In this installment of DXpedition ethics Part II, we will explore the subject of DXpeditions being harmed or disrupted by other DXpedition teams. This problem is not often discussed but is a real and emerging problem.
I know that the average DXer wants more DX and they often don’t concern themselves with the behavior and antics of various DXpedition leaders. The time has come for them to pay attention and to care about some of the things that are happening.
There has always been some level of competition among DXpedition groups or teams to make the rare activations. Some teams work together, complement each other and respect each other. My VP8STI/VP8SGI team was greatly assisted by the leading DXpedition leader, Ralph Fedor-K0IR. In turn, I often talk about issues and problems with budding or emerging DXpedition leaders that approach me. Most of us freely share knowledge, opinions and ideas.
There is a sense of good will and sharing. No one wants to see a team experience disaster or hardship. Well almost no one.
I was chagrined to learn in 2016 that a noted DXpedition Leader approached the owner of a ship I had chartered to take the VP8STI/VP8SGI team to South Sandwich and South Georgia Islands.
We had secured an ideal window for our charter in the Southern Ocean and we felt fortunate to secure that booking. I would later learn that an unscrupulous DXpedition Leader offered the ship owner considerable sums of money to cancel our booking and give him our advantageous slot for his DXpedition which was without a ship. Fortunately for the VP8STI/VP8SGI team, our ship owner was honest, ethical and beyond approach. He rejected the other DXpedition leader’s offer to “bump” our team from our charter.
This was my first experience with another leader or team trying to disrupt my DXpedition, however it wasn’t the last.
In March, 2016 after a sustained multi-year effort, David Flack-AH6HY and I were able to get permission to bring a “large team” to Wonsan, North Korea for a DXpedition. As part of the conditions for our DXpedition, the North Koreans demanded that we make no publicity until after we made the activation. We agreed to those terms.
We started building a team of world class operators throughout April 2016 as well as procuring equipment and staging it in Beijing for our transit to Pyongyang.
Things were going very well when our DXpedition was suddenly and completely derailed when right after the International DX Convention, our plans were revealed on an Internet Blog. This information made it back to North Korea who then punished us by refusing to issue visas to Dave Flack-AH6HY and myself. That and one other factor caused us to cancel the P5DX DXpedition.
We lost considerable personal funds as we had to abandon most of the gear we had purchased, shipped and staged in Beijing. The P5DX DXpedition was unequivocally sabotaged by another competing DXpedition team and it is due to their actions that a large scale successful DXpedition from North Korea did not take place in 2016.
In March, 2016, the Perseverance DX Group announced their plans to activate Central Kiribati as T31W. This announcement was made after some inquires to see if any other team was planning to make the same activation. In August 2016, five months after the T31 announcement by the Perseverance DX Group, 3Z9DX-Dom announced that his Rebel DX Group would visit Kanton Island in Central Kiribati in late September for a 4-6 week trip.
The Rebel DX Group’s T31T team was active for ten days and made 30,394 contacts from 10-160 meters. Following the T31T activation, the T31W team decided to cancel their planned DXpedition to Kanton Island stating the following: “Seven months after we announced T31W a 3-man team from Europe activated T31 and made a total of 30,000 QSOs. Of the total, 5,000 QSOs were with Europe where T31 is one of the most needed entities. Subsequently, they announced their intention to return to T31 in 2017 to finish the job. Based on these events it makes no sense for us to commit personal or donated funds to continue the project”.
In November, 2016 K0IR, K4UEE and LA6VM announced a major 20 man DXpedition to Bouvet Island scheduled for late 2017 or early 2018. They chartered a ship, complete with a helicopter and pilot to make the arduous and risky activation of Bouvet. The entire DX Community was elated at this news. Based on their proven track record with very extremely successful similar activations, everyone knew that we would be in for a great show with the activation of Bouvet. They began the long and arduous task of raising $600,000 with the team contributing over $300,000 themselves.
In January 2017, rumors began to swirl about another team possibly making an early 2017 Bouvet activation. Myself and other experienced American DXpeditioners were approached by Dom-3Z9DX of the Rebel DX Group. He was planning to charter a 70-foot sailboat and bring a team of 5-6 men to make a sudden activation in advance of the 3Y0Z team.
Later in January and February, Dom’s plans became public and he was actively recruiting amateurs on the Eham.net DX forum to join him for an activation of Bouvet. On January 10th, Dom posted on Eham “ I need 3 more people ( 6 people team) ready and willing to go for up to 7 weeks. Who not ask million questions, who is just ready to go”.
While most of the Eham.net comments seem to support Dom’s efforts to activate Bouvet a year earlier than the 3Y0Z team, one enlightened poster commented “ But isn’t K4UEE and team going to Bouvet in 2018? Why did Dom feel the need to go there too? We lost one top expedition to T3 last year due to him going there first, I would be afraid to comment on his motivation to try to activate Bouvet even after a top team have announced plans to go there, there is lots of top 10 stuff to be activated there is no need for everyone to go to the same island”.
Having read the numerous comments about these DXpeditions, it is clear to me that the average DXer has no concern about one DXpedition team jumping out in front of a previously announced DXpedition. The average DXer seems to feel “the more DX the better”.
For the DXpedition leader, this has become a potentially big problem. When a DXpedition leader signs a boat charter contract there is often a non-refundable deposit to reserve the charter and allotted time. Our nonrefundable deposit for VP8STI/VP8SGI charter was $50,000. That means that if we had cancelled our plans due to another team jumping out in front of us, we the team would be on the hook for that $50,000.
When you have rouge DXpedition leaders boldly jumping out in front of previously announced plans, you basically have a situation where one leader is harming another team and causing potentially significant financial losses. The DXpedition leader can’t go forward with his plans because the need for contacts has been significantly diminished and he can’t get out of a contract because of a non-refundable deposit.
This can create real reluctance for future DXpedition leaders in making expensive and risky activations. Make no mistake, three of the issues I have outlined in my writing stem from one single group. If this nonsense continues, one DXpedition leader could find himself becoming a pariah in the global DX Community.
It’s time for the average DXer to sit up and pay attention to this behavior and not heap their blessings or support on those who would harm others for their own personal quest for glory.
“Glory is fleeting, but obscurity is forever” Napoleon Bonaparte.