Press release # 15
Yes, but how does the gear work?
With four days to go, it is time to see what's hot and what's not with the tonnes of equipment we brought to ZL9CI.
We are using a new series of Cushcraft monobanders that will be released for sale later this year. The 5el 10M, 15M and 4 el 20M monos are very well constructed and have a dual driven element for flat SWR across the bands. They were easy to put up, work extremely well and have a great pattern. No structural failures in spite of some extremely high winds. The 40M 4 Square built by Bob Sutton ZL1RS uses the switching box donated by Comtek You can lay down a great signal anywhere in the world by simply switching a box. Brilliant! The Force 12 20M 3el Yagi performs very well also. The Battlecreek Special is fantastic on 80M and 160M. Unfortunately, they are not available commercially. The Gladiator 30M vertical is a joy to use, well constructed and has provided thousands of 30M QSOs with no problem. We have had a trap failure with the Create Vertical caused by our failure to position a connection properly which caused a massive arc from the trap coil to a 1/4" aluminium rod. The only damage was a plastic coil shroud which can easily be replaced. The Nagara WARC Band Antennas are really great for 12M and 17M. We have used them previously in the Kermadecs and Chatham Island. The WARC bands have been extremely popular. We should have had a third Nagara in our antenna inventory so that we could work three band/modes simultaneously.
We have four 5Kw diesel generators. The second day of operation saw the field windings burn out on one unit. It was replaced by another 6 kw one loaned to us by the good guys on the Braveheart. It blew a head gasket and spewed oil within a few days. The third generator runs about 20 percent lower than normal voltage. The others sag under load and other problems arise with the electronic equipment. We are keeping our fingers crossed and offer daily prayers to the electrical gods.
Command Technologies in Bryan Ohio loaned three Commander HF2500 Amplifiers to us. They are massively constructed and behave perfectly. Our line voltage often drops to ridiculously low levels and the amps were never designed to operate that way, but they continue effortlessly hour after hour, day after day. The YAESU VLX is a joy to use as it has all the latest band switching, overload protection, LCD readout bells, whistles and gadgets. We do not run high power at any time. We stay within the bounds of our NZ license, accept the 6db gain the amps give us and do not risk equipment or antenna failure.
We have used YAESU radios at ZL8RI and ZL7AA. They are simply superb to operate at ZL9CI. YAESU radios have enough buttons and gadgets on them to rival the bridge of the Starship Enterprise. They also are workhorses, performing flawlessly day after day. No failures in spite of some appalling line voltage problems. We have an FT1000, and FT990, two FT920s two FT900s (Thanks IOTA) and three FT1000MPs. The FT920s have had some technical magazine revues which looked at the "inside box" laboratory figures that mean little to the average guy that grabs the mike in the heat of the moment. The new FT920 works very well indeed.
Digital Data gear.
SCS of Germany donated two of their new DSP Multi mode Pactor 2 Data Controllers. We use these to upload the compressed logs on 7 and 10 Mhz to Chris ZL2DX in New Zealand each day for transfer to the log server. What a superb unit it is! It will pull signals out of the noise and transfer files perfectly in conditions you wouldn't consider using CW in. As far as we know, this is the first time Pactor 2 has been used to upload logs on a major Dxpedition. It will also copy CW, Amtor and RTTY amateur signals. We put the SCS Data contoller on James 9V1YC a few nights ago and found that he actually does make a few errors at 45 WPM on the Bencher paddle in a pileup. Sorry about that James! We always knew you were human and not a machine.
The operations manual spelled out just about everything about how this Dxpedition was going to happen. No mention was made of computer problems. We had procedures to deal with the log disks every day. And most of you are glad of that! We assumed that a computer virus would never happen. Assumption is the curse of mankind and as I write, Wilbert and Declan are trying to sort out how the 'Boot Junkie" virus infected our disks and eleven laptops. Wilbert and Norton Anti-Virus software to rescue and not so much as one QSO was lost! In retrospect, additional precautions should have been taken. But we assumed it would never happen to us.
With four days to go, anything can happen. The complexity of a modern DXpedition dictates that extremely complex equipment will be operated under very harsh conditions. We all talk about "Murphy's law" but luck has little to do with it. Luck favours the prepared. We can only marvel at the skill of the designers and manufacturers of this gear that it actually works at all. But then, I started out in this man's hobby with a Hallicrafters S40 receiver and a 6AG7 driving a 6L6 to a massive 30 watts into my 40M dipole. I am easily impressed. Dipoles never change!
Lee Jennings ZL2AL - Logistics and Planning
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Last updated 21 January 1999