Monday, February 5, 2018

3Y0Z Team Bouvet headed back to Cape Town

Update from the team:

MV Betanzos
South Atlantic Ocean
5 February 2018 --  0930 UTC

Our captain has decided that it is in the best interest of safety and expediency to proceed directly to Capetown, South Africa rather than Punta Arenas, Chile.  We are currently heading north to avoid the possibility of encountering ice.   Currently there is no ice in sight or on radar.  In due time we will head easterly toward Capetown.
Our entire team is safe.  Most are resting in their bunks and in good spirits.  We will keep the amateur radio community and our families informed as we continue our journey.

Ralph - K0IR
Bob - K4UEE
Erling - LA6VM

Saturday, February 3, 2018

ARRL BoD meeting minutes released

The much talked about BoD meeting produced some decisions and the minutes of that meeting was finally released. Here it is.

It seems odd that they released it on Friday evening. Then again, not so odd. Releasing bad news on Friday is a very common tactic among politicos. Release a bunch of news on Friday, because nobody reads the paper on Saturday.

It seems like Newington is taking a few lessons from Washington?

Either way, the minutes are worth a read, if for nothing else but to see what your league is up to.

Z60A - $20 for a QSL? Not really.

We all know that the ARRL BoD is not the most popular entity these days. But one of the things they did recently made a tiny Republic which was part of the former Yugoslavia into a new officially recognized DXCC entity. Yes, this is Kosovo, and it's now an official DXCC entity.

Well, our friend from Finland heard of this news and flew in to Pristina pronto, as he wanted to be "on the ground" to get things well activated. Love him or hate him, he is "Martti on the spot" when it comes to new DX entities. Immediately the pileups came through thick and ferocious. Electric power consumption increased worldwide as transceivers and amplifiers fired up, beaming glorious RF to the newly recognized entity.

Ah, but there is one wrinkle. When it's done, it ain't done until the paperwork is done. You see, the contact is one thing, but DXCC rules require written confirmation. You do this either with a QSL card, a letter, or through ARRL Logbook of The World (LoTW).

The controversy seems to stem from the fact that the Z60A operation is offering a $20 early QSL option. Yep, you can skip to the head of the QSL queue for US$20. I can imagine since only 9 people are on #1 Honor Roll right now that a lot who were knocked off are anxious to get back on.

Some people think this isn't ethical. Some are OK with it. Some are ecstatic (I would imagine a lot of the #1HR folks are). My friend and well respected DXpedition team leader Paul, N6PSE thinks it's a bad idea and the start of a bad trend and harmful to smaller operations. He does make some good points.

I am sort of on the fence on this.

For one, I am generally against the exploitation of ham radio contacts for monetary gain. However, I agree with Paul and I realize that DXpeditions have real costs and those costs often aren't insignificant. So I can understand asking for a few bucks above what postage and QSL card printing costs. I often donate significantly above what is asked, if I felt a DXpedition deserved it. I think it is important that those going to these places aren't fully stuck with the bill (even though in most cases the team members do lay out substantial sums).

But I have heard a few views which make me lean on the side of "the $20 donation is not a bad thing IF and only IF it is used for good."

First of all, the claim by the Z60A team is that the money is going to be used to develop Amateur Radio in Kosovo, especially among youth. If that is the case, and they are a new country after all, I am more than happy to support them on that basis alone.

I was told by another DXer that the money is going to be used to sponsor a Kosovar team to the WRTC. If that is the case then I am all for it. After all, a new country having a team at the ham radio olympics? They will be very proud of that. I can't confirm this claim's authenticity but it sounds noble.

That said - I don't like the idea of this becoming a trend IF it is used to pay DXpedition costs. Sure, there are DXers who would pay a lot of money to work a rare one, and donate tens, hundreds or even thousands of dollars to get a new one on the air. But I don't think it should ever be a requirement. It isn't in this case, but some may seize on this idea.

Quite simply, the slippery slope is well in sight.

Today you are paying for priority QSLs and LoTW, tomorrow you are paying for...? The idea that eventually you'll be paying for private skeds, priority in the queue and - heaven forbid - guaranteed QSOs, makes my blood curl.

I don't think that every DXpedition should simply give away all QSLs for free. It is absolutely fine to ask for postage costs, and maybe a little extra to cover extraordinary costs such as transportation.

However, there are some hams who will work every slot 10 times over, rule the leader board then request a free bureau card, which to me is simply taking advantage. So I am 100% fine with a DXpedition asking for $5-$10 for postage, and maybe asking for a voluntary donation above that. Per DX foundation rules, they will upload the entire to LoTW within a set time frame.

There has to be a balance, and while I truly believe Martti's request and offer is noble, akin to a kickstarter reward, I think that this should really be looked at long and hard before it becomes a trend.

Anyway, that's all I have for now. What do you think? Sound off below.

3Y0Z - Bouvet 2018 Aborted!

The much anticipated 3Y0Z Bouvet Island DXpedition has been aborted.

As reported on DX-World, there were issues with getting weather clearance to fly their helicopters, which would delay them for a week and more. The island is pretty, the weather is not. Winds of up to 80 knots and more caused the ship to bob up and down making helicopter takeoff and landing extremely unsafe. Basically as one DXer put it - "it's like a cork in a flushing toilet." 

Then came this update from co-leaders K0IR, K4UEE, LA6VM:
During the last 72 hours we continued to experience the high winds, low clouds, fog, and rough seas that have prevented helicopter operations since our arrival at Bouvet. No improvement was predicted in the weather forecast for the next four days. Then, last night an issue developed in one of the ship’s engines. This morning the captain of the vessel declared it unsafe to continue with our project and aborted the expedition. We are now on our long voyage back to Punta Arenas. As you might imagine the team is deeply disappointed, but safe. There is already talk about rescheduling the DXpedition.

Folks, to say this is disappointing is an extreme understatement. The team were all prepped, and ready to roll. Some of these guys are personal friends of mine, and I know that they are heartbroken to an extreme. Not to mention the team at FlexRadio are extremely disappointed since their radios are on board and they are a principal sponsor.

However, SAFETY always comes first, and I'd hate for us to lose some of the best minds in the ham radio world to mother nature and Murphy. So, I am hoping for news of when they will reschedule. I will gladly donate again for a 2nd attempt, if they choose to do so.