2011 CQWW DX CW Contest

Here are some photos of my station setup for the 2011 CQWW DX CW contest.

Final summary after the finish
Station setup taken after the contest (messy!)

I prefer to use two PCs with an interlock to using one computer only. This gives redundancy, in case of problem, and is easier for my brain to manage than trying to remember key strokes and software. My homebrew headphone switch in between the keyboards controls the audio, and I use one paddle that can be switched to the other radio by pressing a foot switch. Not much automation, but it fits my style. I am fortunate to have two computers set up all the time; one for work and the other dedicated to radio.

Spiderbeam + 40/20m vertical. The norfolk pine in the background was used to support a fan dipole for the 2nd radio.
Here is the simple fan dipole I used for 10/15/20 to compliment the Spiderbeam. It worked well enough and had good isolation which was most important.
This is my 40m vertical, with a parallel wire to allow dual band operation. I normally use this on 30m also, but had it cut for 20m for the contest. There are four Beverage RX antennas in the jungle behind the antenna, in a wilderness area of about 150 acres.
This is my 80/160m top loaded vertical. It is actually made of balanced feedline, with one side cut for 80m, the other for 160 with additional wire added for top loading to the 160m side (parallel dual-band vertical)
Close up of the top of the 80/160m antenna. The 80m side is an inverted L (all one side of ladder line). The 160m side of the radiator has extension wires added at the apex and end of the 160m side of the ladder line to add top loading.


C50C – zone #36 on 160!

Today is a holiday (Thanksgiving) and I should have slept in to rest for CQWW, however I was awake at my normal time listening on 160. After two days of poor propagation, conditions seemed to have improved. I worked a number of Europeans, including HB9AZZ who was a new country for me.

As soon as I got on, I heard C50C CQing, with very good copy here. They could not hear me, so I went up the band to CQ for a while and wait for a time closer to my sunrise.

One of my QSOs was with E74AW. Dado recorded the QSO from his end:

 KH2/N2NL from E74AW:

I also was recording, and here is how he sounded on my end –  E74AW from KH2/N2NL:

I worked a number of stations, then C50C asked EU to QRX and listened for DX – It was not easy – he had a difficult time copying me and there was some rapid QSB – but we completed a QSO for my 36th zone on 160m!

It is very difficult to hear my side tone when transmitting – sorry – I had turned it down this morning as one of my SO2R preparations for WWCW, so I can listen better on the 2nd radio while CQing.

They really have a strong signal here – the loudest zone 35 station I’ve ever heard from here on 160 (I’ve heard quite a few). This is a 9,000 mile path from KH2.

After my sunrise, they QSYed to SSB – they were still good copy, 10 minutes after my sunrise:

Good 160m conditions continue

I made sure to get on early this morning, about 50 minutes before my sunrise. Dave, A92IO had a good signal but unfortunately I was not able to raise him. Dave has high QRN levels in Bahrain.

After CQing, a weak OG2M calls in. I am not thinking the band is in good shape until I am told on KST chat that he was running 10w. Next, OH3XR calls in. Not to be out done, XR is running 5W, which is as low as his radio will go.

I turn on my recording software to record the opening. The recording is more than 40 minutes in length, so here are some clips I edited:

 LA3ANA calls in so he can hear himself recorded (no problem!):

 UA4CR calls in:

 S52AAM calls in, running only 10 watts:

Near my sunrise, I had the QSO of the morning – Ron, GW3YDX calls in, a new one for me. Ron lives in the most difficult part of Europe to work from here, aside from OY and perhaps TF (TF4M makes Iceland easy however).

 GW3YDX on 160m:

After our QSO, Vlad UA4WHX spotted himself (as SU9VB from Egypt). I believe Vlad runs only 30w into a dipole, but I was able to copy him somewhat. Unfortunately, I could not work him, for this would have been a new zone for me. Vlad worked a few stations then QSYed to 40m with some Eastern EU still calling, so I doubt he could have heard me even without a pileup.

 SU9VB working HA8BT:

By now, it was after my sunrise. Ron, GW3YDX QSYed to 80m for me, where he was also a new one for me.

 GW3YDX on 80m, QRMed by an IV3:

Finally, Jo DKJ2PH asked for a 40m QSO. You can hear the Chinese OTH radar very well.

 DK2PH on 40m, with BY OTH radar:

In all cases, I am listening on my European Beverage RX antenna. The antenna is just over 900ft long, and located in the jungle behind my home. I am fortunate to have no QRN sources near me in this direction – nothing but jungle and then the ocean – which allows me to hear *very* well in this direction.

The hidden road

Last night, while reading about the Liberation of Guam on the internet, I stumbled across a Marine map of northern Guam, showing the lines of advance during 1944. One thing caught my eye – a road was shown on the map, along the northwestern side of Guam, in between my house and Hilaan point! Was this the old road I had found the other day? I looked on Google Earth and found a line of trees that looked larger and older than the rest – lined up generally N/S – this might be it!

The arrow points to a dirt road that apparently existed during the war, but does not exist today

I headed back into the jungle to explore. First, I went back to the dump I found next to the sink hole, to see if I could find any whole watch mugs. Unfortunately, they were all broken, but I found a few other things, including a US Navy fork.

Broken watch mug and a Horlicks malted milk jar
Old coke bottles everywhere – all dated 1945
Some old radio parts, including old batteries and part of a variable capacitor

I headed deeper into the jungle, to intersect the old 4WD path which I suspected was the old road. I soon came across it, and headed north. Not more than 50ft I started finding old bottles.

I think this was a Japanese sake bottle. I found one of these whole before, however they have no embossing, and the paper label is long gone, so there is no way to know for sure.

I walk a little further – and bingo! I find a Japanese beer bottle, sitting next to an old military truck tire.

Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottle, as I found it laying next to an WW2 truck tire.

In some places, it was very easy to follow the old road. Apparently, it had been graded, and you could still see the dirt piled on on either side. Other places it was impossible to follow, heavily overgrown. I continued north, portaging around these heavily overgrown areas.

Another Japanese beer bottle, found off the side of the old road. This is how they lay – generally uncovered on the rocky limestone ground.
The road is very difficult to follow in some places
And very easy to follow in others

I headed as far north as possible, until I lost track of the road in the overgrowth. I was near the old FAA property, which had been cleared in the 1950s. These areas are now heavily overgrown with low bushes and trees, unlike the old growth in the jungle that is generally more wide open under the canopy of leaves. I made it back to the house, where I cleaned up my finds. Next – to head south on this road, and see where it takes me…

My finds – two DaiNippon beer bottles, a USN fork, and a coke bottle


Great 160m conditions today!

This morning, I had planning on sleeping in (Sunday) but woke just before the sun came up. I found 160m very quiet, and started CQing about 10 minutes before my sunrise. Callers were loud – the best signals this year – and I soon had generated a large pileup of Eastern Europeans.

Unfortunately, I missed a few Western EU callers – I hope to catch them over the next couple mornings.

I turned on my recording shortly after getting on the air:

This is a 9mb file, 20 minutes long.

Jungle hike

Prior to the 2nd World War, northern Guam was sparsely inhabited. Most people lived further south, in Agana, Sumay, and elsewhere. Northern Guam, being on a plateau surrounded by 300ft high cliffs that drop to the sea, do not offer access to the ocean that is available further south on the island. There were a number of ranches and farms spread throughout the area.

Following the Liberation of Guam in 1944, many Japanese soldiers went into hiding in these northern tropical forests. Over the months that followed, Guam was transformed into a huge military base and became the hub for operations in Okinawa, and the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands that never occurred due to surrender. Japanese stragglers were hunted and captured in the months leading up to the end of the war in 1945.

Much of the area surrounding my housing area has been untouched since the early 1950s. Pre-war farms and copra plantations disappeared into the jungle. Wartime roads and camp areas also faded away. Several roads still exist, however these are primarily left from the former Naval Communications Station between 1948 and the early 1950s, when operations were consolidated further north.

I decided to head into the jungle to do some exploring, using a compass to leapfrog from coconut grove to coconut grove, knowing that these were former areas of habitation.

One of many farms, reclaimed by the jungle. The coconut trees were grown to harvest copra in the pre-war years.

After only a few hundred feet of hiking, I stumbled across a real neat formation – an old sink hole, perhaps 35ft deep and 200 feet across. The ground here is mostly flat, so this was unexpected.

One wall of the sink hole is undercut, but no real signs of life other than the ground that has been rooted by pigs
Another look at the sinkhole wall, from the bottom
Pig skull found on the sink hole floor
I date this Olympia beer can to the mid 1960’s – most likely left here by a hunter

I decided to hike around the rim of the sink hole, knowing that Humans like to fill holes with garbage. About 3/4 of the way around, I proved myself right…

Many Coke and beer bottles scattered about, muddied by pigs who have a trail that passes right through the old dump.

I found a large area with bottles scattered about. All were WW2 style American beer bottles and old Coca Cola bottles dated 1945. I also found a number of white ceramic shards, which I later determined were broken US Navy watch mugs – handle-less coffee cups.

This is the underside of a watch mug, showing the Corning name and logo.

The most recent datable objects were the coke and beer bottles dated 1945, and a liquor bottle dated 1943. Because of the 1945 dates, this was obviously post liberation. I found no Japanese bottles, and headed deeper into the jungle.

You can’t tell in the photo, but this is an old 4WD vehicle path
The old road is becoming more readily apparent as I followed the path
The path eventually merged into the main trail, which leads to the opening of Hilaan Point, seen here
This is Hilaan point, heavily overgrown with tall grasses. The trees in the distance mark the old Japanese anti aircraft gun positions
These coconut trees led me to the Japanese bottles and US tray I found during my last hike

While I did not find any Japanese bottles today, I did find a few things of interest. First of all, I want to re-visit the dump site to see if I can find any whole Navy watch mugs. I didn’t know what they were until I researched them online, and they seem quite interesting, especially if I can find one whole. Also, I found an old aerial photograph from the very early 1950s that shows the trail I found was formerly a road – I would like to walk it in both directions to see if I can find something along it’s length.

More World War 2 finds

This has been the first week in recent months where it’s been dry, making for a perfect opportunity to hike through the jungle, exploring. I live on Northern Guam, with quite a bit of former military land just to my north and west. As a result, these areas have largely been untouched and undeveloped since the war. During the liberation of Guam in 1944, most of the heaviest fighting occurred on the landing beaches, Orote Point, and surrounding mountains. This fighting broke the back of the Japanese defense, so operations on Northern Guam were mostly limited to small skirmishes and rounding up of the thousands of Japanese soldiers who went into hiding in the jungle. In my area, I’ve found just a few areas with WW2 artifacts, generally in camp areas where patrols would be sent out to search for Japanese stragglers in the jungle.

I’ve explored the Japanese anti-aircraft site on Hilaan Point before, however never found much of anything. The site is located in an open area, covered with very tall grasses 6-8ft tall. It is easy to spot the actual emplacements, with rock filled barrels surrounding the gun positions, but I’ve been able to find nothing else in the area. I’ve looked in the jungle around the clearing, looking for signs of a Japanese encampment area, but without success. I figured the Japanese would have had a bivouac area out of the clearing area, for protection against US aircraft attack and naval barrage.

I’ve since learned a trick – Coconut trees don’t move uphill. Coconuts float, which allows the tree to populate island shores, however there is no way for the nuts to make it to the Northern Guam plateau 400ft above sea level without the help of people. There have been coconut trees located everywhere I’ve found stuff on Northern Guam. These were likely ranches before the war, where the trees were grown for copra. It would make sense that these areas should be where I looked first.

Armed with this theory, I went back to Hilaan and spotted a couple coconut trees on the edge of the clearing, not far from the gun emplacements. It did not take long to start spotting stuff.

Old coke bottles seen scattered about

Very little remains from the war – anything interesting was surely scooped up by American troops for souvenirs. Wood has long since rotted away, and steel has rusted away. Most of what I find are bottles, some ammunition, and a few tougher materials such as boot soles. American stuff is everywhere – the jungle is littered with American beer bottles, Coca Cola bottles, and other glassware such as medicine, talcum powder, liqueur, and other containers. Many these bottles are dated, which confirms WW2 authenticity. The coke bottles in the above image are all dated 1944, and are clear, not green. Clear glass was used during wartime, supposedly due to the shortage of copper used for coloring. There are so many of these “wartime coke” bottles laying around that I don’t even bother picking them up. Same with the beer bottles. I instead look for Japanese bottles, which are much rarer.

In addition to the coke bottles, I find a stainless steel serving tray, which struck me odd as I was not expecting to find such a thing. Thinking it was post war, left by hunters, I went to look deeper into the jungle.

Just to the left of the green bush, are some nice straight branches, perfect for clearing spider webs. But wait….

There are lots of spider webs around, so I reached for a branch to use to clear my path. At the last minute, I spotted something just a few inches from my hand which made me yell out “oh snap!” and jump back…

I almost grabbed this wasp nest while reaching for the branch!

I dispatched the wasp nest with my handy can of raid, and walked deeper into the jungle. Bingo! I find two Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottles, laying on the ground under a large hardwood tree that probably provided shade 65 years ago. These are clearly from the Japanese occupation; the Dai Nippon beer company was dissolved in 1949.

Two Dai Nippon beer bottles and the metal tray I found

I gather up my things and head for home. While walking around, I noticed some earth piles and depressions that were probably foxholes during the war. It looks like the coconut trees led me to the right place!

This appears to be some sort of WW2 munition unearthed along the 4WD trail by a vehicle; I didn’t touch it!

When I got home, I was able to clean up the bottles and tray. The bottles are a type commonly found on islands occupied by Japanese soldiers during the war, however these are the first two I’ve found – a new one! I still have yet to find any Japanese soda bottles. I’ve found pieces, not none whole – so I need to keep looking.

The tray turned out to be very interesting! It is actually a US military serving tray used during and after the war. The date stamped on the underside confirms the age. Apparently, some GI didn’t want to be bothered with cleaning it, so it got thrown away into the jungle where it sat for 67 years. Amazingly, it cleaned up perfectly – you can even see knife marks in the tray!

The tray cleaned up nicely – you can still see score marks left by the soldiers as they cut their food!
This engraving confirms the age of the tray


Beverage antenna maintenance

Last week, I walked my North American Beverage RX antenna with my son, taking him hiking in the jungle for the first time. He is always fearful of wasps, so I was gentle with him and only went where I knew we would find none, and also showed him some of the World War 2 stuff I’ve found over previous months. I did take a peek at the other antennas, and all looked fine.

A few days later, 7Q7GM came on the band, but I only was able to hear them for one CQ cycle right at my sunrise – something didn’t seem right – so I went back into the jungle to check. I happened to find two problems that ended up taking three of my four Beverages out of commission.

My four Beverages cross in three places – the EU wire crosses my NA and AF wires, and my AF wire crosses over the SA wire. At all junctions, I ensure the wires are separated by at least one foot, and cross at as close a 90 degree angle as possible to eliminate interaction. One problem was apparently immediately – my South American antenna broke, and the bare copper clad wire had laid across my African antenna, making contact. This was disheartening since my SA antenna passes through very dense foliage and I’ve had lots of bad wasp experiences there. In fact, since I installed the antenna last year, I’d not been through the area once, not really caring if it got overgrown. Now, I would have no choice!

First, I walked my European antenna, and quickly found that a large branch had fallen out of the jungle canopy, pinning the wire to the ground. This was an easy repair. All my Beverages “float” and are not pinned at the insulators. The copper clad steel is very strong also. The branch removed, the antenna bounced back into its original position, unbroken.

Home made Beverage insulators, fabricated from PVC pipe. They work well for my purpose, except that some trees grow very quickly requiring me to replace some after a year to keep the tree from growing around the insulator and wire.
Wild taro growing through a rusted barrel left from the war – this was about 10ft from my European Beverage but I never saw it until today due to the thick growth

With my European antenna fixed, it was time to do the inevitable – clear my South American wire and repair the break, wherever it was. Armed with my machete and wasp spray, I was off.

Very dense growth
The trees are almost impenetrable. The vines seen in the photo grow quickly, several feet in a week, and can only be cut with trimmers. The machete won’t slice them through! They make quite a tripping hazard also.
The trail is completely gone – I have to follow the fallen wire to see where to go

I found the break, which of course was very close to the termination. It looks like I allowed the wire to get kinked during installation, causing a weak point. Fortunately – no wasps! All antennas now are working – for now – and will hopefully stay up through the CQWW DX CW contest weekend. It turns out that I was never able to copy 7Q7GM, nor could he hear me – this would have been a new zone for me on 160m. I suspect the higher SFI is causing a lot of absorption on Top Band, especially along the equator. I’ve been able to work Scandinavia most mornings, so I suspect this absorption is worse on the southern paths. This may make my remaining zones on 160m more difficult to work.

New 6×2 antenna switch

A few years ago, I helped Mike SM3WMV out by shipping some electronic parts to Sweden. In return, he gave me a set of PCBs he had designed for a 6×2 antenna switch. This is a switch box that lets two radios switch between 6 antennas – perfect for SO2R. Mike’s design is as good or better than switches available commercially, with 70db of isolation or better between radios.

I finally got around to purchasing the relays and building the 6×2 switch. It works very well, and has replaced the rats nest of antenna switching I have used here for the past 16 months.

Underside of the relay board showing .01uf caps and 1N4148 diodes to protect the relays
Top of the relay board. The ugly strips in the middle are the back side of single-sided PCB used to shield the center row of relays to improve isolation.
Completed 6×2 switch showing wiring and the green interlock board. The assembly was mounted in a scrap controller box (free)
Underside of the 6×2 switch showing the connectors and wood frame I built to support it in the window sill where it will be placed