Monday, January 31, 2011

South Orkney - once, twice . . . three times?

VP8ORK is the latest DXpedition on the HF bands, working from South Orkney Island, which is (sort of) between Chile and Antarctica way out in the ocean. Whoever said ham radio wasn't good for your geography? The VP8ORK team are mostly American operators, but the group includes a Canadian, a Singaporian (if there is such a word) and even a Tajik operator, Nodir EY8MM.

They have been QRV since January 27th and will be on the air, all going well, until February 8th. I thought I had ended the weekend with VP8ORK (DXCC VP8O) in my log three times, but upon checking their online log today I find that the 30m CW QSO I thought I had with them yesterday evening is not quite there. What do I mean by "not quite there?" I hear you ask, disdainfully?

Well, I checked for EI2KC and found I'm there twice - for QSOs on 15m SSB and 20m CW, but NOT for 30m CW. So then I searched the EI leaderboard on Clublog and in there I found EI2CC, which is possibly/probably my 30m CW QSO. Basically, they busted my callsign! And worse still, I didn't realise they did it! I'll put it down to lack of experience HI!

I tried them again this evening but they were weaker on 30 tonight than last night, so no luck. And 40m CW is just a mess. Here's some of the DX cluster spots which will give you some idea as to what's happening on that band:
VP8ORK   7024.0   31 Jan 22:40   K0DG   Veritable LID Convention
VP8ORK   7024.0   31 Jan 22:44   KE8G   Lids are out tonight!
VP8ORK   7024.0   31 Jan 22:37   NF9V   TNX FOR QRM DURING QSO

Need I say any more?

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Quick update: 101 countries worked on 30m, 197 worked overall, 95 AG eQSL

I am suffering with a chest infection which has inhibited my activities over the past couple of days but I am happy to report that I have broken the 100 DXCCs on the 30 metre band. A RTTY contact into Antarctica about six days back made it 100 countries exactly, and this was followed up by 1A, Sovereign Military Order of Malta, on 30m CW. (I also have 1A0KM on 20m and 17m CW and 40m SSB so far).

That makes 30 metres the fifth band upon which I have worked more than 100 countries. The others are 40m, 20m, 17m and 15m. Doing well. There is no doubt whatsoever that the installation of an inverted V for 30m by Tony EI4DIB has helped me significantly on 30 metres. So thanks again Tony.

Having checked eQSL early in the week I discovered I had an AG eQSL from PY0F, Fernando de Noronha, which I worked on 160 metres last year from Thos's shack in Clogherhead. That makes it 95 DXCCs confirmed by AG eQSL.

My total DXCCs worked is 197, so just three to go to get 200 countries in the log. Not bad at all.

I am off to try and recover from the chest infection. I am taking natural antibiotic in the form of manuka honey rather than those expensive and damaging ones the doctor prescribes. Hopefully the honey will work - it has done so before. Hope to hear you on the bands or see you on the waterfall.

PS: I'm not forgetting to mention CQ 160 which I have a limited involvement in but I will update you about that separately.

PPS: VP8ORK has EI2KC in the log, thanks to a late night QSO on 20 metres CW last night. That was another new country (South Orkney Island - southern Atlantic ocean not far from Antarctica). Keep an ear out for them on the other bands.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Amateur radio operators help NASA with spacecraft

Amateur Radio operators have been helping NASA by listening for UHF signals from its NanoSail-D spacecraft. It was initially believed that the craft's solar sail had not deployed in orbit but radio beacon data which was picked up in the past couple of days by hams in the USA and Canada have confirmed that the sail is actually open.

According to the NASA NanoSail-D website, beacon data is now being routinely received by the public throughout the world. "Telemetry now indicates that the sail has now deployed," according to the website.

Radio amateurs can help by listening for NanoSail-D's beacon signal on 437.270 MHz, which contains information about the spacecraft's status. If you wish to submit beacon packets you can do so at this web page, and you will receive a QSL card upon submission of your report.

See for more.

Let me know if you hear anything!!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Mauritania and Djibouti make it 3 new African countries

Following hot on the heels of working Cameroon for the first time ever last weekend, I am able to report putting another two brand new African countries into my log. Of course by new I mean I haven't worked them before. They're not newly formed countries or anything - they've been there for a while! :D

On Friday evening down in the shack of Thos EI2JD in Clogherhead I had the advantage of a 3-element SteppIR and 400 watts of juice. Oddly enough even at 5.30pm the 20 metre band was dead, even to the States. There was nothing to be heard anywhere - except for this one, solitary signal, on the CW portion of the band.

There, I could hear 5T0JL, coming up to a 579 and even a 599 at times. Jean, originally from France, is the ONLY licenced amateur in Mauritania, a country that I hardly even knew existed. After just a few attempts, I made it through the EU pile who were calling him, doubtless looking for that rare DXCC just like I was. I had a short QSO with Jean - we exchanged operator names and I told him I was located "nr Dublin". It was great to get him, a brand new country for me, and a rare one at that. So I came home from Clogherhead with a smile on my face.

But the story doesn't end there, because on Saturday I noticed a couple of African stations spotted on 30 metres CW. One was ST2AR in Sudan, who I have already worked on 12m CW, 15m RTTY, 17m CW and 15m CW and confirmed on the first three of those four slots. I nabbed him after a few calls, a new country on 30 metres. Soon after that I was listening in on J28AA, in Djibouti, on the same band. Within a short time I was hearing EI2CC (he had my call slightly wrong initially) coming back at me. I gave him EI2KC a few times and before you know it I had another brand new DXCC in my log and of course a new one on 30m.

So Cameroon, Mauritania and Djibouti all landed into the EI2KC log within a week. Nice.

Other highlights of the weekend include getting another new country on 12m during a CQ which surprisingly drew a lot of traffic. The band seemed to be open on Saturday morning. The new one was ER3DX - Moldova, bringing my 12m total DXCC count worked to 69.

Not all new DXCCs worked were in Africa either. I nabbed SV2ASP/A, Monk Apollo on Mount Athos, surprisingly easily on 17m SSB. He was working a 20kc split - calling on 18.115 and listening on 18.135. I nabbed him after just two calls and put another brand new DXCC into my log. I've never worked SV-A before so that was another great thrill.

On Sunday morning I put HV0A (Vatican City) into the log on 20m SSB. Even more astonishing was the fact that I got him on first call with my 100 watts and Butternut, beating a hefty European pile. Great stuff. I love when it happens like that!!

Interestingly I heard VK9XN on 30m CW but didn't have the time to sit trying to bust the intense pile-up calling him 1 kc up. But it was nice to even hear Christmas Island at all to be honest!

A couple of special event calls made it into the log too - PR150PLM in Brazil on 30m CW and DQ1175E on the same band and mode.

In the meantime, I have worked 5N50K in Nigeria quite a lot during 2010 - now he has lost the zero and is just 5N5K. I've just put him in the log on 30m CW (Sunday night) having worked him on Friday from Thos's station on 20m CW. A great op and always hears my call even when it's weak. I've recently sent Nikola a  card so I look forward to receiving his card back for numerous band slots.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hallelujia for TJ3AY - finally I get to put him in the log

It's been an interesting few days. While I have not been altogether too active CQing on the bands, I have done plenty of listening and tuning. It's actually very rewarding to scan the various bands. You never know what you might find. Indeed I have often said, as have many other more experienced experts, that listening is at least 50% of radio. Didn't some wisecrack once say that you have two ears and one mouth, and they should be used in that ratio? That certainly applies to radio. (No jokes about CW please!)

It was while scanning the bands on Saturday that I came across a strength nine signal on 15 metres, who seemed to be working a bit of a pile. Then I heard the magic letters and numbers, Tango Juliet Three Alpha Yankee. Cameroon! A new country if I could bag him.

TJ3AY has been very active lately on a number of bands, but has understandably been running some big pile-ups because Cameroon is no doubt a rare one for many. On the few occasions I have heard him, working him has been impossible because even on a 5 and 10 kHz "up" split, the pile-ups are still too big to break with 100 watts on a vertical.

So you can imagine my surprise when he heard me after just two or three calls on simplex on 21.210 USB. It was a short QSO - an exchange of reports and nothing else - but I did thank him for a brand new country. It was the highlight of a weekend in which I managed to nab a few interesting bits and bobs.

These included A45XR in Oman on both 40m and 15m CW. Oman was a new country for me on both those bands. I was disappointed but somewhat not surprised not to make it through on 80m CW over the course of a few nights trying. I even heard him on Saturday night starting his CQ on simplex and called him but he couldn't hear me, so I don't suppose he's going to hear me through a pile-up. Ah well, I will keep trying! Also new was YV4EH, Bill in Valencia, Venezuela. I had worked Bill last midsummer on 17m SSB and was delighted to catch him on 15m SSB where Venezuela was a new country for me on that band.

One other QSO of note was R1QAP on 30m CW. The station is based in a monastery on an island in a lake in Russia. Looks nice in his QRZ photo. The Monastery is alled Spaso-kamenny.

Here's my latest band standings updated since last time (previous update Nov 29th 2010):

Total DXCCs worked: 186

160M: 30 DXCCs worked (0 - no change)
80M: 79 (+7 Doing well here but need 21 to get to 100)
40M: 125 (+5)
30M: 95 (+13 Racing towards the century here)
20M: 138 (+3)
17M: 108 (+4)
15M: 110 (+9)
12M: 66 (+1)
10M: 35 (0 - waiting for some good openings!)
6M: 53 (0)
2M: 10 (0)

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Just when we started to get excited about Spratly Islands . . .

What is it about DXpeditions to islands with names starting with S?

First, it was Sable Island. The DXpedition was intitally delayed by faulty plane before being postponed from Winter 2010 to some time in spring 2011.

Now the Spratly Island (DX0DX) DXpedition is on hold. The team is awaiting clearance from Manila and are still currently in Palawan. Here is the update direct from the DX0DX blog:

7th January 2011

To the DX Community,

We are still in Palawan, VK3FY has been working very hard to secure final approvals over in Manila the entire week.

We now have our gear out of customs and are ready to load the container with provisions etc.

The toughest obstacle remaining is the final approval to make the trip, and we still do not know how long this may take beforea decision is rendered.

Logistics for some is a minor issue as many of us must check out of the current hotel and go to another tomorrow.

Chris VK3FY our team leader is arrving late morning and we will call a team meeting to adjust our schedule keying off any approval date which may be received.

Since the boat will take 2 days to reach the island, and we can fly there in 1 hour by plane, we cannot leave Palawan until we know our food and water is safely on Pagasa.

So as it stands

1. Get Approval 2. Load Boat (1 day) 3. Boat Transit (2 days) 4. Fly to Pagasa. 5. Setup Camps (2 days).

Basically, we are looking at 5-6 days from receipt of approval until activation.

Wish I had more definitive (and better news) news but that's where we are and Chris wanted us to keep "the deserving" in the loop as best as we can.

That is all at the moment, we will try our best to keep everybody updated on this situation.

DX0DX Team

Monday, January 3, 2011

Some super DX on 80m - Japan, Chagos Island and East Malaysia

I had a brilliant night down in Clogherhead last night (Sunday) at the excellent station of EI2JD where I had the pleasure of working 80 metres and top band (160m) CW on his nest of inverted Vs.

While the bands were not busy, there was some good DX to be had. I put out a CQ on 80 metres and at one stage had a bit of a pile-up going so I split QSX up 2. Out of the pile I heard 9M. Thinking this was only the middle part of a callsign, I called 9M? and he came back with 9M6YBG, which is a station in East Malaysia and a big deal for me because it's a new country for me on that band.

I had a bit of a QSO with him. His name is Go and he is over 11,500km away from Ireland. A nice contact indeed. Other highlights of the night included JA6LCJ in Japan which was another new country for me on 80 metres and also VQ9LA, Larry on Chagos Island, again a new country. Chagos is in the Indian Ocean. He went QRT after working me because there was no activity on the band. The fourth new country of the night on 80 was KP4, Puerto Rico.

I had some activity on 160 metres, but the pickings were slim. I did work a couple of North American QSOs on top band, including K8FC and W0FLS, who I can be seen working in the above video. The night's activities were broadcast live both here on the blog page (see bottom of page) and also on my page.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Happy New Year 2011 - or, as we say in morse - HNY !!

Happy New Year to all radio amateurs, radio experimenters, short wave listeners and Ham Radio Ireland blog fans. It's been an interesting few days, as much for the DX that I either could not hear or could not work as for the DX that ended up in the log.

One of the final contacts of 2010 was a major bolt from the blue. Frustrated at not being able to work some of the DX stations (including V5 Namibia) I hit 12 metres in the hope that there was an opening and gave a prolonged CQ call. What came back astonished me, especially as it was 559 and reasonably strong.

Dah dah dit dit dit, dah dah dit dah, dah dah dit dit dit, dah dit dit dit, dit dah dah dit.

Roughly translated, that is seven quebec seven bravo papa -7Q7BP.

Where in the world is 7Q? Well, it's a good distance towards the southern part of Africa. 7Q is Malawi. A new country for me, not only on 12 metres, but anywhere. He was the first 7Q in the log. Not content to just give him the old 599 GL, I had a good QSO with Joe and he told me he was using a Kenwood and I think a spider beam perhaps - I didn't copy all he said. I'm still a novice after all.  I told him it was 9 degrees and cloudy here in old Ireland. It was a great contact to get, and so unexpected. It made my day, and closed 2010 nicely.

A few more bits and pieces to report - I am up to 95 countries worked on 30 metres. The new V is working well. (Thanks Tony, sticky buns ordered!)

I worked A45XR on 17 metres CW - a new country on that band. EA6NZ was a new country on 30m for me and Karl went QRT immediately after working me so that was good timing! SV9COL Dimis on Crete gave me a new country on 40m, while CT3AS gave me a new band slot on 12m (CW) and then later the same day a brand new country on 30m. 9M2CNC, Richard in West Malaysia, gave me a new country on 15m in CW mode - thanks Richard for previous QSL card - now I will have to send another HI HI!! And then today CU2DX, Frank in the Azores, gave me a new country when he answered my call on 15m SSB where he was putting out a great signal and working half the world. Thanks Frank.

Some of the DX that didn't make it into the log:

H40FN - Solomon Islands - working Europe on 30m but I couldn't hear him.
UK/JA0VSH - Uzbekistan - again on 30m but nada here.
JD1BMH - Ogasawara Island - working EU on 30m (and other bands) but niente on this side.
VK6IR Steve in Western Australia was bombing in on 15m SSB and I shouted for a while but the EU pile-up was too big. Steve said he hadn't heard such great conditions in years. Next day he was on 12m SSB, where I could hear him, albeit faintly.

I am listening closely for two VKs who have been on 30m working EU in the evenings. No luck so far but I will nab one of them sooner or later - that would be a new country on 30m.