My Most Recent QSO's

Sunday, August 25, 2013

N4W Special Event Station

I always enjoy working special event stations. I found this one operating from an old "railroad caboose" in Burlington, NC. (N4W) I worked Randy on a 40 meter CW frequency.

The caboose (now a thing of the past) was always the last car in a long string of railroad cars and held the workers while they gathered and dropped  off "cars" along a long railroad route. In the world of today, the caboose has been eliminated and you see nothing but a "flashing light" on the last car of a long train.

Speaking of trains; West Virginia has an interesting train which is located at the Cass Scenic Railroad State Park  This old "Shay" steam locomotive climbs a very steep grade to the top of a mountain which is a little over 4,700 feet elevation.

Although not a good place to transmit because of the Green Bank Telescope (This area is part of a "quite zone" which shields the enormous radio telescope) in the valley below, it's a great place to "monitor" all kinds of other radio broadcasts, and it's a great place to watch the stars and listen to the sounds of nature.

And.....on top of the mountain, on a "side spur" towards the old logging town of Spruce; there's a railroad caboose ! Popular with campers and hikers, this railroad caboose is an interesting place to spend the night. It's rustic, but functional, and I can't think of many places which are better for star gazing and listening for long distance radio stations.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Navy Ship in the Southern Coal Fields of West Virginia

The advent of "radio" changed the nautical world. Today sailors still consider it a godsend much like "fresh water" and "smooth seas" as they traverse the worlds shipping lanes. Radio still offers security, comfort, and safety in the marine world today.

We don't get many "seafaring" ships here in the "southern coal fields" of West Virginia; so it's quite a surprise to hear that such a ship will be in our "home port" next week.

Although the capitol city of Charleston is in the southern coal fields, the Kanawha River is navigable due to a series of locks and dams. (there are three on this river) I worked as a deck hand on a river boat many years ago.

I hauled coal from the headwaters of this river to a large "coal fired power plant" on the Ohio River.

The "locks and dams"  on the river, which runs through Charleston, will allow this old Navy transport ship (LST 325) to dock here between August 30th and September 3rd.  

I've seen this ship before. As a matter of fact, I've used it's "ships radio" to chat with a Marine Museum in California. It made me feel like I was back on the Destroyer USS Corry during my "military" service back in the late 60's.

Several year ago, this old LST steamed from it's "home port" in Indiana and docked a few days at the mouth of the "Little Kanawha River" (not the same a the "big" Kanawha River) as it came down the Ohio River, which is several miles North of Charleston.

You can read about it HERE

I regret that I will not be in town the week LST 325 is docking in my hometown; but I hope the "radio guys" in my valley take the time to "roam" around this historic ship. These old "flat bottomed" boats were the "worst riding ships" on the seas. When I did the same a few years ago, and mentioned that I was a "ham" to one of the crew members, I was allow access to the "radio room" and made a CW contact with a "Marine Museum" in California.

I used 20 meters to make my 20 meter CW contact from the LST at that time.

Listen for the call sign WW2LST on the CW portions of the bands this year. Morse code played a significant role on these old ships because it's one of the simplest and most effective modes of communication in the world.

I'll be listening for it from Calgary this year. 

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

My QRP Callsign from a Russian Island off the Coast of Japan

Although not spotted on a cluster at the time, I heard this station on 17 meters around 5:30 PM local time, Not a soul was answering his attempt to work North American stations. Not spotted, not noticed, on 18.075, sending with excellent spacing, doing everything correctly, but not getting any response whatsoever. What a bummer on his part!

I felt that I must make the attempt to work this station, and remarkably, I was able to do so. I had assumed this was a European Russian station but I soon discovered he had an Asiatic designation on the DX entity list. I've worked Asiatic Russian stations before but never with a "R0" prefix. Perhaps that's why it literally "jumped out" at me when I heard it?

When I looked him up on  QRZCQ,  it became "crystal clear" that he was on the Northern part of a large Island just above Japan, and on the far side of China.

There's been a territorial dispute between Japan and Russia on this Island for many years. It's currently resolved that the upper Northern portion of the Island is Russian; and the Southern portion of the Island is Japanese. In September of 1983, due to pilot error, Korean Airliner Flight Number 007 strayed into Russian air space, and was shot down over this Island, with the loss of 269 innocent lives.

Gena (R0FA) answered my call after several attempts. I wasn't sure that he had it correct but I gave him the benefit of the doubt and entered the data on the DX cluster.

Here is where the story gets interesting.

In the electronic world of today, the appearance of an unusual "response" on a DX Cluster can generate a lot of attention. I had just entered his call, frequency and time along with my customary "QRP @ 3W and Indoor Random Wire" in the comments section of the entry when I immediately heard my call sign being sent, by him, with a familiar IMI (question mark) afterwards. It only took seconds....

I'm assuming he had the original contact correct and when he saw my QRP designation on his computer screen, that it "startled him". It sure did me when I heard him calling me "personally" and putting me in the spotlight. To my knowledge, he worked only one more station in New Jersey on the east coast.

It's difficult to express in words how I felt when I heard myself being called from this Russian / Japanese Island. I can't find the "R0" designation in my "DX" list but I'm assuming this one is a "new country for me."

He was specific about sending QRP and my 449 report on his second response. I was on the proverbial cloud nine. This contact was similar to my previous contact with Japan several weeks ago. I noticed a contact with a California station, just after me, and assume I was getting the "second bounce" onto the east coast.

I sure felt good about working this station with three watts and an indoor random wire. I think he felt the same way by being able to hear and respond to me. At almost 6,000 miles, he was a good catch!

V31PA in Belize

Yes....I'm still around, and last night I heard a weak V31PA in Belize on 30 meters. I've worked this station twice before on on the 24 meter band in March of this year; but this was my first contact with him on the 30 meter band. Belize is a Central America country known for the diversity of wildlife. Not sure I'd like to meet this big cat in the jungle....

The Mayan culture flourished here many years ago. (much more in South America) I'm fascinated with their building skills. I once saw a massive stone with 13 distinctive "cuts" which was maneuvered into a giant stone wall with a precision unequaled even today. You could hardly fit a sheet of paper into the fissures. They also used the "trapezoid" shape in their structures. Their buildings survive to this day despite "earthquakes" which are common in this part of the world.

I've been extremely busy these last few months with other projects but hope to spend more time on the radio soon. I'm moving around fairly well but the right leg is prone to muscle cramps. My back pain is minimal now and most of my "free time" is being spent on the bike.

Working this station in Belize was a nice refresher with the DX stations. I'm looking to do more of the same in September. Thank goodness the weather has cooled down a bit. Perhaps I can get some "woods" time this fall and do some portable operations?

What do you do when you find yourself on the edge of the Inca Trail with a few Llamas between you and a potentially  fatal precipice of several hundred feet? You just stand still and wait for them to move along. They can spit in your eye if provoked; and walking blindly around here can be the end of you.