A few weeks ago — during the FT4TA DXpedition — I was suffering. Finding that the best time to visit our son in Vancouver B.C. coincided with the Tromelin Island offering was difficult. Being from the western US, not the easiest location to work the Indian Ocean, my band-slot file for Tromelin had but one entry – FR7ZL/T for a QSO on twenty-meter CW in 1979.
So, I was looking forward to a few more and even – perhaps – the possibility of another Topband country. (Though we would not return to Wyoming before the end of the operation, it became possible to do some operating along the way – in southern Oregon. Even an 80M QSO was made thanks to a monster 3 element beam located on a wonderfully effective hill top.)
Moreover, thanks to the magic of the Internet, I was able to able read all about the operation in detail as viewed from Northern California and Colorado and Utah. What I read was mostly disappointing. It seems that the jammers and usual malcontents were out in force, and once again, there was pause to think about why all of this was taking place.
Many younger DXers – and some returning to the wars following long absences – are sure that the jamming and generally poor operating is worse than ever. “It’s never been this bad.” That is probably true unless you scale the whole picture back according to the number of active DXers. And when it comes to Tromelin, there are more than the usual number of DXers “in need.”
In the 1970s, there were a number of operations which raised a strikingly similar ruckus on the bands. At one time, I even had a few questions for a customer of mine who is (still) a professional psychologist. I was wondering why people would behave in such an anti-social way. While he wasn’t up to speed on the intricacies of DXpeditions, he did offer that people usually had – at least in their own minds – reasons for their behaviors. My point is that it was that bad, even forty years ago.
Why do you suppose that might have been – and still is today? There are lots of reasons. Those who complain the loudest – adding their own form of vitriol – are hip-shooters who never bother to wonder why these disruptions occur. They shoot first and then blame the consequences on others.
A major DXpedition is a usually a significant disruption to the “normal” operations on any and all bands. These operations often generate excessively large pileups. As I have mentioned more than once, part of the responsibility of a DXpedition ops is to limit the impact of their effort on others who are not interested in DXing. We invade these spaces with huge piles of DXers who virtually NEVER listen to their transmitting frequencies. In the case of several recent DXpeditions, 17 meters in particular has been almost fully occupied – band edge to band edge – by excessively large pileups. I am sure that at least a few non-DXers aren’t overly happy about that. Do pileups really need to be so large? Maybe, maybe not.
In addition to the disruption of non-DXers, there are very frustrated DXers who call endlessly without results. In part, this is a function of their own lack of expertise. There is evidence everywhere. They call at the wrong times, on the wrong frequencies, with their antennas pointed in the wrong directions, etc., etc. After experiencing a certain amount of frustration, their operating technique often changes dramatically. Calling sometimes becomes continuous on a poor selection of frequencies. They may become hostile and create their own form of chaos. Thinking is usually put aside.
The blame for much of the poor operating demonstrated by DXers can be laid at the feet of the DXpedition operators themselves. Their instructions are often inadequate. They don’t identify frequently, and they don’t indicate where they are listening and how they are tuning. More critically, they often don’t properly target the most difficult place in the world for them to work. When those who need the most attention are getting precious little of it, temperatures rise. As a result much of the garbage on the bands related to a DXpedition is the result of a lack of experience and good operating practices by the DXpeditioners themselves.
I hasten to add that this isn’t the whole story. There are other causes. DXers who simply don’t know how to operate their radios – split operation in particular are s significant part of the problem. Several misplaced calls – on the DXpedition frequency will generate all sorts of responses from responsible to – well – the worst possible.
Continuous callers are also a problem, although interestingly, they are not that much of a disruption. An experienced DXpeditioner can work around all but the most persistent and aggressive continuous caller. A few such callers seem to find the station being worked and QRM all attempts to compete a QSO. Yet, continuous calling is more an aesthetic problem for those listening to a pileup rather than for the DXpedition operator – he doesn’t hear much of it.
There are lots of reasons for the cacophony we hear during DXpeditions. Rather than reacting irrationally, a more reasoned analysis should take place. This analysis will be highlighted in additional articles in the coming weeks and months in this publication and on the pages of the DX University (www.dxuniversity.com)
*The DX University™ includes a day-long learning session for newcomers and old-timers wishing to hone their DXing skills. DXing resources can also be found on the DX University Website. A DX University session will again be held at the Visalia International DX Convention in April, 2015. This all-day session will be aimed at issues surrounding DXpeditioning. Contact the DX University if you are interested in using DX University resources as a framework for mentoring DXers in your area. For more information go to www.dxuniversity.com