This was a four man, English team, DXpedition to Easter Island in the south Pacific. An article I wrote for the Chiltern DX Club appears below the pictures. A video of BA6QH working XR0YG with his QRP station is below that, plus a link to his translation of the article into Chinese for ‘Communication Today’ magazine in China.
I enjoyed some great, snappy pile-ups on 15m and 10m. Wayne/N7NG made a recording of me on 15m and has put it <here>. Search for ‘XR0YG’ towards the bottom of the page.
XR0YG : CW DXpedition to Easter Island, March 2013.
Easter Island Facts
- Known to the Chileans as ‘Isla de Pascua’ and to the indigenous locals as ‘Rapa Nui’.
- Principaltown is Hanga Roa.
- The island is approximately 14 miles long by 7 miles wide.
- Total area 63 sq. miles.
- Population 5,700 (2012 census).
- Language: Spanish.
- Currency: Chilean Peso (approx. 720 peso = £1).
- Time-zone is GMT-5 (but see the text!)
- Scheduled flight times from London: 2h30 (to Madrid) + 14h (to Santiago) + 5h45 (to Easter Island)
- Nearest populated land is Pitcairn Island.
- Team: Michael-G7VJR, Nigel-G3TXF, Martin-G3ZAY, John-G4IRN.
- Days QRV: Wednesday 21st April (pm) to Wednesday 27th April (pm).
- Total QSOs: 23,979.
- Percentage unique calls worked: 39%
- NA: 44%, EU: 32%, AS: 20%, Other: 4%
- Percentage logged CW QSOs: 100%
- K3 (barefoot, mainly used on 17m and 12m).
- K3 + THP 550FX (600w).
- K3 + THP 1.2KFX (750W)
- K2 + Elecraft KPA500.
- 160m – Inverted L, 18m vertical + sloping top.
- 80m – as above but with the horizontal cut back.
- 40m, 30m – Ground planes on 10m fibre-poles.
- 20-10m – Vertical dipoles.
This DXpedition was originally planned by team leader, Michael-G7VJR to happen in February or March 2013. What Michael didn’t realise at the time was this is peak holiday season on Easter Island; not only was accommodation rather expensive but it was impossible to get anyway!
A re-think was required and April became the new target since accommodation for four team members plus shack was a little easier to find – but not much easier! Fortunately Michael managed to find a booking- agent in Chile, who armed with some photos of antennas on a ‘field day style DXpediton’ was able to find an accommodation for us. But it was a risk – the QTH was an unknown quantity; we kept our fingers crossed!
Actually, the original team consisted Michael-G7VJR, Nigel-G3TXF, Martin-G3ZAY and Bob-MD0CCE. The change of travel date didn’t suit Bob so John-G4IRN, who coincidentally had been making plans to go to Easter Island at around the same time, was invited to join the team in his place. Although it took some time, all the licences and the group XR0YG call (with special 30m permission) were finally sorted out with the very welcome help of the Radio Club de Chile (RCCh) a few weeks before travel.
Travel to Easter Island involves flying through Lima, Peru or Santiago, Chile. The latter has more frequent (daily) connections therefore became the route of choice, via Madrid from London LHR. Twice in the months prior to departure LAN Chile Airlines made changes to the flight times and the team had no option but to move the first two outward flights to 24 hours earlier. Since the Madrid to Santiago flight is nearly 14 hours, this gave a very welcome opportunity for an overnight rest in Santiago before the onward flight and we were able to make some new friends whilst there, too.
Ready to meet the team at their SantiagoAirport hotel was local contester and DX’er, Pedro-CE3FZ. Pedro very kindly took some time out of his working day to greet the team; first stop was a local restaurant for lunch and to meet Dale-CE2/VE7SV (now CE2AWW) and Roberto-CE3CT, both keen contesters. After an hour or so of fine South American food, beer and lots of chatter we departed for a look at Roberto’s station at his house a couple of miles away. His Multi/2 station was going through a renovation but one radio was hooked up and it gave us all an opportunity to get on the air for a few CW QSOs as CE3/home-call. The only problem was that Roberto is an SSB op and didn’t have a key wired up! This led to laughter and amusement as we all made a few QSOs with dodgy typing through the logging software. Come late afternoon and before he settled us back into our hotel, Pedro took us on a whistle-stop drive through Santiago and a walk around the new town during which we picked up some of the Chilean mains plugs that we would need on our DXpediton. With only 3 hours time difference from London, our body clocks didn’t feel like we’d travelled so far; indeed Santiago reminded us being very much like a southern European city, we could easily have been in Montpellier or suchlike had we not known better!
To Easter Island
A night in a proper bed was very welcome after the very uncomfortable Iberia flight. The hotel was about 50 metres from the airport terminal building so pushing the trolleys, piled with two ski bags and all the suit-cases, across the road was easy enough. We were relieved to once again get rid of them as we checked in for the final part of the journey, mainly because we’d had to queue up for an hour and a half at check-in. Not good. We now had just a relatively short five and a half hour flight to our final destination.
Coming into land at Easter Island’s tiny airport, it immediately struck us how green and lush the place is. Once the packed Boeing 767 was unloaded, we were extremely pleased to see all the gear had arrived; fresh in our minds was the bad luck of the GM guys who had travelled to Tuvalu a couple of weeks before us. Unfortunately no one had told our hotel proprietor about the change of flight times (about a month beforehand!) and so we had to hang around a while for his wife to turn up, then when she saw all the gear we had, she had to muster her husband with another car. Fortunately the hotel was only about a mile from the airport, if that.
Is the QTH any good?
On arrival at the hotel in the early afternoon we were very pleased to find that we were at the top of a small hill with sloping ground from around south-west through to north north-east. The take-off to Japan was fabulous and the take-off to EU was pretty good, albeit with a few trees in the way. The piece of land making up the garden wasn’t too large so we knew we would have to be creative about placing the antennas; not wishing to delay operating we pitched the antennas for the first night’s operation: a vertical dipole for 20m and ground-planes for 30m and 40m. Getting on the air would be the litmus test for the antennas and QTH.
Fortunately there was no local noise on those bands and we realised fairly quickly that we were hearing well and getting out well. The next morning we put up a few more antennas – we decided that there probably wasn’t enough room for the two 18m Spiderpoles (160m and 80m) together so opted to put up only one big pole, initially to be used on 160m but with the option of switching it to 80m a few days later. The 40m antenna was also used on 15m and we added vertical dipoles for 12m and 17m. We were going to add a 10m vertical dipole but then we had our first problem…. but to be fair, it was probably our only problem all trip.
First (and only) Problem
The owner of the hotel we’d booked had been warned of our intent to establish antennas; although we paid ‘for use of the garden’ he had severe reservations about the visual impact and the possibility of a pole falling over and damaging his property. He was also unhappy about the amount of electricity he thought we were using, though this might not have been an issue but for the lights that were dimming up and down with our transmitted CW! Fortunately, his unhappiness was nipped in the bud when Michael had a little chat with him and gave him a little unexpected tip. After that everything was OK!
We soon got into a daily routine. Nigel was our 30m man and flogged that band as much as possible. We agreed to split the operating rotas so that Nigel and Michael operated until after EU sunrise (about 3am local) each day, then Martin and John would take over for the JA and NA/SA sunrises. It was impossible with a small team to be on every open band at the same time; however we tried to give each band a good bash, particularly when open to Europe. At 3pm local each day we retired to one of the local restaurants for our main meal of the day – the food and drink (and ice-cream!) were always very good and it offered a good chance to relax, share experiences and a few jokes before getting back to the pile-ups.
Even though Easter Island’s longitude suggests it should have -7 hours time differential from the UK, it has only -2 hours difference from Chile, making it -5 hours from the UK. We surmised that this is probably an attempt to keep the island’s time as close to the mainland as possible for social and economic reasons; however it meant sunrise wasn’t until around 08:30am every morning (13:30z).
Good results were had on all bands. Michael was able to pull some QSOs through very heavy noise on 160m openings to the UK and Europe, and John couldn’t believe the size of the JA pile-ups on 80m at XR0YG sunrise (the huge pile-ups on HF were expected!). For the European stations on 80m, propagation tracked the grey-line almost as closely as it did on 160m. Meanwhile the bulk of UK stations were worked on 40m to 15m; 12m and 10m had UK openings but rapid QSB and spot-light propagation often caused signals to drop out very quickly, particularly on 10m.
Of course, Easter Island has clear sea paths to both Asia and North America and there were times on HF when stations from both continents were simultaneously calling with 20dB over 9 signals. It’s always fascinating (at least for the lesser travelled members of the team!) to experience propagation from a different part of the globe.
Temperatures on Easter Island were hot, around 25C, with high humidity. It rained most days for anything up to a couple of hours and although we got wet whilst erecting antennas on the first day, generally we managed to avoid it. The verdant landscape that we’d noticed when we arrived was testament to the amount of rain they must get.
We earmarked the Monday morning for a tour of the island, so armed with a map (though there’s only one main ‘road’ around the island) and some good advice from a fellow hotel guest, we set off in our hire-car to see some of the famous stone heads – the Moai.
These monolithic rock carvings of human faces were built between 1250 and 1500AD. There are 887 of them in total and about half of them are still at the quarry where they originated, to which we paid a visit. Hundreds of others were transported around the island and set on stone platforms; we made sure to see a couple of the major sites. The Moai represent the ‘living’ faces of deified ancestors, though many of them are faced downwards as a result of old conflicts and possibly tsunamis too. Four Moai can even be seen on the XR0YG QSL!
Time to QRT
We had a great time together as a team on Easter Island and were blessed with some excellent propagation. But the week flew by too fast! The antennas were ripped down immediately after breakfast on Wednesday 27th March and packed ready for the flight home. After doing that, we then found there was a 4 hour delay on our flight, so maybe we should have stayed on the air longer! We made good use of the time and headed for a super lunch at a restaurant by the local fishing harbour, overlooking the Pacific Ocean: next stop Pitcairn. Pity, Nigel’s already done that one!
More pictures of this trip are available at http://www.g3txf.com/dxtrip/XR0YG/XR0YG.html
John Warburton G4IRN.
(With thanks to Nigel-G3TXF, Michael-G7VJR and Martin-G3ZAY for input).
<On this link> is a video by BA6QH who worked XR0YG from China (nearly 10,000 miles – 16,000KM) with 5 watts and a portable whip antenna. Amazing! (Wait for the advertisement to finish).