Tuesday, 30 June 2015


I notice that the long distance records for terrestrial QSO's on 2.3 and 3.4GHz were recently broken. The records were set by veteran VHFer N6NB, Wayne Overbeck and W6IT, Greg Campbell. N6NB was operating portable in Hawaii while W6IT was operating Wayne's home station near Orange, California. Both contacts were on SSB. In Overbeck's own words as posted on the Tropo Ducting Reports reflector:

I'd like to post something about my trip to Hawaii for the current tropo duct. This trip has really turned out well so far.

Last week the Hepburn forecast suggested that a duct might form in a few days. So I bought an airline ticket and packed a station for
all bands from 144 MHz through 10 GHz in two large suitcases plus a roll-aboard and a backpack (total weight: 150 pounds). When I got here, I rented a small SUV and built a station in/on it. I made several trips to Home Depot for parts to build a rotating roof platform.

When the duct began on Tuesday, I drove all over Mauna Loa while listening to my own 222.030 MHz beacon in Orange County, Calif. It was a thrill just to hear it 2,500 miles away. By Thursday, the duct seemed to be at its best. Greg, W6IT, activated my hilltop station near Orange, CA and we worked Thursday night on six bands, including 2304 and 3456 MHz, both for new world DX records. I heard Greg well on two more bands, 902 and 5.7 GHz, but so far local QRN in Orange County has prevented him from hearing me on those
two additional bands. Let's hope the duct continues for a little longer so we can try again and also work more stations on the west coast.

I intend to write at least a conference paper and create a PowerPoint show about what I've seen and heard in Hawaii. I've noticed that the KH6HME beacon site, as good as it is, sometimes seems to be above the cloud layer that forms the top of the duct. Thursday night it was about 2,000 feet above the cloud tops. Seeing that, I drove down to 5,200' elevation to work Greg on all those bands. (The beacon site is about 8,200 feet above sea level.) My 222 beacon was definitely louder at lower elevations than at the beacon
site at that time. Friday night I operated at 7,300', which was near the cloud tops and where my beacon seemed loudest then. The size and elevation of the duct seems to vary a lot, perhaps explaining the way the KH6HME beacons vary in relative signal strength, with 432 being a louder at certain times while the 144 beacon is louder at other times. There are some very interesting natural phenomena at work here.

If anyone would like to watch a video of the record-setting 2304 QSO with W6IT, it's online on my website:
www.n6nb.com/2304rcrd.mp4 Thanks to Greg, W6IT, for his able operating on the other end of these QSOs.

73, Wayne, N6NB/KH6

With the present extremely hot stable weather on the west coast, chatter on the PNWVHF reflector suggested that operators on the coast as far up as Washington state should be watchful of any possible DX opportunities should a suitable ducting pattern form between KH6 and the coast.

The difficult and rare path between Washington state and Hawaii has been worked in the past ... lastly in 1995, when some alert '7's' found themselves in KH6HME's logbook. Paul, K7CW and Merle, W7YOZ described an exciting day from Washington state:

I'll never forget that event. On June 30, 1995, KH6HME was worked by two guys in the Aberdeen, Washington area on 2m. The next day, July 1, I drove my pickup down to the area and went to a place suggested by one of the guys (this place now has the Langley Hill weather radar installation). I had a partial contact with KH6HME, but he got my call wrong and I couldn't easily reposition my antenna as it was fixed on the vehicle, and we couldn't complete. I sat back and listened to the other guys make contact with Paul. Dejected, I drove back home. Next day, July 2, though, I got my reward. Six meters opened to Japan in a nighttime sporadic E opening. I had my first QSO with a JA. It was with a JA6 in the far southwest of Japan. And I subsequently had 150 more QSOs with JA stations during that opening. I worked all 10 JA call districts, qualifying for the AJD award. My rig was running 80 watts and my antenna was a home brew 5-element yagi about 15 feet above the ground. This was a huge opening and there have been very few like it since.

So, after the big 2m tropo event, switch to 6m for another biggie.

73, Paul K7CW

Indeed an unforgettable time. W7FI first worked KH6HME, then phoned me and I got out of bed and heard WM7A (K7NQ) working him and then I worked him followed by N7MWV after I called and got him out of bed. K7CAI had a partial but was at the edge of the duct and Paul could never quite get Ozzie's quirky phonetics " K7 Cowboys And Indians" - a lesson for me to always use standard phonetics. KH6HME was S7 and over with his 60 Watts at my Kirkland, WA QTH for nearly an hour - long enough for me to call KK7B in MI and got him out of bed to listen over the phone. Paul's QSL along with that of WA4CQG in AL who I worked on 2 Meter double hop E's on another unforgettable evening in 1988 occupy a prime spot in my Ham Shack

Then the JA's on 6 the following evening was almost too much to believe. 

Merle W7YOZ

Although the KH6HME VHF/ UHF beacons are still in operation, sadly, there appears to be no VHFers able to visit the beacon site and work the mainland, should an opening occur. Fred, KH7Y, the most recent beacon caretaker, has since moved back to California, leaving a giant hole in the VHF scene on the big island. I wonder if there is a replacement capable of activating the station?

Even without any operators at the far end, it would be exciting to just hear the VHF beacon(s) in this region. The 2m beacon, now on 144.277MHz, has even been heard here in BC, by Mike, VE7SKA, listening from his hilltop location on SaltSpring Island. Unfortunately no two-way contact was established at the time. Tropo of any kind is a rare event east of Vancouver Island's west coast because of the mountainous terrain.

One of the best ways to follow the formation of favorable conditions is to watch the tropo prediction maps on Bill Hepburn's website as well as the visible west coast weather patterns available here.

An interesting summary of the 1995 openings, as well as the associated weather pattern pictures, makes for fascinating reading on the PNWVHF Society's website, A Brief History of the KH6 Duct Into The Pacific Northwest.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

Field Day Memories

courtesy: arrl.org
The annual Field Day weekend always brings back fond memories of my ham radio teenage years.

Field Day always followed the end of school and the start of the summer holidays so it was always a weekend that I looked forward to, months in advance.

I always went out with the Vancouver Amateur Radio Club (VE7ARV) who used the same spot each year, just above the last street of homes high up on the slopes of West Vancouver ... it was at the base of Hollyburn Mountain and was a spectacular visual site, giving southerly views from east through west. At times it seemed like you could almost see California from up there ... it was a great spot for both HF and VHF. Our Field Day site has long been reclaimed by palatial-sized home in the prestigious 'British Properties' region of Vancouver's North Shore.

Sadly many of the organizers and operators that I remember from my youth are now long gone but they were an enthusiastic group of old-time hams that always had the time to make a young kid feel welcome and part of an important operation. Many of the same fellows were responsible for a lot of teens getting their ticket back in the late 50's and 60's. Tuesday nights were always spent in the basement 'classroom' of Hedley Rendell, VE7XW, who gave so much of his time to Elmering prospective hams as well as providing the trailored crank-up towers for our FD operations. He later established Rendell-Paret Electronics in partnership with Bill Paret, VE7AM, and the contents of Hedley's vast basement collection of parts was the beginning of a business that still flourishes to this day.

Field Day always had many high points for me. One of the best was being able to operate some top-notch equipment compared to my humble home station which consisted of an old Heathkit AT-1 and VF-1 VFO and then later, a much-used DX-35, purchased on one of the family's summer shopping trips to Seattle. In those days, the city was home to several ham radio shops and at least a dozen radio-surplus stores, all now long gone.

There were usually a couple of Collins 75A4's and later, state-of-the-art Drake 2B's. The Johnson Ranger was always reliable and such a pleasure to operate but there were always a few hundred-pound hernia-makers like the Heathkit DX-100's and the Johnson Viking II's that had to be lugged from back seats to tents every year. That's where us young guys came in handy.

VHF activity back then was mainly FM (at least in the Vancouver area) and every year we would manage to work down to the weekend hilltopers in Oregon, mainly due to our elevated location. 2m FM rigs in those days were all converted taxi rigs, mainly Motorola 5V's, run on their built-in DC vibrator supply or on a homebrewed power supply. There were at least a hundred guys on 147.33 FM, all with old taxi rigs and the frequency was busy 24/7 it seemed. These were the days before repeaters and working 50 miles was a real accomplishment.

I usually took the 40m CW shift and would operate all night. The band was always amazingly crowded with nothing but FD stations throughout the entire activity ... even the 40m phone band was plugged solid with AM action, all working the FD contest. I would never ever sleep at Field Day and would go home exhausted, usually sleeping an entire Monday, to recharge my battery ... fun days.

I haven't been out on Field Day since my late teens as other things in life became more important but I'll never forget those wonderful weekends and the great fun that was had, so many years ago

Friday, 26 June 2015

CLE 195 Results

Propagation conditions co-operated for the recent CLE weekend but the weather did not. The high level of lightning activity resulted in some stations hearing just a fraction of what they usually hear in the 270 - 319KHz region. Although most of the lightning was a few states / provinces to my east, the results here were the same, with noise levels receding by ~18db when sunrise arrived over the lightning-affected regions.

It seems that almost everybody logged 500-watter YQ-305 in Churchill, Manitoba except me as this monster eluded me all weekend ... yet little 25-watter, YPM, in Pikangikum, Ontario made it through in fine form ... very odd.

The following stations were logged, all on the first night of the three-evening affair, with no new catches being added after night one:

20 07:00 272 XS 343 Prince George, BC, CAN
20 08:00 274 YPM 1299 Pikangikum Apt, ON, CAN
20 10:00 274 FR 928 Fort Resolution, NT, CAN
20 08:00 275 GEY 779 Greybull, WY, USA
20 11:00 278 1U 521 Masset Municipal Apt, BC, CAN
20 11:00 281 CRN 1510 Cairn Mtn - Sparrevohn LRRS, ALS
20 11:00 283 DUT 1867 Dutch Harbor - Unalaska Apt, ALS
20 09:00 284 QD 1014 The Pas Municipal Apt, MB, CAN
20 11:00 284 FHR 26 Friday Harbor Apt, WA, USA
20 09:00 286 EKS 600 Ennis - Big Sky Apt, MT, USA
20 10:00 287 PE 560 Peace River, AB, CAN
20 10:00 290 YYF 171 Penticton, BC, CAN
20 10:00 292 ZET 518 Devon - Edmonton IAP, AB, CAN
20 10:00 293 MB 18 Mill Bay - Sidney, BC, CAN
20 10:00 295 8C 537 Fairview Municipal Apt, AB, CAN
20 11:00 296 LGD 349 La Grande, OR, USA
20 09:00 299 TV 417 Turner Valley, AB, CAN
20 10:00 302 QW 705 North Battleford, SK, CAN
20 10:00 304 FH 485 Mc Leod (Whitecourt), AB, CAN
20 09:00 305 Z1 484 Three Hills, AB, CAN
20 11:00 305 ONO 448 Ontario Municipal Apt, OR, USA
20 10:00 307 M5 605 Manning, AB, CAN
20 10:00 308 ZZD 515 Calmar (Edmonton Intl Apt), AB, CAN
20 10:00 311 9Y 421 Pincher Creek, AB, CAN
20 11:00 312 UNT 173 Naramata, BC, CAN
20 10:00 317 VC 873 La Ronge, SK, CAN

CLE organizer, Brain Keyte, made the following comments in his CLE summary:

Most listeners seemed to be more affected by the natural QRN than by DGPS Stations' QRM.
Europe seemed to be relatively lucky with less static interference, especially for those able to pick their listening times.
We covered the same frequencies back in March last year. Surprisingly, Europe's reception statistics showed very little difference. The rest of the world had the more normal summertime problems, perhaps also a bigger loss of active NDBs, and some of their overall reception statistics (number of NDBs heard and total distance) were 50% lower.
The highest 'rest of the world' NDBs count, unsurprisingly, was achieved by Edgar 'down under'. It must be quite hard for many of us who are 'up over' and trying to keep cool, to imagine his mid-winter conditions! 

CLE196 will be over the weekend of 24-27 July.

Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Mr. Carlson's Lab - A YouTube Treasure

I recently watched two superb YouTube videos. The first described exactly how to determine the 'shielded' side of a fixed capacitor and the importance of knowing this information.

As you have probably noticed, most modern fixed capacitors no longer indicate the 'grounded' end or the lead going to the internal shielding. At one time, the capacitor's polarity was commonly marked with a band on one end but this is no longer the case ... even though one side is indeed still the shielded side. Depending on exactly what part of the circuit your fixed capacitor is being used in, connecting it in the reverse direction (shield going to signal side), can introduce hum, RF pickup, instability and generally result in poorer capacitor / circuit performance ... and all it takes to determine which lead is which is an oscilloscope!

The second video I viewed shows the process used to resurrect a Yaesu FT-1000MP in truly terrible condition. In a very professional step-by-step process the video shows the logical and systematic approach at making the radio better than new.

Both videos are done by a truly gifted engineer, Paul Carlson, VE7ZWZ, and are exceptionally well done ... the quality one would expect to have to pay for rather than freely view on YouTube.

If you visit Paul's YouTube channel, you'll find a host of other radio and audio-related videos and I guarantee that you will learn something of value ... and probably hang around to watch several more. They are really well done.

Monday, 22 June 2015

Summer Solstice Magic

As I write this on Sunday evening, June 21st, the magic band has been open here for over 16 hours straight and shows no signs of slowing down! What has been one of the poorest Sporadic-e seasons in memory, did not disappoint today, on what should theoretically be the peak day of the season.

A loud NØLL in Kansas was the first station heard this morning at around 0600 local time but I suspect the band had been open even earlier, judging by the strength of the signals. It didn't take long for the band to stretch out further and not too much later, signals from the Caribbean were making it into southern British Columbia, as well as many parts of North America.

At times the band seemed as crowded as 20m CW during the Sweepstakes as so many of the CW stations congregate in the 20KHz slot just below 50.100MHz. Before breakfast, the following stations were in the log:

        ZF1EJ Cayman Islands
          9Y4D Trinidad
          YV1KK Venezuela
          6Y5WJ Jamaica
          KP4EIT Puerto Rico
          XE2MVY Mexico
          XE2X Mexico
          WP3C Puerto Rico
          NP4BM Puerto Rico

courtesy: https://www.google.ca/maps
Around 10 am local time, the VA5MG beacon was suddenly heard pounding away ... often a good sign that propagation may be going 'polar'. Sure enough, stations to my south (Oregon and Washington) started to hear and work Europe. I was lucky enough to hear what can only be described as the contact of a lifetime, when K7CW (about 140 miles to the south) was heard working HVØA, the Vatican!! Paul was apparently in the sweet spot of the moment and his efficient homebrew array was up to the job. Over the next hour or so, the European propagation swung wildly between W7 and W6 as well as points to the east. The only Europeans that I heard were two Italian stations, briefly hitting 559 but unable to hear me. Johnny, KE7V (and also the brother of K7CW), about 40 miles to my south, managed to work both stations ... it seems that we were both just on the northern edge of the teasing footprint.

At times, several in band 'growly' carriers with polar flutter were heard as well as weak signals from some of the 49MHz videos still operating in central Europe.

It will be interesting to see if we have a repeat of this prop tomorrow (Monday) but I rather suspect much of this was the result of two well-placed solar flares earlier in the morning and will not be repeated ... I hope I'm wrong!

Impact from the flares plus a slower moving one is expected later today.

Saturday, 20 June 2015

A Summer Project

Work has begun on a new "summer project" (as well as re-shingling the woodshed and garden shed roofs) ... a 3-tube audiodyne receiver.

This one appeared in the January 1933 addition of QST (Rationalizing the Audiodyne by George Grammer) and then in subsequent Handbooks for a few years. It's the type of building I like to do, with lots of pre-planning before breaking out the tools, measuring all components carefully and refurbishing some of the 85+ year old parts.

courtesy: arrl.org
This particular receiver has lots of metalworking involved as it uses two shielded compartments to keep the detector and RF stage from seeing each other. As well, it uses a set of ganged tuning capacitors to have the RF stage track the oscillator. The coils are wound to produce a lot of ham-band bandspread on the big drum dial... hot stuff in '33.

So far, I've completed all of the shielding and drilling of critical holes ... all measured three or four times before taking the plunge. The only chassis available (Hammond or Bud) is about 1/2" smaller in width and depth, making everything just a little snugger, but still maintaining proportions.

I have no idea how it will perform but so far it's been a fun project. If it works well, even better yet ... but handily, its given me a good excuse to avoid more important things, like the two roof projects!

Thursday, 18 June 2015

New Life For The Tri-Tet-Ten

Sadly, I fear that my Tri-Tet-Ten has likely seen the last of its glory days of European 10m DX. It has been sitting, forlornly, on it's operating shelf beside my main station, for a few years now and has always been ready to spring into action whenever the winter F2 on 10m rolled-in. Although I anticipate more 10m F2 this coming fall, I don't think we'll get any barn-burner European openings as I have seen in the past. Conditions really need to be very good for the 6L6's 4 1/2 watts of 10m output to make it over the pole but over the past four winters, the one-lunger has worked over 100 Europeans on 10m F2.

Not being quite ready to throw in the towel on one of my favorite ever projects, over the past two nights I have sparked-up the tritet on 20m, which has been like the good old days in the evening ... strong signals over the pole peaking around 2130 local time.

As it did on 10m, the tritet did not disappoint! My first CQ (crystal controlled on 14031 kHz) was a pounced upon by two Europeans, eager to work a VE7. Over the two evenings, contacts were enjoyed with the following stations:

OE5FBL  Haid, Austria
RV3LK   Smolensk, Russia
UA2FT   Polessk, Russia
RA2FAC   Kaliningrad, Russia
RA1OD   Kotlas, Russia
R3RR   Tambov, Russia
DL1SXB   Schwerin, Germany
UR5LCZ   Pivdenne, Ukraine
MD0CCE   Ramsey, Isle of Man
OK1KTI   Huntirov, Czech Republic
IK1XPP   Crescentino, Italy

All of the stations were worked on my crystal frequency (a very old 40m xtal doubling to 20m) of 14031 kHz and answered my CQ. At just under 10 watts output, the average signal report received was 579.

Interestingly, two stations gave me 'T' reports of less than 9 to (incorrectly) describe the slight chirp on the oscillator. In the RST system, anything less than a 'T9' should actually describe the degree of undesired modulation (usually A.C. ripple) and not chirp. The proper way of indicating chirp is to append the report with a 'C'. Since chirp is rarely heard on the airwaves anymore, it's understandable that some might not properly understand the 'T' part of 'RST'.

So it looks as though the Tri-Tet-Ten has earned the right to stay on the side operating shelf a bit longer ... but I'm not renaming it the 'Tri-Tet-Twenty' just yet!

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Hunting For NDBs in CLE195

'YPM' - 274kHz courtesy: Alex - VE3GOP
It's CLE time once again! For you low-frequency buffs, another challenge awaits. This month's frequency range covers the mid-band, 270.0 - 319.9 kHz.

A list of all of the North American  targets in this range can be found in the RNA database, while targets for European DXers will be found here... specify the frequency range wanted and check 'show all results'.

An excellent target for this CLE is  'YPM' in Pikangikum, Ontario, on 274kHz. Its 25 watts and big antenna are heard well throughout North America

From CLE coordinator Brian Keyte (G3SIA) comes the following reminder:

Hi all.

Have you tried one of our Co-ordinated Listening Events yet?

CLEs are NOT contests - they allow us to share the same listening
challenge and in the process to learn more about our great hobby.
Short logs or long ones, everyone who enjoys taking part is a winner!
Since early in 2001 over 250 different NDB List members have taken
part in a CLE for the first time - and over four in every five came back
for more.
Fourteen members have come back over 100 times, 44 over 50 times.

Our 195th Co-ordinated Listening Event, coming in a few days, will be
rather a challenge (we like those, don't we?)!

Days: Friday 19 June - Monday 22 June (a week early)
Times: Start and end at midday, your LOCAL time
Range: 270.0 - 319.9 kHz (NOT DGPS beacons)

Yes - it does include most of the DGPS frequencies, but it is 50 kHz wide,
about three times more than usual. We shall be listening only for the
We last searched for NDBs on these frequencies in CLE180 (March 2014).

We shall all have at least one end of the range for some comfortable
listening, but the main challenge will be to find the Morse signals among
all the DGPS noises. REU and RNA show that, since the start of last year,
about 270 and 200 normal NDBs respectively have been reported there.
There are several to be heard by our members 'down under' as well.

Please look out for the 'Final Details', which as usual will follow about
two days before the start.

From: Brian Keyte G3SIA ndbcle'at'gmail.com
Location: Surrey, SE England (CLE co-ordinator)

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. If you are a member of the ndblist Group, results will also be e-mailed and posted there.

The very active Yahoo ndblist 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.

If you are contemplating getting started on 630m, listening for NDBs  is an excellent way to test out your receive capabilities as there are several NDBs located near this part of the spectrum.

You need not be an ndblist member to participate in the CLEs and all reports, no matter how small, are of much value to the organizers. 'First-time' logs are always VERY welcome!

Reports may be sent to the ndblist or e-mailed to either myself or CLE co- ordinator, Brian Keyte (G3SIA), whose address appears above.

Please...do 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.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Fluorescent Light QRN

A recent posting on the ON4KST 6m Chat page brought up the question of QRN coming from  fluorescent lighting.

Lefty, K1TOL, had a lot of QRN coming from his neighbour's garage, about 1,000 feet away. He solved the problem by changing the ballasts, purchased at Home Depot. This is the ballast that solved his problem, so if you are having similar difficulty, perhaps this will be of benefit.

Sometimes just changing to a different bulb type (manufacturer) will solve the problem as well but from what I have read, you get what you pay for and likely the bargain-bin bulbs are not the quietest.

Friday, 12 June 2015

Summertime CBer

As much as I hate to admit it, for a few short weeks every summer, I become ... get ready for it now ... a CBer! Now I'm not talking about what might typically come to mind when thinking about CBers ... for me it's more of a love-hate relationship. You see, the 27MHz CB band, and 27.385MHz in particular, happens to make one of the best indicators of Sporadic-e openings on the face of the planet. Unlike the vast empty wasteland that 10m becomes during the summer, the 11 meter band is jam-packed full, with thousands of operators ... and some days it seems as if they are all on the 27.385 MHz (LSB) calling frequency.

With my receiver quietly running in the shack, the frequency can suddenly jump to life, with hundreds of stations calling each other in a matter of seconds. Sometimes it's like a switch has suddenly been thrown to 'ON'. This is not too hard to understand as the present suspected cause of Es is sudden high speed wind-shear within the E-layer. Have a quick listen to what the calling frequency can suddenly sound like:

Now the beautiful thing is that strong Es on 11 meters usually heralds the possibility of 6m also opening via the same mode ... usually 30 minutes or so later if it's going to happen. Often a CQ on a seemingly 'dead' 6m band in the direction of the 11m Es, will produce a response from an equally surprised operator at the other end.

I don't think I've ever heard Es on the 6m calling frequency without hearing Es on 11 meters beforehand. It's been my experience that the band always opens from low to high, in terms of frequency, so it just makes sense to listen lower (11m) to get a heads-up for what is likely soon to follow on the magic band. As well, knowing that there is 'zero' Es on 11m, can let you rest assured that nothing will be happening on 6m via Es ... at least for the time being.

If you haven't already tried it and have a second receiver that can be put to use as an 'Es-monitor', you might be pleasantly rewarded. Even though knowing that the band will soon open might rub a bit of the magic away, I think it's still well worth it!

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

LDE's - Really Long Ones!

courtesy: https://openclipart.org
When I was in my 30's (30+ years ago), my very good friend Tommy (VE7BLF), reported to me a series of LDEs that he had heard on 160m CW. At first I was skeptical as the claimed LDE was heard 30 minutes after his CQ.

Tommy happened upon the LDE when tuning around the band one December evening. He heard a weak, warbly ... "CQ CQ CQ de VE7BLF VE7BLF K". A chill went up his spine as he had actually called CQ about 30 minutes earlier, and was answered by a K7. Sure enough, the phantom LDE soon came back to the K7 while Tommy listened to himself send the report, name and his QTH information on the next transmission! Listening to his own signals, 30 minutes later, really shook my friend up as he had no idea what to make of the incident.

Over the next few weeks, Tommy heard several LDEs, some with separations as much as 3 or 4 days and during this time made several recordings of the events. He made a copy of the recordings for me to listen to and the sound of the signal really did send shivers up my back. It was tormented, warbly, with a bit of flutter and very weak. It sounded as though the signal had been ripped apart on a trip to hell and back, adding further to the mystery.

The LDEs stopped as quickly as they had begun and were never heard again but in the meantime, Tommy and I speculated on what might be the cause. Were they genuine LDEs? ... they certainly sounded as if they had been on a very long trip ... or was the explanation something far less sinister? We never did solve the mystery but I had suggested that one likely explanation might be a faulty (or normally operating) VCR, somewhere in the neighborhood. Someone that happened to record at around the same time that Tommy was operating and playing the program back when Tommy happened to be listening. It seemed a far-shot and one that we never tested, preferring to think of it as another one of the mysteries of radio. Unfortunately Tommy became an SK several years ago, never knowing the cause of his mystery signals.

During a recent discussion with Tony (VE7CNF) and Mark (VA7MM) about the newly imaged plasma tubes, the subject of their possible link to LDEs also emerged. I related the above story and Toby immediately went to work with his old VCR! In his own words:

Yes, old VHS recorders could cause long delay echoes. When Steve mentioned it, I had to try it. I attached a photo and some recordings.

I hooked up my old VHS recorder with BNC video and audio cables in and out. I pulled out the video cables a bit to disconnect the shields, so RF could leak into and out of the video ports. My IC7410 was connected to a dummy load and split, through a T connector, to a whip antenna on top of the VHS.Transmit power was 100W to the dummy load.

I transmitted while recording video. When I played it back I could hear the CW signal pretty much on frequency. I tried this at 1820 kHz and the signal had a lot of frequency flutter. At 3510 kHz the playback signal was stable enough for SSB.

So, RF leaking into and out of the video cables of a nearby VHS recorder could explain LDE's where the delay is hours or days.

Mystery solved ... the signals that Toby reproduced had the exact same characteristics as I recall from Tommy's old tape recordings although his signals were much weaker, making them seem as if they had been on a very long journey.
I wonder how many others have run into this same situation over the years? 

Since getting on the air as a teenager in 1963, and thousand of hours of operating,  I have never heard an LDE, or at least nothing longer than a keying echo on a longpath reflection. How about you?

Monday, 8 June 2015

CKZU - 6160 Close-Up

courtesy: googlemaps.ca
My recent blog discussing the 49m Canadian stations, discussed the need for a better picture of the CKZU (6160kHz) antenna system. Located on the mudflats of far western Richmond (Steveston) and a stone's throw from the Pacific Ocean's Georgia Strait, CKZU's  gets out very well for its compartively small 500W transmitter.

On a weekend bike ride along the West Richmond dyke, Mark (VA7MM) snapped this wonderful close-up view of the system:

courtesy: VA7MM

It appears to confirm the rumor that the antenna system consists of a two-wire beam (using wide-spaced folded dipole style elements) ... one element being driven and the other element being a reflector. According to Mark, the orientation would beam the relayed CBU-690 signal up the coast of British Columbia and not towards the SE as the original Google photo appears to indicate. It is certainly a well 'overbuilt' structure. No doubt its height contributes to its ability to radiate a good signal all around North America (and Europe).

So the next time you are tuning around 40m, drop down a bit and see how their signal sounds at your location ... you may be pleasantly surprised.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Earth-Shrouding Plasma Tubes

If you haven't seen this by now, you'll want to check it out! It seems that the world of astrophysics has been set all agog by a brilliant Australian undergraduate student's recent discovery. Cleo Loi from the University of Sydney has used a combination of radio telescopes to prove the existence of earth-surrounding tubular plasma ducts. Travelling from the ionosphere to the edges of space, these multi-layered plasma tubes were believed to exist but were never proven ... until Ms. Loi and her team managed to image them:

What the implications might be when it comes to their influence on radio propagation, if any, remains to be seen but I suspect that astrophysicists all over the world are having a close examination of long-held theories and the implications on their own fields of study.

You can read more details about this exciting discovery here.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

U.S. LF Bands - Rulemaking Ruminations (Part 2)


* TWO: We need more technical showings this time, with as many solid
details as possible. I hope the Part 5 licensees are prepared to crunch
numbers, but those of us who only monitored are also able to contribute.
(Much more on this in future correspondence, I expect.) In par. 169. the FCC enquires: "to meet our goal of providing for the coexistence of amateur services and PLC systems in these bands, we seek detailed comment on the technical characteristics of both the PLC systems and the amateur stations.
This information will allow us to set an appropriate separation distance."
The very next sentence, though, I recognize as a somewhat worrisome bit of FCC-speak: "Although the Commission in the WRC-07 NPRM inquired into the technical rules and methods that would assure coexistence, commenters provided little in the way of concrete information." Read that as said with a slightly scolding tone, but with a facial expression that says they're keeping an open mind.

The utilities, IMO, provided no concrete technical information at all. ARRL
cited the 1985 NTIA study on which the 1 W EIRP and 1 km separation idea is based, but the FCC is concerned whether that's still valid. Well, one would hope that any changes made to PLCs over the past 30 years would be toward making the system more robust, not more vulnerable to evildoers, accidents, and natural disasters, but this could prove an area of contention. That may be something the big guys have to fight out; I don't know how much we as individual licensees or observers can contribute. But there ARE other technical matters the FCC needs and wants to know, which we may be able to furnish.

For instance, what sort of PLC signal levels have we actually experienced in the proposed bands? How serious were their impact on licensed activity, and how have PLCs been coped with in actual operation? Also at paragraphs 171, 178, and 178, the FCC is asking for some really fundamental, crucial data.
Namely: What sort of power levels have the Part 5 licensees actually
radiated, and at what actual separations from transmission lines? What
maximum size should an amateur antenna be, and--the biggie, in my view--what is the efficiency of both "typical" and potential amateur antenna systems?
(The Commission would like us to include information from Canadian and
European hams on these issues as well. Details of amateur practice in the
rest of the world could be very helpful in formulating rules here.)

Those operators who have the capability of measuring their true field
strength are in an especially excellent position to help quantify current
practice. Those who can't do that, but are able to measure their ground
losses accurately, can make reasonable calculations to show the maximum
efficiency possible with antennas of various heights. That's likely
preferable to doing it all in NEC modeling, since not all such software is
really good at predicting ground system losses, especially at LF. I'll
gladly offer my own ground system's resistance numbers to anyone who wants to do the math, for instance, as its 32 radials of 104 to 135 ft length in 15 mS/m soil are probably representative of a fairly decent ground for
antennas up to 100 feet high...and I'll be doing another set of readings
very soon, which can include measurements at 2200 m this year in addition to the runs I routinely do at 1750 m.

* THREE: At 172, the FCC observes: "If we were to adopt our proposal to
permit amateur operations only when separated by a specified distance from transmission lines, when a new transmission line is built close by an
amateur station, the station either would have to relocate farther away from the transmission line or cease operating." Scary, huh. But they go on to ask: "How should our rules address the potential for new transmission lines to be constructed closer than the specified distance to pre-existing amateur stations? We do not want to inhibit the ability of either PLC systems or amateur services to grow and expand without imposing unnecessary burdens on either. Is it possible for utilities to refrain from geographically expanding their PLC operations within the relatively small portion of the 9-490 kHz band that we are making available for amateur operations, and is this something utilities would do on their own accord, given the Part 15 status of PLC systems? Should our rules explicitly prohibit utilities from deploying new PLC systems in these bands?"

My answer: yes, please. Look back at par. 26, in the WRC-07 R&O section
where the Commission explains their basis for adding the 2200 m allocation:
"We intend to structure these service rules to promote shared use of the
band among amateurs and PLC systems. Amateurs will not be able to use their allocation status to force unlicensed PLC operations out of the band, and utilities will have no cause to abandon or incur large costs to modify
existing PLC systems." Read that again: "Amateurs will not be able to use
their allocation status to force unlicensed PLC operations out of the band."
That's the reality of the matter, and yet I think it also works in our

So far as I know, this situation is unique in the history of radio regulation. I can't think of another example where an incumbent, but unlicensed and unallocated, user of radio spectrum has been afforded such protection from any allocated and licensed service. However, most of us who commented in the 2013 proceeding DID AGREE with the Commission that PLC technology has been a special case for a long time, and most recognized that acceptance of its existence was the only way to move the discussion off dead center and get to the point where we are now.

But I maintain this coin has two sides. If we in a licensed, allocated service are willing to accept that we cannot displace existing PLCs now or in the future, then it is ONLY FAIR that the unlicensed, unallocated users should not be able to displace the licensed users, either, now or in the future. Otherwise, it is not truly sharing.

The only way I can see to guarantee protection to licensed users, comparable to what the unlicensed ones will have, is to incorporate within Part 15 a prohibition on any changes in power, transmission mode, and route of existing PLC systems, or installation of new ones, within a reasonable band centered on the new amateur allocations. That achieves the stated goal of not displacing existing systems or burdening the utlities by forcing any changes to them, while only removing two small slices of spectrum from consideration for future installations. That seems an entirely reasonable compromise to me.

Your comments are welcome--and essential!

John Davis

You can view comments as well as file your own, via the link from this page:


Tuesday, 2 June 2015

U.S. LF Bands - Rulemaking Ruminations (Part 1)

John Davis of the Longwave Club of America has been doing a good job of keeping us informed of the present 2200/630m application status for U.S. amateurs. It seems that although the NPRM has not yet been published in the Federal Register, the FCC website is open for comments on this issue. I would urge all amateurs with an interest in LF operation to file comments that address the FCC's Notice Of Inquiry (NOI), particularly if you have been operating an experimental station. As well, Canadian LFers operating on either band should consider filing comments as well, describing your system and overall operating results. You can read a full review of the FCC's concerns in three of my earlier blogs:




John's latest information points out what he believes are three crucial points that deserve serious thought. As he indicates, if we don't 'get it right' the first time, it might be very difficult to make any changes after the fact. Please give serious thought to John's information and to filing your own comments at the link provided.

In John's own words:

Rulemaking Ruminations

This is probably a good time to get discussion reactivated on the MF and LF ham proposals. Although I continue not to see publication of the NPRM in the Federal Register as yet, the FCC EFCS Web page for the proceeding is open and accepting filings. Until FR publication, we won't know the closing dates for comments and replies, but you can see what's already been going on at:


While I've been awfully tied up with other things recently, my reading of
the proposal thus far brings to mind three points I believe we earnestly
need to address with the Commission. This proceeding will set the exact US
rules for 2200 m, and very probably also 630 m, so it behooves us to make
the best case we can, now, right up front. If the initial rules are too
restrictive on amateur activity, it could be very difficult and time
consuming to get them changed. Here are my present concerns.

* ONE: In paragraph 168, the FCC states that in addition to separation
distances and power limits, "we propose to limit amateur stations to
operations at fixed locations only to ensure that this separation distance
can be maintained reliably." That's stricter than it may first sound. The
FCC's actual proposed wording for § 97.303(g)(1), for both 2200 and 630 m,
is: "Amateur stations are restricted to use at permanent fixed locations."
Permanent fixed locations. That goes way beyond my suggestion that mobile operation be prohibited. It precludes temporary fixed operation, such as Field Day activities, or tests of ground characteristics for future potential antenna sites, or other legitimate short-term experiments. In my view, this is needlessly restrictive, and could also open the door to more rigid coordination requirements that might paint us into a corner, figuratively and literally, at our original QTHes.

We need to make a strong case that hams are able to identify electric
transmission lines and maintain 1 km separation (or other specified
distance) from them. This further relates to comments the FCC seeks in par. 176: "Amateur licensees will have to determine the location of transmission lines in their vicinity to determine if they are permitted to operate stations using these frequency bands. .... High voltage transmission lines are typically attached to large steel towers that are easy to identity.
However, lower voltage transmission lines are typically attached to wooden poles. Although the wooden poles used for transmission lines are usually taller than the wooden poles used for distribution lines, we recognize that distinguishing the two types may not always be straightforward. We seek comment on whether amateur licensees will be able to identify the transmission lines in their locality."

Obviously, just glancing around a proposed operating site and saying "nope, I don't see a transmission line" is not enough. But I think we're smart enough to do responsible surveys of all lines within a mile or so in all directions, identify any substation locations, and determine which sets of poles have customer connections (practically the definition of distribution lines) and which don't (therefore assumed to be transmission lines). We need to convince the FCC that we can tell the difference.

... to be cont'd

Monday, 1 June 2015

Where's The Magic?

courtesy: http://www.dxmaps.com/
This is not what the 6m propagation map should be looking like at the start of June! So far, the 6m Sporadic-e (Es) season is MIA and usually by this time there have been some significant openings. Even the usual east-coast European slaughter has not yet started.

Most 6m diehards understand that the cause of summer Es is high-speed wind shear events, way up in the E layer region but a new theory suggests otherwise:

courtesy: nz3m.com
So come on folks, let's spark-up those barbecues and get 6m cooking once again!