Thursday, December 30, 2010

An inverted V dipole for 30 metres

Signal strengths on the 30 metres band using my Butternut multi-band antenna don't seem to be as good as those on, say, 20 metres and 40 metres. So I took it into my head that I should construct a dipole for 30 metres. And, with my limited space, I immediately knew it would have to be a so-called "inverted V" variety. For the uninitiated, that's basically a wire antenna in the shape of an upside-down V!! Simple eh?

When I rang Tony EI4DIB, my "rigger" as Pat EI2HX likes to call him, and explained what I'd like to do, I could tell Tony was instantly fascinated and excited by the whole plan. While Tony doesn't do much HF himself, he loves setting up antennas for other operators, and does so with great enthusiasm and energy. He gets great joy out of seeing other operators get on the air, or get better radiation than before!

And so the plan was hatched. But there was one catch. Tony asked the question: "What materials do you have for this dipole?"

"Erm," came the hesitant reply. There followed a lot of head scratching on the part of EI2KC and soon I said with excitement, "I have wire!!!"

"Do you have coax?" he asked. "No," came the reply. "Do you have plugs?" he asked. "No," I said again, solemnly. The whole plan was beginning to look decidedly dodgy. "Do you have a dipole centre?" he asked. "Erm, no, sorry," says I.

Thinking the whole dipole idea was "out the window" as they say, I was surprised when Tony interjected, "Not to worry. I have a dipole centre, some coax and some plugs that you can 'borrow'."

He's good like that. So good, in fact, that Pat also calls him my "sponsor". Too right Pat, but Tony likes to be paid with plentiful coffee and sticky buns. Next time I'm in the home bakery I'm going to buy a whole tray of sticky buns for my rigger, Tony.

We got to work yesterday, Wednesday, and soon had the makings of a decent dipole. I used reconstituted wire from my old half-size G5RV. Glad to be putting RF through that wire again, I can tell you. It was my first proper HF antenna. We took the pole supporting my longwire down and attached the dipole and soon we were getting the leg lengths right. It's not perfectly flat on 10.115 where I wanted it to be resonant but it's a decent job and nothing the tuner won't flatten in a jiffy.

A test over the last 24 hours has proved that it is better than the Butternut, although only marginally. In most cases signals are about an S point or maybe two stronger than the vertical. Last night I could hear Australia VK on the inverted V although he was very weak. I couldn't hear him on the Butternut. I wasn't able to work him, however, because he had a big EU pile-up calling him. But nonetheless it proved that the antenna installation was a success and it did what it was supposed to do - to improve my RX on that band. And this morning, just to prove it's really working, I had a QSO with JL1QOC on the new V. And to top it all off I worked a SV9 (Crete) on 30 metres which was a new country on that band, bringing my total countries worked on 30 to 93. Just seven off the big century now. Hopefully Tony's latest installation at my QTH will help me get over the line.

Hopefully I will grab a photo or two tomorrow and put them on here to show you our excellent work. Thanks again Tony. I'm sorry to say I've lost count of how many sticky buns I owe you . . . !!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

My first ever aeronautical mobile /AM contact

I just made my first ever aeronautical mobile contact. I saw RV6LMG/AM spotted on the cluster on 14.164 and decided to give him a call. He was quite weak but within a short time he was asking "who is the Kilo Charlie station?" I gave him my call three times but he still had difficulty so I gave it thrice again and this time he got it.

RV6LMG/AM spotted on the cluster
I wasn't able to sustain a decent QSO with him, and he had quite a lot of people trying to work him, so I did not ask him where exactly he was flying to and from nor what aircraft he was in. A cluster spot said he was in an Airbus A320 35,000 feet above Russia!!

There are lots of firsts in amateur radio and that was a nice first for me.

RV6LMG is, according to, Sergey V. Sushko. Somebody who spotted him on the cluster described him as "Lt-Col.Retired" so maybe he's an ex-military man. I look forward to a QSL if there is one!

Friday, December 24, 2010

A Christmas Eve arrival - a QSL card from Nicaragua

This is the last update before Christmas! So if you're reading this on or before December 25th, have a very Happy Christmas and a Happy New Year and I hope you get plenty of nice DX into the log over the festive period.

The postman had one more delivery for me before Christmas. He arrived this morning, Christmas Eve, with a card from Nicaragua. The station worked was H74LEON, and the card confirmed QSOs on 20m CW, 17m CW and 30m CW. Nicaragua (YN) is a new country for me, bringing my total confirmed by paper QSL to 51.

Last week I received a beautiful card from 5V7TT, the Dxpedition to Togo in Africa. I am delighted to report that I have now confirmed Togo on 40m SSB, 30m CW, 17m CW and SSB, 15m CW and SSB, 12m CW and SSB and 10m SSB.

The photo above shows me with these two nice cards. The picture was taken by my first harmonic, who is ten years old, and a budding Short Wave Listener. I must go now - I have to make sure the antennas don't get in the way of Santa and Rudolph landing on the roof.

Ho ho ho . . .

Saturday, December 18, 2010

An interesting meeting at Newgrange

I had to go to Newgrange, a 5,200-year-old Stone Age monument in the Boyne Valley near Drogheda, early this morning to take photos of the sunrise during this six-day solstice period. I left Drogheda at 7am and called through the Dundalk Repeater to be greeted by Mickey 2I0MMT in Newry who kept me company for the journey. Shortly we were joined by EI6GHB John and EI7GEB David who were both mobile and it pretty soon transpired that they too were heading to Newgrange.

John EI6GHB and David EI7GEB at Newgrange for the EI0Z activation.
With the roads in hazardous condition after a snowfall, needless to say we were all taking our time but I wondered if it was just the early hour or had I heard correctly - THREE hams heading to Newgrange? Turns out that while I was heading there to take photos the other two were part of the EI0Z portable group and were heading there to activate Newgrange on the HF bands.

And so I get to write about two of my passions - ancient Ireland and ham radio -  in the same blog post! It was a beautiful morning at Newgrange, despite the snow on the ground. The cloudy start lifted and the sun shone into the chamber of the monument for a number of minutes and all who were in there were delighted that they had seen the annual solstice illumination. The passage and chamber of Newgrange are built so that the light from the sun at sunrise at the time of the Winter Solstice shine into the chamber interior. Given that Newgrange was built 5,200 years ago, it is truly remarkable that it continues to function today. Read more about this and all the other monuments and myths of Ireland on my website

I stopped to have a chat with the two guys before leaving Newgrange and asked them to get into a photo just for the record, and they kindly obliged. John reported that the bands were quiet but they were hoping that things would liven up a bit. Hopefully they did. Congratulations and best wishes to the EI0Z group who have so far completed a number of activations, including Slane Castle and the Loughcrew Cairns for autumn equinox.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

9Q50ON Congo was more difficult than Kermadec Islands!

I finally made it into the 9Q50ON log today, on 17m CW, on the last day of the Dxpedition. I cannot tell you how relieved I am. I have been trying for a number of nights without success on 30m and 40m and 20m but never made it through the pile-ups.

The Dxpedition is to celebrate 50 years of the independence of the Democratic Republic of Congo and was operated by a number of Belgian hams. Hence the callsign 9Q (Congo) 50 (50 years) ON (Belgium). On right is a photo showing the location of the Dxpedition in Kinshasa.

Anyway, this morning he came up on 17m CW and was louder than I'd heard him before. It still took me 30 minutes to make it through.

Ten minutes in, he came back with "2KC?" and I gave him my callsign three times but he came back again with "2KC?" and then after I gave him the call another three times he said "DL2KC?" and I got the impression someone from Germany was QRMing me. Before I knew it, 9Q was working someone else and I was left fuming at the fact that I had missed the boat because of the QRM. What made matters worse was that a few minutes later he appeared to QSY from 17m to another band and disappeared. Needless to say I felt pretty gutted. He could hear me, and was trying to work me, but someone kept calling over me and he had to give up.

Just before I left the house, I gave one more listen around the bands and when I came back to 17 metres, there he was again, calling CQ up 1, and louder than before! Within a couple of minutes I had him in the bag. The relief was palpable. A quick phone call was made to EI2JD (one of the local big gun DXers) and when he answered I gave a big "Yeehaw!" down the phone. His immediate reply was, "you got him!!!". "Yes," I said, "on 17m CW". "Well done," was the reply from the more experienced DXer, who, I might add, has 9Q50ON on SIX band slots!! Well done Thos.

According to the Dxpedition website, they have taken down some antennas and may be active around midnight tonight with a couple of stations. Too late for me, who has to work tomorrow. And because I had to spend most of the day out doing other things, I'm really glad that I got him this morning. Relief and joy!!

PS: I've just checked Clublog and there are 25 EIs in the 9Q log, not as many as got into ZL8X. Of those, 15 only have one QSO, so that's three fifths! I feel better now . . .

PPS: EI7BA has TEN band slots. How does he do it? (Congrats John!)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Bad news I'm afraid - CY0 Dxpedition further delayed

Maybe I should stop writing about it. Then it might happen. Sable Island is notoriously difficult to get to. Landing a plane there depends on a lot of things, mostly weather and the availability of a good pilot and a decent plane. Plane and pilot are now available to the CY0 Sable Island Dxpedition team (following a faulty plane last month) but now the weather is against them.

It is with a fair amount of sadness that I read this afternoon that the CY0 Dxpedition has been postponed again, for at least a week. Conditions at the "beach runway" are not expected to be suitable for a landing for at least another week. Sadly, this means the CY0 team have to put their equipment into storage and they are returning to the US mainland for a second time.

You can see a full statement relating to the current difficulties on the Dxpedition website. In the meantime, the following information pertaining to the challenges of landing a plane on Sable Island might be of interest to you:

We have experienced first-hand the challenges of accessing Sable Island. Sable is uniquely located in the North Atlantic where the cold Labrador currents and the warmer Gulf Stream currents meet. As a result, Sable is subjected to unusual and unpredictable weather conditions and the "window of opportunity", at times, for a landing may only be a few hours. Access in Winter conditions creates additional challenges. Anyone traveling to Sable Island must be patient. Conditions that must be met include:
- beach must be free of standing water and not overly wet sand
- wind velocity crossing the island must be acceptable
- ceiling must be adequate
- no icing conditions
- no fog (large problem during Spring, Summer, and Fall, but low problem during the winter)

 All I can say right now is "damn!". But not to worry. It will happen when it's supposed to happen. Those interested in rare DX are encouraged by the fact there is much to be worked at present, including 9Q50ON in Dem. Republic of Congo, ZD9T in Tristan de Cunha (if you can hear him!) and VK9NN at Norfolk Island, nearly as far as Kermadec.

Also keep an ear out for 5X1NH in Uganda, 7P8RU in Lesotho and OR4TN in Antarctica who was spotted on 30m CW earler tonight.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

ZL8X Dxpedition ends - roll on Sable Island CY0 tomorrow!!

Sable Island - DXpedition begins Monday (hopefully!)
It is with mixed feelings that I write this blog. The ZL8X Dxpedition to Raoul Island (also known as Sunday Island), the largest of the Kermadec Islands near New Zealand, has come to an end. The team of operators are no doubt exhausted and I can just picture them right now, eating a barbecue and sipping wine together before they leave Kermadec for the long flight home to Germany.

Of the Dxpeditions I've worked so far, which have included Iraq YI9PSE, Palestine E4X and Togo 5V7TT, I have to say this has been by far the most difficult, with the single exception of Con Co Island, Vietnam - 3W6C - with whom I made just one QSO (but one that I am proud of!).

At the best of times, ZL8X was only barely audible. I found them easiest to work on 40m CW, a contact which only took a few minutes. 20m SSB was difficult. I didn't even know they were there until Thos EI2JD called me on 2 metres to tell me. The 30m CW contact which I THINK I made today (emphasis on I think - only 80% sure of QSO), was perhaps the most difficult. I've been trying for days. Sometimes I couldn't hear him at all, and wouldn't call. Sometimes he would come up out of the muck, only to work one of the apparently billions of hams calling him in a massive pile-up. But today, as I said, I think I worked him finally. They usually update the log at the end of each day so I might not know until after midnight tonight whether I was successful or not. If I did get through, that would be three band slots with a 25-year-old Butternut vertical and 100 watts from my trusy Yaesu FT-1000MP. I did say before it started I would be happy to get them just once - so three times would be nice. At this moment in time, only 43 EIs have made it through. That's just one more than yesterday, and the lucky one was EI9KC, Ark, a follower of this blog. Congratulations Ark, well done.

But there's no time to reflect on what's passed. We have to look forward. With all the excitement about ZL8X, I forgot to mention another Dxpedition, ZK2A, Niue Island, which is now finished. I couldn't hear them on any band slot at all, unfortunately, but they have now moved to VK9N, Norfolk Island, not far from the above mentioned Kermadec Islands, so here's hoping!! For more information see their website.

In addition to the above DXpedition is 9Q50ON, a special event DXpedition to Democratic Republic of Congo, currently on air, running from December 3rd to December 13th. Right now I am listening to him through much QRN on 40m CW working a pile-up. Again, hope is a great thing! More information about the goings-on in Kinshasa can be obtained by having a peep at the 9Q50ON website.

But it is with great anticipation that I await the Sable Island DXpedition (see main picture above) which is due to begin Monday night at 2100 UTC. Because it's in the Atlantic, east of the States, I would hope (and I stress hope!) that it will be a lot easier to bag than ZL8X. With any luck I might just nab them on perhaps 12 metres or 10 metres, so here's hoping. This is a much smaller DXpedition than Kermadec, so they won't be on as many band slots simultaneously, but we'll keep our fingers crossed that things get under way on time, especially as the event has already been delayed by a month due to a faulty plane. For updates, keep an eye on the CY0 DXpedition website.

Here are their planned operating frequencies:

1.826 up (down for JA)
1.843 up

3.523 (up or down)

3.585 up

3.781 up (and JA window)

7.023 up
7.135 up or down
7.050 up or down

10.106 up

10.140 down
14.023 up
14.130 up
14.190 (alternate)
14.080 down
18.072 up
18.145 up
18.108 down
21.023 up
21.295 up
21.089 up
24.892 up
24.945 up

28.023 up
28.450 up
28.089 up
50.090 up
50.125 (listening freq.)

It's unlikely that we will hear them on 6 metres hi hi, but one can always hope!!

In the meantime, we wish N0TG/CY0 Randy, AA4VK/CY0 Ron and WA4DAN/CY0 Murray all the best for the DXpedition and we hope they hear us in the pile-ups!

Vy 73 and best DX to all of you from Ireland.
EI2KC Anthony.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Yeeeessssss!! - EI2KC makes it into ZL8X log - TWICE!!

When the Kermadec Island Dxpedition began on November 19th, I knew it would be a tough battle to get into their logbook. This is partly because of the huge distance to Kermadec, which is 1000km northeast of New Zealand. It's 10,700 miles (17,200km) on the short path (if you have a beam!) The second reason is my humble setup, the 100 watts and a Butternut vertical.

As luck would have it I have been stuck at home for three days due to heavy snowfall which has made it difficult to drive anywhere. This is very unusual for Ireland, but the fact that I am working for home put me in front of the radio at times when I would otherwise be in the office.

One such time was around 4.30pm yesterday, when as it just so happened that both Ireland and Kermadec Island were on the so-called "grey line". It was sunrise there and sunset here. After some shouting, I managed to nab them on 20 metres SSB. Quite an achievement. Didn't expect to make it into their log at all, but to get in on phone was quite rewarding. I haven't even been able to hear them on most bands at any given time of day or night.

But this morning at 9.25am, having been trying for a while, I managed to work ZL8X on 40m CW as well, making it two band slots. That's their 40m four square in the picture above. It goes without saying that I was over the moon. My 20m SSB QSO has been confirmed on their online log. I hope to see 40m CW in there tomorrow morning after their once-a-day log update.

I'm so thrilled, really. At this moment, there are only 32 EIs who have made it into the ZL8X log. This compares with hundreds of G, GW and GM stations. Congrats to EI7BA, John, in Cork, who has made NINE band slots!!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

This is utterly fascinating - a German radio amateur (DK6NP) heard echoes of his own call 46 seconds after TX

I am bringing you this from the website It is a story about a German radio amateur, Peter Brogl, who heard echoes of his own CW transmissions on 40 metres - FORTY SIX SECONDS after they were sent. There are some recordings also which I have linked at the bottom. Really fascinating stuff.

LONG-DELAY RADIO ECHOES: During the geomagnetic storm of Nov. 27th, a brief but intense G2-class event, amateur radio operator Peter Brogl of Fürth, Germany, experienced a strange phenomenon. Forty-six seconds after he transmitted his call sign at 7 MHz, he received an echo of his own transmission. "At first, I thought someone was playing tricks on me," says Brogl, "but I changed frequency, re-keyed my call sign (DK6NP), and got another echo." This went on for more than an hour, enough time for Brogl to make several recordings. First reported in 1927 by Norwegian civil engineer Jørgen Hals, long-delay radio echoes are rare and poorly understood. Unusual propagation conditions linked to solar storms is one of many possible explanations. Radio operators, if you experienced any similar phenomena on Nov. 27th between 1800 UT and 19:30 UT, please report your observations to Peter Brogl for correlation.

Click here to hear the audio files of the strange echoes

Wikipedia page about long delay echoes
Possible explanations of long delay echoes