DX University™

  A Guide for DXers and DXpeditioners




Following an expedition many DXpeditioners are very interested in learning how it was received by the DXing public. In some cases the operators are greeted at home as heroes and indeed they believe they sometimes are heroes 

Eventually however every DXpeditioner learns that there is always someone is unhappy with his operation. Obviously it is very difficult to please everyone. It has been said that if you worked it, it was a great operation, if you didn't, you might be ready to disagree. When some people are unhappy it doesn't necessarily mean that the expedition was a failure. It is possible however that there might be some room for improvement in performance.

An expedition with two stations operating twenty four hours per day, averaging three QSOs per minute will take about three or four days to work everyone even once. Since it is impossible for everyone to work the expedition immediately, it is reasonable to ask if the playing field is level. Does everyone have an equal chance when taking their operating skills and station characteristics into account? An experienced DXer is likely to be more able to determine the best way to work the expedition and get quickly into the log. This of course leaves the less experienced DXers for later in the operation. So it is very likely that in some cases when it is not possible to operate over weeks, with many operators, some or even many DXers won’t be able to make a QSO.

Some of the criticism heard following a relatively successful DXpedition will be from those operators who lack these skills. Often however valid criticisms are heard and an objective self-evaluation is in order. Criticism should be evaluated in view of conditions on each side of the discussion and alternatives studied.


Over many years, even decades, much has been said and written about QSL policies of various groups and individuals. Generally speaking, one should be free to do whatever one wishes concerning QSLing. If however financial support is sought from clubs, foundations or the general DXing public, it is incumbent upon the DXpedition group to comply with certain accepted standards. Traditional QSLing methods include the IARU bureau system, direct QSLing via post and direct QSLing via QSL managers. These systems served well over the years.

Of note, the direct QSLing method, whether to the DX station or its QSL manager offered the DXer an opportunity to include a donation along with the QSL request. Although a donation wasn't usually required, but return postage was usually necessary. Since sending coin isn't practical, DXers usually included currency in excess of that required to send the card by return mail. As a result, there was usually excess funds generated, often enough to help fund the DXpedition. Often bulk mailing routes were used to reduce the postage cost.

With the coming of electronic QSLing - Logbook of the Word (LoTW) and eQSL - not to mention the greatly increased cost of shipping cards via the bureau, alternate methods of replacing the excess funds have been found. One method of reducing the postage cost has been to simply request a QSL via email and pay for the return postage using a service such as Pay Pal. This method is generally called OQRS (Online QSL Request Service). This method also provides an opportunity for the DXer to add a contribution to his payment of postage.

The increased use of Logbook of the World (LoTW) has caused considerable angst, however. A number of expeditions in recent years have opted to require a contribution in exchange for an instant LoTW QSL. The difference is that LoTW QSLing is not only rapid, and more desirable than QSLing via post, but it removes the opportunity for a DXer to voluntarily include a contribution. By 2012, this became a major conversation in the DXing world. 

By early 2013, more and more DXpeditions were opting to upload their logs to LoTW, perhaps to avoid the ill feelings among DXers. It is possible that in the not-to-distant future the issue will be settled in favor of DXers finding alternate methods of contributing to DXpeditions.



One facet of QSLing policy which relates to the operating aspects of a DXpedition is that of how to resolve problems when calls are found "not in the log.” It is possible to analyze one's operating procedure from the point of view of errors made by the operator as confirmed by QSL cards received. Many errors follow a pattern and discovering their nature can improve an operators skills.

In the past most mistakes in the logs were handwriting problems leading to erroneous data entry. More recently virtually all logs are made and kept in electronic format. Still errors will occur. It is interesting to note that old paper logs often contain more information than computer-based logs. This is because on paper it was possible to add notes or see erasures, etc. Notes can be made in electronic format but it’s seldom done.

Nevertheless a consistent set of rules can be followed which will allow DXers a sort of "due process" as DXpeditioners try to resolve their QSL problems, while affording the operators an insight into their own operating procedures. If only a computer log is available when trying to resolve a "not in the log" situation the manager or the operator must seek out a chronological listing and look for the call that was placed in the log representing that of the DXer requesting the card. Whether a computerized chronological listing or an original handwritten log is used it may be found that a similar enough callsign is found in the chronological listing to justify further investigation.

It is important to formulate a policy regarding “similar” callsigns: how close must the callsign be? Many QSL managers will allow changes, some will not. It is most important to be sure that the entry in the log actually represents a QSO with the station claiming the QSL. If a reasonable facsimile of the requester’s callsign is found perhaps one simple test can be applied: Will anyone else request a card for this QSO? Maybe the requester will be asked to contact the holder of the actual callsign in the log and see if he did indeed make the QSO in question.

On CW one can examine the error and see if it is a reasonable error to be made in copying the code. For example, if a character is found which varies from the apparently correct character by one dot, we may apply the "one dot rule." For example “A” was logged instead of “R”, or “U” instead of ‘V’. Whether or not this is sufficient to issue a QSL card or not, it is an indication that the operator is adding or deleting dots mentally and an indication that he might be better off using a slightly lower CW speed. In this case the claimant probably deserves a card. Generally, a DXer should not be deprived of a QSL card as a result of an obvious error by a DXpedition operator. The deciding factor should be whether the contact with  the claimant or not.

Frequently no callsign can be found in the log at any time near the QSO in question. In these cases the QSL manager must simply advise the requester that no QSO was made. Often, QSLs are claimed on the smallest evidence of a QSO, as when a couple of letters of the worked station were the same. In some rare cases, a QSO is claimed fraudulently. Some DXers record QSOs based solely on hearing just part of their own call, hoping that a QSO took place. “The timing was right,” they say. Care should be taken in these cases because relatively few errors are made by DXpedition operators themselves. This procedure not only maintains the integrity of the QSLing policy for the DXpedition but as importantly it serves to assist the operators in improving their operating procedure by revealing the nature of their errors.

There is another aspect of "not in the log" QSOs and that is the definition of what exactly constitutes a valid QSO. This problem arises mostly on the low bands, eighty and one-sixty metres, where ESP (extra sensory perception) is sometimes found in its enthusiasts. Many of us have heard some of the low band faithful ‘working’ the DX long after he has QSYed to forty meters. 

From the DX end it is usually quite easy to determine whether a valid contact has been made. Frequently the DX station is running low power and can hear the Callers more easily than they can hear him. If a station cannot determine when the other station has stopped sending then a valid QSO cannot be claimed. If a third station has to say "over" to help the Caller then the QSO is definitely suspect. Some DXers fail to realize that a valid contact must be a two-way exchange of information – at least the callsigns. Knowing that a DX station is on a given frequency from a cluster spot does not constitute hearing a DX station. On occasion a QSL manager will see an entry in the original handwritten log which has been crossed out or erased. This may have happened because the expedition operator could hear the calling station but sensed that the calling operator could not hear him and subsequently voided the QSO.