Monday 19 July 2010

Great Weekend With DX

Weather in the Ottawa area was superb this weekend. BBQs and relaxing outside were the order of the day. Temperatures moderated to the mid-20s (Celsius) on Sunday. This necessitated some outdoor relaxation and a good book.

After dinner I started listening around 17 meters. There were a few signals but not a lot of DX. A few minutes later I saw the S-meter on the FT-950 hitting S9. A digital station was very loud; and there was a pile-up starting on frequency. It was 2330Z and usually at that time of day the band is closed. With little solar activity I was surprised by the strong signals on 17 meters.

pz5ra_1 The station was Ramon PZ5RA in Suriname. I had worked Ramon in 2004 and again in 2007 on digital modes, using my FT-100 in those days. I finally worked Ramon after 30 minutes using BPSK125 – makes a QSO whip along quickly. I kicked in about 12dB of attenuation because he was so strong on my Cushcraft R6000. About 10 minutes after the QSO the band dropped out – silence – not a signal. I suspect Ramon will be hanging around 17 meters since the band was in good shape for north/south propagation. Maybe we’ll get a repeat tonight and more stations will be able to work Ramon in Suriname.

Friday 9 July 2010

Late Night DX On 20 Meters

It’s out there. Last night saw me re-connect with Bill, ZL3NB in Christchurch New Zealand at 0437Z. His signal was 599 and his report to me was the same. There was some QSB but armchair copy using Ham Radio Deluxe and PSK31. My output was set to 25 watts and again this was using my Cushcraft R6000. That’s a distance of 8835 Kms or 14218 miles. Not bad for a low power digital QSO.


I had originally worked Bill in April of 2004 and I happened to be one of his first digital contacts at around the same time at 0358Z six years ago. It was nice re-connecting with Bill. He worked a couple of more stations after my QSO and then called CQ for a long time. It was time for bed knowing there was lots of DX floating around despite the low sunspot numbers.


Bill’s ham shack in New Zealand. The main equipment consists of a Kenwood TS2000 and TS530S (Classic setup with the VFO240 and SP230) along with a Ameritron Amp. Antennas consist of a Mosley TA33 tribander and inverted vee's for 80/40 and 30 meters.

I suspect there’s more DX at that time of the morning, rolling in from the South Pacific area – I just ran out of steam and had to pull the plug.

The steamy heat wave enveloping Ottawa finally broke early this afternoon with some rainshowers and thunderstorms. Temperatures plummeted to +23C and power went out for a few short seconds. It’s time to leave antennas disconnected and grounded before these intense summer storms move into the area. It’s good practice and could save you a bundle if there’s ever a lightning strike close by.

For more info on Christchurch go to:

Thursday 8 July 2010

DX Is Out There

There’s DX to be had on the higher bands despite the low solar activity. A few hours ago I worked UT3UA UT3UA, Sergey in Kiev, Ukraine. This was on 20 meter psk close to 1 am in the morning local time here near Ottawa (0441Z). Another, EV1P, Vlad in Minsk, Belarus at 2231Z on 20m psk. All contacts were using 20 watts into my Cushcraft R6000 vertical and my Yaesu FT-950. Signals were 599, good solid contacts.

I use Ham Radio Deluxe with the latest build – it fixes some lookup issues with I sometimes use the DX cluster clients but usually I just casually listen around the bands, even if they sound dead. ZL stations were booming in that same morning on 20 calling CQ with few answering his calls.

Beacons are another favourite method of determining band openings. My favourite and most up to date site is G3USF's Worldwide List of HF Beacons. Martyn is the RSGB Propagation Studies Committee chairman and does a good job of keeping his lists up to date.

In other news, Ottawa is still in the grips of a major heat wave. Temperatures south of the city this afternoon sit at +36C. It’s downright uncomfortable even in the shade.

RoswellDailyRecordJuly81947-660x464 July 8th is also a significant date for UFO enthusiasts. The Roswell incident happened on this date way back in 1947 – it’s still a controversial subject still much talked about on UFO and conspiracy web sites.

The Roswell Daily Record headlined the story “RAAF Captures Flying Saucer on Ranch in Roswell Region,” providing a historical artefact that, in retrospect, seems ready-made for fuelling an episode of The X-Files. The truth is out there. . . . and so is DX.

Radio Society of Great Britain

Roswell Incident Launches UFO Controversy

Tuesday 6 July 2010

Heat Wave – 35.2C (94.4F)

My outdoor temperature sensors (in the shade) are recording 35.2C at 1900z this afternoon. There’s barely a breeze but the humidity remains at about 50%. It feels like 40C according to the weather bureau. It is hot. It’s the second day of this heatwave. Late afternoon yesterday there was a localized cloudburst; about 5 minutes of cooling rain and I’m sure most of it evaporated quickly.

Toronto experienced a power blackout in part of the downtown for a few uncomfortable hours. I keep a supply of gas and keep the Honda i2000 gen set ready to go just in case. We lost internet service for 5 – 6 hours last evening – no reason given – it just went out with our provider, apparently right across the province. The weather gurus are predicting this weather for a few more days.

PropJuly6_2010_VE3MPG© The bands have been very quiet today including 20 meters. 10 and 6 had lots of activity yesterday but not a peep so far. I’m hanging out around 18.100 and 14.070 on psk modes today. The shack is at a comfortable 21C. I have a few projects on the go but haven’t touched anything  - the dog days seem to be here. Conditions might improve later this afternoon or evening.

I may set up the FT-817 on the picnic table later after dinner. The picnic area is about 350 feet away from the house in the very back of the property. The neighbours beef cattle often approach, from the other side of the fence, when I’m sitting back there. It’s nice and shaded, with canopies of old swamp oaks and a 70 year old elm providing respite from the heat.

Saturday 3 July 2010

Field Day 2010 At W6JW

I happened to be in California for this year’s Field Day. I had originally planned to participate with the Ottawa Valley QRP group but found that I needed to be in Sylmar California on June 24th. As it happens Murphy was out and about during my travels. I was to leave Ottawa Airport via Chicago with connecting flight to Los Angeles. Sure.

What usually takes about 8 hours turned into 29 hours to LAX. Thunderstorms encircled Chicago for hours and prevented departure from Ottawa for almost 7 hours – part of that was on the plane and on the tarmac. We were de-planed and then reboarded and finally left for Chicago after a lull in the massive weather system encircling Chicago. Ten minutes after departure Ottawa experienced a 5.0 earthquake. Murphy.

Arriving in Chicago so late I missed my connection to LAX. Finally a flight was announced, boarded the flight then sat on the tarmac for a couple of hours while another thunderstorm rolled in. Then the pilots walked off – they had reached their allotted flying time and a fresh crew was finally located but the storm continued unabated. The flight was cancelled. Murphy.

Another flight was announced for 10pm, pilots arrived and then an hour later that flight was cancelled – no flight crew available. It was close to midnight Chicago time and the airport was overflowing with travelers – all stranded due to weather conditions and our friend Murphy. The customer service lines were at least 4 hours long so I ended up getting a hotel in Chicago for the night and catch a 6:30 am flight out – Murphy – a late afternoon flight finally left and I arrived in Los Angeles a day late. Friday was a work day and we did finish a bit early and I had the rest of the weekend in the Santa Clarita area north of Los Angeles.© VE3MPG - W6JW Field Day 2010-2166sm

I had planned to participate with the Santa Clarita Amateur Radio Club and bookmarked directions into my GPS and it was only a short drive from my hotel to Castaic Lake Water Agency park high above Santa Clarita in the foothills. There’s a beautiful resource center and offices located at about 1500 feet elevation with beautiful desert type gardens. It was a very relaxed field day group and the W6 amateurs were great fun. Here are some photos – they tell a better story than I could ever put up here in print.

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WA6EWY’s trailer and rolling shack – the trailer has been once around the continental United States with his family, including twins about 39 years ago. His Volvo has nearly 300K miles on it. Next shot shows the operating position.

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© VE3MPG - W6JW Field Day 2010-2175sm A view of the W6JW Field Day operating site. Temperature at 11am was over 90F and very low humidity – so it was very comfortable; but the sun was very intense. Shade was a valuable commodity.

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W6JW Field Day exact location surveyor’s mark.

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Twin Honda 6500W gas generators – one as a spare – gasoline was stored about 100 hundred feet away – including 2 industrial fire extinguishers. The generators were located several hundred feet away down a concrete walkway facing away from the operator positions – very quiet.

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Field Day site surrounded by beautiful desert vegetation – there’s irrigation late in the evening here with water from the Castaic Lake area – see Castaic Lake information here.

It was interesting to see how other clubs in another country operate during the annual Field Day exercise – it’s really not any different than any of the Ottawa area clubs do it. W6JW and the Santa Clarita Amateur Radio club operated as an emergency preparedness exercise and not a contest – the true spirit of Field Day. Many thanks to the fine members of the Santa Clarita club for the nice welcome to their Field Day exercise last Saturday.