PJ Pandemonium -- Opening October 10 on an HF Band Near You
Get ready -- new Caribbean DXCC entities are on the way!
By H. Ward Silver, N0AX
No, it’s not a colorized re-release of a 1960s B-grade beach movie. On Sunday, October 10, five islands in the Caribbean are all changing their governmental status at the same time: Saba, St Eustatius, Bonaire, St Maarten and Curacao. Known collectively as the Netherlands Antilles, these islands have up to now been an autonomous part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Some will remain within the Netherlands as “special municipalities” and some will become independent nations within the Kingdom of the Netherlands, just as the island nation of Aruba did back in 1986. For more on the history of these islands, read the Wikipedia entry, Dissolution of the Netherlands Antilles.
What this means for the HF bands is a lot of interference as the new DXCC entities are born. As described in a recent ARRL Web story, two DXCC entities (the island pair of Bonaire & Curacao and the three-island group of St Maarten, Saba and St Eustatius) will be deleted from the DXCC list of active entities and be replaced by up to five new entities!
It is extremely unusual for this amount of geopolitical rearrangement to occur simultaneously, and as you might imagine, DXers around the world are getting ready to put those new entities in their logs on as many bands and modes as possible. At least eight stations are planning on being active, so the bands “might” be a little crowded for the first few days.
Just as when the Olympics come to town, the happiest residents will be those who plan ahead. If you’re not planning on joining the throng chasing the infant entities, you should probably make up a “Plan B” for your schedule or net (actually, you should always have a Plan B, but that's a subject for another article).
DXing activity tends to take place low in the band segments for a particular mode, so moving higher in frequency is probably the best way to avoid the pileups. CW operators will have to dodge digital DXers at the high end of the usual CW haunts, but don’t forget that CW can operate pretty much anywhere and there will surely be useable spectrum just below the phone segments or below the DXpedition transmit frequencies. And if QRM is upsetting, this might be a good time to work down the chore list or read that copy of War and Peace. Regardless of your preferences, planning ahead is definitely the way to go.
If you haven't tried DXing, the island stations will be loud and clear from almost anywhere in North America. After the initial pileups thin out a bit -- it will take a few days, realistically -- even very modest stations will be well-positioned to work that rarest of DX, a New One! You may find yourself enjoying the competition and there will surely be colorful QSLs to collect. Listen to the instructions of the DX operators and once you’ve got the hang of operating split and finding where the DX stations are listening, have at it! Caution -- DXing has been known to turn into a lifetime of fun!
Okay, you DXers -- just because there are New Ones afoot, that doesn't magically suspend the rules. Listen before you transmit and be sure to stay within your US allocations. For example, 21.195 MHz is outside the US phone band, no matter how loud the DX station may be! With so many chasing the DX, there will surely be frustrating moments of confusion -- keep calm and resist the urge to “help.” You'll eventually get through!
Wow -- this is a once in a lifetime occurrence on the ham bands, so make it enjoyable by using some know-how and personality. You'll be able to recount the stories of October 10, 2010 for a long time.
Make them good ones!
For the October 10th operations band plan click here.