Thierry F6CUK (operator for Crozet 2022/23) provides a full informative update on the earlier announced news about his DXpedition to FT/W.
The announcement of getting permission for a 3-month long stay in Crozet between December 2022 and March 2023 has led to many reactions, and raised many expectations in the DX community.
The whole team is working so that this DXpedition is a large success, and a maximum of people can work FT5W. Nevertheless, it seems important to indicate some of the conditions of this permission. There are 3 aspects that impose limitations : the climate, the soil nature, and the nature protection.
1/ The climate
The wind blows almost constantly at 70 kmh, with gusts that can reach 150 km/h, within a few minutes. It rains 300 days per year. There’s no real seasons on Crozet, so these conditions apply all year long, even if, during the Austral summer, some nicer days can be expected.
2/ The soil nature
The islands (Crozet is an archipelago) are old volcanos, with a fairly hard rock. On top of it, there is a thin layer of slag (10 to 60cm). The only vegetation is made of grass. It is therefore impossible to secure any mast in the ground. If we were to install vertical antennas (either aluminium or fiberglass), it would be necessary to dig holes and use concrete, or to ballast with concrete blocks. In other words, for a 4 square with 4 guy wires per antenna, that would be a total of over 30 blocks. The original idea was for 4-squares – array for 40 and 20.
3/ The environment
Along with the French Austral islands, FT5W, FT5X and FT5Z are on the list of the UNESCO World Heritage, and have been declared protected areas. This means there are very strict rules to be followed in order to protect the fauna and the flora. For bird protection, antennas, guy wires and anything that could be an obstacle are forbidden. It is impossible to dig, make anything in concrete, all over the island. Pollution generated by man’s presence must be minimal (one must live only at the Alfred Faure base, using environment-friendly equipment). The base is small (at most 40 people when crowded), so getting a pass is extremely difficult, as priority is given to scientists. Any equipment that lands on the island must be thoroughly cleaned so that no pollen, seeds, or new animals reach the island.
Our original request was for 4 squares on 40 and 20. This was refused. Impossible to keep them up because of the wind and the soil nature. The only possibility that the administration allowed was to have an attachment point to an existing building, and have wire antennas from there. NO beam! This is clearly stated in the permit we received.
The whole team is studying the best solution for the best antenna possible, taking into account these constraints. Thierry is still in touch with the authorities to optimize this point.
Propagation is getting better, we are certain we will give an ATNO to many. All the equipment are doubled, some tripled. With the help of the DX community, we will bring what is best. CW and SSB will be the priority. FT8 will be mostly for low bands if we can install an 80m dipole, and for far away areas (US West coast mainly)
Crozet will not be a 5-star hotel next to the beach with palm trees, on a Pacific island. Stay tuned !
F6CUK and F6EXV