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...

1 comment:

  1. Great story Phil, there are always some DXCC that you can hear but cannot be worked due to circumstances. I heard several of them but I know that some time it will be my turn. I worked ST2AR several times but not this weekend, pile-up was too big. The favorite comment is hilarious, that's what happens if you are active on the www. You did a great job by the way, 1359! 73, Bas