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.

Operating Notes: 40m Dead,no 80m Antenna, Landscaping Work, and Other Projects

Sad to say, I haven’t been actually operating all that much lately. I don’t know how 40m is where you are, but here in Michigan, it’s been dead in the evenings. I guess the band goes way long, and wherever the skip goes, there are no hams there that I can hear.

I should have gotten my 80m antenna–or some kind of 80m antenna– back in the air by this time. I’ve been really busy, though, with various and sundry things, including:

  • working on the antenna project down at the museum, which is a whole ‘nother story,
  • holiday parties, and
  • the extensive landscaping project I’ve undertaken at my house.

The landscaping project is yet another very long story, but the latest episode in this story is the drain that a friend and I installed last weekend.

You see, my house is on a hill. The lowest part of the property is at the street, and goes uphill until you reach the furthest part of my backyard. (It actually continues uphill into my neighbor’s yard.) To give  you some idea of the grade, when you stand at my back fence, you can see over the two-story house.

At any rate, a lot of the rain that falls on the backyard drains down the hill just to the south of the house. Before the landscaping started, I had a little problem with erosion from that drain off, but because the lawn was established, it wasn’t too bad.

Well, the landscaping work destroyed that lawn (and coincidentally, the counterpoise for my 80m antenna), and when they reseeded, they didn’t take any measures to prevent the erosion and quite a bit of topsoil and seeding washed away.

At that point, I decided to install a drain that would catch that runoff and also the output of a downspout at the south end of the house, and then run a pipe down to the street. I enlisted the help of my friend, Harold, and we dug a trench nearly 100-ft. long and installed a 4-in. PVC pipe to drain off the water. Man…that was a real job.

That was a long-winded excuse for why I didn’t get to put up my 80m antenna last weekend. Even so, I did manage to play around a little in the CQ WW DX contest. While waiting for my friend to arrive on Saturday, I tuned around on 15m and worked some African stations. The signals were really booming in. That was fun at least.

Other Projects
Even though I haven’t been getting on the air a whole lot, I have been working on some other projects:

  • Tech Class. The next One-Day Tech Class will take place on Saturday, January 8, 2011. It takes a fair bit of work to publicize the class, but this time, the work is paying off. I normally try to limit the number of students to 20, and already the class is half full.
  • Leadership training. My other big avocation is Rotary, which is a community-service organization. One of the things I’m doing in Rotary is taking the Rotary Leadership Institute’s (RLI) course, which provides both generic leadership training and training in how to get the most out of Rotary. What I’m doing now is condensing the three-day RLI course into a single-day leadership class for amateur radio club leaders. I’m hoping to offer the first class sometime late this winter or early spring. I think this could be a great thing for ham radio clubs, and I’ll be writing more about this later.
  • WA2HOM. As noted above, we’re still working on getting the tower and beam up in the air at the Hands-On Museum.

National Weather Service Honors Ham Radio Operators Dec 4

This is an edited version of a press release from the ARRL……Dan

Newington, CT Nov 17, 2010 — The National Weather Service’s annual SKYWARN Recognition event will take place Saturday, December 4. Cosponsored by the National Weather Service (NWS) and ARRL, the national association for Amateur Radio, SKYWARN Recognition Day is the National Weather Service’s way of expressing its appreciation to Amateur Radio operators for their commitment to keep communities safe.

While the 2010 hurricane season has been fairly quiet in the US, amateur radio operators are also deeply involved with the Hurricane Watch Net (HWN). The HWN, which organized in 1965, began as an informal group of amateurs that has developed into a formal relationship with the National Hurricane Center in Miami via its Amateur Radio station WX4NHC. Ham radio operators and volunteers at Miami work together when hurricanes threaten, providing real-time weather data and damage reports to the Hurricane Center’s forecasters.

Over 100 National Weather Service regional offices will be participating in this year’s event to recognize the community service of ham radio people.

For full information see the NOAA website.

Frequently Asked Questions about SKYWARN Recognition Day

What is SKYWARN Recognition Day?
SKYWARN Recognition Day (SRD) was developed in 1999 by the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League. It celebrates the contributions that volunteer SKYWARN radio operators make to the National Weather Service. During the day SKYWARN operators visit NWS offices and contact other radio operators across the world. Information regarding SRD is updated at http://hamradio.noaa.gov.

Why are the National Weather Service and the American Radio Relay League cosponsoring the event?
The NWS and the ARRL both recognize the importance that amateur radio provides during severe weather. Many NWS offices acquire real time weather information from amateur radio operators in the field. These operators, for example, may report the position of a tornado, the height of flood waters, or damaging wind speeds during hurricanes. All of this information is critical to the mission of the NWS which is to preserve life and property. The special event celebrates this special contribution by amateur radio operators.

When is SKYWARN Recognition Day?
This year SKYWARN Recognition Day begins at 0000 UTC on December 4, 2010. It will last 24 hours.
How many NWS stations are participating in the event?
It is estimated that around 100 NWS stations will participate this year.

Is this a contest or what?
No, this is not a contest, so no scoring will be computed. This is simply a group of stations transmitting from NWS offices during the same time. Similar event occurs every year on the amateur radio calendar. For example, hams operate from lighthouses across the world during one weekend and from naval ships/submarines during another.

QST magazine usually lists Special Event stations in a compiled list every month. Will our station be listed there?
If you want your individual station to be listed in the Special Event section of QST magazine, you must submit your information following the ARRL submission policies. You can go to www.arrl.org/contests/spev.html for complete information on how to do this. Remember, though, the deadline to get this information to QST is fast approaching.

We would like to publicize the event in the media. Can we do it?
You bet.

Is there a national point of contact?
Yes, there are three points-of-contact. Contact either:
Matt Mehle (Matthew.Mehle@noaa.gov) Dave Floyd (David.L.Floyd@noaa.gov) Scott Mentzer (Scott.Mentzer@noaa.gov)

Is this an annual event?
Yes. This is the 12th consecutive year that the event has been held.

A Cogent Comment

On the TenTec Omni VII mailing list, a discussion was recently started about updates that are currently in the works for some of the TenTec transceivers. These include firmware updates for the new Eagle and the Orion 565, a real-time panoramic display for the Orion and the Omni VII, and the possibility of increasing the transmit bandwidth of the Omni VII to 6 kHz, so that SSB operators could run extended single sideband (ESSB).

A discussion followed on whether or not ESSB should be allowed. Those arguing that it shouldn’t be pointed to Part 97, paragraph 307:

Emission standards.
(a) No amateur station transmission shall occupy more bandwidth than necessary for the information rate and emission type being transmitted, in accordance with good amateur practice.

This was debated back and forth, but the most cogent comment came from Richards, K8JHR. He said,

Operators could spend less time trying to sound good, and more time trying to say something significant or meaningful. Our mantra should be “Do you understand…” not “How’s my audio…”

Amen, brother.

Some Recent, Remarkable QSOs

Time to tell you about a few recent QSOs that I found remarkable:

  • AH6V. I just worked Jerry, AH6V, not more than 15 minutes ago. At first, I almost didn’t believe him when he gave his QTH as Hawaii. Then, I looked him up on QRZ.Com. Not only is he in HI, but he’s in a fairly remote part of the big island of Hawaii. He’s got quite a shack, too (see below).

    According to his QRZ.Com page, he’s 100% solar powered.
  • PU2AIL. Lia, PU2AIL is a 16-year-old YL from Brasil. Who says ham radio isn’t for girls and young people. She had a very nice fist, too. Also, her QSL card will look great in my collection of QSLs from stations whose callsigns spell words.
  • W5CUB. My QSO with Paul, W5CUB, wasn’t so remarkable, as it was just a quick contest QSO. But, not only does his callsign spell a word, but there’s a great story behind it. According to his QRZ.Com page, he was first licensed in 1978 while still in high school in Chicago. His first callsign was KA9CUB, which was perfect for a Chicago Cubs fan! Although he now lives in TX, he’s still not only a Cubs fan, but flies a Piper Cub airplane. What a perfect callsign, no?
  • HG2010P. This is a special event station celebrating Pecs, Hungary as one of the European Capitals of Culture for 2010. If you work this station and other Hungarian special event stations several times, you can qualify for a certificate.

My Latest Pet Peeve…

…is the operator who treats a normal rag-chewing QSO like a DX contact.

Let me give you an example. The other day I called CQ, and a fellow came back to me with only his callsign. Not only that, he only sent it once. Now, if you have any experience at all with CW, you know that it’s always wise to send your callsign at least twice. The reason for this is that there are a number of things, including QRN, QSB, and distractions in the shack, that could cause the receiving station to miss the callsign.

Now, normally, I would make the other guy send his call again, by sending QRZ? This, time, though, I copied the signal cleanly, so I launched into the QSO, sending him a report, my name, and location. When I turned it back to the guy, he sent, “599 FL 73″  and off he went.

Now, I ask you, what sense did it make for that guy to even answer my CQ? This has happened to me two or three times in the last month and each time I had the same reaction.

Please, unless you’re a DX station trying to make use of good band conditions, don’t answer my CQ if all you want to do is swap signal reports with me. Unless I’m calling CQ DX, which I almost never do, I’m looking for conversation, not just an info swap.

FCC Proposes Additions, Changes to Amateur 5 MHz Allocation

From the 5/13/10 issue of the ARRL Letter:

Acting on a 2006 Petition for Rulemaking filed by the ARRL, the FCC has issued a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM), ET Docket No 10-98 to modify the rules that govern amateurs’ secondary use of five channels in the 5 MHz frequency range known as 60 meters. The proposed changes would substitute a new channel for one that is seldom available because of occupancy by the fixed service, which is primary in this range. Also proposed is an increase in power from 50 to 100 W effective radiated power (ERP) and the addition of CW, PSK31 and PACTOR-III modes with provisions to ensure that such operations would be compatible with the primary service. The proposed changes can be found beginning on page 8 of the NPRM.

Read the complete article.

Got My Mojo Workin’, Well Mostly Working, Anyway

Elecraft owners joke about the Elecraft mojo. Sometimes it seems as though the radios are imbued with a certain magic and get through when others don’t.

Here’s an example from yesterday night. I fired up the KX-1 and tuned around for a bit, and after about ten minutes, I heard Derek, WB0TUA, calling CQ. He was S9 on the KX-1 S-meter, so I thought I’d give him a call. He replied, giving me a 589 report! Not bad for a radio running only 3W. And, as it turns out, Derek was running a new K3.

It turns out that we had a lot to talk about, and we had a great contact for more than a half hour. First of all, he was a graduate of the University of Michigan. (Ann Arbor, where I live, is the home of U-M).

Second, he’s a member of the Morse Telegraph Club, a group devoted to the practice of American Morse, the type of Morse Code used on landlines across the U.S. I used to belong to that group, and have it on my list to learn American Morse one of these days.

Now, I get to the part where the mojo didn’t come through for me. After our QSO, I heard a bunch of DX stations calling CQ, most notably RA6EE. RA6EE is located in Cherkessk, which is not very far from the Georgian border. QRZ.Com calculates that he’s about 5,600 miles away.

Alas, no matter how many times I tried, he just couldn’t hear me. I guess I’m going to need a better antenna in addition to that Elecraft mojo.

A Short, Sweet Guide to Operating Practice

Listen!On the HamRadioHelpGroup mailing list, Tim, N9PUZ, passes along a link to ON4WW’s Operating Practice Web page. Tim says, “Lots of good information and advice about operating for new comers and old hands alike.”

Think of it as an All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten for ham radio. Despite it’s relatively short length, it covers such diverse topics as using repeaters and working DX pileups.

The best advice, though, is the most basic. For example, listening is the second topic that ON4WW tackles. He says, “Initially learn to LISTEN. Whoever listens at first, will be much more successful in making good and enjoyable contacts.”

This is great advice. I’ll be adding this to my list of things that I pass on to the new hams that get their licenses in my classes.

Operating Notes – 2/17/10

Some random notes about operations here at KB6NU and WA2HOM over the past couple of weeks:

  • Novices! In the past two weeks, I’ve worked two Novices. Both were a little shakey, but I’m glad to see them still getting on the air. I guess I fell into the trap that anyone who still had a Novice license was probably not really interested in ham radio any more. I’m going to send them a QSL card and encourage them to stay in the hobby and upgrade.
  • Sunspots! Old Sol must be getting a bit spotty again. Last Sunday, I fired up the rig on 15m after hearing some guys say on the ham radio mailing lists that I’m on that the band was open. Indeed it was. I worked EI6IZ (who was just booming in), CO8WZ, and an N7 station in CO. This morning, I worked a guy who said that 12m has been open, too. I should put together a fan dipole for 12m and 17m and see what kind of trouble I can get into.
  • Short skip. Over the past couple of days, the skip on 40m has been really short at times. Saturday morning, down at the museum, we worked AA8N, who is in Flint, MI, just 70 miles or so up I-75. Since then, I’ve worked a station in Richmond, IN (180 miles) and one in Newark, OH (170 miles) on 40m. It’s an interesting phenomenon.
  • LOOOONG Skip! This morning, around 4 am, I found myself unable to get back to sleep. What would any typical ham do in that situation? Get on the air, of course. Tuning around 40m, I copied a fairly weak signal whose prefix I thought was “HW0.” That didnt’ sound right to me, so I kept listening. Turns out the station was 5W0OU in Western Samoa (about 6,800 miles). It took a couple of calls, but eventually he heard me. So, I’ve got another one in the log.

Ain’t ham radio fun?