New QTH

Over the past few weeks, I was very busy getting moved into the new QTH. It was a mad dash of sorts, to get moved before the start of my next round of chemo. I was able to get the Spiderbeam installed, and it has a fantastic view from the new location.

The view toward Europe and Japan
The view toward North America isn’t quite as spectacular, but is still better than my former location.

I am very much space limited at my new location. Since I will only be here for less than a year before I transfer, it is hard to justify the effort into developing a highly effective antenna for Topband. Even with time, I just don’t have the space, and since my new location is much higher visibility (next to a road), I feel it is more important to keep a sort of minimalistic attitude. Better to be QRV on the higher bands than to upset the wrong person and get shut down all together. That said, I am currently working on installing radials for a 40m vertical which I plan on top loading for 80, and perhaps additional base loading for 160. If nothing else, it will allow me to work some multipliers on 160 in contests.

I do hope to get two Beverages installed here as well. There is a bit of space, enough for a 700-800 footer toward Europe and North America.

Directly behind the house is a sharp drop off about 30ft to the road.

Looking up the hill at the Spiderbeam and the patio of my house.

This not only raises the effective height of my Spiderbeam significantly, I hope it will provide a good takeoff for the vertical, which I am mounting right next to the drop off. Unfortunately, I really don’t have any vertical supports tall enough for an effective horizontal antenna for the low bands, even from this location.

I have done some preliminary HFTA runs and this location should be fantastic, especially into Europe.

Pending QSY

It appears that my luck with housing has run out. For a long time, we had known that my housing area was on the “chopping block”, since there are currently less than 20 residents among nearly 200 housing units. It was just not fiscally responsible to keep keep this housing open, when most people chose to live closer to the Naval Station further south on Guam.

We received notice last week that the Navy is closing the housing area. We are now scrambling to try to get moved as soon as possible, before the school year starts, and before my next round of chemotherapy starts.

What does this mean for NH2T and KH2/N2NL? It almost certainly means that I will be QRT on 80 and 160m, at least outside of major contests. On the other hand, I hope to remain active on the other bands. Unfortunately I’ve already had to start taking down antennas. The Beverages will stay in the jungle until later this year, to be recovered after my chemo.

Moving to new housing does open some new opportunities for me. I will be moving south, closer to the Naval Station. It opens up whole new opportunities for WW2 exploration; new territory where the worse of the fighting took place. For that reason, there is some excitement along with disappointment with his coming move.

Summer antenna maintenance

Every summer I try to spend some time upgrading my station and antennas. This year was a bit more difficult, due to my medical condition. Besides, I had a difficult time coming up with things to improve. I’d pretty much maximized what can be done from this QTH, given the restrictions of bring in military housing.

Since it’s been three years, I spent most of the time renewing all the guy ropes and other lines that keep the antennas in the air. I use 550 para cord everywhere. It is strong, cheap, and seems to resist UV quite well from my experience. All lines got renewed – for the Spiderbeam and 80/160m vertical. Additionally, I renewed the ratchet straps on the roof that helps to lock the Spiderbeam mast in place. The three-year-old nylon straps were faded, and the ratchets themselves had turned into large hunks of rust.

One upgrade I did accomplish was to build a new 6m yagi, based on G0KSC’s excellent loop fed yagi designs. I chose his 6.8m, 6el design and tweaked the dimensions with EZNEC. Justin’s design uses single piece elements, which requires tubing lengths too long to easily ship to Guam. I essentially modified the design to use tapered elements, and purchased the aluminum from DX Engineering.

For insulators, I used fiberglass blocks cut from 1/4″ GPO3 sheets available at McMaster-Carr. The material is inexpensive and is easy to work with (cut and drill).

The new 6m yagi brought some excitement over the summer. I worked two stations in the Ukraine, a station in Israel, W7GJ on EME (Earth Moon Earth), and even copied CT1HZE in Portugal – a very long haul on 6m.

KH2/N2NL antenna farm, summer 2013
Another view of the antenna farm
New 6m yagi, based on G0KSC’s loop fed yagi designs
New 40/30m vertical (utilizing the existing radials)
Closer look at the feed point of the 40/30m vertical
New 6m yagi, built using the skeleton of a Cushcraft 50-5 and some new aluminum tubing from DX Engineering
close-up of the feed point
One of the element insulators, utilizing the old cushcraft element-to-boom clamp and a piece of 1/4″ fiberglass
View of the loop feed and matching balun which runs parallel with the boom

 

Back into the jungle

My Chemotherapy leaves me with good days and bad days. Each cycle lasts three weeks, the last week being an “off” week for recovery. During this time I feel pretty good and am able to be somewhat active. I wanted to get back into the jungle to further explore the Japanese defensive position I discovered prior to my diagnosis of cancer.

This site is not very easy to locate, being surrounded by heavy jungle growth that you have to blaze through to get to the five defensive positions. The area appears to have once been a ranch, with coconut trees for copra harvesting and cleared areas for farming, now overgrown with vegetation. It makes navigation difficult without a GPS. Once you find the location, however, there is quite a lot of evidence of WW2 activity.

One of five pits, painstakingly dug out of the coral. These pits make up an arc favoring the northwest, presumably for anti aircraft weapons never emplaced, to defend a Japanese fighter airstrip under construction when the liberation began in July 1944.

Most of the artifacts are Japanese beer bottles, but there are a few American remnants as well. It appears that the 3rd Marines occupied this site for a short period during the liberation, when the front lines pushed north through this area. The lack of any sort of quantity of American refuse leads me to believe they were here for only a short period of time before moving on.

Japanese Naval gas mask pieces found scattered about – straps, webbing, and rubber pieces long since rotted away.
Evidence of a former American aid station: a brown medicine bottle next to a blood plasma bottle.
The 3rd Marines located 75mm pack howitzers here to support the push northward. The patina on the old shell casings makes them difficult to find as they blend in with the environment.
Spool of communications wire, rotting away.
Some unknown aluminum piece laying on the ground, with a Japanese data plate.
Thanks to Hal, W1NN, for helping with translation. The bottom line is the manufacturer: Fuji Aviation Instruments Company, Inc. The middle is the serial number, date of manufacture (unreadable), and Japanese Navy inspection stamps. The top row is difficult to read, but it appears to be an emergency fuel level transmitter of some sort – perhaps a low level fuel sending unit that attached to a gauge. I am guessing is belonged in truck, not aircraft, due to the high serial number.
While hiking out, I spot these guys. Wasps are about the only thing I really fear in the jungle, as the nests are difficult to spot and they can be very aggressive. You usually only realize you walked into a nest when you get stung.
These are hornets. Fortunately, not very aggressive, but their stings are very painful – I have first hand experience while rooting around in low underbrush and knocking into a nest.

 

Receive antenna maintenance

The week before the ARRL DX CW contest, I figured it was time to walk the receive antennas again. It’s been a few months since I’ve done it last, and due to some windy conditions, I expected to find some issues.

Tree branch fallen against the Beverage wire – the vine behind the branch is a troublesome species since it grows so quickly.

As expected, I found a number of issues, mostly branches and vines that had fallen across the Beverage wires. Fortunately none were broken. I allow the wire to “float” through the insulators, so a branch will usually pull the wire to the ground but not break it.

The vine in the above photo is especially troublesome. They grow extremely fast and are very strong and difficult to cut with a machete. They often trip me up when walking in the jungle. Because of their strength, apparently they are used in the Philippines to tie up farm animals. In several places these vines quickly overwhelm the receive wire.

Signature of a hunter

The area where my antennas are located have been unoccupied since WW2. Unfortunately, however, poachers have started hunting on the land, which is Government of Guam property. They leave telltale signs – such as the water bottle above. It is really sad that they do not pack out their trash, however I see it everywhere on Guam even in the most remote areas. Water bottles, beer cans, and Mr. Brown’s iced coffee cans scattered where hunters sit and wait for their prey. Fortunately, none of my antennas have been disturbed, however metal theft is a huge problem on Guam so it may be a matter of time until my antennas start disappearing.

Coconut fronds are heavy and easily pull the wire to the ground.
This honey bee hive is located right next to my longer North American beverage. Fortunately they are not aggressive. Apparently these bees are somewhat rare on Guam.
A pig rubbed up against this tree, damaging the feed point connector. It still works however I’ll have to replace it at some point this spring.
A pig rubbed up against this tree, damaging the feed point connector. It still works however I’ll have to replace it at some point this spring.
The red arrows point to tooth marks in my African Beverage termination where a pig grabbed the wire in its mouth. No real damage fortunately; usually they don’t see the black wire. White wire gets torn to shreds quickly and I can’t use it in the jungle.
This fully loaded M1 Carbine magazine sits where I found it last year, under my original North American receive antenna. It has sat here since 1944, where it was left at the edge of a Marine’s foxhole probably on August 6th, 1944, when this was the front line during the Liberation of Guam. Pretty cool stuff – which fascinates me.

 

Japanese defensive position

Weather was beautiful this past weekend – sunny and low humidity. Perfect for doing some exploring.

I decided to revisit the Japanese positions I had discovered last weekend in the rain (my previous post). I brought my son and his best friend along also. It is nice to have some company because it can get spooky at times when alone. The kids wanted to bring my metal detector, so we brought that along too.

First order of business was to relocate the gun pits, and mark their position with GPS.

The five pits are all separated by approx 50 meters, and are located in an arc.
The five pits are all separated by approx 50 meters, and are located in an arc.

I’m still not sure what this position was supposed to defend, since the Japanese focused their defensive efforts on the beaches. I suspect this was to be an anti-aircraft position, due to the depth of the holes and the fact that they were round (allowing 360 degree arc toward the sky). [December 2020 – there appears to have been a Japanese airstrip under construction just east and north of the old FAA housing area.  This construction was not completed when the liberation took place in June 1944.]

Decent sized monitor lizard sunning himself along the edge of pit number 2

Around the eastern most pit (number 1), which is closest to an abandoned WW2 dirt road, is evidence of American troops – notably several 75mm howitzer shell casings. The fact that there are no American bottles around tells me that this was a short-term American position, likely on the 6th or 7th of August 1944 as the American troops pushed the front lines northward.

The other gun pits are surrounded primarily with Japanese beer bottles (DaiNippon), with only a small scattering of American bottles.

The kids played around with the metal detector, and gave up after a little while. There are a number of shell craters around, from artillery hits. All the kids were finding were bits of shrapnel laying around. Later, while they took a break, I explored an old burn pit filled with broken bottles, and found some bits from a Japanese naval gas mask, but nothing exciting.

At first I thought this was a modern battery, perhaps from the 70’s or 80’s if the area was inhabited by ranchers post-war.
The manufacturer – Yuasa – makes batteries in the modern era. However – in this area I only found WW2 era Japanese bottles. I also found out that Yuasa made batteries before WW2. This quite possibly was left by the Japanese from the war. I’ll have to go back and see if I can find any dates or other information the next time I visit this site.
This is a Japanese two-holer outhouse. These barrels are smaller than the American ones, which indicates they are Japanese. There are many like it about a mile south at a Japanese anti-aircraft position, where they have been filled with rocks for protection. This was the business end of the outhouse.
The kids take a break; wore out from a couple hours of exploring

After a couple hours of exploring, we headed home. Not much to see other than a few Japanese beer bottles and the positions themselves, but it is so heavily overgrown in this area, it is worth revisiting and exploring more closely in the future.

 

 

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.