Sunday, May 11, 2014

May Starts With a Snooze

If April went out with a yawn, May started by hitting the “snooze” button on it's alarm clock. This was the week after the big flare and the time period that the big coronal mass ejection was supposed to miss the earth completely. May 1 GMT in front of the radio started with the following WWV sweep ( Times GMT, receiver R-75 on 80 meter sloper:

0000 WWV 25000 Inaudible
0001 WWV 20000 Carrier just audible
0002 WWV 15000 S-6
0002 WWVH 15000 S-6 even with WWV
0003 WWV 10000 S-9+30DB
0004 WWV 5000 S-9
0005 WWV 2500 S-4

The snoozing gets worse. For the first time in as long as I can remember, with the sun up, Ten Meters was completely and truly dead. I mean dead. No discernible noise other than receiver front end noise, not ONE beacon heard, nothing on CW or SSB. Whoa!. Same same Twelve Meters. Absolutely nothing.

Fifteen was not much better. No broadcast signals above the band, no CW signals, just a little noise and finally on SSB, one lone signal from PY2VI in Brazil on 21301. Seventeen meters was still not much good. The only station on the band was W1AW/1, one of the ARRL Centennial stations calling CQ on CW only RST449 with heavy QSB. He was getting no takers. This IS bad!

On down to 20. There I find plenty of signals, strong and steady, but all close in, single hop stuff. The strongest signal on the band is another operator of W1W/1 on 14026 working plenty of stations, but mostly in Florida and the Midwest. I hear one, lone VE3 in Ontario calling CQ and he is only RST549.

On down to 30 meters. At least WWV was strong on 10 mHz. Not an auspicious beginning. The first station heard is K5RIX on 10113.5. ( I am in the “5” call area) Not exactly DX. It is still full daylight and perhaps a little early for the band, but there have been many times I have heard Europeans this early. Nope! Not this time! There is another W1AW/1 station heard about S-7, but otherwise mostly Midwest stations strong and steady. Well, one W7 whose call indicates Northwest. One more sweep and the only DX found is one lone signal from Panama. Its the first time I have heard a beacon on this band: HP1AVS RST449 with QSB on 10122.1 at 0028.

OK...let's try something radical. I go all the way down the MW broadcast band. I am sure the absorption will still be high for skip, but let's just see if things are any better really down low. I started at the top of the Expanded Band. On days the band will be good, stuff often starts propping in early. At 1700, the station within groundwave range on daytime power, KKLF in Richardson, Texas is in at S-7, but there is already some short skip as KVNS from Brownsville—way too far for groundwave—is battling it out with him. The Chicago area WVON on 1690 is starting to show up about S-4, at least making it well over my local noise level. Nothing on 1680 yet, 1670 is covered with splash from the local 1660 KRZI with 10 kw with its usual S-9+50 DB signal from only a few miles away. By going to the narrow lower SSB position, I am able to pull out KZLS from Enid, Oklahoma on 1640.This station is marginally audible here during the daytime on the bigger wire antennas.

On down to 1630, the usual groundwave signal from KKGM in Fort Worth, Texas is there about S-6 and showing some signs of co channel hop. This station just does not have the signal one would expect from a 10 kw non directional station just 90 miles away. Its dial mate, WTAW on 1620 in College Station, Texas, also 90 miles away but in the opposite direction is always much stronger, today at S-9+20DB with no signs of co channel showing up yet at 0050.

Going down to 1610, The Caribbean Beacon from Anguilla ( which should be in or near darkness by now) is starting to show up, fading a bit but about S-5 on peaks with good audio. On 1600, another semi local from the Dallas/Fort Worth area, KRVA is in at S-9 with no interference. The local 1590 KLRK is in at S-9+20DB. It's transmitter is about 20 miles away East of town, technically licensed to Mexia, but now in reality a Waco station with 2500 watts. My location on the West side of Waco is right in the hot lobe of its four-tower directional array.

There is a little more skywave starting to show at 0108 GMT as the 1 kw KXZZ from Lake Charles, Louisiana ( once upon a time KLOU with a rock more!) is in about S-8, using the lower sideband narrow selectivity position on the R-75 to get it out from under any KLRK splash. A slight nudge of the tuning dial down to 1570 and the band is starting to open more as XERF on 1570 is already in at S-9+20DB. It will get stronger as the night comes on. I am not sure how much power this station in Villa Acuna, Mexico is actually running these days. It was a true Border Blaster in the day with 250 kw right across the border from Del Rio, Texas. But in recent years it has been reported running as low as 50 kw, then a few years ago there was word that the 250 kw was running again ( and it sounded like it!!) with the World Radio TV Handbook and others listing it at 100kw. I can say it is truly stout into Central Texas from a bit before dark till at least an hour after sunrise every day.

For some reason, I slipped back to 1620 since it was obvious that to the east of us, darkness was falling, and sure as the world, Radio Rebelde from Cuba is starting to come up behind WTAW.

OK, how about we check a few lower frequency shortwave stations. Wow! They are obviously getting through! WWRB is S-9+30DB on 3185 at 0115 ( remember the time when there were no US stations down here, or even below 49 meters?). Just up a smidge from it at 3215, WWCR is S-9+40DB at 0116. Scrolling on up in the upper sideband mode to allow easy detection of carriers, I find Radio Mosoj Chaski on 3310 at about S-5 and rising. And next to it, Radio Sonder Grosse from South Africa is booming in at S-9+DB on 3320. The ionosphere isn't broken!
Just time to check a few more as the supper call is coming. CHU, the Canadian Time Signal station on 3330 is S-9+20DB ( I still remember when it used to identify as “ CHU, Dominion Observatory, Canada”.  Sorry to see them drop that part, it always sounded sort of special)

The only other signal heard in the 90 meter band that once was so full of signals comes from HRMD in Honduras ( I still like to log them by call letters when they are available...old habits....). A fast dial up as the second supper call comes finds New York Volmet WSY70 on 3485 at S-8. But now red beans and rice are calling from the supper table more loudly than stations from the radio! There ARE priorities!!!

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