October 12, 2015
ZS5IE is S9 +15 dB right now, so the door is now open. We will no doubt have ups and downs propagation wise, but this is that path I talked about yesterday. I was running 100 watts (too lazy to turn on the amplifier), but Ian’s 400 watts was just booming in. I heard Paul, N6PSE and several others along the West Coast working him with ease.
I just checked VOACAP – and it COMPLETELY misses this opening. Its totally counter-intuitive, and most prediction software seems to be weak as far as the Long Path is concerned.
Wow – maybe the reports that propagation is dead was a bit premature (heh heh). I say – “Remember 2004 and 2005 – two of my best DX-ing years ever”. . . .
October 12, 2015
About 10 years ago, I submitted this photo to the DX Engineering web site for inclusion in their examples of using DXE parts and antennas used at customer QTH’s.
At that time I experienced a phenomenon that I have only experienced during two “DX Seasons” – and that is the 40 and 30M long path openings to ZS, Middle East and Europe. It is strongest during December and January, and I worked all over Europe, the Middle East and parts of Africa. Some “juicy” DX:
Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Pakistan, Lakshwadweep, Oman, UAE and Qatar.
Well, those days are back – and they literally are my favorite conditions. The “numbers” suck today:
But I heard stations in Sweden, Italy and South Africa S9 +20 dB on the Long Path this morning. Awesome – this is a big deal. Its like an old friend is back.
October 11, 2015
I’ve been sitting here in the shack, coffee in hand hoping to hear a peep on 160M from TX3X, but no luck. So – while I wait on the Dawn Patrol, I’m starting to dream about next ATNO’s, and VP8STI is only 3 months away. Where the heck did time go?
The path from my QTH in Orinda to South Sandwich island is 140 degrees, and like the path to Heard Island, its one of the best directions from my seriously challenged QTH down in a bowl.
Heard Island is 17,900 km (11,122 miles) away from Orinda, and South Sandwich is just about 14 km (8700 miles) away from Orinda. Both are non polar paths, both mostly over water, and both have always been good paths from my QTH. I can still hear many VP8 (Falklands) QSO’s and many 3Y0X QSO’s in my “cans”. I can even still hear VP8GEO from South Georgia – one of the first DX-peditions I have ever worked after getting into DX-ing in July of 2001 – after being off the air mostly since 1977. I was such a noob DX-er, I did not even know they were activating South Sandwich – so I did not even bother to call VP8THU. Why did I think they had two stations with two different calls on South Georgia? Pretty funny that. I worked VP8GEO quite easily.
I would say that for all of the bands, the South Sandwich path is a lot stronger than the Heard island path, but the one LP path to ZS on 40M and 20M has been a major pipeline for much of the year. But yesterday morning that path was fine to VK and ZL – but the LP to ZS was closed. I remember FT5ZM and FT5XO being very strong, and for a very short while – when I worked FT5WJ on Crozet, his signal peaked for maybe 1/2 hour. He had 100 watts and a vertical and it was during the same conditions as what we expect to have when VK0EK is on the air. NEWS FLASH: I am hearing SM4OTI strong on 40M CW LP one hour after sunrise! I also hear I0QMH very loud on 40M SSB one hour after sunrise, and also a ZS1 station. I remember very clearly that the downside of Cycle 23 – especially in and around 2005, the EU LP path was open on 40 and 30, and I worked DXCC on those bands in a matter of a few months. I’m very glad to see this path open again, and it reminds me that we are far from the absolute bottom of the cycle, but yeah – the DX will start concentrating on the lower bands – that is very, very clear.
While trying to find decent maps of South Thule Island – to get an idea if there are any mountains blocking any paths, I was listening to the audio from this video:
The video reports that West Coast signals are always good from that part of the world.
The West Coast is almost due West from South Thule – which is the reason why signals have been reported as great to the West Coast from all previous DX-peditions. This is because there are no mountains in the way.
There are no guarantees, but even with these recent rotten conditions I am still quite hopeful that I can work #336 / 341 and #337 / 342 which would leave only Bouvet, Kingman Reef and Glorioso left to go.
October 11, 2015
In my quest to find the best Pumpkin Ale, today we find Uinta Jacked Imperial Pumpkin on deck. Its oak barrel aged and is quite good. But I must say, Pumpkin Ale is a very seasonal thing – something to savor for just a short while in October.
One morning this past week at Peets in Danville (on my ride to work), I saw this gem.
One of the coolest cars I have ever seen. And I’m not a car person.
Surfer / skate board dude for sure . . .
Even the antenna was tricked out.
One of my favorite bands – and really great for Halloween – The Stranglers . . .
October 10, 2015
I’ve pointed my N6BT DXU-32 toward Heard Island (215 degrees) so I can see what the signals are like between Orinda and Heard Island. There are two entities right along that path – E51 – South Cooks and ZL7 – Chatham Island. New Zealand is a good indicator, and right now I am hearing a ZL on 40M with a solid S9 +20 db signal. This path is usually a very reliable one on 40M, and I will especially start writing down signal strengths from now until March along this path. I will only use 100 watts and will especially be looking for ZS stations since that would represent an “overshoot”. When the French scientist is on Kerguelin I will also look for him – that will be a “dead reckoning” test.
I hope to create a weekly report and plot the signals in a way that can give some insight as to what solar conditions affect propagation along this path.
Stay Tuned . . .
October 9, 2015
N6BT DXU-32 Sunset
The trusty MA-160V comes through again this “DX Season”! YES – number 65 towards 160M DXCC and 9BDXCC. Thank goodness for this little antenna and 1200 watts (if I need 1500 watts I can do – but I’m conservative with power). Here it is:
This Top Band season is already better than last year, and I hope to work Robert, E51MQT – who has quite a better signal than T2GC (T2GC was ESP, but since few others were calling, and since I had the preamp off, I could work him clearly).
My K9AY Loops are swamped with noise – simply useless, so I’m using the MA160V as my RX antenna as well. I really love this little antenna – I think it was originally designed by Joe Reisert, W1JR.
October 8, 2015
It is perfectly normal to have wild swings and even more solar storms on the downside of a cycle. Cycle 24 has been anemic for sure, especially when compared with Cycle 23. I started DX-ing and chasing DXCC in July, 2001, so that was starting from the second peak of Cycle 23.
Some solar scientists are reporting that we are now under-performing an already weak cycle. When you look at the solar cycle progression chart, you can see the trend is at best worrisome. The signals coming from TX3X have been way below what I consider normal for the West Coast to Australia, but look at the “numbers” posted above – quite amazing, and something I haven’t seen for a few years.
For me, 40M (just as it was during the bottom of Cycle 23) saved my DX Bacon. I still worked 18 ATNO’s during the absolute worst part of that long bottom of the cycle. Lakshwadweep – VU7 was a QSO I’ll never forget – and at that time I was using phased verticals and 400 watts – so not a big gun, but no wimpy inverted vee either.
Last February I completely anticipated that DX-ing would take a shift down from the higher bands to the mid and lower bands. That is most definitely happening. I base all of my antenna planning on several sources of propagation predictions, HFTA and especially my logbook and the history of Cycle 23 in to Cycle 24. Ironically, just after I decided to move the emphasis of my antenna farm to 17M and below, the higher bands had a nice little resurgence between January and March or April of this year. At first I thought my plan was a little premature.
Now I am feeling like my plan was exactly right. But now I am wondering how this will affect the VP8 and VK0EK DX-peditions. Luckily, during a down part of the cycle, North – South propagation is actually enhanced! Furthermore – polar propagation gets really, really bad. This is because of the aurora oval and highly disturbed conditions over the polar route. I have listened to 9K2GS and his “club” on 20M at night all summer – and this summer even his usual beacon signal became weaker as the summer drew on.
Luckily, I have also watched how the ZS path on 40M LP (which is the same as VK0EK) has been good 2 hours past sunrise. Adding a 2 element 40M yagi to my arsenal will no doubt prove to keep me in the DX game.
The only hedge against declining conditions is your antenna farm. Lets look at my ATNO’s during the downside of Cycle 23 – when conditions were as bad as they are now:
2004 and 2005 were about the same as what we will experience between now and through the VK0EK DX-pedition. Here is what is in my log as far as ATNO’s are concerned – and where the entity was near either South Sandwich or Heard Island:
Near VP8/S – 8 ATNO’s on 40, 30, 20, 17, 15 and even 12M!
Near VK0/H – 16 ATNO’s on 80, 30, 20, 17 and 15M
This is EXACTLY when my ATNO’s on 40M started surpassing those on 20M. And it stayed this way until almost 2011. In fact, the ONLY band where TX3X has performed as I would expect such a “cakewalk entity” has been 40m – where they were S9 +20. Second place has been 17M – but they have been only S7 – 9 max.
So – my concern about what has happened propagation wise with TX3X – where conditions basically took a nosedive can be explained by a normal and natural downward spike in the cycle. In other words – its just bad luck. There are several more days to go – and I hope their winds die and propagation shoots back up.
So – what about VP8STI and VK0EK?
Time will prove to be the most important hedge against another such downturn. This means you either get lucky and are there during good propagation or not. The longer you are on that island – the higher the probability that you will get some decent propagation. If you are unlucky and hit poor propagation, that might actually be great for some parts of the world who get “selective propagation”. But its not a good thing for all – that’s for sure.
But starting this year – we certainly have entered the downward part of the cycle – with all its vagaries and (literally) ups and downs.
Invest in lower band fire power and cross your fingers – that’s all you can do.