Thursday, October 25, 2018

DXCC: The Remaining 40

When I worked the KH1 DXpedition on several bands earlier this year I briefly celebrated. According to my records it was DXCC country #300 worked since I returned to the air in 2013. As it turned out my records contained a few errors. Baker Island was #299. Eventually #300 came along with Ducie Island VP6D, a DXpedition that is ongoing as I write this. Of these 280 are confirmed via LoTW, which is the only way I QSL nowadays.

It is a milestone that was achieved more slowly than I expected. Consider that I reached 225 countries in two years using a maximum of 10 watts and modest antennas. Spotting networks and information dissemination about activity in rare locales makes running up the country count easier than ever.

Amusingly, the first 100 countries were easy enough despite running QRP and recruiting the aluminum eaves of my house in Ottawa as a random wire antenna. That was great fun. Doing it that way -- with a tiny station and low expectations -- played an important role in rekindling my passion for the hobby.

With DXCC the law of diminishing returns applies: as the country count increases each incremental country requires more work than the last. By the time 300 countries are reached the required effort is quite high and the progress slow.

My lifetime total is perhaps 315 or 320, reduced by deleted countries during the years I was inactive. But that number doesn't interest me. I wanted a fresh start after a 20 year hiatus from the hobby as a way to measure my progress. DXCC doesn't mean much to me and I have never applied for the award. I likely never will. It is the activity of DXing that I find appealing.

Maybe it's the excitement, maybe it's the competition and maybe it's the simply the magic of radio. Perhaps it's explained by catching the DXing bug when I was young, decades ago, when global communication was a rarity, except for those who got into ham radio. Youthful passions tend to linger.

Rather than dwell on the 300 country milestone what I'd like to do in this article is discuss the ones I have yet to work. With 340 countries on the current DXCC list that there are 40 countries left. By the end of this article it should be evident why working them all, or achieving the lesser but still heady level of DXCC Honour Roll, is so incredibly difficult. Most DXers who have done it have taken a lifetime to get there.

I'll group countries together where it makes sense to do so to keep this article from becoming repetitive and too long. Apart from the grouping, countries will be ordered by prefix.

3D2C Conway: I vaguely recall some DXpedition activity but have yet to work this one. Perhaps all this one will take is paying more attention. It shouldn't be difficult to work.

3Y Bouvet and 3Y Peter I: These Antarctic islands are remote and battered by severe sea and weather conditions. There was one recent DXpedition attempt to Bouvet island that failed to land due to the weather. I have both countries confirmed back in the 1980s. All one can do is wait for intrepid and well-financed DXpeditioners to make the attempt.

4U1UN United Nations: Only this summer has the station been rebuilt in compliance with the severe security regulations at the UN complex in New York. I have heard them weakly on 20 meters but not workable. New York is too close for reliable communication on the higher HF bands except by scatter and high power. I would be surprised if I don't have this one in the log by 2019.

7O Yemen, YK Syria: One word says it all -- war. Very sad and tragic, and these won't be resolved soon. Going back a few decades I have lots of cards from 7O and a few from YK. But for now they are not workable.

BS7H Scarborough Reef: For one elderly ham who lives nearby this is the only country he needs to have them all. Another longtime DXer of my acquaintance doesn't believe it'll ever be active again. I have no opinion. Even if it were active it would be very difficult to work during a solar minimum from this part of the world.

BV9P Pratas: Like Scarborough Reef I know little about this one. Both have flown under my radar since they appear to have become entities during my 20 years away from the hobby.

CE0X San Felix: I've worked CE0Y and CE0Z, yet failed to work this one. If there's been recent activity I've missed it since I keep confusing these Chilean islands, forgetting which is the one I haven't worked. Like many other entities I worked this one decades ago. I'll just have to pay closer attention to catch the next visitor to San Felix island.

EZ Turkmenistan: This former Soviet republic was uncommon but not rare back in the days of the USSR. Since then Turkmenistan has been jinxed with totalitarian rule. Although that is not necessarily incompatible with amateur radio, it is not the case here. There have been signs that the political situation may be improving. We can only wait.

FR/g Glorioso: Another rare island waiting for a group to launch a DXpedition. Again, all I can do is wait.

FR/t Tromelin: There was an excellent DXpedition a few years ago, one which I completely failed to work. It happens. At the time my antenna and power situation made it difficult. I will just have to wait for the next DXpedition, and that may be years away.

FT5W Crozet and FT5X Kerguelen: Like the US, France has become fiercely protective of the environment on isolated islands with unique flora and fauna. French hams have been trying and failing to gain permission to land on these islands. There is (was?) a ham on Crozet Island although I am only aware that he has worked /MM when asea, and I did work him there. But that doesn't count for DXCC.

HK0M Malpelo: No recent DXpeditions. As with some other environmentally sensitive islands permission to land and operate is not routine. I am unfamiliar with how restrictive Colombia is with respect to Malpelo island.

JD1 Minami Torashima: As with a number of entities on this list, there is occasional activity from this one. Unfortunately the path is not the easiest during a solar minimum and I have yet to catch up with them. I need propagation and activity to coincide, and to pay enough attention to notice when it does occur.

JX Jan Mayen: This one ought to be easy and there has been some activity. Maybe I just need to pay attention and try harder.

KH3 Johnston, KH4 Midway, KH7K Kure, KP5 Desecheo: Permission for Kure island was recently denied (again) and the others are similarly difficult. When DXpeditions are permitted I expect these to be relatively easy to work. Back in the 1970s and 1980s I worked Johnston and Midway islands many times, and Kure island at least once. I have never worked Desecheo island.

KH8 Swains: The propagation path is fairly easy, so all I need right now is a DXpedition. I can't recall whether there has been any recent activity from this Pacific island.

KH9 Wake: The K9W DXpedition was a good one for working what has become quite a rare DXCC entity. At the time I was running QRP and little antennas. The best I did was "VE3?" on 17 meters CW. Although there is a ham on Wake Island his activity level hasn't made it easy. In fact I've never heard him. It's likely I'll have to wait a number of years until another DXpedition is permitted.

P2 Papua New Guinea, XU Cambodia, XZ Myanmar VR2 Hong Kong: Southeast Asia is a difficult path from this part of the world. During the most recent solar cycle peak my station was tiny. Now that I have bigger antennas suitable conditions are elusive. I have heard activity from all of these countries, including a few big DXpeditions, but have not succeeded in getting through. They'll come to me eventually if I pay attention and make the effort.

P5 North Korea: The short bursts of activity that pop up at rare intervals have satisfied few DXers. Some have been doggedly persistent while most that have worked North Korea have simply been lucky. A difficult propagation path and little activity makes this a tough one for many, including me.

PY0S St. Peter & St. Paul Rocks: Another one waiting for a DXpedition. I don't recall there being one over the past 5 years.

ST Sudan: For a brief period after independence Z8 South Sudan was not difficult to work. However Sudan itself has been and continues to be hostile to amateur radio. This one will likely require a change in the political winds. Years ago I worked Sudan a few times.

SV/a: Mount Athos: I've heard more pirates than legitimate activity from Mount Athos. At the moment I am unaware of any activity at all. The one resident monk with a license is inactive and visiting hams have not been welcome.

T31 Central Kiribati: This one takes an DXpedition, but otherwise should not be difficult. Patience is a virtue.

VK0/m: Macquarie: No DXpeditions in the past few years and little ham activity from the occasional Australian stationed on the island. Despite the great distance this area of the world is not overly challenging to reach, even during a solar cycle minimum.

VP8/o: South Orkney:You would think that since I've worked the other and far more rare VP8 Antarctic islands such as South Sandwich and South Georgia this one would be easy. Sadly, no. To be honest I haven't paid much attention to which island is which and so I've missed a few opportunities.

VU4 Andaman & Nicobar: There have several DXpeditions to this entity. Although I've worked its neighbour VU7 numerous times, and once with QRP, this one has eluded me. I have tried though perhaps not as much as I ought to since I keep thinking there will be a next time. The path over the pole will be a difficult one for the next two years.

YI Iraq: Although there are hams currently active it has proved elusive. From what I can tell their stations are modest and difficult to work from here. A couple that have been heard were very weak and working Europeans.

YV0 Aves: There have been no DXpeditions recently, and this one is notable in that it requires cooperation of the Venezuelan navy. The most recent attempt was ultimately cancelled due to...reasons.

ZL8 Kermadec, ZL9 New Zealand Subantarctic islands: These entities see occasional activity but have not grabbed my attention sufficiently to make the effort to chase them.

ZS8 Prince Edward & Marion: These days about the only activity on this protected island group is when a ham is stationed on the island. Unfortunately activity over the past 5 years has been fleeting and I haven't made a great effort to track them down.

If you took the time to read this far it should be evident that I am not at all fanatical about DXing. I love it, yes, though not nearly to the degree of many others. Notice that for more than a few of the countries I've yet to work I cannot recall whether there has been any activity since 2013 when I returned to the hobby and chose to reset my DXCC count to zero.

Yet there are indeed quite a few of these DXCC entities that have been either completely or almost completely absent from the airwaves since 2013 and therefore impossible to work. For these it will take patience for the political situation to change, permission from the relevant government authorities or money and persistence to mount DXpeditions. I am in no great rush so I can wait.

For me chasing DX is a fun challenge though not an obsessive compulsion. With a little more dedication and persistence I can do better at working the less active and more distant entities that are in fact active from time to time. Whether I'll ever do so I just don't know. Towers and antennas, and of course contests, are more interesting to me.

Amateur radio is a big hobby with diverse activities to meet many tastes. DXing and the DXCC pursuit can be a small or large focus for each of us, and our interests change with the years. There are hams who will only turn on the rig when one of the few remaining entities they have yet to work comes on the air. That's an attitude I'll never understand. I just don't see the point.

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