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                    You Did What?!!!

We have "borrowed" the following Operating Procedures document from the Willis Island 2000  DXpedition.  Our grateful thanks to all the people who contributed to it's production and for giving their permission for us to use it.



Announce Callsign           
Flying fish
Chaos Control
Country of Origin
Directional CQ's
DX Packet Spotting
Hearing Part Calls
Last 2 Letters
Low Power Stations
Mean what you Say
Pilot Advice
Split Operation
Working by Call Areas


This dolphin's just been listening in on the radio.  Wonder what he heard to make him laugh so much?


Announce your call very regularly, ie. every 3 or 4 QSO's.  If you're working simplex and there's a good chance the pileup is masking some of your transmissions, give your callsign after EVERY QSO.  If you're working split or by districts, say so EVERY time you finish a QSO.

QSL information should be given about every 10 QSO's.  You shouldn't have to give your QSL information that often, but if you don't do so every minute or two, you'll probably have a bunch of stations with the rather strange call "QSLINFO?" calling.

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In some countries, you'll be assigned a "local" callsign (like 3D2LD in Fiji, something like that), but in others you'll be told to use your Australian callsign with the local prefix, (like KH8/VK2XYZ).  If you visit any countries in the latter category, be sure you're set up properly with your local incoming QSL Bureau.  In the States, that means having self-addressed stamped envelopes on file.

The procedure is different in some other countries - you'll need to check with the WIA.  A lot of people will send their QSL's via the bureau, and those cards will be discarded if you don't have anything on file.

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The DX station is the one who has to control the situation.  If you don't have control, you are inviting chaos.  Once chaos is started, forget it.

Announce QRT, and turn off the rig.  Go QRT for 15 minutes and start over.  If things get out of control, you MUST get control back.

If one station is causing your problems, tell him about it - Bluntly.  With all the different languages in the world, 'XX1XX - SHUTUP !' is usually universally understood.  You might not make 'XX1XX' happy by telling him to shut up, but you will gain the respect of all the good operators who hear you tell him.

If you let things get out of control, you not only frustrate yourself, but you also frustrate all the DX'ers who are trying to work you.  Also, 60 seconds of 'STANDBY QRX STANDBY QRX STANDBY QRX' will usually bring any pileup back to reality.

If the pileup gets out of control and you can't fix it, do yourself and everyone else on the band a favour - announce you are going QRT and go watch TV.  Come back again tomorrow night - start over clean.

Staying in control should be "Cool, Consequent and in Control".  Easy to say, but the mess can be really bad sometimes.  When you need a rest after 12 hours listening to the mess, maintaining self-control can be extremely difficult.  Some DXpeditions have tried it "firmly" but the wrong way by shouting and using bad language.  This is definitely NOT the way.

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If a DXpedition originates from a particular country, you can expect that a greater preponderance of attention will be paid to hams from that country.  It's only fair.  Many recent and notable DXpeditions have been truly international affairs and have had operators from numerous countries.  Operating around the clock, these operations have focused on that part of the world open to them at the time.  also remember that just because you can hear a DX station, it does not necessarily follow that they can hear you.  Band conditions differ in different parts of the world at a given moment.

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Always respect a "directional CQ", ie., a CQ directed to a specific geographical area.  Do not transmit when directional CQ's are in progress.

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A very important and useful tool to the DXer is the use of the DX Cluster packet-spotting network.  Most operations are spotted almost immediately when they begin operation on a given band, and almost always include the splits, if known.  If you don't operate packet, another useful tool is the use of the Internet Spotting URLs which have begun to spring up.  When using an Internet Spotting URL, exercise caution.  The network is worldwide, and a spot from a European station does not necessarily mean you will hear it.


Do NOT ask to be spotted on packet.  It might even be best to specifically request that people not spot you.  An unfortunate proportion of users will see a spot and begin calling on the specified transmit frequency, or your transmit frequency, if the fact you're running split didn't get spotted.  This, even if they can't hear you.  How they think they're going to make a QSO is beyond me.  Even if everybody calling *can* copy you reliably, packet still causes the pileup to explode instantly.  Let people find you the old fashioned way, by tuning around ...

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Each amateur band has a group of frequencies where the majority of DXpeditions operate.

On 160 CW, the DX may transmit on 1825 or 1826 KHz and listen in the "DX Window" of 1830-1835 KHz.

On 80, operation usually takes place between 3500-3510 KHz.

On 75 Phone, operations are generally in the 3790-3800 KHz DX Window.

In some cases, the DX may transmit below 3750 KHz and listen above 3800KHz.

On 40 CW, operations are almost exclusively between 7000-7010 KHz, with occasional operations at the sub-band edge of 7025 KHz.

On 40 Phone, the DX will transmit between 7040 and 7099 KHz and listen above 7150 KHz, up to and including the General Class portion of the band.

On 20, 15 and 10 CW, the ops will often be in the lower 25 KHz, and occasionally work above the 25 KHz sub-band split.  On Phone, the recent trend has been for the DX station to transmit just below the General Class sub-band split and listen above that point.

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Get the book "Where do we go next" by Marti Laine, OH2BH.  Then go on the band and listen to DXpeditions and how they work.  (Note:  Looks like this book may be out of print at the moment, but Amazon has a facility allowing orders for these.  Worth a try.)


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Stick with one call.  Eg. You copied "Zulu Charlie" you only work stations with ZC in the call.  Never, ever, do you work anything else but the call or partial you heard.  Never.  Never.  Be rude.  Tell all the other stations without ZC to shut up.  Soon they will learn that they have no chance interrupting you and in due course life will be easier for you.

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Go to a local DX meeting and talk to the DXers there.  They will be happy to help you if you ask them.  Some of the oldest, ugly smelling and meanest bastards are probably your best source of hardcore DXing, believe me :-) 

You will also find that after a day or so, you will start getting very hoarse and lose your voice for a time.  You can avoid this by having a recording loop made up to play "QRZ VK9WI listening up" and only go live to respond to the station calling once identified, and to confirm just where you are listening up, say once every 5 or 10 minutes.  The radio police will become a problem if you forget the listening up bit and where, Hi Hi.

Also, it is better to use headphones.  I used a Heil head set and a foot switch or VOX.  As one gets older ones hearing tends to deteriorate, so anything that helps in these situations is a bonus.

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It's probably reasonable to assume a lot of "casual DXers" don't know why "last two" is evil.  And since new DXers come on board pretty regularly, it may be worthwhile to state what's wrong with "last two".

Quite simply, it's actually *less* efficient than using complete callsigns.  If you're working a pileup "last two", the greatest number of letters you can possibly get out of any caller is two.   Your chances of getting a complete callsign on the first try are ZERO, and the chances that the letters you did get will match more than one station (or will come close enough to matching that more than one station will call again) are very good.  At the very best, EVERY station you work will have to give the last two letters of their callsign twice.  If there's QRM or QRN at the wrong instant, you may have to ask them to send their whole call again - filling in letters you might have copied the first time around if they'd called with their whole call.  By working with full calls, there is a chance you'll get someone's complete callsign on the first try.  Even if you don't, the chances that you'll copy more than two letters are very good.  Personally, I ignore "last two" callers if at all possible.  One should NEVER use "last two" unless the DX station specifically requests it - and if you're a DX station, you shouldn't request it!


In practice, I found it far better in the ear bending pileups at the start to only have to pick just two letters rather than try and sort out the whole call.  If you have, say, 10 or 20 W6's calling or even lots with just the one number or letter, it can be very difficult to sort them without every call with 6 in it talking over the top of each other.  Remember many of the people calling you cannot hear the others calling you, so it can get very hard to sort them out without taking up time better spent.  I think it is OK to ask for the last two only at times as, from my experience, I found I could generally get to a call much more quickly and work more as a consequence.

In any situation the pressure is on the station calling you, and if they hear any response from you that has even one letter or number the same as theirs, then it is quite likely they will respond along with the other station you called.  This fact is no different when asking for the whole call but, as I say, I found it much better to pick out two letters than a whole call, and tended to stop some of the doubling taking place.

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If you will spend any amount of time ashore in any rare country, be sure to use some kind of computerised logging that supports printing adhesive labels with QSL information.  You're likely to get *lots* of PSE QSL cards.

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If you want to give low power stations a chance, do the following:

At one point, simply don't work anything any more, unannounced.  Wait 1-2 minutes.  The big guns will stop calling.  The little pistols will not.  Note 3/4/5 callsigns of weak stations and work them consecutively without a break, ie. G3ABC 59 - thank you, now HB9ABC 59 - thank you, now DL1ABC 59 - thank you, QRZ Europe from H44ABC.  Make a lot of people happy.

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If you come back with "WB9??E 5NN" and W1AW calls, ignore the W1.  Keep asking for the WB9 until either you get it all, or it becomes obvious you won't;  in the latter case, do another QRZ? instead of returning to one of the out-of-turn callers.

Similarly, if you decide to work by districts or geographic areas, you MUST NOT answer anybody in the wrong area.

If you answer people who are calling contrary to your instructions, 90% of the pilup will immediately begin ignoring your instructions.  You will have a huge bunch of continuous callers, and your chances of hearing anything are badly diminished.  If the pileup does get out of control and simply *will not* follow instructions, either switch to a different band, or shut off the radio and do something else for a while.

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Make sure the stations which report to you receive a prompt answer to their feedback.  I sent a "standard reply" to all stations sending me feedback.

Regular bulletins should include the latest details.  This cuts down major email traffic.

Be careful to avoid overkill.  One bulletin with no relevant data will kill all good work ...

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You have decided to go on a trip that would be a dream for any hardcore DXer.  Do yourself a favour by practicing before that, please.  The worst thing that can happen is if you lose the fun, if the pilups turn out to be too overwhelming for you.  Go on a smaller IOTA expedition, which most serious DXers have already worked numerous times and practice handling a pileup.

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As soon as you've got more than 3 stations calling you at the same time:  GO SPLIT!

By working split, the chances of a QSO are dramatically improved, as is the expedition's throughput.  Otherwise, the pileup of calling stations on the DX station will inevitably smother the DX, and result in a very low QSO rate.  The downside to this though, is that if the DX station does not manage the "spread", it will QRM other QSO's, a very inconsiderate practice.  Most good ops manage this fairly well.  Before getting your "feet wet" on a spot, please do everyone a big favour and make sure that your rig is properly set for split operation.  You may be transmitting out of your portion of the band right on top of the DX!  That will win you a plethora of expletives, and perhaps even a "Pink Slip" from an Official Observer.  Observe how the DXpedition operator works and the "sequence" he/she may be using.  If the operator says "UP @", don't transmit "DOWN 3".

Be courteous ... don't transmit when the operator is acknowledging another station ... you are just adding to the QRM and confusion.

And at all times, be courteous.  We don't need any more Kilocycle Cops, flamers and tuner-uppers than are already there.

Be reasonable about how much of the band you use for receive spectrum.  "Reasonable" depends on how rare you are, but I would think that for even the rarest expeditions 10 KHz should be enough on CW, 20 KHz on phone.  It's probably best to give one specific frequency, and then tune up (or down, if you prefer) from there until you find a copyable station or you hit the edge of the "reasonable" chunk of spectrum.

Check you receive zone for existing QSO's before you start - really that should be the callers' responsibility (since they can interfere with stations you can't hear) but you can bet most won't bother.

By working split, most of the pileup can hear you reliably and copy your instructions.  Whether they'll actually obey is another question!

For CW operations, 2 KC's is usually a good starting point.  On CW, you can announce that you are listening up, ie. "QRZ KH2D UP" which is usually all that is needed to make the pileup move away from your transmit frequency.  If the pileup doesn't respond immediately and other stations continue to call on your frequency, "UP 2 UP 2 UP 2 UP 2 DE KH2D" will usually do the trick.  Simply turn the RIT on and tune up the band and listen for the stations calling you, or, if you prefer, use the other VFO on your rig to receive.  Tune up or down over a range of 2 or 3 KC's - fortunately there are a few DX'ers left who are smart enough to not just tune up 2 KC's and send their call a dozen times.  It's hard to copy anybody even with a 250 cycle filter when 75 stations zero beat the same frequency and call you, so move your receive frequency around.  By moving, you will increase your rate by working the good operators who know what TAILGATE means, and the ones who quickly figure out the direction you are tuning.

On SSB, the process of working a split operation is basically the same but since you need to move the pileup farther away from your transmit frequency (to disable the effect of Mr. Splatter), using two VFO's is a must.  Again, most modern rigs with two VFO's have the A=B button.  Press it, which sets the second VFO to the frequency and side band you are currently operating on.  Tell everybody to stand by, and then activate the second VFO as the receive VFO.  Tune up (or down) the band at least 5 to 10 KC's, find a quiet frequency, then announce to the pileup where you will be listening.  For example, if you are operating on 14.195, move the pileup to 14.210.  It's fine to move them down, but the usual procedure is to move them up.  Again, as on CW, it's difficult to pick out callsigns when too many stations are calling you on the same frequency - so simply spread them out.  Listen from 14.210 to 14.215, or to 14.220.


It's very important to tell people where you are listening.  As new stations arrive to join the pileup, they need to be instructed quickly to what's going on.  On CW, always include the UP after your callsign (and please don't forget to send your callsign after EVERY station you work - don't expect the new guys who just showed up to know from your fist who you are).

On SSB, simply give your listening frequency after every contact - VK9WI 210 - or - VK9WI 210 to 220.  It's also important to check your transmit frequency on occasion - no matter how specific you are you will always get the guy who can't figure out what's going on and who zero beats you and calls you for an hour.  You want to make sure your transmit frequency is CLEAR, that's why you are working split.

If you listen on your frequency and find 3 stations calling, DO NOT work them - MOVE THEM.  If you work them, then you'll move the pileup down to your frequency and you'll have to start over.  Move them by simply announcing you are listening - even if you have to announce it ten times.  Do it until they all move off and your transmit frequency is clear again. 

It's imperative that you keep your transmit frequency clear - if you don't, the guys who are calling you there will be joined by the RADIO POLICE.  The RADIO POLICE are the guys who already worked you, or have nothing better to do but to listen to you, and they will begin telling the LOST SOULS that you are listening up.  Next thing you know, the LOST SOULS and the RADIO POLICE have you covered in QRM.

Before you begin any split operation, make sure the frequency you are going to listen on is CLEAR and is not being used by others.  If you tell people to call you 10 KC's up, remember they won't be listening where they are transmitting - they are listening to you - so don't plop your pileup down right on top of somebody else who is having a QSO.

Don't get carried away with how wide of a frequency range you need to listen on - 10 or 20 KC's is usually enough to accommodate half the world.  One of the worst demonstrations of poor operating was a Clipperton DXpedition back in the late 70's.  The whole world wanted to work them, and they would show up on 14.195 and start listening from 14.200 to 14.300.  This would clobber who knows how many QSO's that were already in progress up and down the band.  Start listening on one frequency.  If things get difficult, spread them out to 5 KC's, or worst case 10 KC's, but don't clog up half the band with your pileup.

Do pay attention to your QSO rate - if you are just passing out signal reports, on CW you should be working 2 or 3 stations a minute, or on SSB 3 or 4 a minute.  If things slow down, it's usually because your transmit frequency is getting QRM - go clear it off.

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If the pileup becomes too large, a good operation will resort to "by the numbers".  Here, the operator will QRZ by call districts.  Often, an operator will be in a call area which is different from his/her callsign.  For example, if the DX operator is calling the 1s, always sign K7CTW/1.

Another view ... when working by call areas, the recommendation  to the DXpedition operator is to ignore portable designation and recognize only call sign prefix numbers.  For example, if KC1AG were in San Diego he would call with the [W1s] not with [W6s] or BOTH the W1s and W6s.  The report states this particular recommendation is likely to be controversial.  However, they point out the rampant abuse of the portable designation as the rationale for their suggestion.  (Any comments?)

When you hear the band is open to EU, East Coast USA or whatever, you announce this and say "Europe only".  And stick to it.  Do not work anything outside Europe.  Be rude.  Tell JA's or W's that they are not Europe.  Particularly loud and rude stations that keep calling can be announced, ie. "WA1ABC I said Europe.  Are you Europe?  Stop calling or you will never be in the log".  Don't hesitate to do that.

Work by districts.  (BUT MEAN WHAT YOU SAY).  About 90% of operators (at least in North America) will obey your instructions, which will thin out the pileup considerably. 

It's probably best to work in numerical order, as many people will be listening, waiting for their district's turn.  Work 10 of 1 district, then 10 of the next and so on.  If you skip around, the less-well-behaved ones will start asking "what about sixes?"  When working by call areas, the recommendation to the DXpedition operator is to ignore portable designation and recognize only call sign prefix numbers.  For example, if KC1AG were in San Diego he would call with the [W1s] not with [W6s] or both the W1s and W6s.

The DX operators work NO MORE THAN 10 stations in a given call district at a time, and move on to the next one.  The business of waiting for an hour worth of W2s, then 3s etc. is ridiculous.  It often results in loss of the path between wherever the DXer is and some percentage of the folks calling.

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One last and smart thing for the hardcore experienced operators that will make all the other hardcore experienced DXers happy:  Normally you end your exchange with "G3ABC thank you.  This is H44ABC, listening 200 to 205," or just "G3ABC thank you.  H44ABC" if it's clear you are split.  If you are cute, sometimes you can vary this pattern by saying "G3ABC thank you.  H44ABC 273".  The dumb operators will think you have just wished them 73s.  The smart ones will do what?'

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Aha!  Bet you were surprised to find me down here!


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