Thursday, May 31, 2012

New short film about North Cork Radio Group

This is a lovely little documentary about the North Cork Radio Group which has just been finished by Tom McCarthy. It is an excellently put together film about this group of radio enthusiasts and their activities. I think the film speaks for itself.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Some nice QSLs via the bureau

I recently took a delivery of QSL cards via the IRTS bureau service, which I must start processing. I got about 160 cards, and some interesting DX was included, which is pictured here.

I got cards from BV100 (Taiwan), RI1FJ (Franz Josef Land), VE6WQ (Alberta, Canada), UN0C (Kazakhstan),and a couple of stations from PJ4 (Bonaire). I love getting the nice cards through the bureau.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Three new DXCC worked on 6 metres

There have been some good openings on 6 metres these past couple of days. Due to work I could not get to a radio on Monday but today I was able to catch a few QSOs at around tea time. In fact, I managed to nab a total of THREE new DXCCs on the band, one after the other, within the space of half an hour or so.

The first was CN8KD, Mohamed in Morocco, on CW with a 579 signal each way. Then I nabbed EA9IE, Juan in Ceuta, on SSB, followed by C31CT in Andorra on CW. That made it DXCC numbers 59, 60 and 61 worked on 6m. A pleasant evening!

I hope the band continues to behave well in coming weeks and months to allow more new ones to be worked. I will be doing a lot less radio for the next month or so while I get my book on Newgrange finished, but I would be happy to dip in and out of 6 metres to nab new ones!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A5A Bhutan dxpedition begins

A dxpedition to A51 Bhutan has begun, using the callsign A5A. Already there are many spots on the bands for this exciting new one, which will no doubt provide the opportunity for many EIs to nab a new DXCC. Just checking my log I see that I have worked A5 on 30 metres, 15 metres and 10 metres. So it won't be a new one for me, but I will try to fill out some slots.

This is from the website of A5A: The FGC DX Group (*Foundation for Global Children) is pleased to announce our next multi-national DXpedition to Bhutan, callsign A5A. We will begin operations by May 24, 2012 and will run until June 6th. We will activate 80-6m including the WARC bands using modes: SSB, CW, and RTTY. We will erect high gain antennas, utilize receive antennas, and run amplifiers at 3 stations. The QTH is in the mountains (more info very soon) and we are aware of where Bhutan is needed most and will focus on these areas when the band is open there. Also, we intend to listen carefully to the needs of the DX community during the operation by monitoring the activity on our website (coming soon), and other social media outlets for band openings, and dialogue with the radio community. Please join our conversation.

Some nice new eQSL confirmations - including Pakistan

This was my first confirmation of Pakistan, which I also received via Logbook of the World, which was nice.

This one's from Alaska, for a QSO on RTTY the other night. The latest arrivals bring my total number of countries confirmed on eQSL to 147.
And I thought I might add this one, frm Western Australia, for a contact in December last on 10 metres. Very nice.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

VK9PN Lord Howe Island on the air

A mini dxpedition to Lord Howe Island has begun today. This rare entity in the Pacific is being activated by three operators for the duration of one week under the callsign VK9PN. They will operate on CW and SSB on all bands from 160 metres to 10 metres.

The main ops are Patrick VK2PN and Mira OK1NG and they will later be joined by Chris VK3FY for the CQ WPX CW contest.

For more information on this exciting dxpedition, visit their website:

Thankfully, I already have this rare DXCC in my log, having been just one of two EIs to have worked VK9OL last year.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Big signals on 40 metres from my old IC-735

This is Richard, MJ0UOO/P on Jersey Island with a huge pile-up on 40 metres SSB. I was listening to him on my old Icom IC-735 connected to a homwmade inverted v dipole resonant on 40m. About five minutes after this I called Richard and broke the pile-up with 100 watts.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Fabulous DX worked on RTTY and PSK31

A screenshot of my 17m RTTY QSO with Nam in South Korea
I had a wonderful night on the bands, mainly on digimodes. It started with S79RR in the Seychelles on 15m RTTY, a new one on that band. Later I worked HI8CSS, Guillermo in Dominican Republic, for a new band slot on 17 metres PSK. Then I had my first ever QSO with Japan on digital modes when JA1FVS answered my "CQ DX" call on 17m PSK31.

4Z5MX, Anatoly in Israel, also came back to the call, and I then worked HK3TK, Pepin in Bogota, Colombia, for a new band slot, also on 17m PSK.

The major highlights of the night were VR2XMT in Hong Kong on 20 metres RTTY, a new country on digi, worked on my Butternut vertical antenna, followed by DS5USH, Nam in South Korea, on 17 metres RTTY, another new band slot.

I also nabbed WL7E in Alaska on 17m RTTY, in addition to CE2WZ, David in Chile, which gave me a brand new country on digimodes on 17m PSK.

This all followed RI1ANF, in the South Shetland Islands near Antarctica, who I worked on 30 metres CW, giving me that new DXCC now on four bands.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Hearing Antarctica on a coathanger!

You've probably heard amateur radio operators describing how when some stations are very strong, or propagation is very good, you could "probably work them on a coathanger". (Another version of this says you could load up a string of wet spaghetti and you would work them!) Well this video shows the signal of RI1ANF, Oleg, who is based in South Shetland Islands in Antarctica. I was listening at the time on my Icom IC-706 Mark II in the car, which is attached to - wait for it - a quarter wave whip antenna for the 4 metre (70 Mhz) band.

That's right!! He could be heard without any problem on this small antenna!

I had earlier worked EW8A in Belarus on 17m CW using just this antenna, which is probably smaller than a wire coathanger stretched out !!!!!!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

The magic of an inverted V dipole and 100 watts

This screenshot tells a story. That story is the signal strengths at which I am being received around the world using just 100 watts of RF into my home made inverted V for 30 metres. Granted, conditions do help. Sometimes the figures aren't as good as this. However, it shows what a home made wire antenna can do in limited space. I have two inverted v dipoles, one for 30m and one for 40m, nested off the same feeder. There is no balun or twin line running to the antenna.

It consists of two wire dipoles made from 1.5mm wire bought for less than 40 euro for 100m, plus a dipole centre, a length of coax and some PL259s. There is a 20ft pole with another smaller 10ft pole bracketed on to give about 9-10m total height at the apex. They are cheap dipoles. I reckon the total cost, including pole, stand-off brackets and the other items listed above was less than 100 euro. Having made my own dipoles (with the help of my ham friends!) I can firmly say that anyone who shells out good money on buying commercially-made dipoles needs to see a psychiatrist! Either that or they have money to burn . . .

The first one to come back to my call, incidentally, was FM5BH in Martinique in the Caribbean. I also worked UN7LZ, Valery in Kazakhstan. Nice contacts with a small station. And I'm in the middle of a densely crowded housing estate! So you have no excuse !!

The signals above are from skimmer station on the Reverse Beacon Network.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

My first QSO with VK Australia on RTTY

Above is a short video showing part of my QSO with VK2KM (Karl) on 14 Mhz (20 metres) RTTY. This was my first QSO into Australia on digital modes. He had a strong signal on my Butternut vertical antenna. I was using Ham Radio Deluxe and the interface to the FT-1000MP is a SignaLink USB. I have had several QSOs with Karl on CW but I had never worked Australia before on RTTY or PSK. Conditions on HF are strange these days. We don't seem to have great propagation but great DX contacts keeping popping up on the bands!!!!!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Jan Mayen 50 Mhz beacon heard in Ireland

This is JX7SIX, the 6 metre beacon on Jan Mayen Island, as heard at my station in Drogheda, Ireland, at 21:45z (10:45pm local time). It was weak enough but audible. This is the first time I've ever heard anything so far north on 6 metres. Of course it helps now that I have a three-element beam on 50 Mhz.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

7O6T Yemen dxpedition is QRT

The 7O6T dxpedition in Yemen has finally gone QRT after a terrific operation. I managed to nab one more slot, this time a digi mode slot, when I nabbed them on 12 metres RTTY this afternoon. I had been calling for 20 minutes and decided to record the exchanges on the waterfall with my smart phone. As soon as I began recording, up popped my callsign on the screen with a 599 report! It was a great pleasure although, as you can see from the video, it took me somewhat by surprise!

I have 11 slots in total, covering all bands from 30m through 10m, and although I missed them on 80m and 40m I do not mind, I am a happy man. It rounds off a brilliant few days on the bands for me, with more slots being filled throughout. Here is a summary of DX worked since my last posting:

5X5RO Uganga - 17m SSB
V44KAO Turks & Caicos - 15m CW
HC2AC Ecuador - 15m CW
S79RR Seychelles - 12m CW
E40VB Palestine - 10m SSB
PZ1DV Suriname - 20m SSB
HK1MW Colombia - 12m CW
OX3XR Greenland - 20m CW
CP6XE Bolivia - 15m SSB
3W7W Vietnam - 20m SSB (At 11pm local time, 57 signal on my Butternut vertical - fantastic conditions!)
TG9AHM Guatemala - 17m PSK
HP1CPE Panama - 20m PSK

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A great weekend for DX despite conditions

Despite the bands not being in great shape it was a good weekend on the bands. With varying power and different antennas I managed to nab a number of DXCC on new bands and new band slots. Here is a brief summary:

C91JD in Mozambique was a highlight of the weekend
TJ3AY (Cameroon) on 17m SSB, nabbed with 100 watts after just a few calls. New band slot.
JW7XM (Svalbard) on 17m SSB, with 100 watts. New band slot.
6O0CW (Somalia) on 30m CW, 100 watts and my home brew inverted V. Rare one and new band!
HD2A (Eduador) on 20m SSB with my Butternut vertical and 300w.
VK3TC (Australia) on 40m CW. Fought through serious QRM to get him but he was nice and clear.
6O0CW (Somalia) worked again on 17m CW with just 100 watts.
AP2IA (Pakistan) on 17m SSB with 400 watts, new band slot.
3B8FA (Mauritius) on 17m SSB, with 400 watts. Weak enough but worked as a new slot!
5N7M (Nigeria) - Ivan worked me on 80m CW the other night to give me a new one on 80, and today he gave me a new band slot with 17m SSB, worked first call with just 100 watts.
C91JD (Mozambique) - I had only ever worked this country on 12m CW, so to add 12m SSB was a great pleasure. It took a while and he was weak with QSB but got me in the log after about 20 minutes' calling.
E40VB (Palestine) - sat listening for ages on 12m SSB and he finally came out of the noise. I worked him 1st call with 400 watts. New band slot!
6O0CW (Somalia) was worked again, this time on 17m SSB, giving a new band slot!

UPDATE!!! RI1ANF (VP8-H South Shetland Islands) Heard quite well on 17m so I gave it a try. The pile-up got big very quick so he went split, and I was the second person to work him on the split. VP8-H is a brand new DXCC for me, country number 261!

RI1ANF (VP8-H South Shetland Islands) Soon after working him on 17m CW he was QRV on 20m CW. I worked him after a while with my Butternut vertical. New country on 20m!!!!!

Another highlight of the weekend was working CT3NA in Madeira on 6 metres. That was DXCC number 57 for me on that band !

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Improvised home brew insulator for my Butternut HF-6V vertical

A number of days ago while operating CW on the 15 metres (21 Mhz) band using 400 watts I turned to look out the window while operating and noticed white arcing sparks coming from a point up the antenna. There was some smoke too. I turned down the power but it was still happening. After stopping transmission I noticed the part of the antenna that was affected was an insulator and I could see from the shack that it was almost burnt out!

The burnt out insulator from the Butternut
So I stopped using the antenna immediately. The Butternut is an important part of the setup here, and a vital antenna in working the world. I planned to take it down and examine it as quickly as possible to see what the damage was.

A couple of evenings later I set to work. I decided to take the antenna apart at a point about six feet off the ground. This prevented me having to disconnect coax and all the stay wires (which are made of strong fishing line). I brought the top part of the antenna down to ground and, sure enough, I could see the insulator was almost melted away in parts.

The new insulator in situ
A few months ago I was gifted a couple of pieces of uPVC that had been cut off a chopping board. You know, one of those things that people chop vegetables and fruit on in the kitchen! Yes, this is where domestic culinary implements meet the hobby of amateur radio. When we say "home brew" in this hobby, we really mean it. If it's made from the right material, it might just end up as part of an antenna! I had been given these bits by Pat EI2HX, with the express purpose of making insulators for antennas if the need ever arose. So thank you Pat!

I set to work cutting away a piece, using a hacksaw, that would  be the same length and width as the burnt out insulator. Needless to say it was thicker, but when I finished with the saw I had a shiny white new insulator. I drilled two holes in it, one for attaching it to the aluminium holder on the antenna, and the other to attach the wire running down the side of the Butternut. After a few minutes of tightening everything up, it was all ready to go back up in the air!

The new insulator
It did look immediately different with the new insulator, but nevertheless appearance does not matter - it's performance that counts! With everything reassembled, the jubilee clip and screws tightened up, and amalgamating and insulating tape added, I was ready to see if it was working.

Some quick testing in the shack revealed that the SWR was still pretty much as it had been, with no ATU in line. I had resonance on the bottom end of 80m (about 1.3:1 at 3.505), and a decent SWR on 40m, 20m, 15m and 10m. I even had decent resonance on 30m! I tuned up the Acom 1000 and put a bit of power into it on 15m, running it for a while. No sign of any arcing - not yet anyhow. 

Given that this particular Butternut is estimated to be at least 20 years old, and that it was resurrected from a very sad state in someone's back garden a couple of years back, it is performing very well. Latest DX worked since the repair was 5N7M in Nigeria on 80 metres CW!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Sunspot 1476 - one of the biggest in years

Amateur radio operators from around the world are watching with interest developments on the surface of the sun, where one of the largest sunspots of recent years has broken out.

Sunspot 1476 is capable of producting X-class solar flares, the strongest type possible. Amateur astronomers are easily able to glimpse the sunspot by projecting the image of the sun using binoculars or a telescope onto paper. Remember to never look directly at the sun through binoculars or a telescope as it will burn your retina(s) and you will be permanently blinded. Always project the image.

It was this method that I used this morning while showing my two daughters this massive sunspot. We set up my Steiner 20x80 binoculars on a tripod and projected the sun's image into a piece of white card, held about a foot from the binoculars.

You can see Sunspot 1476 in the first image, just below the rough centre of the sun's disk. There are also two smaller sunspots to the upper left of the image.

The second image demonstrates how simple it is to see sunspots without harming your sight. By moving the binoculars around you will see where the shadow becomes most slender and if you hold the paper close to the eyepieces you should see two small bright dots. By pulling the paper back from the binoculars the sun's image becomes much larger. Of course, the image must be focused properly using the focusing mechanism on the binoculars. Remember the safety warning though! If you remember as a child using a magnifying glass to burn paper or grass, and if you think that binoculars are more powerful than a magnifying glass, you can just imagine what might happen your eyes if you were to use binoculars to look at the sun. In fact, it is not even safe to stare directly at the sun with your eyes. Always use something to project the sun's image.

An image of sunspot 1476
Anyway, the reason all this is relevant to amateur radio is because radiation from the sun interacting with layers of the earth's upper atmosphere (called the ionosphere) causes, or aids, the propagation of shortwave radio signals. The solar flux is currently 131 sfu which is a good figure, and if it rises above this we might see good propagation on the higher bands, particularly 12 metres and 10 metres. Of course, if there are X flares we could well see aurora borealis too, and this has the effect of dampening HF propagation while boosting VHF propagation.

An image of sunspot 1476 from the Space Weather website is shown on left. We shall keep a close eye on its progress!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Six metre opening plotted on DX Sherlock

Six metres (50 Mhz) opened this afternoon between EI and the Iberian peninsula. I decided to save the screenshots from DX Sherlock and made a short video showing how the opening progressed. You can see that the crossover of the QSOs is roughly over northern Spain. There were a lot of QSOs into Ireland and the UK, and a few into near Europe. There were some very strong signals on the band, but it was not very busy. I made a total of 15 QSOs in the space of two hours. I worked GI4SNA, my first contact into Northern Ireland, believe it or not! GI is my 56th DXCC on 6m.

6O0CW Somalia on the air this week

Following the intense interest in Darko J28AA working from Somalia as 6O3A a while back, hams around the world will be delighted to hear that Somalia is back on the air this week with a dxpedition. Somalia is a country ravaged by famine, war and crime. Many places do not have any electricity or running water and often rubbish piles up in the open and sewage runs along the streets. Therefore it is a very rare one for amateur radio activity.

The activity starts on Monday 7th (today) for a week. This information comes from the OPDX bulletin: 6O, SOMALIA. A team of Italian operators will be active this week from from Galkayo, Somalia, as 6O0CW between May 7-18th. Operators mentioned are Silvano/I2YSB (6O0CW), Vinicio/IK2CIO (6O0IO), Angelo/IK2CKR (6O0KR), Marcello/IK2DIA (6O0IA), Stefano/IK2HKT (6O0KT) and Gino/IK2RZP (9O0ZP). Also mentioned are Software developer Giacomo/IH9GPI and Pilot station Art/IK7JWY. Activity will be on 160-6 meters using CW, SSB and RTTY.

Suggested frequencies are: CW - 1823, 3530, 7025, 10113, 14050, 18069, 21050, 24891 and 28050 kHz SSB - 3790, 7056/7125, 14270, 18130, 21275, 24980 and 28450 kHz RTTY - 7041, 10142, 14080, 18103, 21080, 24915 and 28080 kHz 6m - 50105/CW and 50105/SSB

So keep an ear out folks, and enjoy the pile-ups! Somalia is the 40th most wanted DXCC, according to DX Publishing. I am lucky to have worked Darko 6O3A on 17m and 12m CW but will look to fill out a few more slots this week.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Dundalk Amateur Radio Society trophies 2012

This is the silverware taken home by members of the Dundalk Amateur Radio Society (EI7DAR) following the recent annual general meeting and prize giving ceremony of the Irish Radio Transmitters Society (IRTS) which was held in Dundalk a couple of weeks ago. The club, along with individual members, collected trophies in numerous categories and contests. Pictured are, from left to right: Pat EI2HX, Michael EI1581, Anthony EI2KC (PRO), Ivan EI1166, Jim EI2HJB (Treasurer), Thos EI2JD (Chairman), Seamus EI4KE, Michael EI5GG, Sean EI4IP, Michael SWL and Mark EI9FX. Several members are missing from the photo, including the society's new President, Tom EI9CJ.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Another good opening on 6 metres

There has been another good opening on 6 metres this evening, just two days after the first big opening of the 2012 E season. Stations worked here included those from Germany, Austria, Croatia, Italy and Slovenia, mostly in SSB with some CW contacts. The three-element beam seems to be working absolutely fine, with no trouble being heard by any station, even with QSB. The opening lasted for about an hour.

XX9 Macau - another one to look forward to

With the 7O6T Yemen dxpedition in full swing from Socotra Island, AF-028, Irish hams can look forward to another big activation this month with the forthcoming XX9 Macau dxpedition. This dxpedition will be on air for JUST ONE WEEK from May 17th to 23rd inclusive, so it will be tough to fill out slots as it is expected to be in high demand. They will transmit from  IOTA AS-075 (Coloane Island OL62SC).

 XX9 Macau is the 78th most wanted DXCC entity out of 340, according to DX Publishing. The team consists of ten hams, mainly from Spain, and one Welsh-born operator, F5VLY Adrian, who now lives in France.

They will be active on all HF bands from 160-10m and also 6 metres, in CW, phone and RTTY. For more details see their website.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

7O6T Yemen in the log - brand new DXCC!!

Finally, after hours of trying, I managed to get the 7O6T Yemen dxpedition in the log tonight. I had just worked VP2V/NY6X on 17m CW and with the linear still running I decided to try 7O6T on the same band. It only took a few tries. But that followed prolonged periods where I was calling 7O6T on various bands since the dxpedition began just over 24 hours ago. I have put in about three or four hours calling them so far, and the pile-ups are very wide and intense. So it was a great pleasure to hear "EI2KC 5NN" coming back through the noise!!

For many operators this will be a brand new DXCC, and that's how it was for me. Yemen is my 260th DXCC worked. I look forward to chasing them on other bands! In the meantime, here's another video I made showing the pile-up on 12m earlier on (where I failed, incidentally, to work them!) Enjoy. Happy hunting!