a fun trip!

For those of you back here that will be working NH8S on every conceivable band and mode, here is some helpful information.  We will be using Clublog to upload our logs at least once a day.  If you go to Clublog and search the log for your call, then hover the mouse over each Band/Mode checkmark that indicates your call has been found in the NH8S log, you will see a pop-up of the operator for that QSO.  On the right is the photo that will show up for my QSO's although it will be a bit smaller when you see it on Clublog.

If you have not joined Clublog, you should do so.  It will make it much easier for you to get your QSL after the DX'pedition.  When you join, be sure you "Join a Club" and choose the WVDXA.  I'll get your request and approve you as a member.

Being able to upload the logs from a remote location like Swains Island is not trivial.  We are taking an InmarSat BGAN (Broadband Global Area Network) satellite terminal plus an InmarSat satellite phone and a Iridium satellite phone.  The BGAN terminal rental was $399 for a month plus we need to buy a SIM card at a cost of $1,800 to pay for the additional bandwidth.  The BGAN terminal costs $6 per Megabyte of data transferred.  The two satellite phones cost between $0.95 and $1.70 per MINUTE of use.

In order to reduce our expensive satellite time, an email server will be set up on the island that will limit message size plus batch our outgoing emails so they can be sent at one time every 3 or 4 hours.  That email server costs $140 for a 30-day setup.  As you can see, we have invested over $2,500 in equipment rentals and airtime to provide a secure method of communicating off the island and uploading the logs.  OUCH!

In order to upload the logs, someone has to physically go to each laptop at each operating position (1,500 fee apart,) download the log, then combine all those individual logs and upload them from the satellite terminal.  One of our team here in the USA will then take care of uploading to Clublog.  That process takes a fair amount of time so don't gripe if you don't see an upload when YOU think it should be there.

Over the last few months I've been acquiring various items I will need on this DX'pedition.  At the left are my Seasoft Sunray Titanium zippered dive boots.  This is to protect my feet from the coral when getting into and out of the landing craft and for use on the island.  Some of you may have noticed the headset in my picture at the top of this page.  It's an Arlan Communications Radiosport headset.  A real professional piece of equipment.  I plan to use it on my K-3 after the Swains trip but had to go ahead and get the headset cable and microphone element to fit the Icom IC-7600 radios we will be using.

Speaking of the IC-7600, Jimmy, W8JA, was kind enough to lend me his 7600 to practice on before I go.  That was a HUGE help!  I would have been lost on the island trying to figure out how to use this radio "on the fly."  Thank you Jimmy!

The weather on Swains Island in September is probably pretty similar to the weather on American Samoa.  85° F in the day and 77° F at night with humidity from 70% to 91% on average.  64% chance of light to moderate rain every day and wind in the 7 mph to 20 mph range.  A tropical paradise!

But, there are the ever-present mosquitoes, ticks and sunburn to deal with.  So, my clothing will favor long sleeves, long pants, plenty of sunscreen and DEET for the bugs.

I want to bring back as much of this experience as I can (except in the form of bug bites) so I've acquired a new camera and a tablet computer.  Plenty of memory cards have been purchased so I can shoot photographs until my batteries die.  The camera will also take movies so I should be able to return with some good insights into the day-to-day activities on a major DX'pedition.

My Packing List is pretty extensive.  Early Boy Scout training wants me to be prepared but I don't know if I have enough room in my luggage for all the stuff I've put on the list.  Maybe I just need bigger luggage?

Over the next 4 weeks I hope to find enough time to Post here more insights into the planning that goes into a large operation like this.  Stay tuned!

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