FT4TA – Tromelin 2014

     

    FINAL UPDATE – We made it! After so many years of planning, sleepless nights, daily issues to solve, it’s hard for us to realize that FT4TA is now history. We all worked, think, dream “Tromelin” for months!

    I’m now writing you these words from Mayotte. Yesterday, the small plane came back to Tromelin to pick us up, after 10 days spent on this isolated island.. The departure from the island was full of emotions.

    We don’t had time yet to look around on the blogs, websites etc … it’s hundreds of emails to be classified later, but for now, priority is given to families and friends.

    Radio operations were executed “as planned”, all communications and amateur radio promotions activities were also a success. We will come back on this part and make a full debriefing later. Previous experience on this type of project shows that any problem in the complex organisation, from transportation, to logistics, energy, etc can occur at any time and make everything fail…nothing of this happened to us, thanks to the precise organisation, and that is the most important thing.

    On the island our motivation was there from the first minute until the last. Our hard work from the time we step on the island of Tromelin allows us, from the first night, to start achieving our objectives. For low bands lovers, we knew that we had to take any chance from day 1 and erecting the 160m antenna appears to be a very good idea. We are sure low banders have much appreciated that; conditions have never been better than the first two nights. At the same time we also started up 4 others stations on the higher bands. What a huge work done in only a few hours before darkness, last tunings on the antennas were made with “head lights”. 2000 QSOs were in the log at sunrise! We then stopped all transmission during the minimum amount of time, to finish all antenna work installation, despite high temperature and strong winds.

    We are still amazed by the huge pileups. Despite all team members having already experience from other most wanted entities, none of us had ever had to face such an incredible demand. Up 5, 5 to 10, to 20…whatever our instructions, bands were filled in seconds. Pileups were so big, that even catching a call, or just letters was a challenging task, and no matter the band, mode or the time of the day! We had to be fully dedicated and concentrated to keep managing pileups and good rate without making errors in logging. Since we didn’t had to reach a specific QSO number, we just kept focused on our initial goals, and following the propagation forecast allows us to get contacted by all part of the world. It seems to had been productive and we had given chance fairly to any part of the world. Despite this, it was sometime very difficult to get respect from the pileup, and more discipline would had allow us better rates and more contacts.

    We took advantage of the excellent propagation conditions on the higher bands. At our sunrise, focusing on Japan and also West coast US by long path, then Europe all day long, following at our sunset and during the first part of the night by Americas. Of course, we always try to listen to other less populated areas and we believe we also give a faire chance to them. Sometimes getting more than one continent at the same time on the same band was really challenging.

    The daily communication with our pilots allowed us to adapt our traffic pattern. Nevertheless, some “advise” was not really realistic. For instance, putting a 20m station 24/7 would have made us loose 12h of radio per day, since this band was totally closed few hours after sunrise and until sunset. We were also being asked to limit our split, and we focus on reducing to the minimum each time it was possible while still being able to keep decoding callsigns. Others were asking more low bands, less low bands, more RTTY, less RTTY, etc..

    We will soon read emails and comments related to our activity. Obviously many people will provide us advice, some more relevant than others.

    With more than 1000 QSO per day and per operator, while keeping focus on the respective openings, was challenging. In addition, we had to balance our time between the radio sessions, the help in the daily life on the island (cooking, cleaning, etc …), the continuous improvement on our antenna system, the daily satellite communication with our pilot, and finally some hours of sleeping.

    Our objectives were clearly announced and supported by the community and we believe we had achieve most of them. In addition, we were happy to surprise most of you by providing immediate LoTW confirmation during our activity.

    A detailed summary will come in due date. It will also be the opportunity to share with you this exciting adventure with all details. We will also come back with statistics, sharing our thoughts on what did work well and what is still to be improved. We will also explain in more detail the part of the activity that was much less known by the amateur radio community, but which was probably the most important, since our DXpedition was a wonderful promotional event for amateur radio towards the TAAF, the officials, schools, journalists etc …

    But for now, please get in contact with Yann F1NGP our QSL Manager for all related QSL and log topic. Cedric F5UKW, our webmaster, will try to design and print the QSL card as soon as possible. Just to remember, all direct QSL will be stamped by the dedicated TAAF stamp issued specialy for our dxpedition, and will be send out from Tromelin

    We have thousands of photos and hundreds hours of video and we are impatient to share some of them to show you the magical of Tromelin. We are extremely grateful to the TAAF to allow us to realise this expedition: THANK YOU

    What an incredible adventure, 73’s de F5UFX for the FT4TA TEAM , QRT.

    November 9 – Today the team got in touch via sat-phone to inform they do not have internet anymore on the island. The logs are safe, but no more uploads will take place until they return to Mayotte on Monday. Later today they may be off air for 1 or 2 hours as they start to disassemble. No more 80/160 activity will take place. The focus tonight is 30 and 40m. They have made nearly 70,000 QSOs.  Since there is no more internet please refrain from contacting pilots as the team will not now receive any new messages.

    FT4TA_CAMP

    November 7 @ 17:00z – We are now on the final lane of our operation. We will start to dismantle most of the antennas on Sunday because all equipment must be packed and stored in big plastic cases for transportation. The boxes will be transported from Tromelin to France in the coming months. We plan to keep all stations running but not on all bands for the last night. Estimated QRT time is around 0100z Monday.

    For the coming 3 days, we want to focus on stations looking for Tromelin for an All Time New One (ATNO). Even if we made our best to give opportunities to everyone, there’s still a lot of work to do and we’ll try to do it as well as possible.

    We kindly ask those having already a lot of QSO with us or with past operations to give a chance to others. This is HAM SPIRIT !

    17 and 20m are the best bands for an ATNO and we will try to keep 2 stations on those bands. During daylight, 20m and 17m are almost dead and start to wake-up in the afternoon and works well up to the middle of the night.

    We worked on low bands with some West coast and Pacific stations at our sunrise and sunset. We will try to continue to have 40/80 and 160m at these moment +/- 1h. Today again we worked many US on 80 at our SS. We were also on 160 but with no luck. We will try agin tomorrow. We now know we have a good RX towards EU-NA, but still need to improve JA side.

    We ask other stations to be cooperative. Too often, our TX frequencies get deliberate QRM, especially on low bands. We are aware of this when reports need to be sent 10 times for each station. To avoid time losses, we are doing a QSY to another band or mode. Yes, that’s a pity !

    We made the request of our LoTW certificate just before our departure and sent all documentations to the ARRL HQ. Once on the island, we sent the remaining document to let them validate the certificate. We took the decision to upload immediately the log on LoTW (during the operation). This is a simple way to thank all of you for your help and support and we think that’s part of a good operation when possible.

    We are now close to the 60K contacts. We are very tired due to the lack of sleep but we are ready for the last weekend ! Good luck to all of you !

    DXWFLAGWATER

    November 5 @ 17:15Z – Our pilots gave some information and here ‘s what we can say:

    Pileups are still big and wide, we do our best to find the best balance between rates and bandwidth usage…be sure of the fact there’s thousands still calling and the only reason we use many Khz…

    We know many of you still need Tromelin for an all time new one. So narrowing pileups too much would not be good for you. Also there is no band open where we can stay “all day long”. Again today the log shows lot’s of new “uniques”. Keep your fingers crossed, you’ll make it !

    Excellent propagation makes some bands open at the same time for JA – EU and NA. Everyone has his best time. We are trying to give the same chances to everyone. Some areas have narrower windows, so PLEASE respect our instructions. When you are not listening to us, everyone is just wasting time. Operators at FT4TA won’t get you if they are not calling your area. Please allow us to do a good job.

    We have been able to enjoy some short openings with the west-coast on the LP, we will try again according to our propagation schedule. We will keep our efforts on low bands and try again to be on 160-80 and 40 at our SS. 80m SSB was not in our plans and we are not sure to try again as conditions on this band are not the best for SSB. Remember we are not here to give you all band/slot, so we will come again on this band/mode only if we estimate conditions are good enough for most of you.

    We keep fingers crossed but haven’t faced any problem or difficulties so far. Everyone has found a good rythmn, working radio until falling asleep on the keyboard, eat, sleep, radio, repeat. I’m sure you’ve noticed most of the six stations are active all day long. Everyone is tired but over-motivated to satisfy the entire community.

    Remember to give your help via our pilots. We exchange emails on a daily basis via the satellite, we do not have any other internet access (no cluster, phone, etc).

    We hope you appreciate finding your QSOs on LoTW.

    FT4TA_SKY

    November 4 @ 1800z – The operation runs well. High bands are sometimes dead and suddenly overcrowded. We try to be active for all continents on CW/SSB and RTTY. Working US or Oceania is not easy because EU must QRX… and this is something quite difficult to achieve. Anyway, we will keep trying everyday until the end of the operation as everyone must have a chance to work us.

    Today we were active on 160m/80m and 40m at our sunset trying to work west coast and Pacific stations. 40m was excellent with W6 on the beverage. The 160m attempt was not successful. We came on 80m a bit too late but we know it should work. Tommorow we will use the following stategy:

    40m (7.023) long path between 1400z to 1600z and 80m (3.523) between 1400z to 1500z. Please send any signal report to our pilots.

    At our sunrise, we usually operate on 80m or 160m or even both bands. Our new rx antenna really helps and we switch it from long path to short path NA/EU depending of the time. We are close to the 40K QSO.

    Added note: They leave the island next Monday morning at 0900 meaning station tear down starts on Sunday.

    FT4TA_V

    November 4 @ 0600z After 3 complete days, we are close to 30k QSO. The internet access is limited and expensive but reliable so we can upload the logs on a daily basis. As mentioned earlier, we are not using the leaderboard on Club Log. We do not want to push the DX’er to fight for the higher QSO number but we prefer to give a chance to everyone. Some of you already made a large number of contacts whatever band & modes because of the good propagation conditions toward all continents.

    In these high solar flux days, it is difficult for a small team to find the good ratio between low bands and high bands which are open all night long. Everyday, we are looking at the stats to equalize bands & modes activity. If you have any comment or advice, please drop a mail to our pilots. The beverage we set-up yesterday evening is working very well and improved a lot the RX on 80/160m.

    The 7 ops are doing their best to put as many stations as possible in the air simultaneously. Our “best time” is from our sunset until 2 o’clock in the morning. During that period, bands are open whatever the azimuth! At this moment, we have up to 6 stations running, as we put on the table the spare equipment to make more contacts. With the 6th station, we did already 300 qso on the magic-band. This morning, we turned off all the equipment for a while to work on the generator. Another cut will occurs by the end of the week. Once more, thank you for your help !

    November 2 @ 17:30z. As planned, we finished the antenna set-up. Last night we put a beacon on 50.105MHz CW with one of our spare transceivers. Almost immediately hundred of contacts in Asia, Europe and Africa have been achieved. We worked today to improve our low band RX. Even if a lot of contacts have been done already, we have some difficulties to receive on low bands, especially on 160m. We hope that it will help a bit.

    High bands are amazing and open almost around the clock. Thanks for respecting the operator giving instructions to give a chance to all regions of the world. The good propagation toward most of the regions generate big pile-ups whatever mode or bands. To keep the rate we are sometimes using a wide split, mostly on SSB. Using a narrow split would generate slower rates. Those who have been already operating in such rare DXCC entities will understand easily !

    We made over 20000 QSOs already. For the moment, we are close to our objective for each region of the world. Thanks for your cooperation and for sharing your informations with us through our pilots.

    FT4TA_DXW_FLAG

    November 1 – @ 06:00z. After a complete day to travel, we finally landed in Tromelin. We have been welcomed by the three TAAF agents; it was a great moment! After a good meal, some of us went to bed. Meanwhile, others spent all night working on the radio stations. In the early morning, more than 2000 QSO were in the log.

    With just a few ground-plane antennas set-up before the night, signals were outstanding on high bands. We were aware that being active the first night on 160m would be ideal and we did our best to erect the mast before dark. This strategy was good because we have been able to log more than 200 stations on the top-band, most of which are from Europe and north America. We were using only our transmitting antenna to receive.

    As we announced, all stations have been stopped this morning to focus on antenna work with the help of all the team members. This task was very difficult because of the heat and the strong winds. We still have a few antennas to install but we are already QRV from 160m to 10m on CW/SSB and RTTY. Until the end of the operation, we will keep at least 3 stations active around the clock but 2 more can be added at any time.

    We did not have the time yet to explore the island but we have been able to see a lot of animal species. Birds are watching us peacefully and turtles come by at night to lay on the beaches.

    First Logs have been uploaded. Do not hesitate to drop a mail to our pilots if you have any information or advice. They will forward them.

    FT4TA_TEAM_1

    October 30 – @ 19:00z – FT4TA started operations on 14185 from Tromelin. First station in log was V51B who made this recording.

    October 30 @ 17:00Z – The team has arrived Tromelin. They are safe and well, but very tired after a stressful last few days. Station set up in progress. Since they arrived in darkness only minimum antennas installed, so activity limited today, then tomorrow more bands will be used.

    October 30 @ 07:00z – The FT4TA team have now left Mayotte and are currently on route to Madagascar (5R) reaching there about 08:30 local. At 5R they refuel for the 2.5hr flight to Tromelin. ETA 12:30z. The team have intimated they probably won’t install all antennas today, but likely will be QRV on 3 or 4 bands.

    Exclusive photo of the team 4000m above 5R.

    FT4TA_FLIGHT
    (c) DX-World.net

    FT4TA website

    [Log uploads via internet/sat phone on Tromelin made possible by a grant from DX-World.net]

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