April 26, 2016
The biggest learning as far as VK0EK is concerned is how the Aurora Austrailis works, and how it affects propagation. You can actually see Kerguelin and Heard Island in the above map – they are about at 5 o’clock, and you can see how much closer Heard Island is to the oval. If you draw a line from Heard to VK-ZL and even the West Coast of the US – NOW you can see that even Spit Bay wouldn’t have helped a bit – the problem was this oval.
The 40M short path between KY6R and VK0EK. You can see how the signals had to pass through the oval twice . . .
It had a profound affect on the DXpedition, and in all of my years of studying propagation – I completely missed this. Since the team was there as the season was changing – the night sky was also changing. During the northern hemisphere’s winter, the Aurora Borealis offers nice northern lights. But as these were fading – the Aurora Australis – in the southern hemisphere started offered beautiful, but propagation destroying southern lights. Here is what team saw looking towards Orinda:
I worked them on 160, 40, 30 and 20M quite easily, to my great surprise. You can see that Big Ben was actually far enough away to not be as bad as our HFTA plots predicted. However, I expect that in this direction I caught them on the higher angle openings – and this is why when they were workable it was not a long opening – although it was usually up to an hour long. They pounded in on 20M SSB and 40M CW and even 30M – for maybe 1/2 hour out of that hour each day. 40 and 30M during the West Coasts morning, and 20m during the West Coasts evenings. They did superbly on 160 and 80M. I missed them on 80M (bummer). Photo by Bill, AE0EE.
The team was there late Fall Heard time – meaning the switch was happening – from Northern lights to southern lights – or Aurora Austrailis. FT5XO and FT5ZM were far enough north to avoid the damaging effects of this “auroral oval”. VK0EK was not. Couple this with a decline in SSN and SFI, and even throw in a solar storm where the team said for three days they basically had no propagation, and its clear – the only reason why the team was successful was because they were GREAT operators and because they were on the air for three weeks.
A second key learning is that higher angles DO work for very long distance DX-ing. From Orinda, Heard Island is 11,120 miles away on the short path and 13,750 miles on the long path. I worked them on both the long and short path. My N6BT DXU-32:
Is only up 50′ on my AB-577 mast. This is because this is the highest I can go while still being safe. On 20M, this is “good enough”. On 40M its sub par – but still better than the dipole I had up at 65′ before the squirrels ate the rope supports and it crashed to my roof. Its also quite a bit better than a 2 element phased vertical array that I had that was quite a good antenna (I did A-B comparisons and the DXU-32 was very noticeably better).
I worked Heard island EASILY on 40M CW one morning, and it was Short Path for sure. Why? Because it was after sunrise – and the angles must have been higher than earlier when it was dark. For a good half hour – propagation was surprisingly good. A 40M shortened 2 element yagi at these heights has these take off angles:
65′ – 35 degrees (me – and that’s a fairly high angle, but it also gets me over the hills nearby)
90′ – 21 degrees
180′ – 16 degrees
So – as you can see – with some careful listening and patience – you can catch the higher angle openings – which usually occur as the band is opening and closing. And sure enough – not too much longer after I worked them, the band closed – maybe half to one hour later. I know because I spotted them and watched a whole bunch of SF Bay Area hams work them on 40M while I was on my way to work riding on the BART commuter train.
Its starting to become more clear just how successful this project was. The team beat several other DXpeditions numbers QSO wise – (if you look carefully at the GDXF’s “Mega DXpedition Honor Roll” carefully), but the VK0EK project was never ever meant to compete in this way – it was a very special project that had several important goals and all of these goals were met and in several cases far exceeded. It was all about ATNO’s and band fills secondarily – meaning “uniques”. We were at 28% uniques – which is right up there with the best of the best DXpeditions. I think few actually understand this – because people seem to drool over total QSO’s made. At some point (and its less than 75K QSO’s), your uniques actually start to drop. I do think more SSB would have helped – but the team told me that propagation was so poor that only CW would get through allowing any kind of rate. So – it all makes much better sense now.
I expect that in a lot of ways that VK0EK will be talked about and reflected on in very different ways than any other DXpedition due to the many achievements made. But I am also very pleased that “the numbers” were as respectable as they were. I feel very pleased about the project these days – now that I have had some time away from its “heat and steam”.
And personally, the Diablo DXers already have new plans to extend what we had started with VK0EK, so the beat goes on, and I look forward to continuing camaraderie with my very good friends.
That’s the BEST “metric” of all!
April 25, 2016
This is the coolest – SDR Console, which comes with the SDR Play Receiver, can be controlled from the radio via Afreet Softwares OmniRig. This then means that DXAtlas is also part of the control line:
And also BandMaster:
This means I can tune the K3 or click on the SDR Console to tune the rig. I can also use BandMaster or even click on spots on DX Atlas itself to tune the rig.
After my “hero” Mike, KJ4Z suggested I try Skimmer with it – here it is:
Wow – since I’ve always been more of an SWL than anything – I’m now in heaven. There will be no DX Doldrums for me this summer!
April 24, 2016
click image to expand . .
WOW – for only $150, I have what is basically a panadapter for my K3. I just got this SDR Play working by sending the IF signal out into the SDR Play, and voila!
I have a lot to learn (like how to get a rig control program to track the SDR Play when I change frequencies from either the rig or the software, but for now – just having this working is tres coolio.
April 23, 2016
The “Deserving” . . .
The “Critics” . . .
April 21, 2016
I was very lucky to have had the time I did to work on VK0EK. That time is completely gone, and VK0EK ended just as my new company gets ready to launch our new web site and the new Online Travel Agency (OTA). Our offices are at the Embarcadero as I have mentioned before. It has to be one of the absolute best places you can work in San Francisco.
I walk on Pier 7 every day to take the one break I force myself to have.
My favorite little boat – a brand new “water taxi” trundles by just about every time I walk on the pier.
Another view from the pier – and another view right out our front door too. On top of this – the antique F Line street cars go by constantly, all painted very nicely and with many different eras, cities and even countries. I like the little red Italian street car the best. I really need to start photographing them.
I ride my bike to and from BART, and so if you are stuck living and working in the San Francisco Bay Area, this is a pretty nice way to go.
April 20, 2016
This summer I will make it a point to see how much past 75 entities I can get on Top Band. My strategy is to look carefully and the southern countries – especially South America as they enter their Winter months. Last summer I had one really excellent QSO with a South American station on Top Band and it reminded me of something that ON4UN says in his Lowband DX-ing book – that 160M does not just “close down” for summer in the northern hemisphere. Think of all the VK/ZL and other Oceania entities that we work during our Winter and their Summer. In fact, I still need these entities which (lightning willing) could be worked at any time on in the year on 160M from Orinda:
4U1UN, 4W, 8P, 8R, 9M2, 9M6, 9V, 9Y, BS7H, BV9P, C21, CE, CE0X, CE0Z, KC4, CP, CX, CY0, CY9, FK, FK/C, FP, FY, H40, H44, HH, HI, HS, J6, J7, JD1, KG4, KH0, KH1, KH3, KH4, KH7, KP5, LU, OA, P2, PJ4, PJ7, PY0F, PY0S, PY0T, PZ, T30, T33, T8, TG, V2, V4, VK0, VK9C, VP5, VP6, most of the VP8’s, XW, XX9, YB, YJ, YN, YV, YV0, ZL, ZL7.
With just South America (which I worked last summer in June or July), I have 5 possibles, plus ZL and some OC-PAC that could be possible. I’d love to get to 80 this summer – so that’s my lofty summer DXing goal.
From Page 45 May 2016 QST
I was very pleased to see in the May edition of the ARRL’s QST magazine that my 80M Full Wave Delta Loop is discussed. (Ok, not MINE per se – but the topic is covered). I was especially please to see that the full wave loop has the same effective gain as a high dipole at the lower angles. This means I now have very decent antennas on all bands 160 – 10M, with 30, 15, 10 and 12M being a high rotatable dipole.
Speaking of that – VK0EK and VP8 proved that just using my N6BT DXU-32 as a rotatable dipole on 30M is plenty good. And my 17M Moxon used as a rotatable dipole on 15, 12 and 10M is also plenty good.
My decision a year ago to put up the DXU-32, and since I got that antenna at 50% off list, has proven to be the best antenna decision I have ever made. $1500 for this antenna is the “zenith” of what I call my “antenna years”. I will most likely be in Orinda between 5 and 10 more years and then will end up in the Pacific Northwest. But until then – this antenna will most certainly land me on Top of the Honor Roll, even while we head rapidly down to the bottom of Cycle 24 – expected to be in (most likely the way the trend is going) 2019.
VK0EK proved that even with numbers as crummy as an SFI of 88 and SSN of 11, that world wide multi-band propagation is possible (even with pretty bad aurora disturbances). This means I won’t be as “afraid” of Glorioso and Bouvet being activated with crummy solar conditions as I might have been before VK0EK.
The only difference is that I will be happy and lucky to work these on one band and mode – and that’s just fine by me.