Clipperton Atoll Dxpedition 2008
K6SGH, Steve Hammer (working 20m in ssb tent)
In late February, 2008, I was a team member of the TX5C Dxpedition to Clipperton Atoll. An international team of hams from the US, Canada and France operated for 6.5 days in very challenging physical conditions making more than 71,000 contacts. 18,000 pounds of equipment was unloaded from zodiacs in the surf and transported across the atoll to construct a base camp, cw and ssb operating stations and antenna fields. Temperatures reaching 105 degrees hampered the construction of the antenna arrays as it was nearly impossible to work at mid day under the scorching sun keeping the team doctor, N6HC, busy with several cases of heat exhaustion and early stage dehydration. We also had to deal with tremendous rain and wind storms that would hit the island on a daily basis. Gusts in excess of 60mph were recorded on our weather station with rainfall amounts over several inches per storm. We were knocked off the air at least daily throughout the dxpedition. But such is the rule on Clipperton Atoll, as all previous dxpeditions to this ring of coral in the middle of nowhere have found.
In addition to some fond memories, the dxpedition has had some interesting longer term effects. It seems that the exposure to continual s-9 pileups for some 36 hours has caused me to contract Instant Auditory Callsign Recognition Syndrome (IACRS) or "Dxpeditioner's Disease." Resulting in a nearly perfect audiographic recall, IACRS also manifests itself in compulsive behavior regarding far away places and large spools of wire.
Here are three videos showing life in the ssb tent and views of Clipperton:
LIFE IN THE SSB TENT: This video file shows Joel, F5PAC (white shirt), Steve, K6SGH (orange shirt) and Paul, W8AEF (yellow shirt) operating 15, 17 and 20 meter ssb
SSB RAINSTORM: SSB Tent during rainstorm: The noise you hear in this video is the rain falling on the tent.
LIFE ON CLIPPERTON: Views of Clipperton and masked boobies
Plastic Litter on Clipperton Slide-show: Photos showing the amount of plastic trash that has accumulated on Clipperton. Plastic floating marine debris is a major global problem.
IF YOU WORKED ME, SEND ME YOUR QSL and GET THIS SPECIAL 'TX5C/K6SGH' QSL CARD (not good for DXCC)
SEARCH MY LOG HERE
(This card will not be good for DXCC. It is my personal card. If you worked TX5C you must qsl via N7CQQ for DXCC credit.)
Here then is my journal kept during the dxpedition. It is in reverse chronological order, so click here to go to the bottom and work your way up.
EPILOG: I AM THE DX
I am back on the Shogun and we're heading back to San Diego. Images of the past three weeks continue to flash through my mind and my dreams. "Kilo Three...the Kilo Three again...stand by, stand by..Kilo Three Charlie Quebec Zulu, five and nine, Q R Zed" I hear this and other calls over and over like a great song that you can't get out of your head. Operating from the other side of the pileup from a remote south pacific island fulfilled a long time dream of mine. Over the years I have very much enjoyed following such dxpeditions and listening to the descriptions of conditions by the operators. While I was operating, I also tossed in an occasional "hey, there's a crab on my foot" or "it's raining so hard you can't see twenty feet" and other more elaborate descriptions of conditions on the Atoll that taxed our physical and mental stamina.
One often hears that a place has contrasts. Clipperton Atoll has none. It is a harsh, desolate and foreboding strip of coral that is suited to the crabs, the birds and little else. We're told that we were here during the best time of the year. If this is so, then I cannot imagine how anything can survive here during the "bad" times of the year. Can it be hotter, more humid, windier, have heavier and more frequent thunderstorms? I have been throughout the southwest of the United States, through the deserts, canyon lands and in Death Valley during middle of summer. None of these places have as physically and mentally challenging conditions as those I encountered while on the atoll.
But it was worth every minute! Truly. I wouldn't trade a minute of it for operating from a resort hotel room or a less challenging place. That's what makes this trip so special for me and for those who made contacts with me and who have read these journals. Dx isn't supposed to be easy, from either side of the pileup. I spent as much time as I could in the SSB tent, that stinking, rotting, 60 year old piece of filthy canvas that housed a radio heaven within, the ultimate field day station. After my morning shifts, I brought lunch to the mid day operators and filled in whenever I could. One of my most vivid memories was a late night session where Bill, N2WB and Bob, N6OX were working a European pileup on 75 meters. Bill was at the microphone while they both had their headphones plugged in, jointly straining to make out a few letters of a call. The wind was blowing hard through the tent, the hanging light swinging wildly, alternately casting its glow upon us, then plunging us into darkness. They were trying to make a few northern European contacts to Scandinavia and Norway. It took both of them over ten minutes to make out single call sign from the noise and the unruly European operators who refused to stand by and allow them to complete a call. High five's all around when the call was finally completed, leaving Bill and Bob drained but eager to begin again. We would have made a lot more European contacts, especially in hard paths, if European operators would be more courteous and stand by when they are told to stand by. Instead, almost universally, they continue to call on top of each other while we are attempting to work them. It's frustrating for us and deprives others of making contacts. Most operators are more respectful and stand by when told to do so. Operating styles may be diverse, but courtesy should be a universal concept. We all are, after all, members of the same hobby. I have seen on the clusters negative comments by some EU calls that we weren't working them. From my perspective, they need to consider their own behaviors before they start ranting about us.
As a team, some of our members had been on previous dxpeditions and knew each other well. I was pretty much the sole new kid on the block. I very much enjoyed meeting our French team members, especially Joel, F5PAC. He suffered from sea sickness on the journey to Clipperton and succumbed early to the heat and humidity on the Atoll. But thanks to a magic injection from our doctor, Arnie, N6HC, Joel sprang back to life and became fully functional again. I was impressed by Joel's operating style and adapted some of his methods of working the pileup to my own. Gerard, F2JD, a well known dxer also impressed me with his commitment to the dxpedition. He received third degree sunburns on his legs the second day while taking a swim break while we were unloading zodiacs. You cannot imagine how quickly this can happen. Not complaining, ever, he limped his way to both the ssb and cw tents to make his schedules. I also very much enjoyed getting to know Ann, WA1S and Bill, N2WB. Ann is a bundle of energy and a top operator. Wild Bill has an operating style that I learned from and also adapted to my own. Early on I made it a point to listen to him to see how he works a pileup.
I also was very much impressed by the scientific team that accompanied us to the atoll. Julian, Dan, Alyssa and Olivier pulled more than their weight during the most difficult portion of the dxpedition during the unloading of the zodiacs on the first two days. They also contributed to solving a variety of problems that continually confronted us. Compared to the brute force approach to problem solving we hams are used to, their analytical approach nicely complemented ours. I think initially they were somewhat mystified by us, but by the time we started operating on the atoll, they were impressed by the magnitude of our antenna arrays and our station equipment. Julian has actually expressed some desire to get his license!
But most of all, I have the greatest respect for Bob, N6OX, whose personal commitment went well beyond all others. During our first few hours on the Atoll, Bob broke his ankle while waist deep in the surf, trying to stabilize a fully loaded zodiac that was being tossed around by the heavy surf. He spent the rest of the dxpedition walking on that broken ankle, refusing to let it bring him down. He put up antennas, carried heavy loads, made his schedules and was a pillar of strength. I was concerned, being the overcautious person that I am, that his injury would become very serious in the heat and stressful conditions. "You'll look great with a peg leg and a patch over your eye" I would often tell him. Any other member of the team with a similar condition would have been quickly dispatched to the Shogun to avoid any further injury. But Bob would have none of this even though he was in constant pain. I greatly respect his commitment and people should know that without Bob, we would not have enjoyed the success we achieved under the conditions we endured without his leadership. Thank you Bob.
I am sitting now in the galley of the Shogun on the morning following our "extraction" from the atoll. Spirits are high and we've just finished another fabulous meal from the ship's chef Mark. Eric Clapton and Buffalo Springfield music is blazing on the stereo and we're all exchanging photos on our computers. People are laughing, smiling and those who were seasick on the way out have their sea legs now for the journey back. We all also smell a lot better! You can see on the faces of the team a feeling of completion, of a task accomplished. And you can see we're all anxious to get home. I am anxious to get home as well, but I am also looking forward to another dxpedition, someday. After all, for a time, I was the DX.
11:04pm. I'd like to take this opportunity to thank the many amateurs that have taken the time, either through email or while confirming their calls during a contact, to thank us for this dxpedition and the manner in which we conduct our on the air operations. As many of you have pointed out, this hobby has more than its fair share of critics. And as many of you have said, it's easy to armchair quarterback a dxpedition, its another to endure its hardships so that many can work a new one. To the many I say "thank you so much, it was a pleasure," and among other reasons, this dxpedition is an opportunity for me to give back to the hobby.
I am sorry to say that we will be unable to stay the weekend as we had originally planned. The Shogun captain has determined that we must leave the island this Saturday for a variety of reasons, our safety and the safety of his crew. So thanks so much and hope to see you all again on the radio.
4:30am: Just after I posted my last journal entry, we got another major thunderstorm that dropped an inch of water in 10 minutes. But along with that were 40 mph winds that made a mess of everything in the base camp. My poor little tent was collapsed and full of water. Always trying to think ahead, I have kept my clean clothes contained in my waterproof bags that my buddy Michael encouraged me to buy at West Marine in Santa Barbara. I think so far this $20 investment has generated huge returns for me in comfort. Our scientists friends came to the rescue (once again) and assessed the situation and constructed a wind break in back of my tent in short order. Just as they finished building it (which took only about 15 minutes) yet another big squall descended upon us. Olivier, one of the French scientists, and I took refuge in the shelter of the wind break and watched my flattened tent fill up with more water. As I sat there laughing at the situation, I realized that I was actually shivering and was cold for the first time on the atoll. You see, there is a first time for everything.
When the storm cleared, I pulled out the broken graphite tent polls and repaired them with small sheets of aluminum from pop cans wrapped with duct tape as the scientists had shown me some days earlier. Bob and Jay helped me reconstruct my poor little tent and reinforced the framework with line so the tent could better withstand the wind. I mopped up the water and left the tent open to try to dry out. I had previously wondered how I was going to remove all the sand that had accumulated inside. I guess mother nature provided the solution (sic).
Clipperton does have a dark side, at least in my mind, that is present everywhere you look. It is the plastic garbage that is washed across the landscape. Nearly everywhere you look there are plastic bottles, oil containers, children's toys, pieces of chairs, tooth brushes, panty hose containers, pop and beer bottles, cigarette lighter carcases and the broken up pieces of unidentifiable items. It's a mess. My friend back home Charles told me to expect this short of thing. Many countries dump their garbage into the sea and the plastic ends up washed onshore on all south pacific islands. It needs to be cleaned up in a way that does not further affect the island. I have discussed this with the scientists and some of the French team, as Clipperton is a French possession. It seems to me that a program, using volunteers and money from charitable organizations, could be devised to begin to deal with this problem. Something akin to Habitat for Humanity. I don't know exactly how, but something must be done. It is heart breaking to see birds rising their young among garbage, or baby chicks tripping over soda bottles while taking their first steps.
I finally have some time to gather my thoughts. The level of activity continues to be very very high. I have become more accustomed to the weather here. The key is that wet towel you can see in the picture above that is always around my neck, and my own positive attitude (maybe some of this will accompany me home).
I am having the time of my life! This is a special place and despite the hardships, I am really having a great deal of fun. Right now I am sitting in the galley tent writing this journal. Ann, WA1S, is also here in the tent and is working on her journal as well. 5 minutes ago it was very hot and patchy clouds. Now, we're having a major cloud burst. We'll probably get a few inches of rain in under 10 minutes. It literally is like someone dumped a million gallons of water all at once from the sky. And most likely in a half hour, the sky will clear and the humidity will begin to rise as the rain evaporates. So you see, one can only remain dry for a few minutes in a day...when you put you clothes on (assuming they're dry, which they never fully are). Otherwise, you're either wet from the rain or wet from your sweat. Once you accept this, you can actually find some enjoyment in it. After all, this is Clipperton Atoll and this is all part of the experience. There, you see...the rain has stopped and now the humidity has risen 30%. I did take a shower this morning, didn't I...sometimes it's hard to tell.
My focus is of course operating SSB from our SSB tent. It's an interesting contrast there, the archaic 50 year old rotting and smelly canvas tent, along side our state of the art Icom and Alpha equipment (which are working extremely well). Outside, just beyond the high tide line and sitting a few yards above the ocean, are our antenna arrays. We have SVDA's (switchable vertical dipole arrays) for 10 thru 20 meters, a steppir 3 element yagi with 30/40, a BigIR vertical (6-40m) and a dx engineering 80 meter vertical. They all work extremely well. I have operated primarily the 20 meter station using both the SVDA and the 3 element yagi. The pileups are massive and, for my first dxpedition, am told that my q rates are very high. My main objective is to get all calls accurately in the log. This is goal #1. There can be no greater feeling of loss by a ham than to find they worked TX5C and were later denied a QSL because we got the call wrong. I have spent some time listening to the various operators in the SSB tent and have learned a great deal from Bill, N2WB and Joel, F5PAC and Al, K3VN all of whom are typically in the tent along with me. Bill and Al are seasoned dxer's.
In my off-time, I have chosen to stay in the SSB tent, help out and use our BGAN satellite to connect to the internet. I'm updating our website, managing the email for our team and watching the clusters to relay info to our operators so we can be responsive to conditions on the other side.
Another wonderful experience on the Atoll occurs at night. When it's clear, I typically sit by myself at the top of the beach with my star gazing binoculars looking at the stars, the darkened camp below. The cool pacific breeze feels wonderful on my back while the palm trees are silhouetted against the milky way. I have also been able to see the Clouds of Magellan, two of our several companion galaxies in the galactic cluster that the milky way is a part. I got goose bumps when I first saw them. They sit along with some other clusters and dust lanes that form that part of the galaxy that we can see. It is awesome.
Here's a few images. That's it for now...I've got things to do!
My birthday on the atoll. Happy birthday to me.
I flew my little kite near the ssb tent just after lunch. Just as soon as I got it up I had to bring it down because of a huge storm that was approaching. I went back into the ssb tent just in time to help Bill and Al keep the place standing due to the intense storm that was battering the tent yet again.
After the storm passed, I called the Shogun and had my "special" bottle of wine delivered during dinner so that I could enjoy it with my two buddies, Bob and Neil (who have helped me drain a few other bottles during the trip to the atoll). But the day was quite busy so by the time I got back to the base camp just after 6pm (after my afternoon ssb schedule) they were already asleep. So I just smoked a birthday cigar at the high tide line by myself and reflected on my 55th birthday. "55 and glad to be alive!"
The last two days have been intense, both for the level of activity and the blazing south pacific sun. Sitting here at my little table (at 5am) in front of my tent, I have a brief respite from the constant struggle to wrestle tons of equipment off the zodiacs, onto the beach, through the sand coral and rocks and up to either the base camp, cw or ssb stations. The heat and sun have been intense. I've kept myself lathered up with sunscreen and have worn only long sleeve shirts. Even so, my legs aren't yet toast, but let's just say they're a shade past golden brown. Gerard, F2JD is suffering from a bad case of sunburn on his lower legs but he's the only one of our team that has had a rough time of the sun.
Yesterday, after we spent 5 hours unloading zodiacs, we set up two 60 year old army tents. These are the tents that John, N7CQQ, used in 2000 on Clipperton! They have an unusual odor and belong in some ash heap in Azusa. Yet, they will provide a very dark environment for operating the stations and viewing our computer screens. And they can be opened completely 360 degrees (which is about as hot as they'd become if the sides are all closed) to allow the wind to blow through. (we never were able to open them as the winds were too intense)
Our camps are set up among Booby rookeries. I have been VERY careful to tell everyone to stay out of the areas where there are nesting birds and chicks, and our team is respecting the wildlife. These little chicks are like snowy puffballs with big black beaks and zorro masks. They are well named as masked Boobies. There are other birds as well but I haven't had the time to identify them. Hopefully this afternoon I will have some time to catch up on these things as my operating schedule begins this evening and I will operate throughout the night.
I apologize to my readers for not having any new photos, but save my initial picture of the basecamp on the Hot News page, I haven't yet had a spare moment to shoot any pictures.
Well, that's it for now. The sun is rising and there's work to be done.
Last night we arrived at the island. At 0645z (10:45pm pst) we dropped anchor just offshore of Clipperton. I could just barely make out the white surf line to the east, or was it west. I'm all turned around. Looking up at the stars, Orion was nearly horizontal and locating the north star was disorienting because it was so low on the horizon. So I think we arrived at the north western part of the island which would make sense given the direction we were approaching Clipperton (bearing 160). We had apparently made a large sweeping turn that was so slow I didn't even realize it at the time.
As we approached the island we were accompanied by at least a dozen dolphins that were riding our bow wake, a welcoming party paving our way to Clipperton's shallow shoals. They appeared as silent ghostly images, darting in front of the bow, leaping out of the water, exhaling and filling their lungs before plunging back into the silky smooth water. As I leaned as far as I could over the railing, you could see they were looking back, their darkish eyes visible as they sometimes rolled a bit to take a peak. It was amazing and quite heart warming after our 6 day journey. It was too dark to see the island, but the surf line was barely visible as a thin white line in the distance. As Tom, one of our crew members, prepared to drop the anchor, Captain Norm brought Shogun to a crawl as the ocean bottom rose on the navigation monitors in the darkened bridge. It was quiet until Norm shouted "ok Tom", then the clunking sound of the metal chain against the bow as the anchor plunged toward the bottom, two hundred and forty feet below. We had arrived.
Earlier in the day, we had an orientation meeting conducted by Captain Norm, describing what the procedures were for unloading the ship and entering the zodiacs for the ride to the island. Norm also told us what to be aware of while landing on the shore. There are poisonous corals to be aware of and areas of the island that we need to stay away from. During WWII, Clipperton was used by the US Navy as a munitions dump and some of these materials are still on the island on the eastern shore. The area is marked he said by large canon shells that are piled up. We will certainly give this area a wide berth. Other safety procedures and precautions were discussed but most seemed the be common sense, like staying in pairs while exploring the island during our off hours of the day.
During the past several days, I have spent hours sitting on the bow in the late afternoon and early evening as the sun is hidden by the clouds that are on the lower third of the horizon. It's a welcome relief from the heat as Shogun rises and falls over the 15 to 20 foot swells that today are now approaching, not following, our ship. From their peaks we're lifted high above the sea and can see for miles. As we slide down their backs, we are swallowed up in the troughs, the horizon hidden from view.
We came upon a large number of spinner dolphins and sea birds that were feeding on a large school of bait fish. Using a telephoto lens I tried to capture them as they shot up into the air, the birds diving into the sea. But they were a bit too far ahead of us for any really good opportunity, but I did manage to get a couple of images of the feeding frenzy.
Our operating schedules for the first couple of days have been posted and I will be working 160 and 20 meters SSB during three, three hour shifts starting at 0600z (11pm pst). I have pulled the night shift which I am happy for because it will be somewhat cooler and I will be able to work parts of the world that are only available during these hours including the Pacific Rim, Asia and Europe. I will have an opportunity to work the USA later in the schedule.
So, here it is 1000z, 6am local time. I have been sitting in the galley alone for the past hour writing this journal, waiting for the sun to rise so I can get my first glimpse of the island I have been visualizing in my mind for the past six months.
0130z, March 6th: We're here and our initial base camp is set up. I am too tired to write much at the moment so I will just post this. Tomorrow I will write more
We are now about two days from Clipperton and we're all prepared and quite excited. We expect to arrive early in the morning on the 5th at about 1am. We will spend the morning after daybreak circling the island looking for landing sites, assessing the level of the surf and looking for signs that anyone might be on the island. We are expecting that it will take more than 2 days and almost 50 individual zodiac trips to bring all our equipment ashore. Each trip to and from the island will have to make it past the breakers that circle the island. The seas are quiet so we are hoping that the surf will be low enough to make it safe to land the zodiacs.
The best place for us to set up our antennas to focus on Europe will be on the north coast of the island as vertical antennas work best close to salt water. So if the surf is low, we will be able to land on the north shore and start setting up our equipment. Otherwise we will have to lug a couple of tons of equipment over two kilometers through the hot sun. That will take a couple of days because we will have to do this early in the morning and in the afternoon. We've all got our fingers crossed!
So with little else to do I have spent the afternoon today getting working on the computer and playing a bit of radio. We're operating as FO5A/mm (maritime mobile) and have made 5000 contacts since we've been underway. I have made about 700 of those. I also figured out that our propellers will have turned 4,680,000 times by the time we arrive.
Oh...i have also managed to stay on my "diet" and avoid the two "B's": beer and bacon (as Amy put it in an email to me today). Our two chefs have made some great food and the fish, as you can imagine, has been amazing since its been caught by the crew. The best tuna I have ever had.
(1am) Another day, another pileup. After another great day at sea, I spent 3 hours late in the evening working the ARRL DX Contest practicing for the pileups we're all expecting on Clipperton. Since my antenna and shack at home have been in mothballs since May of last year due to our house remodel project, I haven't worked a contest so I was a bit rusty. So I set my goal to work 300 in three hours on 40 meter phone. It didn't take long to get back into form and soon I was working some good runs throughout the evening of the 29th.
(6pm) What a lazy day for me! While others were stressing over this and that, I decided to enjoy the crystal blue seas and a wonderfully beautiful south pacific day. We are now south of the tip of Baja, just about 200 miles from land. I also saw my first Booby today and ran below to fetch my camera and 135mm lens. Turns out, one of the crew had a fishing line trailing behind the ship and this little fellow was darting into the sea to try to catch it. The crew member quickly pulled in the line to avoid snagging the bird. I was glad of this for sure.
Captain Norm laughed when I said "my first booby!" He said I'd see so many by the time I left Clipperton that I'd be glad not to see them again. Well, I doubt this but who knows. Maybe after I get dumped on by them a few dozen times I might feel differently. We'll see.
I had some problems today with our satellite Internet system connecting so I could upload more images and get our email. We were told that if we were moving not to expect a good connection. Well, I guess we were moving around a bit too much today to get a proper sync. The seas were not as calm as they were yesterday and I attribute this factor as the reason why we couldn't get a decent lock long enough to transfer any data. We'll see how it is tomorrow. Maybe I can get the captain to stop the ship for half an hour so we can get connected. If enough of the team wants this I guess we may have a shot to do this. I recall that when Amy, my wife, and I were in Baja a few winters ago our ship could not connect to the net while we were in motion...so this is consistent with our experiences today.
While I am writing this entry, the team is gathered in the galley watching (again) the 3Y0X video, as 4 of our members, including our leader Bob, N60X were on that dxpedition. But the video is in French so...the images are quite interesting. Two of the scientists along on our voyage are standing on the side laughing at the sound of the cw pileups and shaking their heads...not fully understanding the lure of the assortment of wildly confusing noises coming from the radios.
Our chefs are busy putting the finishing touches on our dinner this evening; fresh tuna steaks, spinach and basmati rice. Good thing I skipped lunch!! Dinnertime!!
Leap year! Happy birthday Dana. Punchy...be sure to tell Dana happy birthday from me.
Another very restful night. I awoke a few times wondering why we weren't rolling as the sea was very calm. I got up around 5am, took a shower and headed up to watch the sun rise. A beautiful morning over the deep blue sea with the smells of coffee and bacon wafting around the galley. I restrained myself and rather than chow-down bacon, french toast and potatoes, ate my normal breakfast of shredded wheat and one cup of coffee...after all, I don't want to get fat!
Neil and I got the satellite system working this morning and I uploaded a few new pages to the website and announced to the team that we can now start posting our journals and send email. I was told that we wouldn't be able to use the system while we're in motion, but at 9 knots we're hardly moving compared to motion on land. So we got an excellent signal and some pretty good bandwidth. Now I spending most of the afternoon working on loading the various text files from our team into the operator journals. Everyone is happy, including me, about this because it will give our audience more insights into what we're doing before we reach the island.
The weather is beautiful and the sea is amazing. It's in the mid 70's and getting warmer. The sea is still fairly calm with large following swells that are moving faster than we are. I spent about an hour before lunch sitting on the upper deck looking back out over the lower deck. Bob came up and fed some gulls with some bread, but I think they'd rather have had some fish.
We're working out some software bugs in our rtty systems which I expect will work out fine. I think I'll go back outside and soak up some rays...or maybe I will take another turn at the radio. Oops...some software bugs just announced in our rtty program. Have to go and try to fix it with Laurent, F6FVY. More later.
After spending a restfully night, we awoke to the smells of breakfast from the galley. Ham, eggs and coffee. We have two chefs and I think it was wise for me to lose as much weight as I have prior to boarding the Shogun because I think I'm going to gain it all back while onboard.
Our current position is 30d 40m N 116d 36m W, about 140 nm from San Diego and 1290 nm from Clipperton. Our speed is approximately 10 kts. The seas are still calm but the skies are overcast with rain squalls visible on the horizon. I spent about half an hour on the upper deck watching for dolphins and birds. I saw only a few gulls but no dolphins yet.
I spent about half an hour with Laurent, F6FVY working on procedures to export the log for our online logcheck page, and reviewing the operation of Win-Test, our dxpedition logging program.
Part of the team is assembling a radio and antenna system so we can start operating from the Shogun. They expect to get this up and running shortly. Maybe we'll draw lots to see who gets to operate first!
After working on some problems with the vertical antenna, we got it up and running and Bill, N2WB, made the first contact. After about half an hour it was my turn at the mike and I made about 100 contacts in about an hour. My first dxpedition pileup! What a thrill...you had to be there. I also worked my buddy Don, WA6DON and a few other friends including VE7CT, Steve, who was originally on the TX5C team but was unable join us.
We got underway today a day ahead of schedule. It took us about 3 hours to unpack and load up all of our gear on the Shogun. It was a great sight to see 10-12 gray carts typically used to carry fish from the sport fishing boats carrying 18,000 pounds of ham gear instead. Our new schedule called for leaving the docks at 6pm.
A group of local hams from the San Diego ARC came by and spent several hours talking and exchanging dxpedition stories. Of interest to me was my friend Don, N6IC, who also came by. He was on the 1978 Clipperton dxpedition along with several of our French team. Something of a reunion ensued. Don also left with us a DVD he created from images and films he took while on the 1978 trip. Most of the film he shot hasn't been viewed for some time. We have several Clipperton films on board and Don's will be special to watch.
As the departure time neared, we wondered if John, N7CQQ and Bob, N6OX would make it back in time from driving the rental truck back to Temecula by 6. At 5:00pm they were stuck in traffic about 30 minutes from the boat. But with a few minutes to spare, they showed up and brought on board many cases of beers, water and wine.
We shoved off almost exactly at 6. We ate a quick dinner consisting of hot dogs and chili and then proceeded to repack the back deck of the ship which wasn't secure to our satisfaction. We moved all the amps below decks and somehow found places to stash the large and very heavy boxes of amplifiers and power supplies. Every cabin seemed stuffed beyond capacity, but I have no doubt that within a few days the tons of equipment will somehow settle into place.
It's 9:15pm now and I am only one of a few of the team left in the galley. Many of our party are wearing sea sickness patches that, along with a healthy consumption of beer, has created more than a few tired, bleary-eyed radio operators. I think I will stay up for a few more hours and talk with the scientists that are in our party. But since I am about out of batteries, that discussion will have to wait until my next entry.
We had some friends over yesterday afternoon for a bit of a bon voyage party. Great fun and a lot of descriptions of why I am doing this. I pulled out a copy of the 1978 Clipperton Dxpedition book that my buddy Don, N6IC (who was on that trip) lent me and showed it to the group. While they were looking at that and laughing and making comments, I grabbed the bottle of wine and took off to my room to make one last check of my big list. Amy made 5 of her famous pizzas and I think I ate half of them. Carb loading I guess.
Now, its waiting for Neil to make it to Santa Barbara and the trip begins!
Packing nearly complete. Last night my buddy Ken, KG6JMJ brought over an array of wifi antennas for our wireless network we're planning on installing between our campsite and the operating tents. Some pretty cool stuff. Now only if we can find some connectors....why don't they make this easy??
Amy slept for 36 hours, woke up and says she's ok. So, at least I know if I get sick all that will happen is that I will sleep for 36 hours. Let's hope that if that happens, it happens when we're packing the boat! So, I am counting down the days now. Monday, Neil, VA7DX will drive through Santa Barbara, pick me up, and we'll head down to N6OX to help do the last packing then drive down to San Diego and start loading the boat.
Today my wife Amy came down with some viral thing that she brought back from Los Angeles while I was down in Temecula at N6OX's qth for a pre-dxpedition weekend work party. So I am so conflicted: Less than one week before I leave for a month and I can't get near my wife for fear of getting sick. What am I to do? She's a bad patient anyway, so I guess it doesn't matter. The packing continues.
I spent the afternoon shopping for cheapo shoes, hot weather clothes and computer and camera luggage for the trip. Scored were a pair if 'get them wet' sneakers, a dandy hat and a nifty combo computer and camera backpack that will be waterproofed with the addition of a plastic bag and a flotation device. During the week I ordered some cheapo shirts at Cabelas online and my sleeping cot and fleece sleeping bag were delivered.
Expedition-wise I completed the beta testing for our online logging program and loaded some new webcam software on the dxpedition laptop. Monday morning I get my shots (which I have been postponing for several weeks).