The upcoming Ducie Island VP6A operation scheduled to take place next month will be one of those moments where some hard decisions will have to be made. The operation is billed as a ground breaking remote operation DXpedition to a rare entity. Contacts made will most likely be via one of a number of operators who will not be anywhere near the island:
A total of 14 operators based in North American, Europe and Asia will operate land based remote controlled stations around the clock. There will only be three local operators at Ducie: W6IZT, KN4EEI and AA7JV. This small team will set up and maintain the stations and operate locally from the nearby boat. They will visit the island once a day to refuel the generators and do any necessary maintenance. In line with the minimum foot-print concept, there will be no camping on the island.
This will be the first full DXpedition utilizing the RIB concept that features a large number of remote operators with a small footprint on a remote island. Four RIBs (Radio In a Box) will provide a total of 5 stations capable of 24/7 operation on 10 bands.
Not to overdramatize the moment, but this is obviously an inflection point where DX chasers must decide how they really feel about remote DX operations. The concept isn’t brand new and has already been used in the process of tens of thousands of contacts. But this will be the first major operation to make use of it and if successful will no doubt become a prototype for many future DXpeditions. Maybe even ALL of them.
After all, there is some common sense at play here. Moving and deploying smaller footprint operations with a few maintenance operators can result in significant cost savings. Besides, some of the locations on earth that hams have decided are rare entities are rare enough that governing authorities don’t want teams of humans stomping over the floral and fauna and permission for overnight stays can be difficult to obtain; going forward perhaps even impossible.
And we shouldn’t ignore the fact that the transmitter and antennas used will actually be located on Ducie Island. It’s just the operators who will be faraway, connected to the business end of the station via internet satellite.
Still, when I think about DXing my imagination conjures Don Miller, Danny Weil, and Gus Browning sailing in small boats from island to island across the South Pacific. And when I imagine working them I know their toes are wiggling in the warm sands on the beaches of those islands. I can honestly tell you that never even once have I imagined working Danny or Gus while they sit in their pajamas in an air-conditioned apartment in Pasadena handing me credit for some rare island in the South Pacific…
Some folks will argue that this is the future of DX and they are probably correct. The question remains, however, is this kind of operation something I want to chase, or ignore? I’m tempted to say “ain’t nothing like the real thing” and skip it, but I need Ducie Island, it’s #56 on the Most Wanted List. Not an easy decision.
In some ways this feels like just another brick in the wall of this fake world we’ve created. Fake news, fake media, fake political leaders, fake wars, fake television, artificial intelligence. We’ve handcrafted a delusive life where nothing is real. Against that simulated backdrop it may be too much to expect ham radio explorers to actually travel to and operate from the exotic places we mortals imagine working them?
I hate the future.