Monday, October 5, 2015

TX3X - very difficult to work, and their operating pattern doesn't help

Is TX3X the most difficult-to-work dxpedition ever? I only ask the question because it seems impossible to log them. This is in part due to conditions. But it's also got to do with common sense, or the lack thereof, on behalf of the TX3X team. For the past two mornings, when they have been audible (and thus possibly workable) on 20 metres CW, they have abruptly gone QRT. This seems to be a trademark of this dxpedition. Sudden QRX, QRT and disappearances without explanation. To be fair, some of these were caused by severe wind which has hampered them to some extent.

However, this morning when they had action on both 20 metres CW and 17 metres CW into EU, they abruptly went QRT on both those slots, but for some unimaginable reason they remained on 20 metres SSB, with most of EU unable to copy them. That's poor form. For several mornings now, I have listened to their signal build on 20 cw only for them to suddenly pull the plug.

Overnight (our night time) they were inactive for several hours. When they finally did appear on several band slots, with EU stations working them, they migrated down to the lower bands even though they had a decent EU rate. Meanwhile, they continue to exploit the easy openings to Japan/Asia and the USA. There are still very few EIs and indeed UK stations who have managed to work them - and those who are in the log generally have super stations.

I don't normally give out too much about dxpeditions. These are hams who have paid their own money to go to a remote location to activate it for our benefit. However, in this case it seems that there is something of a lack of experience and expertise. The openings on 20 metres into western EU are relatively short - there's a chance in the morning and there's a second chance around tea time here in Ireland. TX3X don't seem to appreciate that. Several disgruntled EU ops have complained about the persistence with SSB over CW on the cluster today. I have NEVER heard them on SSB since the beginning of the dxpedition. And even the big stations have only heard them weakly. On CW, however, I have heard them several times. As I write this, they have stations on 40m CW, 40m SSB and 20m SSB. The USA and Asian stations are having a great time. The EUs are really struggling to get logged, albeit with the exception of the southern EU stations in the likes of Spain and Italy, who seem to have propagation to the whole world at all times of the day, night, and year, in all conditions!

The above video shows their signal on 20 cw a few mornings ago, and just when they were strong into EU, they were working the JA stations. An example of naivety in relation to openings?

Just as I published this post, at 12.35pm local time, they are back on 20 metres CW, but their signal is really, really light. This is not a dxpedition for western Europe I'm afraid . . .

Edit: Now, at 13;00 local time (12:00 UTC), they are on 28 Mhz SSB looking for Europe!!! What madness.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

The next ATNO? - TX3X Chesterfield Islands coming on air

Chesterfield Islands, in the Pacific Ocean three days' sailing from New Caledonia, are being activated beginning, hopefully, tonight, by the TX3X team. This is potentially an All-Time New One (ATNO) for me, if of course I can get them into my log. I'm looking forward to giving them a call. I'm sure the pile-ups will be huge.

Chesterfield Islands, with the DXCC designator FK/C, is the 21st most wanted DX entity, according to Clublog. It's just behind Glorioso (FT/G) and just ahead of KP1 Navassa, which fell considerably in the most-wanted rankings following the K1N dxpedition there earlier this year.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Video: chasing Tuvalu on 20 metres CW. Will I be able to make it through the European QRM?

This is what I do most of the time on amateur radio - I chase rare DX. In this case, it's T2GC on Tuvalu island, which is an island in the southern Pacific Ocean. As you can see, it's hard work finding where he is listening, and in this case his RX QRG is moving all the time. So I have to spend a lot of time spinning the VFO looking for his split frequency. I lose the split though, and have to go searching for it. Having not found it, I decide to call above the pile-up (at 2:40 in the video), but hear a K2 beneath me going back to him, so I spin down to 14.013.5 and call him there. Soon I am back on target. At 3:56, you finally hear him asking for EI2. I call a couple of times, but he still comes back with EI2, the best indication possible that other stations are just calling over the top of me, ignoring the fact that he is looking for EI2. But with a bit of persistence I am soon in the log. This one took just over four minutes, but I have been known to spend an hour (and more) chasing the rare ones.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

A very nice new addition to the shack!

I have acquired a very nice new addition to the shack equipment in the form of a German-made Scheunemann Morsetasten dual paddle. And it's a real work of art. It's also lovely to use on the fingertips. Here is my first QSO on the new paddle - with JR3IIR, Hiro in Japan. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

QRP portable on PSK31 - five watts and five QSOs!

The car at Red Mountain with the antenna on the roof.
This evening after work I finally got a chance to test my new portable set-up for real. Previously, I had only tested it in the main shack connected to my home antennas. But today I wanted to give it a REAL test. So I took the portable station in my car to a hill about two miles from where I live called Red Mountain, just overlooking Donore village in County Meath. I wanted to run five watts only on either digi modes or CW, running off a separate battery, not the car battery. I didn't know what to expect . . . or even if it would work properly, although having tested it at home I felt it would.

It took me a few minutes to get everything out of the box and connected up. Eventually I would like to make a proper "go box", but for now I have to connect all the leads and that's OK. It only took a few minutes. I was using the Watson Multi-Ranger antenna on the roof of the car. I decided to use PSK31 so I didn't bother connecting a mic to the radio, or indeed the K1EL keyer. All I had to do was connect the radio to the battery, the antenna to the ATU, and the Signalink to both the computer and the radio. Oh, and I used the new Icom CI-V interface so that HRD could read the frequency and mode from the rig.
Everything fit on the passenger seat. It was a little uncomfortable because
I had to turn sideways to operate, but it all worked very well.
With all that done, I tuned up and then started CQing on 14.070.85 using just five watts. I was chatting to a couple of the local guys on two metres also. After five minutes of Cqing there was nothing, so I was thinking I might change to CW, but all of a sudden a F5 station was calling me! So I successfully made a QSO with him. I finished, thinking how delighted I was to have successfully made a contact with five watts when a German station called me. I worked him too. Then an Italian called me and I logged him. In total, I worked five stations in half an hour. The last one was the best DX contact - into Ukraine. 
Working DL9KW Karl-Heinz on PSK31 with 5 watts.

It was great fun - and very rewarding. The location helped. The hill falls away steeply towards the east so there would be good take-off into Europe. I packed everything away into the EI2KC portable case with a smile on my face.

I'm hoping to do more portable work soon - perhaps with a couple of the local hams in tow. We could maybe bring a flask of tea and some sandwiches and biscuits and make a nice social event out of it too...

Just a couple of things I need to do for next time. I need to get better clamps or connectors to keep the power lead connected to the battery. I also need to get a shorter RJ45 cable to connect the Signalink to the rig - it's too long currently. 

EI2KC selfie . . . in the car doing QRP PSK.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Trying to work Brazil on 20 metres with 10 watts. Will I make it?

Above is a video I made last night of my attempt to work PV8ADI in Brazil on 20 metres using just 10 watts. Will I make it through with my almost-QRP power? Or will I be just too weak for him to hear? Watch the video to find out.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Video: Working Colombia (HK1MW) on 17 metres CW

Above is a quick video showing me working HK1MW in Colombia on 17 metres CW. I was running 350 watts at the time via the Acom 1000 linear amplifier into my two-element SP7IDX hexbeam.