APRIL 20 – POSTSCRIPT — I’m writing these words now the entire team is safe back in Mauritius. Of course our very first priority has been to give news to our family after 2 weeks without any exchange.
The team is quite tired after such an intense adventure, but we are very satisfied. After months of preparation everything goes as planned, result of so much work and a flawless organization. Of course, we will study statistics in detail, but we are quite satisfied by the overall results. Many have been able to log Saint Brandon as a new DXCC. Other people have filled one or more bands/modes slots. Our team was quite small with only 8 peoples, for a short duration of 10 days, managing food, maintenance, and the radio, better say immediately we haven’t slept much!
We knew propagation was not at his best and it has been confirmed on the air. All days were different giving various openings. High bands only gave propagation to Europe, Japan and Africa. The final repartition of QSO is the perfect reflect of this reality. Our efforts oriented to the most difficult areas helped to balance the different percentage by continent.
From a global point of view, Europe and Japan had the best conditions on all bands. Regarding America, we had not to miss any opening and pay a very special attention to maximize chances. This was one of our main priority. Daily information from our pilot’s stations helped us to adapt our strategy and identify some short openings with VK-ZL or SA for example.
We have received so many emails from you. All of them confirm your satisfaction, thank you so much for these kind words. Like for every expedition a few of them mention too fast cw, too slow cw, too much rtty, not enough ft8, missed openings, etc. The most interesting comments will be part of our debriefing and will help us to improve our strategies for any possible future project. We have now left Saint Brandon with the confidence of the “accomplished mission”, accordingly with our announced objectives.
After Tromelin and Juan de Nova we have now discovered another great island. “L’ile du Sud” is home for very important wildlife in the Indian Ocean. We have been lucky privileged spectators during these few days: Turtles, Macoua, Sternes, rabbits, etc. We gave a very special attention so our mission does not disturb wildlife at all by choosing carefully the location of each antenna or cable, watching at each move around the island. Our previous experiences have been a great advantage. We have also met some interesting people on the island: coast-guards, fishermen, a globe-trotter.
Then, certainly the most important point, the team has been incredible one more time, working like one man, with countless effort from the first to the very last minute. The human experience has been outstanding and will remain in our memories. None of us imagine a final end of our team, but this will certainly be another story…
Our first thanks are of course for our families for their continuous support. Thanks to all of you for your personal of clubs/foundations donations, they are a condition to make such projects possible. The quality of the equipment provide by some sponsors also had a major role to provide strong signals, reliable setups corresponding with our needs. The SunSDR2 pro by Expert Electronics have really been a game changer for us. All the team get familiar with them very easily and we cannot imagine a new project without them, associated with our Modmics provided by PileupDX they were just perfect. The antenna parts was one more time supported by Spiderbeam. The different RX systems were by DXengineering, Low Band Systems and Batima. Then everything was connect by our lightweight high performance coaxial cables by Messi and Paoloni.
Special thanks also to: F6AGM, LU5FF, ON9CFG, N6PSE, JJ3PRT, F8DQL, F4DSE, DX AVENUE, K6TU, VOACAP, QSL Concept, Raphael Fishing, E-Sat, for their support.
This final version of the Log has now being uploaded on clublog as well as the complete photo album of the expedition. OQRS will soon be open so you can request your QSL card. We strongly recommend to use this system for you direct or buro request, we don’t need your paper cards. LOTW will also be uploaded in the coming weeks.
73’s de F5UFX Seb, for the entire team.
3B7A QRT, VA
3B7A is QRT — The first part of the team is now safe back in Mauritius Island. Diego and Guillaume have just stopped and 3B7A went QRT at 17:30z (Tuesday) with 71158 QSO in the log. They will leave Saint Brandon Wednesday morning with the equipment and the last log.
Once they’ll arrive, we will upload the complete log on Clublog and open the OQRS system after the corrections.
The team team will stay a few days in Mauritius to fill the crates with our equipment and ship them to France. We are also planning to meet some other ham radio on the island.
APRIL 15 — Conditions were sad enough for this day of departure, so a little in tune with our state of mind as we leave Saint Brandon. The weather was very bad with heavy rain, wind, and a local phenomenon of mini tidal waves. This constrained us to QRX the time to secure our antennas and equipment.
The propagation was also capricious all day long with high bands not quite open until mid-afternoon. The surprise of the day will undoubtedly that we have been able to contact some NA stations on 12m! This gives us some hope for the latst night with the whole team. We will continue our efforts until the departure of the boat at sunrise. A new symbolic cap of 70,000 Qso seems to be in the line of fire!
The 80 and 160m antennas were dismounted this morning after a good last night on these two bands. Some JA were able to be contacted on 160 with very good signals coming at the time of our sunset, as for the NA they had to wait for our SR but many could again be logged.
To summarize now the overall planning 3B7, 6 members of the team leave the South Island tomorrow Monday at dawn, this marks the first end of the expedition. However, 3B7A will remain sporadically on the air for two days as F4FET Guillaume and F4HAU Diégo will take another boat on Wednesday morning. They will keep with them antennas for all bands (except 80/160) and two stations. They will no longer be able to update the log and it will be necessary to wait until Thursday to find the final version on Clublog. After corrections, we will open QSL requests via OQRS.
Last night so for the majority of us, I immediately return to the pile-ups to continue to give you an opportunity to contact Saint Brandon.
APRIL 14 — The 60,000 Qso bar has just been crossed! We did not set a target quantity but quality and we are very happy. With only 8 operators for 9 days, it confirms that we were not idle. This of course taking into account that we also manage the maintenance of the generators and the camp in general, the food, the tuning of the antennas, etc. we did not sleep much.
Our transmissions continue and the number of “unique” goes up gradually. This will remain our focus until the end, especially by keeping on air a permanent station on 20m SSB. Still based on the information of our pilots we are testing new slots of opening to South America particularly, sometimes with success. This again emphasizes the importance of the information you provide them.
We will begin the dismantling of some antennas tomorrow during the day while keeping a maximum of active stations. This night will be the last on 80 and 160m.
Count on us not to let go and give all our strength in this last straight line!
APRIL 13 — We are in the final stretch! On Monday morning the first 6 team members leave Saint Brandon to go to Mauritius. This weekend is the last outstanding point of the expedition. Gil, F4FET and Diego, F4HAU will stay one more day on the island before also leaving with all the material. From Sunday our facilities will diminish gradually before QRT, which will be the night of Monday to Tuesday.
Meanwhile, the motivation remains high and we all mobilized to contact you. We will maximize the chances of giving opportunities in the bands most favorable as 20m. Not specifically ask those who need an “ATNO”, the number of QSOs made at this point, makes the more modest configurations can now make contact. We also continue, of course, to direct traffic by geographical area according to the information spread and passing by our pilots.
APRIL 12 — Big rains accompanied by strong winds generated a lot of parasitic noise and did not allow us to be present on 160m yesterday. However the 30 / 40m and sometimes the 80m were excellent, especially with the Americas. This area is currently the most difficult to contact and will remain the target of our efforts. The openings are relatively short compared to Europe or Japan. We sometimes hear a bit of frustration from Europe when we ask for NA Only but we have to understand that the EU openings are much longer, many and with much better signals. The NA QSOs currently represent 16% against 25% JA and 57% US.
The days follow each other and are not alike. The high bands are much better than yesterday with long openings to the EU and Asia up to 10m. Strong tides forced us to a little maintenance on the antennas a little too close to the shore. We have further refined our different reception systems for the low bands.
For tonight and tomorrow we will renew our efforts on 17 and 20m until their closure, then 30 and 40m. The 80 and 160 will also be activated from our SS to give new chances to the JA.
We remain focused on our objectives and adapt our strategy on a daily basis to increase the number of “unique” codes, and give a chance to the most difficult areas. At the same time we will be on the low bands as much as possible.
The team starts of course to feel the fatigue related to lack of sleep, shifts radios, maintenance of the site, but we are more than ever extremely motivated!
APRIL 11 — The propagation is sometimes capricious on the higher bands. This day was less intense especially on 10 and 12 with much weaker signals. During the coming night we will continue to operate on 17 and 20m until they close with NA, before switching to the lower bands. Last night was good on 160m with in particular with many JA at their SR. We will renew the same plan tonight.
This day we met the Mauritian coast guard stationed on Saint Brandon. The South island is not big but we had not yet had the time to venture to the other side. We were able to share with passion and share with him our experiences of Tromelin and Juan de Nova. Those expedition’s conditions were quite similar in terms of fauna and flora.
We are now about halfway through the expedition. The efforts are paying off and the results are in line with our objectives. As from the beginning we will continue to give everyone the opportunity to achieve at least a qso with Saint Brandon.
The plan will be clarified in the next few days, but it is likely that we will partially dismount the antennas on Sunday 15 in the day. Six members of the team will take the boat to Mauritius on Monday the 16th while 2 operators will stay in Saint Brandon one more day with a minimum setup.
APRIL 10 — Again a very good day on Saint Brandon. The propagation is generally correct even if the conditions are uneven from one day to another. Our facilities in the water are probably also for many in these good results.
We continue to insist on increasing the number of QSOs with the most difficult areas, especially the relatively short NA slots. Once again, thank you all for your cooperation. Our schedules are updated according to the openings of each day and your information to our pilots.
Regarding the 160m, we started our emissions as soon as we went to the sun to increase the chances for Japan. Some QSOs could be realized at that time. Advancing in the night we then switched EU / JA every 10/15 minutes to SR JA which allowed us some QSO 3B7-JA. We will try again tonight. Luckily, the static level is low on the low bands since the beginning of the operation. Let’s hope it stays to the end.
APRIL 9 – Very good day on Saint Brandon. After the heavy work done the days before, we were finally able to devote almost 100% to QSOs.
All facilities are operational and no problems to report. The different reception antennas installed for the low bands are generally satisfactory and help as expected.
Last night was excellent on 80 to all continents. 160 remains a little more difficult with all the same many EU and some NA. We will try to come earlier tonight to maximize the chances with the JA.
On all the bands, we continue as planned following our propagation predictions to optimize the openings with the most difficult zones, generally with success. Thank you all for cooperating well and follow the instructions of the operators.
After so much work to arrive at this moment, know that we take a lot of pleasure to contact you! Let’s hope it’s the same for you.
APRIL 8 – Second full day on site with a lot of work done. Several additional VDAs have been installed in order to be able to traffic other bands and thus optimize openings. The spread was different from yesterday, the high bands remained almost silent. We will be available again this evening on 80/60 with an improved setup and new receiving antennas. The previous night, although complicated, allowed us to achieve many QSOs on the low bands. The information coming from our pilots – we take your remarks into account. This day was also the occasion for us to wish Patrick F2DX a happy birthday, what a beautiful place for such an event!
APRIL 8 – The South island exceeds so little of the horizon that it is necessary to wait for the last moment to discover how beautiful it is when the boat approaches it finally. It was mid-afternoon on Friday, we finally reached Flo F5CWU and Pasal F5PTM arrived earlier with the first boat trip. After a 26 hours boat ride, we were also very happy to have a meal before continuing immediately. Our two friends of the “pre-team” had already set up all the VDAs and the 30m Four Square. We took advantage of the last hours before the night to install the 40m Four Square. We also hoped to complete the installation of the 160m antenna to start during the first night, but the wind decided otherwise. At the end we installed the stations during the night and began operating just after. Despite the fatigue of the first day, the operators took their turns all night long and more than 3000 qso were in the log early in the morning.
For this new day, the installations of the remaining antennas were resumed, while maintaining a maximum of active stations. The setup is now complete for both transmission and reception. The rythmn will now be fully reached.
Regarding the island, it reminds us Tromelin and Juan de Nova very much, both in terms of fauna and flora. Based on these previous experiences, we have been able to avoid disturbances for birds as much as possible, and select the right areas for the antennas. Many terns incubate their eggs and toddlers barely open their eyes. It really looks like heaven.
We are fortunate to share the island with Mauritian fishermen friends who are very willing to give us a hand, and even share the results of their catch.
With this first communication also comes the first online log. We ask you to make this expedition a success by providing helpful information to our pilot stations.
APRIL 6[II] – Shortly after 17:00z, 3B7A started operations on 4 bands simultaneously:
APRIL 6 – All the team is now on St Brandon island. Antenna mounting until dark. Still plan to QRV later tonight.
APRIL 5 – Flo F5CWU and Pascal F5PTM have now landed on Saint brandon. All equipment has been unloaded and is safe on the island. The rest of the team will leave Mauritius in a few hours. Do not expect any signal from 3B7A before the 6th late in the night.
APRIL 4 — After some difficulties of air transport, the whole team arrived yesterday in Mauritius. We went straight to the port where the first boat was to be loaded.
It was an opportunity to receive our boxes arrived a few weeks before us. All the material was checked again and pointed out before loading. The work was completed at night and the boat was anchored as planned around 8 pm local time.
Flo F5CWU and Pascal F5PTM are on board and should land at Saint Brandon on the 5th in the morning. The rest of the team is currently collecting the latest equipment in Mauritius and PC configuration before boarding tomorrow morning.
The team is extremely motivated and can not wait to find you on the air as early as 6 late at night.
Our satellite tracking device is now activated:
APRIL 2 @ 15:45z – After a near 24 hour delay due to aircraft issues, the 3B7A team (minus F4BKV) finally took-off. Next stop 3B8.
APRIL 2 @ 09:00z – “Our flight has been delayed because of a technical issue with our 747. It should be fixed and we are supposed to take off later in the afternoon. At the moment there is no impact on our global planning”
APRIL 1 – The 3B7A team earlier today at Paris Orly airport prior to departure for Mauritius [note: see above regarding flight delay]
MARCH 31[II] – 3B7A team member, Vincent F4BKV, is already QRV from Rodrigues as 3B9/F4BKV.
MARCH 31 — We are now only a few hours from the beginning of the journey to Saint Brandon. We will stay a few days in Mauritius, just time to collect the remaining equipment like tables, guying anchors, etc.
Let’s remind we will only have a limited (and expensive!) satellite internet connection. It will be used once a day to upload logs and exchange information with our Pilot Michel F6AGM.
We invite you to read the QSL Info page. Our QSL manager Flo F5CWU is part of the operators, so any request will only be answered when we’ll be back home.
To be continued from Mauritius…
FEBRUARY 23, 2018 — In about a month we will be joining Saint Brandon. After a year of intense working, we are quite satisfied and impatient to finally make our plans concrete.
700Kg of equipment is actually on the way to Mauritius. It will then be loaded on the boat with generators before sailing to Saint Brandon with two 3B7A team members on April 3rd.
The rest of the team will use a second boat (on the 5th) as scheduled. This new option allows us to remove some constraint with the weight of our equipment and improve security by adding some redundancy with transportation. This, has of course, cost a bit but it seems very important to us.
The “early-team” will be in charge of all equipment transit operations, as well as identifying the location for all antennas, stations, generators, etc. If time allows, they will start all installations. Much time must should be saved until the rest of the team land, allowing to be on the air in a very short time. But do not expect any QSO before the entire team is on the island.
You might have read the web page dedicated to propagation forecast on our web site. It shows the best time/bands to contact us depending on where you are located. That kind of schedule will be available at each station position and will drive our traffic. Priority will always be given to the areas with the shortest and most difficult openings.
We renew the organization we had on Tromelin (FT4TA) and Juan de Nova (FT4JA). Five stations, totally similar and flexible, will be available for the 8 operators. Our goal will be to put as many of them on the air at any time, with a priority for the most important hours of the day around our sunrise and sunset, optimizing our resting time.
To stick with our objectives, we have decided not to bring any antenna for 6m. Conditions are so bad that it would be a waste of time for just a few or no contact at all. No antenna for 6m also means no try for EME. To end the short list of things we “won’t do”, we’d like to inform that 60m is not allowed on our license.
Let’s remind Saint Brandon is not a “hotel and regular flights” destination. As soon as we leave Mauritius we will have to do everything by ourself: loading/unloading equipment, managing generator, food, maintenance, etc. This will be a lot of work and tiredness that will come in addition to the hours behind the radios.
Once more, you can trust in our great motivation — we can’t wait starting the pileups!
Please keep supporting our project and visit our website http://www.saintbrandondx.com/en/how-to-help-us/
and follow us on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/SaintBrandonDX/ and Twitter @SaintBrandonDX
73’s de F5UFX for the Team Saint Brandon 2018