While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

So what is a pileup?

Imagine you are one of many reporters at a White House press conference, all simultaneously trying to get called on by the president. A din of voices fills the air until someone is chosen. A DX pileup is similar, only a heck of a lot more fun–and just as challenging.

Because a DXpedition grabs the interest of Amateur Radio operators from around the globe (like it has for Bouvet Island 2018), many individuals will be on the air at once attempting to log a rare contact. When multiple stations transmit their call signs at the same time and on the same frequency or over a range of frequencies, this creates a “pileup” of noise as each operator attempts to be called out by the DX station The DX station picks out one call sign–maybe the loudest or the clearest or the luckiest–and makes a short contact, most likely a simple exchange of signal reports. Then the pileup starts again.

Snagging an extremely rare contact such as Bouvet Island is a thrill for seasoned and beginning Hams alike. How can your station break through this auditory traffic snarl? Any veteran DXer will tell you that your ears are your most valuable tool when confronting a pileup. Before transmitting, listen to learn the station’s pattern for ending a QSO (contact) so you know when it’s time to call. By listening to experienced operators, you will also pick up on proper etiquette for transmitting your call.

Don’t be a tuner-upper! A tuner-upper is an operator who tunes up the radio or amplifier with the antenna tuner right on the DX’s frequency while a pileup is in progress. It is proper etiquette to move down the band to tune up before returning to the DX’s frequency.

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While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

What difference does a good antenna make?

A good antenna is the best accessory you can have for your transceiver. There are many designs you can build or buy that will help focus your signal on the DXpedition and reject signals from other directions. Even simple antennas like dipoles can be quite effective. Make sure your antenna system is in good working order before the DXpedition begins.

Dipoles: Single- and multi-band dipoles are very efficient, inexpensive and radiate well. The key to good performance for DXing is to install them at one-half or more wavelengths above the ground.  At 20 meters, this is about 30 feet. If you have only one support, you can install the dipole as an inverted V, held up at the center or sloping in the direction you want to favor–in this case, toward Bouvet.

Verticals: Ground-mounted vertical antennas are most effective when they have a good set of ground radials about 30 feet long or more, with length not being critical. As few as eight radials on the ground will work, although more is better. If you mount the vertical in the air, the radials should be cut to lengths specified in the owner’s manual. Ground-independent verticals can be mounted at any height– see the manual for your antenna for guidelines.

Beams: Even at modest heights of one-half wavelength, a small beam can dramatically improve your chances of working DX. Small “tribanders” for 20, 15, and 10 meters are light enough to support on a metal mast that can be turned by hand. Rotators controlled from the station can point the beam for you.


While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

How important is my receiver?

The noise of the pileup and interference from the many signals will be far stronger than usual. You’ll need to know how to use your receiver effectively to hear the DXpedition station as clearly as possible.

Filters: Know how to select and adjust your receiver’s filters, including notch filters. Learn to adjust the passband shifting function and use your receiver incremental tuning (RIT).

Noise Reduction: Most transceivers have both noise blankers and noise reduction functions. Find out what controls activate and control these functions and how they respond to noise at your station.  Experiment until you find the combination of settings that gives you the clearest reception. Be ready to alter the settings as conditions change.

Gain: Your receiver can be too sensitive and overloaded by the strong signals, creating noise and false signals internally that you hear as interference. Turn off preamps and noise blankers unless absolutely necessary. Try turning on your transceiver’s attenuator to further reduce noise. Receivers are plenty sensitive, so only use the amount of gain you need to hear the station.


While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

What is an operating split?

Split means transmitting on one frequency and listening on another. This helps everyone hear the DX station better so they can time their calls, follow instructions, and not create unnecessary interference. Expect the DXpedition to operate “split” while the pileups are medium to large, possibly up until the last few days of the operation.

A typical DXpedition might transmit on 14.195 MHz and specify they are listening “from 14.200 to 14.210.” Your receiver should be set to receive on 14.195 MHz and transmit somewhere in the 14.2 to 14.21 range. This is typically done by using the VFO A and VFO B settings (VFO stands for variable-frequency oscillator). Most transceivers have a “SPLIT” button or menu item that alternates between the VFO on receive and transmit. The transceiver manual will have instructions on how to do this.

Practice setting your VFOs, say with a friend on the air, and get used to setting the VFO used for transmitting to different frequencies a few kHz away from the DX transmitting frequency. On CW (Morse code) and RTTY (radioteletype), the typical shift in frequency is 2-5 or 10 kHz. The DX station will send “UP” or something like “UP 2” after completing a contact.


While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

What is a “Pilot” station and how can it help me?

Pilot stations are members of the DXpedition who operate from populated areas and are in regular contact with the DXpedition. Their job is to report on how things are going from their location and act as liaisons between the DXpedition and Hams in their region. For the Bouvet Island DXpedition, there will North American and European pilots, a Japanese pilot, and even a special pilot for younger Hams, Bryant KG5HVO. Listen to the pilots! They will give feedback from the DXpedition, such as changes in schedules or conditions and requests to follow certain instructions. Use their firsthand knowledge to make a successful contact.

Learn more about the Bouvet Island 3Y0Z’s “Off Island” team of pilots here.


While there will be thousands of experienced Hams worldwide who will be attempting to make contact with Bouvet Island 3Y0Z, they will undoubtedly be joined in the pileups by scores of first-time DXers. As a service to those who are new to this exciting part of Amateur Radio, DX Engineering is posting a series of articles you can use to get started on the right foot.

So what’s the proper etiquette for making a contact?

If you’d like to try for a Bouvet Island contact, you’ll need to operate appropriately. Be courteous. Many Hams will be trying to capture this rare contact, so keep your attempts short and sweet. Others in the pileup will appreciate your brevity.

When calling, send or say only your call sign. Don’t transmit the DX station’s call sign–they already know who you’re calling!  Send your call a couple of times and then stand by, listening to see if the DX station heard you and is now calling you back. Here is an example (see use of phonetics for how to make your call more effective):

DX: This is 3Y0X, QRZed (meaning “Please call now.”) You: N8DXE N8DXE          (Listen–If no response from the DX station in two or three seconds, call again repeating the          pattern.) DX:   K3LR you’re five-and-nine on Bouvet (Rats! They didn’t hear you this time, so stand by) K3LR: K3LR, thanks, you’re five-and-nine in Pennsylvania, good luck! (“Five-and-nine” denotes a clear,            strong signal) DX: Thanks, this is 3Y0X, QRZed You: N8DXE N8DXE DX: N8DXE you’re five-and-nine on Bouvet (You made it!) You: N8DXE (to be sure the DX station knows it’s you responding), thanks, you’re five-and-nine in Ohio! DX: Thanks, this is 3Y0X, QRZed

That will suffice. No more, no less. It’s not necessary to give your name, power or a weather report. Now log your contact and bask in the glow that comes from making it through a pileup!

Should you use phonetics?

Using the NATO Phonetic Alphabet, recognized by most Hams worldwide, can help avoid confusion that results because many letters sound alike. Phonetics are words that are said in lieu of a letter (e.g., Alpha for A, Z for Zulu). It’s a good idea to become familiar with standard phonetics and use them when operating in SSB (single sideband) mode. In the preceding example, the caller, N8DXE, would identify herself as November 8 Delta X-Ray Echo. Always stick to standard phonetics that will be familiar to the DX station. Neptune 8 Denzel Xavier Euphrates won’t cut it! Give yourself every advantage possible by using words the DX station will be listening for.


Many hams equate frequencies and bands with colloquial usage. Therefore VHF is 2 meters, specifically 144 to 148 MHz, and HF is 160 through 6 meters, just like on our HF radios.

Oops. VHF refers to Very High Frequency, and is a chunk of radio spectrum from 30 to 300 MHz- all inclusive. That places 6 meters, 2 meters and the 220 MHz band all in VHF. Therefore, 6 meters is NOT an HF band.

OK, then 160 through 10! –Nope-. Technically, the bands within 300 kHz to 3 MHz are Medium Frequency, or MF bands. Since 1.8 to 2 MHz falls squarely within this range, 160 meters is an MF band- NOT HF.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) radio bands are designations defined in the ITU Radio Regulations. Article 2, provision No. 2.1, states that “the radio spectrum shall be subdivided into nine frequency bands, which shall be designated by progressive whole numbers in accordance with the following table.”

VLF: Very Low Frequency; 3 to 30 kHz, 10 to 100 km wavelength

LF: Low Frequency; 30 to 300 kHz, 1 to 10 km wavelength

MF: Medium Frequency; 300 to 3000 kHz, 100 to 1000 m wavelength

HF: High Frequency; 3 to 30 MHz, 10 to 100 m wavelength

VHF: Very High Frequency; 30 to 300 MHz, 1 to 10 m wavelength

UHF: Ultra High Frequency; 300 to 3000 MHz, 10 to 100 cm wavelength

SHF: Super High Frequency; 3 to 30 GHz, 1 to 10 cm wavelength

EHF: Extremely High Frequency; 30 to 300 GHz, 1 to 10 mm wavelength

THF: Tremendously High Frequency; 300 to 3000 GHz, 0.1 to 1 mm wavelength

There are the radio bands in a nutshell. So, where does 70cm fit in? UHF, of course! It’s there, along with 33cm, 23cm and 2.4 GHz (12.5cm).

Simple, isn’t it? So, memorize it for a test next Monday.