DX-Aku: Messages from the Easter Island Expedition
Robert W. Schmieder
Published 1996 by Cordell Expeditions
7x10", perfect bound
366+ pp, ca 80 illus.
ISBN 0-9626013-6-5
Standard edition: $25 + postage
Postage: $3 US, $15 foreign airmail)
DXpedition of the Year 1995-96
It's the silence that you hear most. Sure, there's the whisper of the air moving through grass, the muffled roll of distant surf, the weak, unidentifiable overlap of a thousand little objects adjusting to a changing environment. But the dominant sound is silence, the deep and pervasive silence of a land that lost contact with the rest of the world, lost its identity, and then lost its history. This is a world in isolation, a world lost in an uncharted ocean, the most isolated land where Man ever lived. The Ancients called this place Te Pito te Hunua, the Center of the World. Polynesians named it Rapa Nui. Spanish call it Isla de Pascua. We know it as Easter Island.
For three weeks during September 1995, we broke the silence of this tiny Pacific island, bridging space and time to connect it to thousands of people around the globe. This is the story of an expedition, a journey of personal discovery, of messages from the mysterious entity that effects the universal imperative and that connects all things everywhere...It is the most important agent in the universe, because it links all things and creates order. We call it the DX-Aku.
The expedition originated as an experiment to see if we could invent and implement new techniques for enhancing the experience of DXing, the sport of making long-distance radio contacts by amateurs. We believed we could transfer recent advances in technology to DXing, to make the sport more enjoyable and more accessible to more people. Our goal was no less than to provide a demonstration that technology is good for you, and that DXing can, and should, take a giant leap forward toward the 21st Century. We sought to integrate the radio activities with traditional field research done by divers exploring the undocumented subtidal areas, and with computer science via daily communications over the Internet. As my good friend Carlos Nascimento NP4IW and I began to create the project, we found that implementing the technology was relatively easy; getting the community to share the vision was not always so easy.
The project was ambitious from the beginning. In order to keep the cost down, we expanded the team to 32 persons. The logistics for supporting this group on a remote beach on a remote island was an adventure in itself. We made an exploratory trip to Easter Island to make friends and select the campsite. We filled out permit applications for radio operations, camping, specimen collection, and some we're not sure about. We shipped 19 large crates of gear from San Francisco to Chile, and then back. We interfaced with travel agencies to get the team there and back on time. We erected tent cities on Easter Island and on the remote islet of Salas y Gómez, 200 miles to the East. We arranged for lumber to be imported from the mainland, and water, gasoline, food, and workers from the only village on Easter Island, Hanga Roa. We convinced several Internet sites to be online for the expedition, including the computer at the NASA satellite tracking facility on Easter Island. On a remote shore of a remote island, we established a small city, complete with government, power, water, and sanitary utilities, a security force, communications, a restaurant, suburbs, a computer center, an entertainment facility, transportation facilities, and a steady stream of local and international visitors.
By the time the operation was complete, we had accomplished a long list of "firsts" in DXing, such as the first expedition World Wide Web site, e-mail QSLs, next-day mailed QSL cards, barcodes on the QSL cards, publicly posted radio logs, e-mail to the campsite, the first moon-bounce, RTTY, and 30 m radio contacts from Easter Island, and the first radio activation of Salas y Gómez. We had collected hundreds of marine specimens and documented the last undescribed coastline of Easter Island. And we had logged 40,000 separate radio contacts, including more contacts on the 160 m band (1100) than any previous expedition, and received a very high percentage requests for QSLs (50% of the total log). As we analyze our data, we are continuing to make new discoveries, and the archives specimens will provide baseline data into the indefinite future.
During our expedition, we caused no damage to any archaeological site, and made minimal impact on the culture of Easter Island. We left the island as we found it, although we took with us an invaluable richness, and through the medium of electronic communication and the results of our oceanic exploration, we provided a conduit through which thousands of people world wide could gain that same richness. They, like we, have heard the messages from the ancient people. The messages are carried by an invisible agent that makes possible communication between people separated by great distance. It is the power that enables one human soul to overlap another. It is the entity that connects all things that interact, the force that links every part of the universe with every other part. It is the what brings about the universal imperative to communicate, to share, to find commonality, to reduce disorder. Metaphorically, we transcended time and space to find the messages from the DX-Aku, and these messages enriched our expedition and our lives.
"The message," said my DX-Aku. "Look at the message."
I peered into the mist in front of me, and strained to quicken my perception of the message. Soon it was clear, and I read it aloud:
This is the Universal Imperative: Reduce Entropy
Entropy. A physicist's word for disorder. We should reduce disorder!
This, therefore, was a new commandment, one that transcended Time and Space. It applied to all entities in the Universe, whether they be Man or Beast, good or bad, domestic or wild. In all its manifestations, we should seek to reduce the chaos and randomness of our universe. We should use technology to enable and enhance evolution, in all facets of our lives. We should revel in technology and celebrate its invention as a gift from God. We should put it to use to enable and enhance the human condition, and to create things even God did not foresee.
"Is this it?" I asked my DX-Aku. "Have I found the ultimate universal truth? Am I a vehicle for God's will?"
"Don't be melodramatic," my DX-Aku said. "You've just taken a journey, a journey of personal discovery. You have experienced some insights missed by those who don't take the time, or who don't have the courage and faith, to take. You're not chosen, except perhaps by yourself."
I was only slightly disappointed. More relieved than disappointed, I should say. I felt safe again, in the familiar presence of my own self.
I had taken a journey. It was one of mind and spirit, and faith, and imagination. It was a journey of discovery, and I made my own discoveries, the ones I sought when I began the journey. I had learned to transcend Time and Space, and then I had done it again, to find the messages that were waiting for me. But the messages were probably only the reflections of my own thoughts, my own messages to myself, stripped of their encapsulation in a framework of Time and Space. They were, for me, universal messages, valid now and then and in the future, here and there and somewhere else. They would remain valid so long as I remained myself. And they were true, according to my DX-Aku.
My journey finished, I allowed a crack of time to regain its place in my existence. Slowly, I began to sense again the presence of my own body, of the extent of my personal space. I became aware that some time had passed, and that I had other things to do, places to be. I opened my eyes, and looked again at the moai, who looked back at me.
"A good journey?" they seemed to ask.
"A good journey," I said.
"A good journey," said my DX-Aku.
And I got in the Landrover and drove down the hill.
Internet expedition planning
Web site
Next-day QSLs
Searchable logs
Downloadable logs
QSL barcodes
Real signal reports
Dupes requested
Log corrections
Audio recordings
Managing a large team
Internet addresses
Barcode specifications
Log data compression
Monographical moai

DX-Aku is more than the story of an expedition. It contains extensive technical details on how the group implemented a variety of new technologies and services, and new results on HF radio propagation that emerged from analysis of the log data. A candid evaluation of the new techniques is presented, and hundreds of opinions from amateurs worldwide are quoted. The appendices provide detailed technical specification of the QSL barcodes, and instructions on how to compress radio logs to 2 bytes/QSO! The callsign of every person who made a donation is listed. After you have enjoyed reading the story of what happened, you will keep this volume as a handbook to the future of amateur radio.
To obtain this book, please contact:

4295 Walnut Blvd.
Walnut Creek, CA 94596
(925) 934-3735

Return to top of page