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Islands On The Air DXpedition
Santa Catalina Island NA-066
February 20, 2013

Anatomy of a DXpedition Cancellation:
Dollars & Sense

By Diana Feinberg, AI6DF
PVARC President

In my time on planet Earth I never used the term “adrenaline collapse” until the PVARC’s 2013 IOTA DXpedition to Catalina abruptly ended before it started. But it all made sense.

Our entire DXpedition team was pumped-up, packed-up, and ready to go on Wednesday, February 20—until gale-force winds and nine-foot swells in the Catalina Channel caused the Catalina Express ship line to cancel almost all service that day. We waited six hours for conditions to improve, but they didn’t.

With no boat service to Two Harbors the following day and two of our DXpedition team members already scheduled to return on Friday evening it wasn’t feasible to operate with a limited team for a very limited time. Our “cost per QSO” also would have been exorbitant (more on that in a moment).

Catalina Express’ Facebook postings tell the story

We all were disappointed and went home after waiting at the Catalina Express terminal. And then something strange happened: we all felt completely exhausted despite never leaving for Catalina. Attribute that to “adrenaline collapse”, as Donna, W6DLD--XYL of our DXpedition leader Ray Day, N6HE—reportedly expressed it. Most of us slept 10 hours that night. I felt like I needed several more hours.

But PVARC’s 2013 IOTA DXpedition is one of many DXpeditions that had been canceled owing to transportation problems or adverse weather. Some of our ham comrades have braved worse conditions (and exorbitant costs) to reach their DXpedition destinations. That’s especially true in remote locations or hard-to-operate countries where the window of opportunity doesn’t often arise.

But what’s especially telling about DXpeditions are their respective costs—particularly their “cost per QSO”. Look no further than the fascinating “cost per QSO” analysis which Donald Greenbaum, N1DG, presented at the 2012 Dayton Hamvention. (N1DG of Duxbury, MA, was inducted into CQ Magazine’s DX Hall of Fame in 2006). His entire presentation can be viewed at: http://www.ncdxf.org/
and http://www.ncdxf.org/misc/N1DG-DXpeditioncosts-Dayton2012.ppt

N1DG obtained the total costs for: five “Fly-In” DXpeditions where electricity was available (analogous to our Catalina Island situation); nine “Semi-Remote” DXpeditions (hard-to-reach places); and six costly “Southern Oceans” DXpeditions (even harder-to-reach destinations requiring ice breaker-rated ships and equipment for very cold conditions). Dividing each DXpedition’s cost by contacts yields the “cost per QSO”. The table below shows N1DG’s survey results, to which we’ve added the 2012 K6PV/6 IOTA DXpedition’s data. Our 2,069 QSO’s during the 2012 IOTA at Two Harbors each cost about the same as a QSO from a “Semi-Remote” location due to K6PV’s fixed costs (like travel) spread across only four days.

My calculations show an abbreviated K6PV/6 DXpedition team in 2013, operating just 1.5 days yielding an estimated 800 QSO’s, would have cost us $1.85 per QSO. That’s getting pricey, so neither dollars nor the weather made sense this year for K6PV/6.

PVARC’s annual Two Harbors DXpedition isn’t in the same league as the DXpeditions N1DG analyzed. But the fundamental economics of DXpeditions apply to K6PV/6 as well: hams who participate in DXpeditions personally spend considerable sums for enabling fellow hams to contact seldom-heard DX entities. As shown in the previous page’s table, PVARC’s operators on our 2012 K6PV/6 DXpedition personally incurred almost 90% of our DXpedition’s cost, vs. 58-66% of total costs being borne by participants in the DXpeditions that N1DG surveyed.

I’ve plotted on the map below the DXpeditions that N1DG analyzed. Hopefully it all makes sense now—and so do the dollars involved. But when seas turn nasty, it really makes good sense to cancel that island trip!


AI6DF’s 2013 K6PV/6 IOTA
Photo Album

0800 hours: The team with its gear on the dock in San Pedro for the 0900 boat.


Waiting over five hours inside Catalina Express’ San Pedro terminal.
Photo doesn’t show the cooler chests containing our food.
Shown (L-R), Norm, K6UU (partially); Jeff, K6JW; and Bob, W6HIP.


After learning Catalina Express ships are canceled for the day, Ray N6HE notifies campground at Two Harbors and arranges refunds for all.

By Diana Feinberg, AI6DF
PVARC President



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