Thursday, November 27, 2014

Update: five new countries on 80 metres in two days!

There is an update to my previous post! Last night, I managed to work 8Q7DV in the Maldives on 80 metres CW, although it was a bit of a struggle to be honest. I was first logged as EI2EZ, due to the persistent callers who never listened and QRMed me despite repeated efforts to get my call through. Not satisfied with the busted call (and with some encouragement from EI6FR!) I decided to go at it again. It took me another hour to get in again, and in all that time the signal from 8Q7 was quite QSB, so it was fairly readable at times and then quite unreadable. Nevertheless, I finally got in with EI2KC this time.

I also worked OD5NJ in Lebanon on the same mode, and to my surprise I found that I didn't have Lebanon on that band. So in the space of less than two days, I have five new DXCC on 80 metres.

I'm delighted with how the inverted v is performing, despite all its shortcomings. The important thing is that it's resonant, and that makes a huge difference.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Three new countries on 80 metres in 24 hours

I'm delighted to see that winter propagation is good on 80 metres. I've worked three new countries on that band in the space of 24 hours.

Yesterday morning I worked VP2EIM Anguilla on 80 cw.
Last night, to my great delight and with not much effort, I worked VU4KV Nicobar, also on 80 cw, battling against an EU pile.
And just now, this morning, I worked HC2AO/8 on 80 metres cw. You can see his signal strength in the video below. He was struggling to hear EU because of QRN and as soon as I stopped making this video he disappeared from the QRG. Lucky me!!

Monday, November 10, 2014

FT4TA Tromelin dxpedition is QRT. My thoughts

Members of the FT4TA team in action.
The FT4TA Tromelin mini dxpedition (I have to call it that, because there were only seven ops) finished on Sunday night, November 9th. I am glad to say that I have at least eight slots with them, with a possibility of two or three more. I reckon I have only the slimmest chance of being in their log on 30 cw. They were very weak and there was a lot of QRM. It might not have been my callsign that I heard. Time will tell. They have not uploaded the last three days' logs due to lack of internet on Tromelin, and are planning to do a final upload some time today (Monday) from Mayotte. As I said, time will tell!! I definitely worked someone using the callsign FT4TA on 15m CW, but a few of us who worked them on Thursday are not in the log. Is there a log missing, or was it a slim? There was also a 20m CW QSO that I am not entirely certain about, but I'm keeping the fingers crossed.

This was a tough dxpedition to work. Part of the reason for this is because they were a small team - seven ops running four stations. They managed over 70,000 QSOs in ten days. Not bad. Conditions for them were very challenging. When they tried to work North America only, the EU jammers would start causing deliberate QRM (DQRM). Mind you, the DQRM was there at many times when they weren't working NA/SA only, including the now famous (or infamous) EAHSYL, whoever that is. I doubt that they are even based in Spain, but their efforts to send what might be EA5SYL never work because they send four dits (a H) instead of five (a 5).

I am very, very glad to have been at the radio on two weekdays during this activation. I had a week's holiday and was in the lucky position to be able to call them on their first day of operation. Indeed, after just a short time trying on 10 metres SSB, I worked them on that Friday morning using my trusty Antron 99 antenna, a fibreglass vertical antenna that is also used by many 27 Mhz CB operators around the world. I worked FT4TA on a +39 Khz split. Amazing stuff. I also managed a QSO on 17 metres SSB that evening, meaning I had them in the log twice on their first day. But then the weekend came, and all hell broke loose. The pile-ups grew massively. The CW pile-ups were 25 Khz wide. The SSB pile-ups, in some cases, were 50 Khz wide. All the weekday workers were playing radio for the weekend, and it became almost impossible to get a QSO. By the most extraordinary luck, they QSYd from 20 metres SSB to 20m RTTY, and I called them before there was a big pile-up. I managed a QSO at 00:40 (twenty minutes to one in the morning) on Sunday morning, November 2nd. Happy days. Now I had three slots and two modes - SSB and RTTY.

I was fully sure that the pile-ups would start to settle down as we went into the Monday, but they didn't. The intensity of the piles remained, all through the week, right up until the moment they went QRT. This eighth-most-wanted DXCC, a small island in the Indian Ocean of Madagascar, was in huge demand around the globe. In fairness to the FT4TA team, they did make an effort to work different areas of the world. After spending the whole of each of the first few mornings working EU, they would then ask for NA/SA only in the afternoon. Incredibly, European operators started moaning about this on the clusters, asking such things as "why NA only" and suggesting that the Tromelin ops were favouring the US because that's where their sponsors were located!! And not a word about the fact that they had spent the whole morning working Europe only. There is an increasing belligerence among EU ops that I don't like. They want it all. They want to work the DX on the bands and slots that they need, without taking cognisance of the needs and aims of the dxpedition and other hams around the world. And when the dxpedition does something contrary to their wishes, they put up nasty comments on the cluster. It's clear that some hams need to grow up. And what about the usual request spots? Oh my god. If I see another "please 20m RTTY" or "Good time for EU 40 CW" etc etc, I will throw all my equipment in a skip and take up fishing. Do they think the dx ops are sitting there, in a shack in Tromelin, watching the cluster, wondering who wants what slot? I don't think so.
After the final log upload today, I find I have a total of nine slots, which is
fantastic. I am missing a 15 cw and 20 cw QSO. Who can complain?
I worked several more slots, including 10 CW, 17 CW and 12 SSB, all of which are in the log, but I will have to await the complete log update to see what my final tally is. I gave up chasing them at the weekend after they asked for slot chasers to stand by to allow people who needed it as an ATNO (All-Time New One) to call. But on Sunday night, I was informed that EI and G were working them on 20 SSB and as most of EU wasn't hearing them, I gave them a holler and bagged that slot too.

It's difficult to complain about a dxpedition. These are people who invest huge amounts of their own time and money to activate a rare DXCC for the benefit of the ham community. So I will keep my complaint very short. They kept disappearing from a band or slot without warning. Sometimes they would just say "QRX" and disappear for five minutes, or QSY somewhere else, or just disappear completely. This was bad operating, and very frustrating for the huge pile waiting to work them. However, given the small team and the huge demand for them, I sure understand why they would need regular breaks. They must have been exhausted.

It's wonderful to have this rare one in the log. In most cases, DXCC in the Indian Ocean are relatively easy to work from EI. But the intensity of the pile-ups and the unfortunate QRM and regular QRXing made this a difficult one to bag. Well done to the FT4TA team for seeing it through to the end. Remember, you can't keep all of the people happy all of the time. But you've certainly put a smile on the face of this operator!!!

Paul, VK4MA, has some very interesting thoughts also on the dxpedition.