Wednesday, May 29, 2013

May 25th, 2013. Unplugged...

WPX CW 2013
This past weekend was extremely beautiful here in Alaska! The weather was outstanding for a holiday weekend here in the US. We saw temps in the 60's and 70's, which caused extreme melting of the snow and ice resulting in lots of flooding. Rivers are still running crazy as the snow melt continues. We were in the upper 70's yesterday so if ever there was a doubt that summer has arrived, well no more! 

This was a morning view of our QTH on Saturday morning, May 25th, 2013. I had hoped to make a few hundred contacts in the CQ World Wide WPX Contest but the solar conditions decided otherwise. Another weekend of turning on the radio and hearing none, or very few stations. I managed a handful before I officially pulled the plug Saturday morning.

Split Ends
With the bad band conditions, it was not hard to unplug from the rest of the world. It was time to begin the dismantling of our station. Fourteen QSO's was not my goal for the weekend but it was what it was. My first HF QSO when moving here was with Ed, K8QWY on November 28th, 2003. I had a 2 meter SSB QSO, which was officially my very first QSO, with long time friend Sean, KL1SF on November 27th, 2003. And here it was, May 25th, 2013 and 52,937 + QSO's later, my Mosley once again finds itself being packed up, awaiting another installation at another location. Closer inspection of the beam found it still in wonderful shape. Penetrox continued to keep the elements looking new. I only found a small amount of moisture in one location, and oddly enough, it was in one half of the boom. Penetrox had the water beading like wax but still, there was no sign of oxidation. Good stuff for sure. The beam and tower have taken an arctic beating here and have withstood all that was thrown at it. I'm sold on Mosley for that very reason. 

Laying Down the Tower
Once the beam was off the tower, I removed the mast and rotor from the Hazer and then lowered the Hazer to just above the crank. It was time to lower the Rohn 25 for disassembly. The tower made it safely horizontal (thanks to Polaris) and the scene around the house took on a more non-ham profile. It felt extremely...well, ham naked! Once the Hazer was off the tower, we worked at removing the top section. That was the toughest section of all and understandably so. The top section was where the Hazer and beam were mostly parked and it took the worst beating when the weather turned bad especially if I had not lowered the antenna to a weather safe height. Once the top section was removed, the remaining sections nearly pulled apart with ease.

Once Section Left (Non Multiplier)
I'm letting the sun warm the ground around the last section of our second tower before digging it up. The smaller tower was the home to my 6 meter beam and 2m/440 vertical for several years. I had dropped the 6 meter beam and had intentions of putting my Hex Beam up on that tower, but it never made it from assembly to elevation. It is now disassembled with my other antenna's and looking forward to being used at our next location. My vertical (Hustler 5BTV) was unburied from the snow bank and it too was disassembled and packed up ready to operate another day. All the antenna's and tower are now in one organized pile awaiting the day the moving van arrives.

As camping season is upon us, I'm looking forward to operating KL8DX/P, as I've done in previous years. The camper is nearly ready and my portable equipment is once again out of mothballs and ready for use. But for now, the Mosley has once again entered into hibernation at 1930z, on the 25th of May, and getting a well deserved break. I have many of what I call, "Mosley Memories" to keep me smiling for many months to come. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Like a Sponge

Absorption of DX signals according to HAARP
I enjoy reading several radio related blogs and one in that batch is by John, N8ZYA. John's blog details his chasing DX using QRP (low power). John's at the 122 days of DX worked now and I applaud his determination. John's use of QRP and indoor antenna's is something I may be doing myself, depending on where we choose to live in 1'land. If we are apartment dwellers, that will surely be the case but if we are lucky enough to land a house with a bit of property, hopefully I can throw something minimal up on the rental property. Maybe, just maybe, I can catch John on 40 meters or one of the other bands once we get settled. Sadly, I have not worked John from my Alaskan QTH, but he did hear me on one occasion and tried to unsuccessfully work me. I was hoping to work John from here someday but it appears I will be 4,600 miles closer when I finally snag a QSO with him.

I'm envious of John today as from the HAARP Riometer graph above, I simply hear absolutely nothing on the bands this morning. Not one signal! The radiation storm has rendered the ham bands useless here. Even if I could send 1,495 more watts than John through my coax and out my 4 element beam at 43 feet, I'm not working anyone. You simply can't work what you don't hear. Well, excluding some of the weak signal digital stuff now-a-days. :0)

Propagation here in Alaska (like many northern latitudes) can be extremely challenging. I had high hopes for some low power contest QSO's this weekend in the WPX contest. If this spaceweather continues, there will be few, if any. But on a positive note, our local weather has taken a turn for the better! The weather at our house is currently 40 degrees! The holiday weekend local forecast appears promising. Needless to say, it will be another busy weekend here and thankfully, the outdoor activities will not be hampered by rain or gusting winds.

I can't predict what the bands will be like tomorrow afternoon for the start of the WPX contest but at least I can safely predict our grill will be used a few times this weekend. This weekend will be the culmination of my ham radio activities from BP53lu. My remaining QSO's with my Mosley HF beam are now on the horizon. As the DXing sun sets for me this weekend, it will rise once again many miles east of here in the coming weeks/months. This is the weekend that I normally close the shack for the summer. This weekend is no different. It's camping season and we are now being bathed in sunlight nearly 24 hours a day. Lack of propagation, depressing? Yes!  All I have to do is step outdoors and it's all forgotten. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

In The Zone - New 1

KL8DX 2012 CQ World Wide DX CW Contest Result
A large white envelope was located in our mailbox today and the content of that envelope was my certificate from the 2012 CQ World Wide DX CW Contest. I obviously busted a few callsigns as my submitted score was reduced over my final score. Anytime you can have a contest weekend blessed with good propagation, it's a great experience. Having a golden log would make that great experience an awesome experience. I will always continue to do my best with each and every contest and this score reflects that best that I could of done. Each time I operate I try to "out do" my previous years score. Of course, often times propagation here in Alaska is my biggest hurdle. I might have big plans for any given contest weekend but in the end, space weather and propagation will determine my effort or score. 

My 3830 post regarding this contest is listed below. As summer approaches, it won't be long before the shack falls silent and any operating will be from a portable perspective.  We recently received an additional 4-5 inches of fresh snow so winter keeps haunting us. Once again, temperatures are supposed to be on the rise and hopefully we have seen the last snow flakes of this spring. It won't be long now before we take up residence in our travel trailer following the road map eastward. I've updated my NUVI with the latest maps and like the DX Cluster, it will help me find what I'm looking for. 

CQ Worldwide DX Contest, CW

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

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: Alaska
Operating Time (hrs): 30h52m

Band  QSOs  Zones  Countries
  160:    0    0        0
  80:  11    5        5
  40:  30    8        8
  20:  728    19      58
  15:  911    20      38
  10:  199    18      20
Total: 1879    70      129  Total Score = 831,820

Club: North Coast Contesters


Another crazy contest weekend! I was sure disappointed in
10 meters this year. I'm okay with that as long as we have
good propagation in a few weeks for that band specific

My numbers on the low bands are low but I have very poor
antennas for those bands. Kudos to those that logged me on
both 40 & 80! Your station did 99% of the work and for that,
I'm grateful! My noise is horrible on both of those bands.

The CME created some nice viewing Aurora here for the weekend
but it sure made things a bit tough for the contest. We are
still losing daylight fast and it won't be long now before
we only have 4-5 hours of daylight. Blessing is, that by 
next month at this time, we will start gaining daylight as
the sun slowly begins to move northward.

Thanks for the contest QSO's! I have a detailed review on my
blog site along with photos from this weekend. You can sure
tell when ya get spotted as so many call at once! I continue
to hone my pile-up management skills so thanks for your
patience! Looking forward to the 10 meter contest and hope
to see ya then! If only I had an antenna for 160 meters...

Phil KL8DX
Denali National Park, AK
Rig: Icom 756PRO @ 100 watts
Antenna: Mosley TA-34-XL @ 43 feet
Low bands: Inverted V's for 40 & 80
Logging: Win-test

Monday, May 13, 2013

Painting to Propagation - A Colorful Weekend

Woke up to fresh snow this morning! 
I knew my weekend time for radio would be very limited. I'm still busy doing some projects at home and the paint brush and roller kept me focused on the big picture. I did however play a bit or radio. Bands still seem a bit rough these days. I had a bit of insomnia on Saturday morning and enjoyed a few European RTTY QSO's on 15 meters shortly after 1130z! My 100 watts was making it over the pond. I had spotted a European station on 15 meters and I received a twitter request from Marc, DO4DXA to try a RTTY QSO. Marc needed Alaska on 15 meters. Once I set up and was on frequency, I printed Marc with no problem! Marc and I made our contact and after Marc spotted me, a few others fell in behind him. 15 QSO's later, I headed back to bed for a few more hours of rest.

This past weekend was SKCC's Weekend Sprintathon (WES) I fired up the rig and straight key for a handful of contacts, balancing calling CQ and doing a bit of search & pounce. I found Sunday propagation to be extremely challenging so needless to say, I put much more paint on the walls of our living room than I put QSO's in my logbook. The highlight for me during the WES was being called by TF3DX who was mobile in Iceland! Villi had a great mobile signal into Alaska on 15 meters. I've operated from Iceland before and I love that country! I'm looking forward to a return trip someday. Seems I have this attraction to arctic environments. 

We woke up this morning to a fresh coating of snow. The weather has been pretty nice with some temperatures pushing 50 degrees this past weekend. Seeing snow this morning was a bit depressing as I'm hoping most of the winters accumulation melts from our yard in the next two weeks. We have lots of mud and water laying atop the ground at the moment so hopefully things will dry up soon. It's nice having nearly 24 hours of daylight right now. 

One of my recent Twitter posts

Monday, May 6, 2013

DX'ing to Drywall - It's About Where You Hang

Snow Bound @ KL8DX
I have had zero time to play on the radio lately but I have left my rig on the high bands monitoring JT65A. I'm finding that 15 & 17 meters have been producing some DX but my time has been spent doing some last minute drywall work. Finding good DX is like good drywalling, it's all about where you hang. 

Our planned move has taken a large amount of our time as has working to complete some interior projects. We have seen plenty of snow over the last month but by Sunday, the snow clouds gave way to sunshine and warmer temperatures. We begin this week in the lower 40's and the forecast looks a lot like spring, peaking near 50 by next weekend! I have plenty of snow on the north side of our home to contend with. This normally does not melt off until late June, so I will probably have to make use of the snow shovel to get to the tower and vertical. My HF vertical is buried under four feet of snow as is the base of the tower. This is created by the strong southerly winds we receive during the winter months. 

We have lots of sun these days and life is slowly returning to the Denali area. It's nice to see preparation of local businesses to once again open for the tourists with preseason beginning on May 15th. It won't be long before we will be in the full swing of summer and our only traffic light in Glitter Gulch will once again be functional. I'm excited to head out camping once we complete our current projects and do a bit of portable operating. I'm sure ready for summer as I'm sure most Alaskan's are. It won't be long now before the first skeeter and out of state RV arrive. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hello May!

 I woke up early and had a few extra minutes so I decided to turn on the radio to listen for any DX. It's May 1st, and I thought it would be nice to log a contact or two early, breaking in the month right. When I turned on my Icom 765PRO, all I heard was powerline noise on 20 meters, and lots of it. We recently received another 3-4 inches of fresh snow so obviously a transformer or an electrical connection somewhere is being effected by the latest accumulation. And not only that, but I found the bands to be totally silent. This led me to HAARP's website and in looking at the Magnetometer and the Riometer, it was obvious we have some solar activity that has effected propagation.

Like summer, I hope the propagation returns to Alaska. Like spaceweather and local weather, it seems to be one storm after another. But, I'm remaining optimistic that if May begins like this that maybe, just maybe, we will have excellent conditions for the CQ World Wide CW WPX Contest at the end of the month. That will be my last contest from this QTH so I'm keeping my fingers crossed that I can have the window open to the shack and work lots of stations on 10 meters! Wishful thinking? Maybe. But that's pretty good from a "Glass is half empty" kinda guy.