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.
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.
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.
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.
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!)
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.
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.
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.
Yesterday I finally got the chance to install a 6th Beverage receive antenna. The new one is pointed at 160 degrees – about the line separating zones 30 and 32. The new antenna should help not only with VK/ZL, but also Europe long path on 40 and perhaps even 80m. This had to be a short one, about 450ft long, because the housing area and fence meant that I would have to place the feed point deep into the jungle – the deeper I go, the more coax loss countering the performance gain of a longer antenna. I ended up using about 500ft of RG6 to reach the feed point from the remote coax switch that is already 400ft from the shack.
Last night the antenna seemed deaf. While laying in bed – the light bulb went on in my head – I was a doofus and had forgotten to splice the two pieces of wire I used to make up the antenna. Essentially I had been listening on an unterminated, 75ft long Beverage. After I fixed it this morning, the new antenna seems to be hearing normally now.
Today, when I finished the splice, I had to clear off a tree that had fallen on my old North American Beverage. The insulators I use allow the wire to slide through them – so tree falls like this normally do not break the wire and allow the antenna to still function.
While walking the 045 Beverage, I crossed some cigarette butts under the antenna. I had heard a couple gun shots last weekend – pig hunters – but didn’t realize that had been in the vicinity of my wires. Either they did not see them (the #18 cu clad wire is almost invisible) or they are respecting them. Copper theft is very prevalent on Guam but most hunters I’ve seen in the area are responsible people and I let them know what the antennas are for (and that the cu clad wire is almost worthless as scrap). The fact that there are hunters in the area are why I do antenna work mid day, when the hunters are not active (pigs are active in morning and evening) and why I wear colorful clothing and make a lot of noise. I don’t want to be mistaken for a pig or deer!
Today I completed some work on my 80/160m vertical. My design is somewhat unique, using two parallel vertical wires connected at the feed point – one side is 1/4L on 80m, the other side is connected to top loading wires and is resonant on 160m. The system works very well for me and allows me to share one extensive radial system.
Until today, I always used copper clad window line for this vertical section, because the rigid spacing would keep SWR from fluctuating. I have had lots of problems with mechanical strength however, both with broken wires and some arcing issues if I was transmitting when the wind blew the line into a wet tree branch. This quick arc would burn off the copper cladding, and the steel core would quickly rust, form a high resistance point, and eventually break.
Yesterday I made up a length of homebrew balanced line, using spacers made of 1/2″ PVC sprinkler line which is very light, cheap, and easy to work with. The new antenna should be much more reliable and easy to repair. I also made some extra effort to keep the wire away from branches.
I’ve been bad about updating this site. I suppose it is a good thing, but I have been extremely busy – but I know there are those who visit here periodically so I need to be better about updating.
The CQWW DX SSB contest exceeded all of my expectations. I had hoped to break 5,000 QSOs – which would match my last SOAB effort from Guam in this contest back in 1999. It turns out that I broke 6,000 QSOs – but fell short of the Oceania single op record. Conditions were good, but not good enough.
Here is the breakdown:
Band QSOs Zones Countries
160: 5 3 5
80: 124 27 35
40: 602 29 67
20: 1227 35 103
15: 2014 35 96
10: 2414 36 100
Total: 6386 165 406 Total Score = 10,602,889
This score is very close to my CW score from last year. I had more multipliers in 2011, but the QSO total is within 100 or so.
I found a number of small issues with the station during the contest. Most of all, my new remote Beverage switch, utilizing the LM3914, worked very poorly. Specifically, it introduced noise into the feed line, which reduced the effectiveness of the receive antennas. Additionally, the noise floor on my NW and W Beverages was much higher than earlier this year – by 5 or 6 S-units. The European Beverages used to be my quietest antenna, but for the contest it was the noisiest.
I replaced my LM3914 “experiment” with a new design, using +12V, -12V, and 12VAC to switch between four antenna positions. Design is similar to the RCS-4. It works fantastic and all the noise generated by the 3914 IC is gone. I also found and corrected the source of the noise on my NW and W Beverages – a bad connection in the RG-6 cable that feeds these antennas. The bad connection allowed the antennas to function, but high resistance allowed ingress of common mode noise from the shield. Once fixed, my European Beverage is now as quiet as it has been in the past.
Last week I had just finished working PT0S on 40m CW (seconds after sending 5NN) when I heard a loud BOOM of thunder and a loud snap in the shack. I had taken a very close lightning strike. I was completely unaware that a storm had moved in, and lightning is rare on Guam. Turns out I was lucky. So far, the only apparent damage is to one antenna port in my 6X2 antenna switch and the house telephone. I am able to bypass this antenna port – and should be ready for next weekend.
I have a few more things to wrap up this week also before the contest. It’s been busy to find time, because of my work responsibilities as Port Engineer. I have a ship that just entered an availability, so my work load will be greatly increased until the project is complete next February. Here are some photos of the haul out of USCGC ASSATEAGUE, a 110ft Island Class patrol boat based here on Guam.