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February 1999 - I have always been fascinated by the stories of the wildlife on the Galapagos Islands. Both my XYL Charlanne and I are nature lovers and we were looking for another adventure we would both enjoy. In December I exchanged E-mails with Trey N5KO and asked him if he would ever do any multiop contests from HC8N which he frequently visited. He replied that we could do the ARRL DX CW since he would already be there with Steve K6AW for the RTTY contest the week before. Trey sent us some info and also gave us the names of a couple of Galapagos cruise operators since that is the only practical way to see the wildlife on the uninhabited islands of the group. We cashed in some frequent flier miles, made hotel reservations for Quito and bought our cruise tickets. Meanwhile Trey had left for the ZL9CI expedition and Steve K6AW helped with additional questions we had. 

We arrived in Quito after a somewhat nervous flight (American Airlines decided to go on strike right at the beginning of our trip) and were met by Pedro HC1OT who took us to a nearby hotel. The next morning we boarded our flight to HC8 and were met by Trey and Steve as well as the cruise people at the San Cristobal airport. After handing a box of Beverage materials to Trey we were off on our 5 day cruise of the islands. If you have never visited HC8, it is the experience of a lifetime!  The birds and animals are so tame you literally have to watch out that you don't step on them. Boobies (red footed, blue footed, and masked), sea lions, iguanas, giant tortoises, sea turtles, and penguins (at the Equator!) are just a few of the really unusual creatures you will see. 

The radio part of our trip began after the cruise. We first saw the radio site (about 18 km from town where we were staying at HC8GR's house) which is located on a high (>2000') plateau with the sea visible for about 270 degrees and about 4 miles away. Trey and several other guys from the West Coast are building a station and house there. The house has 3 floors, the top of which is dedicated to radio with big picture windows and operating tables all around the exterior walls. It is still under construction with the carpenters living on the bottom floor. They sometimes caused us QRM when installing window frames on the top floor while we were trying to do a little operating before the contest!  That's Bill W4ZV, Trey N5KO and Steve K6AW (L-R) in the picture to the left.  You can see the sea and a small island in the distance.





When I arrived, there were 4 towers up supporting monobanders for 40 through 10, but nothing for 80 or 160. A Cushcraft 402CD was visible for miles at the top of the 140' homebrew tower, so we had an excellent support from which to string wires for the low bands. We decided to put up a elevated ground plane for 160 from the top of the tower sloping toward the north with 4 elevated radials about 10' high. After getting it up and resonating it for 1830, I got on the air briefly at sunset and worked a bunch of USA stations. Atmospheric QRN was fairly bad and I knew we would need to get Beverages up to help pull out the weaker stations calling...but at least the transmit antenna was working well!  

The next day I went back up the tower (I'm halfway up to the left) and strung an inverted vee for 80 from the top. Steve and Trey pulled the ends out, we checked resonance and then adjusted it for 3525. It sure is easy to do this when there is someone to help besides yourself...no multiple trips up and down the tower! By the way, the homemade tower was constructed like Rohn 45 but using rebar for the Z-bars. My guess is that it is actually stronger than Rohn 45 but it looked somewhat like a snake when viewed from the bottom! 

The next step was to put up two Beverages...one to the north for the ARRL contest and one to the northeast for Europe for some fun (and future contests). After some sunburn and scratches from hacking through the mora briars (wild raspberries), we had a 600 footer for North America and a 1000 footer for Europe. That night I verified that they were directive and seemed to be working well. On Topband, 5B4ADA even peaked S8 on the unpreamplified EU Beverage! We had massive European pileups on 80 and worked deep into European Russia. We were now ready for the contest! 

Since we were entering the contest in the Multiop Two Transmitter category that meant that each of the three of us would have 32 hours of operating during the 48 hour contest. I proposed a simple 8 hours ON 4 hours OFF schedule staggered each 4 hours. This would give each of us plenty of operating time and a reasonable amount of sleep. Our operating positions were using a FT-1000MP and FT-990 driving two AL-1200 amplifiers to ~1000 watts output. We wanted to run things conservatively for reliability reasons. 

I operated mostly 20/80/160 meters from 0400-1200 and 10 meters from 1600-2400 on both days. I had an absolute ball on the low bands as well as 10 meters, which was incredible at times! The only real problem we had was QRM from DX stations calling us (no points for them in the ARRL!) The Beverage really worked well on 80 and 160 and I was pleased that our totals on those bands beat stations much closer to the USA. 10 meters was also a real advantage for us because we had better and longer coverage to the USA than stations that were closer. 

Our final score was 8294 QSO's with 350 states/provinces for a total score of >8.7 Million points and a new World Record. This was ~9% over the previous record for the Multi/Two category set by 6D2X (Mexico) in 1994. What a blast! This was my first contest from the other side and I'm already looking forward to another one! 


            HC8N        V26O         6D2X

160     454/54     407/51     454/54    (QSOs/Multipliers)
80       868/58     716/57     729/59
40     1275/59   1468/58   1636/60
20     1633/59   1491/59   1403/58
15     1983/60   1825/60   1679/59
10     2081/60   1760/60   1035/56

Sum  8294/350 7667/345 6936/346 

Score  8.709M    7.935M    7.193M


P.S.  In case you missed it, read Charlanne's story.

Copyright 1999 by Bill Tippett