Sunday, March 30, 2014

DXCC #306, Mellish Reef (VK9MT), in the log

It was always going to be tough trying to get VK9MT Mellish Reef into my log, today of all days. Why? Because today is Mother's Day, when traditionally mothers aren't supposed to do any household chores, and my XYL, being a mother, had a day off. I was on duty today for breakfast making and also for dinner, and myself and the XYL and family had to visit her mother and my mother, as well as a visit to my sister who just had a baby this week. So radio had to take a back seat.

However, sometimes luck is on your side when chasing DX (of course, sometimes it's not!) I had been trying VK9MT this evening, after dinner, for a short while on 20 metres, but his signal faded way down. So I gave up. Some time later, I got a message from Declan EI6FR saying their signal was good on 20 CW and that he had just worked them. He told me the split, and that the op seemed to be listening progressively up, so I went up a bit from where Declan had worked them and heard someone else giving them 5NN. So I went up a little bit more, and after just a couple of calls I was in the log!

That's DXCC #306 in my log, and I'm delighted. It takes the pressure off, especially as I will be working during the day in the coming week and will be unable to work them when their signal is good on the higher bands. VK9/M is 22nd on Clublog's Most Wanted DXCC list for March 2014.

I also managed a couple more QSOs with TX6G Austral Islands. I nabbed them on 17m CW late last night (23:25) and also early this morning on 17m SSB (09:27) and the total number of slots with TX6G is now 12. Previous to this dxpedition, I only had Austral Islands on two slots. It really is a top-class operation. Below are my confirmed slots with TX6G so far on Clublog:

 I have 12 slots in total with TX6G.
UPDATE!!!!!  I just worked VK9MT again on 15 metres CW at 10:17pm local time.

This picture will speak for itself, I hope!!

TX6G, Austral Islands, worked on 80 metres CW just a few short days ago, and now confirmed on ARRL's Logbook of the World. Need I say any more? Worked at half six in the morning with a compromise 80m dipole wrapped around my 30ft-long garden. Delighted is the first word that springs to mind!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

A new addition to the shack!

I'm sorry for the lack of updates this week. It's been a particularly busy week. Not least because I have been spending a lot of time installing a new addition to the shack. That addition is not a radio, but rather a badly-needed new computer!

The monitor for the new computer takes up a bit of space!
It's a Dell XPS 720, with a Quad Core processor at 2.4 Ghz, 4GB of ram, two 500GB hard drives and a Nvidia Geforce 8800 graphics card. It came with a very impressive 26-inch monitor (see picture), which has four built-in speakers for surround sound. I've had to create a bit of space on the desk for that!! I bought the PC secondhand, but it's light years ahead of my old Acer laptop (also pictured), which, although it has given me sterling service for the past eight years, is now beginning to struggle with all that I throw at it.

The PC is a birthday present. I hit the big 40 last Sunday and took delivery of the PC on Tuesday evening. As you can imagine, there is a lot of installation with a new computer, especially when trying to interface it with the radio and to get all the appropriate software installed. I now have Logger32 installed and working, and also have digi modes working with Ham Radio Deluxe.

On the radio front, I have had time for a total of ten band slots with the excellent TX6G dxpedition to Austral Islands (FO/A). I have to say that I find this to be an excellent dxpedition. The ops have very good ears but they also keep good discipline on the piles. The QSO that I would be proudest of is the early morning (6.30am) contact with them on 80 metres CW, which was both a great surprise and a fantastic delight. I also managed a couple of QSOs with ZL7AAA Chatham Island. I'm hoping VK9MT on Mellish Reef will be on the air today, and that I can hunt down my latest ATNO (All-Time New One!)

Right, I'm, off to install more software on my newly-acquired PC!

Monday, March 24, 2014

A lovely birthday present - an award from the IRTS

I received a lovely present yesterday (Sunday) for my 40th birthday. I was awarded the Sheila Piper Cup by the Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) at its annual general meeting in Galway. The IRTS makes a series of awards each year at its AGM, including presentations for winners of various contests and for other achievements. The society also honours radio amateurs for service to the society or to amateur radio.

The Sheila Piper Cup was presented to the Society by Jim Piper in memory of his late wife Sheila.  The cup is presented for service by an individual to the various IRTS news media, i.e. Radio News, Echo Ireland, EiNews, web site, social media. This year the cup has been awarded to yours truly, EI2KC. It was accepted in my absence by Thos EI2JD, who picked up the cup itself and a perpetual plaque, both of which are already inscribed with my callsign. Here is a photo of Thos presenting the trophies to me last night:

As you can see, I forgot to take off my 'Birthday Boy' badge which I was wearing on the occasion of my 40th birthday. Many thanks to the IRTS for this wonderful honour. Of course, I will continue to do my best to promote this fantastic hobby of ours, something I've always enjoyed doing.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

VU4K Andaman Islands makes it DXCC #305 in the log!

I've been laid up with a bit of a flu this past couple of days so radio activity has been limited. However, I am delighted to report that VU4K Andaman and Nicobar Islands is in my log, having been worked on both 12 metres SSB and also 15 metres SSB. That topped off a terrific day in which I also worked the TX6G dxpedition on three bands - 10m, 12m and 15m, all CW - and also on which I worked EP3HF in Iran on 10 metres using my trusty Antron 99 antenna, and ZL7AAA Chatham Islands on 20 SSB. Here is a video I shot immediately after working the VU4K on 12 metres:

As you can see, he had a decent signal on my hexbeam. I was delighted to work him. VU4 is 40th on the Clublog Most Wanted DXCC list, and although it was activated a couple of years ago I missed out at that time.

I've also managed to work the TX6G dxpedition to Australs on no fewer than six bands now, all CW. I only had two slots with this DXCC before now, and now only need it on 80m (and of course 160m). FO/A is 62nd on the most wanted list. I nabbed them on 20m CW this morning and you can see how strong they were in the video below, which was shot immediately after my QSO with them:

One other contact that I was really happy with was with EP3HF in Iran. Iran is even more rare than Andaman Islands, at 36th in the most wanted list. He was calling CQ on ten metres SSB but had half of Europe calling him. 

I didn't think I had much chance. I tried for a while on the hexbeam with no joy. Then I decided to switch over to the Antron 99 and try and, much to my joy and astonishment, I was in his log after just a couple of calls! What a great joy.

This morning I nabbed ZL7AAA on 20 metres SSB for only my second QSO with this DXCC, having nabbed it the other day as country #304 in my log.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

TX6G Austral Islands on 40m and 30m within 20 minutes!

I worked the British dxpedition to Austral Islands this morning on 40m CW and then 30m CW. 40m is a new band for me and I was delighted to hear them with such strong signals, and it was great to work them so easily, especially as they have only just begun their expedition. Here is a video I made just after working them. Excuse the voice - I am stuffed with a bad cold.

I also nabbed VP2V/SP9WZS on 10m CW and P29NO on 10 CW, both new countries on that band for me. That prompted me to look at my stats, and I'm surprised and delighted to see the progress I am making on HF.

All bands/mode: Worked 304 Confirmed 284
CW: Worked 296 Confirmed 264
Phone: Worked 267 Confirmed 222
160m: Worked 71 Confirmed 54
80m: Worked 141 Confirmed 115
40m: Worked 206 Confirmed 157
30m: Worked 219 Confirmed 168
20m: Worked 277 Confirmed 226
17m: Worked 273 Confirmed 210
15m: Worked 265 Confirmed 196
12m: Worked 248 Confirmed 181
10m: Worked 235 Confirmed 177

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

A few nice contacts on RTTY

KH2L's SteppIR antenna
For some reason I took a yearning to RTTY last night. I suppose I was a bit bored with all the CW and SSB contacts. I saw KH2L (Guam) spotted on 20m RTTY so decided to see if I could hear him. As soon as I arrived on the frequency I could see that he had a good print on the waterfall. He was working simplex, with a few callers. I gave him a shout, and he came straight back to me. Within moments, I was in the log, and I had a new band slot. I decided to hang around RTTY and see what was on offer.

A short time later I worked W1AW/7, one of the ARRL Centenary stations, operating from Arizona. That was 12m RTTY and I worked him with 30 watts. Then it was over to VY0/VE3VID on 20m RTTY, IOTA NA-174. He was calling "up" but for some reason was also working simplex and that's where I worked him. Before finishing on RTTY I also worked W1AW/8 on 20m RTTY.

Of course I could not resist changing to CW to chase 4S7LXG on 40 metres, where I needed Sri Lanka as a new country. It took me a while. He was very low and working a lot of EU. But it was worth persisting. This miniature dxpedition by a group of German operators is fantastic. They are excellent operators and have given me a number of new bands and slots. I now have 4S from 40m through 10m. Is an 80m QSO out of the question?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

A wonderful week of DX in fantastic conditions

It's been a really great week for DX. There aren't many dxpeditions on, but the conditions are such that the world is at your fingertips every time you touch the CW paddle or the microphone button, or indeed the keyboard for the RTTY macros. Here is a summary of the DX worked in the past seven days:

The 9J2T dxpedition to Zambia - worked 6 times so far.
JG8NQJ/JD1 Minami Torishima 17m CW; VP8CMH/MM Falklands 17m CW and 20m CW; KH6/VE7AHA Hawaii 12m CW at 9.10pm local time!; WL7E Alaska 12m CW - new on 12m, at 21:23; VK3TZ Australia 12m CW at 21:32 at night!; FK8DD/M New Caledonia 12m CW; FK8IK New Caledonia 12m SSB - my first ever phone contact with this DXCC; 9J2T Zambia dxpedition - total of six band slots; WL7E 12m SSB at 21:19 at night, a new slot; D44CF Cape Verde 10m CW - new slot; CX3TQ Uruguay 10m SSB - worked on the Antron 99 with 100 watts; 4S7DFG Sri Lanka 20m CW; HK0/UA4WHX Providencia Island - a total of six slots so far!!; ZL4IR New Zealand 20m SSB; CB3N Chile 20m SSB; FK8IK 40m CW - new country on 40 metres!!; ZM90DX New Zealand 20m CW; 4S7LXG Sri Lanka 15m CW - new one on 15; 4S7DFG Sri Lanka 10m CW - new country on 10m!!; ZL1/G0EHQ New Zealand 20 SSB - nice chat on SSB (YouTube video); RI1ANR Antarctica 17m CW; D44CF Cape Verde 12m CW - new slot;  A92AA 20m RTTY - new DXCC on digital modes; 9J2T Zambia 17m RTTY - new DXCC on digi modes; V21ZG 17m RTTY - new one on digital modes; ZL7/OE2SNL 40m CW - brand new country (number #304 worked!); RI1ANC Antarctica 17m SSB; OX3KQ Greenland 12m SSB - new slot, worked with Antron-99 and 100w; 5H2DK Tanzania 17m SSB; JT5DX Mongolia 80m CW - new country on 80m!; 4S7FRG Sri Lanka 12m CW - new on 12; YB4IR/P Indonesia IOTA OC-204 20m SSB; KH6CW Hawaii 12m SSB - new slot; ZD8RY Ascension Island 40m SSB; KH2L Guam 17m CW at 21:45 local time; JW7QIA Svalbard 80m CW.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

ZL7 Chatham Island in the log - DXCC #304

Chatham Island and the QTH of ZL7/OE2SNL
It's half past seven AM. Yes, 7.30 in the morning. And I'm sitting here blogging. Why am I not in bed, enjoying a bit of extended sleep after a busy week at work? I'll tell you why. I got an alarm call at 7.05am. And when I say an alarm call, I mean a phone call, the purpose of which was to wake me up!! That most persistent and energetic DXer, Declan EI6FR, had just sent me a text message, which reads as follows:

"Wake up!! zl7 on 7006.3 wrked up 3.5".

His phone call was merely a way of ensuring that I read the text. I was glad for the phone call, because I hadn't heard the text alert. I jumped out of the bed. I always find it funny how I'm so slow to crawl out of the scratcher when it's a work day, but if there's rare DX to be nabbed, I jump out of the bed as if it was full of snakes!!

Anyhow, straight down to the shack and immediately the equipment was switched on. When you're still half asleep it can be difficult to get everything right! Nowadays when something rare is on, the very first button to be pressed is the 'on/off' button on the Acom 1000 linear. That takes two and a half minutes to warm up, which can be the difference between getting the DX entity and not getting it. Then the power supply, then the IC-756PRO, and then the laptop. All in that order. Oh yes, must remember to switch the antenna selector from the hexbeam over to the inverted v dipoles.

As soon as the rig came on, I selected 40 metres and went to 7.005.3, but could hear nothing. So I rang Declan for clarification. "Are you hearing them?" I asked. "Yes, 7.006.3, up about 3". Yes Anthony. 7.006.3, not 7.005.3. I was still waking up!!

Franz OE2SNL
Going to 7.006.3, I could hear CW immediately. There was Franz, ZL7/OE2SNL, a member of the forthcoming ZL7AAA dxpedition who is already on Chatham Island operating under his own callsign with the ZL7/ prefix. I could hear that he didn't have a significant pile-up. He was initially working about 3 up and then dropped to just 1 up. By the time the linear was ready, he was moving back up. I dialled in 7.009.28 on the second VFO and began calling.

A couple of minutes later I could hear that sweet music. "EI2?" And so I sent him the call a few times. Then I heard "EI2KC 5NN 5NN K", so I gave him "RRR EI2KC 5NN 5NN TU" and he came back again with "EI2KC TU" and a couple of dits. DXCC #304 is in my log!!! Wow. An unexpected joy. And on 40 metres. What a great signal he had. He was lifting the needle, and there was none of that Arctic flutter one might expect from such a distant station whose signal was likely coming over the pole. My small antennas really can do the trick for me sometimes. The QSO was at 07.16UTC, during which time EI was already in daylight and the grey line had passed. I was glad to get him when I did. A couple of minutes later he announced that he was going QRT.

And now, at 07:41UTC, I am going back to bed to catch up on some more sleep!!

Friday, March 14, 2014

Look at this fantastic signal from New Zealand on 20!

This is a short video I made while working ZL1/G0EHQ in the North Island of New Zealand on 20 metres yesterday morning. Fred had a fantastic signal on my hexbeam. I managed to get through the EU pile.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Very strong QRM/interference on the 12 metre band

I recorded this awful noise on 12 metres this morning. It was obliterating all but the strongest signals in the CW portion of the 24 Mhz band. I wonder does anyone know what the likely source of this interference is? I have heard/seen it before, I think on 17 metres. It is not local. I have brought the interference to the attention of the Irish representative for the IARU Monitoring Service.

Update: I had a quick reply from the IARUMS. Apparently this interference is Over The Horizon (OTH) radar. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Working Bob on the Falkland Islands on 12 metres SSB

This is a short video showing me making a QSO with VP8LP, Bob, on the Falkland Islands, on 12m SSB. Band conditions have been really excellent of late, as this video demonstrates. 12m and 10m are often open after dark to North America, the Caribbean and South America. Bob is one of the gentlemen of the hobby, always a pleasure to work.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Doug EI2CN catches some great action in the ARRL DX contest

Here are a couple of videos showing my friend Doug EI2CN in action during the ARRL DX SSB contest this weekend. The first video shows him working the QSOs on 15 metres, and the second one is on 10 metres. Sounds like he was having great fun.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Hexbeam repair completed - back up and running

I fixed the SP7IDX hexbeam today - all by myself. I probably should have asked for help putting it back in the air, but most of the work could be done solo. It took about two and a half hours in total. I had to reconnect some of the ropes that hold the spreaders apart. Also I had to remove the snapped 12 metre and 15 metre wires and replace them. The hexbeam has taken a heck of a battering from storm after storm over the winter. The whole thing needed to be tightened up and the wires replaced. It now looks good as new again and is working great, as demonstrated in this video showing the signal strength of a YL special event station:

Below is a short video I made this afternoon of the newly-fixed hexbeam. It looks much tidier now than before. It had begun to look very forlorn, and was practically unusable. The weather this morning was very pleasant - bright and dry - although it has clouded over somewhat this afternoon.

Here is a photo which was taken during the repair work while I was on the shack roof:
The hexbeam leans over nicely onto the shack roof for easy access for repair./