Sunday, October 30, 2011

Just made my 10,000th QSO, and I'm licenced two years today

The FT-1000MP on the frequency where I worked VK6DXI
I just made my 10,000th QSO on the bands, and to make that milestone more significant, I am two years licenced today. I received my licence on October 30th, 2009.

What a tremendously exciting two years it's been. I have thoroughly enjoyed the hobby, and despite having limited space and small antennas, I have managed to work the world.

The 10,000th QSO was with VK6DXI on 10m SSB, something that simply wouldn't have been impossible a few months ago. Conditions are wonderful right now. QSO 9,999 was ZD8O, also on 10m SSB, a new country on that band.

Here are my current standings:

160m  63 worked  39 confirmed
80m    87 worked 57 confirmed
40m   146 worked 95 confirmed
30m   150 worked 93 confirmed
20m   194 worked 122 confirmed
17m   170 worked 92 confirmed
15m   154 worked 80 confirmed
12m   146 worked 82 confirmed
10m   131 worked 60 confirmed
6m     55 worked 34 confirmed

Overall: 233 worked 180 confirmed

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Butternut back in action, and resonant on 80, 40 and 30

The new ground-mounted configuration
Following another recent wind storm in which the Butternut HFV6 was snapped again, I decided that I would reinstall it, but this time mounted in the ground. Because the short evenings have returned, the weekend is the only time this work can really be done now, so I tackled it today.

I found a piece of galvanise pipe which just happened to fit snugly into the bottom "mounting pole" of the Butternut, so I hammered this into the ground at the bottom of the garden using a lump hammer. If course this flattened the top of the pipe a bit so after a small amount of sanding I was able to slide the Butternut mounting pole down over it as far as ground level. Then the somewhat shortened Butternut (only about 3cm) was positioned onto the insulator and the Q Base Matching Coil was attached. I also ran one 25ft radial attached to the bottom connector of the Q coil. I know ideally I should have a decent ground system, but a small garden, coupled with the fact the Butternut is in a corner, coupled with the fact I have young kids, means that having wires running all around the garden is simply not practical.

Anyway, I did a small amount of guying work with 50kg fishing tackle, but will look at something more durable down the line. I made a couple of contacts on 80m and 40m after tuning with the FT-1000MP's internal ATU. But then I took it upon myself to do something I have not done properly before - to try to get the Butternut resonant on some of the bands!!

First I tackled 80m by adjusting the large 80m coil assembly to see if I could get a lower SWR somewhere in the middle of the band. As I use both CW and SSB it was not practical to flatten it at one end of the band or the other. I also compressed the Q Base Matching Coil significantly and this brought VSWR to about 1.6:1 on 3.690. Then I decided to try 40m and a small adjustment of the 40m coil gave me a VSWR of about 1.7:1 between 7.100 and 7.200. The SWR rises below this, to a 2:1 at 7.050 and 2.5:1 on 7.005. Not too bad, and nothing the tuner won't handle!!

Then it was onto 30m, where analysis found the Butternut was resonant on about 9.9Mhz. A quick read of the manual revealed that to raise the resonant frequency, the wing nut on the 30m coil assembly should be loosened and the coil stretched. This was done, although there was only a few centimetres available. I came back to the shack to find the antenna resonant without a tuner on the whole band (admittedly 30m is a narrow band). The VSWR reads about 1.3:1 over most of the band, but 1.4:1 at 10.100.

I later checked 20 metres only to find, to my delight, that the Butternut is resonant over the ENTIRE 20m band!!It is also quite flat on much of 15m, although it's 1.9:1 on 21.001 and 1.2:1 on 21.350.

Anyway, I am thrilled to have the Butternut back in action. Admittedly it has not had much use lately since the installation of the MA5B, and the Antron 99 is better on 12m and 10m where conditions have been great. But I have had nothing on 80m recently and missed a chance to work MU/PA9M on that band over the past few nights. So maybe I will nab some new ones on 80m again this winter. I currently have 87 DXCC worked. I would be thrilled to get over the 100 mark this winter.

In the meantime, I will let you know of any interesting contacts I make on the lower bands with the Butternut, which has seen over 20 years of action at various QTHs and is now on its third resurrection at this station!!

PS: Just ran a test with the Reverse Beacon Network on 30m. On the Butternut I was being received by TF3Y at 29dB snr and by KM3T at 9db. On the resonant inverted V I was 31dB with TF3Y and 12dB with KM3T. It's very marginal.

PPS: Worked Japan on 30m CW with the Butternut.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

EI2KC Anthony featured on The History Channel

I had the pleasure of being featured on The History Channel in the USA this week. I have written a book about ancient Ireland called 'Island of the Setting Sun - In Search of Ireland's Ancient Astronomers' and was invited to feature as a Newgrange expert on the popular series 'Ancient Aliens'. I can be seen from 11 minutes onwards in the above clip. Hope you enjoy! I suppose it proves that there's more to life than amateur radio!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Now they've busted my call on 40m !!!!!

I worked T32C on 40m CW this morning. They were very weak, just on the very edge of audibility, on 7.001.5 and I worked them up 1 but of course I couldn't be sure I heard my complete call coming back. This evening I find that EI2KC is NOT in the log but EI2CC is for 40m CW. Oh no, is this going to be another long-running saga?

I might have to get up early again tomorrow and try to work them a second time . . .

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The long-running saga continues: T32C worked on 10m again

I worked T32C for the fourth time on 10m CW tonight. So far they have busted my call three times. They have me in the log as EI3KC, EI2KM and EI2CC. I must admit that the QSB and polar flutter on their signal can be something serious. So it is not surprising, and I won't blame it on bad operators, that my call might not have been perfectly clear. Indeed I was not certain at any stage that I heard EI2KC coming back. On the third QSO I heard EI2 ending with C and it turns out they had EI2CC. So tonight I am hoping to finally get that slot in the log properly.

The first three QSOs were at 7.01pm local, 7.23pm local and on the second day 6.31pm local. Tonight was much later, at 7.57pm. They had been very weak, only coming up occasionally out of the noise, but all of a sudden I could hear "T32C UP". So I gave it a blast and got them pretty much first call. But when they gave me the "5NN" and turned it back to me I was careful to slow down my CW and send back "EI2KC, KC, KC, EI2KC 5NN". I am pretty sure they gave me "EI2KC TU" back but I couldn't be 100% sure, so this saga could continue to run for a while yet !!

UPDATE: I am in the log, finally, for 10m CW!!!

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Bad news - third time unlucky, they busted it again!

T32C does not have EI2KC in the log for 10m CW. They do, however, as of this morning, have EI2CC in the log for 10m CW. Looks like I will never get in there on 10m CW. It's so frustrating.

Friday, October 14, 2011

T32C and 10m - third time lucky?

Christmas Island
It would be ungrateful of me not to thank the propagation gods for significant lifts on 12 and 10 metres in recent weeks. Conditions have been fantastic at times, with lots of new entities making it into the log on those bands. I just recently passed 100 DXCC worked on 10m, standing now at 109. I am at 140 worked on 12m.

T32C, the Dxpedition to Christmas Island, has been a challenge but nevertheless I have them on six band slots and lots of EIs have made it into their log.

When I saw them spotted on 10 metres CW the other evening I couldn't resist a listen. It was grey line time here, just after sunset. They were there alright, fluttery and weak, but there all the same. They were working split. Within a minute of calling I could hear a very flutter EI2KC or something resembling it coming back through the murk. So I gave my call a couple of times and a 599 and heard 599 TU. I punched the air. A new and rare DXCC in the log on 10 metres.

But something was niggling at me. I hadn't heard my full call coming back. I heard EI and something that sounded like 2KC. So I decided to try to work them again just to be sure. About 20 minutes later I heard EI2 coming back again and gave them my call twice and a 599 and punched the air again.

The next morning I checked their online log only to find they had busted my call - TWICE!! I was not in the log for 10m, but rather there were two similar calls, EI3KC and EI2KM. I was gutted.

Just now, a short time ago, with the sun below the horizon here, I worked T32C for the third time on 10 metres CW. As usual he was split, listening up 2. Now I can't be 100% sure that I'm in the log properly this time, except that I know they asked for "EI2?" and when they gave my call and report it ended with "C" so I am keeping the fingers crossed.

Hopefully this is a case of third time lucky and not Murphy's law . . .

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Guatemala makes it 100 DXCCs worked on 10 metres!

It has taken a long time, almost two years in fact, but about five minutes ago I finally broke the 100 "DXCCs worked" target on 10 metres. TG9AGM in Guatemala was the 100th DXCC worked. I had been on 97 for the past week and needed only three more. Another of those was VK4CT in the Oceania contest. Australia was a brand new DXCC for me on 10m. It took me a while to get through but I got there after about 10 minutes trying with about 90 watts into my Cushcraft MA5B. A few minutes after TG9 I worked H77REX in Nicaragua, making it 101 DXCCs worked!

My DXCC worked total on 12 metres, meanwhile, continues to climb. T32C Christmas Island (also Kirimitati in native language) made it 137 countries worked on that band, and I managed to nab them on both phone and CW.

I look forward to getting more DXCCs into the log on 10 metres. Conditions have been fabulous on the higher bands of late, with 12 metres often open to the USA until 10 and 11 at night. So we will continue to try and harvest those conditions.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Two band new DXCC in the log!

Yesterday proved to be a successful day of hunting on the bands. I worked 3D2R on Sunday morning on 17m CW having spent about half an hour trying. 3D2R is a dxpedition to Rotuma Island in the south Pacific.

This was followed yesterday evening by T32C, Christmas Island, also in the Pacific, and also on 17m CW. They were calling EU and were very, very light, but I managed to get through after just a short time. I was beaming north with my MA5B.