N4T – Dry Tortugas Youth DXpedition December 14-17, 2018


"DX" is a Morse Code shorthand for "distance" or "distant," and a DXpedition is an expedition to what is considered an exotic place by amateur (otherwise known as ham) radio operators, perhaps because of its remoteness, access restrictions, or simply because there are very few amateur radio operators on the air from that place.  This could be a country, an island, or even a rare Maidenhead grid square.  If they go to a very remote location, the ham radio operators on the DXpedition must bring all of their food, shelter, and equipment to the remote place so they can get on the air and talk to other amateur radio operators from around the world.  The hams who go to great expense and sometimes at great risk of life and limb are a rare breed and they provide the rest of the world's amateur radio operators the opportunity to make contact with these rare entities so they can qualify for operating awards, such as DXCC.

While on the island of Saba in the Dutch Caribbean during the 2016 Dave Kalter Memorial Youth DX Adventure, James (WX4TV–Dad) and some other amateur radio operators discussed the idea of providing young hams with the opportunity to experience what it would be like to go on a DXpedition, where they would operate in austere conditions from remote locations.  The hope is to inspire the next generation of adventurous souls who will take their radios to remote locations around the world to get on the air.

Faith Hannah (AE4FH), Hope (KM4IPF), and Dad (WX4TV) will be operating amateur radio from the Dry Tortugas National Park from December 14-17, 2018. This trip to the Dry Tortugas is a dry run to see if it is feasible to take other young amateur radio operators to the island to give them the experience of going on an amateur radio DXpedition.  If this trip is successful, the plan is to form a 501-C3 non-profit to begin to take two or three young hams each year to the Dry Tortugas or other islands to give them this experience.

The Dry Tortugas are a desired entity in the amateur radio world, so the team expects to make lots of contacts during the three days that they are on the air from the island.  They will be operating on HF (shortwave) and also the amateur radio satellites, in an attempt to contact as many other amateur radio operators as possible.

To prepare for this trip, the girls and Dad camped in the Crane Point Hammock in the Florida Keys and operated during the RSGB IOTA Contest in late July, 2018.  The girls gained experience in primitive camping skills, preparing food over open fires, and operating from a tent with battery and solar power.

Many people have asked us what equipment we are taking to the island.  We will be making a few videos to post to YouTube to answer those questions soon, but in the meantime, please take a few minutes to look at the links below.  We have posted links to many of the pieces of gear that we are taking with us.  We have been testing and using these products for months and are able to HIGHLY RECOMMEND each one of these companies and the gear that they produce.  Please be sure to check out their websites and take a look at what they have to offer!

Emmet and Rochelle are good friends of ours and we have been using many of their antennas for years, including the Sentinel Expedition Hex Beam which is mounted on our tower at home.  On this trip, we will be taking their OCF Dipole and several Double Bazooka antennas.

Hope (KM4IPF) and Dad (WX4TV) met Kevin from Bioenno Power in December 2016 when Hope was invited to operate the amateur radio station on the Last Man Standing set.  We were very impressed with their LiFePO4 batteries and we use several of them in our day-to-day ham radio activities.  We will be taking a few 30 AH and 9 AH batteries with us to the island, along with their 120 watt solar panel.

We came across PowerFilm Solar when one of our rigid solar panels got destroyed on the way home from a hamfest.  Their foldable solar collectors have been a mainstay in our portable amateur radio operations and we are taking our 120 watt and 30 watt foldable collectors to the island.  We have also used their WATERPROOF rollable collectors as well and they are impressive.

We met Bob and Laura from TN07 Engineering at the Orlando Hamcation® in February 2018.  We knew a lot of the same people and their take-it-outdoors approach to amateur radio matched perfectly with ours!  We will be taking several of their products with us to the island, including the 20 meter X-Beam antenna that was made with their parts, MGS MK4HD 25' antenna mast, and the mast support.

Buddipole is a family-owned company that produces all kinds of cool gear for portable amateur radio operations.  In addition to their Buddipole and Buddistick antennas, they make portable power products, notably the POWERmini charge controller and DC power management system.  This unit takes the prize of being the best money we believe you can spend on a piece of amateur radio equipment!

Dad (WX4TV) has been using his POWERTAC E5 flashlight for years in his work.  We will be taking several of these incredibly powerful flashlights with us to the island.  These flashlights put out 960 lumens and are virtually indestructible.  Watch the YouTube videos we produce while on the island to see how bright they are!

One of the requirements that the National Park Service has for amateur radio permits on the island is that the guy ropes for the antenna masts and EZ-Up shelters have to be marked with some sort of light.  We found UV Paqlite on Facebook when one of their ads showed up on Dad's newsfeed.  Their UVGLOSTIKs will be tied to our guy ropes at eye level and where the ropes are secured to the ground.

The National Park Service and the Yankee Freedom Ferry do not allow liquid fuels or accelerants on the island, so we needed to find a way to boil water using dry fuel.  We tried many different ways to boil water for food preparation and every one of them failed–until we found the Kelly Kettle.  We will be using the Ultimate Stainless Base Camp Kit for food preparation.  Watch the YouTube channel for a video that we will be producing about this very soon!

In this video, the girls are learning how to prepare freeze-dried Mountain House spaghetti, in preparation for the DXpedition.  The Mountain House foods were all really good and the girls (all of us, actually) describe many of the meals as being comfort food.  If you're out in the bush (or if you are doing emergency communications), this food tastes great and is easy to prepare!

In the video, the girls had a bit trouble boiling water for the dinner. After a bit of searching and asking advice of a few campers, we found an incredible piece of gear called the Kelly Kettle that works fantastically well at boiling water with very little fuel.  Watch the YouTube channel for a video about it, soon!