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24 May 2017
The trip to Pukapuka was a rare experience. However, I am thrilled to be back in Rarotonga, and cannot wait to fly home tomorrow.
I wish to thank Andy (E51AND), Johan (PA3EXX), and Milan (E51DWC) for their continuous effort to keep the chasers informed on the operation.
I had uploaded the log at ClubLog tonight. For the most part, I removed the dupes which occurred within minutes. Please email any report of errors, omissions, or any questions directly to me. I will check the information and reply to every message as quickly as possible.
Thank you and very kind regards,
22 May 2017
It looks as Cezar will have to be ready to leave Pukapuka by 7am on Tuesday 23rd May Local time.(Z - 10)
This means he will probably QRT around 12:00Z on Tuesday May 23rd to give himself time to pack up his equipment and get to the dock.
He plans to look for the EU opening on 20 metres (usually 14.040 mHz CW and occasionally 14.260 nHz SSB) between 05:00Z and 09:00Z +/- , and will check out the 30m (usually 10108 mHz) and 40m (usually 7025+/-) bands before and after those times. He is actively listening for the weak signals from IOTA enthusiasts.
At this point, in spite of terrible ionospheric conditions, and tough, very hot and humid operating conditions, he has some 6,000 + contacts in the log.
There are two larger motus (small sandy islands) on Pukapuka, the airport is on one and the village on the other. The airport is accessible from the village by a 20-30 minute boat ride across the lagoon.
From Pukapuka he will fly on an Embraer Bandierante (a 15 passenger aircraft limited to 8 passengers to allow for enough fuel for the 1400 km transpacific flight) to Manihiki Atoll, returning to Rarotonga on Tuesday evening. On Wednesday he will embark on the 35 hour trip back to Toronto via Auckland and Los Angeles.
20 May 2017
The log for the DXpedition will not be posted until 27th or 28th May as Cezar has a very loooong journey home, immediately followed by his birthday.
Over the last few days Cezar has experienced some operating behaviours that are not in accordance with IOTA guidelines. Those stations who have operated, or continue to operate outside the guidelines will NOT be in the posted logs.
The first issue is the use of distant remotes, this is not permitted under IOTA rules. He says it is abundantly clear who is doing it because "big gun" stations in their vicinity are being received at 53, then they come in with S9+20db signals typical of NA, VK or ZL stations. These are clearly remote and not local operations.
The second issue is that of one operator making contacts for his friends. Primarily in Asiatic Russia and Germany QSOs are being made by the same operator from the same station but for several different call signs.
After the end of the DXpedition, Cezar will email the offending stations prior to posting his logs.
Stations using these practices should call again in accordance with the IOTA guidelines to make it into the log.
On another topic:
Cezar has been calling on 30, 20 and 17 metres between 15:00Z and 18:00Z, and although he can clearly hear many European stations, he gets no answers to his CQs or calls, so he wanted people to know that he IS around on the bands from 15:00 to 18:00Z, those still wanting to snag Pukapula Atoll should direct their antennas accordingly.
18 May 2017
An update from Cezar:
Based on experiences so far, the only "reliable" times for EU are on 20M from 05:00Z through about 08:30Z with the strongest signals between 06:30Z - 08:30 -- so this is his plan for the next few days:
From about 05:00Z to 08:30 Z he will focus on 20 metres to EUROPE but at 06:00 he will QSY to 30m and try there between 06:00 and 06:30. At 6:30 he will return to 20metres. HOWEVER, if 30m is completely dead, he will return to 20 earlier.
From 8:30 to 12:00Z he will focus on 30 and 40 metres.
At 12:00Z (2am local time) he will get some sleep with the plan to get up and try 30/40 metres 14:00Z from 14:00 to 16:00Z
The rest of the time -- daylight hours here (Zulu-10) he will operate largely on 17 and 20metres with occasional transitions to 15metres if the band opens.
He will adjust the schedule slightly according to conditions.
Operating from Pukapuka is proving challenging as the temperature is around 35 in the shade with 90% humidity, and potable water and food are in short supply on the island.
To date he has about 4500 QSOs in the log and is at the mid point of his DXpedition. He will be active until the morning of May 24th (Zulu).
A reminder, Cezar has no access to internet or the cluster so he cannot monitor the activity; however, he appreciates the help of those spotting him.
15 May 2017
Had a good chat with Cezar today -- S9+20 here on Rarotonga on 20m and 17m.
Based on what he is hearing, Cezar suggests that EU stations listen for him on LONG PATH on 20m between 1800 and 2000Z and on 17m between 1900 - 2300Z.
In the evenings (local) he will work the 20m opening to EU (usually 0600-0800Z) and when the opening to EU ends between 0800-0900, he will move to 30m then to 40m to call EU -- but will switch to 20 or 17m NA/JA/OC if that proves fruitless. He said that last night he called CQ for an hour on 30m and worked only one station, whereas on 20 he could have worked many. He says it is a balancing game trying to work as many stations as possible and trying to work the lower bands which have been "dismal" at his location.
It is important to remember that on Pukapuka he is very isolated and over 1400km from other E51 stations and much closer to the equator -- so because you can hear/contact E51DWC on Rarotonga does NOT mean there is similar propagation to Pukapuka. Also Raro stations E51DWC and E51AND are using gain antennas and much higher power . . . . .
Internet on Pukapuka is very limited and Cezar does NOT have it at his location so he cannot see spots and there is only a very faint possibility of uploading a log at some point from the slow internet connection at Telecom -- but do not count on it.
Could you also please ask folks not to email me with requests to ask Cezar to check if they are in the log -- I will not relay them as it takes time out from his primary purpose.
Thanks. Andy E51AND
13 May 2017
Message forwarded by Andy, E51AND who talked to Cezar on HF:
Some notes from Cezar.
1. He will try Europe on 17m at 21:00Z the forcast suggested earlier openings but these have not materialized.
2. Opening on all bands seem to be much shorter than forecast.
3. He is focussing as much as possible on South American and Europe but has been frustrated by poor conditions.
4. His noise level is EXTREMELY low so he can hear some EU stations even when they are very weak, but they are not responding when he calls them back.
5. He will try SSB today -- and throughout his stay -- expecially on 20m to try to work those EU station who do not have CW -- but will emphasize CW as this seems to be the most effective with the weak signal conditions.
6. 30 metres has been very hard -- noise is low but few signals -- the most productive bands seem to be 20m and 17m
7. He has tried long path to Europe on 20m with dismal results.
8. Propagation to JA, OC and NA has been good with many contacts. Happily the self discipline of the JAs has enabled hin to work some weak EU stations during the JA pile-ups.
He has over 2,000 contacts in the log already.
Good trip so far, lots of assistance from the locals. VERY HOT and humid, however there has been a wind which keeps the mosquitos away.
11 May 2017 - Rarotonga, 03:00 UTC
I arrived on time, and was relieved to see that my checked luggage madeit too. Many thanks to Andy (E51AND), Milan (E51DWC), and Doug (WHG) who came to welcome me at the airport. Milan's wife Alice and daughter Natalie came along too. I will stay with Milan's family tonight, but first we will meet for dinner and some casual hobby chatting with other hams at 04:30 UTC at one of the local restaurants.
10 May 2017 - Auckland, 19:00 UTC
The flight to New Zealand took almost 12 and a half hours. I was able to sleep a few hours, so I don't feel tired at all right now. The plane to Rarotonga is scheduled to depart at 8:45 UTC, so I have plenty of time to catch up with some emailing, hi.
10 May 2017 - Los Angeles, 03:30 UTC
Uneventful flight to LA. I was several times on this airport connecting to different parts of the world. However, this was the first time that I had to get outside of the arriving terminal and walk about 10 min to reach the departing terminal for my connection to Auckland. I had to go again through security, which was very annoying, but everything went well and I'll board the plane in 20 min or so.
9 May 2017 - Toronto, 18:45 UTC
I have a little over an hour until boarding the plane to Los Angeles. I was able to clear the carry-on, which includes one complete radio station (with headphones, key, mic and a multi-band vertical) along with the fiberglass telescopic poles. I have a checked luggage with has another complete station, clothing, personal effects, and some protein bars I like to chew when operating during night time.
Checked luggage is checked all the way to Rarotonga. I'd very happy if it arrives at the same time I will, but just in case it gets misplaced somewhere, I will have a complete radio set with me! I won't have any clothing for the couple of weeks on the island though... Well, let's hope that everything will arrive in time.
May 8, 2017 - IMPORTANT
All equipment and personal effects have been carefully packed, and I'm now ready for the long trip to Pukapuka. Tomorrow morning I'll take the bus from Kingston to the Toronto Airport, from where I will fly to Rarotonga via Los Angeles and Auckland. If everything goes according to plan, I should arrive on Pukapuka on May 11 at 10 am or 20 UTC. Based on the information I have, it is unlikely to be on the air before May 12 early UTC hours. This is because there will be a formal ceremony to welcome the guests, after which the luggage and people will be transported from one edge of the atoll - where the landing strip is located, to the other - where the village is.
I wish to express my gratitude to all the groups and individuals who provided advanced financial support for this project. The donors who will make the log will receive the QSL card directly, without the need to request it as such. Instead, they only need to confirm their QSO data by submitted a bureau request.
April 24, 2017
Lady Moana docked yesterday at Pukapuka, and after leaving some cargo there, went on its way to Manihiki. The two power suppliers and other components lent to me by Andy and Jim arrived safe and sound, along with my food supplies carefully packed by Andy. All have been stored at the local school, awaiting my arrival.
A huge Thank You to Robert - a teacher at the local school, and Anna - the school principal, for their invaluable help in organizing my stay at Pukapuka.
April 14, 2017
Here is an update on the preparations and logistical work carried out during the last month. Andy (E51AND) informed me that a boat named Lady Moana was scheduled to leave Rarotonga at the end of March, sailing to Pukapuka. They were supposed to bring a communication repair specialist to Nassau Atoll to fix their Telecom link. Also, they planned to will deliver a lot of cargo and about 50 people returning to Nassau and Pukapuka. Andy and Jim (E51JD) lent me two power supplies, along with a 100 ft coax from Andy, which were packed together and marked for delivery to Pakapuka. Additionally, I purchased some food and drink supplies, which were packed separately. Within days of its announced departure, Lady Moana’s schedule was put back a week, and a few days later another week. With Andy and his wife Kathy currently out of the country, I won’t be able to confirm when the boat sails and when it arrives to Pukapuka until Andy returned back home at the end of April.
I am scheduled to arrive in Rarotonga on May 10 at 2:35 pm local time, and fly to Pukapuka on May 11 at 6 am, spending the night at the KiiKii Inn and Suites. I have researched and tabled the propagation openings forecasted for the time of this operation, using a solar flux SFI = 80. I will check these projections against actual propagation conditions once on the atoll, and will adjust the projected openings based on changes in the solar flux.
March 17, 2017 - TIME SCHEDULE
Operation will take place between 11 and 23 May 2017. I will operate on 10 to 40 m, SSB and CW, depending on the propagation conditions. Propagation paths will be studied to ensure that appropriate windows are identified to all regions of the world.
March 16, 2017
I purchased today the looong haul plane ticket. I will fly from Toronto to Los Angeles, from there to Auckland (New Zealand), and finally to Rarotonga. The return itinerary will be through Auckland and San Francisco. I also purchased the ticket from Rarotonga to Pukapuka, with the return through Manihiki. The good news is that I wasn't charged a share of the diversion fee because the Ministry of Education flies two consultants to the atoll and picked up the bill.
Regardless, this is a long and expensive project, and so any support will be highly appreciated.
March 10, 2017
Pukapuka is a remote atoll situated about 1200 km north-west of Rarotonga. The IOTA group OC-098 was last activated in January 1995, more than 22 years ago. Is in demand by 92% of the IOTA membership as per the IOTA Directory 2016. In view of the membership increase following the introduction of the paperless QSLing for IOTA credits in July 2016, I expect that this percentage is currently higher. North Cook Islands sits at #65 on the Club Log's Most Wanted DXCC list. Interestingly, it is #24 at Mixt, #34 in CW, and #16 in SSB for Europe!
There are no regular planes or boats to Pukapuka. It can be reached at any time by a charter flight from Rarotonga, for the cost of NZ$24k one round trip. Otherwise, Air Rarotonga has one flight every two weeks from Rarotonga (South Cook) to Manihiki (North Cook), which can be diverted to Pukapuka, upon request, for a cost of NZ$5.6k one way, additional to the cost of the return ticket, which is NZ$3,600. The ticket comes with 10kg luggage allowance and additional luggage requires the airliner's approval, against specific charges.
The atoll is home to about 500 inhabitants. It offers no touristic amenities. Visitors can stay with the locals, but conditions will be basic. There is no source of fresh water on the island. The locals treat rain water for drinking, but I was strongly advised against using it myself for anything other than washing and showers. Local villages have 240 VDC through a system based on solar power and a diesel generator. I am concerned of power surges and working with Andy on contingency plans.
Main hazards on the island are high heat, very high humidity, and mosquitoes.
March 5, 2017
I was interested for several years in a potential operation from Pukapuka. However, since other hams expressed an interest too, I didn't pursue it actively. Earlier this year, Andy (E51AND) took a trip to Nassau Atoll, which also belongs to OC-098, but he was unable to operate. The Lagunaria DX Group, which had announced their intention to organize a DXpedition to Pukapuka by the end of this spring, had to change their plans. It was in this context that I decided to learn more about the logistics of travelling to OC-098 this year.