Tuesday, 6 November 2018

Here Comes The '29 QSO Party!

courtesy: Lou, VE3AWA

This Saturday night as well as the next will be the annual Bruce Kelley 1929 QSO Party, otherwise known as the '1929 BK'.

Only transmitters that are 'era-appropriate' are allowed to be used. More specifically, transmitters must employ tubes that were available in 1929 or earlier, and transmitters must be self-excited. No crystals allowed! Crystals were new and largely unaffordable for most hams back in the depression days.

The year of 1929 marked a real turning point in amateur radio as governments finally cracked-down on things such as frequency stability, out of band operations and re-alignment of call districts. In short, hams were henceforth required to behave themselves and to clean up their signals and methods of operation.

courtesy: http://www.arrl.org/
Although the new rules did a lot to improve things when it came to 'signal purity', there was still a long way to go ... but the wheels of improvement had been officially set in motion. The next decade would see monumental changes in both transmitter and receiver architecture, as engineers along with some particularly gifted amateurs, strove to unlock the challenges of this relatively new technology.

If you tune across the CW bands during the next two Saturday nights, you will have the rare opportunity to hear exactly what the bands must have sounded like back in the early '30s'.

For the most part you will hear single-tube Hartley, Colpitts or TNT oscillators along with a few two-tube MOPAs thrown in. Many of them will suffer the same problems encountered by the boys of '29 ... chirp, drift, buzzy notes and frequency instability from antennas swaying in the wind.

Again this year, signals should be a little louder as well, since the previous long-time power limitation of 10W input has been increased to 25W.

The MOPAs will sound much better but some surprisingly nice-sounding signals can be heard coming from properly tuned and optimised single-tube oscillators. I recall being blown away by the lovely sounding signal I heard from such a rig when first tuning into the BK activity several years ago, only to learn that it was a self-excited Hartley using 1/4" copper tubing for the oscillator tank circuit!

The '29 watering-hole on 80m will be around 3550-3580 kilocycles (be careful not to confuse this with kilohertz!) while the early afternoon to post-sunset 40m activity will be found from 7100-7125 kc. There may even be a few on the very low end of 160m. Although many of these transmitter styles were used on 20m and higher, BK rule-makers have wisely decided not to inflict these sounds on the present populace as it would likely keep the 'Official Observers' busy for several days writing pink-slips.

This year I will leave the MOPA on the shelf and set up my Hull Hartley as I haven't used it since building the MOPA a few years ago. If it's very windy (almost assured), the Hartley will really sound like 1929!

My own Hull Hartley

You can learn more about amateur radio happenings leading up to and following the 1929 crackdown in my earlier series of 'Why '29' blogs here:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Those wishing to put something together for next year's event can find everything needed here:

Introduction To Building ... '29-Style

Building '29-Style - Part 1

Building '29-Style - Part 2

Heck, there may even be time to throw something together for the following Saturday if you have a few parts and an older tube or two ... the '27 comes to mind and is readily found in many junk boxes. Maybe you know an old-timer or two with lots of parts that could help you out.

Let's hope for good conditions for this event as the last few years have been adversely affected by geomagnetic storming. Poor propagation or not, I guarantee there will be plenty of '29ers busy calling 'CQ AWA' on the low bands.

Complete BK details are available here.

Saturday, 3 November 2018

CLE237 Results

Last weekend's CLE237 was truly a workout. Not only was the format challenging, hunting for different grid square fields, but propagation was superb ... a vast departure from the normal CLE propagation-curse!
This combination resulted in many daytime hours spent reviewing three nights of Perseus recordings, the downside of being able to sleep all night rather than staying up until 0300 while listening live!

All told, 118 NDBs in 41 different grid fields were logged. Of these 118 stations, 12 were 'new catches'. After DXing NDBs since 1985, new catches are getting harder and harder to find but last week's great conditions were the best heard here in several years.

Today's quiet Sun!

With a very quiet Sun for a couple of weeks now, these great MF conditions are what many have been waiting for since the last solar low many years ago ... propagation below the broadcast band can be truly remarkable when these quiet conditions continue for many weeks at a time.

Here are a few interesting CLE catches as recorded on the Perseus SDR.



NDBs QY (Sydney, Nova Scotia), YBB (Pelly Bay, Nunavut)and 3Z (Russell, Manitoba) all sharing 263kHz within a few Hz of each other.

My full CLE237 log is shown below. As usual, a Perseus SDR and an 'inverted-L' (resonated to 300kHz) was used for the activity.

28 13:30  403     TUT   Pago Pago, SMA

28 13:30  400     MDY   Midway, MDW

27 12:30  283     DUT   Dutch Harbor, ALS
27 12:30  341     ELF   Cold Bay, ALS
27 12:30  385     EHM   Cape Newenham, ALS
27 12:30  390     HBT   Borland, ALS

27 06:00  263     OAY   Norton Bay, ALS
27 13:30  275     CZF   Cape Romanzof, ALS
27 13:00  325     BVK   Buckland, ALS
27 13:30  347     TNC   Tin City, ALS
27 13:00  356     HHM   Kotzebue, ALS

27 13:30  352     RG    Rarotonga, CKS

27 13:30  332     POA   Pahoa, HWA

27 14:00  353     LLD   Lanai, HWA

27 12:00  277     ACE   Kachemak, ALS
27 12:00  355     AUB   King Salmon, ALS
27 12:00  394     RWO   Kodiak, ALS
27 12:00  411     ILI   Iliamna, ALS
27 12:00  429     BTS   Dillingham, ALS

27 12:00  212     CGL   Juneau, ALS
27 13:00  257     CUN   Fairbanks, ALS
27 12:00  346     OLT   Soldotna, ALS
27 12:30  347     DJN   Delta Junction, ALS
27 12:00  350     VTR   McGrath, ALS

27 13:00  376     PVQ   Deadhorse, ALS

27 06:00  378     AP    Mayne Island, BC, CAN (MY NEAREST)
27 12:00  266     SLE   Salem, OR, USA
27 07:00  356     PND   Portland, OR, USA
27 06:00  356     MEF   Medford, OR, USA
27 06:00  404     MOG   Montegue, CA, USA

27 07:00  203     TCY   Tracy, CA, USA
29 04:00  385     MR    Pacific Grove, CA, USA

27 12:00  266     ICK   Annette Island, ALS
27 12:00  358     SIT   Sitka, ALS
27 12:00  396     CMJ   Ketchikan, ALS
27 12:00  414     IME   Sitka, ALS
27 12:00  529     SQM   Sumner Strait, ALS

27 13:30  222     WY    Wrigley, NT, CAN
27 11:30  254     EV    Inuvik, NT, CAN
27 14:00  284     YOC   Old Crow, YT, CAN
27 08:00  380     YUB   Tuktoyaktuk, NT, CAN
27 12:00  392     ZFN   Tulita, NT, CAN

29 06:00  321     YSY   Sachs Harbour, NT, CAN

27 08:30  242     EL    El Paso, TX, USA
27 10:00  278     CEP   Ruidoso, NM, USA
27 06:00  326     MA    Midland, TX, USA
27 12:00  338     RYN   Tucson, AZ, USA
27 13:00  341     OIN   Oberlin, KS, USA

27 09:00  233     BR    Brandon, MB, CAN
27 09:00  275     HIN   Chadron, NE, USA
27 09:00  383     CNP   Chappell, NE, USA
27 09:00  400     FN    Fort Collins, CO, USA
27 09:00  414     GRN   Gordon, NE, USA

27 08:00  207     PY    Fort Chipewyan, AB, CAN
27 08:00  212     BY    Beechy, SK, CAN
27 08:00  219     ZRS   Regina, SK, CAN
27 08:00  221     QU    Grande Prairie, AB, CAN
27 08:00  230     VG    Vermilion, AB, CAN

27 08:30  361     HI    Holman, NT, CAN

27 06:00  260     MTH   Marathon, FL, USA
27 10:00  269     AR    New Iberia, LA, USA
27 10:00  329     HMA   Hondo, TX, USA
27 06:00  332     FIS   Key West, FL, USA

27 07:00  263     CVM   Alton, IL, USA
27 07:00  332     IC    Wichita, KS, USA
27 07:00  335     BV    Batesville, AR, USA
27 07:00  338     UMP   Indianapolis, IN, USA
27 07:00  349     GW    Greenwood, MS, USA

27 12:00  257     JYR   York, NE, USA
27 06:00  329     PMV   Plattsmouth, NE, USA
27 06:00  360     SW    Warroad, MN, USA
27 08:00  368     VIQ   Neillsville, WI, USA
27 09:00  368     PNM   Princeton, MN, USA

27 07:00  212     YGX   Gillam, MB, CAN
27 08:00  216     YFA   Fort Albany, ON, CAN
27 08:00  218     RL    Red Lake, ON, CAN
27 08:00  224     MO    Moosonee, ON, CAN
27 08:00  258     ZSJ   Sandy Lake, ON, CAN

27 06:00  224     BK    Baker Lake, NU, CAN
27 09:00  241     YGT   Igloolik, NU, CAN
27 08:00  263     YBB   Kugaaruk, NU, CAN
27 10:00  329     YEK   Arviat, NU, CAN
27 10:00  335     YUT   Repulse Bay, NU, CAN

27 04:00  365     YGZ   Grise Fiord, NU, CAN

27 05:00  365     PAL   Palma, EQA

28 05:00  369     ZDX   Saint Johns, ATG
27 06:00  391     DDP   Vega Baja, PTR
27 05:00  415     CBC   Cayman Brac, CYM

27 09:00  376     ZIN   Matthew Town, BAH

29 05:00  198     DIW   Dixon, NC, USA

27 08:00  289     YLQ   La Tuque, QC, CAN
27 08:00  373     YXK   Rimouski, QC, CAN
27 05:00  392     ML    Charlevoix, QC, CAN
27 05:00  407     ZHU   Montreal, QC, CAN
27 07:00  516     YWA   Petawawa, ON, CAN

27 10:00  208     YSK   Sanikiluaq, NU, CAN
27 18:37  323     KR    Schefferville, QC, CAN
27 10:00  351     YKQ   Waskaganish, QC, CAN
27 10:00  390     VP    Kuujjuaq, QC, CAN
27 08:00  396     YPH   Inukjuak, QC, CAN

27 09:00  277     YLC   Kimmirut, NU, CAN
27 10:00  338     YPX   Puvirnituq, QC, CAN
28 10:00  358     YKG   Kangiqsujuaq, QC, CAN

29 07:00  256     YCY   Clyde River, NU, CAN

27 10:00  263     QY    Sydney, NS, CAN
27 08:00  280     QX    Gander, NL, CAN
27 08:00  350     DF    Deer Lake, NL, CAN

28 08:00  220     BX    Lourdes de Blanc, QC, CAN
28 08:30  281     CA    Cartwright, NL, CAN
28 10:00  396     JC    Rigolet, NL, CAN

28 06:00  399     UP    Upernavik, GRL

27 12:00  366     PNI   Pohnpei Island, FSM

27 13:00  343     ML    Minami Tori Shima, MTS
27 12:00  360     OX    Iwo Jima, VOI

28 13:30  437     OG    Okha, RSE

27 12:30  260     NF    Norfolk Island, NFK

27 12:00  316     MAJ   Majuro Atoll, MHL
27 12:00  393     UKS   Kosrae, FSM

As always, complete CLE results (worldwide) can be viewed in detail here.

All-in-all, an exhausting but delightful weekend of listening and great propagation ... so many signals to hear ... welcome to solar-low!

Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Hunting NDBs In CLE237

CLE 237 will be held this coming weekend and will be somewhat different than normal.

'CLE's are 'Co-ordinated Listening Events, and NDB DXers around the world focus their listening time on one small slice of the NDB spectrum ... but this one is a little different.

This event has been organized around the Maidenhead Locator system and will challenge hunters to log beacons based upon the beacon's FIELD designation. Listeners should seek to log a maximum of five NDBs in each GRID FIELD.

The grid field is actually the first two letters of the grid locator, such as 'CN', 'FN', 'DM' etc., as seen in the map above. Each field itself is divided into 100 GRID SQUARES, but individual grid squares are not relevant for this CLE ... only the fields.

Most amateurs that operate on the VHF bands are very familiar with the 'grid square locator' system and many VHF operating awards and events are focused on working different grid squares. This may all be a new adventure for many non-VHF DXers but it does present a whole new way of keeping track of your catches.

I have always kept track of the grid square locator for all NDB signals that I hear and often find that a signal being heard from one particular square will lead to other beacons being heard (often new catches) from adjacent squares, while propagation is spotlighting that region ... it often pays to keep a grid square map handy while you search the band!

If you are not familiar with the grid square system, it's all pretty simple and this CLE only focuses on the largest part of the system, the FIELD. The first thing you should do is determine your own grid FIELD location, which, for North America, can be found very easily from the map above or anywhere in the world on K7FRY's locator map.

When tuning for NDBs, put your receiver in the CW mode and listen for the NDB's CW identifier, repeated every few seconds. Listen for U.S. NDB identifiers approximately 1 kHz higher or lower than the published transmitted frequency since these beacons are modulated with a 1020 Hz tone approximately.

For example, 'AA' near Fargo, ND, transmits on 365 kHz and its upper sideband CW identifier is tuned at 366.025 kHz while its lower sideband CW ident can be tuned at 363.946 kHz. Its USB tone is actually 1025 Hz while its LSB tone is 1054 Hz.

Often, one sideband will be much stronger than the other so if you don't hear the first one, try listening on the other sideband.

Canadian NDBs normally have an USB tone only, usually very close to 400 Hz. They also have a long dash (keydown) following the CW identifier.

All NDBs heard in North America will be listed in the RNA database (updated daily) while those heard in Europe may be found in the REU database. Beacons heard outside of these regions will be found in the RWW database.

From CLE organizer Brian Keyte:

Here are the Final Details for this weekend's DX Listening Event.

We'll be listening for NDBs in as many Locator FIELDS as we can.

Fields are the first 2 letters of the 6 character locators ('Grid Square').

    Days:     Friday 26th October – Monday 29th October
    Times:    Midday on Friday to Midday on Monday, your LOCAL* time
            *(NB Many of us will be changing our house clocks this weekend.
               UTC time, shown in our logs, continues unaffected by that)
    QRG:      Normal LF/MF frequencies  190 - 1740 kHz
    Target:   UP TO 5 NORMAL NDBs IN EACH LOCATOR FIELD (see below)
                    (not DGPS, NAVTEX, Amateur or UNIDs)

Please also log YOUR NEAREST ACTIVE NDB - it will probably be one of
the five in your own Field.

A World map of all the locator Fields is attached.  You can see, for
example, that Field IO includes most of the British Isles.

(click map to expand)

Please post your CLE log to the List in a plain text email if possible,
with 'CLE237' at the start of its title and showing on each log line:

     The full Date ( e.g. 2018-10-26, etc., or just the day number 26 )
     UTC  (The day changes at 00:00 UTC).
     kHz - the NDB's nominal published frequency
     The Call Ident.

As always, put those FOUR MAIN ITEMS FIRST on each log line, with
any other optional details such as location and distance LATER in the
same line.

There is no need to show the locator Fields (the harvester program
will work out all of them and the nearest NDB you logged).

Your log will be easier to read if you leave a blank separator line
between the groups of up to 5 lines for each Field.

If you wish, you could add the 2-letter Field ident (NOTHING ELSE)
at the start of each separator line.

Any UNIDs that you come across will also be of interest - in a separate
part of your log please.

If you send interim logs, please make sure that you also send a 'FINAL'
log showing ALL your loggings for the CLE.

We will send the usual 'Any More Logs?' email to NDB List at about
18:00 UTC on Tuesday so you can check that your log has been found OK.
Do make sure that your Final log has arrived on the list by 09:00 UTC
on Wednesday 31st October at the very latest.
Joachim and I hope to complete the combined results within two days.


It will really help you to plan your listening if you go to the excellent
Rxx Database  https://www.classaxe.com/dx/ndb/reu
(Replace the 'reu' by 'rna' if you are in North America, 'rww' elsewhere)

THE KEY PLACE to start entering details of what you want is
'Signal Locations - GSQs'.

Put a 2-letter FIELD id in that box to see all the NDBs in that Field that
have been logged from your part of the World (i.e. EU or NA or other).

You could alter the resulting list in lots of different ways:

Select 'Only active' (bottom right)
Enter your own Country or State in 'Heard Here'
Select a specific listener (yourself?) in 'Logged by' – BUT you might missa beacon that you haven’t   heard so far
Add extra locator Field(s) in the 'GSQs' box, separated by blanks
- In ANY of the above, you can select 'Map' instead of 'List' (top right)

Add your own full locator (6 characters) in the 'Distance - From GSQ' box to see the distances and bearings from your location.
In 'Sort By' (bottom line) select GSQ

Getting cleverer (!) you could use the wild card _ (an underscore) to see details of all Fields with the same column of Longitude or row of Latitude
e.g.  I_  selects all of locator column I (0  to 20 degrees west),  _O would give all of row O (50 to 60 degrees north).

Good Listening

73    Brian
From: Brian Keyte G3SIA                ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location: Surrey, SE England          (CLE coordinator)

(As usual a handful of us may choose to listen via a remote receiver
with permission if required - its own location will be their temporary
home Field).
A remote listener may NOT also use another receiver, whether local
or remote, to obtain further loggings for the same CLE.


These listening events serve several purposes. They:
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are actually in service and on-the-air so the online database can be kept up-to-date
  • determine, worldwide, which beacons are out-of-service or have gone silent since the last CLE covering this range
  • will indicate the state of propagation conditions at the various participant locations
  • will give you an indication of how well your LF/MF receiving system is working
  • give participants a fun yet challenging activity to keep their listening skills honed
Final details can be found at the NDB List website, and worldwide results, for every participant, will be posted there a few days after the event.

The Yahoo ndblist Group has been moved to Groups.io and The NDB List Group will now be found there! The very active group is a great place to learn more about the 'Art of NDB DXing' or to meet other listeners in your region. There is a lot of good information available there and new members are always very welcome. As well, you can follow the results of other CLE participants from night to night as propagation is always an active topic of discussion. Joining the group also makes it much easier to post your logs!

You need not be an NDB List member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 

Remember - 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the NDB List Group or e-mailed to CLE co-ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above. If you are a member of the group, all final results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

Please ... give the CLE a try ... then let us know what NDB's can be heard from your location! Your report can then be added to the worldwide database to help keep it up-to-date.

Have fun and good hunting!

Tuesday, 16 October 2018

Monday's 'NRN' CW Fun

My homebrew Ameco AC-1 clone

A weekly CW operating activity that seems to be growing in popularity is the Monday “NRN”.

The NRN get-togethers are an offshoot of the annual “NRR” or Novice Rig Roundup. Monday’s “Novice Rig Night” gradually grew from those that wanted to see the NRR fun continue, in one form or another, without waiting an entire year for the event to roll around again.

Operating times run from sunup on the east coast to midnight on the west coast ... but basically, people just get on the air whenever they can on Monday and call “CQ NRN”. I suspect that most of the activity takes place between late afternoon and bedtime, with 40m probably seeing the most action. As winter arrives, we may see more activity on 80m but these are only my personal observations from the west coast.

Most folks are using typical Novice-era transmitters and / or receivers, with the Drake 2NT, early Heathkits, Eicos, homebrews and Hammarlunds being popular. The previous Monday I was active with my homebrew Ameco AC-1 clone, a 6V6 crystal power oscillator, at about 6 watts out. Good contacts were had with several eastern stations. There are several AC-1s around and there has been at least one suggestion of an 'AC-1 Night' ... what fun that would be as well!

For last night’s NRN, I brought out my homebrew Paraset.

Once again, good contacts were had with the easterners on 40m: W9BRD in NJ, W3NP in WV,  KD2E in NJ and VE3LYX using his No.19 tank radio ... two WWII radios talking to each other in 2018, one real and one a reproduction!

VE3LYX's No.19 set operating position
The Paraset uses a two-tube regenerative receiver and, like the AC-1, a single 6V6 crystal controlled power oscillator. It's always difficult to judge propagation conditions when listening with a regen ... are conditions as bad as they seem or is it just my simple receiver making the band sound poorer than usual? Such was the case for me last night so next week I will spark-up the Paraset once again for another round of NRN fun. As promised on the NRR Facebook page (now at 1600+ members!), all Paraset contacts will be confirmed with my mid-30s styled QSL and these will be going out this week. 

Here is the formal announcement for the Monday events, with a few additional details. Hopefully you can join the fun (any rig is fair game!), next week.

Saturday, 6 October 2018

Some Summer Short Wave Listening


Over the past few months I’ve spent some time tuning around the international shortwave bands.

I vividly recall how jam-packed these bands were when I first discovered the magic of radio, back in the peak years of Solar Cycle 19. Much has changed in this part of the radio spectrum since then, but after having read so many dire comments describing the demise of international SW broadcasting, I was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered.

Although there are certainly not the large numbers of stations there once were, there is still a large amount of activity to be found throughout the various bands allocated to international SW broadcasting.

courtesy: https://communicationwhiz.com/short-wave-radios-guide/

Trying to keep track of station schedules and frequencies is a hobby unto itself but now made easier with the availability of so many online information sources. As when younger, I found the best way to stay organized was to keep a SW logbook, eventually settling on a simple ‘diary’ format which is still evolving.

Its next refinement will be an additional notebook having separate pages devoted to each individual frequency within a given SW band. This will allow for updating frequency information from various postings of the daily online ‘heard’ reports.

I’ve always had a great interest in QSLs and collecting cards was one of the things that initially attracted me to SW radio back as a pre-teenaged DXer. For me, not much has changed in the last several decades and I still enjoy QSLs ... the real, traditional cards, as opposed to the now popular e-card. For me, an e-card just doesn’t have much appeal for some reason but for many others, they work just fine.

As I slowly re-learn much of what I had forgotten about SWL’ing, I discovered that there are still many SW broadcasters that will acknowledge a reception report with a real paper card ... just like the good old days!

If you are keen on doing some serious listening, I cannot recommend the WRTH highly enough.

Studying the latest WRTH revealed the QSL policies of most international as well as domestic SW broadcasters as well as contact information. It is a superb annual reference and well worth the investment! With this information in hand, my listening has become more focused on recording and submitting reception reports to those stations still practicing the courtesy of acknowledging reports with a traditional QSL. Many stations also issue an e-card, but these are of little interest to me at present.

With a small amount of spring-summer time devoted to SW listening, I generated and submitted a few reception reports along with linked audio files on my website ... so far, the following QSLs have arrived:

Radio Exterior de Espana
15520 kHz - Noblejas, Spain

Radio Free Asia
9950 kHz - via IBB on Tinian Island, S. Pacific

All India Radio (AIR)

9865 kHz - Bengaluru, India

DX Clube Sem Fronteiras Broadcast via WRMI 7730 kHz, Miami

T8WH - 9965 kHz Palau, South Pacific

HSK9 - 5875 kHz Udon Thani, Thailand
Radio Liangyou - Hong Kong

9275 kHz via Bocaue, Philippines site

Radio Romania - 9730 kHz - Bucharest, Romania
Radio Nikkei 2
3935 kHz - Chiba, Japan

I’ll do an upcoming blog on some of the great information and online sites to support international SW listening activities.