K3LR on 160m

I worked K3LR on 160m during the CQWW DX SSB contest last night. He was one of three signals I heard on the band – the other two were NQ4I and B7P, neither of which could hear me. I recorded this just after working him, right at a peak close to his sunrise. I listened quite a bit for W3LPL, KC1XX, and others but heard nothing. I did work them on 80m however.

 K3LR (N2NC, op) CQing on 160m during the CQWW DX SSB contest:

I am listening on my 1080ft long NA Beverage, with the K3’s NB engaged with a 1-1 setting. This and my east Beverages are noisier because they are pointed toward populated areas of Guam. My EU Beverage, on the other hand, has no noise sources between it and the ocean, only jungle.

TL0CW on 80m CW

Recorded at 1945Z, about 25 minutes before my sunrise and about 5 minutes after working Rudy for my 2nd to last zone on 80m. I am flipping between VFOs, his TX and his pileup.

 TL0CW on 80m at 1945Z:

This is a longer recording made right at my SR. Rudi actually peaked here about 2000z, 10 minutes before my sunrise. Unfortunately there is some more QRM on his frequency.

 TL0CW on 80m at Sunrise:

9BWAZ – big progress!

Thanks in large to the great high band conditions, I’ve worked 4 of the 14 zones I needed previously to complete 9BWAZ. During the Oceania DX contest, I took a break to make some QSOs on 12m after seeing that VE2TKH was active on packet. Steve called in with a good signal to complete 12m WAZ. We then moved successfully to 10m for my 2nd to last zone needed there. Thanks Steve!

All during the week, I stayed up late hoping to catch a TF on 10 for my last zone. Conditions to the UK were excellent, so I knew it was possible. Attempts to CQ were unsuccessful, because I quickly became inundated with loud zone 15 callers. Peter, OX3XR was also QRV in my mornings on 10m, but only sporadically. I contacted him via email, and Peter replied that he would spend more time on 10m the following morning.

On Friday morning, I saw that Peter was already active. I was glued to his frequency, not hearing anything as the minutes past following sunrise here. His callers kept building in strength; W8’s starting at 559 and quickly building to 599 +. As I started to hear him, he went QRX for dinner.

20 minutes later, he returned, and I had copy on him. He started by calling for KH2L, whom I did not realize was on frequency. I responded with my call, and received my 339 report. Following our QSO there were several callers, including KH2L who worked him next through those in NA. 10m WAZ complete! Thanks Peter!

Friday night, it was icing on the cake to work TF2CT on 10m RTTY, for a 2nd zone 40 QSO on 10m. This is the hardest zone to work from Guam on 10m, and proof that conditions are really back on 10.

The 4th new zone I worked came earlier in the week on 40m. I’d been chasing VO2NS who’s been very active on the band, spotted almost nightly. I saw him spotted again, Wednesday night I believe, and finally heard him. We completed a QSO to finish 40m WAZ for me.

With 10 zones remaining to complete 9BWAZ, here is the rundown of what I need:

30m: Zone 2
80m: Zones 2 and 36
160m: Zones 2, 10, 34, 35, 36, 37, 38.

With the potential of only having two more winters here on Guam before I transfer stateside, I will be pushing hard to try to shorten the list this low band season. 9BWAZ would mean a lot to me – more than winning any particular contest. I’m only here for a limited time, placing DXCC honor roll out of reach, so the WAZ awards would mean a lot to me.

Oceania DX CW Contest

Oceania DX Contest, CW

Call: NH2T
Operator(s): N2NL
Station: N2NL

Class: SOAB HP
QTH: Guam
Operating Time (hrs): 6.5

Summary:
Band QSOs Mults
——————-
160: 4 3
80: 4 4
40: 61 51
20: 1 1
15: 378 244
10: 408 250
——————-
Total: 856 553 Total Score = 1,330,518

Club:

Comments:

I had originally planned on putting in a full 24 hour effort, however delays in
a large project at work had me worn out going into the weekend. Still, the
contest started with a “bang” with great conditions on 10 and 15m. The 10m EU
pileups were such that I had to operate split, with a 1.5KC wide spread of
callers, many of which who were rambunctious, slowing the overall rate and
causing some frustration.

As good as the high band conditions were, I could get nothing going on the low
bands. I do pretty well on 80m, and when the W3LPL skimmer didn’t pick me up,
I knew conditions were really bad. Signals on 40m out of NA were pretty weak
with absorption and seemed to be arriving from a high angle so I couldn’t use
the Beverage to null the YB SSB QRM and BY OTH radar.

With the prospect of a very long night with no low band propagation, I made a
command decision to go part time and to have fun on the high bands.

10m rates in the morning into NA were just as good as the previous evening into
EU.

I’m glad that I made the decision to go part time, as it was an easy decision
to QSY to 12m during the NA run to try to catch VE2TKH in zone 2. He called in
to finish WAZ on that band, and we successfully QSYed to 10m for my 2nd to last
zone there. I’m now down to 10 zones needed to complete 9BWAZ from Guam.

Thanks all for the QSOS! Thanks also to a contest committee that ranks among
the best.

73, Dave KH2/N2NL

9BWAZ – current progress

Outside of contests, I have several goals I am trying to accomplish before I leave Guam, tentatively scheduled for the summer of 2013. I completed 9BWAS earlier this year. 9BDXCC will come with time, and should not be too difficult, however 9BWAZ would be the Holy Grail of awards to earn while here.

Below is a screen shot of the spreadsheet I use to track status. Red=confirmed on LOTW, blue=confirmed by paper QSL, and green=awaiting confirmation.

KH2/N2NL 9BWAZ tracker

As you can see, there are two challenge areas: Zone 2 on all bands, and African zones on the low bands. Zone 2 is hard because of the Magnetic North Pole and the auroral zone which makes the NE path from here into northern NA more difficult than the NW path toward EU. Plus, there is very limited activity from this zone. VO2NS is regularly active and I follow him on skimmer (Reverse Beacon Network). To date, I’ve not heard him on 40m. I did hear him on 80 last winter but unfortunately we could not complete a QSO. VE2TKH is also active, and worked KH2L on 10m last weekend. I’ve spent a lot of time on 10m making a lot of QSOs, but we just have not synched up yet.

Africa on the low bands is difficult not because of the path, but because of what I call the “European Factor”. Most DXpeditions to Africa are led by Europeans, and they focus on working Europe. When they do listen for Japan, it is generally well after my sunrise. Sunrise in Japan can be 2 hours after my sunrise in Winter, when the nights are longer in the northern hemisphere. I’ve heard all of the African zones on 160m, and usually quite well, but I just have not been able to break through the European pileups. It is quite frustrating, but I understand it is part of the game. This winter, I may see if it would be possible to make some skeds to complete these zones. I’ve received some positive responses from many; now I just need conditions and local QRN levels on the far end to cooperate so I can cross some of these off the list.

NA Beverage repaired

Well it took all week and seven trips to the jungle after work, but I finally figured out the problem with the NA Beverage.

It was not the switch box after all – it was working just fine even though it was flooded with water. Since then, I left the cover off, placed it on an old wire spool to get it off the ground, covered with a plastic bin and set a rock on top of it to try to keep it in place. This way, its out of the weather but open to breathe so water can’t gather.

It turns out that the problem was the ground wire coming off the transformer secondary. Once again, the pigs chewed it. I didn’t see it at first because the bare copper wire is brown and mostly invisible against the dirt. This simple problem cost me many hours of troubleshooting and about 24dB of signal. Yesterday I repaired the ground properly, and added a few ground radials to try to improve performance and reliability.

I also discovered why the feedline was kinked. No one tripped over the cable. I found a bite mark about 50ft from the feed point. A pig had bit the cable and tried pulling on it. The covering did not appear to be damaged, but I wrapped it in tape just in case.

I’m very happy now that this antenna is repaired. I should only have to walk three of the four Beverages once again before CQWW DX SSB. The fourth, my SA antenna, is completely overgrown but still seems to work OK. I don’t like walking that one because of all the wasps I found when installing it last year. I was stung a bunch of times, and I’m trying to avoid a repeat experience!

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!

 

JE1CKA visits

Last week, Tack JE1CKA and his girlfriend came to Guam for vacation. Tack is a well known contester in Japan and around the world. Unfortunately, the weather did not cooperate for him, but fortunately he was able to stop by for a short visit.

I’ve met Tack twice before. Once many years ago in Saipan during one of the KH0AM multi-op efforts, and again in 2006 in Brazil for WRTC. He and KG6DX are the only two hams who’ve visited my station to date.

40m verticals in the foreground, framing the Spiderbeam
Tack took this photo of my at my station. If you’re wondering, the large steel junction box behind me is the transfer switch between main power and generator backup. The bottles are all WW2 era I found in the jungle while working on antennas.
Tack took this photo of my at my station. If you’re wondering, the large steel junction box behind me is the transfer switch between main power and generator backup. The bottles are all WW2 era I found in the jungle while working on antennas.
Joel, KG6DX; Tack, JE1CKA; Dave, N2NL

 

African Beverage repairs

After a week of bad weather, we had two nice days over the weekend with low humidity. Perfect to go out and repair my African Beverage.

All my Beverage receive antennas are located in the jungle, on government property just on the other side of the fence from my housing area. Getting to them isn’t very easy – I have to ride my bike, carrying everything I need, about 1.5 miles to get to the feed points. I can’t climb the fence (topped with barbed wire), so I have to go out the front gate and ride around the fence line. It is a small sacrifice to make to have great ears on the low bands.

Because of the distance, I have to check and double check that I didn’t forget anything.

Items needed for today’s work

Today, I packed pliers, torch, solder, wire cutters, hammer, nails, homemade insulators, electrical tape, and 700 feet of #18 copper clad steel wire. This is along with the items I always need: long sleeve coveralls, gloves, sweat rags, bottled water, sneakers, branch cutters (for cutting vines), machete, and bug spray. This all gets shoved into a backpack. I need the sneakers since my bikes all have clipless (not platform) pedals that require special shoes.

Out in the jungle

Once in the jungle, I have to change my shoes, put on the coveralls (long sleeve to protect me from sharp leaves and bugs, and douse myself with bug spray because the mosquitoes are really bad.

When I originally put up my African Beverage, I didn’t have any of the copper clad steel wire I normally use, which has held up with no problems. Instead, I used what I had: #18 stranded copper wire with white insulation. The problem is that the wire sagged, and where it did, the pigs chewed it up. The black insulated RG6 coax gets ignored, but the white wire gets chewed to pieces. I suspect it looks a lot like the pig’s primary food source: grubs.

Lots of evidence of pigs – matted down grass and animal trails.
This pig wallow is under my European Beverage. This antenna is strung with Cu clad wire that hasn’t given me any trouble.
Here you can see the white wire has come down, and the growth I need to cut through to run the new wire.

I also had to replace some of the insulators, since the trees have grown in the six months I’ve had the antenna up. Stuff grows really fast here!

In 6 months, this tree has already grown around my homemade insulator. The sharp barbs on the leaves are why I wear coveralls.

Now, I have four working Beverages again. I’m ready to try to work the last zones I need on 160m – almost all are in Africa. It is not a difficult path, however European and Japanese pileups make QSOs with this region very difficult.

These monitor lizards live on Guam and are very territorial. This guy is checking me out from a safe height in a tree.
This one is about average size – 2ft long. They get much larger.

Phased 40m verticals

Over the last two weeks, I was able to complete my phased 40m vertical project. My original plan was to use the standard, 90 degree spacing, fed 90 degrees out of phase. I discovered the day after setting the 2nd vertical base that the house next to mine would be occupied. Since this 2nd vertical would be quite close to the house, I decided to rethink the array, going with 1/8 wave spacing fed 135 degrees out of phase. Gain figures are similar, however the lower feed point impedances you get with close spaced verticals means ground losses are amplified. 2 ohms of ground loss means a lot more when your feed point impedance is 15 ohms vice the standard 36 ohms, when efficiency is taken into consideration.

Looking broadside at the phased verticals, toward Africa

In my case, I placed the verticals in a N/S configuration. The beamwidth is wide enough to cover both Europe and North America. They are fed using standard published figures for the Christman Method of phasing – 157 degree delay lines to each vertical with a 39 degree delay line to create the phase shift. In my case, the actual numbers needed may differ, however I don’t have an accurate enough method of measuring complex impedances so I went with the standard values.

Looking North, toward EU and NA

Under each vertical are at least 40 radials (the older vertical has more). The white PVC sleeves the lower section of both verticals for safety reasons. My new neigbor has a toddler who likes to run around the back yard, including mine. The PVC increases visibility and should allow him to bounce right off the antenna uninjured should he run into it.

The below photo shows the switching relays. I built them into a Home Depot outlet box. There are no Radio Shacks here – and I don’t want to wait two weeks for a Mouser order to arrive. I’ve found that it is nearly impossible to keep water out of an enclosure, so I don’t worry about it. The stamped box works fine for shielding, and a bucket over the whole thing keeps the box and coax connectors out of the rain. The center relay is used to switch between the North and South positions, and the relay to the right in the photo shorts out the delay line for omnidirectional (theoretical 0.3db gain to the East and West).

Homebrew direction switching

How does it work? I won’t really know until the Oceania DX contest. Over the past year, I had a single vertical and a dipole. At no times was any antenna better than the other. I have to assume the 2nd vertical gives me something – even if less than nominal gain – unless I have serious ground loss issues which I don’t think I have. There is some interaction with the Spiderbeam mast. I see big F/B (24dB) on 4W6A who is almost South of me, but little change on stations to the North. My QSL manager, W2YC, seems to think I’m about 1/2 S-unit louder in the north position which does back the theoretical 3dB gain figure.