Saturday, September 27, 2014

DX chasing is not a pursuit that has regular hours!

DX chasers are a rare breed.  I mean the really serious ones. When all the rest of the world - hams and non hams - are tucked up in their beds nice and warm and snug, we are in the shack, at the rig, bleary-eyed and unkempt, chasing a slot with the latest "rare" one. And that's how it has become for me. I used to be able to hunt new ones and band slots during the day, but with 307 DXCC logged, the slots and bands and All-Time New Ones become rarer and rarer, and one has to migrate to the lower bands in order to nab these slots.

Nigel G3TXF in Cape Town bound for Tristan Da Cunha.
Here in Ireland, there are approximately 1,500 licenced radio amateurs. Of those, there are probably about 200 hams who operate on HF to any degree, whether it be every day or twice a year. Of that 200 (and that's only my own very rough estimate), there are only about 30 dedicated DX hunters. That's 30 Irish people out of four million who dedicate themselves to this unique pursuit. And I am one of them. Does that make me special? It certainly makes me weird, especially in the eyes of all my non-ham friends! The non-DXing hams, while not spending hours in pile-ups, at least understand what DX chasing is, and are forgiving towards the HF nuts. But the rest of the world is oblivious to our unique hobby.

Having got up at 6am yesterday morning to hunt DX, I was exhausted by the time 11pm came around. My duty for the weekend is to watch out for Nigel ZD9XF on CW on the low bands (40m and 80m) and to try to work him there. I didn't think I had much hope of getting up during the night if he did pop up. Nevertheless, I set up DXwatch to send me emails if he appeared on 80 or 40. And I left my phone volume up full so I might hear the alerts if they came. And come they did.

At around 01:27 local time I received email alerts to say he was on 80 metres, on 3.501. I managed to get up out of bed and come down to the shack. I switched on the equipment. I could hear nothing. I looked on the Reverse Beacon Network and could see that he had quickly gone back to 30 metres, where he had been for a while. Damn. 80m missed. I went back to bed.

At around 2am or so there were alerts for 40 metres. He was on 7.001. Back down to the shack in the darkness, exhausted, barely able to keep my eyes open. I could hear him! I listened to the split. There were people calling him 1 Khz up, and 2 Khz up, and even 3 Khz up. Damn. Big pile-up. I tried to find out where he was listening but it was too spread out. I called him 2 up and then 2.5 up. He was working north and south America mostly, although there were still plenty of other Europeans suffering from insomnia like me..... After a short while calling, and not being able to figure out any discernible pattern to his movements, I realised that the pile-up had become so big that there were people calling him 8 Khz up, on 7.009, and at that moment I was struck by a revelation:

"Murphy, what the hell are you doing here, at 2.30am, trying to work a country that you have worked already (albeit on other bands) when you could be in bed like all the normal people?" So I switched everything off and went to bed. It just wasn't worth the effort. I would be exhausted for the rest of the weekend.

At exactly 7am, I received a phone call from Declan EI6FR. "Nigel is on 40 metres, I just worked him 3 up. He's on 7.001."

"Has he got a big pile?" I asked.

"No," was the reply.

"Right, thanks," I said, and the call ended.

Down to the shack again!

Sure enough, I could hear "ZD9XF Up" on 7.001 and decided I would try 7.003 as my transmit frequency. Within two minutes I could hear the magic code in the noise.... "EI2?"

I gave my call twice.

He came back "EI2KC 5NN".

I gave "RR EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU".

And, just like that, I was in his log. It seems that my decision to go back to bed in the middle of the night was well justified!!!

PS: As I write this, it's nearly 11am now and already my 40m QSO is in Nigel's online log:


  1. Well done Anthony, Your dedicated keep it going :-)

    1. Thanks Pat. I've been up here since 5am waiting to hear ZD9XF on 80 cw!


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