You’ll find our progress reports and updates here. Check back often.
The budget for this entire project is about $450,000. Vessel charter, Operator travel costs, Equipment. Logistics and Housing/Per diem imposed by TAAF make up the costs. The largest cost by far, it the cost of chartering the M/V Braveheart for 40 days and re-positioning the vessel to/from New Zealand.
The trip requires a large financial commitment from each team member. The minimum team member contribution is $10,000. Travel to and from Fremantle, Australia will cost each team member another $3,000- $3,500. In addition there are six weeks away from home and family, a very long boat ride, and the physical and financial risks inherent to a DXpedition of this magnitude. I believe you will agree that the DXpedition team members are doing their part to make this successful. We have heartened by an extremely generous grant from INDEXA. Within hours of receiving the group’s request for funds, INDEXA offered their support. Then, NCDXF followed-up with one of the largest grants they’ve awarded. Dozens of clubs and hundreds of individual DXers worldwide have made contributions up-front when they are most needed. We are deeply indebted to them and appreciate their confidence. However, we are still short , if you have already made a contribution…THANKS, if not please consider doing so.
DXpedition leader Ralph Fedor, KØIR, states:
“We simply cannot do this without help from the DX community. We need to raise about a quarter of a million dollars overall. And, it has to be international financial support – we need our DX friends from Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania to help us on this one. This is truly an International effort.”
The first day of a DXpedition can be challenging for the DX’ers, the DXpedition’s pilots, and the DXpedition operators. DX’ers are understandably anxious, thinking: ‘Will I be able to work this DXpedition? I think 12 meters should be open, why aren’t they operating there? I can hear them, but they’re working JA’s – why not me? The pile up is huge, I don’t think I’ll ever get through.’
Pilots in North America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia see their inboxes fill with emails expressing concern. They struggle to answer the many emails and may be saying, “Why did I volunteer for this?”
The DXpeditioners are still struggling to get everything running smoothly and they are typically dead tired. Unknowns invariably demand change and attention. They may have to QRT unexpectedly to re-route a power cable, install some ferrite cores, repair a shelter, or see where the smell of smoke is coming from.
In a day or so things settle down. DX’ers have learned the rhythm and pattern of the DXpedition and increased their confidence level. The DXpedition team has tamed their RF, gotten their generators humming, obtained some rest, and has sync’d their rhythm with that of the pile-up. The pilots breathe a sigh of relief and it’s time to ask, “Whats the best way of working this DXpedition?”
I suggest you begin by going to our website and clicking on The DXpedition tab and then the Propagation tab. You will be taken to Create DX Prediction FT5ZM. Fill in you call sign, grid square, and select an antenna configuration that most nearly matches yours. Click on Save and in a few seconds a graph will appear showing predicted band openings to your area along with expected signal levels. You now know the bands and times when you are most likely to be able to work FT5ZM.
The Amsterdam Island team will use a more detailed propagation map enabling us to see these openings in greater detail. It will be especially useful to us for seeing openings to areas that occur “underneath” other openings. For example, if you are a U.S. station in the zero call area, your 1600 UTC opening on 17 meters will be “underneath” a European opening occurring at the same time.
After you’re in the right place at the right time, following the DX Code of Conduct (there is a link to it on our home page) will give you the best chance of working FT5ZM.
Here are some things to keep in mind:
- We will make every effort to be on as many open bands as we can, but at times we may have more openings than we can cover with our manpower and eight stations, especially when trying to operate on more than one mode per band.
- As part of our permit, and to be appreciative guests, we will be assisting with some of the daily chores and duties at the Amsterdam base. We will be part of the base community. At this time we do not know the times and durations of those work details, other than that they will not be overly demanding.
- Our two operating sites are over a mile apart. Night time walks between the two sites are prohibited. We may not be able to make this walk without a companion during the day.
- Routine DXpedition chores will need to be done, including generator refueling, antenna maintenance, shelter cleaning, meal preparation, moving supplies, and attending to the unexpected.
Any of the above may interrupt our operating. Sometimes these issues may only allow us to be on a band for a few hours, even when it is open. But we feel dealing with the interruptions as necessary and operating on a band, even if it is only for a short time, is far better than not operating on that band at all. We hope you agree.
Our pilots are there to help you and help us. We will be in regular communication with them. They welcome your constructive comments and observations, but may not be able to respond to all the emails they receive. They WILL NOT have log and QSO information. Please DO NOT contact them about busted calls or ‘not in log’ issues.
We are extremely grateful for the interest and support shown to us by the amateur radio community. Now it’s time for us to do the best we possibly can for you.
73 and we will see you from Amsterdam Island.
The FT5ZM Team
The MV Braveheart completed fueling today and is ready to sail at approximately 0100 UTC on December 26th. The vessel will sail around the north cape of the north island of New Zealand, sail cross the Tasman Sea, sail across the Great Australian Bight, and head up the west coast of Australia to the port of Fremantle.
The Amsterdam DXpedition team members will begin arriving in Fremantle, Australia on January 9th. They will meet with the Western Australia DX’ers who have helped the team acquire ground rods, antenna supports, various pieces of hardware, and additional medical supplies. There will be lists to double check, shopping to do, planning meetings, and very likely some good times with our VK6 friends.
The FT5ZM team will meet the Braveheart in Fremantle on January 13th or 14th. The Braveheart will refuel, take on new provisions, and load the additional supplies obtained in Perth and Fremantle. We will load our personal gear and luggage and install an Elecraft KX3 and KPA100 with a multiband vertical for our maritime mobile operation. When everything is secure, we’ll say farewell to our VK6 friends and sail for Amsterdam Island on January 15th.
We are nearing the end of a very long road leading to this point. We are enormously grateful to our corporate, organization, and individual sponsors. The cooperation of the French government, Terres australes et antarctiques francaises (TAAF), the base commander on Amsterdam Island, and many French amateurs has been outstanding. We are deeply indebted to these organizations and individuals.
You should hear from us one more time before we leave home and head for Australia. Thank you everyone for your interest and support.
Ralph – K0IR
Our sea container loaded with our pallets of equipment has arrived in New Zealand. The container had been unloaded and its contents placed in a bonded customs warehouse. It is ready for transportation by truck to the port of Tauranga.
The Braveheart will return from a mission to Raoul Island on December 6th and be prepared to load our cargo shortly thereafter. Between December 9th and 14th the ship will be provisioned, undergo routine maintenance, and a main engine oil change. The Braveheart staff will fill our shopping list and put all dry provisions aboard the vessel.
The ship’s crew will have been at sea or working for a long time, so they will take a vacation during the week of the 15th to the 21st. On December 23rd the Braveheart will take on fuel. On the 24th fresh produce (eggs, milk, fruits, vegetables) will be put aboard. The crew will spend Christmas day with their families.
On December 26th at 1400 the Braveheart will depart Tauranga via New Zealand’s North Cape, cross the Tasman Sea south of Tasmania, cross the Great Australian Bight past Albany, and then sail north up the western coast of Australia to Fremantle. This is a 3440 nautical mile voyage that will take 17 days.
The Braveheart is scheduled to enter the port of Fremantle on Monday January 13th. The vessel will take on fuel and provisions on January 14th. She will clear customs and depart for Amsterdam Island on January 15th with our 14 team members and lots of radio equipment aboard.
Since the early planning days of this DXpedition, we have been accumulating and storing equipment at our staging site in Atlanta, Georgia. On October 15 our packing and organizing was completed, equipment was placed on pallets, loaded into our sea container, and began its journey to New Zealand where it will be loaded aboard our ship. The photos below tell the story.
As Chief Financial Officer and fundraiser for the upcoming FT5ZM DXpedition, I am deeply involved in the subject of DXpedition costs and financing. I have served in the same role for numerous high-profile and expensive DXpeditions to very rare DX entities. Examples are 3Y0X, K5D, and HK0NA.
However, the article written by Don Greenbaum, N1DG and published in several publications is the definitive work on the subject of DXpedition costs and financing. If you have not seen it, it’s available on the NCDXF website at: http://www.ncdxf.org/pages/dxresources.html.
Don points out that DXpeditions to the Southern Oceans are the most expensive mainly because they involve a vessel charter. In his study, those charters averaged $260,000. However, three of the six DXpeditions included in that study took place 13-15 years ago and costs have risen significantly since then. See Ralph – K0IR’s article on this website entitled "Why Does This DXpedition Cost So Much?" It was posted in the "News" section on 21 June 2013 at www.amsterdamdx.org. It details our current, up to date vessel charter costs. They represent 75% of our $400,000 DXpedition budget.
Now, to really put DXpedition costs in perspective, let me share some simple math with you. At FT5ZM, Let’s assume we are on the air for 14 days. That allows two days for set-up and two days for take down. That equates to 20,160 minutes on the air. If our budget is $400,000 (not including operator travel costs to Perth and back), then our time on the air costs $19.84 per minute. Yes, $19.84 per minute on the air !!!!!
Let’s take this a bit further. Assume we make 100,000 QSOs, (a worthy goal for a #4 "most-needed"). The cost per QSO works out to $4.00. Yes, $4.00 per QSO !!!!!
Now, for some good news, the DXpedition operators will pay about half of that. This means however, our sponsors including DX Foundations, DX Clubs and individual DXers worldwide need to pay the remainder. So, when deciding not if, but how much support you will offer FT5ZM, ask yourself:
How many QSOs am I going to make? How important are those QSOs to me? Am I paying my fair share of the costs? Our DXpedition leader K0IR has often joked that if every DXer would give up a cup of coffee for each QSO with FT5ZM and send that money to support the DXpedition, we would not have to worry about our expenses. You know, he is right.
73 and CU in the pileups!
A DXpedition tent or shelter is a noisy place. A generator is roaring outside, team members are carrying on conversations, SSB operators are speaking loudly into their mics, and someone unplugs his headset to let everyone hear the magnitude of his pileup. And in the middle of all this you’re straining to pull out a weak signal amid the QRN and QSB on 160.
We have excellent receive capabilities with the K3’s, the DX Engineering 4-Square receive antenna, and Beverages; but we wanted to go one step farther. We wanted the best headsets we could find. But, they had to include a good microphone, they needed to be comfortable, and they needed to be extremely durable. We could not have ear pieces falling off half way through the DXpedition.
We felt we found the answer to our needs in the Radiosport RS60CF headset. It would allow us take full advantage of diversity receive capabilities of the K3, provide an auxiliary PTT if our footswitch failed, provide an auxiliary audio output for a second listener, and it’s comfortable ear muffs would provide a 24 dB reduction in ambient noise levels. To top it off, the RS60CF is battleship strong.
Arlan Communications very generously offered to loan the FT5ZM team an RS60CF headset for each of the operating positions. Please tell them, “Thank you helping to give FT5ZM good ears.”
Ralph – K0IR
To be heard, or not to be heard: that is the question:
Whether ‘tis a nobler cause to be QRP and suffer the slings and arrows of QSB, or to take arms against this sea of troubles and by going QRO, end them.
We have taken arms. We will be heard!
Thanks to the very generous support of Array Solutions and OM Power, signals from FT5ZM will be smoking. Four OM Power 2000 amplifiers will be dedicated to 160 meters, 80 meter CW, 80 meter SSB, and 40 meter SSB.
The amplifiers have arrived at our staging area in Atlanta, and they are beauties.
You are going to like what you hear.
Array Solutions and OM Power have joined together to support the Amsterdam Island DXpedition and the DX Community. Please thank them.
And in thy log, be all the FT5ZM signals remembered.
Ralph – K0IR
Any relationship to the works of Wm Shakespeare is purely intentional.
Amsterdam Island has an area of approximately 21 sq. mi (55 sq. KM) and is just over 6 miles on its longest side. The high central area of the island rises to over 2800 ft. ASL and slopes downward toward the north end of the island where the French base, Martin de Vivies is located.
Our landing site is on an outcropping along the north coast of the island near the base. Landing can be difficult due to the direct exposure to the open sea. Both our arrival and departure times could be effected by the weather and high seas.
We have been assigned two operating sites on the north end of the island. One site, a shelter called Mataf, is located just northeast of the base. It is over 400 feet from the sea and the beach area has small cliffs, is rugged and rocky, and is exposed to the high sea. Having antennas at the water’s edge is not really an option. The slope downward and to the north favors propagation to most major population areas. We will use verticals for the low bands and 3-element Yagis for the high bands.
At our second site we have been assigned to a shelter called Antonelli. This site is 2.5 KM inland from Mataf and has an elevation approximately 600 ft. above Mataf. Again, terrain slopes downward to the north. The terrain around Antonelli is quite rugged and the shelter sits on the edge of an old volcanic crater. However, space is abundant behind the shelter and we do not anticipate difficulty in putting up antennas. Again, we will use 3-element monoband Yagis for the high bands and verticals for the low bands. Low band receive antennas will be available at both operating sites.
The two shelters are not large. They measure approximately 15 by 15 feet and have some built in bunks and benches, limiting our available space for stations. But we will make this work.
Our plans are proceeding. Equipment is being built, supplies are being shipped to our staging site in Atlanta, airlines are being booked, hotel rooms are being reserved, and payments on our ship are about to begin. Your support and financial contributions are critical to our success. We sincerely thank those who have supported us thus far. If you have not yet made a contribution to this DXpedition, we ask that you please consider doing so by going to the Donate button on our home page. We need your help.
Ralph – K0IR
WB9Z, with the help of NV9L, K9NU, N9TK, K9TP, N9LAH, W9ILY, KE9I, K9CJ, and “Lee,” has prepared over 10,000 feet of radials for our 30, 40, 80, and 160 meter verticals. We will also have several low band receive antennas — both wire antennas and a receive 4-Square.
In the photo below, Jerry – WB9Z, and our pilot, Val – NV9L, are shown with over 10,000 feet of pre-cut radials and over 10,000 feet of coax cut to length with connectors attached.