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Report from Thailand

E20AX/p IOTA DXpedition to Chang Island (AS-125)

Champ C. Muangamphun, E21EIC

That last IOTA activation that I participated in was with OH2BH, OH2TA, OH3JR and CO8DM/EA3ICJ when we activated Market Reef under the callsign OJØA (EU-053) and Äland Islands under OHØC (EU-002). But that was all before COVID-19 became a global pandemic. After two years of being stuck at home, I finally decided to alleviate the travel-bug by re-igniting my long-term goal of completing all the IOTA activations for Thailand.

(Left) QSL card design for OJØA for the 50th Anniversary of the Market Reef DXCC status(Right) OJØA celebrating the occasion

For me personally, my experience with IOTA in Thailand started way back in 1997 when we activated Phuket Island (AS-053) under the callsign E22AAA. The last one I did was in 2006 under the callsign E21EIC/p with UT5UY, HS0EHF and E21YDP on Lipe Island (AS-126). Out of the six possible IOTA activations in the Land of Smile, the only one that I have yet to complete is AS-125. So where else would we go but AS-125!

(Left) A map showing the location of Chang Island (IOTA AS-125) in the Gulf of Thailand
(Right) The ferry taking E20AX/p team across the open water to Chang Island seen ahead

Chang Island, located in the Gulf of Thailand, is the second largest island in the country and belongs to the IOTA’s “North East Group” (AS-125). One big advantage of Chang Island is that getting there is easy. The island is one of the touristy hot spots, locating just 380km away from Bangkok, we can easily drive our private cars with all the radio gears to Trat province, cross over to the island on the ferries, and head straight to the operating site. The ferries run every hour during daytime, and the journey only lasts 30 minutes.

(Left and Right) E20AX/p assembling the Hexbeam (20-10m)

In the past, our small Siam DX Group has always been heavily focused on contesting, but I also want the rookies to be an all-rounder and give them a taste of what DX-ing is like. So, for this mini-DXpedition trip, I along with the E2A rookies and some local HAMs got together to operate under the club’s callsign E20AX/p.

Previously, the activation of Chang Island had been heavily focused in the Southern part of the landmass. This was not ideal because there is a high-rising mountain blocking the signal path to North, East and West directions. For this occasion, we decided to locate our QTH on the Northern side of the island to give us the best open paths to Europe and JA. We relied upon the local experts, HS2BMI and HS2KYA, to help us choose the best QTH to activate AS-125 to the World.

(Left) View of the Hexbeam and various dipoles and vertical ground planes for E20AX/p operation
(Right) Three stations running simultaneously on CW, SSB and FT8 on Chang Island

We set off from Bangkok on Friday 17th December 2021 in the early afternoon and reached the island just after nightfall. We managed to pre-assembled some of the antennas to prepare ourselves for the next day before retiring for the night.

(Left and Right) E20AX/p team celebrating E29TGW Mew’s birthday on Chang Island with his XYL

On Saturday morning, we erected the antennas and completed the station set-ups with the following equipment: 2x IC-7300, 1x IC-7610, 1x SPE Expert 1.3k-FA, 1x Tokyo Hy-Power HL-1.2KFX, 4O3A Triplexer and High Power band pass filters. For the antennas, we erected one Hexbeam (20-10m) from EAntenna (Spain) at 8mH, five ground plane antennas for 160m, 80m, 40m, 30m and 15m, one dipole for 17m. Most of the time, we had 3 stations running simultaneously on FT8, CW, and/or SSB modes depending on the band conditions.

(Left) E24OYI and E25KAE manning the stations
(Right) E25KAE running CW mode and picking up JA stations

For this operation, the list of operators included HS2UPR, E24OYI, E25KAE, E25OKO, E29TGW, E20NKB and E21EIC. The support team included HS2KYA, HS2BMI, and HS2QJJ. We started our operation at 0500UTC on Saturday 18th December, and the first QSO was JH1CJY on FT8 17m band followed by many more JA stations thereafter.

(Left) E29TGW on the graveyard shift with CW pileup
(Right) HS2UPR confirming FT8 contacts with his friends

Overall, the band conditions were good on both the low and high bands. We were able to operate continuously without any hiccups or weather interruptions for the 3-day period. In the end, we managed to log a total of 3,708 QSOs splitting into:

JA stations constituted 44% of our final logs, particularly on the 160m and 80m bands at 81% and 64% respectively, and for the mode, FT8 at 58% of our total log.

(Left) From L-R, HS2KYA, E29TGW and his XYL, E25KAE, E20NKB, E21EIC and E24OYI enjoying fried rice on the 1st day after completing all the antenna and station setup in the morning
(Right) From L-R, E25OKO with family, HS2UPR, HS2QJJ, HS2KYA, E29TGW and his XYL, E24OYI, E25KAE, E20NKB and E21EIC enjoying a seafood feast after a long day

Even though the band conditions were good, and we did try to put our emphasis on SSB, but the propagation seemed to favour FT8 and CW much more. We had a period of high activity on CW, but once we switched over to SSB, there were few takers, and this had impacted our QSO rate.

(Left and Right) E29TGW and E21EIC manning the E20AX/p stations on CW mode

The noise level on the island was low as was expected, so working the QSOs on CW mode on the low bands was great fun. Unfortunately, during the time of our AS-125 activation, there was a low depression over the Philippines resulting in strong winds and high tides, and this could have been the reason why the QSO rate was not so high and why SSB did not performed as well as we had hoped.

(Left and Right) View of the operating site on Chang Island (AS-125)

All-in-all, the activation of Chang Island (AS-125) was a success and marks a good beginning of Solar Cycle 25. We tried to maximize the QSO rate and managed to achieve 3,708 QSOs over a 3-day-period when our original target was set at 3,000 QSOs. This trip also provided a fantastic opportunity for the E2A rookies to experience their first DX ever since stepping onto the HF bands and the contesting stage 2 years ago.

(Left and Right) 16-year-old E25OKO working Europe on SSB mode on 19th December 2021 with the help of E25KAE

A special mention goes to E25OKO, a bright 15-year-old girl who spent the whole time with us, observing the antenna set ups and the operating style, actively helped in the support team, and then managed to snag a handful of contacts on SSB herself whilst also juggling online learning at the same time. Well done! Another star in the making.

The log for E20AX/p has now been uploaded to LoTW. Please check your logs via ClubLog also. QSL cards will be automatically sent to all via the bureau.

E20AX/p team photo

Another piece of good news, we have found out that HS2KYA has a house on Chang Island. He now hopes to become more active on the bands and this will make AS-125 much easier to collect for IOTA awards.

(Right) From L-R, E29TGW and his XYL, E25KAE, E20NKB and E21EIC posting direct QSL cards to OH2BH and DJ9ZB from Chang Island

Siam DX Group continues to search for the next suitable island for IOTA activation. It is our aim to activate all six IOTA in Thailand, so please stay tune for our next trip!

E20AX/p team thanking everyone for their support and for all the QSOs made

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