ZK2V/ZK2X  2011   DXpedition

Niue 2011 - the story of ZK2V and ZK2X - 21st Oct. until 20th Dec. 2011

   Keith (L) and Chris

ZK2X    2011

Although Chris and Keith had made many contest expeditions in the UK for VHF and HF contests, usually as part of a larger group, 2011 was the first time we made a DXpedition overseas together.

Chris had already been living in New Zealand for a short while and Keith met up with Chris and his wife Pippa, in Auckland in mid-October 2011. Rugby World Cup semi-finals were underway in Auckland! The trip to Niue was smooth and we had rented a cottage on the coast road on the west side of the island. This place turned out to be a 3 room ‘shack’ built of concrete block situated on a small patch of ground east of the road and surrounded by dense jungle. It was extremely hot and full of interesting wild life. I have honestly never seen so many cockroaches in one place, ever! The prevailing wind was easterly almost throughout our stay in the ‘Coconut Inn’ and this blew hoards of mosquitoes into the shack. Add to this several unpleasant encounters with some very large hornets – both Keith and Chris were stung whilst trying to run a beverage antenna through the jungle towards EU. Niue was memorable for its insects.

All antennas were erected in a relatively small space but we were only operating with one station and as Keith was only in Niue for 2 weeks after arrival, he operated most of the time. Chris operated relatively little but he and Pippa stayed on in Niue for several more weeks, after moving to another, rather more pleasant QTH on the NW tip of the island. There was virtually no soil in the area, just some thin grass covering lava rock, so securing guys was a problem. We used excellent Spiderbeam 12m and 18m poles for verticals on 160-30m and a 20m vertical Moxon antenna whilst Spiderbeam also shipped to Niue for us a 10-12-15m prototype 3el beam together with a push up aluminium mast – Thanks Spiderbeam! Rotation was ‘armstrong’ method but the antenna worked very well.

  Spiderbeam special version

When we visited the PTT office to collect our licences, we thought we would chance it and ask for 2+1 calls. No problem – but the price doubled!

High band conditions were excellent for most of the two weeks I was there and I also participated in CQ WW SSB. It took us a few days to get the Spiderbeam tuned and working properly (RTFM…………….!) but the success on 15m using the 40m vertical was remarkable. I still remember Peter SM2CEW booming in over the pole on my first or second night. The low bands in contrast were extremely difficult – poor antennas, poor propagation.

   Keith ZK2X in CQ WW SSB 2011

ZK2X ended up with 13400 QSOs in 2 weeks, including the contest. I was absolutely hooked on DXpeditions and the Pacific. It was like a dream come true for me after 40 years in ham radio.

Keith GM4YXI / ZK2X

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ZK2V    2011

I did very little operating during the first 2 weeks of the DXpedition - my good friend Keith had only these 2 weeks to experience his first major DXpedition (Keith has been on many contest DXpeditions and also several 9M2/GM4YXI IOTA DXpeditions but this was his first to a rare DXCC entity)  We also only had one good radio + amp - our spare FT-840 is a great little radio but not really up to handling big pile-ups.

As it happened, I was unwell for several days during this first 2 weeks - I suffered dozens of mosquito bites and my immune system went into overdrive. Luckily the mozzies on Niue do not carry any Dengue fever or Malaria, but the sheer number of bites (which I tried hard to avoid) was the problem. Another problem was the temperature in the Coconut Inn - this small concrete house was very warm during the day and all night, which made sleeping difficult. There was no front door and definitely no air conditioning. We were sharing this little house with many of God's creatures - cockroaches, small crabs, mice, mosquitoes, hornets, etc.

Keith mentions working Peter SM2CEW - one of my memories was checking 10m early in the (local time) morning and hearing Neil G0JHC and John G3LZQ (SK) booming in. This was with the Spiderbeam aluminium support mast lowered, so I rushed outside and frantically raised it single-handedly to about 5m high, then worked them with 59 reports each way. Wonderful propagation on 28MHz! When Keith's ZK2X operation finished after 2 weeks I was able to configure the 'real-time' logging for ZK2V. However the internet access was intermittent, so this facility was interesting, but of questionable value to others.

An operating pattern developed over time - early morning and evenings = Europe (+ Africa, SA) then mornings and afternoons = USA, JA. Pippa and I would go cycling, walking, swimming, meeting people, etc. when the bands were closed - she joined the friendly Niuean women in various weaving activities while I was working stations. It would have been easy for me to sit and work USA and JA all day just to boost my QSO totals, but I like a challenge and there was plenty of challenge trying to work Eu on 40m and 30m! ZK2V also entered CQ WW CW 2011, making 3347 QSOs in 29 hrs.

After four weeks in the concrete oven, Pippa and I moved to a new location – this included shipping the Spiderbeam wire yagi, semi-collapsed on the back of a small pick-up, with all the other poles!

   ZK2V on the move!

This place was cooler, had fewer mosquitoes and most importantly had a lower noise level on 160m and 80m. I really liked this second QTH, which I was told about by Steven ZK2AB. Its one disadvantage was that it had no internet access, but that will change in future probably. It was also possible to erect better antennas for 160m and 80m but it was still a real challenge to make many QSOs at that time in the sunspot cycle.

  Chris slicing off any vegetation that got in the way of an antenna :-)

ZK2V 2011 made a total of 32400 QSOs.

Chris  GM3WOJ / ZK2V