RNZ QSL card received

Spinning the dial on the HF radio, the other night, I ran across Radio New Zealand International broadcasting news and music.  A bit shocked to hear sounds coming from the opposite side of the globe at such a late hour I confirmed that they were, indeed, broadcasting from Rangitaiki!  (This is about the same time that I used to work a ZL2BLQ on 18MHz CW so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.)

Sent in my report of 45534 for 13840kHz using their web form and a few days later received this card via email:

RNZ QSL Card showing the RNZ logo
I also copied their broadcast on 11725kHz but with a report of 25511 it wasn’t worth mentioning.

Shortwave Radiogram for the weekend of 29 September 2017

This weekend’s reception of Shortwave Radiogram was cut off at the beginning due to an operator error.  I had left my computer up and listening to WRMI but had also left the automatic frequency control (AFC) feature turned on.  This meant that fldigi ended up surfing around the bandpass instead of locking onto the signal and decoding it.  Luckily I came up to the shack in the nick of time and was able to correct the problem.

Here is my download of this weekend’s Shortwave Radiogram:

deployments. The hams and their equipment will be sent to Red
Cross shelters extending from San Juan to the western end of the
island.

“This generous outpouring of response represents the finest
qualities of the Amateur Radio community,” ARRL CEO Tom
Gallagher, NY2RF, said. “These individuals are dropping whatever
they are doing now, heading off to an extended hardship-duty
assignment, and offering their special talents to Americans who
have been cut off from their families, living amid widespread
destruction and without electrical power since Hurricane Maria
struck the Caribbean region last week.”

ARRL’s Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, said this
was the first time in the nearly 75-year relationship between
ARRL and the American Red Cross that such as request for
assistance had been made. “Hurricane Maria has devastated the
island’s communications infrastructure,” Corey said. “Without
electricity and telephone, and with most of the cell sites out of
service, millions of Americans are cut off from communicating.
Shelters are unable to reach local emergency services. And,
people cannot check on the welfare of their loved ones. The
situation is dire.”

Full text:
http://www.arrl.org/news/amateur-radio-s-force-of-fifty-answers-the-red-cross-call-in-puerto-rico

See also:
https://www.voanews.com/a/puerto-rico-radio-station-hurricane-maria/4047762.html

Image: NOAA satellite images of Puerto Rico before and after
Hurricane Maria …

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NOAA satellite images of Puerto Rico before and after Hurricane Maria

This is Shortwave Radiogram.

Please send reception reports to radiogram@verizon.net

From the BBC Media Centre:

BBC News launches Korean language service

25 September 2017

The new Korean language service announced in November 2016 by the
BBC World Service began broadcasting today. Audiences in the
Korean peninsula and Korean speakers around the world can now
hear radio broadcasts and access the latest news online at
BBC.com/korean .

BBC News Korean is one of 12 new language service launches now
underway as part of the biggest expansion of the BBC World
Service since the 1940s, funded through a £291 million grant in
aid from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

Director of the BBC World Service Francesca Unsworth says: “BBC
News Korean will build on the long-standing reputation for
fairness and impartiality the BBC World Service has earned all
over the world.”

BBC News Korean features a daily 30-minute radio news programme
broadcast at 15.30 GMT on Shortwave (SW) and 16.30 GMT Medium
wave (MW). The service will also feature a digital offer with
written stories, videos and radio programmes which can be
downloaded and shared. The new service features a wide range of
news, sport, business, culture, in-depth reports and English
language learning.

BBC News Korean journalists will be based in Seoul, London and
Washington and will draw on the full extent of the BBC’s global
network of correspondents.

Notes:

Service launched Monday 25 September at 15.30 GMT (Tuesday 26
September in Korea):

Shortwave service to broadcast for three hours, 15.30 – 18.30
GMT

Medium wave service transmission for 1 hour 16.30 – 17.30 GMT

All transmissions to be 7 days a week

Medium wave (MW) Frequency: 1431KHz

Shortwave (SW) Frequencies: 5810 kHz & 9940 kHz (from launch
to 28 October 2017) then; 5810 kHz & 5830 kHz (from 29 October
2017 to 24 March 2018)

The BBC News Korean website will be available at BBC.com/korean

The BBC World Service is currently launching in 12 new languages
– Afaan Oromo, Amharic, Gujarati, Igbo, Korean, Marathi, Pidgin,
Punjabi, Serbian, Telugu, Tigrinya, and Yoruba.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/mediacentre/latestnews/2017/bbc-news-launches-korean-language-service

Image: From BBC video comparing North and South Korean usages of
the Korean language …

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From BBC video comparing North and South Korean usages of the Korean language
This is Shortwave Radiogram.

Please send reception reports to radiogram@verizon.net

From New Atlas:

Highest-capacity transatlantic data cable completed

David Szondy
25 September 2017

The highest-capacity data cable stretching across the Atlantic
has now been completed. A consortium including Microsoft,
Facebook and Telxius recently finished threading the complex
4,000-mi (6,400-km) cable across the ocean floor from Virginia
Beach, Virginia to Bilbao, Spain to produce a high-speed data
connection that will be more secure from disruption by natural
disasters.

Though modern telecommunications may conjure up images of lasers
skittering between communication satellites high above the Earth,
the backbone of today’s internet is heavily dependent on a giant
spider web of cables spanning between continents and along coast
lines carrying everything from tweets to high-definition live
streaming videos.

Unfortunately, these cables are vulnerable to natural and manmade
disasters. In the aftermath of the October 2012 Hurricane Sandy
that wreaked havoc on the east coast of the United States,
wireless, internet, and home telephone services were knocked out
for days. Therefore, it was decided by Microsoft and Facebook,
along with Telxius, to develop, design, build, and lay a new
cable farther south than existing transatlantic connections.

Work on the new cable, called Marea or “Tide” in Spanish, began
less than two years ago and Microsoft says the project was
completed three times faster than a typical undersea cable
project. The route for the cable required the surveying of the
seabed to depths of up to 11,000 ft (3,300 m) to avoid hazards
that include active volcanoes, earthquake zones, and coral reefs.

Marea consists of eight pairs of fiber optic cables encased in
copper, a hard-plastic protective layer, and a waterproof
coating. The whole thing measures 1.5 times the diameter of a
garden hose and is buried in a set of trenches close to shore to
protect it from fishing nets and anchors, but lies open on the
seabed in the mid-ocean.

Marea is expected to go operational early next year when it will
carry up to 160 terabits of data per second, which is 16 million
times faster than the average home internet connection. This is
the equivalent to 71 million high-definition videos streaming
simultaneously and will allow the cable to serve hubs in Africa,
the Middle East, and Asia. In addition, its open design will
allow it to be upgraded as demand grows.

“Marea comes at a critical time,” says Brad Smith, president of
Microsoft. “Submarine cables in the Atlantic already carry 55
percent more data than trans-Pacific routes and 40 percent more
data than between the US and Latin America. There is no question
that the demand for data flows across the Atlantic will continue
to increase and Marea will provide a critical connection for the
United States, Spain, and beyond.”

http://newatlas.com/highest-capacity-transatlantic-cable/51488/

Image: Route of the Marea cable between Spain and Virginia …

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Route of the Marea cable between Spain and Virginia
Finally, this photo of a young Anatoly Karpov, Soviet chess
grandmaster, includes his multiband portable radio — probably
capable of receiving shortwave …

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Photo of a young Anatoly Karpov, Soviet chess grandmaster, includes his multiband portable radio -- probably capable of receiving shortwave
Photo from:

Transmission of Shortwave Radiogram is provided by:

WRMI, Radio Miami International, http://wrmi.net

and

Space Line, Bulgaria, http://spaceline.bg

Please send reception reports to radiogram@verizon.net

And visit http://swradiogram.net

Twitter: @SWRadiogram

I’m Kim Elliott. Please join us for the next Shortwave
Radiogram.

Sending Pic:192x151C;

Apple Orchard Mountain in July 2017

Success! That’s the word I’m using to describe my latest battle up a summit. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t without some failure, but I’m willing to give this trip a grade of B. Luckily I had some help…

Stats

  • When: 2017-07-15 from 14:00Z to 20:00Z
  • Where: Apple Orchard Mountain – W4V/RA-001
  • Who: Dave KB3RAN, Ed KC3EN, Steve N3IPN, and myself
  • Ascent: 280ft in .58mi (3928ft to 4208ft)
  • Equipment: Lots (See below)
  • APRS Coverage: Excellent with nearby I-Gate
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Poor.  Could receive text messages and voicemail notifications but couldn’t make calls or send messages.  Seemed common among all carriers.  There is one spot at the northwest corner of the FAA fence that seems to get okay coverage that may work.

Getting There and Staying There

Picture of Ed KC3EN, Steve N3IPN, and Eric WG3K.

Ed KC3EN, Steve N3IPN, and Eric WG3K. – Photo by Dave KB3RAN.

This is a fun event made even more enjoyable by the addition of a few friends. This year, like last year, I was joined by Dave KB3RAN and Steve N3IPN. A new member of the group, Ed KC3EN, also joined us this year, and I hope will continue to be part of the team.

Since we’re so far away (about a 5 hour drive) we camped at the Peaks of the Otter Campground, the night before, which is a few miles south of Apple Orchard Mountain.  The campground is nice and wasn’t crowded.  We were able to get two sites that were adjacent allowing us to put up two tents and have the RV all together.

Steve, and his excellent fire-building skills, had a roaring fire going in no time, and pork chops were our first meal of the trip.

Overnight rain kept me in a tent and out of my hammock that I’ve been sleeping in as of late, so that was kind of a bummer.  At least we missed the torrential rainfall that hit the area earlier in the day.

Up the mountain we go

Ed, Eric, and Steve arriving at the summit with wagon #2 loaded with radio equipment.

Final push for wagon #2 as we arrive at the summit. – Photo by Dave KB3RAN

I don’t think I touched on this subject last year, probably because I was still sore (physically and emotionally) about the situation.  For this year’s readers I’ll do a recap.

Last year was our first year supporting the APRS Golden Packet event.  It was also our first time ever going atop Apple Orchard Mountain.  While we had looked at maps and measured distances and altitude changes we really hadn’t grasped the energy it would take to get two overloaded wagons up the mountain.  For the record, the distance up the road is .6 mi and the elevation change is just over 300 feet.  But last year the two wagons of gear were likely weighing in excess of 2 tons each (metric, imperial, royal… your pick).

This year we scaled back enormously.  Batteries and antenna masts were reduced and lightened.  Radio and antennas were lessened.  Oh, and we added another mule to the team (thanks Ed!).  This year we made it up to the summit much faster than last year.

The Primary Mission

Image of Eric WG3K setting up the APRS digipeater on a boulder.

Eric WG3K setting up the APRS digipeater. – Photo by Dave KB3RAN

The primary mission of this trip was to activate an APRS digipeater on Apple Orchard Mountain in support of the APRS Golden Packet event. The event takes place annually and takes fifteen teams from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Katahdyn in Maine to build and maintain a network of VHF digipeaters so that a golden packet may be passed from Georgia to Maine and back.

Last year we completed our portion of the mission but there were problems along the link (equipment and personnel) that caused a failure.  What parts we did get active worked well and we tested both 1200 and 9600 baud links.

This year we decided to do only 9600 baud links.  Unfortunately I didn’t realize that the link between us (AOMTN-5) and Hawksbill (HAWKBL-6) is quite fragile and a change in antenna made the path between us unusable for 9600 baud.  Even 2m FM voice was tough going.  Fortunately 1200 baud packet was able to get through, and everyone switching to 1200 baud allowed the entire network to connect and function.  It wasn’t too long after everyone switched to 1200 baud that news went out that the Golden Packet had been passed from Maine to Georgia and back so we were successful!  Mission complete.

Hind sight

In hind sight I should have probably walked our antenna around a bit to see if I could have found a better location while I had Hawksbill on VHF voice.  Next year I want to bring a 2m/70cm yagi to direct my power to where I want it to go instead of just having it fly all over the place.

I’m also hoping to venture back out to Apple Orchard Mountain, before next July, and test comms with Hawksbill if I can get time and another team on the distant end.

Other Activities (SOTA)

Image of the SOTA flag flying from an antenna mast.It’s a haul to get up to the top of Apple Orchard Mountain. At least the road is paved, though. Of course we’re not going to go up there with only a TM-D700 and call it a day; no, we brought stuff! I believe there were five HF/VHF+ transceivers that made the trip with several antennas, batteries, poles, tents, and other accouterments. Like last year, we also decided to activate the summit for SOTA!

We were much more successful this year than last. We did have some failures, but overall I think everyone enjoyed themselves. Last year Dave had issues with his portable HF digital station but had this to say this year:

I had 15 contacts, 13 states, have 4 eQsl confirmations already and maybe picked up VT as my 49th state. Dang, could have had DE and had a WAS but couldn’t hear Bob Balint [KF3AA].

Steve also had problems last year but was busy scratching contacts onto his log while working a pile-up on 40m. He wanted to work 2m SSB but heard no one, which is unfortunate.

Image of Steve N3IPN with his 2m loop antenna in the air.

Steve N3IPN with his 2m loop antenna.

I, too, tried listening on the lower portion of 2m and didn’t hear squat which I found amazing from ~4200 feet. No beacons or chit chat of any kind. What was worse was the neighborhood RF seemed to be overloading the front end of my K1 making my Plan A QRP station completely inoperable. Thankfully I was able to borrow a 40m dipole for a few minutes and put a few contacts in the log using my FT-857D.

I was actually talking with W2SE on 40m when I had a duh moment and grabbed the microphone on the D700 and called Comers Mountain and worked their crew for summit-to-summit (S2S) credit. Hawksbill had already closed down so I missed my opportunity there, unfortunately. In the end I managed 10 SOTA contacts which isn’t too shabby.

What worked well

APRS worked really well from up on the summit.  There was plenty of digipeater coverage below and that allowed us to send spots and communicate with others well.

Dave KB3RAN sitting on a up-turned milk crate working PSK31 using a tablet.

Dave KB3RAN sitting on a up-turned milk crate working PSK31 using a tablet.

APRS2SOTA worked spectacularly!  Being able to let the chasers know what frequencies were were operating on in real time via RF was priceless.  It’s easy to use, and I was able to interact with the service using only my D72 portable radio.

PSK31.  Dave left his tablet and phone home last year but was ready this year and boy did he put some contacts in the log.  Of course you never really knew when he was working stations or just goofing off because he was always just sitting on the up-turned milk crate with the tablet in his hand looking around and chatting.

LifePo4 batteries. I purchased one of these batteries days before the expedition so I hadn’t had a chance to do anything except rig it with Anderson Power Poles and charge it up.  Turns out, the battery lasted for around five or so hours being hooked to the D700 being run on high power for the digipeater, high power on UHF for coordination with Comers, and on the FT-857D running 25-watts on HF.  When it stopped working (and boy did it stop) the voltage was a little over 8V.  It had recovered a bit by the time I had gotten home but I’ll call it a good day.

What didn’t work well

K1.  The K1’s front end seemed to be overloaded from the high-RF environment that is Apple Orchard Mountain.  Unfortunately, I had planned on this being my primary operating radio and so the antenna I had brought was specifically for this transceiver.

Cellular phones. Up on top of the summit there is either too much competition for cellular signals or weird multipath happening.  Sitting in one spot I could watch my phone go from no signal to get a 3G signal to a 4G signal to nothing all within the time-span of a minute or two.  Walking to one specific location on the summit would yield a usable signal for text messaging and maybe a phone call where the rest of the summit was useless.  This problem seemed to be common to all carriers.

2m weak signal. Not sure what was going on as last year that’s pretty much all I worked.

Ideas for next year

I’ve got a couple of ideas for next year including a better antenna to point at Hawksbill.

One thought is to attempt a microwave link to Comers (2.4GHz, 3GHz, or 5GHz).  We’ll have to coordinate some on this one.

Speaking of coordinating, others were apparently active on HF from their summits.  It would have been nice to know what summits were active and coordinate with them (maybe using our freshly-built APRS network) to make some SOTA contacts.

Anyway, I’m excited about what 2018 will bring.

Heading up to Apple Orchard Mountain this weekend.

Like last year, I’ll be heading over to Apple Orchard Mountain to support the annual APRS Golden Packet Event.  My friends Dave KB3RAN and Steve N3IPN are once again part of the team with the addition of Ed KC3EN joining us for the long slog up the mountain.

In addition to operating APRS, we’ll also be active on HF and VHF+.  You can watch for spots from us on the SOTAwatch2 site.

Changes from last year

Last year we didn’t quite know what to expect; we ended up bringing way too much stuff and it was all way too heavy.  This year weight is a primary concern and we don’t plan on making the same mistake again.

My friendly postal carrier dropped off a box just yesterday which contained the new heart of my station.  I’ve heard good things about these new LifePO batteries so I figured I’d get one to try it out for myself.  So far I’m impressed.  I’ve not really put it under a load test, yet, but if it really gives me the watt-hours that it says it will at ~3 lbs, I’ll be ecstatic!

Another change is that I’ll be bringing my Elecraft K1 with SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi antenna.  This is an extremely lightweight HF setup and has proven itself to work quite well (you can read about my adventure activating Emmaville Mountain North up in Pennsylvania with this setup).

Listen for us!

We’ll be on the air from the summit starting Saturday, 15 July 2017, morning (likely around 1400Z) and will stay on the air until early to mid afternoon.  I’ll be chirping on APRS (WG3K-7) if you need to get a message to me while we’re up on mountain!

73!

J-Pole antennas for SAR

Image of fibreglass mast with two VHF j-pole antennas affixed.

Fiberglass mast with two VHF j-pole antennas affixed.

I recently started working with Calvert K9 Search, a local SAR team that specializes in using dogs to search for people.  In an effort to improve communications between the command post (base) and teams in the field I embarked on a mission to find a simple solution to the problem of limited comms.

There were several requirements that prevented the use of a repeater (added complexity, weight, setup time), using a higher power base station (may damage dog collar transmitters and GPSr receivers1 and only amplifies one side of the communication), or a portable tower (see repeater above).

The solution was happened upon almost by accident and the improvements were immediately noticeable.  Digging through the back of my car I came up with a VHF j-pole and fiberglass expandable pole to put it up in the air.  A few adapters later and we were on the air!

The performance improvement was immediate!  Suddenly communications were possible at a much further distance and, when connected to the Garmin Astro 320, dog collars could be received from a much further distance away.

Anyone who has examined the efficiency of a “rubber duck” antenna will know that these stock antennas aren’t great and that almost anything is better.  Stepping up to a j-pole antenna is a significant improvement and then putting that antenna up in the air has a lot of wow-factor to a non-radio person.

Image of collapsed fibreglass pole, used as mast, straps, and two VHF j-pole antennas rolled up and ready for deployment.

Two VHF antennas, straps, and mast ready for activation.

With the tests complete I built two j-pole antennas: one centered on 155.160MHz, our primary operational frequency, and one centered on the average of all the MURS frequencies.  The latter is used as a receive-only antenna for the dog collars and hangs below the VHF “ops” antenna.  Both of these antennas are hung onto a fiberglass expandable pole that holds the antennas up in the air around 20 feet or so.  This pole can be attached to a fence post, command trailer, tent pole, or laid into a tree branch to keep it upright.

The most expensive part of the project was the LMR-240 feedline2 that we used.  The antennas were made out of 300-ohm ladderline with shrink wrap at each end to help keep the elements out.  The pole is actually made for pulling cable and wires and is made by PushPullRods.com.  It’s really strong but isn’t crush resistant so you have to be careful not to step on it when it’s laying on the ground.

For about the price of a good commercial antenna we were able to get a working antenna system that is completely portable/pack-able and lightweight and takes only a few minutes to setup and take down.  It also doesn’t take up much space for storage meaning it fits into the existing infrastructure without having to make changes.

We’ve deployed this antenna system several times this spring and summer and have noted improvements over a variety of terrain.  This project would have cost around $350 for parts if not for donations of parts and pieces along the way.

Footnotes

1. Calvert K9 Search uses the Garmin Astro 320 GPSr units that, when coupled with the dog collars, allow the user to track the location of the dogs on the screen.  These units are very sensitive to RF energy and the manufacturer recommends not using any more than 5 watts near these devices. (Although they don’t specify what frequency band they are most sensitive, the units use MURS for communicating between the dog collars and receiver units so I’m assuming VHF is the most sensitive.)
2. LMR-240 feedline was utilized as it was small, lightweight, and reasonably low-loss at VHF frequencies.

A response to ‘Strong Encryption and Death’

I recently read an article on the TriLUG blog mirror discussing access to data after the death of the owner.  I’ve also given this a lot of thought as well and had previously come to the same conclusion as the original author of the article has:

“I created a file called “deathnote.txt” which I then encrypted using GPG.  This will encrypt the file so that both Bob and Alice can read it (and I can too). I then sent it to several friends unrelated to them with instructions that, upon my death (but not before), please send this file to Bob and Alice.”

–Tarus

To be honest, I didn’t actually go through with this project as there were just too many variables that I hadn’t figured out.  There is a lot of trust involved in this that potentially requires a very small number of people (2) to really hose things up.  It’s not that I wouldn’t trust my “trusted friends” with the responsibility but it potentially makes them targets and two is just a really low threshold for an adversary to recover this information.

What really threw me was that the author also included a copy of his private key in case they couldn’t locate it on his computer to, I’m assuming here, access other data.  I have one word for this: NOPE!

Okay, short of the private key thing, what was proposed was quite logical.  Like I said above, I had a very similar idea a while back.  Springboarding from that idea, I’d like to propose another layer of security into this whole process.

Splitting up the data

So you have your encrypted blob of information that goes to person A when you kick off but you don’t want person A to have it before.  Import some trusted friends and you have a means of providing the information to person A upon your demise.  But letting a single person, or even two people, control this information is dangerous.  What if you could split up that data into further encrypted parts and handed those parts out to several friends?  Then, not one single person would hold all the information.  You’d likely want some overlap so that you wouldn’t need ALL the friends to present the information (maybe it got lost, maybe the friend got hit by the same bus that you did, etc) so we’d want to build in a little redundancy.

ssss

Shamir’s Secret Sharing Scheme (ssss) is a neat piece of software that takes some information, encrypts it, and then break it into pieces.  Redundancy can be added so that not all parts are required to reassemble the data (think RAID 5).

“In cryptography, a secret sharing scheme is a method for distributing a secret amongst a group of participants, each of which is allocated a share of the secret. The secret can only be reconstructed when the shares are combined together; individual shares are of no use on their own.”

–From the SSSS website

Implementing the solution

Because ssss can only share relatively small strings (less than 1024 bits), my “death” instructions would likely need to be stored whole as a cipher text and the key (symmetric) being the shared object.

The other piece of this solution would be whom to get to hold the shared bits of keys.  It would likely be best if the individuals were not only trusted but also didn’t know the others involved in the share.  That way there is a smaller chance that these individuals could get together to put the key back together.

Also, if person A is the one holding the cipher text, even if the individuals did find each other they would only have a key and not be able to decode the actual texts.

Conclusion

I’m quite happy that I read the original article and I hope to do the same thing that the author did before I kick the bucket.  I’m quite sure that there are other ways to do what Tarus and I wrote about and actual implementation will vary depending upon the individual, their technical level, and their personal privacy requirements.  This problem, though, is one that deserves to be solved as more and more of our information is kept digitally.

Updated Maryland DMR Codeplugs

I just updated my Mid-Atlantic (now called Maryland) codeplugs and have made them available on my Maryland DMR project page.  Right now the codeplugs only contain repeaters in Maryland but I will be working on them over the next few days to include Washington DC and Virginia repeaters that are nearby.

Codeplugs are available for the CS-700, CS-750, and CS-800.  Please let me know if you’re using them and if there are any errors I need to fix (I know of one already).

Activating Emmaville Mountain North W3/SV-019

SOTA LogoStats

  • When: 2016-11-11 from 18:04Z to 18:33Z
  • Where: Emmaville Mountain North – W3/SV-019
  • Who: Amanda KI4IWS, Harlan, Elise, and myself
  • Ascent: Drive up
  • Decent: Drive down
  • Equipment: Elecraft K1, SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi, Navy Flameproof Key
  • APRS Coverage: Good coverage
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Good coverage
  • Contacts: 10

Overview

Picture of SOTA Antenna Deployed

SOTA Antenna Deployed

This was a good stop, about half way, on our way up to Ohio. The kids got a chance to get out and run around and I got a chance to put a few more contacts in the log.

The roadway going to the top is a single lane, gravel road that is in good condition. At the top of the summit is an open area that allows for parking and one could imagine lots of antennas and operating locations here. You are ringed with trees, however, so I’m not sure if this would make a good microwave location. Perhaps in the winter when the leaves are off the trees…

The Gear

Picture of Elecraft K1 on tree stump.

A convenient operating position.

After hiking across the field I began setting up my gear.  Just as I used at Sugarloaf Mountain a few weekends ago, I setup my Elecraft K1 (5 watts using 8 AA batteries), the SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi antenna, 4.1m fiberglass pole, and Navy Flameproof key.  I was able to find a convenient tree stump in which to setup my station.  The antenna was setup nearby in the bushes and held well in spite of the stiff breeze that was blowing.

The Operating

Navy Flameproof key sitting on stone.Most stations were quite loud.  Unlike last time, the bands were stable enough that stations didn’t have to chase me around the bands trying to contact me (or at least if they did I couldn’t hear them like on Sugarloaf).

I continue to be surprised by how quiet the bands are once you get on top of the mountain.  The K1’s receiver continues to do a fantastic job.  I quickly put four contacts in the log on 40m before moving to and putting three contacts each on 30m and 20m.  I was planning on trying 17m but time was running out and my family was getting cold.  It was time to hit the road once again.  Next time I might try to start on the upper bands and work my way down.

Oh, there was one challenge.  When I first started working 40m I had my four year old son basically hanging all over me so my CW, both listening and sending, were negatively impacted.  Luckily I was able to tie him to a tree and get back to making contacts!  (I’m kidding!)

Furthest contact was with OK1DVM in the Czech Republic (~6895km)!  I was very surprised he could hear me while I was only running 5 watts.  I’ll take contacts like that any day!

Thanks to all the chasers that helped with my activation: W4DOW, K3JZD, KG3W, N1EU, N1GB, W4ALE, W4HBK, K4MF, OK1DVM, and W7CNL.

SOTA Awards Received

Yesterday I received, by way of U.K. Royal Mail and the U.S. Postal Service, two SOTA awards!  The first is my award for chasing 100 points-worth of summits:

WG3K's SOTA 100 Points Chaser AwardThe second award is the SOTA Mountain Hunter – Bronze award where I had to work at least two summits in at least five mountain associations:

WG3K's SOTA Mountain Hunter - Bronze AwardHopefully I’ll have some activator awards in the coming year!

Activating Sugarloaf Mountain (W3/CR-003) (a.k.a. Plan B)

Stats

  • When: 2016-10-30 from 18:25Z to 19:19Z
  • Where: Sugarloaf Mountain – W3/CR-003
  • Who: Amanda KI4IWS, Harlan, Elise, and myself
  • Ascent: 984 feet in 0.36 miles along the East View parking lot using the Sunrise Trail.
  • Decent: 0.93 miles along the Monadnock, Northern Peaks, and Mountain loop Trails.
  • Equipment: Elecraft K1, SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi, Navy Flameproof Key
  • APRS Coverage: Good coverage with an active I-Gate nearby
  • T-Mobile Coverage: Decent; kept bouncing between LTE and Edge but was able to use the data without too much problem.

What brought us here

Picture of Sugarloaf Mountain

CC BY – Scott Robinson from Rockville, MD, USA

Well, we were going to get up early, pack all of our gear, and get on the road to go see the leaves changing color at Great Falls National Park.  Of course, with two kids, and I’m not the best morning person either, getting out the door at any hour before noon is asking for a miracle.  That and some of the roads we took to get there ended up being closed.  So, by the time we arrived at the park there was a line to get in that was so long we couldn’t actually see the gate.  It was time for plan B.

Plan B

Plan B was to head over to Sugarloaf Mountain (about 40 minutes away) and hike around and maybe even setup my radio and do a SOTA activation.  Luckily I had planned for this contingency and had my K1, SOTABeams Band Springer Midi antenna, batteries, a key, and expandable pole packed in my hiking pack.

The Hike Up

Picture of Eric and Harlan hiking up Sugarloaf Mountain

Eric and Harlan hiking up Sugarloaf Mountain

Our hike up from the East View parking area was pretty neat.  The red trail (a.k.a. The Sunrise Trail) gets pretty steep in sections.  My first harmonic, Harlan, was on his hands and feet trying to get up some of the rock scrambles that he encountered.  At four (almost five) years old he really did a good job making it up the mountain.  I’ll be very surprised if you don’t hear him activating some summits as soon as he gets that whole reading and licensing thing behind him!

There are many ways to get to the top of the summit.  With so many people on the mountain, today, we took the first parking spot we could find; I didn’t want to chance missing the only parking spot because I wanted to try to park closer.

At the summit

The summit area was very crowded today.  It’s a good thing that the summit is very wide.  I was able to move about 20 feet from the boulders that sit at the very highest point and setup my gear well away from everyone else.  I was actually able to “hide” behind some boulders that were in the wooded area and be completely hidden to keep the curiosity down from others.

This is the first time I have had this particular setup out in the field.  The SOTABEAMS Band Springer Midi antenna and mini telescopic fiberglass pole take only a few minutes to setup.  I’d say that within five minutes of arriving I was on the air.

What went well

Map of WG3K-7 on APRS at Sugarloaf Mountain

Map of WG3K-7

All the equipment performed well.  I picked up six stations on 40m and another three on 20m.  One of the stations I worked on 20m tried to work me on 30m but was unable to do so.  All-in-all, I’m quite happy with the performance of the station.  Honestly, the Elecraft K1 has a great receiver and the Band Springer Midi antenna performed well.  This is also the first time using the K1 with the AA battery pack installed.  No problems running the summit on eight 2800mAh AA batteries!

Also, APRS coverage was pretty good at the summit and along some of the trails.

What didn’t work so well

Me.  I haven’t been on the radio much as of late so my CW listening skills are horrific.  I would show you my log but I’m too embarrassed.  Another thing that needs improvement is my key.  I tossed my Navy Flameproof key in the bag since it already had the correct connector on it but what I should have used is my trusty J-37 with the KY-116/U bracket to hold it to my leg (if you’ve worked me /m this is probably what I was using).  Had I done that I wouldn’t have had to do a two-handed operation: one hand holding the key, the other using the key.

Disappointingly I heard K2JB on a nearby summit but couldn’t get through the pileup on 40m to make the contact.  There were a couple different summits on the air at the same time I was on the air but no S2S contacts today.

Oh, yeah, and I didn’t take any pictures of me, my station, or the perfect antenna installation.  I guess that’s the problem when setup takes hardly any time, you’re on the air and then you’re back to hiking!

QSOs

I put nine stations in the log today: 6 on 40m and 3 on 20m.  I also tried 30m but was unable to complete any contacts there.  I was going to try 17m but the family was ready to go.  All contacts made using five watts.

While putting the contacts in my official log I realized that I worked three stations that I had previously worked while they were activating a summit.  I’m happy they took the time to tune me in and work me (since, after all, I was worth only 1 point today).  The chaser has become the chased!

Overall

Overall, the trip was a success.  Everyone had fun, I had fun and made a few contacts along the way.  Hopefully my next summit activation will be even more smoothly executed.  Until next time…