Posts Tagged ‘Mayne Island’

Clear Air Scatter Tests On 458THz

After patiently waiting for the bright moon to clear the early evening skies, I was finally able to venture out for my first clear-air scatter test this past Sunday night. I had plotted the path on my Mayne Island map and determined bearings as best I could, but the path was going to be very tight. If the path plan was right, my signal should just clear the high beachfront bluffs at the chosen sea-level receiving site.

After carefully aiming the light, I set off for the receive site at around 7:45PM and was all set up with the new lightwave receiver about 30 minutes later. The site appeared fairly quiet and the Argo screen confirmed that there was little QRN coming from the local houses up on the bluff. I listened for over an hour, trying various slow changes in pointing ... varying the azimuth a few degrees at a time, and then the elevation. Unfortunately not the slightest indication of my ~549Hz tone was seen. I was confident that the system was working as several strobes were heard from distant aircraft (near Vancouver), as their flashing lamps skimmed the edge of the far treeline.

It seems likely that either my aiming or bearing calculations (or both) were off and that the signal was probably slightly to the west of me, with the bluff blocking any hope of reception ... I knew it was going to be close but was hoping for a little luck.

I left the transmitter outside overnight (it was set up two properties to the SE) and decided to try a second shot on Monday night. This path, although shorter by a mile, would require the signal to pass over two high hills ... the first topping out at 667' and the second at 567'. The overall direct-path distance was 1.7 miles (2.7 km). A cross-section of the signal path is shown below as it hugged the edges a little lower than the peaks:


I have been using a 'compass' app on my I-Pad to determine directions when aligning the transmitter and receiver setups. I'm not 100% convinced of its accuracy at all times, as readings can sometimes be a bit flaky. Before doing any more testing, I'll need to solve this, either with a better app or with a real compass.

The transmitter was set up just before darkness, pointing right at the edge of the treeline along the 667' ridge and elevated at a 28 degree takeoff angle. The deep-red, 640mw LED, was switched-on just before departure at around 8:30PM.

It didn't take long to get set up in the back of the CRV, with the receiver temporarily set in no particular direction and plugged into the computer.

When Argo came to life, I went to the front of the car to grab the I-Pad so that the receiver could be aligned but was surprised to see a bright line at 549Hz when I came back! It seems that my 'rough' placement of the receiver was spot-on, and not exactly where I had originally intended. In fact, there appeared to be about a 10 degree error in where I had planned to point. I later traced the error to my path drawn on the paper map as it was difficult to determine my exact receiving location on the older map, which didn't show the new road where I had set up on.

Monday night's path
I was eventually able to fine-tune the aiming and hone-in on the best spot but was surprised that there was a broader degree of acceptance in both azimuth and altitude. At around 8 degrees of elevation, and although I was pointing well into the nearby trees, the signal was still observable with just tiny patchs of sky poking through behind the trees. At 10 degrees I was above the trees, with a solid signal. Surprisingly, the signal was not lost until pointing past ~ 15 degrees ... I had expected sharper pointing.

With the strength of signals recovered on this path, two-way communication could have easily been established on any of the CW QRSS modes ... if quieter, probably on normal audible CW. Signal strength indicated that there was still plenty 'left in the bucket' for greater distance paths, probably much further than I am able to test here on the island.

This was the first thing I saw, at the QRSS60 mode in Argo ... a fairly narrow passband and a ~25+ db dig into the noise.

Backing off to a wider bandpass (less sensitive) but faster QRSS10 mode showed the signal still very apparent:

The almost 'real time' QRSS3 mode, although showing a much weaker signal, indicated that the signal would have been almost audible had it not been for the high level of background noise at this site. Don't confuse the lightwave signal with the much stronger 9th harmonic of 60Hz on 540Hz!

The ferry terminal was just down the hill about 1/2 mile and with several kilowatts of spectrum-polluting 60Hz sodium vapor lighting, the cloudy skies were a sea of bright-pink. There was a high level of audible hum in the phones, right from the start, that unfortunately, masked any hope of an audible detection. The waterfall screen capture shown below, illustrates the massive QRM at this otherwise nice site!

The night was not going to be complete without a strobe signature, captured on Argo from a high passing jet aircraft:


All-in-all, it was a very successful outing, considering the obstructed path and the $5 fresnel lens used in the portable receiver! I've examined the island map for any other possibilities and there are not many suitable candidates. I had hoped for one other possibility towards the west, which would stretch the path by almost another mile, but I'm not really sure that I can get a clear shot without hitting the very close treeline at this end.

I think the next round of testing will be in the other direction ... across Georgia Strait, with John, VE7BDQ, who has expressed interest in doing some deep overnight Argo searches for my signal in the clouds.

I'm not sure which mode would offer the best chance ... 'clear air scatter' or 'cloudbounce'. John has a very good receiver, with a slightly larger and better-quality fresnel than the one used in these tests. Working from his suburban backyard, directly across the strait at 13 miles (21 km) distant, his direct path to me is somewhat obstructed and will require an elevation angle of around 30 degrees at his end. I think, ideally, we would both like to be skimming just above the ocean, with only a slight elevation. A lower and less obstructed shot from his yard would mean an oblique path so this also remains a possibility. We will play with what we have and hope for the best ... even just a trace of signal would be a measured success.

I think that a non-line-of-sight (NLOS) contact would make an exciting challenge and a great project for two amateurs living in the same city or town, and ... you really don't even need a ticket!

For more technical details on the equipment used in this test, see "A West Coast Lightwave Project" describing the activities between here and Markus, VE7CA. We have just learned that this article will be published in the 2016 Radio Amateur's Handbook ... hopefully inspiring  more new lightwave activity!

630m Crossband Summary

Friday evening's 630m crossband activity was 'interesting' in many respects. Propagation, which had been improving slowly, chose to follow Murphy's Law. The K-index, holding at a quiet '1', rose to level '3' by the time our event had concluded, as the geomagnetic activity ramped up. Additionally, lightning pocketed various areas of the continent, making listening noisy for many.

From here on Mayne Island (CN88iu), good two-way CW crossband contacts were made with the stations in the following order:
  • N7IO (Seattle, Washington)
  • VE7CA (North Vancouver, BC)
  • KK7UV (Missoula, Montana)
  • NW7E (Bend, Oregon)
  • KU7Z (Ogden, Utah)
  • VA5LF (Saskatoon, Sakatchewan)
  • K7SF (Portland, Oregon)
  • VE7BKX (North Vancouver, BC)
  • K6TOP (Los Gatos, California)
  • ABØCW (Westminster, Colorado)
  • NO3M (Saegerton, Pennsylvania)
  • KB5NJD (Duncanville, Texas)
  • W7MTL (Independence, Oregon)
'Heard' reports were received from:
  • KØSBV (Tucson, Arizona)
  • WB6DCE (Seaside, California)
  • KO6BB (Merced, California)
  • K6CLS (Palo Alto, California)
  • WY3B (Kaneohe, Hawaii)
  • AA7U (La Grande, Oregon)
More than one of the DX contacts mentioned using just their HF dipole for listening to my signals on 630m and simply 'A-B' switching their transceiver's frequency while two of those sending 'heard' reports were using 100' longwires. Mike Tuggle (WY3B) in Hawaii was using his amazing 1-MOSFET regen and small inverted 'L' !

I was also more than excited to exchange signal reports with Pennsylvania and Texas. Considering conditions, this distance was far beyond my expectation but both of these stations have very efficient, dedicated 630m antenna systems.

John, VE7BDQ, worked the following stations on crossband:

  • VE7CA (North Vancouver, BC)
  • W7DRA (Seattle, Washington)
  • N7IO (Seattle, Washington)
  • NW7E (Bend, Oregon)
  • KK7UV (Missoula, Montana)
  • KU7Z (Ogden, Utah)
  • VA7JWS (Delta, BC)
  • VA5LF (Saskatoon, Sakatchewan)
  • WB6W (Oysterville, Washington)
'Heard'  reports were received from:
  • K5HK (Reno, Nevada)
  • KØSBV (Tucson, Arizona)
  • WY3B (Kaneohe, Hawaii)

It was gratifying to see all of these fellows making the effort to listen for our signals or to attempt the QSO.

This exercise taught me a few things about our new band.
  • It is not necessary to have huge antennas and acreage to make this band work. Good solid contacts can be easily made with small backyard antenna systems.
  • With good systems on both ends, transcontinental QSO's can be made.
  • There really should be more interest by Canadian amateurs in their newest band as so much work has been put into securing this portion of the spectrum as a ham band. It was very disappointing not to work any stations in VE6, VE4 or VE3 land.
  • There is already much interest in this band by U.S. amateurs, many of them anxiously awaiting the day that they can also call it a ham band.

I would like very much to continue this type of crossband activity to try and generate more interest in our new band. I'm presently considering a weekly, one-night crossband operation, similar to Friday's event, perhaps running for one hour per week. The main difficulty will be in getting the word out to those that might wish to participate.

Solar Flare Magic

Cycle 24 continues to behave like few others! The slowly-decaying cycle released a major solar flare at 2247 UTC Friday....afternoon on the west coast. Topping-off at X3.1, it was the sixth-strongest of the cycle and originated from sunspot 2192, the largest in the past 24 years.


Since then, there have been three more major flares from this same region, one at X1.0 (on Saturday) and the most recent (this morning) at X2.0. Oddly enough, none of these flares have produced CME's as little plasma release has been detected. Any associated auroral events will be very weak or unlikely in spite of region 2192 being geoeffectively positioned at the time of the flares.

However, the near light-speed arrival of Friday's emitted UV radiation caused a fast rise in the muf as spotty signals from various regions of South America were soon being heard on 6m in North America.

The most prominent signal was that of CX7CO (Carlos), in Montevideo, Uruguay. Thanks to the ever-alert KE7V, who posted news of the sudden arrival of Carlos, he was widely worked around North America including the west coast, a region that is usually left-out of the action. Known to have worked Carlos from here were myself, VE7XF, VE7DAY, KE7V, K7CW and possibly others outside of my hearing range. Shortly after working the west coast, Carlos was heard working JA's as his signal became weaker.

The distance from Mayne Island to Montevideo is 11,425km (7100 miles), which would tend to indicate that the contacts were a result of F2 propagation. Some have suggested a Sporadic-E-to-TEP link but I have my doubts...several 'TEP markers' were not present and there were no signs of any Es activity from this area. Although his signal peaked at 569, it is not uncommon for F2 signals to be weak, unlike the bone-crushing levels they can sometimes reach.

As spot number 2192 slowly rotates out of view, it looks like the overall solar flux levels will quickly decline, diminishing the chances of any new activity on 6m this fall. One thing however is for just never know what might come next on the Magic Band!

CLE186 – Perils of Perseus

ZVR - 368 Vancouver -  Middle Marker Rnwy 08R - reported as far as California
Now that CLE186 has come and gone, worldwide results will soon be posted by e-mail (to all those submitting reports) as well as to the CLE website. CLE organizer and data-cruncher Brian Keyte (G3SIA), indicates that 50 logs (and over 2,000 reports) have been submitted, including two first-timers - Graham (VE3GTC) near Ottawa, ON and Hans (BX2ABT) in Taiwan. It's always great to see new activity, especially on LF!

As is usually the case with CLE's, propagation conditions begin to deteriorate shortly after the announcement of the upcoming event. By the weekend's arrival, conditions are usually much worse than earlier in the week and such was the case once again! In North America, lightning activity and mediocre propagation dominated the three-night event, with the consensus of opinion giving the nod to Saturday night and early Sunday morning as being the best period.


Here on Mayne Island, Friday night was pretty much a wash and only the stronger signals made it through the din and into the log. A twilight check on Saturday evening indicated improving propagation and less lightning, renewing optimism that the entire weekend would not be a wipeout.

Since purchasing the Perseus SDR earlier this year, I have been using it exclusively for the past few CLE's. I have been exploiting one of it's main features....the ability to record the entire band overnight and then tune through the band the next day, as in real time. I no longer had to prop my eyelids open until 0100 or later, or to leave a sound sleep to journey out to a cold shack to hunt the pre-sunrise band for anything new....yes, Perseus has made it possible to DX while I sleep!

Now the very concept of this horrifies many of the 'purists' and I myself held-out for several years before venturing over to the darkside...but...embracing new technology along with its associated new learning is what is important. If I get to sleep-in because of it, even better!

So....that's the way it is supposed to work, but due to operator error, Perseus failed to launch on Saturday night, and the best conditions of the CLE were missed altogether. Having seen the error in my ways, the perils of Perseus will, hopefully, not strike again!

Conditions on Sunday night were noisy once again, although not as bad as Friday, and the following log was gathered after parsing through my overnight recordings.

                                      09 27 0400 350 NY  Enderby, BC
                            09 29 0900 350 OKT  Yoakum, TX - new catch
                            09 29 0700 350 RG  Oklahoma City, OK
                            09 27 0400 350 SWU  Idaho Falls, ID
                            09 29 0900 350 VTR  McGrath, AK
                            09 29 0800 351 YKQ Wasaganish, QC
                            09 27 1330 353 AL  Walla Walla, WA
                            09 29 0800 353 CY  Cheyenne, WY
                            09 29 0800 353 DI  Dickinson, ND
                            09 29 0800 353 IN  International Falls, MN
                            09 27 1330 353 LLD Lanai, HI
                            09 29 0800 353 PG  Portage, MB
                            09 27 0400 353 RNT  Renton, WA
                            09 27 1330 353 ZXY  Whitehorse, YT
                            09 29 1100 355 AUB  King Salmon, AK
                            09 29 0800 355 YWP  Webequie, ON
                            09 27 0700 356 MEF  Medford, OR
                            09 29 0700 356 ODX  Ord, NE
                            09 27 0700 356 ON  Penticton, BC
                            09 27 1330 356 PND  Portland, OR
                            09 27 0700 356 ZF  Yellowknife, NT
                            09 29 0800 356 ZXE  Saskatoon, SK
                            09 27 0400 358 SIT  Sitka, AK
                            09 27 1300 359 BO  Boise, ID
                            09 27 0500 359 SDY  Sidney, MT
                            09 27 1300 359 YAZ  Tofino, BC
                            09 29 0800 359 YQZ  Quesnel, BC
                            09 29 0800 360 SW  Warroad, MN
                            09 29 0900 361 E3  Wabasca, AB
                            09 29 0800 361 HI  Holman, NT
                            09 29 1000 362 6T  Foremost, AB
                            09 27 1300 362 BF  Seattle, WA
                            09 29 0800 362 CD  Chadron, NE
                            09 29 0600 362 RPX  Roundup, MT
                            09 29 0800 362 YZS  Coral Harbour, NU
                            09 29 0800 364 4D  Helmet, BC
                            09 27 1100 365 AA  Fargo, MN
                            09 29 0800 365 DPY  Deer Park, WA
                            09 29 0800 365 HQG  Hugoton, KS
                            09 29 0800 365 MA  Mayo, YT
                            09 29 0800 366 YMW  Maniwaki, QC
                            09 29 0800 368 ZP  Sandspit, BC
                            09 27 1330 368 ZVR  Vancouver, BC

I have, over the years, logged all of these beacons before, except for one..."OKT" in Yoakum, catches are always nice and are harder to find  it seems. The Google Map's 'street view' shows what appears to be a nice top-loaded "T" antenna at OKT:


My CLE186 beacons - Courtesy:

It was nice to salvage Sunday night but I'm still a little bummed about missing the best night of the least I had a good night's sleep.

Happy Canada Day!

We always celebrate Canada Day with a large block party in our front yard by the beach, every July 1st.....pot-luck and lots of good food. The normal attendance is around seventy people but this year we may have a few less as it falls on an odd day. We have done this for the past 23 years and so far have never had rain. Today the weather is perfect once again here on Mayne Island.
Happy Canada Day Canada!

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