Sunday, December 1, 2013

Observations Nov 30-Dec 1, 2013

    Saturday, November 30, 2013 with the help of another local ham we made some changes to one of the antennas. The 80 meter sloper that had been mounted on a 27 foot mast was taken down and a taller mast was put up. There were a couple of objectives in the work. The mast being used was old and rusty and somewhat rickety. The replacement mast was not only in better condition, but was a Rohn extra heavy duty push up pole that was also 40 feet tall. With the small extension on the top, the feed point of the sloper would be increased to about 43 feet.

    I have carted this particular mast around for almost forty years. It has been used as a stand alone vertical, to support two meter beams, FM broadcast band yagis, television antennas and an 80 meter Windom antenna in its storied life. The past ten years or so it has lain in the back yard waiting for its next assignment.
The sloper itself is rather simple. It is a 90 foot length of wire fed at the top with RG-8X coaxial cable and tilting down to about 8 feet above the ground. It had been tilting down to the east because that was the only direction it could go and fit in the yard. With the increased height, the end could be moved around to a more northeasterly direction.

In its previous incarnation, the antenna had been pretty good for general reception, not showing too much noticeable directionality, though theoretically it would be expected to have a null somewhat to the north. The antenna was used for general coverage reception for everything from low frequencies through six meters. I know this is not what such an antenna would be used for, but I guess it falls in the category of whatever works.

Of course as soon as the tools were put away and the much needed shower taken, it would not do but that the antenna be tested right away “just to make sure I had not ruined it” by making the changes. It was just before dark when I sat down in front of the R-75, the receiver chosen for the “test ride”.

I was particularly interested in how the antenna would behave on the lower frequencies, most particularly to see if the change in position would have affected my on-again-off-again power line noise problem. I was hoping the raising of the height would not make it worse, as part of the antenna was now nearer to power line height.

The first stop was to make a sweep of the WWV frequencies. This is something I often do to get some idea of what is happening prop wise. The table below shows how it went. Each entry has the time, callsign of the NBS site, frequency, signal strength and location.

Observations are all of course in Waco, Texas

2346 GMT WWV 15000 kHz S-9 + 10 db/WWVH well audible beneath
2348 GMT WWV 20000 kHz S-7 with fairly deep QSB ( fading)-No WWVH
2349 GMT WWV 10000 kHz S9 + 10 db No WWVH
2350 GMT WWV 5000 kHz S-9+ 20 db
2356 GMT WWV 2500 kHz S-9 + 10 db

Next stop was the 160 meter band. Noise was low and tuning up past 1825 immediately ran into a pileup-a cluster of stations calling some DX station in a real fur ball of signals. Thinking the DX station would be working split as they often do, listening up frequency from their transmit spot, I tuned down to 1825 even and there was J88HL on St Vincent with a very good signal, 579 on cw working stations as fast as he could. This was a bit of a surprise since it was not even fully dark yet. Tuning back up through the pileup I was copying signals form the northeast, midwest and even far northwest where it was not even dark yet. This meant really good band conditions in any event.

Going up to 80 meters, I immediately ran into a strong signal from HI3A in the Dominican Republic calling CQ. Unlike the station on 160 meters, this fellow was working stations simplex, that is, stations calling right on his frequency. After working a couple stateside stations with very strong signals both for him and in my shack, he took awhile answering the fifth or sixth calling station and pulled out a DL4 in Germany. Almost as surprising as what had happened on 160 meters was the fact that I could hear the DL4! Right there on 3503 kHz! This was at 0018. In quick succession I also heard an ON7 and an F8, along with a big pile of Stateside stations.

Usually I would have spent time mining the pileup for many DX stations for the log. This is always a good source of great loggings...digging through a pileup on a relatively nearby station. But this was antenna checking time, so it was on up to 40 meters, where surprisingly not much in the way of DX was found, mostly midwest stations rag chewing at high speed.

So up it was to 30 meters where the first station heard was a Russian, an RV3...the the world fell in. A huge pileup, and at the bottom of it a station in Somalia who was himself a good 559 signal. After that it was a jumble of stations calling...another good gold mine of DX ( as if the Somali station was not enough of a mine itself!)..several more Russians, Germans, French, even a JH3 apparently long path from Japan.

The DX session ended at 0100 GMT with other planned family activities. But early the next morning when the dogs and cats woke me up at 1130 GMT, I figured I could head to the radio and find some good Asian DX on the low bands.

Nay, not so! While I slept the bands took a drastic change. No stations heard on 160, only stateside ragchews on 80 and 40 meters, not much at all on 30. A run through the WWV frequencies gave the following:

1312 WWV 15000 kHz S-5 QSB with some flutter No WWVH
1313 WWV 20000 kHz S-3 with flutter...No WWVH
1314 WWV 10000 kHz S-9 + 40 db, steady, No WWVH
1315 WWV 5000 kHz S-9 + 30 db, steady, WWVH just audible
1316 WWV 2500 kHz S-9 + 20 db steady, WWVH just audible

Hmm. Appeared relatively short skip on the low bands even right at sunrise. What brought about the big change from last night?

Lets check 15 meters, even though its just becoming light and probably way too early. Wow! A band full of signals. First heard was PR7RC calling CQ on 21005 at 599. Great signal. Just up frequency is CO6LP in Cuba calling CQ with a weak, fluttery signal. Not unusual if 15 meters is open long. Here comes G3PLE answering him about S-5, then a W4 with a weak, watery sounding signal.

Tuning up frequency a bit, I run into a small pile..a weak W4 signing with someone, an S-5 signal with some fading. Whoa! Its a 7X4...Algeria with a fair signal with a little chirp on the cw keying. Then the PR7 from down the band is calling him, then other stations from the Northeastern US.

Lets check 12 meters. A number of moderate to weak signals. But what have we here: An EA9 from Ceuta or Melilla working a Germany station...then up at 24908 a 5R8 from Madagascar. Going back down the band, there appears to be a pile at 24902..a weak station from the Bahamas working a string of Europeans, with a Russian and a very strong familiar Belgian call ON5NT in the mix, a W6 that he works OK but which is very weak here in Texas...then he spends some time asking for a repeat, repeat, repeat and there he is, the distance record for the morning, a ZS3 from South Africa with a 549 signal, then a very strong F4 from France.

No doubt very good band conditions for an upper band after a very good low band night the night before, but not much on the low bands this morning. The question is: what brought about the change? Solar activity? Will have to check and see.

But that's one thing that makes this hobby interesting. It is often totally unpredictable...sort of like fishing sometimes.

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