DXpedition to Desecheo Gets Ready to Roll
Six members of the February 2009 KP5 Desecheo DXpedition team met in Puerto Rico the week of December 17-21. According to team co-leader Bob Allphin, K4UEE, the team visited US Fish and Wildlife Headquarters in Boqueron and met with the Chief Refuge Manager and law enforcement personnel in preparation for the DXpedition, set to start February 12.
Desecheo currently sits at number 7 on DX Magazine's Most Wanted list; the island is the second most-wanted DXCC entity in Asia and third most-wanted in Europe. Desecheo is a small uninhabited island in the Mona Passage, 14 miles off the western coast of Puerto Rico. It is part of the USFWS's national wildlife refuge system administered by the Caribbean National Wildlife Refuge Complex (CNWR).
"After an evening with local DXers and members of the Puerto Rico Amateur Radio League for dinner and a night of fellowship, DXpedition team members underwent UXO (unexploded ordnance) training," Allphin said. "On December 19, we accompanied US Fish and Wildlife law enforcement and UXO personnel to Desecheo Island. In the three hours we were there, the campsite and antenna fields were thoroughly swept for UXO and several areas were found suspicious. These areas were clearly marked, mapped by GPS and declared off limits for the DXpedition."
Allphin said that the USFWS will allow antennas on the ridge above the helicopter pad, providing a clear shot to Europe, North America and Japan. Other antennas will be located on the beach below the helicopter pad. While on Desecheo, the team conducted a test for the 2 meter link to Puerto Rico.
"Logistics and staging of equipment is ongoing and will be complete before the team arrives in Puerto Rico on February 7." Allphin said. "The team will transit to Desecheo on February 12 to begin the two week operation. Eight HF stations, plus 6 meters, will be operational. We have planned an incredible array of antennas. Transportation and logistics have been arranged for a fast deployment and quick appearance on the air. As soon as we land on Desecheo, two stations will be immediately activated. Stations will continue to operate until the final moments of departure on February 26."
Allphin told the ARRL that stepping onto Desecheo for the first time "was a dream come true. After working on this project for so many years -- to actually be there and with the blessing of the USFWS -- was truly emotional for me. The recon trip to the island was absolutely invaluable: We were able to see exactly what terrain issues we were faced with and be able to design the antenna types and locations to maximize our signals into the target areas. The amateurs in Erope and Asia will be pleased with our signals. The cooperation of the USFWS has been extremely cooperative and helpful."
Per USFWS rules, only 15 operators will be allowed on the island at one time. "We have arranged with USFWS to allow a shift change about half way through the DXpedition," Allphin told the ARRL. "This has allowed a number of hams on our waiting list an opportunity to participate in this DXpedition."
DXpedition co-leader Glenn Johnson, W0GJ, said the team will be running CW, SSB and RTTY on 160-6 meters. "We've had tremendous support from DX organizations all over the world and from numerous equipment and antenna manufacturers," he told the ARRL. "We are diligently working on the propagation studies to reach our hard-to-work areas of Asia and Europe. This plus our planned antennas, we should knock Desecheo off of the Most Wanted List for a long time to come."