Ork, Ork

For the past few evenings, there’s been a big pileup from about 7.025 MHz to 7.028 MHz. I guessed that it was some new DXpedition that I hadn’t heard about and just tuned around it. Well, last night, curiosity got the better of me, and I decided to find out what all the fuss was about.

As it turns out, it’s VP8ORK, on the South Orkney Islands. According to the VP8ORK QRZ.Com page:

The Microlite Penguins DXpedition team will be activating the South Orkney Islands (DXCC VP8/O, IOTA AN-008) from January 27 to February 8, 2011. Safe and reliable Antarctic transportation has been secured by the experienced RV Braveheart, and activity will be on all HF bands 160m-10m using SSB, CW and RTTY.

For more information, go to http://www.vp8o.com.

Even though I’m only an occasional DXer, I decided to jump into the pile last night. One reason for this is that I happen to live on Orkney Drive here in Ann Arbor, MI.

After about 15 minutes, though, I got bored and tuned downband, where I happened to run into 9Y4VU on Trinidad and Tobago. Not as good a catch, perhaps, but still the first Trinidadian for me.

As for working VP8ORK, I’ll keep trying. Maybe I’ll get lucky with them, too.

CW Ops Wanted

Jim, K8ELR, forwarded this to me this afternoon:

Paul Ewing, N6PSE, says that he has several open positions for CW operators on the DXpedition team headed to Kurdistan in April. Ewing says that costs for this DXpedition are quite reasonable and they will be operating from a very safe and secure facility. Anyone interested in joining the DXpedition team may contact Ewing directly by e-mail to paul (at) n6pse (dot) com or check out the website at www.yi9pse.com. (GB2RS)

According to the website, they plan on running two CW stations, each equipped with an ICOM IC-7600 and SteppIR beam antenna and 300-ft. Beverage antenna.

The current team includes:

  • N6PSE – Paul Ewing
  • N6OX – Bob Grimmick
  • JH4RHF – Jun Tanaka
  • AH6HY – David Flack
  • N2WB – Bill Beyer
  • YI1UNH – Heathem Sabah
  • K3VN – Al Hernandez
  • K3LP – David Collingham
  • WØUCE – Jack Ritter
  • W5KDJ – Wayne Rogers
  • FM5CD – Michel Brunelle

Operating Notes: 1/25/10 – 1/31/10

This week, I made some notable QSOs:

  1. K0HL RigMonday night, I contacted K0HL, operating CW mobile from his truck in ND (see right). On his QRZ.Com page, he lists his occupation as clockmaker. I need to e-mail and ask him how he became a clockmaker. I’ve always had an interest in clockmaking.
  2. Tuesday night, I had a QSO with YS1ZC. He’s my first contact with El Salvador.
  3. On Thursday night, I stayed up late. When I got home from bowling, my wife informed me that her parents’ power went out and that we might have to go get them, if their power didn’t come back on soon. Just after midnight, I called CQ on 80m, with my crummy 25W and random-wire antenna, and lo and behold, I got a call from DJ0KC, who heard me while getting ready for work. He’s my first European on 80m, and only my second DX contact. I’m amazed when I make any contact on 80m, much less a DX contact.
  4. Thursday night, I worked HA3NU. He is the first DX station that I’ve worked with the same suffix as mine.
  5. On Saturday, down at the museum, we worked one of the stations in the REF French DX Contest on 20m. Later that evening at home, I heard a couple of French stations on 40m and worked them. That got me caught up in the swing of things, and overall, I made ten contacts, including one in Guadeloupe and three in Martinique. I also made one on 80m—F5KIN—who, as you’ll note, has a callsign that spells a word (kin).

Getting a License in Uganda

Jack Dunigan, 5X7JD, is my first guest blogger. He is the Senior Management Leader of Aidchild, Inc., a project providing a home for orphans living with AIDS in Uganda. His ham radio blog is called Ham Radio Safari. Thanks, Jack!

5X7JD QSL CardI came to Uganda in October from the the U.S. Virgin Islands in the Caribbean where I had earned callsign NP2OR, a U.S. General Class amateur radio license. I made a pre-move trip here in June and began the license process then, filing application and associated paperwork then. It turned out to be a waste of time. When I moved here in October, I checked with the Uganda Communications Commission with whom I had filed and discovered they had lost the paperwork. “Would I mind starting over?”

Well, I didn’t really have any choice and sharp rebukes at those personnel who might have mislaid the application would have only delayed everything. So, I began again. I had to write a cover letter, which must contain the over-the-top courtesies and deferential language most Americans find artificially sweet and out of place in business correspondence. Nonetheless, its goes a long way here to recognize the authority and position of the officers who will expedite your application. They also asked for specifics of the radio gear. So I provided make and model info, a description of the antenna, and the power output requested.

The most difficult part was the requirement to supply geographic coordinates. I had no idea what they might be. I knew I could find it on the Internet, but Internet access is so excruciatingly slow it seemed a daunting task.

No one I could find had GPS and I am doubtful anything other than a very sophisticated sytem will work here anyway. So I logged on and began the search. It was actually harder than I thought. Were I in the U.S. or Europe, I could have nailed it down in a hurry. But Africa is tougher. After some searching I found a website that specified the coordinates for Masaka, the city where I live. It wasn’t precisely on the dot where the station would be but here in Uganda, close enough is close enough. So I wrote them in, filled in the other details, and took in all the paperwork.

The clerk who helped me was very efficient and friendly. He shot a photocopy of my U.S. license and asked what callsign I would like. This took me by surprise. He suggested I could have my initials to which I readily agreed. He told me there would have to be a site inspection of the radio shack and antenna installation. I didn’t actually have the antenna up yet, but figured I could do so before the inspector arrived. I left the paperwork there, and hoped for the best. I hoped I could get a license within a month.

Three days later I was in the car on my way out of Kampala, the capital city, driving back to Masaka when my mobile phone rang. The young lady on the line told me I could come in and pick up my license. I wondered about the site inspection, which had not happened, but did not ask. Its better not to confuse things with procedures. I was a licensed Uganda Amatuer Radio operator—callsign 5X7JD!

The promised inspector has never showed up and it is extremely unlikely one ever will. I guess because Masaka is 125 kilometers from the Communications Commission office and no one has a car. The license fee is $63 USD a year so there’s not enough money in that for the commission to pay for transport to the site, so they just won’t bother.

There was one apparent complication with the license. When I received it, there was a specification that I was authorized to use code only. I must confess I do not know Morse code. My license in the States came after the code requirement was dropped and I did not, have not learned it. So, we made another trip to the Commission office to see if it could be changed. I discovered that no one there—not even the Chief Commissioner himself—had any idea that the designation they had entered into my license limited me to code transmissions.

In fact, they weren’t familiar with the idea of emission types. It became a delight to educate those in the office, and they have asked me to return and conduct a seminar for the staff on amateur radio! I will be going to the office this week to set it up. I would like to teach more Ugandans about amateur radio. I have already started corresponding with a local engineering student who saw my blog and has asked for help. I am pleased to offer it. We are all Elmers as we are being Elmered.

Saturday Night on 40m

Yesterday night, propagation was exceptional on 40m. The band seemed open to just about everywhere. I made six contacts on 40m, including one in PA, one in MO, and four in Europe. I could also hear stations from Central America, but didn’t get a chance to work them.

Of the four European contacts, two were notable:

  • OL22ASE. This is a special event station at the ASE XXII Planetary Congress, an international congress of astronauts organised by Association of Space Explorers (ASE). This station will be on the air until October 15.

    The ASE is an international nonprofit professional and educational organization of over 325 individuals from 35 nations who have flown in space. Founded in 1985, ASE’s mission is to provide a forum for professional dialogue among individuals who have flown in space, support space science and exploration for the benefit of all, promote education in science and engineering, foster greater environmental awareness, and encourage international cooperation in the human exploration of space.

  • LZ44WFF. This is a special event station of the “World Flora Fauna” (WFF) expedition to the Biosphere Reserve “Srebarna” (LZFF-016, WW. Loc. KN34MC). WFF is an International Award Program (an International ecologo-edicational and nature conservation action on supporting of protected areas), organized to attract attention of the world community to the problems of protected areas, to provide them with feasible practical support, to waken a feeling of pride in the minds of the Earth’s inhabitants for natural and cultural heritage, for visiting National Parks and Nature Reserves and making QSO contacts with them.

I thought it was kind of amusing that both stations had two numbers in their callsigns, and that they were operating within 2 kHz of one another on Saturday night.

30M is Still Hot!

I sat down a bit earlier and worked in quick succession:

  • CT8/DL2MDU
  • OK2KJU
  • IK2DAD—another DX station for my collection of QSL cards from stations whose callsigns spell words!
  • EI6IZ

I don’t seem to work many EIs so that was a cool one. And all these guys were using simple wire antennas, so you know the band was hot.

Operating Notes: Saturday, September 19, 2009

I had kind of a busy day operating today and made some great contacts, so I thought I’d write a bit about them.

I got to WA2HOM this morning about 11 am and fired up the rig. 40m was in fine shape, and I made several CW contacts in quick succession. Then, for some reason, I got it into my head to see what was happening on phone. Tuning up to 7215, I heard a KF4 working the SC QSO Party and worked him. I tuned around a bit and heard another, so I worked him, too. I thought I’d try to see how many SC contacts I could log, but after tuning around a bit, I couldn’t find any others, so I kept tuning.

It was then that I ran across W4CA, operating from near the Buena Vista exit of the Blue Ridge Parkway. He and a bunch of other stations were operating the Blue Ridge Bonanza. I worked this special event either last year or the year before and had a blast doing it. The stations in VA all use the callsign W4CA, while the stations in NC use the callsign W4NC. I have bicycled several segments of the Blue Ridge Parkway, and it’s just a wonderful ride.

While I don’t bicycle much anymore, I still have it in the back of my mind to do the entire Parkway one of these days. I used to figure that I could do it in seven days, but since I haven’t biked much at all since getting back into ham radio, I rather doubt I could accomplish that now.

I also worked another special event station, W1ORS, commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Sikorsky VS-300 helicopter, America’s first practical helicopter.

About 1:30pm, Stuart, KD8LWR, and his mother visited the station. Stuart is the guy who visited the ARROW Field Day site this June. Since then, he’s gotten his ticket, and is now KD8LWR. We’re still working on getting him set up with an HF station at home, but aren’t quite there yet. Stuart was able to make four or five contacts, then he and his mother had to leave. I buttoned up the station and headed home myself.

This evening, I decided that I hadn’t had enough for one day and headed down to my shack. I made a couple of contacts on 40m, but then decided to see what was going on on 30m. I should have tuned up sooner. 30m was really hopping with DX.

I first work OQ5M, Franki. Franki is a regular reader of this blog (thanks, Franki!). Next, I had a nice QSO with Romeo, IK2DJV (see QSL card below). I looked him up on QRZ.Com, so I knew that he spoke English, and we had a nice chat. Doesn’t Varese look like a great place to visit?

After signing with Romeo, I called CQ a couple of times, without an answer. Since I wasn’t having any luck, I decided I’d better clean my bowling ball. Whilst doing that, I left the radio tuned to 10114. After a couple of minutes, I heard VK6HD call CQ. That was a stroke of luck. I was the first to call him and he heard me right off. What a cool way to end a full day of operating.

Upcoming DXpedition to IOTA EU-051


Giorgio, IZ4AKS writes:

I often read your blog thanks to Google translator! I’d like to send you the news about my upcoming activity from Island of Ustica EU051.

Giorgio, IZ4AKS will be active as IE9X from the Island of Ustica IOTA EU-051 (IIA PA-001, MIA MI-116) from 16th to 21st of August 2009. Activity will be on 40-10 meters (manly SSB, but also RTTY and CW) with 100w and vertical antenna. QSL Policy: a special QSL in advance to all via BURO.

Best regards

73 de Giorgio IZ4AKS

How could I refuse a request like that? :)

Operating Notes

Here are some miscellaneous observations from my operations over the past week or so:

  • W1MX Turns 100. The MIT Radio Society, whose callsign is W1MX turned 100 on April 30, 2009. There was a great article on the history of the club in the April 2009 issue of QST. I had just read that article last Sunday, when I got an e-mail from KA8WFC, saying that he was going to be operating W1MX that evening. I got him on his cellphone around 8:30, and we made contact a short time later.

    It was a great thrill to work a station with such a cool history. And to think that I used to live in Somerville, MA, probably only five miles from W1MX, and never thought to visit the station.

  • Short Skip. I’ve noticed lately that the skip on 40m can be very short right around sundown. A week ago, I worked WA8JNM, near Cleveland, less than 150 miles away from me at 8:30pm (0030Z). Tonight, I worked KZ9H, near Indianapolis, not more than 230 miles away, at 9:00pm (0100Z). Both stations were 599 here. Can any of you propagation experts explain this to me?
  • Long Skip. I’m also working DX on 40m. Last night, I got on just after 10pm (0200Z). The band was kind of quiet, so I started calling CQ on 7033 kHz. After a couple of CQs, Alex, SP8ERY called. I quickly looked him up on QRZ.Com, and found a very interesting Web page that included a picture of his grandfather (right). Alex writes, “He was a radio operator during I World War. He worked on simple crystal RX and spark TX and in 1960′s when I was a young boy, he taught me first few letters of Morse code.” Since it was apparent that he knew quite a bit of English, we had a nice chat, not the usual 599/599 TU kind of DX contact.
    After working Alex, I heard IY8GM booming at 10 dB over S9. He was an easy catch. I then tuned upband again and called CQ around 7027. There, I got a call from another SP station. When we finished our short QSO, I got a call from OM3CDR. Juraj, as it turned out, also knew some English, so I was able to tell him that I am Slovak-American and had visited his home town, Bratislava.
    All in all, it was quite a good night for DX