Heard VK0EK on the radio

Heard Island (Image: VK0EK)

Heard Island (Image: VK0EK)

Regular SWLing Post readers know that I’m a ham radio operator (call sign K4SWL). Being a shortwave radio enthusiast, of course, I spend most of my time on the air in the HF portion of the amateur radio spectrum. Contacting distant stations and connecting with other ham radio operators around our little planet gives me immense joy.

Most of you also probably know that I’m a fan of all things Antarctic, so it should come as no surprise that I really wanted to work VK0EK: the Heard Island DXpedition.

Thing is, my life has been so hectic lately, I’ve barely been home during the Heard Island DXpedition (March 29th – April 11th). And the days I have been home, VK0EK’s signals have been incredibly weak.

In short: timing and propagation were all working against me.  And VK0EK was soon to pack up and come back home. I was becoming desperate…and beginning to lose hope that I’d make any contact with this unique and rare entity in the isolated stretch of ocean between Madagascar and Antartica.

"Antennas with a clearing" on Heard Island (Photo by Bill, AE0EE)

“Antennas with a clearing” on Heard Island (Photo by Bill, AE0EE)

My hope was waning.  Then, Tusday evening, I gave a presentation about shortwave radio at the Blue Ridge Amateur Radio Club. On the hour-long drive home, I stopped by my good friend Vlado’s (N3CZ) to confess my troubles to the radio doc.

Now it just happens that Vlado has a much better antenna set-up to work DX than I do, and what’s more, (close your ears, fellow QRPers) he has an amplifier.

Most importantly, though, Vlado is a keen DXer.  He’s got 330 countries under his belt, and ever up for a challenge, routinely pushes himself to accomplish more with less. In January, with members of the local club, he entered a QRP challenge; he had 100 countries worked by the following month, all in his spare time. And a few years ago, Vlado actually built a radio of his own design and worked 100 countries within two months (you can read about that here).

So, of course, he was game to help me make a contact…even if it was a long shot.  A very long shot.

Juan de Nova

When I arrived at Vlado’s QTH around 21:00 local, VK0EK was impossibly weak, so we focused our efforts on 30 meters and FT4JA: the Juan de Nova Island DXpedition (another all-time new one for me).

A portion of the FT4JA antenna farm. (Image: FT4JA)

A portion of the FT4JA antenna farm. (Image: FT4JA)

After more than an hour of calling, FT4JA finally heard my call and (woo hoo!) I was confirmed in their log.

But what about Heard Island?

penguin-chow-line4_6-1600px

After working FT4JA, we moved down to 40 meters where VK0EK was slightly louder than before. Well, maybe it’s not impossible, I thought hopefully. Just next to it.

Between QSB (fading) and tuner-uppers, my ears were bleeding trying to hear Heard’s minuscule CW signal–so faint, so distant were they.

After only about ten minutes of steady calling, Vlado made a sign to get my attention, and we strained to listen, very carefully.

VK0EK came back very faintly with just one letter incorrect in my call–it was enough that I didn’t catch it at first. But Vlado heard it, and after sending the call back a couple of times, then the report, VK0EK confirmed my call with a signal report, and I reciprocated.

Vlad and I leapt to our feet, yelling, “WOO HOO!” (and hopefully didn’t wake up any of Vlad’s neighbors).

Heard Island is actually running an online log that is updated live. We immediately looked there to confirm I was in their log, and was greeted with this great circle map and a line from Heard Island to my call sign in the States. Vlado made this screen capture as a momento:

k4swl VK0EK 40m cw 0231 april4 2016

Here’s to good friends and mentors

In one incredible evening, I snagged two all-time new ones–and I owe it all to my good buddy, Vlado. Most importantly, I’ve been learning so much from him as he patiently coaches me through some weak DX with serious pileups. Plus it’s just always fun hanging around Vlado, the best broken radio doctor I know, to whom “challenge” is…well, a piece of cake.

Thanks Vlado, for your enthusiasm and patience–I’m lucky to have a friend like you!

Heard Island DXpedition (VK0EK) live via WBCQ tonight

heard-live-with-text

(Source: ARRL)

[…]At 0000 UTC on March 23 (the evening of Tuesday, March 22, in US time zones), Tom Medlin, W5KUB, host of the weekly “Amateur Radio Roundtable” video webcast and radio program, hopes to make ham radio media history by interviewing the DXpedition team live on his webcast. Audio will be simulcast on international shortwave broadcaster WBCQ on 5130 kHz.

Heard Island is an Australian protectorate, part of a subantarctic island group(Heard Island and McDonald Islands) in the southwest Indian Ocean, some 4000 kilometers (approximately 2480 miles) southwest of Western Australia and 1000 kilometers (approximately 620 miles) north of Antarctica. 

 I will certainly be listening to WBCQ tonight and, hopefully, recording the show for the SRAA.
For updates about the Heard Island DXpedition, check out their website (and admire Jeff Murray’s excellent official DXpedition artwork while you’re at it!).

 

A PARI DXpedition update

Mark Fahey, scanning the bands with his WinRadio Excalibur/Surface Pro 2 combo

Mark Fahey, scanning the bands with his WinRadio Excalibur/Surface Pro 2 combo

The SWLing Post DXpedition at PARI is going very well.  We started yesterday around noon with beautiful fall weather; late last night, it started raining but that hasn’t dampened our spirits today.

Gary-Ultralights

Despite the wet, chilly weather, Gary Donnelly (above) has been logging numerous shortwave stations during the day and mediumwave stations at night via his assortment of ultralight radios. Bill Boyd, another DXpeditioner, has been travelling the 200 acre PARI campus and listening via his Tecsun PL-880.

CR-1-DXpedition

DXpeditioner, Mark Fahey, has traveled here from his home in Australia, thus he’s particularly enjoyed hearing South American stations which are somewhat rare in his corner of the world. Today alone, Mark snagged two other firsts: the time station CHU Canada, and a perfect two hour recording of the Voice of Nigeria in DRM. Mark says that his listening expectations are turned upside down, because day/night band openings are nearly opposite of what he’s used to. This is the great thing about SWLing during travels: exotic stations become much lower hanging fruit.

Screenshot of the Elad FDM-S2 on part of the 19 meter band

Screenshot of the Elad FDM-S2 on part of the 19 meter band

Mark and I have set up a table full of SDRs and have been actively recording spectrum while listening. We have a WinRadio Excalibur, Elad FDM-S2 and the SDRplay RSP.

We also have the CommRadio CR-1 hooked up: it has been a fantastic receiver for visitors to use and a brilliant auxiliary receiver while both SDRs have been recording spectrum simultaneously.

The SDRplay RSP via the HDSDR app

The SDRplay RSP via the HDSDR app

A few samples from the logs

Despite mediocre band conditions, we’ve managed to hear a lot of stations.

Here is our band scan at 1500 UTC on the 19 meter band:

  • 15140 Radio Sultanate Oman Arabic
  • 15255 Radio Free Europe Turkmen
  • 15265 Adventist World Radio Hindi
  • 15290 Adventist World Radio Punjabi (vy weak)
  • 15300 Radio Romania International Arabic
  • 15395 Athmeeya Yatra Radio Sindhi (vy weak)
  • 15410 Radio Liberty (faint)
  • 15420 BBC English
  • 15435 Radio Riyadh Arabic
  • 15460 Radio Free Europe Tajik
  • 15490 Radio Exterior de Espana Spanish
  • 15535 Radio Cairo Arabic
  • 15550 Radio Dabanga Sudanese Arabic
  • 15580 Voice of America English
  • 15595 Vatican Radio Arabic
  • 15610 EWTN (WEWN) English
  • 15620 Radio Veritas (?) Filipino (?)
  • 15670 Adventist World Radio English
  • 15700 China Radio International English
  • 15770 WRMI English

1600 UTC on the 25 meter band:

  • 11435 HM01 Cuban Numbers Station Spanish
  • 11550 EWTN (WEWN) Spanish
  • 11600 Bible Voice BCN Persian (faint)
  • 11620 All India Radio Russian (faint)
  • 11715 Vatican Radio Russian (faint)
  • 11775 Caribbean Beacon English
  • 11825 WRMI (Overcomer) English
  • 11950 Radio Habana Cuba Spanish
  • 12050 EWTN (WEWN) Spanish (vy weak)
  • 12055 Voice of America Somali
  • 12160 WWCR English

2000 UTC on the 25 meter band:

  • 11600 Denge Kurdistan Kurdish
  • 11670 All India Radio Hindi
  • 11700 All India Radio GOS
  • 11735 Zanzibar Broadcasting Corporation Swahili
  • 11760 Radio Habana Cuba French
  • 11775 Caribbean Beacon English
  • 11810 BBC English
  • 11825 WRMI (Overcomer) English
  • 1900 Voice of America French
  • 11930 Radio Marti Spanish (being jammed by Cuba)
  • 11955 Adventist World Radio Dyula
  • 11995 Radio France International French
  • 12050 EWTN (WEWN) Spanish
  • 12060 Radio Algerienne Chaine 1 Arabic
  • 12095 BBC English
  • 12105 WTWW Portuguese

Arctic DXing: Norway style

veines_lowresIn response to my post Tuesday about Arctic DXing in Finland, Per-Einar comments:

“I would like to mention a similar listening site in Norway @70 degrees north [latitude].

Check Kongsfjord.no for logs for reports.

I have observed the same effect DL4NO mentions.  I used to work HAM-radio from Jan Mayen.

On low bands (below 10MHz) its often difficult being heard due to auroral attenuation.

When signals both ways are e.g. attenuated 30dB, its easy to hear but nearly impossible to be heard.”

Many thanks for sharing this. The photos on Kongsfjord.no are simply stunning. I would love to do some arctic DXing at either location (or best, both!).

Have any readers ever ventured to Antarctica for DX?

 

Arctic DXing covered in the Chinese press

Photo of Saariselkä courtesy of DXing.info

Photo of Saariselkä courtesy of DXing.info

A few years ago we mentioned Mika Makelainen and Jim Solatie, who make a DXing pilgrimage each year to the most northern region of Finland for two weeks of DXing bliss.

The small cabin is very remote, but connected to 14 wire antennas and contains all of the necessities one needs for serious, long-haul DXing. Indeed, they even rent their cabin to other DXers.

I was happy to see Mika and Jim’s annual DX trip recently mentioned in the Xinhua News. Check out Hunting for radio signals near Arctic Ocean, an article by reporters Li Jizhi and Zhang Xuan.

DXpedition in Lapland? Finnish DXers offer their DX cabin for rent

Photo of Saariselkä courtesy of DXing.info

If you have the time and money, this DXpedition site–owned and operated by several hard-core Finnish DXers–could offer up a week of exotic AM and Shortwave DXing. Rent for one week is very reasonable at 500 Euros, but travel expenses (especially if visiting from outside of Europe) can be pricey, so do your flight research well in advance.

Mika Mäkeläinen does a great job writing up what a week could offer you at their little cabin. Well worth the read even if you don’t intend to visit this Arctic listening post.

Click hear to read more.