Monday, October 31, 2011

2011 CQ World Wide DX SSB Contest - A Common Theme

CQ World Wide SSB Contest log 2011
I have steered away from SSB contests in the last few years as I really prefer CW and Digital. A personal preference as I guess the bandwidth, splatter, and more have moved me to only giving out QSO's in these contests to friends, contest stations, and our Alaska group. With that said, since 10 meters (28MHz) has been so active lately, I decided to give the CQ World Wide DX SSB Contest a run. I was not in it to compete by any means but my goal was to work as many DXCC countries as possible to help achieve my DXCC on 10 meters. I also wanted to work all 50 states so I would have WAS (Worked All States) on SSB, 10 meters. I hope to snag my WAS with CW on 10 meters if the band allows next month during the CQ World Wide DX CW Contest. I do have 10 meter WAS but it's currently a mixed mode of CW, SSB, and Digital. 

I got a bit of a late start due to employment commitments but when I finally was able to settle down in the shack, I turned on the radio and was extremely thrilled with what I saw on the spectrum scope of my IC-756PRO on 10 meters. I was further astonished at the signal strength of many of the signals I heard! 
The contest started off with some great DX to Asia and the South Pacific! Some very strong and nice signals and several new countries were snagged on 10 meters! I worked the band until my last QSO which was logged at 0210z. I would not return until Saturday morning (AK time) or 1700z.

My goal for Saturday was just to find a clear spot and call CQ toward the lower 48. I was totally surprised at the pile-up I had and it was very tough at times to pick out just one letter or number of any callsign. I picked through and worked as many as I possibly could with my best rate being 234 per hour, which I achieve twice (see photo above)! So many familiar callsigns and many I had worked on 10 meters over the last few weeks! Great seeing so many old and new friends! I worked the daylights out of 10 meters (within my small station limitations of course) until 0159z. After I sat back and had a rethink of the day's activity, I beamed Europe and squelched out my rig and turned the volume up. My hope was, if 10 meters opened to Europe, the sounds of SSB would wake me up.

My plan worked as around 1145z (3:45 am local) I was awakened to a strange sound. That sound happened to be my squelch breaking with sounds of European SSB with a nice dose of AU flutter with it. I made my way from the bedroom to the shack and was excited to see activity on my spectrum scope and hearing Europe starting to roll in. I fired up the AMP and once I got my bearings, I started to S&P (Search and Pounce) on stations in Europe. This was tough as most of the stations I called had a problem hearing me at first or could not hear me at all. Many CQ'd in my face after repeated attempts to gain their attention. The path did get a little better before it closed over the pole and I was able to put 67 European stations in the contest log! My last QSO was at 1421z, and since the lower 48 was still pointed at Europe and signals were weak, I decided to go back to bed and get a few more hours of sleep.

HAARP Data for Sunday
I woke up a few hours later and when I came into the shack, I found 10 meters was flat!  I was totally bummed. It was almost as if I had woke up on Christmas morning and ran down to the Christmas tree to open up tons of gifts only to find a sign on the tree that Christmas had been canceled! What the heck happened to 10 meters? Carl, WL7BDO had posted a note to the local group which explained everything! Some geomagnetic disturbance sent the band silent (see graph to the right). The information from HAARP confirmed that I might as well just go back to bed! I was hearing activity on 15 meters so the MUF (Maximum Usable Frequency) just was not high enough yet to include 10 meters. I kept my fingers crossed that the band would eventually come back and I could continue my hunt for new countries.

I fired up at 1830z and after squeezing in between a few stations, I called CQ ending up working only a handful of stations. I heard a loud "pop" which came in the direction of my amplifier! I heard this even with my headphones on! My ten year old AL-1500, which has been abused heavily while contesting and DXing up here in Alaska, finally decided it had enough of the 10 meter excitement. I was getting no power out and it would not tune on 10. I popped the cover and being electronically challenged, everything looked normal but I knew internally, it was not. I threw in the towel at 1905z and decided to go pull the batteries from our travel trailer. I had been missing a few Zones that I felt were manageable and was hoping to pick them up on Sunday. I was sure I could not compete in those pile ups without a little extra "umph".

After doing some outside work which I needed to get done as I knew our first round of sub zero temperatures were arriving the next day, I ventured back into the shack and started my low power finish. I fired back up at 2230z and after trying to get a few unsuccessful runs going, I hunted down my last few Zones I thought I could add to my list, 6, 10, and 31! Much to my surprise, I found a few Mexican stations that had minimal pile ups which gave me Zone 6. It was not long afterward that I found two Hawaii stations which landed me Zone 31. KH7X gave me a chuckle and he was super loud here so Zone 31, which I could not find on Saturday, fell into my log on Sunday. I never found Zone 10, however I did manage some juicy DX working low power. I would have to say ZK2X was probably at the top of that list for my last hurrah.

ARS KL8DX Score Summary
In the end, this trek to complete my DXCC fell short in I'm tickled to have worked 63 new countries. I'm also pretty happy with my 28 Zones worked. I am hoping I worked one ham in each of the 49 remaining states that uploads to LOTW (Logbook of the World) and it would be great to see that mode completed on 10 meters for my WAS. In reading many of the 3830 posts, I saw a common theme, several commented on the outstanding high band conditions and I also see many stations also took advantage of 10 meters being in the greatest shape in years and like I did, entered as SOSB (Single Operator, Single Band) on 10 meters. I was shocked at some of the number of QSO's worked on 10 meters from the big contest stations. KL7RA here in Alaska kicked some serious propagational butt and several other AK stations posted some awesome scores as well. My 14 hour and 36 minute run on 10 meters was worth every minute. Some of the really great DX heard on 10 meters but not worked was ST2AR, VI6NC, and XV1X! Ah, I can still hope that someday I will get them on 10 meters!

My favorite comment of the contest weekend had to be in response to my calling a station on his frequency and his response was, "Kilo Lima Eight Delta X-ray...hey, I follow you on Twitter"! I might have been giddy after working several hours in the contest but that one made me laugh out loud. Yea, maybe you just had to be there...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Infinity and Beyond!

10 Meter Contacts 10.23.2011
To coin the phrase from the very cool Buzz Lightyear, "To infinity and beyond" is how I felt about the 10 meter propagation this weekend! I once again ended up on the high side of 28MHz working SSB which yielded several hundred contacts. The pile ups were simply fun yet frustrating as I did not have time to work everyone that had been calling. Glancing at my logbook between Saturday and Sunday, I made 257 28MHz meter contacts on Saturday followed by an additional 298 on Sunday! So many great contacts with so many great hams! I really have to give credit to those who stuck it out as I was told several times that stations were trying from 1 to 2 hours to work me and I'm probably sure there were others that tried longer.

There were so many highlights from this weekend there is no way I could possibly list them all. It was exciting to work some very young hams, from the ages of 7 (yep, seven) to 13 years of age! I'm envious of those young hams in that I did not discover ham radio until my 20's. But the important thing is that we all did at some point or another. Novice Enhancement opened the world for me, indirectly (covered in a previous blog entry).

Other than persons tuning directly on or near the 10 meter frequency I was using, the pile up remained manageable and most everyone was extremely patient. I made several recordings from the weekend and I'm hoping to put together my next YouTube video with some clips from those recordings. It might amaze you what it sounded like on my end. It resembled a contest weekend for sure, just a much slower pace.

Every once in a while I will get a stronger station asking me to listen up for a friend, smaller station, or a DX station that they can hear but I'm not able to due to the many people that were calling. I have to give a shout out to the ham that gave me the heads up on 6V7Q calling me! I asked everyone to stand by as I listened for the 6V7Q and to my surprise, I could hear him off the side of my antenna. I turned it toward Africa, Senegal in West Africa to be exact, and I had perfect copy. After working him, I went back to my pile up duties toward the lower 48.

I once again was astonished at the propagation pattern. I was hearing literally ALL of the lower 48 the same signal strength. Someone from Maine would call me and they would be 59 and then be followed by a West Coast station who was just as loud. No greyline needed on this band!

The main thing for me is, I'm a small station and I always enjoy handing out Alaska contacts to those that need them. I heard so many times this weekend that I was a persons first contact with Alaska, or they had needed my county or needed a contact with me for some other award. Personally there is no greater satisfaction than to hear the excitement in a persons voice that they made it into my logbook. That is what keeps me in my chair for long periods of time, not to mention experiencing propagation on a band that for years was nothing but static for me. From reading this blog, you might be able to tell that I am just as excited about each and every contact.

With the great propagation this weekend on 28MHz, I was able to finish my WAS (Worked All States) award not to mention with the help of Wes, W1LIC, I was able to get my last state needed (Maine) for LOTW WAS using PSK31. This type of band condition is what ham radio dreams are made of! Now lets hope the conditions hold through the BIG contest coming next weekend. My plan is to stick very close to 10 meters with a side order of 15 from time to time. I know I spoke with many familiar contesters over the weekend who were getting ready for just that. I think they all shared in my excitement about having 10 meters productive which will really help the scores and multipliers!

Again, I appreciate each and every contact and for those that made in into my logbook, you made my day as much as I hopefully made yours. To those I missed, I can only ask that you keep trying when you hear me on as I really do want to add you to my ever growing logbook of contacts. There is so much truth in the saying, "Friendship through Ham Radio" as I have made many friends over the years in this hobby, most of which I have yet to meet personally. I might be bad with names but I can almost immediately recognize a familiar callsign. I'm thankful for many things but most thankful for my wife's understanding which allows me to spend countless hours behind my Icom 756PRO. 

Oh, and before I forget, my most favorite quote of the weekend...

"I found it easier to work TX7M than to work you here on 10 meters". 


Thursday, October 20, 2011

10 Meters Stays Hot While The Weather Gets Colder

Winter Blanket
As winter moves in the cooler temperatures and snow, 10 meters remains active on a daily basis. Even though I can't operate every day, I see the spots of other Alaskan's being heard from various parts of the lower 48 and beyond. I have worked and confirmed 49 states now on 10 meters with Delaware being my only outstanding LOTW confirmation needed for WAS (Worked All States). The quest continues as time allows and I think I saw 40 states confirmed on 10 meter RTTY as well. So, gotta take advantage of the band when it's open. Looks like it could be an interesting CQ WW SSB Contest coming up and I just might operate it if ten meters is part of that weekend excitement! I don't like SSB but it will be fun chasing all those stations from around the world on 10 meters. I'm far from any DXCC award on 10 meters from here but hey, a good weekend in a major contest may bring me that much closer if not taking me across the finish line.

It's great to look at my logbook and seeing all those 28Mhz QSO's and the QSL cards are once again flowing into the mailbox. I just ordered another 1,000 QSL cards and my 2nd order will be taking place in the coming weeks for an additional that I'll use up during the course of the winter. 

If you have not been on 10 meters, you're missing the fun. My chase continues with T32C and I have snagged 20 out of the (now) 34 band slots. I have heard them on 10 FM but I have not been successful in working them on that mode. I'm hoping to get them yet on 10 and 12 meter RTTY but after that, I don't have much more this small station can do.  Now that they have worked most everyone world wide, the catch is a bit easier. Patience often times pays off and waiting for the crowds to decrease has helped to log them on some of the harder bands for me. Not sure but maybe the snow is helping my ground reflect my small signal abroad. Actually, gotta give credit where credit is due, it's the great operators of T32C!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Just As I Remembered You...

10 Meter QSO's from KL8DX Oct 10, 2011
We have been blessed lately with some very good propagation on 10 meters (28Mhz), kinda like the old days when I first got into Ham Radio. Today seemed like the culmination of weekend activities for 10 meters. I did not realize when I first turned on the rig this morning that I would eventually deal with a non stop pile-up for 6 hours. That is exactly what happened between my first QSO beginning at 1817z and my last ending at 0018z. This was a day to remember and it was one for the record books here at ARS KL8DX. Yep, 10 meters has not been this productive for me since moving here eight years ago. We have had openings from time to time but nothing to this degree and this many days in a row. I left the shack exhausted but the log was over 230 contacts bigger than before I started today.

I'm not one for SSB but as I have mentioned before, I can always find much more activity on SSB than I can on CW with 10 meters. For this very reason, I will normally call CQ on SSB when I'm looking to drum up a bit of excitement. Well, today not only did I drum up a bit of excitement, I hit the bees nest of propagation. 
Notice 10 & 12 Meters

It's hard to predict when the some bands will open while others are a bit more predictable. I think that simply living in Alaska takes these predictions to another level. When dealing with the aurora, absorption, weather, terrain, and a few other out of our control situations, predictions are even that much more difficult. I have to laugh a bit when looking at the "Calculated Conditions" at the right. As seen predicted here, 10 meters has been far from "Poor" in my book and if anything, exactly the opposite. When talking 10 meters, I think of the Solar Flux Number first and the A & K Indexes next when predicting when 28Mhz may yield some activity. 

The Google Earth® map at the top reflects most of the contacts that I made from my QTH on 10 meters on the 10th of October, 2011. It just so happens that the 10-10 International Club had their 10 Meter Sprint going on so I actually did something I had not done in ages, give my 10-10 number out several times! This is how I remember 10 meters, all day activities, hearing stations in nearly all directions and exchanging 10-10 numbers while hunting new states. I am working on my WAS (Worked All States) using LOTW only and when I uploaded my log at the end of the day, I had 46 states confirmed. Just a few more to go. I did work those states today but I did not look to see if they were LOTW users. I really appreciated everyone's patience and the pile up did not stray out of control. I know there were many that tried working me that were unsuccessful. I spoke with several stations that told me they had been trying to contact me for over 2 hours! Now, that's a sign of a patient DX'er! Hats off to you'all!

I had a blast today actually talking with many on 10 meters. I operate contests most during the winter so it's nice to exchange something other than the typical contest format for a change. Yes, I could of run 10 meters like a DXpedition and operated split and just gave out signal reports but I have to admit, I do that so often it's nice to take things a bit slower and longer from time to time. I truly appreciate ALL QSO's and ALL that attempted to contact me today, successful or unsuccessful. I very much know what it's like to be on the "other side" of the pile up, trust me. 

My T32C Stats as of October 10th, 2011
In speaking of the "other side" of a pile up, my quest continues to get T32C on as many bands and modes as possible. I am missing two QSO's from what I see reflected in the chart at the left. This could be SLIM activity or a busted callsign. One was 10 meter RTTY so it was tough not to see that one show up. I suppose because it is 10 meters and the openings on that band are not as predictable as I had mentioned earlier. But, the good DX'er has patience and continues the hunt and does not give up. I will do just that! I will watch the spots and hopefully land T32C on a few more modes before they depart the island and head back to civilization. 

I snapped a few quick screen shots when working them on RTTY for both 17 and 10 meters. Because my contact did not show up in the log, I'm assuming a SLIM operation rather than a defect in the logbook. The 10 meter QSO I had with them is shown below. Maybe in the end I will be lucky and find out I did in fact snag them but I'm not holding my breath. My quest continues as it does for many.
As winter has arrived I get excited for what this contest season might have to offer. Something tells me that if this trend continues, this will be one exciting contest season!! I consider myself a seasoned DX'er and a contesting greenhorn. This hobby has something for everyone and days like we had today just keep me coming back for more!

Hello again 10 meters, I have missed you.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Wall Paper 1 of 3

I received a large white envelope in the mail this afternoon and when my wife returned to the truck, she said, "You got more wallpaper." Seems she is beginning to identify these. She even likes to hold it up to the light and peek through the envelope to see what contest and what my score was. I read the results recently in CQ Magazine so I knew this was coming and I'm actually expecting two more yet from other contests.

I have not looked to see what I busted but it's obvious from what I submitted, my score dropped a bit. I don't remember too much about this contest off of the top of my head but I remember 20 meters was pretty darn good. I poked through my emails and saved my 3830 post which I will post below. That gave the summary of the contest immediately afterward. I have come to enjoy reading the posts on 3830, reading about propagation and the contest from hams all over the globe. Due to the small amount of hams who enter contests here in Alaska, my chances are normally pretty good of getting some kind of wallpaper. At least I think it's better here than if I was operating in the lower 48. My station is small so I am thankful for any advantage I can get. But as I have said before, I'm not in it to win it (too small to even think about it) I'm in it to have fun!  And yes, I remember this contest as being fun! Good thing is, the wallpaper I have been able to accumulate has helped insulate my igloo here in Alaska.



Call: KL8DX
Operator(s): KL8DX
Station: KL8DX

Class: SOSB20 HP
QTH: Alaska
Operating Time (hrs): 29.49

Band  QSOs
  20: 1059
Total: 1059  Prefixes = 537  Total Score = 1,316,187

Club: North Coast Contesters


That just happened! Seriously? A contest weekend with propagation?
And was it!!!

It's obvious this is the biggest RTTY contest of the year. Less than
standing room only on 20 meters. I saw RTTY signals at times from 14.058
to 14.140, solid!

Extremely fun to have two great evening/morning openings into Europe.
I could not get a run going but it seemed that most could hear me when
I called. Some AU on signals but most of the time there was no problem
with decoding any of them.

I decided a single band effort at the beginning. With the band
conditions, I should have tried all band but I stuck to my original plan.
I am not disappointed at all, as I have topped my all time high score and
also total number of QSO's. A small station effort and my operational
times made the best of the great propagation.

Gotta sort through my notes and I will do a detailed overview on my blog
site. My butt needs to divorce my chair and I need to work on getting the
blood flow back into my legs. So many great highlights, so many familiar
callsigns, and only a few low lights. I think Alaska was well represented
this weekend as I was lucky enough to work several of my long distant

Thanks for each and every QSO. Temperatures this morning were -30F and
I believe we will be colder than that tonight. It was warm and cozy in
the shack and extremely easy to stay focused on chasing multipliers and
calling CQ for hours at a time. I can't believe how fast 30 hours went.

Rig: Icom 756PRO
Antenna: Mosley TA-34-XL @ 43 feet
Amp: Ameritron AL-1500 @ 500 watts
Software: N1MM Logger V9.9.6

Phil KL8DX
Denali National Park, AK

Thrill of the Hunt

T32C Christmas Island QSO on 40 Meters
Last night I began the chase of T32C, the great operators activating Christmas Island (East Kiribati). This is yet another DXpedition with great operators behind the radios. They are managing the masses very well on all modes and bands from what I have experienced. There have been many memorable DXpeditions but this one is yet another that ranks at the top for me.

Stats for KL8DX and Alaska
I have a small station and it helps that I don't have much between myself and the T32C team except for open ocean. It has helped me snag them on several bands and several modes. With modern technology that it is, the logbooks from this DXpedition are being uploaded to the T32C website on a regular basis. This allows for operators like myself, to check that each and every QSO made is in their logbook. This can help greatly with duplicate or "insurance" QSO's and I'm glad this and several of the past DXpeditions have had this ability. I'm sure it comes with a cost, so obviously one of the reasons I will be donating what little I can to financially help them.  

My RTTY contact, since I just made it, is not reflected above. Also missing is a 40 meter SSB QSO. If that contact does not show up, they either busted my callsign or something happened during the upload that my QSO fell out. If my 40 meter QSO does not show up, I will try again hoping it will not be a duplicate QSO.

My hats off to the T32C team as they continue their all band grind to satisfy hungry DX'ers from all over the globe. I can only imagine what the pileup sounds like on their end. What a thrill it must be to experience a DXpedition like this, something I will probably never get to do. When it gets down to it, you can have plenty of financial support, the best equipment, the best propagation but in the end, the operators are the ones that make DXpeditions successful. T32C in my book is very successful! 

The hunt continues...

Sunday, October 2, 2011

October Arrives

Waiting for 10 Meters to Open
I have officially moved my QRP equipment back into the shack for the winter. This does not mean that it won't find it's way out during a Polar Bear weekend in the next few months. What it does mean is my IC-703 Plus has found a home on the bench again. I'm ready to start QRP'ing from the shack.

This past weekend I had been busy working around the house. 10 meters was booming on Saturday with the California QSO Party! The highlight was working Scot, KA3DRR on 10 meters! Scot was very loud on 10 meters, the loudest I think I have heard him on any band up here. I worked a few other stations when I had the chance but I'm looking forward to hearing how Scot did.

It figures, when I want to do some antenna work the wind will begin to blow. This weekend was no different. We hit 40 mph gusts today so needless to say, my tower and outside work did not get completed yet again. I did manage to get some other home and list projects completed but ham radio took a backseat to everything else.

I finished up my last batch of bureau QSL cards and they are ready to ship out. I have also finished my direct cards. The hunt now is on to search through my photo archives looking for the photo to use on my next batch of QSL cards. I'm also looking at different printers. With the hundreds of cards I get from all over the globe, it's great to see some of the outstanding quality one can get from a talented printer. I change mine up on every order so we will have to see what I can come up with.

As winter fast approaches, I'm still way behind on my radio projects. I did get the shack cleaned today. Never knew so much dust could accumulate in one place. Now with the contest season fast approaching, there won't be time for the dust to accumulate as I'm looking forward to warming the shack and chasing the sounds of contesting across the ham bands.