DXpedition to French Polynesia: TX0A (OC-113) and TX0M (OC-297)
by Cezar Trifu, VE3LYC
The DXCC entity of French Polynesia (FO) includes about 100 islands and atolls within a large area of southern Pacific, extending approximately 2200 km in the NW-SE direction, and up to 800 km perpendicular to it. These islands are grouped in 12 IOTA references. Except for Morane (OC-297), which has been designated a new IOTA reference in October 2018, the Actaeon group (OC-113) is the rarest. There was only one operation from OC-113, carried out in April 1990 by FO5BI/P from Marutea Sud, one of its atoll counters. Ranked #6 on the Most Wanted IOTA List, this reference is in demand by 98% of IOTA members.
Jean-Yves Lepage and his wife Sandrine, who planned to visit French Polynesia aboard their yacht L’Ile d’Elle during the last part of 2018 agreed to provide transportation to these two IOTA groups for a small team of radio operators. They purchased in Tahiti all the materials we requested, which included a Honda generator, in addition to the one they owned and offered to lend us, two deep cycle batteries and a charger, as part of our contingency plan, sealed drums, tents, gas, food and water supplies.
The operating team included Adrian (KO8SCA) and I. For the OC-113 reference we targeted Maria Est, located 153 km to the northeast of Morane (OC-297). Both atolls are small and uninhabited, with fully enclosed lagoons. Landing and leaving their reefs required well planned and executed logistics, and our skipper Jean-Yves was joined by his friend Bernard, a resident of the Gambier Islands.
Given the weather conditions at the time of our arrival in Gambier, the skipper decided to sail first to Morane, and then to Maria Est. On Morane, Bernard installed a long rope which allowed the operators and the equipment to be moved in safely at high tide with a dinghy. We operated from there as TX0M between December 6 and 10, using IC-7000 and K3 transceivers, KPA-500 and SPE Expert 1.3K-FA amplifiers, and multi-band verticals, powered by Honda generators.
The log includes 7514 QSOs with 4727 stations in 99 DXCC on 6 continents. About 23% of the contacts were on each of 40 and 30 m, 35% on 20 m, 18% on 17 m, and a few on 15 m. Almost 90% of the QSOs were in CW, with the rest in SSB. The continental distribution was AS 29%, EU 31%, NA 36%, OC 2%, SA 2%, and AF <1%.
As the wind direction changed, we were forced to depart from across the lagoon, which required a sustained effort, and took much longer than landing. Once returned to the yacht, it took us 15 hours to sail to Maria Est. Landing there was done by driving the dinghy carefully over the reef, in order to avoid hitting its razor-sharp edges.
We operated from Maria Est between December 12 and 16, when we logged 5135 QSOs with 3446 stations in 79 DXCCs on 6 continents. About 35% of the contacts were on 40 m, 18% on 30 m, 26% on 20 m, and 21% on 17 m, with almost 95% of the QSOs in CW, and the rest in SSB. The continental distribution of QSOs was AS 22%, EU 33%, NA 39%, SA 3%, OC 3%, and AF <1%.
We stayed on the air during night time as long as the bands were open, but weren’t able to sleep during the day at all, because of the very high temperature and humidity. Instead, we preferred to visit the remains of the nearby old seasonal settlement used for copra production or search for shade to cool off a little. For meals, Bernard spoiled us with his tasty fish and lobster cooking skills. Leaving the atoll had to be done from across the lagoon, a 6-hour long effort under a burning sun.
Since propagation conditions on 20 m to EU were poor, particularly for the western and northern areas of the continent, we decided instead to focus on 30 and 40 m to reach more EU stations. As such, we focused on 17 and 20 m for AS and NA. During our two stops we made a total of 12,636 QSOs with stations in 106 DXCCs. The French radio amateurs ranked #6 among the DXCCs, by both the number of QSOs 149 / 212, as well as for the number of stations (106 / 136) which logged each IOTA, after K, JA, I, DL, UA for TX0A, and K, JA, I, UA, DL for TX0M, respectively.
We wish to thank Jean-Yves, Sandrine, and Bernard for their strong logistical assistance. We remain indebted to the International Radio Expedition Foundation (IREF), German DX Foundation, RSGB, DX News, Clipperton DX Club, CDXC: The UK Foundation, Swiss DX Foundation, Orca DX and Contest Club, and Dorna DX Club, for their generous grants. Johan (PA3EXX) – pilot station, Mehdi (F5PFP) – logistics, George (VE3GHK) – technical assistance, Maury (IZ1CRR) – website support, and Jean-Paul – our host in Tahiti, are acknowledged for their help. We are grateful to DG2AT, DL6DQW, KD1CT, I2YDX, SM3NXS, N4WW, and N6FX for their exceptional support, to the top donors DL4KQ, JE1DXC, JF4VZT, JJ8DEN, K0DEQ, K1HT, K5MT, K9RR, N4II, N5UR, OE3SGA, OE3WWB, ON4IZ, PT7WA, SM3DMP, SM3EVR, SM6CVX, VE7DP, VE7QCR, VK5MAV, W1JR, W6RLL, WB2YQH, WC6DX, and many others who offered financial aid.