by Alfred Gruenke PE, KB3JPP
It was a cold and rainy February evening in suburban Wescosville, Pennsylvania. It was “tween” time, the time between the Super Bowl and the opening of baseball Spring Training. This is when physical and mental activity in general slow down. February is, in general, a pretty useless month. Other than a few exceptions, it’s usually cold, wet, and miserable. The month just doesn’t have much going for it. For years I’ve been advocating going from January directly to March, skipping February entirely. However, my voice of reason has been a mere cry in the wilderness, drowned out by the forces of darkness and disparagement.
It was early Friday evening and I was home recovering from surgery. My recovery left me with a lot of time to spend on my favorite leisure activity, globe trotting with my Elecraft K1. I fired up my ICOM IC-746PRO and the K1, Ham Radio Deluxe and QRZ.com on the computer. Then I went hunting for DX on 20 meters. Utilizing two receivers really makes a difference when Dxing; monitor one QSO while searching with the other. My antenna is a mere 52 ft. G5RV Junior 25 feet above the ground.
Up and down the band, I would listen to a station, check if I had worked that country or state, and then skip to another. This went on for some time. Then I heard it! A VK prefix! Any prefix that starts with the letter V (other than VE or VA) will get my attention since it’s sure to be a pretty exotic DX. I listened for a while to verify the call, “VK2GWK”. I checked the call on QRZ.com. Yup, that’s Australia! I’d already worked VK land with 100 Watts, so I thought I’d give it a go with the K1, QRP.
After finishing his QSO he called, “CQ, CQ de VK2GWK”, and I responded. He came back, “KB3???”. I did a fist pump and repeated my call. Again he sent “KB3???”. I repeated my call about three or four times, after which he had my call correct. My RST was a mere 339, but, as they say, a slight ripple in the cosmic ether is better than no ripple at all. His RST was a very respectable 579
VK2GWK is Henk Tobbe, New South Wales, Australia. It’s a few miles up the coast from Sidney and 9.776 miles from Wescosville, or 1,995 miles per watt. Not bad. A few watts go a long way! I intend to apply for another 1,000 miles per watt award. Henk has a rather sophisticated website which allowed me to download an electronic QSL card. It’s nice, but I’d rather have a real card in my hand. Call me old fashioned. Besides, I don’t know if an electronic card is valid for any awards.
I don’t know if I was just lucky or whether the long-promised sun spots are coming back, but my QRP QSOs have been increasing lately. So far, I have confirmed QRP QSOs with 38 states and 62 countries. I’ve had QSOs with Oman, Nigeria, and Kiritimati, but this one is the most memorable. Just think of it, Australia, with only five watts and a wire!
The news, of course, is that the bands have been just fantastic lately. You almost can’t help but work DX. Yesterday, for example, I went down to the basement about 4pm to get something, and thought I’d scan the 30m band. I heard and worked both CN8IG and HB9STEVE.
If that last call sign sounds a bit odd, it’s because it’s a special event station set up the Team HB9ON Radio Group to celebrate the life of Apple computer founder, Steve Jobs. Their QRZ.Com page says, “Commemoration operation will occur sporadically throughout the month of November 2011. Most of the activity will be done in CW mode but we plan to operate SSB thanks to some of our friends.” So, you still have a chance to work them, if you want to.
Later, on 40m, I was trying to find a nice ragchew, but instead ended up working:
I finished the evening with a short QSO with my friend, W4MQC, down in Florida, but he was getting pounded by some SSB QRM from stations in Central America. It’s time to get on the air and work some DX, even if you only have antennas for the low bands.
What DX have you worked lately?
Contesting was on the amateur radio schedule this weekend. In typical KB6NU fashion, however, the contesting was very casual.
On Saturday, I didn’t get down to WA2HOM until noon, and shortly after I fired up the rig, Ovide, K8EV, showed up. We talked for about an hour, during which we made no contacts. After Ovide left for lunch, I made a few contacts in the Ukranian DX contest. Nothing spectacular except for an A65 station. That’s a new country for the WA2HOM log.
In the evening, I got on 40m and made 100 Qs in the ARRL Sweepstakes. I wasn’t going to stay up so late, but as my totals began to climb, I decided to stick it out until I made 100 contacts or scored 10,000 points. At 1am, I hit the sack with 100 contacts and nearly 11,000 points.
On Sunday, I had a couple of things that I wanted to do besides working the contest. One was to practice my bowling. I’ve just been terrible for the past couple of weeks, and it’s been embarassing. Another was to build a 10m loop antenna.
Well, I couldn’t resist. Before going to the bowling alley, I made several contacts on 15m. When I got back, I ate some lunch, and then actually built the antenna. Before I got around to hanging it up outside, I got sucked into working some more of the contest. I spent the next several hours working the contest, quitting at 4pm to make dinner. At that point, I had 150 contacts.
After dinner, I watched a movie with my XYL, but when the movie was over about 8:30pm, I went down to the shack again. I was surprised to hear the contest still going on. I had assumed it was just a 24-hour event, but Sweepstakes is a 30-hour contest. So, of course, I had to work the last hour or so.
It was fortuitous, too. I managed to work three or four new multipliers during that last hour and a half. When all was said and done, I ended up with 189 contacts, 66 sections, and a total of 24,948 points. I think that next year, I’m going to try for a “clean sweep.”
I got this story from Bill, NA8M, in this morning’s e-mail:
Sunday, I heard XP1A working stations right and left, passing out “59 40″ like there’s no tomorrow. He was funny in that he had his mic on VOX and got tangled up in the call signs occasionally.
Then he said, ”Gentlemen I need to take a break. My butt is getting too flat.” He went away. Since I didn’t have zone 40 yet, I hung around. Then he returns to the mic and begins a round of endless, “XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A …” and won’t listen for anyone. I get frustrated and put him in a memory slot and dial past.
A bit later, my curiosity gets the better of me and I QSY back to XP1A’s frequency. Again, he’s passing out “59 40″ like crazy. I climb into the pile-up and give him a call. Well, actually, lots of calls. No joy.
Then, out of the blue, he says, “I’ve got to clean the frequency. XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A XP1A …” without coming up for air. It was so funny! I had to walk away. Just when you think you’ve heard it all, you run across something like this.
This was my first frequency cleaning. Even though I never did work him, it was entertaining!
I didn’t make many contacts today down at WA2HOM, but I had a great time.
First off, I had planned to put PL-259s on the feedlines for the dipole and the VHF antenna, but when I went to do so, I found that it had already been done! That was very cool.
Next, I hooked up the Icom IC-V8000 to see what repeaters we could hit. First, I tried keying up the ARROW repeater. Nothing. Hmmmmm, I thought, maybe it’s just down. Next, I tried the U-M repeater, which is less than a mile away as the crow flies. I was able to key it, but the S-meter showed only a couple of S units. Something was wrong.
I swapped feedlines, and voila! Everything worked as I’d hoped. Somehow, we’d mis-labelled the feedlines. Not only that, there’s still nothing connected to the end of the dipole feedline, so I was actually able to key up the U-M repeater without an antenna!
Anyway, after connecting the right feedline to the radio, I chatted a bit with both Ralph, AA8RK, and Pat, W8LNO. Talking to Pat was fortuitous because he’s involved with Scouting, and when I mentioned that we planned to operate the Jamboree on the Air next weekend, he volunteered to come down and help out. That means we will be able to operate two radios, the HF station on 20m and the VHF station through the U-M repeater to EchoLink.
After that conversation, I turned the HF rig back on, and thought I’d see what was on 15 m. Tuning around, I found a small pileup on 21.017. I called up DXWatch and determined that the pileup was for T32C, the DXpedition to Chrismas Island. I accessed their record on QRZ.Com, found the bearing, swung the beam around to 260 degrees, and heard them quite well. After setting the transmit incremental tuning to about 2 kHz, I worked them on the second call! I just love that beam!
As I’ve mentioned many times before, I’m not a big DXer. I do try to work the DXpeditions when I can, but I don’t get too excited when I can’t. Most of the time I don’t even know what DXpeditions are out there.
Yesterday morning was no exception. I normally don’t operate in the morning, but for some reason, I decided to head down to the shack after breakfast and scare up a contact. When I tuned to my favorite frequency, 7.028 MHz, I was surprised to hear a pileup. Tuning downband a little, I copied 3D2R, the Rotuma DXpedition.
Rotuma is a Fijian dependency, consisting of Rotuma Island and nearby islets.
They will be on all bands from 160-2 meters, including the 60m and 6m, using CW, SSB and RTTY. They will also be active on PSK, SSTV and EME. Special attention will be made to work stations from Europe and Africa during those periods when propagation permits. The propagation window for EU and Africa is very brief at times and signals may be weak, so they ask everyone to be mindful of this.
I enjoy listening to the NPR show, “On the Media.” I think they do a pretty good job of analyzing how media functions. I was really surprised, though, when I heard a segment this Saturday morning that described the recent DXpedition to South Sudan.
I suppose ham radio is media, but it’s quite different from what they usually cover.
I thought this was newsworthy because it’s a great example of how amateur radio enhances international goodwill. I am going to contact them regarding my brother clubs idea. There might be other ways that YASME and Rotarians on Amateur Radio could collaborate…….Dan
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 29, 2011… Jackson Hole, Wyoming.
Ethiopia came back on the air May 30, 2011 with the re-opening of the Ethiopian Amateur Radio Society station ET3AA. Professor Heiko Schroeder, head of the technical faculty of the University of Addis Ababa and PB2T, Hans Blondeel Timmerman, President of IARU Region 1, cut the ribbon in a reopening ceremony.
The Board of Directors of The Yasme Foundation became aware that 25 club members were scheduled to take the amateur radio license examination in late July and that the fee for taking the exam was about one month’s salary in Ethiopia. Accordingly, the Board voted unanimously in favor of a grant to cover one-half of the examination fees for all 25 applicants, the remaining one-half having been previously committed from the Radio Society of Great Britain. Yasme Vice-President and Director Fred Laun, K3ZO, was instrumental in making possible this grant.
The Yasme Foundation is a not-for-profit corporation organized to conduct scientific and educational projects related to Amateur Radio, including DXing (long distance communication) and the introduction and promotion of Amateur Radio in underdeveloped countries. For additional information about The Yasme Foundation, visit our website.
Tim, N9PUZ, recently posted URLs to two YouTube videos to the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list. They show two very different aspects of ham radio. The first shows what can happen when lightning strikes an antenna.
This second one is really incredible. If you’ve ever worked any of the DX contests, chances are you’ve worked OH8X. It’s a monster contest club. One of their towers is a 100m (330-ft.) monster that holds a three-element Yagi for 160m and a five-element Yagi for 80m. But, ham radio is not all they use the tower for. Watch below:
Thanks to my latest donor!
He writes, "Thanks, Dan! Your No-Nonsense guides, along with some uninterrupted time during a flight home from Japan, were enough to prep me for passing all three exams in one sitting. You're doing a great service for HAM radio; please keep it up."
Donate $5 and get this cool sticker. Measuring 5-3/4-in. W by 4-1/4-in. H, it's perfect for your car, your shack, or wherever!
A reader just wrote, "I just wanted to drop you a note and let you know that the study guide is perfect. I'd been looking for something between studying the question pool (and learning nothing outside the specific questions) and the ARRL guide (which, while a great resource, isn't a great study guide). I found it!"
My No-Nonsense Study Guides are now available as a PDF file or as as an e-book for either the Amazon Kindle or Barnes&Noble Nook. The PDF version of the Tech and General Class study guides are free. There is a small charge for the e-book versions and for all versions of the Extra study guide. See the Study Guide page for more details.