Wednesday, 6 June 2018

A busy time on VHF plus ClubLog and Western Sahara on 4m

The period 3 to 6 June 2018 will go down as one of my busiest. Not quite THE busiest (the same period in 2016 must have been that) but one of the most, and very productive too.

Here is a snapshot of 10m WSPR, showing the areas reached in a 24 hour period. It all looks much as you might expect one of my HF charts to look like. In fact, I looked in the log and for the entire 24 hour period (except between 04:40 and 04:50) there was some exchange going on for GM4FVM on 10m WSPR - and it went on like that for 3 days (3,4 and 5 June 2018) with the rig on constant duty (as usual click to enlarge the images if necessary) ...
WSPRnet map for 10m WSPR at GM4FVM 24 hours to 10:30 on 5 June 2018.
Rather more unusual is this image for the same 3 day period ...
VHF contacts logged at GM4FVM 3 to 5 June 2018
You see, the unusual thing is that second chart is VHF.

I do not have the biggest tower, the longest antenna or the beefiest linear. I never really expected results like that on VHF. Sure, it looks like HF, but it is 2m, 4m and 6m combined over three days (two and half days really).

To show how things normally are I am including details of the previous day too in this table of contacts

2 June   Total 2   2 x 6m
3 June   Total 14   13 x 4m, 1 x 6m
4 June   Total 64   9 x 2m, 27 x 4m, 28 x 6m
5 June   Total 61   25 x 2m, 30 x 4m, 6 x 6m

There are a lot more contacts than usual but then again not SO many. Hidden in the detail is a list of surprising QSOs.

Taking 2m to start with
144MHz stations worked at GM4FVM 3 to 5 June 2018
There had been some Sporadic E on 2m here on 3 June and I saw that GM4ZJI had worked into Spain. It did occur to me to become active then but we wanted to watch a drama on the television about the shooting of Norman Scott's dog. If you live outside the UK this is a political sex scandal dating from the 1970s. Whilst it may seem strange to still be raking over a 40 year old event which is fairly irrelevant today, the British love a political sex scandal. Superb performances by Hugh Grant, Ben Wishaw and Adrian Scarborough. They should make a follow up, which would be difficult as it was a real life story.

Anyway, I should know that 2m Es is so fleeting that you cannot turn the radio on for it. By then you have missed it. So I watched 2m activity the following day while working on FT8. I saw the signs  and I managed to switch to SSB for an opening which lasted between 18:24 and 18:30. I managed two new 2m countries, Bosnia - Herzegovina and Croatia. Most of the rest was FT8 on tropo. One station in Poland, HF9D, I worked in the mistaken belief that he was in Hungary. Ignorance is bliss.

The 2m contact with E72U in Bosnia, at 1914km, fails to beat EU7AA at 2077km, a record that has stood here since 10 June 2011.

Moving on to 4m, again there was a mix of tropo and Es.
70MHz stations worked at GM4FVM 3 to 5 June 2018
There were some nice new squares to work here, especially in Spain. Another new square was provided by a kind Swedish operator on holiday in Greece. Nice to work Canary Islands again on 4m after a gap of 5 years!

On 6m I tried to work some of the smaller European states, reckoning that I was unlikely to cross the Atlantic. I was wrong ...
50MHz stations worked at GM4FVM 3 to 5 June 2018
There were lots of Europeans of course, with new 6m European mini-DXCCs for me such as the Vatican City (HV0), Azores (CU), Aland Islands (OG0) and Ceuta and Melilla (EA9). New squares too (E72U who had given me a new DXCC on 2m, also gave me a new square on 6m six hours later).

Nevertheless it was the four trans-Atlantic contacts which surprised me. The two Florida stations, NC2V and K3XT, plus the one in Dominican Republic HI3T were netted the normal way on 50.313 FT8. Those are great contacts and I would have been happy with that, but ...

There has been a move to separate out inter-continental FT8 traffic and move it to 50.323. There, for example, European stations could all work on the same period (1st) which could leave the reception period uncluttered. You can read more about this idea here. Anyway, after spending a long time watching on 50.323 I could see how rarely I could copy any inter-continental DX. Then suddenly up popped XE2JS and a couple of calls netted me Mexico on 6m. At 8229km that pretty well shatters my previous 6m DX record.
A quick snap of my 6m yagi on 4 June - at 23:00 local time! 4m vertical in foreground

Moving inter-continental FT8 to a specific frequency is fraught with problems. Many amateurs do not seem to look for any guidance (after all, they do not read the WSJT-X notes either). Others don't care. Some who do know tried to act as policemen, but then the rules are not enforceable. It was like a bear pit, but I worked Mexico.

As Father Fintan Stack said in an edition of Father Ted "I've had my fun and that's all that matters".

No, seriously, I could never have worked Mexico on the normal FT8 frequency. Whether users know that places East of Istanbul are not in Europe, or that Greenland counts as North America or all the other ripples in our delightful DXCC landscape is doubtful. It was a pity to see people just ignoring the idea that 50.323 is meant for traffic between continents. Will it work long term? Having already benefited, I would like to think so.

So that was a busy three days. What did I do that was special? Not much. As always it is the conditions which make the fun, not mere radios or the works of man. In every way it was astounding to watch, and we are still a couple of weeks short of peak Es at the Solstice.
I was very pleased to work S01WS in Western Sahara on 6m FT8 on 4 May. This has been a troubled area and it is great to see amateur radio taking a hold in this inhospitable environment.
You don't see many of these beasts in Berwickshire
I was totally bowled over to work S01WS again, this time on 4m SSB, on 28 May. I had no warning that they were on 4m and there was a scrum of similarly animated G stations. Anyway I was fairly confident that I had got through the pileup but not completely certain. I mentioned this to GM4JJJ who pointed out that I could check on ClubLog. I confess to more ignorance here as I have never used ClubLog. You can find it here. As well as various services for members, it offers a free log check for non-members. This means that you can check if you are in a member's log.

I did the search immediately to find that I was not in S01WS's log for 4m, though I was for the earlier 6m contact. However, the following day there I was for both. You can use ClubLog to order a direct QSL card (for a small fee) and make a donation. I was so pleased with S01WS's efforts that I decided to do both. The QSL arrived through the post within a week.
QSL for contact with S01WS on 28 May
I may well be deluding myself to read into this a rosy future for African VHF amateur radio. But at least it is positive. Having recently worked Algeria on 6m too, I think things are much better than what we have been accustomed to for several years.

Oh yes, at 3369km, S01WS exceeds my previous 4m DX record (3261km to EA8CAW).
Progress since 31 March 2018 (31 March figures in brackets)

Squares 116 (107)   DXCC 26 (24)   Continents 1 (1)   DX excl EME 2077km (2077)

Squares 214 (204)   DXCC 40 (39)   Continents 2 (2)   DX 3369km (3261)

Squares 319 (294)   DXCC 63 (55)   Continents 4 (4)   DX 8229km (6733)

That happened in just over 2 months. If it goes on like this there will be very few left to find.

I must go and lie down.



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