Posts Tagged ‘DX operating’
In 2008, John Devoldere, ON4UN, and, Mark Demeuleneere, ON4WW, wrote a comprehensive document entitled “Ethics and Operating Procedures for the Radio Amateur.” The purpose of this document was for it to become a universal guide on operating ethics and procedures.
This document was accepted by the IARU (International Amateur Radio Union) Administrative Council as representing their view on the subject. During subsequent Regional IARU meetings it was emphasized that the document be made available to the Amateur Radio Community via all available means, at no cost, and in as many languages as possible.
The document has since been translated into more than 25 languages. In some countries, the document is also offered in printed format and many Amateur Radio websites have a link to the document. Our most sincere thanks go to all our friends who spent hundreds of hours to take care of these translations.
To achieve easier access to all of the existing versions and languages of the document, the authors have set up the Ham Radio Ethics and Operating Procedures web site at:
It contains a listing of all versions/languages, sorted by country, where you can download the translations in any of the following forms:
*PDF or Word documents from various countries
*Directly from the different Radio Societies’ web sites
*A downloadable PowerPoint Slideshow Presentation (available in one of three languages–English, French and Dutch)
John, ON4UN, and Mark, ON4WW
I had originally planned to make a maintenance and upgrade visit to my instrumentation in American Samoa in February 2016. There are lots of advantages to February: It’s cold here in W3, the ARRL DX CW contest is in February, and the phenomenon I’m studying is most active during the equinoxes. I scheduled a 7-day trip that ended with the weekend of ARRL DX so I had the opportunity work through the weekend or play some radio if work went better than expected.
My flight had been booked out of Washington National (DCA) airport at 5:15 am Monday morning, which is the best possible time of day at the worst possible airport. A snowstorm of unknown magnitude was bearing down on the mid-Atlantic. And, around 4:00 pm on Sunday afternoon, I fell asleep on the couch. When I awoke 90 minutes later, it rapidly became clear that I had a nasty stomach flu. As my condition deteriorated further, I finally decided I didn’t want to be fighting that for the next 24 hours on 767s on my way to a foreign place where I wasn’t sure what kind of medical facilities I could access. I cancelled the trip and spent the next 24 hours in bed instead.
The trip was rescheduled for three weeks later in March and I managed to get this itinerary out of BWI, which is much more convenient. I loaded up my gear and went to the airport at 4:00 am. My upgrade had cleared so I didn’t pay excess on my overweight and extra Pelican cases. We sat at the end of the runway on the tarmac doing the preflight checks and the cabin lights started flickering intermittently. And we sat, and we sat. And, we returned to the gate and sat some more. I nervously refreshed the ETA on my phone finally watching the arrival in PHX slip past the departure to HNL. I deplaned.
The agents tried to convince me that I could “just take the flight to Honolulu tomorrow.” With some effort, I communicated to them that the HNL-PPG (Sa’moa) leg my journey only goes on Mondays and Fridays and that I would rather be stuck at home for a week rather than a week in Honolulu. So, I cancelled the trip for a second time. My bags went to PHX and were delivered to my house the next day. I rescheduled the trip for late April with a night in Honolulu on the outbound leg to avoid this bit of bad luck happening twice.
Two days before I left, my local contact called me on the phone to tell me that Tropical Cyclone Amos was bearing down on the island. Fortunately, the hurricane dumped some rain and brought some winds but passed to the north of island. The April trip went off without a hitch, although it was scheduled for four days (Monday night – Friday night) instead of the original seven. So, I was hustling to get my work done and find time for radio.
I was vaguely aware that KC0W is also in KH8, but given my historical bad luck with this particular visit, I didn’t reach out to him. In fact, he’s the one that contacted me once I arrived. We met for breakfast at the McDonald’s in Tafuna one morning and had a nice long ragchew about radio and travel. Typical hams. I decided to focus on bands (especially 160) that Tom wasn’t on given my limited time on the island.
Fortunately, I had access to this mobile phone tower, which I use for my wireless networking for instruments as well. So, I climbed up to check on the network equipment and put a pulley on the tower so I could raise and lower ham antennas safely after-hours when no one was around.
The tower is on the top of Cape Matatula, which sticks out of the northeast corner of Tutuila island. It’s the bit of land jutting out in the middle of the photo below. If you open the full-size photo, you can see the tower just at the edge of a rather precipitous drop-off toward the rocky shore about 1/3 of the way from the right-hand side of the frame. Needless to say, it’s a great QTH with 270 degrees of saltwater view as I’ve mentioned before. At sunrise and sunset, the middle and higher bands are open to EU, JA, and NA/SA all at once. The pileups are thrilling but very challenging.
Here’s the radio setup from this trip: K2/100, KPA500, WKUSB, and TRLinux running under VirtualBox on my Mac. This worked OK, but the WKUSB would drop out every few QSOs and needed to be completely rebooted which meant that I had to unplug the USB cable and restart TRLinux. Obviously, this worked when I tested it at home but I was not stressing it like I was in the field. I’m not sure whether it was an RF issue or software/hardware. In any case, I will probably be installing another Windows VM like I’ve used previously.
I only ended up making about 400 QSOs on this trip, which is way down from the approximately 3000 QSOs I made over the past two trips. The combination of aggressive work schedule, glitchy keying, and poor 160-meter conditions (too late in the season, but I made a few guys happy), made it hard to get excited about operating a lot. Furthermore, my operating position was located in a room with an air compressor nearby that would kick on every few minutes. Even with the excellent Etymotic MC5 earbuds, it was still loud. Enough complaining! There will be at least one more trip out there under my present project and if KC0W hasn’t worked everybody, I’ll be there to give you all new counters again. I just uploaded the log to LoTW before I posted this blog entry. I have not responded to any direct QSL cards yet.
An annually-recurring professional meeting has started to put me in interesting DX locales. This year was no different: the meeting was held at UNIS (University Centre in Svalbard) in Longyearbyen, Svalbard. My friend and colleague, Nathaniel, W2NAF, did a semester of his graduate studies at UNIS and was excited to return for the meeting. He suggested that the JW5E clubstation “hut” (depicted below) might be both an attractive lodging option for cost, location, and of course, radio. The hut is a bit rustic with no running water but we did manage to maintain a nearly professional level of appearance and personal hygene due to Nathaniel’s insider knowledge.
As is typical for the kind of travel I do, there was no straightforward way to get from A to B. Nathaniel and my flight schedules put us into Longyearbyen (via London, Oslo, and Tromso, in my case) on Friday and Saturday, respectively, giving us a shot at the CQ WPX CW contest. We elected to operate this under our own callsigns, which proved to be a bit of a limitation since for much of the contest 20 meters was the only band that produced rates. So, we had to share 20m. Nathaniel operated high power using the JW5E FT-1000MP mkV and Icom IC-2KL amplifier connected to the JW5E antenna system. I operated low power with my K2/100 and the JW5E antennas. He came out a little bit ahead on QSOs and pretty far ahead on points, mostly due to the day of head start and effectively exploiting 20m. I also worked a lot of empty-calorie EU stations while he focused on 3-pt DX stations. Despite our initial optimism, neither of us were particularly dedicated to a full effort in the contest. We both had a bit of trouble adapting to polar day and slept through prime openings on Sunday.
40 meters and lower frequency bands were useless, as were 10 and 12 meters. Nathaniel and I did work each other on 160 with the power turned all the way down. And, of course we worked each other in the contest for an easy prefix multiplier. The 12m situation was a little disappointing since I know a lot of people needed JW there. Had we been there in March, it probably would have been open. I worked two CTs and that’s it.
During the week of the meetings, I only managed 1-2 of hours operating each day, and Nathaniel maybe a little more. We developed a protocol of uploading to LoTW first thing in the morning when we got to the meeting (where we had free network access, versus roaming 3G on my phone at JW5E). Since I don’t use ClubLog, this is a good way for DXers to see if they’re in the log and get a quick confirmation. As I told a DXer who thanked me profusely for doing it, my employment covers the largest costs of my DX travel and my operating is secondary to my work. Therefore, I feel no need to extract or solicit donations from DXers. I am ordering cards today and they will be ready to mail in a week or two.
On the last night, I put in a solid 6 hours of operating, making about 600 QSOs in one sitting. 30m was always a struggle with most signals right near the noise level. The other bands (15/17/20) produced big signals and were pretty easy to work. I’m always a bit slow to operate split because I don’t want to use more bandwidth than necessary. With an amp, I could probably have operated simplex most of the time. Usually once people stop coming back to my 599s or they start duping me mercilessly, I know it’s time to split the pile.
The pileups were generally very responsive to my instructions with only one station really raising my blood pressure to the point that I QRT’ed to cool off. Based on his QRZ.com profile and how loud he was compared to all the stations he was obliterating, he was running as much as 4 kW on 30m. Good show.
I heard that someone on a DX club e-mail list suggested that I go next to Jan Mayen (JX). Please negotiate that with my wife and we can work something out. Don’t forget to include that Jan Mayen has one flight per month. My Norwegian colleagues were amused by this and asked also about Bouvet (3Y). Only scientists and hams know about Bouvet and Jan Mayen. Seriously, if I didn’t have a young family, I would consider doing that sort of thing, but I miss them too much when I travel. The next DX trip will be someplace warmer with regular commercial air service.
I’m still sort of converging on the best equipment for portable DX operating. While I like the K3 a lot, the K2 is a bit smaller. In its flight case, it fits under all airliner seats and not just some of them like the K3. Although it is a stupendous performer, the K2 has some idiosyncrasies occasionally cause me to notice that it’s not as well integrated as the K3 and modern JA radios. The diminutive size and negligible RF emissions from the MRF-4125 switching power supply are big pros, but I noticed the fan making a particularly awful noise on this trip. Need to look into that. The K1EL WKUSB continues to be a star performer for computer and hand keying. While I love the action of the Palm Mini paddle, the lack of a solid base can be frustrating. I brought the recently-mounted Schurr Einbau and it sang. Although, it produces the best reactions from security screeners: “What is it? Is it an antique?” And, my favorite from a screener in Longyearbyen: “Is that the new iPhone?”
The real stars of this operation were the Etymotic Research MC5 in-ear monitor earphones. Wow. I’ve been using them for a couple of months now at the recommendation of someone on the Elecraft reflector and they are my new favorite headphones for travel. They do excellent with noise isolation on long-haul flights and in noisy QTHs; they reproduce music flawlessly; you don’t have to turn the volume up to 11 to hear with them; and they fit in a tiny little pouch that’s smaller than a deck of playing cards. And the best part? They only cost 60 USD.
The GU Special came along on this trip but was not needed since I had access to an OptiBeam for 20/17/15 meters, dipoles for 30/40/80, and a Cushcraft R7 vertical for 40-10 meters. I was tempted to take my gear on the 8-hr boat trip we took up another fjord. However, I decided against it for a variety of reasons including the desire to do some birdwatching and look for polar bears—we saw some seals and an artic fox but no bears. The seals and the fox amounted to no more than a couple of pixels in the photos I tried to shoot of them, even with a modest 200mm telephoto lens. OK, that’s a short lens by wildlife photo standards. Please accept this puffin photo in place of a bear photo.
And the Tempelfjorden glacier and sea ice shot from my phone…
This photo is looking back up Adventfjorden toward Longyearbyen and shows the JW5E tower right near the water in the center. (The heftier one on the right.) Also in the background are the dishes for the EISCAT Svalbard incoherent scatter radar.
And a photo from our visit to EISCAT in tracked vehicles. It was practically June and there was a lot of snow on the ground.
Finally, here are two YouTube videos related to our operation. The first was shot by W2NAF and has a tour of the JW5E station. The second was shot by KB9UWU during the WPX contest and shows pretty much what 15m was like for me: the band was obviously open but I didn’t have many callers.
Thanks to everybody who stopped by to say hi. I worked lots of friends on the air from all over the world and received SWL reports from a few more.
A professional colleague who is the principal investigator of the Sondrestrom incoherent scatter radar facility announced at a conference that they no longer had a scientific high-rate GPS receiver at the site for making ionospheric measurements. I enthusiastically volunteered to ship them one that I had on the shelf. She suggested that instead I should come install it myself and I found some support to do it (the National Science Foundation heavily subsidizes U.S. Greenland and Antarctic scientific travel during their respective summers, making this trip possible). Therefore unlike my previous trip in the winter, this trip did not involve travel with the most perverse of arrangements flying to Copenhagen only to hop on another plane and fly half-way back to the States. I set off for my second trip to Greenland, leaving Scotia, NY, early on Monday and returning mid-day on Friday.
On the past trip, conditions were really awful for radio with plenty of visible Aurora. I didn’t really mind that because the auroras were beautiful, but with only a small chance of NLC/PMC (noctilucent/polar mesospheric cloud) sighting in the summer, I was eager for some good radio conditions to sate my appetite for other nerdy activities. I set up the radio equipment almost right away the first evening to make sure that everything tuned up and immediately made 10 or so QSOs on 20-meter CW before heading to bed.
Instrument installation is always a hairy business, especially when you can’t just run to a hardware store, let alone going to RadioShack or calling McMaster-Carr. Sometimes, everything works smoothly; other times it doesn’t. In any case a flexible attitude (and some good old ham practicality) goes a long way. Wind gusts of 40-50 mph (18-22 m/s) on top of the hill made for exciting work, but having a couple of helpers made it go smoothly. Here is a photograph of the installed instrument on its hilltop (the box and green antenna on the right-hand side of the pole, which also held a weather station).
Work, especially some recalcitrant Windows 7 issues (At one point, I was running Windows 7 in a VirtualBox virtual machine on a Linux machine and logging into the Linux machine from a Mac!), kept me pretty busy on Tuesday and Wednesday and I only managed a few minutes of operating on each of those days. But, by Thursday, my schedule broke loose a little and I was able to operate for a few solid hours in the afternoon and evening. I had no idea that Greenland would be so popular on 30 meters! Wow. That’s definitely the most intense pileup I’ve ever experienced. Thanks for being patient.
There was some about S3 hash on 20 and 30 meters that the K3′s NR function would take care of but the NB function wouldn’t. NR is not good for running pileups, so I often had to get the caller isolated to use NR. On the receiving end, there was a lot of fast QSB, with a period of a few seconds (this is consistent with magnetospheric and plasmaspheric waves that impinge upon the auroral and subauroral regions.) In any case, callers were up and down, often in the span of a call. You all on the other end may or may not have observed the same from me.
Per usual, the setup was an Elecraft K3 and the GU Special vertical with 2x 1/4-wavelength radials for each of 20 and 15 meters. Everything else was tuned by adjusting the length of the radiating section. This is a substantial improvement in performance-to-size ratio over the previous station I carried in January 2012, which was a Yaesu FT-840, DK9SQ 10-meter telescoping pole, and a variety of wire antennas. Below is a photograph of the GU Special deployed (it’s in the center, unceremoniously ty-wrapped to a wooden sign post sticking out of a barrel). The diesel Toyota HiLux pickups are the most popular vehicle in town. We gave a visiting graduate student lessons in driving a manual transmission. Great vehicle to teach/learn on with lots of torque and low gearing!
Although I was unable to connect with them, we did drive past the OX2A/XP1AB site on Black Ridge that overlooks downtown Kangerlussuaq:
My friend Matt, KB9UWU, eggs me on to buy things. Sometimes I listen. Sometimes I don’t. But, eventually he wins me over and I’m usually happy with the purchase (e.g., K3 and Hex beam, although I built the Hex from scratch, which reminds me that I owe the blog a discussion of that). I like to think that I let Matt be the early adopter and then pick and choose based on his experience. He convinced me to buy a copy of N6BT’s book Array of Light. Here’s my review.
If there’s anybody that knows antennas in the amateur community, it’s Tom Schiller, N6BT, the founder of Force12 and now owner of N6BT Next Generation Antennas. He’s also a member of the very successful Team Vertical contest team, who have revolutionized DXpedition and contest expedition antenna systems by replacing trapped tri-band Yagis like the TH-3jr(s), TA-33jr, and A3S, with arrays of verticals located at the water line. Schiller’s work has been nothing short of revolutionary so I had high hopes for the book.
My copy, like every other copy, is signed by the author. It’s a good-quality laser print and has the same spiral binding as the Elecraft manuals. The book is a loosely-edited collection of articles and clippings that read pretty well in series. But, it’s bear to skim or go back to find specific things unless you’ve read the whole thing cover-to-cover a couple of times. But, that’s pretty easy to do because Tom is a good storyteller. My only other complaint is that there are a couple of places where I think Tom has drunk his own Kool-Aid regarding the efficiency of his antennas, especially “linear loading.” This is a topic that I need to revisit with a pencil and paper study at some point because there is a lot of misinformation floating around about traps, linear loading, and “multi-monoband” antennas. It’s not clear to me that anyone has sat down and really examined this in a methodical way. It was disappointing that he quoted numbers like “greater than 99% efficiency” without going into more detail about the efficiency of a full-size antenna versus the linear-loaded one, etc. Of course, this is difficult, but it’s something that always makes me a bit skeptical.
Array of Light is worth the price of admission for a couple of reasons—the first is the stories and the second is the antenna designs. I’m a big proponent of not reinventing the wheel on most of my homebrew projects and this book is sure to provide some proven designs to work with. Especially if you want a good discussion of practical antennas for DXpeditioning and contesting I think it’s a real winner.