Monday, June 28, 2010

Alaska Field Day Fun and Frustration

I had the privilege of once again operating at KL2R, north of Fairbanks, Alaska, for Field Day. Hosts N1TX and KL1BE went above and beyond yet again. Lots of fun and great food. 

For me, it started on Saturday morning when I set the alarm for 0530. Well, I smacked the snooze button for another ½ hour of sleep. Once up at 6:00 AM, I was out the door just a few minutes past 6:30 AM headed for Fairbanks. 

I arrived at Fairbanks at 8:40 AM first stopping at our local bank and then the gas station. I had made arrangements to pick up a visitor from Ohio (Rich, W8VK) at Fred Meyer's around 8:45 AM. Rich was there waiting for me and after fueling up, we headed toward ARS KL2R. I had a nice conversation with Rich and found it even more exciting that he was from Ohio! Being from Ohio myself, we had plenty to talk about on our short drive north of Fairbanks.

Upon our arrival, (around 9:30 AM) it was great meeting up with a few old friends that had arrived prior to us. After a few brief catching up and welcoming conversations, I headed for the operating area! Larry (N1TX) gave the run down of operating stations and modes planned.  This year, KL2R was operation as 7E! This in itself meant that we were operating 7 stations at the same time and operating on emergency power (generator, battery and solar for us). Dan, KL1JP, who I like to refer to as "Dan, the Solar Man" once again had his solar set up available. I am extremely interested in the folded solar panel on top of the cooler in the photo above. After seeing the portable solar panel and talking with Dan about it, I will be owning one very soon. 

I made myself comfortable at the 20 meter CW station and started to get acquainted with the Yaesu FT-950 radio. I operate Icom, but I must say I really like this transceiver, and the price is very reasonable. Once 10:00 AM arrived, I was off sending CQ Field Day from KL2R! 

The band was not very active and it was slow going. In looking at the space weather forecast for the weekend, I read that a solar wind was to buffet the earth on the 26th, so I figured the weekend would possibly be a challenge. Turns out, that was an understatement. 

20 meters never produced much in the way of activity until very late. It was slow and shy of steady for most of the day. I have to say that I extremely admire the other operators at KL2R. 20 was our most active band and it showed determination and dedication by the other operators to stick with bands that produced very little or nothing at all. I was getting frustrated at rates of 20 per hour, so I can only imagine what they were feeling. And yes, with the aurora level peaking at 9, that set the pace for the weekend.

There were many highlights for me personally, the first just being able to operate and meet several new hams I had not met before. Secondly, seeing Ken, W6HF, and Luci, KL1WE, making satellite contacts. I had operated satellites when I lived back in Ohio along with my sidekick, KL1SF. I have never even attempted them up here, as I sold my all mode UHF/VHF equipment upon arriving to Alaska (regrettably now). I actually took a small video of a contact that Ken and Luci made, which I hope to post in a Field Day 2010 video in the near future on my YouTube site. Not only was it cool that I got to see the action but Tammie Wilson, District 11's State House Representative stopped by and saw it as well (she also got the grand tour and got to see all of us in action)! Also, Elaine, KL6C (cool callsign, huh?) did a really cool educational activity with batteries. There was much more to enjoy, so check out KL2R's blog site for more detailed information once the dust settles. 

Getting back to the band, 20 meters really never came to full life, but toward the evening hours things appeared to pick up briefly. The spectrum scope showed more activity, but once again, our signal was not being heard very well due to the band conditions and the auroral influence. I left at 12:30 AM on Sunday morning and when I left, the only signals heard were a few from Asia. I had a stop to make at Wal-mart and then I was off for home, arriving back shortly after 3:30 AM. It was a long day, but well worth the drive. It is a contest format but in the end, friendship, food, and fun won it for me. Field Day is about a lot more than just band conditions, and that was proven this past weekend. In quoting the ARRL Field Day rules, the Field Day objective is "To work as many stations as possible on any and all amateur bands (excluding the 60, 30, 17, and 12-meter bands) and to learn to operate in abnormal situations in less than optimal conditions." Yep, mission accomplished at KL2R!

No comments:

Post a Comment