Wednesday, March 28, 2012

2 metre xy beam installed

With everything that's been going on in the past few days, including significant progress on my new book, I've had precious little time for radio. And that includes putting my new 2 metre XY beam through its paces.

Tony EI4DIB and Jim EI2HJB putting the beam up
I have had the beam plus rotator since last autumn but just never made plans to install it, so when Tony EI4DIB and JIM EI2HJB offered to help, I gladly accepted with haste. I had recently bought a length of RG213 coax for the installation as the XY is actually two beams in one - one with eight elements vertically polarized and the other with eight horizontal elements, all on the same boom. All I needed to acquire on the day was some three-core flex to run between the rotator and controller, some insulation tape and some cable-ties and we were ready to rock.

The installation took place on Saturday, the day after my birthday. As luck would have it, the sun was shining and it was dry, although it was a little bit cool in the morning time. The whole job took about three hours. We took down my Antron 99 which has been a brilliant performer on the higher HF bands for me. We will find a new spot for that in the coming weeks. The 6m dipole was also put on the stub pole as well as the 2m beam so it is now rotatable. The 2m beam has a folded dipole as the driven element on each plane.

When the job was complete a quick test was carried out using my IC-746 which puts out 100 watts on 2 metres, on FM, SSB and CW. We found that the SWR was flat across the band on both vertical and horizontal beams - phew!

Conditions have not been great on VHF since then so it's difficult to say how it's performing. I did hear the GB3ANG beacon near Dundee in Scotland a couple of times and made a video when it was at its strongest, which you can see below.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The conjunction of the decade: Moon, Jupiter & Venus

I ventured out this evening to have a look at one of the best conjunctions of recent memory, involving the crescent moon beside Jupiter, and above them Venus. I managed to get the MA5B minibeam plus my 5-el ZL special into the photo too!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A35YZ Tonga again - this time on 30m CW

Every morning, as you know, I take a little bit of time to scan the bands for any DX before heading to work. This morning, I saw A35YZ Tonga spotted on 12m CW and 30m CW, but was disappointed to find I couldn't hear them on either frequency. So I had my breakfast and a cup of tea.

At around 8.30, with only ten minutes left before I had to leave the house for work, I came back to 30 metres and could suddenly hear morse on 10.105, where A35YZ was spotted. Thinking this might be a different station, I sat and listened. The signal was very weak, not raising the needle at all, and there was lots of QSB and a bit of flutter. "It might be him," I thought, so I got ready to pounce.

My spot on the cluster after working A35YZ on 10 Mhz
Soon I could hear that it was indeed A35YZ and he was CQing quite a bit, which meant he was not busy. I selected 10.106 on VFO B and put on the split and gave him a call with 100 watts. Immediately I could hear what sounded like "KK" or "KC" and "5NN" so I gave him the call a couple more times and this time I could hear "EI2KC 5NN" and gave him my call once more followed by "5NN 5NN TU". And with that, Tonga was in the log again!

I suppose it was a lucky break. I have tried a number of times since that dxpedition started to get a listen to them but most of the time they are inaudible. However, morning time seems good for EI. I have now worked them on 20m and 30m, both at around 8 or 8.30 in the morning. You can see my cluster spot above, trying to encourage others to call him. Not many were hearing him though, because he sat for ages just calling and calling "A35YZ UP". He only worked one more station in the five minutes I sat there. See video below to get an indication how weak his signal was.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

It's Spring Equinox, and look at the grey line!!

There are only two times in the year when you will see the grey line running straight down the map on DX Atlas from north to south - the equinoxes. DX Atlas is a great little program for helping you find beam headings to various DXCC, and also for looking up DXCC prefixes. It's widely used by many dxers. I took this screen shot yesterday, on the Spring Equinox. This is the time when the sun is located on the celestial equator and day and night are of equal length.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The signal from Tonga just became stronger

A pathetic attempt at poetry, I know, but when your day starts with working a brand new DXCC in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that you doubted you might ever hear, never mind work, then you can afford to become a bad poet.  So here goes:

The ham's Pacific dream

I listened on the bands for days and days,
for a weak signal from a land far away,
when all hope had begun to fade,
I tuned up on twenty metres one day,
to find "alpha three" singing through the air,
with a signal strength not weak, but quite fair,
so I switched my antenna, and put on the split,
tuned up the amp, and on his QSX I did sit,
when all of a sudden, out of the noise,
I heard Kilo Charlie, on the key I did poise,
I gave him the call, and he came back with mine,
so I gave it again, and added five nine nine,
like a glorious echo, from the land of beyond,
I heard my five nine nine, like a beautiful song,
and all of a sudden, without much ado,
I had another DXCC in the log, and shouted "yahoo"!
Thank you my friends, deep down in yonder ocean,
for making my day, and fulfilling my notion,
that some day I would work such a faraway team,
in Tonga, dear Tonga, the ham's Pacific dream.

Below is a video showing the A35YZ signal strength on my Butternut vertical just after I worked them. If you like the above poem, there's something wrong with you!

Monday, March 19, 2012

A25 Botswana on three bands in succession

Today is a bank holiday in Ireland. Unfortunately, although most other people are off work today, I was working, as I do on every bank holiday. However, I managed to get finished quite early today and found myself, quite surprisingly, with time for radio. I didn't expect to be home until about 6 or 7pm but instead I was home at 2.30pm.

It was time that was not wasted. Within the space of a couple of hours not only had I worked A25 Botswana as a brand new DXCC, but I put that country into the log on THREE different bands. To say I'm pleased would be putting it ever so mildly . . . I was grateful for this lucky window of opportunity!

I managed to get a video of my QSO with A25KW on 17m CW on my smart phone. That's the one shown above. It was good timing I guess. I had worked A25KW on 15m CW on my Butternut vertical as a brand new DXCC, and then on 17m, and some time later I nabbed A25JR on 20m CW, also with my Butternut.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

EI80IRTS anniversary station in St. Patrick's Day contest

Here are a couple of videos showing the EI80IRTS special anniversary station during the CQIR St. Patrick's Day contest. Above is Thos EI2JD on 40 metres SSB and below is Oleg EI7KD on 20m CW.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Video: My first QSO on 50 Mhz in 2012 with OH6NG

The above is a video of my first QSO on the six metre (50 Mhz) band this season. I saw that there was some activity on the band on DX Sherlock so switched on the Icom IC-746 and spun the VFO and suddenly I could hear morse. There were two OH stations (Finland) on different frequencies. I called on this one and he came back to me. He was 569 here on my fixed dipole, which ain't bad at all. Last year my first QSO on 6 metres was on May 1st so perhaps this is a sign of things to come? Well, we can always hope! Below is a map from DX Sherlock showing activity on 6m, including my own QSO, at the time.

Some time before this, earlier in the evening, there were some strange band conditions. I heard EI4KF putting out a CQ but there was no audible tone. I listened as he worked a couple of G stations and they had no tone either. Whatever conditions were present meant the tones were not coming through. Indeed EI4KF was giving the G stations a "441" report indicating an absent tone. I never encountered that in my previous two seasons on 6m. Below is a short (and poor quality) video of EI4KF with the absent tone.

I should also clarify that I worked EI4KF before the OH6 station, so technically EI4KF was my first 6m QSO of the season, but OH6NG was my first "outside Ireland" QSO of the year!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Enjoying a tropo opening on 2m into England

As you can see from the above screenshot from DX Sherlock, there is currently a tropo opening on 2 metres and I am sitting here in a VHF net with some English hams, namely M0ASR Dom in Stoke on Trent and G0NED Eric in the same place. We are on 145.225. Conditions are good.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When ten metres is open, you can hear anything!

This is a short video of VK6LW in West Australia, taking part in the BERU (British Commonwealth) Contest, as heard on my 10m attic dipole and my Yaesu FT-897. As you can see, it clearly demonstrates that when ten metres is open, it is possible to hear very distant stations with very modest equipment. Let's hope this latest opening on 10m improves in the days and weeks ahead.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Finally made it through to 3C0E Annobon Island

This is a video showing the huge pile-up from the USA for 3C0E on 17m CW, at a time when his signal was massive into EI and other parts of Europe. I seem to have been plagued by bad luck during the past week with 3C0E. Every time I sit down at the radio to work them, they either QRX (take a break), QSY (go somewhere else), or start calling for JA or USA ! It has happened countless times this week.

And that is why I count myself extremely fortunate to have made it into their log this evening on 12m CW, thankfully. A while later they came up on 17m CW with a huge signal and after tuning the Acom 1000 and giving them a few calls I could suddenly hear "3C0E USA UP". Damn! What a run of misfortune! Every time they are strong they are not working EU. Or so it seems. The above video gives an idea of the sort of pile-ups these two guys are up against. Annobon is the 32nd most wanted DXCC and there are just two ops on the island. So I am grateful for one band slot. They are QRT (finished) on Sunday.

What's the chances of another slot or two?

Monday, March 5, 2012

I love the sound of CW in the mornings

I haven't been doing a wild lot of radio lately, with one thing or another. Some of you may know I am writing a book about Newgrange, set to be published in the autumn. That project is going to keep me very busy over the next six months, so unfortunately radio time will be limited. However, I will do my best to keep as active as possible nonetheless. I have been trying to make a couple of QSOs in the morning time, before going to work. I generally give a CQ call for a few minutes and try to put at least one or two callsigns into the log before heading down the road to work. Hence the above poster, based on the famous film Apocalypse Now, except I've changed the familiar catchphrase "I love the smell of nepalm in the mornings" to something more suitable for the hobby! Not sure how good Robert Duvall's CW is HI !Anyhow, hopefully I will catch you on the bands approx 08:00 to 08:30 UT on CW.