Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ah - that's what I heard on 70cms last night

Coming home from the station last night, I had 433.075 running on the second VFO. As well as the 'local' Swindon repeater, GB3TD, I heard another repeater id - I managed to get GB3K as a fragment before a bit of flutter knocked the complete callsign out!

I just checked the repeater map and it was GB3KR in Kidderminster - quite a reasonable distance, so interesting to have heard. Here's a map


View Larger Map

Congratulations VP6DX


The DXpedition to Ducie Island are wrapping up their operation. I haven't got involved in trying to work them, but I gather from talking to a few people that they've been workable from the UK on 80 and 160m just after dawn - great contacts.

And they broke our record! I was one of the team at D68C. We set the record for the most contacts made by a DXpedition. And VP6DX have taken the record. Congratulations guys! It's great to see so many contacts being made. Our record was 168,722 QSOs - it will be interesting to see the final total from Ducie. Of course, they were much closer to North America than we were :-) Only teasing - it's a great total, where-ever you are in the world. It will be interesting to see how many uniques they worked - ie individual stations.

Another nice feature of their operation - before they've even left the island, they've uploaded Logbook of The World confirmations for people that sponsored them. That's a super idea - definitely one for other people to follow.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Today's 2m FM activity

The commute into work was marked by a fair amount of co-channel from France on GB3WH. Signals were certainly quite strong. Paul, 2E0BHA was working in London this morning and he surprised us with a call from there.

Coming home, I was listening to the GB3IN repeater in Matlock on 2m. French stations were audible on 145.600, but I suspect that may have been co-channel through GB3WR. GB3CF in Leicestershire was also clearly audible.

The high pressure is fading a little now, so I imagine the good conditions that have been with us for almost a week are probably on the way out. We'll see. Pressure still looks reasonably high at the end of the week, though less stable.

New 2m beacon heard...

I'm not sure if it's the tropo, or whether it's a new installation, but when I was tuning around 2m this evening, I heard ON0VHF in JO20 on 144.417. I don't recall hearing it before. F5XAM and PI7CIS are about average or a little above, so there's a vague hope that this will be a new 'regular' beacon here. I'll keep listening.

Tried a few CW CQs this evening, but nothing doing at the moment.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Chesterfield 70cms repeater heard in Didcot!

I always think it's nice to let repeater keepers know if you hear their repeater well out of the area that would normally be expected.

Hence the e-mail I sent to the repeater keeper of GB3EE in Chesterfield this evening:

Hi,

I'm sure you had lots of reports of reception of the Chesterfield repeater during the recent tropo opening, nevertheless, I thought you'd be interested to know that the repeater was easily audible here in Oxfordshire this evening. I first heard it in the car park at Sainsburys in Didcot and listened to the activity as I was driving up the A34 towards home in Longworth, IO91GQ.

I was using an FT8900 and a Diamond triband 6m/2m/70cms antenna on the car - nothing high gain!

Hope that's of interest.

73, Tim G4VXE

QRP on VHF!

The FT847's power switch which has been slowly failing since last autumn finally have up the ghost at the weekend (it was bound to fail during a decent tropo opening, after all). So that's in for repair.

So that I can keep an eye on 2m, I've slotted in my IC706 MK1. The receiver isn't of the same quality as the FT847, but it's fine. The PI7CIS beacon was a steady S7 last night and GB3VHF well over S9. With 10w available, rather than the normally 50w, it may be harder to make DX QSOs, but I'm sure something will be possible.

One story from behind a new DXCC entity

Yesterday, the News sites were full of news that Kosovo is declaring independence. The Ham DX sites rejoice in a new entity to be worked.

But what's the story behind the headlines? On Peter Casier's excellent and informative blog, 'The Road to the Horizon' comes one person's view of the days and hours before the announcement. Great reading.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Chickens and 80m DXing


It's official! Having chickens will improve your 80m DX performance.

How, I hear you ask? Will they man the radio at all hours and winkle out the weakest of DX signals? Not precisely?

As you may well know, we have two chickens; Henrietta and Flossie. They live in the garden in a nice secure run. Generally speaking we don't shut the door to their house so that they can come and go as they please. But when it's particularly cold at night, like it is at the moment, we shut the door down.

That means, just before sunrise, I need to pop down to the garden to open the door so that they can come out when they're ready. Having done that, of course, it makes perfect sense to go to the radio and see what's coming through on the greyline opening on 80m!

This morning, I did just that. Being the ARRL CW contest, it was 'just' North American contest stations coming through, but it's always fun to work them. Best DX was probably NQ4I in Georgia, with a number of 'East Coasters' worked as well.

Friday, February 15, 2008

ARRL CW this weekend

If you like working US stations then this weekend is a great time to do it. The ARRL CW contest takes place all weekend. You only work US stations. The exchange is RST and the power you are using.

You'll hear some US stations on 80/160m (that's LF to you and me) around sunrise. Do try and work them if you've not had a go at greyline propagation before. And if there's any sniff of HF propagation, you'll find stations to work on 15 and 10m.

The SSB event takes place in a few weeks.

VHF update

I tuned around the repeater channels as I was coming out of the drive this morning and all seemed quiet. So it was, that I was pronouncing on GB3WH that conditions were back to normal. No sooner had I done so than Ken, G1NVY from Liverpool called in at huge strength. Conditions were obviously still good!

I noticed F5NS from IN99 had sent a reception report of GB3ANG (Angus) last night on 2m - he heard the beacon at 569. So north/south conditions look good.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The difference between MF and LF

Reading the final copy of my Contest Column in Radcom today, I noticed that editorial hands had amended my copy! Where I had referred to LF, it had been changed to MF.

Why? Got me! MF according to Wikipedia refers to frequencies between 300khz and 3000khz. Let's assume I was referring to either 1800khz or 3500khz. Both top band and eighty metres are generally referred to as LF bands in amateur parlance.

Presumably just as Contesting has to be renamed 'Radio Sport', LF now needs to be renamed MF.

Have you ever come across the morse abbreviation BLX?

So that's where GB3HS is...

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that I originally copied the call as GB3HH, but I noticed this evening that GB3HH wasn't on the same frequency as GB3WH! The more interesting news is that GB3HS is further away!


View Larger Map

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Just as I was thinking I hadn't heard GB3HS..

I was browsing back through the blog the other day and noticed I'd mentioned hearing GB3HS from East Yorkshire on 2m. I realised I'd not heard it for ages. Well, listening on 145.650 this evening coming home from the station, with GB3WH quiet, there was a repeater chuntering away in the background. I listened for a while with the signals fading up and down and got a nice id from GB3HS. A good distance from here and conditions are obviously still pretty decent.

Radio Bulgaria's DX Programme


When I was a shortwave listener, I used to listen avidly to the DX programmes on stations like Radio Sweden International and Radio Netherlands. It's good to see that some shortwave broadcast stations like Radio Bulgaria keep the tradition alive.

In fact, the DX editor at Radio Bulgaria is Dimiter, LZ1AF, who, if you are a CW operator you may very well have worked.

Justin, G4TSH reminds me that you can find the Radio Bulgaria DX Programme on the web here

Well worth a read and includes an update on VP6DX

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

A morning of tuning around...

Driving out of the village this morning, I hit 'something' which appeared to reset the radio and erase the memories I'd set up (actually it didn't, but I didn't discover that until later!). Since I couldn't set up the rig for GB3WH whilst I was driving, I just put one of the VFOs onto 2m and had a tune around.

Tropo conditions were still good (last night before bed, GB3VHF was around 36 - 40db above normal). I was able to hear a number of repeaters at excellent strength which I don't normally hear:

GB3WR (Mendip)
GB3SN (Alton)

As well as other repeaters that I didn't hear an ID from, so wasn't sure where they were (145.7125, for example).

Having arrived at the carpark, I had a quick look at the rig and with a bit of button pushing, it was restored to the 'usual' configuration - so that's good. I probably should back the configuration up - it would be irritating to have to do a lot of reprogramming!

VP6DX Ducie Island Expedition on the air

VP6DX are on the air from Ducie Island.

The first question you ask, I expect, like me, is 'Where is Ducie Island'?


View Larger Map

It's a challenging distance from Europe at this stage in the sunspot cycle unless you've a beam, at HF at least. But there should be some options to hear or work them on the LF bands. 7MHz or 10MHz should be very viable - probably best just before to just after our sunrise. If you fancy a real challenge, 1.8MHz or 3.5MHz could yield some results. Actually, 3.5MHz would probably be particularly viable for those in the UK as we should have propagation to VP6 for quite a while after the rest of Europe fail to hear them.

Take a look at the VP6DX website

Monday, February 11, 2008

That's what I call a solar powered station


Nice little article about K4RY powering their station from the sun here

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Quick VHF report


Certainly the VHF conditions seem to have been great today! Mostly inter-G sort of stuff. I moved my car this morning and heard Nigel, G6EED on 51.510 - as I recall he's over in Somerset, so although he wasn't strong, it was interesting to hear him.

Later, driving to Abingdon, I worked an M1 mobile on the North Norfolk coast through WH (sorry, if you read this, I've forgotten your callsign!). And just now, visiting the bees, I worked G0WUY in York through WH - quite unusual.

This morning, first thing, I worked GW4ERP/P making a SOTA activation of the Coity mountain, on both 2m and 70cms SSB.

It seems a lovely spring day! I KNOW we shall have some bad weather to come before spring really arrives, but it's encouraging!

Friday, February 08, 2008

VHF Conditions improving


The high pressure that's appeared seems to have brought some reasonable conditions to the VHF bands. Coming home this evening and the GB3PO repeater was just starting to appear on 145.650.

The GB3VHF beacon on 144MHz is about 50db above normal and the GB3BSL beacon on 432MHz around 30db above normal. Not much in the way of activity so far, but hopefully things will improve over the weekend.

Picture: Gherkin at sunset this evening

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Shock! Another QSO on 50MHz FM

Driving home this evening from the station, I heard a voice on GB3FX, the Farnham 50MHz repeater. I had a nice QSO with Colin, 2E0CRA from Woking. The signal from the repeater was subject to quite a lot of fading from buildings and also local noise, but it's enough to show that the coverage of GB3FX for mobiles is as good as it appears to be.

Hopefully there will be other contacts on 6m FM in due course.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Fred Fish Memorial Award

From ARRL News:

"Attention 6 meter operators -- there's a new award to work toward! The ARRL Board of Directors approved a new award honoring the late Fred Fish, W5FF, the only amateur who worked and confirmed all 488 grid squares in the 48 contiguous United States on 6 meters. The Fred Fish Memorial Award will be granted to any amateur who duplicates Fish's accomplishment. Fish was a mainstay on the VHF+ bands for many years, having achieved Worked All States (WAS) on 6 meters through 432 MHz, as well as DXCC for 6 meters. He is widely regarded as a gentleman operator and one of the finest amateurs in the VHF+ community. ARRL Contest Manager Sean Kutzko, KX9X, will oversee this award. Kutzko, an avid VHF+ operator himself, said, "We hope the new award will increase 6 meter activity throughout the US and the world. We also hope it will lead to the activation of rare grid squares in the US by encouraging the native ham population of a rare grid square to give 6 meters a try, as well as through so-called 'Grid DXpeditions.' We actively call on the 6 meter community to help educate VHF+ newcomers to the fun that is available on 6 meters." Complete details on the Fred Fish Memorial Award will be available soon."

When I lived in Canada, I remember working Fred on 50MHz on Es.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Greenland on 5MHz

From the Daily DX, via Chris, G4BUE comes this:

"OX3XR, Peter Thulesen, says that Greenland's telecom authority has
authorized operation on 5260, 5280, 5290, 5368, 5373, 5400 and 5405,
all on the new 60M band. OX3XR plans to be active on HF every day
and listens to the 5 MHz band"

CW Skimmer

Thanks to Justin, G4TSH for pointing this out - it looks interesting. Now, I've got a Softrock receiver around here somewhere....

Sunday, February 03, 2008

The weekend's radio activities

Two operating events this weekend, neither of which I spent a lot of time in, but I made a few contacts here and there.

The FOC Marathon. An operating event for the First Class CW Operators Club. It started at 2100z on Friday evening. Quite quickly I worked a few North American stations on 40m, but conditions didn't sound great. I did pop on overnight for a few minutes and also around Saturday sunrise, but conditions didn't get any better! P40LE was a nice on on 80m - nothing new, but always a nice contact. HF during the day really wasn't terribly good. I heard one station on 15m - ZS1AAX and he was very weak! Actually, that's not true - I also worked G4FON up in Oxford on both 15 and 10m.

432MHz AFS. I made about 10 QSOs this morning on 432MHz, but the conditions were poor (the barometric pressure has been sinking fast). Best DX was G1OGY/P over near Colchester and the majority of contacts seemed to be around Oxfordshire or Gloucestershire.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Now that's what I call VHF DX...

Courtesy of RSGB News:

"In two spectacular openings on the two metre band, a new Australia to New Zealand record was set.

On 29 December, VK4DMC worked ZL1CN at a distance of 3549 kilometres. VK4DMC was running 200 watts into an 11 element Yagi just 8 meters above ground.

Then on 9 January, there was an opening to ZL from VK5 resulting in several contacts, the best being between VK5BC and ZL1TWR over a distance of 3482km."

Sea paths are always great for VHF propagation, but even so, this is quite something. My own best DX on 2m is around 2800 kms, from G (IO81) to EA8. I was able to work that path on both tropo and Sporadic E. I'm guessing the sea temperatures are colder between Australia and New Zealand, which probably makes the contacts even more remarkable/

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