Posts Tagged ‘travel’

Travel Footage: 3Y0Z Antarctic Bouvet Island DXpedition 2018 Expedition (by EY8MM)

Here is video footage of the journey to Antarctic Bouvet Island, made by the 3Y0Z amateur ham radio team. This footage caught a few moments on the deck of M/V Betanzos.

As you can see in the last moments of this footage, the weather conditions contributed to the decision to abort the DXpedition, as it was far too dangerous to continue this expedition.

As reported by ARRL:

“Our captain has decided that it is in the best interest of safety and expediency to proceed directly to Capetown, South Africa, rather than Punta Arenas, Chile. We are now heading north to avoid the possibility of encountering ice. Currently, there is no ice in sight or on radar. In due time, we will head easterly toward Capetown. Our entire team is safe. Most are resting in their bunks and in good spirits. We will keep the amateur radio community and our families informed, as we continue our journey.”

In a huge disappointment for the DX community and the members of the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island team, the DXpedition’s leaders announced at 2000 UTC today (February 3) that a decision had been made to abort the DXpedition and head back to Chile.

“During the last 72 hours, we continued to experience the high winds, low clouds, fog and rough seas that have prevented helicopter operations since our arrival at Bouvet,” said an announcement on the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island website. “No improvement was predicted in the weather forecast for the next 4 days. Then, last night, an issue developed in one of the ship’s engines. This morning, the captain of the vessel declared it unsafe to continue with our project and aborted the DXpedition. We are now on our long voyage back to Punta Arenas. As you might imagine, the team is deeply disappointed, but safe. There is already talk about rescheduling the DXpedition.”

Bouvet Island currently is the third most-wanted DXCC entity, behind Kosovo and North Korea. The 3Y0Z DXpedition, comprised of top operators with considerable DXpedition experience, has been in the planning stages for 2 years and had attracted contributions from clubs and individuals around the world.

A dependency of Norway, Bouvet is a subantarctic island in the South Atlantic. The last Bouvet activation was 3Y0E, during a scientific expedition over the winter of 2007-2008.

 

Video Author: Nodir Tursun Zade, EY8MM

This copy is used BY PERMISSION from EY8MM, given in writing on 23 February 2018

April 2016 trip to American Sa’moa

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.

tower

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.

matatula

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.

shack

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.

Making the Palm Mini Paddle Stay Put

palm_mini_mount

In my on-going quest to produce a lightweight yet good-performing kit of portable equipment to carry along on my exotic work travels, I set my sights once again upon the Morse keying paddles.  When I was a student, I carried what I had: a black-base Bencher BY-1.  This caught the attention of nearly every airport security screener and was obviously quite heavy, but it stayed put on the table (for the most part) when I aggressively worked a pileup.  A few years back, my wonderful, loving, and patient wife, solicited suggestions for Christmas gifts and I suggested a Palm Radio Mini Paddle.  (She’s grateful when I provide a link to a web site with a shopping cart in these situations.)

The Palm is really a joy to use and is extraordinarily lightweight, which is perfect for travel.  However, I’ve always struggled with how to keep it steady on a table.  I have the magnetic base, but that presupposes a ferromagnetic surface to which it will mount.  Since both the Elecraft K3 and K2 have aluminum panels, I can’t count on the radio.  I tried a variety of additional things, up to and including, trying to design a 3D-printed carrier that is akin to the Begali Traveler.  So, I shelved the project, only using the Palm key for casual portable operating when mass trumped long-term operating comfort and efficiency.  Good fortune happened upon me and I built this.

When I decided to add an amplifier (more on this in the future) to my portable setup, again pressure set in on the mass of everything.  So, I revisited the Palm Mini project.  I had purchased a number of mounting clips for the key (hedging my bets against the ephemeral nature of ham radio businesses); so, I set out to attach one to the K2.  I’d seen the photo of the base attached to the right-hand side panel of the K2 by the power switch.  But, I really didn’t want to drill holes in the panel, plus that puts the paddles too high when the tilt bail is raised (which is necessary to see the display).

So, I fabricated two strips of 3/16-inch aluminum plate (leftover from the hexagonal beam I built a few years ago) with a hole bored down between them to clamp on the tilt bail of the K2 or the K3.  There’s nothing particularly critical about the construction of it, although I used a Bridgeport mill to do all the cutting; you might be able to do it in a drill press.  I think I ended up with a #14 drill for the clamp hole.  I used 6-32 hardware because I had it on-hand and I like the bigger stuff.  I had to enlarge the adjustment slot in the Palm base to handle the bigger diameter.

July Greenland Trip

Made a quick trip to Greenland for three days in July to work on some equipment there.  I did not get on the air due to work activities and operation of the incoherent scatter radar whose modulator trashes the HF bands if you’re close to it (i.e., same building).  A few photos, though.  These were all shot with an iPhone 5s, nothing fancy.

Flying down Sondrestromfjord on the way home. Today's office: the view of Sondrestromfjord from my instrument site. Hard to believe this is real. Russell glacier. White Alice troposcatter system near Kangerlussuaq. RF warning at White Alice site.  I resisted the urge to steal this sign.

Pictures from KH8 (second trip)

I made another trip to American Sa’moa (KH8 for the radio amateurs in the audience) to deploy instrumentation.  It was a tight timeframe but the instruments seem to work and I managed to make a few ham radio contacts as well.

Flock of Pelicans in Honolulu.  Big overweight baggage bill. Waiting to board 767-300ER from HNL to PPG. Ubiquitous lizard Seascape on the road to Tula. Bell fashioned from a discarded gas cylinder, a common sight. Loading coil for the GU Special fashioned from wire I found on the side of the road (not joking).  This made the radio happy on 40 meters. Believe it or not, there's a C-130 in this photograph. Car says it was 90 F (32 C) outside. Traditional Samoan home or "fale." Requisite selfie from "today's office." Building infrastructure to support the experiment. Blockhouse for instrumentation (and radio shack) now with WiFi and GNSS antennas. We live in the future:  Raspberry Pi computer plugged into hotel TV. Crepuscular rays from Cape Matatula. Ham setup.  I spent a lot of time sitting on Pelican cases. Freezed-dried food is remarkably tasty...or I was hungry. Hammer (drill) time! Critter of the dark:  Coconut crab the size of a basketball.  Crabs this big are rare and prized for their tasty meat. Critter junior: coconut crab the size of a softball. Some of the research antennas. Research receiver instrument. Cable runs dressed. Beautiful. Yes, that is a jacked-up Corolla.

Pictures from KH8/K8GU

I don’t really have time to do a full write-up, but I made a “quick” trip to American Samoa over the weekend to plan a future scientific instrument installation and managed to get on the air for a few hours.  Here are some snapshots from my phone.

Snapshot of Utulei village near my hotel. The "Main Road" in American Samoa. The road up to (or rather, down from, in this case) the research/operating position. 184 steps lead down to the point where I operated.  Although I left the antenna set up overnight, that was a hike even with the relatively light K2, computer, and provisions. From the point, looking back toward the pump shack where my equipment and operating position were. Looking about due West from the antenna location.  JA is actually to the right of this photo.  The upshot is that I had a clear all-water path to JA, EU, and NA, and sometimes the band was open all three places at once. The "GU Special" fully extended for 40 meters.  This is facing approximately North, or toward EU.  40 meters was a bust with lots of radar and freebander interference. The operating position at KH8/K8GU.  Poor ergonomics but it was good enough to make almost 1200 QSOs in about 12 hours of operating over two days. Moonset captured on my way up to the Observatory one morning.

Latest Tinkering (or how Elecraft is taking all my money)

20140128-055723.jpg

On Christmas Eve, I was sitting at my in-laws’ kitchen table with the Small Wonder Labs SW-40 I built as a high school kid in 1998 listening to beautiful music and I got the itch to come up with a radio smaller (and less expensive) than the K3 to drag around with me when I go places.  My mind wandered to the NorCal Sierra, which was a featured project in ARRL Handbook’s of my youth.  I was able to come up with a draft version of that Handbook article on the web—pause for a moment and think how revolutionary that is—my in-laws don’t have an ARRL Handbook, let alone the one that contained the Sierra article.  I looked at the bill of materials and realized that I had some 70% of the parts in my junkbox.  This seemed like a good idea until I went searching for a PCB.

Why PCB?  Well, I’ve done the dead-bug thing and it works great but it’s a pain to troubleshoot and unless you have decades of experience doing it, it looks like a Mexico City suburb, sprawling unpredictably in every direction with only the most tenuous connections to the core.  Since I was seeking a travel radio, I wanted it to be compact, easy-to-troubleshoot, and relatively rugged.  Due in no small part to the wishes of the Sierra’s designers (not coincidentally founders of Elecraft), boards are no longer available.  I looked into doing my own board, but if you don’t mix chemicals yourself, you’ve suddenly spent $150 on PCBs, plus the layout effort.  I toyed with making the board smaller (a win in several ways) by using surface-mount parts but even that was a non-starter since my junkbox parts are through-hole, requiring me to buy everything.

Astute readers can extrapolate what occurred next.  I went to the Elecraft web site to price the Sierra’s successor, the K1.  I had all but made up my mind to sell off some junkbox items and raise the capital to buy a K1 kit when something occurred to me:  fellow ham blogger Mike, VE3WDM, had recently moved to a smaller QTH and was offering a half-completed K2 kit for sale.  His asking price was only a little more than the K1 kit with some of the options I wanted and it was all-band.   The ad had been posted for some days by this point, so I fired off a sheepish e-mail to Mike asking if the radio was still available.  It was.  We sealed the deal and the radio made the somewhat tortuous ride (for us, not the radio—it sat in Chicago for two weeks) from his QTH to mine via the postal system.

I would not have bought a partially-finished kit from just anyone.  However, since this was Mike’s second K2 build and he was documenting it carefully in a blog, I figured it was a pretty safe bet.  So far, that is definitely true.

While I was eagerly awaiting the radio’s arrival, I redoubled my efforts to get a friend’s TS-930S off of my workbench, a task that involved replacing all 115 electrolytic capacitors on the cookie-sheet-sized “Signal Unit” board (similar to the K2 and K3 “RF unit”).  That radio still has low drive (it has ALC again and sounds like a million bucks), something I traced to a hard-to-find semiconductor that’s now on-order.  So, I gathered it up and started work on the K2 on Sunday afternoon.

Last night, I got it on 40 meters RX-only and peaked up the RX BPF.  Former K2 owner KL9A mentioned to me that it has some blow-by on strong signals but that he thinks it’s a pretty good radio.  I can confirm that based on my experience last night.  It sounds really really good on CW.

More on the build to come…including a look back at some troubleshooting of the BFO circuit.


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