images (14)

These days I donate to DX-peditions who activate 160M and ATNO’s. Needing only Bouvet and Glorioso, this means Top Band is where the action is – and I will go out of my way if a DX-pedition goes out of their way to activate 160M and do it properly – as VK0EK did. So – what’s on the Top Band radar – that will be activated and which I need:

Aug 19 – 28 – CY9C – St. Paul. This would be a blast to chase, and I will donate if I work them

Aug 20 – 21 – Vanuatu – KC0W. This also would be fun to chase

Sep 10 – 20 – St. Pierre / Miquelon – TO5FP – not sure if they will activate 160M, but another fun one

Sep 6 – 30 – Comoros – D66D – would be very hard, but glad to see they will have 160M

Sep 24 – Oct 3 – Solomon Islands – H44GC – another fun one to chase

Sep 25 – Oct 15 – West Kiribati – the ONLY Kiribati slot I need – by KC0W, and this should be a shoe in

Sep 25 – Oct 15 – Norfolk – VK9NZ – wow – this should be a ton of fun

Oct 4 – 17 – Temotu – H40GC – another fun one

Oct 8 – 23 – Sao Tome – S9YY – possible

Oct 18 – 21 – another Solomon activation on TB – H44GC

Oct 26 – Nov 9 – ZL7G – Chatham – this will be really great

Nov 4 – 14th – Cambodia – XU7MDC – big fun

Nov 6 – 16 – Senegal – 6V1IS – possible, and would be a lot of fun

Nov 15 – 30 – J5 – Guinea Bissau – another great one – and since its I2YSB’s team – c’est possible

Nov 20 – Dec 3 – Maldives – 8Q7SP – more fun

Apr 1 – 30 – San Felix – CE0/X – would be possible

Sep 1 – 30 – KH1 – Baker – the only place I need this one on is Top Band. K1B killed it years ago

I need 23 to get to DXCC on 160M and 9BDXCC. Since I still need many in the Caribbean, Central and South America – and which will be activated this coming contest season – it is very possible to wrap up DXCC on TB before Bouvet comes on the air. Here is the grey line at 0250 utc on July 25th:

jul25

and in one month from now:

aug25

Now I’m really getting excited about DX-ing again – and this winter will most likely find 160M to be alive with great DX as we slide down the sunspot sink.

qsotoday

I was interviewed a few weeks ago on Eric’s wonderful podcast “QSO Today”, and it was a blast. Here is the link:

http://www.qsotoday.com/podcasts/ky6r

jun-jul-ssn

We did get a nice little spike – and the Solar Flux has been over 100 for almost 2 weeks now.

jul23

Lets second guess the cycle and see if we are past that sharp dip – and see if maybe we will climb back up out of the Zero sunspot hole and level off for a year or so – that would be quite awesome – just long enough to work 3Y0B.

explo

It would be cool if that rise just after the dip is where we are at and that after the little drop we are experiencing right now – that we then rise up even higher – just in time for the Fall. Lets call it the “Back to School Special” . . .

Auyer-Rocky

I was lucky on the 25th and 29th of June to catch what is turning to be the best Top Band conditions of the summer. I snagged LU and ZL for two new one’s – and that was while testing my new 3 Loop Receiving system. Since then conditions have not been as good – the noise seems to have taken over. The other day, Jorge, CX6VM and I tried for a QSO, and while he heard me 569 and clearly, I heard maybe one beep or boop – so we will have to keep trying.

CX

I’m up at 3 AM as usual, and the one interesting thing about CX is how fast the grey line is – even when compared to LU or CE. I still need CX and CE – so that’s the good news. There are a few stations active on 160M from CX, but CE is harder to find someone – although I think during this upcoming contest season that will change.

cx-aug

In one month, the greyline “geometry” will be better – it will swing through CX, LU and CE for just a bit longer, and maybe the lightning storms will subside a bit. I actually don’t hear a lot of lightning crashes – but there has been quite a few days with fairly constant noise. HOWEVER, I am hearing Mario, LU8DPM Q5 with the RX system and the noise is S5. When I switch to the MA160V vertical, the noise is S9 and Mario cannot be heard. The lightning crashes are quite bad on the vertical, and very low on the loops. That’s a new data point . . . on the AB-577 massive top hat the lightning strikes are even worse – S9 +10 dB. So – while both verticals exhibit a higher S reading, its pretty much all noise – so the noise component today is a whopping 14 S units over the signal – or 84 dB when a lightning crash strikes on the AB-577. (Can this be true – that seems crazy . . . ). With no lightning strikes on the MA160V the difference is “only” 4 S units or 24 dB – OK – that seems more reasonable. But I guess it shows how lightning strikes can really kill 160M in the summer, and how the loops once again come to the rescue. The biggest issue with all of this is mental – no matter what we say, we secretly like higher S readings – but in this case, learning to tune everything for a “dip” is counter intuitive. I still find that I have to turn all gain DOWN in this RX system and not worry that I’m not at “11” . . . . (Spinal Tap reference).

lightnin

My friend Andreas, N6NU has also been working on his RX system for 160M and I see that he has also made contacts with CX, LU and ZL. He and I have been comparing notes on our antenna systems and I think we are both going to really enjoy Top Band a lot more starting right about now – as we get closer to August. Its big fun to be working on the same thing, same goals and both of us snagging new one’s on 160M. Now I really know why they call it Top Band and The Gentleman’s Band.

images (28)

My nominal goal was to get 2 or 3 new ones on 160M, with big dreams of maybe 5 – and getting to 80 on Top Band. I think by September I will have ended up with at least 3 out of the 5 – and feel I can work CX6VM soon for Uruguay. The main reason I won’t get to 80 by September is probably more because the number of Top Banders during the Southern Hemisphere’s Winter is a lot less than I would have expected. But all of this is good in a way – I am soooo tried of pileups on the higher bands where it has become like a traffic jam. On Top Band, I can work the world and never ever have to “get in line”. Its ham radio DX-ing at its finest. Yeah – even more fun than 40M – but I hate admitting that, actually.

Speaking of that – school starts here in the Lamorinda area in just one month. Yikes! Where did the summer go?

mit-generator-und-sonnenschirm

The hotly contested South China Seas are heating up for sure, and Bernie, W3UR posted this link in his excellent Daily DX newsletter:

https://news.usni.org/2016/07/19/take-position-scarborough-shoal

This article makes clear that the US does not want China to fill Scarborough in with concrete – making it an airbase and radar site since its only 150 miles from the Philippines. The article says that the US did not intervene when parts of the Spratleys were converted to military bases because the Spratley’s – which have already been converted – were far enough away from the Philippines. With US bases in the Philippines, Scarborough is much closer and is clearly of interest to the US and the Philippines. During a recent trip to China by President Obama, this was one of the topics discussed.

BS7H was activated in 2007 because it was deemed a Chinese possession. This made it far enough away from their mainland. Lets see what happens – if jurisdiction were to change from China to the Philipines, then Scarborough would be less than the distance limit, and would become a Deleted entity. I personally think it will just stay the way it is and that the Chinese won’t fill it in and build a base there – that just seems like it would be “a bridge too far” on the part of the Chinese. But its something to watch for sure.

There are many, many things way more important in this world than the DXCC program – but such political changes in the world have and will affect the DXCC program. There are many parts of the world that seem in a state of “flux”, more so than I can remember in recent times – so it will be interesting to see what happens. The other day I posted my updated “Visual History of the DXCC Program and its very clear that world political changes changed and shaped the DXCC program more than anything else – the biggest being when Africa became independent from the European Colonial days.

Is the world about to change and redraw borders anywhere? That’s the thing to watch if you want to know how the program might change as far as number of entities is concerned (short of any new rule changes, a.k.a “Gerrymandering”) . . . . .

time_95

I spent the last two days getting a set of geography database tables set up for the Online Travel Website:

http://www.janbala.com

That will go live tomorrow. These database tables are in MySQL and they facilitate search for travel destinations and airports that might end up being destinations for travelers. These tables work in cooperation with MongoDB since most data these days are exchanged using JSON (Javascript Object Notation). Besides working on both MySQL and MongoDB, I also work with AWS S3, Lambda and Redshift on the Data Warehousing side of the data chain. I’ve been a database designer data architect and developer for 35 years. I was Oracle’s 127th employee. I worked at Gupta Technologies as well and with the fellow who was the lead developer of Redshift (the ParAccel days) – an amazing product in the AWS stack. I write SQL, UDF’s, Stored Procedures, Python and C# programs and functions so “data is my life” . . .

Most of what I did the last two days was write SQL scripts and use “helper tables” to combine latitude, longitude, timezone, airport, city, state / province and country data. I also built search terms and strings to assist with the search portion of the website. I also got JSON loading into Redshift and wrote a bunch of Python UDF’s (User Defined Functions) that let me model a big table in Redshift and where I put the scalar data in columns and arrays of JSON data in what ends up looking like a column family. Very cool. Those geographic tables will also end up in Redshift since many of the BI reports have geography as a major part or dimension.

All of this was quite a bit of fun – especially since I am a ham and DX-er. Much of the data is what we DX-ers live with and for. Its fairly rare to sit at work and think about the DX-peditons I’ve worked while munging data.

The web site will cater to many different types of travelers, and I have been told that packages and “adventure travel” will become one of our niches. That certainly has me wondering if maybe a few single or small group DX-peditioners will book on our system. That would be very cool. C’est possible, but I don’t know if its C’est probable.

At the start the site will offer the ‘standard fare”, but will quickly add new interesting packages and products. Many destinations that I loaded yesterday were rare DXCC entities (with airports or even just a helipad) – so that was cool.

xx

I have updated the chart that I first created in 2013 – please click on this link to get the new and improved version:

dxcc_entity_counts_awards

I met for coffee with DX-er Doc, K7SO, and we discussed the past, present and possible trends of the DXCC Program. Doc then emailed afterwards and provided me with some stunning maps and links to sites that really highlight some of the trends that are obvious – and some not so obvious future trends. I want to thank Doc for this really interesting information!

Past

The DXCC program had a major “reboot” after World War II – so much so – most people today only know the program since it was restarted after WWII. The biggest change in the program by far – was independence that swept through Africa – and where European Colonial states control fell in droves. Here is a map that – along with my chart – that tells the story as clear as a bell:

africa-colonial-powers

The link to the web site is:

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/africa-colonial-powers.jpg

You can clearly see why there was such a spike after WWII and how its reflected in the chart above. Many new ones were added to the DXCC list during this time.

Another very big deal DX wise is what I would call the “Rise of the Celebrity DX-er“. The first DX-pedition that fits this moniker would be the Gatti Expedition:

1939_International_Jungle_Yacht_Truck,_Commander_Gatti (1)

Bob Leo, W7LR was the radio man on the team, the transportation provided by Harvester International and radios provided by Hallicrafters. This was circa 1940. Thor Heyerdahl floated a raft called the Kon Tiki and amateur radio was aboard in 1947, with much fan fare and publicity. LI2B was their call sign and the operators were Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby. The “First DX-peditioner” is normally attributed to Danny Weil, VP2VB/MM, and the Colvins, Lloyd, W6KG and Iris, W6QL were very well known DX-peditioners at that time – (all part of what is now YASME), and later, in the 50’s and 60’s, Don Miller, W9WNV was active and also very well known. There were others, Gus Browning, W4BPD and Jim and Kirsti Smith, VK9NS and VK9NL. All of these DX-ers were “pre-baby boom”, and I think their biggest contribution is really putting DX-ing on the map (bad pun intended). Prior to this, if you look at QST in those years, the National Traffic System seemed to be the biggest concentration and emphasis of the ARRL – which makes sense given the “urgency” before, during and just after WWII. Civil Defense was on everyone’s mind. That would continue into the Korean and Vietnam conflicts – bringing us right up to when I was licensed in 1973. In fact, I had a phone patch hoping to pass traffic for Vietnam troops, but that was not to happen while I was a Novice in 1973 – 1975 with 75 watts and CW only. Vietnam officially ended in 1975, and BTW – I have an 80 column Hollerith QSL card from Martti Laine from those years! But I very much remember how being a “Traffic Man” was still a bigger deal than being a DX-er in 1973 or so. DX-ers were kind of in the shadows of the ARRL’s radar. That would soon change.

The next “Class Of” would be led by Martti Laine, OH2BH, and that’s where the history of the DXCC program changed. Martti pretty much took up where Don Miller left off, and brought us into the modern day DX-peditions. Interestingly enough, this fine GDXF web site starts at 1979 with its list of “Mega DX-peditions”:

http://www.gdxf.de/megadxpeditions/

So if you think about it – Martti Laine bridged the days before the “Mega DX-pedition”, and into modern times, which basically is when larger scale planning, higher cost and larger teams were to embark on traveling to far away places to give The Deserving their ATNO’s. Thankfully, there are also many single DX-peditioners as well as smaller groups that are not “mega” in size and planning, and there are also many scientists and support staff who have activated places that large teams have not been able to go to. Four that come to mind are FT5WG, P5/4L4LN, (3Y0E – which I missed) and ZS8M. I also have more ATNO’s from Vlad, UA4WHX than any “mega DX-pedition” team, but I digress. We will come back to this topic of “mega” vs. “Lone Wolf” in a bit, but think about this – there have been FAR more single op and small team activation’s than mega DX-peditions. I do not have a number, but the ratio is far and away in favor of the smaller activations. This is very important to keep in context.

The Class of 1997 – when you look at the VK0IR Team, you will see a veritable “who’s who” of DX-pedition leaders who brought us into today’s “mega DX-pedition” days. Some places (seem to be) nearly impossible to activate as a single person or even small team – places like Bouvet or Heard Island – but there have been notable exceptions. Some more recent personal examples include the only QSO I have with Crozet is Jean-Paul when he had 100 watts and a vertical while (literally) counting penguins on Crozet – as FT5WG. I worked him but missed Petrus on Bouvet – 3Y0E – so you have to be really lucky to catch 100 watt and vertical activations from ultra rare entities such as these. In the past I had worked Chuck Brady, N4BQW for several rare Pacific entities – but sadly I was not on the air when he was on Bouvet – operating as 3Y0C. Chuck was a very nice guy – and a great operator whom I really enjoyed interacting with.

Most polar places require chartered ships – and the Braveheart has been the “only game in town” for many years now. So – that “Class of 1997” spawned today’s mega DX-peditioners, and there is a very strong thread here – they were all born just as we were getting into WWII or just after WWII ended – meaning they are Baby Boomers. The same thing was going on in Europe – several DX-pedition leaders we all know and love today – who have activated many places are also Baby Boomers.

Today

The Baby Boomers and “Class of 1997′ were in their 50’s back then, meaning they have entered – or they are just entering their 70’s today. This means we are just entering the time when we will see some DX-peditioner retirements. Luckily, the teams they have assembled are younger and will no doubt carry the baton – perhaps for up to 10 years, maybe even more. I am in the age range of the people in this group (receiving the baton and am at the absolute end of the Baby Boom), so I know the “status” of this group. Being 8 years away from retirement all of this is on my mind a lot these days.

If you think about it – the Baby Boomers perfected what is the mega (or what I actually think is really the “corporate” DX-pedition). These projects rival the work I’ve done on corporate Data Warehouses, and I experienced this very thing with VK0EK. Its not a job for the meek. We just passed one quarter with 4 such top 10 DX-peditions (VP8, K5P, VK0EK and FT4JA) that all had to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars, and I would be very surprised to see this happen again – at least not to places that require such very expensive transportation anyway. I learned from experience that there are very few ships out there that will take you anywhere near your budget. I always wonder when we will hit a wall in this regard – that some of these will simply just become too expensive.

There were two very interesting activations before this major “flurry” of mega activity – and both by a single person or small team – Dom in P5 and the small team who activated Antipodes – which now is an entity that includes Auckland / Campbell island. These were small operations and I applaud both teams for even being able to just get there – others have been turned away. I see this as a future trend. OK – back to the history of DXCC.

Wayne, N7NG told me that when he was at the helm of the DXCC Desk, that when new “entities” were being pitched in the 80s and 90’s – and which included a lot of gerrymandering to change the rules that would allow new islands or reefs or whatnot onto the list, the familiar groan was “Good Grief, Another Reef” . . . There are still many entities on the list that make no real sense – and wouldn’t be on the list today except they were “grand fathered in”. This was a good thing because the ARRL had to please those who had them all from the past as well as those chomping at the bit to get onto Honor Roll or above in the present day. It was a smart move – and certainly kept the program viable. I very much respect the fact that the ARRL has been even able to keep this DXCC program viable – its a juggling act for sure. But its also a cautionary tale – today’s urge to add a ridiculous entity will be tomorrow’s night mare. There is a point where it becomes “A Bridge Too Far”.

I think the rules changes in the late 1990’s have put an end to the previous gerrymandering – for the most part – with Swains being an exception. But if you look at the graph – you’ll see the rise from 1985 to 1997 or so was caused by the break up of the former Yugoslavia – and other fallout from the Berlin Wall coming down. But all in all – things did stabilize – so the work they did in the late 90’s was very good. There has been a gradual rise during this time frame – 1989 – present day. And there hasn’t been any more “ridiculous” entities added for quite a long time now – so I feel those days are over, and they should be.

The Future

The world is changing. The Baby Boomers will start retiring from DX-peditioning, but there will still be some large DX-pedition teams activating, and there will also be the single “lone wolves” and smaller teams activating. I work for an Online Travel Agency, and Eco Tourism is growing in a big way. There is a serious market for small groups or single people to go on trips to places like South Georgia. I know of one such company who had a trip to South Georgia planned and was offering a discount to add some ham radio operators! This is just the start, and its a new way to have some activation’s happen. There will still be scientists going to the really remote places, like the fellow who just activated Kerguelin at the beginning of the year. DX-ing won’t die – but some changes are ahead. I think the SOTA and the IOTA activators will fill in a lot of gaps in the near and distant future. I believe some of the old tyme style of DX-ing will re-emerge – as long as “adventure travel” or “eco travel” or “climate science” expeditions are possible.

The biggest possibility that any entities will be added will be if the world map changes. Here is a map of places that have possible break away entities that could pop up:

europe-distinct-separatist-movements

and the link:

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/areas-with-strong-nationalist-tendencies/

A while back, Vlad, UA4WHX activated two of these, and I have a QSL card from Transnistria. I did not work him when he was in Ossetia. I don’t expect many of these to break away and change, but some might. Kosovo is waiting in the wings to be added to the DXCC program, but a rule change would be needed – and that’s something the ARRL has tried to avoid – plus the ramifications of any rule change usually comes with a ripple affect. There is actually a list of breakaway countries:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_states_with_limited_recognition

Here is another link from Doc that describes the Ottoman Empire and which shows change:

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/ottoman-empire-borders-versus-modern-day-borders/

and another discussing the South China Sea:

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/chinas-maritime-choke-points/

and finally some “musing” about South America:

https://geopoliticalfutures.com/south-americas-geographical-importance/

All food for thought, but with the news we see each day, its very obvious that the world is changing and I fully expect at least some boundaries being redrawn which will affect the DXCC program. Its hard to say if this will be a lot or a sprinkling here and there. Its also hard to say how quickly things will change – but a lot is going on right now, that’s for sure.

Future Trends

I believe these things will happen over the next 10 years and become trends:

  1. There will still be mega DX-peditions but less than half of what we have enjoyed over the last 15 years. This was a Baby Boomer creation for sure
  2. We will see quite a few Baby Boomers retire from DX-peditioning, but they will still be at home in their shack contesting and DX-ing
  3. There will be an uptick in single and small group DX-peditioners. They will become very crafty at getting to rare places. UA4WHX is the model for this – he gave me an ATNO from Comoros and Palestine – places I missed the mega DX-peditions
  4. Some maps and entities will be added and or deleted due to re-drawing of maps in several parts of the world – ffecting the DXCC program
  5. Eco and adventure travel will enable the activation of some places that previously would have taken a mega DX-pedition. South Georgia is one I know for sure – and where I have met the tour operator who would have loved to have ham radio operators go along with his eco tours there in the last couple of years – even offering a 10% discount!
  6. We might see more single scientists operating from rare outposts. Is there any way we as DX-ers can influence this? I think YES.

The best feedback for this blog has come in the way of email responses. I was very surprised at two very well known and respected DX-ers / contesters / DX-peditioners who told me that they thought DX-ing will wane and that equipment manufacturers will have less and less of a market. I am sure they are right up to a point.

For me, I just don’t know – its a supply and demand game – so I’ve been told that the growth will come from Europe and Asia as far as new DX-ers are concerned – and most of these will be in the area of DX Contesting first. I do think in the US – it is possible to attract “Makers” into ham radio – and maybe into DX-ing, but that seems like a bit of a stretch. The big question is – where will the new DX-ers and DX-peditioners come from? I understand the argument that young people are too busy taking care of career and then their young families – so DX-ers and DX-peditioners by design need to be older (I was out of ham radio from age 20 until 41) and so the big question is – how do you attract the 40 year old to get into DX-ing? I think “adventure traveling” is most promising – and this comes from working at Travana with our new online travel agency about to go live called:

http://www.janbala.com

It will go live within the next week or two. I’ve been told that Millenials are driving more eco travel and more adventure travel. Both of my sons are millenials – so I will report back if this turns out to be true. One of the ships we (VK0EK) actually had a contract with was an eco tour company – but the agent in charge changed the contract at the last minute that put the kibosh on that ship. That company used Russian ships and so I learned that there are many hands who change money with travel and tourism, and so price fluctuations are inevitable and some deals fall apart. We even had that happen with an agent who was trying to lease out the Agulhas I for what would have been the first (Post Marion) DX-pedition. But the deal fell through as well. I do expect that eco and adventure tourism will pick up – especially with young tech workers in the US and elsewhere – something to think about.

Supply and demand will be the rule of the day moving forward – and this is where my crystal ball is very fuzzy. As long as there are “Armchair DX-ers” chasing DX-peditions – there will be DX-peditions.

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