Friday, 27 April 2012

Feeding Frenzy on the Magic Band…

I was very fortunate to have been part of another huge 6M TEP opening on 26 April 2012.

It was incredible to see how the normally dead band comes alive with signals, many with signals well over S9

Fortunately for us as South Africans we are still somewhat of a novelty for many Europeans.  For a few hours whilst the 6M band is open we can feel like what is must be like sitting on some rare island facing huge DX  pile ups.

The truth be told.  As much as my CW is my preferred mode, I am not quite ready to be at the wrong end of the pile up.  It sure was exciting and it got the adrenalin flowing.

It is rather frustrating to see the poor operating procedure used by some. 

During the pileup I hear for example a station with a LA prefix. Now I need Norway (LA) so I respond with “LA?” and 10 other prefixes call me. I reply with “ONLY LA LA PSE KN” and 10 other prefixes call…..

Heck, it is difficult not to lose ones cool. I guess it is my own inexperience that allowed this situation to develop? Maybe it is better to sit back and do nothing, hoping that the needed LA would keep on calling me and I should only respond once I have the full call?

I managed to make 161 QSOs (mostly CW), worked 71 Grids and 22 countries. 3 all time new ones including Denmark-OZ.

Have Fun !!

6M TEP 25 April 2012

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Swaziland 6M DX Expedition - 3DA0FC

I have just returned from taking part in the DX expedition to Swaziland. I certainly enjoyed the experience and had a lot of fun.  In some respects the event was more successful than anticipated and then again in some other respects, a bit disappointing.

My intention all along was to operate primarily on 6M and I was hoping that conditions would allow for a few QSOs via TEP/F2 propagation. Lance W7GJ had requested a sked via EME. To be quite honest, I was not very optimistic of achieving success. I had heard from various sources that local QRM was a huge problem on 6M and that a QSO via EME was not likely due to this issue.

There were many changes to my plans and preparations for this event. Initially I planned to take along a small 3 element Yagi, the 6M3SS and a lightweight mast. However, after conceding to the EME request, I had no option, but to consider erecting a more substantial antenna with more gain. Daniel ZS6JR from CQ DX African Safaris, was involved with the DX expedition and I approached him to see if he could help. He said that I could use his 7 element M2 - 6M7JHV. This is a big antenna, so I  had to arrange for a more substantial mast. My good friend Hal ZS6WB, kindly loaned me a 3 section mast and tipper base that was strong enough to support this beam.

At the end of the day, I ended up using the 6M7JHV mounted 8m AGL, the transceiver an ICOM-756 Pro 3 and a SPE Expert amplifier 1K-FA running 400 Watts.

At moonset of day 1, Saturday, I worked Lance W7GJ and ironically Mike W6MYC of M2 fame. The following day, Sunday, I worked G8BCG and W1JJ and on Monday I worked K2ZD. The signals were surprisingly strong and the EME QSOs were completed fairly quickly. I worked all the stations I could decode and see on the waterfall.

I had fairly high hopes that we would have a fair chance of TEP openings into Europe, since the timing was near perfect. March and April (equinox) are known as the best months for TEP. However, the solar activity was disappointingly low. We had the briefest of openings on 3 occasions and I only managed to work 18 European stations

The following stations were worked via TEP / F2: EA7KW, EA7DUD, CT1ANO, EA5BM, EA3LL, EA3MS, 5B8AD, 5B4MF, IK0VAQ, IK0FTA, I0WTD, IK0EIE, 9A2AA, IT9HLR, I6BQI and IZ8DWF

During the mornings, I concentrated on Meteor Scatter (MS) and managed to work: ZS6NK, ZS5Y, ZS2ACP, ZS1AGF, ZS6BUN, Z21LV and via Tropo ZS6HA and ZS6JON

For the balance of the time, I used a memory keyer, calling every 30 seconds. I must have made several thousand CQ’s and ended up with a handful of QSOs. I guess looking at the effort versus the result, it hardly seems worthwhile, but I have no regrets. As far as I know, North America has never been worked from Swaziland via EME on 6 metres. I am not sure about the other continents?

I was a little disappointed to learn that LoTW will not be used by 3DA0FC.

73, Pierre ZS6A

3DA0FC Swaziland 6M station