Monday, May 27, 2013

Video: EJ7NET IOTA dxpedition to Aran Islands

This is a short video montage of photos from the EJ7NET IOTA dxpedition to Inis Mór, Aran Islands (EU-006). The video was put together by Gordon GM7WCO, who was one of the team members. I hope you enjoy it !

A bit of fun in CQWW WPX contest

John 9M6XRO, who I worked in the CQWW WPX contest.
I dipped in and out of the CQWW WPX (CW) contest over the weekend, but decided to leave the linear off. I stuck to 20m low power, and worked a total of 268 QSOs, a few on Saturday night and a bit more on Sunday. It was good fun. Highlights include working HD8A in Galapagos, also a VK3, a JH0, a 9M6, a BY5, a VE7 and a VP9. It did take a while sometimes to get through to the distant ones, but it just shows what 100 watts and a hexbeam can do! I don't take part in contests competitively, mostly just for enjoyment, and I had great fun with this one.
My claimed score is 86,240 and I worked 224 prefixes. Hope all of you who took part had fun.

PS: I worked HD8A on 20m SSB tonight, making a total of seven slots now, and I am currently the leading EI with the Galapagos dxpedition!

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Video: SV2ASP/A Monk Apollo on 17 CW

This is a short video showing Monk Apollo, SV2ASP/A on Mount Athos, CQing on 17 metres CW. I worked him with 100 watts as conditions were good. This entity in Greece has just one operator, Monk Apollo, who works from Docheiariou Monastery in Mount Athos, Greece. You can read more about him on his page.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Galapagos Islands (HD8A) is a brand new DXCC

The Galapagos Islands, from where HD8A are currently
operating. I've worked them as DXCC #291.
Last night, having returned from my sojourn with EJ7NET on Inis Mór, I was sitting looking through photographs from the dxpedition when my friend Ark, EI9KC, sent me a text message to say HD8A was on 15 metres CW. He knew I needed it as a new one.

Sure enough, I switched on the radio and turned the beam and I could hear HD8A on 21.013.5 Mhz, working split. I was soon calling him about 3 Khz up and, within a very short time, I was in the log! What's more, Ark made a recording of the moment HD8A worked me, which can be heard below:

This morning, HD8A were on 17 metres CW, so I put on a split of 6 Khz, and worked them within a very shot time. I'm delighted to get this new country into my log. I've had three new ones in the space of about a week - Turkmenistan, Norfolk Island and Galapagos. Yet again the SP7IDX broadband hexbeam proves its worth!!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

EJ7NET Aran Island dxpedition is now QRT

The EJ7NET IOTA dxpedition to Inis Mór, Aran Islands (EU-006), is now QRT. We have taken down the antennas and we also took the official dxpedition group shot, which you can see above. Unfortunately the HF bands were in dire condition today and not many contacts were made. We took a tour of the island in the afternoon and visited Dun Aonghasa, the dramatic stone fort on the edge of 100-metre cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. We worked 4,000 QSOs, including over 200 on 6 metres and a couple of hundred on digital modes, including JT65. Thank you to everyone who worked us, especially those who had difficulty copying us. There was very little QRM and all ops we worked were very well behaved. 73 from Inis Mór from EJ7NET - EI6FR, EI5IQ, EI2GX, EI7DSB, EI3HA, EI2KC, GM3YEH, GM7WCO, HB9DGV and HB9ASZ. QSL information is on our page.

Video: Barry GM3YEH changes bands on the "Iona" dipole

This is a short video showing Barry GM3YEH changing bands on his homebrew multi-band dipole, which he calls the "Iona" dipole because he first used it on an IOTA expedition to the Island of Iona. The bands are changed by plugging or unplugging connectors. It is a very handy antenna for small dxpeditions like ours.

We've had digi QSOs on PSK, RTTY and JT65!

A JT65 QSO with W1YIF.
We've endeavoured to try to work some QSOs on digital modes while on Inis Mór. Thanks to the efforts of Liam, EI7DSB, we had several QSOs on the weak signal mode JT65. Liam demonstrated extraordinary patience while using this mode, plucking out QSOs at a rate of one QSO every six minutes! He also enjoyed his first foray into PSK31, which he enjoyed thoroughly. Just now EJ7NET is active on 20 metres RTTY.

Band conditions have been such that we've tended to use more CW than phone, with reasonable success. We don't have a total QSO tally at this stage, but we should know tomorrow morning when we export all the ADIF files from the various laptops and merge them into one complete log.

Gordon GM7WCO on 17m CW.
80 metres has been very poor. For two nights now we've tried 80m phone and CW, with very few callers coming back. 40 metres has been much better, particularly on CW, while the bands that have seen the highest Q rate have been 17 metres, 20 metres and 30 metres. A sustained sporadic E opening on 6 metres yesterday evening lasted several hours and we now have well over 200 QSOs on that band. We are using a small halo antenna for 6m, and were heard all over EU yesterday, from Scandinavia to Iberia to the Black Sea.

A very short video showing Liam explaining a JT65 QSO.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Band conditions poor today, but 6 metres is open now

Tony EI2GX caught the only bit of decent action on HF this
morning with a stint on 20 metres SSB.
Just a quick update from Inis Mór from the QTH of EJ7NET. HF bands have been poor today, and seemed to take something of a nosedive. However, we have been compensated with a great opening on 6 metres, with CW and SSB contacts into many European countries from IO53DD. We hope to be active on 80 metres SSB this evening, following several requests from EI and G stations, so keep an ear out.

With poor conditions on the bands, some of us abandoned the shack for some exercise, with several of us taking walks to different parts of the island. Myself, Gordon GM7WCO and Dermot EI5IQ took a hike down to the beach to get some photographs of the sea spray. The heavens opened while we were there. Photographic efforts produced mixed results! Gordon and I then went to see a ruined 8th century church and the weather picked up nicely, with strong sunshine but strong winds too.
Rush hour traffic on Inis Mór . . .

As I write, I have been on 6m working a pile-up and now Liam EI7DSB has taken over and is still getting plenty of contacts thanks to a good opening there. Our chef Tony EI3HA made a beautiful homemade vegetable soup for us a while ago and has now begun working on our main meal of the day.

A beautiful night on Inis Mór

The lights from the mainland with stars and clouds last night.
Our ground plane antennas with the Moon and Jupiter behind.
Our cottage on Inis Mór under the stars in twilight last night.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Some action on 6 metres today for EJ7NET

We enjoyed two openings on 6 metres today.
We had a couple of openings on 6 metres today, one this morning at around 9am local time (08:00z) and another one which is ongoing at 7pm here (18:00z). We have made our first QSOs on CW on that band, having used only SSB this morning. There has been activity on 20 metres SSB today following the completion of the CQM contest. We did more 40 metres SSB too, including a call into the Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) news on 7.123 Mhz after 11am. We worked a good few EI and G stations on 40 during the day. 17 metres continues to be very active, with a lot of CW contacts made on that band in the past 24 hours. Some late night 80m CW was done last night, but apart from a few North American stations, the traffic was mainly from G and near EU.

We have just had our main meal of the day, consisting of roast
Tony EI3HA preparing our main meal.
beef, vegetables and gravy, washed down with red wine, courtesy of our chef, Tony EI3HA. Who could ask for more? We have an IOTA dxpedition in a thatched cottage with all mod cons, including central heating, hot water and broadband access, and we are eating like kings! I am getting to know the guys a bit better. The late night chat over a couple of whiskeys last night was very enjoyable.

I managed to find time to visit a wedge tomb and stone fort which are located on the hill not far from the QTH here. These are structures which date to between 3,000 and 4,000 years ago. It was quite dull up there and overcast, but when I came back to the house the sun came out....

I am impressed at how different things are here. There is not much vehicular traffic at all. It is quiet, and beautiful, surreal almost, and there is no pollution so we are breathing fresh Atlantic air. While I can't imagine living here in the depths of winter - what would one do with one's time in the driving rain (apart from ham radio) - I would say that the island is a great place to come to unwind and get away from civilisation. We do not have a television, so we're not really following events in the world all that closely. We do know, however, that there is a national bus strike on, but that's because some of us have had a peek at the news headlines online.

A bird's eye view of the EJ7NET shack. On left is Tony EI2GX working 40m SSB,
while on right are Rolf HB9DGV and Bernie HB9ASZ working 20m CW and 17m CW.

A couple of the guys are interested in photography. If we get a clear evening, we are going to try to get a nice picture of the QTH in twilight, or against the backdrop of the stars, if the weather allows it.

A wee word of thanks to all those - in EI and beyond - who have spotted us on the cluster or mentioned us on Facebook and given us a bit of extra traffic. Much appreciated.

Gordon GM7WCO (EJ7NET) working 40m SSB

A few pictures from today at EJ7NET

Declan EI6FR was up early today working the States and Japan on 30m CW.

Dermot EI5IQ calling on 12 metres SSB.

Our 12m and 17m ground planes, with sleeping quarters,, looking
northeast with good take-off for Japan and Oceania.

A couple of videos from the Aran Islands dxpedition

This is Liam EI7DSB working a 6 metre opening.

Choppy waters on the ferry on the way from Rossaveal to Inis Mór.

The Jan Mayen JX7SIX 6 metre beacon which was heard here yesterday (Saturday).

A great day on the bands for EJ7NET

It's the end of my first day with the EJ7NET team here on Inis Mór, and what a fabulous day it's been. There's been lots of radio, lots of chat, and some very nice food eaten, thanks to our chef, Tony Casey EI3HA. Tony cooked a beautiful spaghetti bolognese for us this evening which was thoroughly enjoyed by all.

Declan rescues our dipole from the jaws of the horse!
We had a funny incident when, while some of us were chatting outside, we noticed a horse chewing on the rope holding our multi-band dipole. Declan EI6FR made a quick dash to rescue the antenna rope from the animal before he was able to cause any serious damage!!!

On the bands, things have been good. 30 metres CW picked up from tea time onwards, with a steady rate being worked. 17 metres CW has been phenomenal, with a constant stream of Japanese stations, along with some US and some EU being worked, even at this late stage. I was able to grab a mic and give some EIs and some Gs a chance on 40m SSB which was thoroughly enjoyable.

You can hear some audio of me working on 40m SSB at this link:

Gordon GM7WCO operating on 30m CW
Above all, we have had great companionship. As the newcomer to this group, I have been made very welcome, and have enjoyed very interesting conversation about our wonderful hobby. The atmosphere here is nice and relaxed. There are ten operators in total, with three stations running, so there is no particular pressure on any one individual.

We hope to do some sightseeing tomorrow, including an ancient wedge tomb which is located not far from our QTH here. Right, good night all, from Inis Mór, Aran Islands, EU-006. Hope to work ye tomorrow!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

A couple of pictures from the QTH of EJ7NET

This is our cottage on Inis Mór. It's a spectacular location.
The QTH of EJ7NET on Inis Mór, taken this afternoon.
The view from the front of the shack looking at the Atlantic.

Arrived safe and sound on Inis Mór

I have arrived safe and sound on Inis Mór for the EJ7NET IOTA activation on EU-006. The ferry sailing was interesting - a bit rough - but I got here to bright sunshine and blue sky. Just as I entered the shack, which is located in a thatched cottage on a good elevation overlooking the Atlantic, members of the team were hearing the Jan Mayen 50 Mhz beacon, JX7SIX. However, apart from one QSO with a 6m station in Ireland, we did not enjoy an E opening.

Rolf HB9DGV working 20m CW
With the CQM contest on both CW and SSB, we are having a challenge finding space on the band for a 100 watt, small antenna setup. We have had a bit of action on 17m SSB, 30m CW and 20m SSB. On 17m, we have worked Alaska. On 30m, it's been mostly EU so far.

The broadband is a bit hit and miss, but I will do my best to give regular updates. The other ops are very welcoming, and our resident chef, Tony EI3HA is already working on our evening meal. The soup and wrap on arrival were just beautiful. It is doing a few showers here, but by and large it's sunny, if a bit cool and very very windy.

Hopefully when the CQM contest is finished we will get some action on 20, 15 and 10, but there is a solar flare incoming, so we will have to see how propagation plays out.

Friday, May 10, 2013

First signals heard from EJ7NET on EU-006!!

This is the EJ7NET dxpedition on Inis Mór (IOTA EU-006) tonight on 40 metres CW. All going well, I will be joining this multi-national team tomorrow afternoon. Hope to be on the other end of the pile-ups tomorrow night!!

I am told there is mobile phone coverage plus broadband at the shack, so I would hope to update this blog regularly from the island over the next few days, with video, photos and of course words. So keep coming back folks!

Sometimes the clock is against you in ham radio

There are times when the clock is against you in ham radio. Imagine the following scenario. There is a dxpedition on a Pacific Island that you need as a new DXCC. They are there for just over a week in total. Propagation is poor and they might be using small antennas and low power. Despite seeing other Europeans spotting them on the cluster, you are unable to hear them on any band or mode. You are fast approaching the weekend, when they will be winding the station down, and all of Europe will be on, calling them, and you won't be in the shack. And, with just minutes to go before you leave the shack to go to work on Friday morning, you finally hear them for the first time . . .

That, my dear friends, is the scenario that faced me this morning. I could finally hear VK9NT on Norfolk Island, on 12 metres CW  - the first time I had heard a decent signal from them all week. Many mornings they were either QRX or unhearable. Conditions were not great all week.

Norfolk Island, from which I could finally hear VK9NT this morning.
I saw them spotted on several slots, including 20m CW, 17m SSB and 12m CW. As it happened, I could only hear them on 12m CW. They were too weak on 20m CW to make out. It was 9.05am. I would have to leave the shack for work at 9.15am. I had TEN MINUTES in which to try to work them!!

The op was relatively slow, and was working a mixture of JA stations and EU. I knew I had a challenge on my hands! I had the beam pointing the right direction, the linear was on, and the split was set at up 2. However, on listening to the op's pattern, it became clear that he or she was moving up about 500 hz at a time and then, upon getting to about 4kc up, coming back down again. I heard "5NN TU" on the split, and moved down about 500 hz. I also slowed my keying speed to match the DX speed. Within a minute or so I could hear "2KC ?" I gave the call twice. Again I could hear "2KC?" - obviously I was being QRMed. Another couple of calls with "EI2KC" and I could heard "EI2KC 5NN" and I gave something like "QSL EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU" and I was in the log . . .

I didn't have time to celebrate. I had to switch off all the equipment, get my coat, and run to the car. It was 9.15am and I needed to be at the desk in Dublin at 10am!! However, I felt I could relax a bit. DXCC #290 was in the log, and I had all but despaired of working them. VK9NT on Norfolk Island - thank you. I am off to another island tomorrow, Inis Mór (EU-006) with the EJ7NET dxpedition. I hope conditions are good for that . . . both weather conditions, and band conditions!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

EJ7NET (EU-006), my first dxpedition

The hours are counting down to the start of my first ever expedition, to Inis Mór (Inishmore) on the Aran Islands, which begins this weekend. The EJ7NET team, consisting of six EI hams, two from GM and two from HB9, will be on the air for about five days from EU-006. Most of the team arrives on the island tomorrow (Friday), while I will be following on Saturday. It will be a 100 watt, small antenna operation, from the famous islands in Galway Bay. Hopefully, the weather will begin to improve some time between now and then!
Dun Aonghasa overlooking the Atlantic on Inis Mór.

The international team is organised by Declan Craig, EI6FR, who is a long established Irish DXer. We are looking forward to running some nice pile-ups, and of course I will be on hand to photograph, video and document the activation as much as possible in the coming days. So keep an eye on this blog for updates (dependent on mobile phone coverage!)

Many of you will know I have a major interest in ancient Ireland, having written two books on the subject. Having never been to the Aran Islands, I'm looking forward to visiting Dun Aonghasa, an Iron Age stone fort at the edge of the cliffs overlooking the Atlantic Ocean on Inis Mór. I may take some time to sample the local beer too HI HI...

Anyway, I hope to hear you in the pile-ups. We are there until next Wednesday, 15th May. If you hear us, don't forget to spot us on the web clusters. Our Islands on the Air (IOTA) reference is EU-006.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Turkmenistan a rare new DXCC on 20 metres CW

I just worked EZ8BP on 20m CW, a brand new DXCC for me, and quite a rare one. It's number 30 on the Clublog Most Wanted DXCC list, and there are, apparently, only about six licenced hams in that country. EZ8BP was CQing on 14.040, listening up 1, and to be honest I didn't think I had much of a chance because he had people calling him from Europe, the States, Japan and Australia. One VK3 station had a huge signal here. However, Vladimir was listening up slightly higher than 1kc, so I decided to call slightly above the pile-up on 14.041.5, and that's where he got me after a while.

He is a slow operator, but a good one, and before long I could hear "EI2KC 599" coming through the noise!! That's DXCC #289 worked here, and an unexpected one. I'm not sure whether EZ counts as DXCC, but I will send a QSL card to Vladimir and hope that he responds.

Now, if only I can nab VK9NT for another new one, I'd be a very happy man!!