I was very excited to end the contest season and begin the summer season with the CQ World Wide WPX CW Contest. My CW speed leaves plenty to be desired but I enjoy getting into the mix. Often times, I am the lone KL8 floating around but since prefixes are what this contest is about, I think it flows a little more evenly and does not get as aggressive as other contests, for my station anyhow.
I really was not ready for the start of the contest and I did not start setting up Win-test until well after the contest started. Yep, already starting off on the wrong foot. Just lots going on that day as my daughter had left us that morning and with the lack of sleep and following her flights across the lower 48, I was destined for a late start. Either way, I finally got the software configured, the rig sending CW after being prompted by the keyboard and the amplifier warmed up. I began to work my way up the band and working stations that could hear me. This begins to tune my brain to the higher CW speeds (yep, I'm challenged at anything over easy) and gives me an idea of the current propagation path.
It just seemed that several were not really hearing me. Now mind you, I have a small station but I can usually shake the tree and get some apples to fall. Well, for a Friday night, the fight was to get someone to hear me. I was noticing an extra amount of flutter on signals so figured something solar was effecting my contest plans. Seems to be pretty normal lately. I worked my way up the band and finally picked out a spot in the nose bleed section above 14050 (14.058 to be exact). I called CQ and worked a few stations followed by a few more. Someone must have finally spotted me on the cluster as a few more showed up. A nice steady pace, nothing to write home about, but enough to keep me on my toes and having to sort a call out of a couple now and again. I stayed parked there until just a hair past 0300z. I was calling with little success so opted to search and pounce yet again. I did that for another hour with minimal results and ended up back to calling CQ. It was a struggle all the way. Very hard to keep focused when the bands are poor and the weather outside was so nice. I started to see fresh air in my weekend forecast.
After making a rough go of it on Friday night, I shut things down until Saturday morning. I found the conditions getting worse and by Saturday afternoon, I was looking for a reason as to why things were so poor. It did not take long for me to see why. A quick look at the Aurora Oval told the tale. I did a bit more research and in checking HAARP, more very bad news was observed. The Riometer (at right) was seeing red and it was basically telling me to shut my rig down and enjoy the remainder of the weekend outdoors. Lots of absorption and as Saturday afternoon progressed, the less I could hear and the worse the bands got. I took a look at the HAARP to see what tale the Magnetometer was telling and it was the wildest I think I have seen, ever (below)!
By the time late Saturday afternoon arrived, I was able to tune the entire 20 meter band and not hear one signal, at all! I waved the white flag just a bit after 0200z. It was sad to see such conditions as I had hoped to beat my last years score. I did a 20 meter, single band entry and walked away with 510,884 points in the single operator category. When I checked my final score this year, I was just over 33K points with only 153 QSO's. Yep, very sad but it was not of my doing, or at least that is my excuse. My plans were once again effected by the solar influence that people living in northern latitudes can relate to. I have not read any detailed reports as to what the lower 48 heard and worked, but I did see mention of 10 meter activity. Well, I can only hope.
The contest season has wrapped up for me and I will be sending my Icom to the doctor for repairs. I plan on enjoying our summer (as I operated the contest, I could look out my window and see wildland fire not far away) as much as possible and do some portable operating. I hope to get some much needed antenna work done but that has been a project I have been working toward the last few summers. Our remodeling and weekend fun seems to trump the hobby work but I will once again, give it my best shot. With any luck, as autumn approaches, you will once again hear this small station warming up for yet another cold and dark winter. Ham radio in Alaska during those months just makes things a bit easier to tolerate. My wife might not agree but then again, I am not complaining that I have the shack all to myself! Watch for my YouTube video's on potential summer fun as KL8DX/p accompanied by my wonderful wife, KL8SU. See you on the bands, if the sun allows. I will be enjoying the sun however, the midnight sun that is! Damn, I love Alaska summers!