September 15, 2017

From Pole to Pole with the Poles

Last edited: 16.09.2017

Yesterday, I posted a blog entry about the Polish Antarctic Station Henryk Arctowski. But the Poles do not only have a research station in the Antarctic, but also in the Arctic, at Hornsund on the island of Spitsbergen in the Svalbard Archipelago, to be precise.

Polish Polar Station Hornsund (source)
Polish Polar Station Hornsund is located at 77º00'N 15º33'W, and especially during winter is extremely isolated. The station is manned year-round. It was established in 1957 as a winter base for the 3rd International Geophysical Year 1957/1958 (1). There's a permanent staff of about 10 persons. The station is frequently visited by polar bears.


Last April, on the 20m band I managed to make a PSK31 QSO with Kamil Palkowski SQ8KFH who at the time was operating from the Polish Polar Station on Spitsbergen with the callsign JW/SQ8KFH. I'm awaiting a QSL card confirmation via the QSL bureau, and I will post it on here as soon as I've received it.

Spitsbergen is IOTA EU-026.

Polar bear trying to get into the Polish Polar Station (source)

Addendum 16.09.2017
(1) Actually this was the first International Geophysical Year (IGY), but there had been two "International Polar Years" before, on which the IGY was largely modeled.,_Hornsund

September 14, 2017

Polish Antarctic Station Arctowski

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Beautiful picture from the HF0ARC page.
In the evening of September 9th, 2017, I managed to make a JT65 QSO on 40m with HF0ARC. Amateur radio station HF0ARC is located at the Polish Antarctic Station Henryk Arctowski on King George Island, South Shetland Islands, Antarctica. It is operated by Sebastian Gleich SQ1SGB who is part of the current overwintering crew of the 41st Polish Antarctic Expedition (2016/2017) to Arctowski. Austral winter is coming to an end though, and at the end of October, Sebastian will be leaving the station and head back home for Poland. So I feel very lucky to have already managed to put HF0ARC in the log, as time will be running out soon.

I was running my Yaesu FT991 at 35 Watts and used my sloper HyEndFed 10/20/40 wire antenna. I was surprised when I managed to make the contact already on the first attempt! An eQSL for the contact followed the next day. This contact definitely is one of the most special and memorable moments of my ham radio career!

Location of King George Island in the South Shetland Islands (source)
HF0ARC replaces the old Arctowski callsign HF0POL. The old HF0POL call was associated with Arctowski Station up until March 2016, and had been in use at the station since the late 1970s. In 2015, the Polish licensing regulations changed, making it possible to have the HF0 prefix issued to any Polish ham operating from Poland as well. Previously, the HF0 prefix was assigned exclusively to Polish hams operating from the South Shetland Islands. HF0POL is now in use by ham SP9GMK for ham operations from Poland, and is not associated with Arctowski Station anymore.

Polish Antarctic Station Henryk Arctowski was established in February 1977. On the beaches near the station numerous whale bones can be found, remains from the time when the site was used by whalers to process whales killed nearby. Nearby the station are various colonies of three different types of penguins. The station is named for Henryk Arctowski (1871-1958) who as a meteorologist accompanied the 1897-1899 "Belgica" expedition, the first expedition to overwinter in Antarctica. According to Wikipedia, Arctowski proposed the original notion of a wind chill factor, arguing that wind could be as damaging to human flesh as cold in harsh climates.

The South Shetland Islands are IOTA AN-010.

Arctowski Station (source)
Penguins n front of Arctowski Station (source)
Whale bones at Arctowski. Photographer T. Janecki (source)
Winter at Arctowski. Photographer T. Janecki (source)
Arctowski Station. Photographer T. Janecki (source)
eQSL to PA7MDJ from HF0ARC

September 10, 2017

Schynige Platte

Last edited: 13.09.2017

View from Schynige Platte (photo by PA7MDJ)
This summer, I was up at the Schynige Platte in the Berner Oberland region of Switzerland. We took the mountain cog-railway up from Wilderswil to the nostalgic Schynige Platte alpine railway station at 1967 m a.s.l. The view from the Schynige Platte is breathtaking, with the famous majestic, 4 km high trio Eiger, Mönch and Jungfrau towering in the distance. But especially to the SOTA chaser / activator there's also another attraction drawing the attention; the Gumihorn. With 2099 m a.s.l., the Gumihorn is the highest peak of the Schynige Platte. It's also SOTA summit HB/BE-134. But the peak is difficult to climb and is only for the experienced mountaineer. In the past there have been some SOTA activations, but most were invalid, as it turned out afterwards that the activators might have operated close to the actual SOTA activation zone (a maximum of 25 m vertical from the actual summit), but not from within, the zone being not so easy to reach without some serious belayed climbing.

The Schynige Platte railway station (photo by PA7MDJ)
Some SOTA activations are just more epic than others. And one of the more epic ones definitely was the activation of the Gumihorn HB/BE-134 on September 8th, 2017 by Manuel HB9DQM, Matt HB9FVF, and Clemens HB9EWO. Unfortunately I was at work and had to miss the activation, but still I really felt the urge to do this blog entry about it.

The Gumihorn SOTA HB/BE-134 (source)
The three OM took up the challenge to ascend the extremely steep southeastern grass slope, and to climb the last 25 metres of vertical rock face to get to the actual summit of the Gumihorn. And with succes; signing HB9SOTA, they did a valid activation from the summit, and despite bad HF propagation conditions made a total of 56 QSO's (including 11 on VHF).

Matt HB9FVF leading the way to the Gumihorn summit (source)
There's one other activation remaining in the SOTA database, dating back to 2010, done from the peak's southern grass flank, but height measurements taken by the September 8 SOTA climbing party show this may well have been a couple of metres short to be within the SOTA activation zone. It seems the only way to do a valid activation of the Gumihorn is to climb the vertical rock face to the top.

The SOTA climbing party at the summit found a cairn with a summit book from 1970. The book only has a few entries per year, and only one in 2016, and one in 2017, again showing that the Gumihorn is not an easy climb and is rarely visited.

The summit book (source)
Congratulations to HB9DQM, HB9FVF, and HB9EWO for the excellent achievement, both in SOTA and mountaineering!

Succesful activation from the summit by HB9SOTA on September 8th, 2017
The full activation report can be found here on the SOTA Reflector.

Addendum 13.09.2017
A nice slide show / video of the September 8 activation, can be found here on YouTube

The last remaining activation of the Gumihorn, the one of 2010, recently has also been withdrawn from the SOTA database by the activator, as the new height measurements have shown that it most probably was done from outside the SOTA activation zone.

September 09, 2017

First WSPR report from Australia

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Finally my 200 mW WSPR signals managed to reach Australia! VK2XN spotted me on the 20m band on August 30th at 1724 UTC.
I used my QRP Labs U3S transmitter and a sloper HyEndFed 10/20/40 wire antenna.

On September 4th, I again was spotted by VK2XN, for a total of 18 times. Best SNR was -21 dB.

VK2XN is located in Bullawa Creek at the edge of Mount Kaputar National Park. Distance to my QTH is 16309 km.

Mount Kaputar National Park (source)
Sawn Rocks, Mount Kaputar NP (source)

August 18, 2017

HAARP and Arecibo ionospheric HF heating research facilities

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I've always been highly fascinated by the HAARP facility in Gakona, Alaska. I already was back in the 1990s, when the research station was still operated by the US military and I was still an SWL.
HAARP stands for High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program. At the facility ionospheric research is done. The most prominent instrument at HAARP is the so called "ionospheric heater", a high power HF radio transmitter and antenna array which is used to temporarily excite a limited area of the ionosphere. Wikipedia states that the HAARP facility is capable of transmitting with a power of up to 4 GW ERP.
In 2014, the US Air Force announced that, starting that same year, the HAARP facility would be completely shut down and dismantled. In 2015 however, the control of the facility and all its equipment was taken over by University of Alaska Fairbanks and continues to operate. In February 2017, the first UAF-led research campaign was done. The UAF is not new to HAARP, as they already participated in the program when it was still operated by the military.

Assistant Research Professor Chris Fallen KL3WX of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Geophysical Institute, nowadays is one of the researchers doing ionospheric experiments at the facility, and keeps us posted on the ones that might be of interest to radio amateurs and shortwave listeners. The last research campaign of interest done at the facilty was in February 2017, and the next one will be in September 2017. During the February campaign, the signals of HAARP were picked up by radio amateurs all over the world. For more information, follow @ctfallen on Twitter, or visit his blog at

The HAARP site from the beginning has always been subject to conspiracy theories. Read some more about it at

Another ionospheric HF heater recently was constructed at the famous Arecibo Radio Telescope in Puerto Rico. The heater at Arecibo has a nominal power of 600 kW, 100 to 200 MW ERP.
The first research campaign was done this summer, and the signals were received by radio amateurs worldwide, including at PA7MDJ in the Netherlands. A short video compilation of the Arecibo listening sessions done at PA7MDJ, including audio recordings of the signals received, can be found here:

Some more technical info about the Arecibo ionospheric heater can be found here.

Here are some more pictures of the HAARP facility:

HAARP QSL cards!

August 15, 2017

Solar Eclipse 2017

Last edited: 17.08.2017

On August 21 between roughly 16:00 - 20:00 UTC there will be a total solar eclipse over the United States and part of the Atlantic Ocean north of the South American continent. The solar eclipse will affect the ionosphere, and it will be interesting to study the effects it will have on VLF, MF, and HF radio propagation. The ARRL and HamSCI have set up various projects for hams and shortwave listeners to partake in.

A project of the ARRL, called Solar Eclipse QSO Party (SEQP), has its objective described as:

"to flood the airwaves with contacts, all measured by the automated receiver networks of the Reverse Beacon Network, PSKReporter, and WSPRNet. When those observations are combined with the logs from individual stations, the result will be one of the largest ionospheric experiments ever performed"

The solar eclipse will probably have little to no affect on radio propagation in Europe, but I'm planning during the eclipse on transmitting 200 mW WSPR beacons on 30 or 20m, to catch any unusual effects, might there be any. Maybe towards the end of the solar eclipse, paths to the US or South America will be enhanced?

The shadow path of the eclipse and local and UTC times of the beginning and end of the eclipse can be found on:

More information and interesting articles on amateur radio during the eclipse can be found on the following webpages:

Shadow path of the solar eclipse. Watch the animation here. Source:

Addendum 17.08.2017
Here's an interesting article on the Sky & Telescope site:
“Observe” August’s Eclipse with Your AM Radio

August 13, 2017

Beacon HB4FV/B

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Yesterday, while tuning around the 30m band, I ran across the transmissions of this interesting beacon from Switzerland. It's operated by the Swiss Army amateur radio group HB4FV of the Vaud section of the Federal Association of the Swiss Signal Troops (FASST).

The beacon transmitter, a solar powered QRP Labs Ultimate3S, is located in the Swiss mountains at 1200 m a.s.l. inside a former Cold War shelter. The shelter was designed to withstand a nuclear explosion and to protect communications equipment from being damaged by strong nuclear electromagnetic pulses. Today, the shelter is used by HB4FV for experimental amateur radio activity.

According to official info from the HB4FV group, the beacon is transmitting on 10.1335 MHz. I caught the beacon 100 Hz higher, on 10.1336 MHz.

Below you can listen to a recording I made of the transmissions. The transmitted text reads:

PWR 500 MW

All photos from
Entrance to the shelter, pole with VHF antenna and solar panels.

Inside the shelter.

Ultimate3S transmitter.

August 09, 2017

RRS James Clark Ross / British Antarctic Survey

Last edited: 15.08.2017

The Royal Research Ship James Clark Ross at Vernadsky Base, Antarctica. (source)
This is the RRS James Clark Ross, a research and supply vessel operated by the British Antarctic Survey (BAS). The Radio Officer of the JCR is amateur radio operator Mike Gloistein GM0HCQ. The ship mostly can be found in Antarctic waters, doing research cruises and supplying the bases of the British Antarctic Survey. But during the Austral winter (i.e. summer in the northern hemisphere), the ship turns its bow to the North, and also does research cruises in the Arctic.

Mike regularly is active from the ship as GM0HCQ/MM, mainly in CW but sometimes also in digital modes. In the autumn of 2014, then still with my novice callsign, I managed to work Mike aboard the JCR on 20m in PSK31 when it was close to the Azores and heading south for the Antarctic. It resulted in the wonderful QSL card shown below.

QSL card for PD7MDJ from the RRS James Clark Ross.
During the Arctic cruise this year, Mike also had a WSPR receiver running, 24/7 and with spots being uploaded real-time to with the reporter callsign GM0HCQ/MM. But only on 30m, which made reception of my WSPR beacons sent with the QRP Labs Ultimate3S (see also my blog about the U3S kit here) impossible. With the U3S I'm only active on 20 and 40m with a HyEndFed 10/20/40 wire antenna. I am active on 30m with the HyEndFed in other modes and with other transceivers, but then I'll let the transceiver's internal antenna tuner make a match (with my transceiver's internal tuner I actually get the HyEndFed 10/20/40 tuned on all HF bands except 80 and 160m). But for the U3S I don't have any kind of tuner. And besides, I also didn't have a 30m Low Pass Filter for the U3S.

Then a couple of weeks ago at the QRP Labs booth at HAM RADIO 2017 in Friedrichshafen I bought the U3S 30m LPF kit. I also recently got my hands on a HF-P1 portable vertical antenna (which I'm planning on using during SOTA or WWFF activations). The HF-P1 can be used on all HF bands from 80 to 10m by adjusting the antenna's sliding loading coil. So I recently started experimenting with the U3S sending WSPR beacons on 30m through the HF-P1. It worked nicely, I was being heard all over Europe and crossed the Atlantic to North America a couple of times, but there were still no spots from GM0HCQ/MM. The HF-P1 being light-weight, self-supporting, and quickly assembled, and therefore very suitable for a portable setup, with its short length, loading coil, and minimalistic radials however never will be more than a very compromised antenna.
I therefore took up the plan to make a 30m Inverted-V dipole. I took apart my homebrew 15m dipole, to use its centre and end isolators, and cut new lengths of wire for the 30m band. Minus 5%, as that's what they say the length should be for an Inverted-V with a 90º apex angle. I thought the antenna would fit in my garden, but I was wrong. The restricted space forced the Inverted-V to take a funny, and not so perfect V shape (see the illustration below).

Crude sketch of the "Funny V" antenna as I like to call the newly installed Inverted-V for 30m. Would love to see its radiation pattern in for instance the EZNEC antenna software. If somebody could help me with that, please contact me.
After a few minor trimming cuts on both legs of the Inverted-V, I managed to get a perfect VSWR for it! I quickly connected the U3S and started beaconing on 30m. And lo and behold, the antenna works like a charm! Spots from all over Europe, many more and with much better SNR reports than with the HF-P1. At night I crossed the Atlantic many times to North America and also into Puerto Rico. And most importantly, this time my 200mW beacons were finally also spotted aboard the James Clark Ross! The JCR had just finished this year's Arctic research cruise and was lying "all fast alongside Pier 22" in Tromsø in Arctic Norway before commencing its voyage back to England. I wanted to be spotted by the JCR before it would depart from the Arctic, and I'm glad I succeeded. I wish though that I had the U3S running on 30m sooner, to see if it would have reached the ship when it was still much further north at Svalbard. I could have used one of my other transceivers and a PC with WSPR software (the U3S is a stand-alone WSPR transmitter), but there's no fun in WSPRing at 5 Watts, and I like the challenge of the U3S putting out only about 200mW.

GM0HCQ/MM hearing PA7MDJ
Me and my radio history with Mike Gloistein and the RRS James Clark Ross actually goes back a long time. Before I obtained my radio amateur licence in 2012, in the 1980s and 1990s I was already a passionate shortwave listener, specializing in monitoring utility radio stations, and in those years one of my favorite frequencies to tune in to was 9.106 MHz. On this frequency around 2330 UTC I could regularly receive the SSB signals of the bases and ships of the British Antarctic Survey. The ships were the RRS John Biscoe and the RRS Bransfield, and later also the James Clark Ross which in 1991 replaced the John Biscoe. The ships every night would send SYNOP coded weather observations to one of the bases. I also managed to receive the JCR, and the reception report letter I sent to the Radio Officer of the JCR in 1995 resulted in a nice big and thick envelope arriving in my mailbox from the Falkland Islands! It contained amongst other things various brochures and information leaflets about the British Antarctic Survey and the JCR, my returned and filled-out PFC (prepared form card) QSL, and a personal letter from the JCR Radio Officer, being Mike Gloistein GM0HCQ!

PFC QSL from the RRS James Clark Ross for SWL reception of the ship with official radio traffic on 9.106 MHz in 1995.
PFC QSL from the British Antarctic Survey base Faraday for SWL reception of the base with official radio traffic on 9.106 MHz in 1992. The QSL was mailed to me directly from Faraday (see postmark). In 1996 Faraday Base was sold for a symbolic one pound to Ukraine and was renamed Vernadsky Base. This is one of my most prized SWL QSLs.

The following BAS bases and ships were active on 9.106 MHz:

  • Bird Island (callsign ZBH22)
  • Signy Island (callsign ZHF33)
  • Faraday (callsign ZHF44)
  • Rothera (callsign ZHF45)
  • Halley (callsign VSD)
  • RRS Johny Biscoe (callsign ZDLB)
  • RRS Bransfield (callsign ZDLG)
  • RRS James Clark Ross (callsign ZDLP)

For more information and photos of the JCR, check out Mike Gloistein's excellent website at!

Addendum 11.08.2017
Mike Gloistein informed me in an e-mail exchange that during this year's Arctic cruise whilst the RRS James Clark Ross was north of about 77º latitude, the WSPR spots weren't uploaded to the WSPR database real-time due to lack of communications satellite. All reception details of this period were stored and were uploaded manually once communication was restored.
Mike tells me that the WSPR setup aboard the JCR is using one of the commercial receivers which isn't really designed for such weak signals, but nevertheless seems to work fairly well.
The WSPR receiver will be switched off soon when the JCR is back in England and Mike leaves the ship around August 15th.
Mike also informs me that all being well the WSPR receiver will be up and running again from late October for six weeks whilst Mike is back on board the JCR for the first section of the Antarctic season.

I'm looking forward to see if I can get my WSPR signals aboard the JCR coming autumn while it's cruising the seas of the southern hemisphere. In the mean time, whilst the JCR is getting more south on the way back from its Arctic voyage, the reception of my WSPR beacons aboard the ship is getting more common (see screenshot below).

Addendum 15.08.2017
Gavin Taylor GM0GAV informed me that it was him who replied with the QSL from Faraday. Gavin was at Faraday as a comms man from 1990 to 1993. Gavin nowadays is also very active in SOTA, and upon checking my log, I found out that not too long ago I've worked him on 40m CW on the summit of SOTA GM/ES-044.

August 02, 2017

FT8 / Bouvet Island DXpedition

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I recently made my first contact using the new digital mode FT8 (see screenshot above). FT8 was developed by Joe Taylor K1JT and Steve Franke K9AN, and is included in a recent beta version of Joe Taylor's popular WSJT-X weak signal communications software package. FT8 stands for Franke-Taylor design, 8-FSK modulation. In a short time FT8 has become really popular, and the new mode already sees extensive use on HF and 6m.
With a decoding SNR treshhold of -20dB, FT8 is less sensitive than JT9 and JT65. Therefore, for normal use on the HF bands, at this point I don't see many advantages in using FT8 in favour of JT65 or JT9.
Since FT8 is much quicker than JT65 and JT9, I do see real potential and advantages though during for instance 6m or 4m Sporadic E openings, when propagation conditions can change really quickly and completing a QSO quicker than is possible with JT65 or JT9 is desired.
I do also see potential for FT8 to find its way to DXpedition operations. Since it's relatively quick and therefore more suitable for use in DXpedition pile-ups than JT9 or JT65, who knows, DXpeditions might start considering using FT8 beside the traditional DXpedition modes CW, SSB, and RTTY. This means that maybe for the first time in weak signal history, also the serious and big DXpeditions will start thinking of using a weak signal mode on HF (weak signal modes are already used by DXpeditions on VHF/UHF EME), and might give us little-pistol stations a bigger chance to work them!

On the FT8 Digital Mode Experimental Group on Facebook recently the following was announced, confirming that indeed the new mode has caught the attention of big DXpeditions:
The Bouvet DXpedition early next year will be using FT8! According to Ralph K0IR, one of the DXpedition leaders:
"We will 'work down from RTTY.' RTTY will be our primary digital mode when we can use it. But, we will be prepared to use FT8 on "dead bands" and when RTTY does not get through."
Bouvet is number two in the world on the most wanted list. It will also be the most expensive DXpedition in history.
Despite at the moment not being my favorite weak signal mode, this is another good reason for me to stick to FT8 for a while, and get some more experience with it. Can FT8 persuade big DXpeditions to finally take the step into 21st century HF communications technology? The future will tell.

More information on the 3Y0Z Bouvet Island DXpedition can be found on

July 29, 2017

Dedicated WSPR beacon / receiver to be set up on Antarctica

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From the DARC Facebook page, published on July 5th, 2017.
WSPR-Funkbake in der Antarktis
Die TU München, das Institut für Raumfahrttechnik, plant das Errichten und den Betrieb einer WSPR-Funkbake in der Antarktis. Das Projekt wird gemeinsam mit dem Alfred-Wegener-Institut, Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung, und der Hochschule Bremen als innovatives wissenschaftliches Projekt betreut. Die Projektleitung hat Prof. Dr. Ing. Ulrich Walter, DG1KIM, Ordinarius für Raumfahrttechnik an der TU München und ehemaliger D2-Astronaut.
Der DARC e.V. wird bei dem Projekt eingebunden. Erstmalig überhaupt soll eine permanente WSPR-Funkbake zum Studium der Ausbreitungsbedingungen in der Antarktis unter Einbeziehung der weltweit verteilten Funkamateure betrieben werden. Das Projekt ist auf Dauer eines Sonnenfleckenzyklus von etwa 11 Jahren angelegt und soll ab ca. November 2017 vor Ort beginnen.
Entsprechende Anträge an das Alfred-Wegener-Institut, zuständig für den Betrieb der Neumayer-III Forschungsstation auf dem Ekström-Schelfeis, wurden vor kurzem von dessen wissenschaftlichen Beirat offiziell genehmigt. Für die Entscheidung hat vor allem eine Rolle gespielt, dass mit sehr geringem finanziellen und logistischen Aufwand eine große Zahl von neuen wissenschaftlichen Erkenntnissen über die Ionosphäre in den Polargebieten zu erwarten ist.
Die Wellenausbreitung auf der Kurzwelle scheint gut erforscht, jedoch liegen weltweit noch immer keinerlei systematische Beobachtungsansätze aus den Pol-Regionen der Erde vor, besonders der Einfluss der Polarlichter ist nur bruchstückhaft bekannt. In diese Lücke stößt dieses mittlerweile auch international sehr beachtete wissenschaftliche Vorhaben. In enger Zusammenarbeit mit Prof. Michael Hartje, DK5HH, von der Hochschule Bremen und seinem Kollegen, Prof. Dr. Sören Peik, soll in Kürze ein WSPR-Bakensender und ein Breitband-SDR-Empfänger auf dem Südkontinent aufgebaut werden, welcher weltweite WSPR-Bakensignale der Funkamateure von 6 m bis 160 m simultan empfängt und diese per Internet zur Auswertung in die WSPR-Net-Datenbank einspeist.
Die Installation vor Ort und die Betreuung der ersten WSPR-Bake im ewigen Eis wird der technische Mitarbeiter der Station Felix Riess, DL5XL, übernehmen. Mit der Einbeziehung des DARC e.V. als Projektpartner wird deutlich, dass dem Amateurfunk nach wie vor eine bedeutende Rolle in der technisch-wissenschaftlichen Forschung zukommt. Als Ansprechpartner stehen die beiden oben genannten Professoren Dr. Ulrich Walter [1] und Dr. Michael Hartje [2] gerne zur Verfügung.


July 28, 2017

The Pixie QRP CW transceiver

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The kit shown here is a small, so-called Pixie QRP CW transceiver for 7.023 MHz. I bought it for a couple of euros at the DARC Verlag booth at HAM RADIO 2017 in Friedrichshafen. This is going to be a small homebrewing project for the coming weeks. Traditionally, homebrewing radio amateurs have been building small QRP CW transceivers like these into "Altoid" pepermint tins. I like traditions, so I've found this nice Amarelli tin for the Pixie to be placed in. Fed by a 9 V battery the Pixie will have a power output of about 0.8 Watts. Of course I'm not expecting this to be a state of the art transceiver, it's mainly a small experimental project to have some fun with.

I do not expect to make many QSOs with it, but it will be interesting to see if I can manage to be picked up by the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN). If I manage to get the Pixie to work properly, I am planning on someday doing a SOTA activation with it though.
However, the Pixie has no built in keyer, and there's no sidetone, which will make keying the transceiver a little awkward, and first will require some practicing with a straight key. I've also been thinking about buying a separate electronic keyer to use in conjuntion with the Pixie, so that I can use my Palm paddle key, but these are quite expensive. My latest plan is now to built a cheaper electronic morse keyer myself, using an Arduino microcontroller and per the building instructions provided here on the site of PA3HCM. I've never done something with Arduino, so this is an excellent opportunity to get some experience with it. Another advantage of the PA3HCM keyer is that it also generates a sidetone.

Another plan is to buy a crystal for 7.030 MHz and to use that one instead of the 7.023 MHz crystal. 7.030 MHz is the CW QRP "Centre of Activity" frequency.

Stay tuned!

July 20, 2017

SOTA HB/NW-011 Pilatus/Tomlishorn 2132m

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I've been playing with the Pinnacle Studio 20 video editing software this week, and for my first project I decided to make a video of my 40m CW activation on July 11, 2017 of SOTA HB/NW-011 in Switzerland. The result has been uploaded to YouTube and can be viewed below. For better quality watch the video on (just click on the YouTube logo after you've hit the play button)! The video is in HD, so make sure to set the settings to 1080p for best quality!

Thanks for watching! 73 for now de PA7MDJ!

June 05, 2017

Canada C3 Expedition

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On June 1st, the icebreaker "Polar Prince" started on a 150-day journey from Canada's east to west coast via the infamous Arctic Northwest Passage. The expedition is named "Canada C3" and is one of the signature projects celebrating Canada's 150th birthday. The expedition is devided into 15 legs and will stop at a different location every day, including coastal towns and villages, indigenous communities, and nature parks.  And here's your chance to be part of this epic journey, by monitoring for the ship's WSPR beacon on 40, 30, or 20m!

The expedition ship in Prince Edward County, as posted on the C3 Facebook page on June 3rd. The Polar prince is a former Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker and was formerly known as the CCGS Sir Humphrey Gilbert.
Under the leadership of Barrie Crampton VE3BSB, a team of radio amateurs installed a 200 mW QRP Labs U3S WSPR transmitter in the icebreaker's radioroom. Barrie reports that "the antenna is a 46 ft end fed slopping at 62 degrees from the port rail above the bridge to the midship 50 ft tower". The callsign used is CG3EXP. The U3S for the complete duration of the expedition will continuously transmit WSPR beacons, and will allow WSPR monitoring stations to track the voyage.

The Polar Prince departed Toronto on June 1st for the first leg of the expedition to Montreal, and sailed across Lake Ontario to its first stopover at Picton, Prince Edward County. On June 3rd on 40m I already managed to receive some spots from the expedition ship in Prince Edward County, grid locator FN14ka. The RAC - Radio Amateurs of Canada website writes the following about the project:
"Many of the locations to be visited by Canada C3 lie in areas where radio communication is difficult. Phenomena such as “arctic flutter” and disturbances from the aurora have traditionally been a problem in the north. Very few, if any, of these locations will have a WSPR beacon and are thus, until now, outside the worldwide WSPR network. The gathering of information on radio propagation simultaneously by several receiving stations will be of scientific interest – and it will also be fun. The WSPR network of stations meets this need comprising, as it does, a series of receiving sites and stations capable of reporting, in real time, the reception of, and location, of the beacons."

While this project is associated with the Canada C3 Expedition, results might provide “proof of concept” more generally for remote telemetry applications from Arctic regions. With the impending increase in non-commercial adventurers traversing the Northwest Passage, this low-cost technology might fill a need. Researchers following the Canada C3 “whisper” might wish to compare the experience to other ship-borne uses of WSPR as reported on several Internet sites."
I'm looking forward to seeing how far into the journey my simple wire antenna is capable of receiving the CG3EXP WSPR beacon. What a fascinating project! Wishing the Canada C3 expedition Smooth Sailing!

Another photo of the Polar Prince, as found on the official Canada C3 site
Polar Prince WSPR beacon received at PA7MDJ
Polar Prince WSPR beacon received at PA7MDJ
Polar Prince WSPR beacon received at PA7MDJ