Jungle exploring again

I have been taking a break from radio – at least the antenna building aspect – and other than DXing on 160 and 80m I have been playing around with other hobbies. I absolutely love exploring the jungle and looking for WW2 remnants, and since it is now the dry season, the weather is ideal for it.

Of course today it was rainy but I still went out anyway. Bringing my Nexus tablet and its GPS functionality, I can record my tracks and hike to waypoints I have made with Google Earth. This allows me to explore areas deeper in the jungle than I’ve been to before.

Today’s trip was to an area I’ve visited many times before, but this time I went further back into an area that looked promising on Google Earth. First I wanted to locate a piece of UXO (unexploded ordnance) and mark it’s position so it can be properly disposed of by the Navy’s EOD.

This is an unexploded 75mm round, probably from a Marine pack howitzer. The screw device to the left is part of the fuse mechanism.

Once I had marked the position of the UXO, I headed deeper into the jungle, into new territory for me. It did not take long to start finding stuff.

Smashed American 75MM pack howitzer shell casing
More 75mm shell casings

Interestingly, I did not find any other American WW2 debris around – no American bottles or anything else for that matter. Likely this was an artillery position set up quickly during the liberation of Guam in early August as the front lines pushed northwards.

Further in, I started finding Japanese bottles.

Dai Nippon beer bottle
More Japanese Dai Nippon beer bottles

I also found a number of dug out areas in the ground. About 20ft in diameter and 4-5 feet deep, these looked to be Japanese defensive positions. They were too neat to be bomb craters, and were not dug by American bulldozers. This was probably to be a Japanese anti aircraft position.

One of several gun pits, now overgrown with brush
Another of the defensive positions. This one is filled with coconuts and coconut trees, making it hard to see in the image.

All around these positions are scattered Japanese beer bottles.

Bottles are scattered in ones and twos all around randomly
The 18 signifies year of manufacture on the Dai Nippon bottles (Year of the Showa). 18=1943

The fact that I found only Japanese and no American bottles tells me this was a Japanese position. It is quite likely that these defensive positions were dug for 25MM anti aircraft cannon, based on the size and depth of the pits. Whether or not cannon were ever empaced here, I don’t know. I looked in some of the pits but found nothing. Due to the heavy growth, it’s difficult to see more than 10 or 15ft in any direction. I’ll definitely have to come back out here and explore some more!

 

Stew Perry contest

I listened around and called stations during the Stew Perry 160m contest this weekend. I made two sweeps of the band, one at 10Z and the other at 11Z, recording what I heard.

1000z recording: JH2FXK, N9RV, K9YC, K8IA, W7EW, DU7TET, K7NJ, N0TT, W7RN, KG6H, KH7X

1000UTC recording:

1100z recording: JA3YBK, AA5B, N5RZ, N6RO, N6KI, K9YC, ZL3IX, KH6LC, K8IA, JE1ZWT, W7EW, N9RV, K4PI, K1DQV, N8UM, WD5R, K3ZM, W5ZN, W2GD, NH7O.

1100UTC recording:

If you hear signals changing abruptly in strength – it is because I am switching between Beverages. The band peaked into NA here at 11z – Eastern stations actually got weaker as SR approached. Also, there were times when signals were skewed south of direct path; the 045 degree Beverage was best when normally the 030 wire hears better.

Beverage Antenna Repairs

We have had some gusty winds this winter (perhaps up to 35MPH), and I noticed that my African Beverage had gone deaf. Since this is long path season into NA, and since this is also the heading for NA long path, I figured I needed to repair it.

It turns out that a large branch had fallen on the wire very close to the feed point, snapping the wire at the feedpoint insulator. I float the wire through insulators along the length, so a branch falling usually does not break the wire, but in this case since it fell close to one end, it broke. Anyway, it was an easy fix, and all six Beverages are once again operational.

It isn’t pretty, but it works. I don’t waterproof boxes because (1) it isn’t necessary and (2) it is easier to trap water in such a “waterproof” box than keep it out. Better to let it breathe.
Typical terrain and growth in the jungle
Pretty much looks the same in late December as late July; the temperature remains the same year around. There usually is less humidity in the winter so it feels much cooler.

SU9VB on 160

Here is SU9VB on 160m, as copied here on Guam with a 900ft Beverage. Vlad started calling CQ at 2000Z and was very weak – 449 peaks every couple minutes, ESP copy the rest of the time.

At 2035Z he started to peak, and was so much louder than before that I was worried he was a pirate.

Unfortunately there was QRM from UY5AR and others in Europe. When I was sending my report, it was right at my sunrise (2041z).

Zone 34 is the last zone for 160m Worked all Zones from Guam.

 

Bingo!

While running down my list of new places to explore, I was not having much success. Lots of sweat and mosquito bites for little reward. Then… bingo! I’ll let the pictures tell the story.

Hard to photograph, but this is a large, deep aerial bomb crater in a coconut grove. Several other bomb craters nearby tells me that this was clearly a WW2 site.
Japanese cookware mostly rotted away to nothing. The cooking pot to the right is the same type I’ve found elsewhere in another Japanese encampment site.
This is a Japanese Sake bottle, one of several laying around
Japanese DaiNippon beer bottle, one of dozens scattered about
American canteens – still capped (but empty). You can also see two American bug repellent bottles in this image.
These WW2 American GI bug repellant bottles are very common. This one is still capped (the first I’ve found with the cap intact). It was still half full!
Expended American 105MM howitzer shells
Imperial Japanese Navy bowls
I found a canteen with trench art engraved on it. It actually had the owner’s name as well – when I looked him up, I discovered he was wounded in action on Guam in 1944. I donated this canteen to the Pacific War Museum and they will put it on display.

While exploring this area, I stumbled across two locals apparently camping in the jungle. Not sure if they were hunting, or collecting coconut crabs, but either way they startled me greatly. Since most of the birds are gone, the jungle is absolutely silent if there is no wind. All day I had heard sounds like breaking branches – like I was being watched. Very unnerving. I wrote it off as pigs. Then, while pushing through some dense overgrowth, pretty dark under the canopy, I see these two locals sitting on a log, watching me. Really startled me! They turned out to be friendly, but I left them alone and headed for home. I should have asked if they were staying in the area or if they were leaving shortly… but I didn’t want to pry (I imagine there are places in the jungle where people grow marijuana – I’ve never found any but it’s logical). Anyway, I still would love to explore this area further but the thought of being watched makes me uneasy.

I make lots of noise in the jungle on purpose, to let man and pig know I’m around as not to startle them. I wear bright clothing also, in case there are hunters around. I have run across hunters before and have found them very responsible and friendly… but every time I do it startles me because I’m usually way off the beaten path away from places where I expect to find people.

 

Back into the jungle

During the rainy season, which runs roughly from May through September, jungle hiking is not a pleasant experience. Everything is soaking wet, and the humidity is oppressive. During this time of the year, I really only focused on maintenance of my Beverage receive antennas – a “necessary evil” so to speak.

Now that it’s December and we’re into the dry season, I’ve started poking around back in the jungle, working down the list of places I’ve scoped out on Google Maps as potential places where I might find stuff.

If you read back, I gave away my secret to find stuff in the jungle. Coconuts don’t roll uphill. On the northern plateau of Guam, coconut trees in the middle of the jungle, away from modern civilization, were planted there by humans at some point in the past. Find coconut trees in the middle of the jungle with Google Earth, and you’ve located a part of Guam where humans have once settled – either 50 years ago or longer.

Last week I explored one such site. My focus is on WW2 history, but in this case what I found was much earlier.

Lusong – ancient grinding stone

This is a Lusong, an ancient grinding stone. Rice would be placed into the round hold, and pounded (like a mortar and pestle) to mill and de-husk the rice kernels. This might be 200 years old, or 1000 years old. So, it is apparent that this site was one occupied long before the Second World War. Since it does not fit the genre of my interest – I cross this location off my list and move on.

 

Great low band conditions

Now that the fall contest season is over, I can enjoy DXing on the low bands throuigh the holiday season. The low SFI number may worry some, but for me, it means great conditions on 80 and 160m. I recently have broken 2,000 unique calls worked on both 80 and 160m, and would love to push that number up quite a bit higher this winter season.

The past few days have been excellent into Europe on 160m and North America on 80m. For some reason, I am not seeing reciprocally good conditions into NA on Top Band. Not sure what aspect is keeping this from happening. I am imagining some high MUF bubble in the mid Pacific that is causing absorption, not unlike a Bermuda High Pressure system, but this is just a guess on my part. Either way, the good conditions I am getting on 160 into Europe are just not happening in the other direction.

Here is a 11mb MP3 I made on December 8th, while running Europe on 160m. Signals are excellent. On this day, propagation was best into Southeast Europe.

This morning I worked about 40 more EU on 160, with conditions extending all the way into the UK, with GI3OQR the best DX worked (a new one for me!)

PT0S signal on the low bands

On the last day of the DXpedition, I was able to get my computer set up to make a couple quick recordings of PT0S on the low bands. Both are long path (near my sunset), nearly a 12,000 mile path from Guam. Long path bearing is 157 degrees and I was listening on my new 160 degree Beverage.

On 80m, I do some VFO A/B switching so you can hear the pileup on the split frequency. The JA’s are several S-units down from normal since I am hearing them off the back of the Beverage.

On 40m, there was a lot of QRMing and “frequency cops” going on. Everyone says how well behaved the Japanese operators are in pileups. This proves that wrong. Still, almost all Japanese hams show very good courtesy on the radio, but the numbers of lids in Japan is increasing. During PT0S where was a lot of intentional QRM, even out of JA. I suspect this was due to the rarity of this entity in this region. As a side note, I think someone else was using JF3SUL’s call.

Even though the path is longer, signals were better via long path than short path every time. Short path is over Japan and Europe, and is about 9,800 miles in length. In comparison, the 80m signal was at times 579 on LP but at most 559 SP.

I did copy PT0S well on 160m on two occasions, via short path. Signal was Q5 copy both times but very weak – not workable strength with my antenna. I regret that I did not have everything connected to make a recording, and they did not appear on TB the last day until just after my sunrise. I wonder if a long path 160m QSO would have been possible, but there was no mutual darkness on this path. My sunset missed their sunrise by about 10 minutes. This probably was just enough to kill any chance because my experience from here is that 160 propagation dies within a couple minutes following sunrise. That said, I have a very solid path into PY2 on 160 and LP signals were much better here than SP, even though I have better “ears” (longer Beverage) into Europe.

Mission Complete

Earlier this year I decided to try to operate all three CQWW DX contests seriously, to see how I could do.

First, in September was CQWW DX RTTY. It looks like I finished in the top 10 in the world, and broke the existing Oceania record in the process.

Next, in October, came CQWW DX SSB. This was the contest that worried me the most. In 1999 I had operated as KH2/N2NL from KH2JU’s QTH, crashing hard at about the 40 hour mark and finishing with just over 5,000 QSOs and about 7 meg. The station I have put together works well, but I did not anticipate making much more than 5,000 QSOs. It turns out that I did much better than I expected, finishing with over 6,000 QSOs and possibly an eighth or ninth place finish in the world. I fell just over a million points short of Jose CT1BOH’s Oceania record (as KH7R) but it appears that I won the continent, beating a very spirited effort from geographically disadvantaged Hawaii by NH6V at KH6LC.

Finally, last weekend was the CQWW DX CW contest. I had broken the record last year and have all the confidence in the world in this mode (my favorite by far is CW), but I was not looking forward to another 48-hour effort. Once the contest started, however, there was no turning back and when rates were similar to last year, I pushed hard to try to beat my QSO count from last year. I was successful in doing this, making just under 6,500 QSOs and breaking the Oceania record I set last year by over 1/2 million points. It also looks like I may have made the top 10 again, something I am extremely proud of doing from this part of the world.

Contest season for me is over, however I probably will make a few QSOs in the ARRL 160 and 10m contests. CQWW 160 in January is also a fun contest. In the mean time, I will probably continue chasing DX and working the low bands.

Beverage antenna splitter

This week I wound a simple Beverage RX antenna splitter – 12 turn primary on a 73-202 binocular core, with a 16 turn secondary center tapped and grounded through a 33 ohm resistor. The idea is to share my Beverage switch box between both radios. This should help me with multipliers on the low bands, an improvement over the past where the 2nd radio could only listen on the noisy low band transmit antennas.

Thanks to N0AX for deciphering my spectrum analyzer for me, but it looks like about 4dB of loss through the transformer, with good isolation between both outputs. Theoretically I could get 3DB loss with a Magic T splitter, but this is fine for Beverage antennas. It seems to work well, and it appears I may even be able to do some same-band SO2R with some of the more remotely located Beverages I have.

The signal was zeroed out to the 50dB line before putting the splitter in-line – shows about 4dB loss on 3.5 Mhz (similar measurements were found on 1.8, 7.0, and 14.0 mhz)