NA Beverage troubleshooting

Last weekend I noticed that my NA Beverage seemed very deaf. The noise floor was very low, much lower than the other Beverages, and it didn’t seem to hear anything well.

Yesterday after work I had an opportunity to walk the antenna. It was overcast and very lightly raining when I left the house, perfect weather for walking the jungle because it wouldn’t be hot and the wasps would be mostly dormant (they seem to be inactive in wet weather). What a mistake this turned out to be.

By the time I got into the jungle, the sky had darkened considerably, and the rain started to come down heavier. The darkness along with the heavy sound of rain in the leaves made the whole experience quite spooky. Add the sound of coconuts and branches falling, and my subconscious started to get the best of me.

Anyway, to the task at hand. The feed point looked fine, with no damage to the transformer. I had coiled up some extra RG6 at the feed point, and I could tell that something had tripped over the cable because one loop had been pulled into a near kink. This is odd; animals have not touched the cable in the year its been there, and how could a hooved animal trip over a cable that is laying flat on the ground? A human could have done it, but the area is very heavily overgrown and as far as I know, I’m the only one who visits this area (no human signs seen such as cut trees or foot prints).

Anyway, I started walking the Beverage wire, clearing some branches and vines that had grown over it.

Rain and overcast skies made everything soaking wet and dark

About half way along the wire, I came to an area where a large tree had fallen during a previous typhoon. It is a very cramped area, with lots of growth, and the Beverage wire passes right through. While in this area, I had the scare of my life. The rain was falling very heavily, to the point it made seeing difficult with rain falling in my eyes. I was cutting a vine when immediately behind me in the brush I heard a loud buzzing sound. It really sounded like a big arcing transformer. It was very loud and I instantly ran. What the heck? My first thought was that I had stepped on a bare HV power cable, but of course this is impossible. My second thought was that an electrical charge had built up on the wire, meaning a lightning strike nearby was likely. I never figured out what it was – but it truly scared me. As an afterthought, it may have been a large rhinoceros beetle that took off right next to my ear, because they can make a buzzing sound when flying, but I still get nervous even now writing this from my desk.

Anyway, I forced myself to continue. After all, the Oceania DX CW contest is this weekend and I would want the Beverage working. I made it all the way to the end, finding nothing definitive. I did, however, find that pigs had chewed through the wire leading from the termination resistor to the ground rod/radials. This essentially had made the antenna bidirectional. I fixed this, and headed home soaking wet.

Very heavy rain flooded the ground and made walking difficult

Last night I made a few QSOs into NA on 40 and 80m. It was apparent that I had not fixed the antenna. I struggled with copying the callers, and knew I had not solved the problem yet.

Today, the sun was out so I headed back into the jungle. The first thing I checked was the only thing I didn’t check yesterday – the remote coax switch box. I had discounted this yesterday because I keep the box in a well drained area, well covered. Regardless, I found the enclosure about 1/3 full of water. This must have been caused by long term condensation. This was one of the boxes I tried sealing before learning that on Guam, it is impossible to keep water out of things. I rewalked the antenna while leaving the box open to dry.

Water had flooded the remote switch box, and it looked like the NA Beverage connector had been covered with water, shorting it. Fortunately I used a sealed relay, and surprisingly the 12V did not short out.

When walking past the location where I had heard the buzzing sound last night, I discovered nothing. As I gave up and started walking away, I heard a loud rustle in the brush. I immediately yelled “piggy piggy” as I do when I come across pigs (thinking that if I don’t startle them, they will stay away from me). Turns out it wasn’t a pig at all, but a very large monitor lizard.

This is a big monitor lizard, about 4ft long
After I unintentially scared him up the tree, he gave me the stink eye

I suppose it is possible that yesterday I stumbled across a nest, and this lizard is what made the noise, but I don’t think I will ever know for sure.

I really hope that the flooded relay box was the problem, but I won’t really be able to tell until tonight. While walking the wire, the rain had uncovered a pottery shard. I dug around and found some pieces of broken plates. I brought them back, cleaned them up, and found a stamp on one. The logo states “Imperial Ironstone China” and “N.K. Porcelain Co.” There are some Google hits and the NK apparently stands for “Nippon Koshitsu”. It is likely that these are WW2 era as I found them in the same general area as the ammunition and Japanese beer bottles found previously. I can’t prove it, but as far as I know, the area has been largely abandoned since the immediate post war era.

Unfortunately, nothing whole was found. I’ll have to keep looking!