Events / Technical Articles

DXpeditions 101: What is a Pileup?

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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