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A DXer operates during a holiday DXpedition to Muscat, Oman.

A DX-pedition is an expedition to what is considered an exotic place by amateur radio operators, perhaps because of its remoteness or because there are very few radio amateurs active from that place. This could be an island, a country, or even a particular spot on a geographical grid.

The activity was pioneered by one-time ARRL president Robert W. Denniston. Mr. Denniston's 1948 DX-pedition was to the Bahamas and was called "Gon-Waki" ala Thor Heyerdahl's "Kon-Tiki" expedition the previous year.

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DX-peditions and awards

DX-peditions are planned and organized to help operators who need to contact that area to obtain an amateur radio award. There are several awards sponsored by various organizations based on contacting many different countries. Perhaps the most famous of these is the DX Century Club (DXCC) award sponsored by the ARRL. The base level of this award involves contacting and confirming 100 distinct geographical entities, usually countries, as defined by the ARRL.

An "entity" for radio award purposes is any location that is either politically or physically remote (or both) from other jurisdictions/locations. For example, even though Alaska and Hawaii are politically part of the United States, they are separate DX entities (physically separate). Small countries, even ones surrounded by larger ones, such as the Vatican, count. Other entities include transnational organizations such as the International Telecommunications Union, and the United Nations. These are within their host countries but have distinct ITU prefixes. Finally, a few areas of historic or special status have been included, such as Sardinia, the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, Antarctica, and Western Sahara.

Locations

Many DX-peditions take place from locations with adequate access to power and supplies, often where the country has a small resident amateur population or where licensing is not very difficult. Many Caribbean and Pacific island nations, as well as European micro-states, have very small populations, but have hotels, reliable power, and supplies, and are easy to gain operating permission in. Therefore these states are regularly activated by amateurs, often in combination with a family holiday.

A group of amateur radio operators during DX-pedition to The Gambia in October 2003.

Other jurisdictions take a more stringent view of individual access to communications equipment, and are rare because very few amateurs are licensed in those countries and visitors find it difficult or impossible to gain operating permits or import amateur radio equipment. Examples include North Korea, Yemen and Iran.

Some locations are also rare due to their extreme inaccessibility - examples include Peter I Island, Clipperton Island, Navassa Island, or Desecheo Island. When amateurs travel to remote locations such as these they must first obtain permission to operate from that location from whatever political jurisdiction rules the area they wish to travel to. Even in countries such as the United States, this permission can be difficult to obtain.

Once operating permission is assured, then transportation must be arranged. This can be both expensive and dangerous. Some locations are coral atolls that almost submerged at high tide, such as Scarborough Reef; others are sub-polar islands with inhospitable climates such as Peter I Island. The amateur must also take care of the basic necessities such as food, water, and power.

Equipment and Operation

In addition to licensing and survival issues, DX-pedition participants devote much attention to the radio equipment they use.

In an extremely rare location for a popular awards program like DXCC, hundreds of stations may be calling the DX-pedition at any one time (known as a 'pile-up'). Therefore, DX-peditioners will aim to use high power and gain antennas on as many bands as practical, in order to achieve a loud signal worldwide and keep control of the inevitable pileups that occur. Operators may also receive and transmit on different frequencies, called split operation, in order to be heard by distant stations without interference to their signal from the pileup. This can also help the operation to make a substantial number of contacts with parts of the planet that have unfavourable propagation from the area visited, lying perhaps in the region on the Earth's surface which is diametrically opposite to it -- its antipodal point. Examples would be the Central Pacific from Europe, or the Caribbean from Japan.

For smaller operations to remote locations, smaller radios which run off of 12V DC and antenna systems which are more easily transported are favored over larger and more difficult to transport equipment. However, generators are usually used because of the power requirements for amplifiers and the ease of refueling versus recharging a battery.

When the individual or group arrives at the DX-pedition destination, they must set up their station and get on the air. DX-peditions are usually group affairs since the desire is to make as many contacts as possible from the location. Round-the-clock operations on multiple HF bands simultaneously are typical, which necessitates a group activity. The use of the Internet to upload logs (allowing quick confirmation of questionable contacts) and for QSLs (formal confirmation) has made the process somewhat easier.

Holiday operations from locations where there are few resident operators are often more leisurely affairs. Nonetheless the operator will seek to make as many contacts as possible in the operating time available, with the result that contacts are often extremely brief, limited just to an exchange of signal reports.

Contests

Many DX-peditions are organized around various radio contests that happen throughout the year. This is often done so that the DX-pedition station can gain an advantage in contests and maximize the number of contacts that they make during the DX-pedition, since the radio bands are the most active during contests.

A recent example of a Contest DX-pedition to Christmas Island in the 100 most wanted list [1]

DX-pedition with most contacts

In February 2008 the Ducie Island (Pitcairn group) DXpedition claimed 183,686 QSOs under the callsign VP6DX. This broke the old record of 168,000 set in 2001 by D68C from a location on the Comoros island of Grande Comore.

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