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Sunday, November 24, 2013

Equipment for FT5ZM has been Shipped

Most hams never think about all the work that needs to be done BEFORE a DX'pedition can come on the air.  On the FT5ZM website there is a series of photos with descriptions showing just some of the work that has been done.  Click HERE for a link to that Post.

The container of all this equipment was shipped on October 15th to New Zealand where it will be put aboard the MV Braveheart which is the ship that will transport the FT5ZM team to Amsterdam Island.  But first, the Braveheart will have to travel from New Zealand to Western Australia.   That's some 3,400 miles if you FLEW!  It's, of course, many more miles when traveling by sea.  Then it's a NINE day ocean voyage from Fremantle, Western Australia, to Amsterdam Island.  Click HERE for a link to the website for the MV Braveheart.

The map below shows the locations mentioned above.  Click on the map to see a larger image.  The location on the bottom-right for New Zealand is where the MV Braveheart is based.  That ship will need to take the container of FT5ZM equipment all the way to Fremantle, Western Australia.  See the red-bordered insert of the USA (at the same scale as the main map) to get an idea of the distances involved.  Once the FT5ZM team boards the Braveheart, they have a NINE day trip on the ocean to Amsterdam Island covering some 1,900 nautical miles!  As you can see, Amsterdam Island is 11,317 miles from Hurricane, WV.  Point D on the map just to the right of FT5ZM marked "Antipode" is the exact opposite side of the Earth from Hurricane, WV!  If you drilled straight down from Hurricane, WV, this is where you would come out (not China!)

That container full of equipment will have had to travel a huge distance (from Atlanta, GA, to New Zealand, to Western Australia, then to Amsterdam Island.)  The team members will have had to travel similar distances.  Just to check on what is involved, I looked on a travel website (Orbitz) to see how one would fly to Western Australia from Los Angeles.  The best flight I found was a two-step one.  The first was a 16-hour flight to Dubai for a 2 hour lay-over and then an 11-hour flight to Perth, Australia.  Cost was $1,905.  I then changed the departure to Charleston, WV, and for $2,638.49 I could be in Perth in just 30 hours and 15 minutes but on 4 separate flights.  By the way, those travel costs are being paid by each individual operator.

Once the DX'pedition is over, all that equipment and the Team will have to travel those same distances again to return.  Putting Amsterdam Island on the air in the major way this group is planning, takes a HUGE investment of time, money, skill, people, just about everything you can imagine.  Below is the tentative schedule of operations from the FT5ZM Website:
The MV Braveheart will arrive in the port of Fremantle, Australia on January 12, 2014 and be available for the team to board. Fuel and supplies will be taken aboard and port documentation procedures completed. The vessel will sail for Amsterdam Island on January 15, 2014. The sailing time to Amsterdam Island will be 9 days, with an estimated arrival date of January 24.
Landing operations will commence as soon as the sea conditions and weather allow. Once the team is ashore, they will have 18 days to set up, conduct the DXpedition, and tear down for departure.
The return sail to Fremantle is also estimated at 9 days. The team anticipates being back in Fremantle by February 23, 2014.
With only 18 days to set up, operate and tear down their stations, they will be in a massive rush to get on the air as soon as possible and to operate as efficiently as possible.  If everything goes as planned, it will cost them $20 per minute of operating time!  If propagation is as expected, that works out to about $4.00 per QSO!  These numbers are available on their website HERE and are calculated by dividing the cost of the DX'pedition by the expected number of minutes on the air and the expected number of QSO's.  For those reasons, please do not try to ask the operators any questions like, "When will you be on 6-Meters?"  It only takes away from the time available for someone else to make a QSO.

As of this Post, they are still $167,000 short of their budget goal of $400,000.  Even though the WVDXA contributed $1,000 to this DX'pedition, you may want to consider another personal contribution.  At least, please remember the cost of this DX'pedition when you send for your QSL cards.

The FT5ZM operation is prepared for the long distances involved.  On 40-M, 80-M and 160-M they have four OM Power 2000 amps (view HERE) for generating the needed power on those bands.  They will use an Elecraft K-3 enabled for diversity reception with Beverages and a DX Engineering 4-square for receive antennas.  Between sunset and sunrise, one station will be dedicated to 160-M.  Click on the photo at the left for a larger view of the block diagram of their Top-Band setup.  A similar arrangement is planned for the other low bands (30-M through 80-M.)  For the HF bands, they will have 3-element monoband yagis on 10-M through 20-M and will be using Elecraft K-3's with the KPA500 amplifiers.  They will be operating 4 complete stations at two separate locations and the two locations are 5,800 feet apart!  But, with 8 stations available and only 14 operators, you can bet the operating schedule will be VERY demanding!

On their website if you click on the The DXpedition link, you can read about their itinerary, equipment, frequencies, budget and even get access to a propagation tool to predict the best times for YOU to work FT5ZM.

Amsterdam Island ranks as No. 4 on the Most Needed Countries List HERE worldwide.  That pretty much guarantees the biggest pileups many of you have ever seen.  But, with the Team of Operators for this DX'pedition being chosen from the "Best of the Best" everyone will have a good opportunity to make at least one QSO for an ATNO (All-Time New One.)  If you are not able to make a QSO from your home station, you might want to consider a trip to a friend's QTH as this entity will probably not be back on the air anytime soon!  GL to all WVDXA Members on this one!

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

WVDXA Now Supports ClubLog

At the June 2013 meeting, Phil, W8UV, made a motion that the WVDXA send a $100 donation to ClubLog.  That motion passed unanimously.  It proved to be a bit of a hurdle to manage to make the donation but Dave, WA8WV, and Clark, W8TN, finally managed to successfully do that by setting up a ClubLog account for W8AH (the WVDXA Club Callsign) and making the donation under that call.  It now shows on the ClubLog page as you can see below and will be randomly displayed with other donors after every upload and expedition log search.  ($100 U.S. dollars is £64.13 British Pounds.)

WVDXA Donation to ClubLog
We have also added the ClubLog logo to the right-hand sidebar on the WVDXA Blog (look just below the WVDXA Members list.)  Clicking on the ClubLog logo will take you to the ClubLog main page.

In the last 3 days, two more WVDXA Members have joined ClubLog and been approved by the Membership Manager as belonging to the WVDXA on ClubLog.  In addition, one other WVDXA Member has uploaded his log to ClubLog.

If you have uploaded your log to ClubLog but your call does not appear in the Leagues, it might be that it is "hidden" from the leagues.  This is usually due to being inactive for 12 months or more, but possibly by choice of the callsign's owner.  You can fix that by clicking HERE and following the instructions.

One other benefit of uploading your log regularly to ClubLog is that it provides a backup of the basic QSO information in your log.  If you should lose your computer (AND the backup you ARE making - right?) you can retrieve the basic info from ClubLog.  You will NOT get back things like Comments, Names, Notes, QSL info, etc. but you will get the basic date, time, band, mode, call and QSL status.

Finally, if anyone has digital logs for any operations using the W8AH callsign, let Dave, WA8WV, or me, W8TN, know and we will get them uploaded to the W8AH account on ClubLog.  Does anyone want to undertake entering W8AH's logs into a digital format?  At least his 40-M QSL's could be entered without too much trouble.  All that is necessary is to just take a laptop to the Radio and TV Museum in Huntington and enter the data right from the QSL's. 

Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 2013 Summer Bash a SUCCESS!

Wooo, Hoooo!  The WVDXA Summer Bash was an OUTSTANDING success!  The attendance sheet has 33 people signed in but I'm certain not everyone "made the list."  I had hoped to get everyone together for a "Group Shot" for this Blog post but trying to get that many people to do the same thing at the same time is like herding cats - right, Charlie?  So, I did the best I could and took a half dozen shots during the "meeting" and cobbled them together into one image here.  Click on it to see a larger version.  I can tell you that I did not get a shot of Charlie, N8RR, who was sitting next to Tim, K8RRT, on the hearth and I may have missed others.
Group Shot of the June 2013 WVDXA Meeting
The meeting location was the QTH (and home) of Bart, WT8V, and Sue Haynes in Elkview, WV.  It seemed like everyone who wanted to was able to find the location and we had plenty of food.  Alan, W8OP, Rick, WV8RC, Papa November, WA8VPN, and Jim, K4JWA, volunteered to flip burgers and turn hot dogs.  They kept a steady stream of those coming inside and the XYL's, YL's, and others managed to lay out a sumptuous spread.  We had chips, drinks, homemade hot dog chili (sauce), homemade cole slaw (yum!), baked beans, pasta salad, macaroni salad, Jarlsberg cheese, chicken wings with 4 or 5 dipping sauces, pea salad, sauerkraut slaw, and all the fixin's for hamburgers and hot dogs.  I won't even attempt to mention the desserts because there were literally too many to mention.  An untold number of cookies, brownies, chocolate and raspberry goodness, a quadruple-threat pie, and some Little Debbie cakes which were hastily purchased to replace a homemade cake that never managed to make the trip.  
Dave, W8IW, circulated a sheet for donations to the Jackson's Mill Program and several folks signed up and paid their dollar.  Lots of "couch change" had been acquired by at least 11 members and donated to the WVDXA Treasury.  A total of $245 was collected!  On the motion of Phil, W8UV, the WVDXA decided to make a nice donation to Clublog.  The collected funds have been transferred to Dave, WA8WV, and he is taking care of the Clublog donation for the group. 
Jim, K4JWA, brought his ultrasonic detector with dish antenna that he built.  He had handouts of the article for anyone who was interested.  It was amazing that you could hear someone rubbing their fingers together across the room with this device.  Jim has used it to track down AC line arcing for Garry, W8OI, and himself.

We had some great discussions on QSL'ing, record keeping, station improvements by some club members, a "Show and Tell" on the Pig Knob that Jimmy, W8JA, is now using, and many other items.  The comments posted on the club email reflector after the meeting showed that many people were quite pleased with what they heard/learned at the meeting.  Some even showed up TWO hours early so as to not miss a thing - I will not mention names but N8NN and K8MN know who I'm talking about!

We even gained one new member.  Rick, WV8RC, brought along Fred, WV8FV, who joined the club.  Welcome aboard, Fred!

There were some minor sprinkles but it did not dampen the gathering a bit.  Spirits were high throughout the gathering and more DX items were discussed than you could shake a stick at.  All-in-all I can't think of a single negative except for the fact that we eventually had to leave!

Friday, May 24, 2013

WVDXA at the Dayton Hamvention - 2013

     This was a "Banner" year for the WVDXA at the Dayton Hamvention.  Rick, W8ZT, had a large banner for the WVDXA printed and he placed it on the windshield of his car in his extraordinary Flea Market space.  For those who have not been there, Rick's space is on an "end cap" on one of the aisles right next to the Hara Arena main building.  It is also close enough to a food vendor and the beer vendor that you can walk there in less than 30 seconds!  That means this banner is in a place to be seen by nearly every person who enters the Flea Market at the Silver Arena side of Hara.  Rick, as always, had plenty of chairs, drinks and space for the WVDXA guys and their friends to hang out. 
     In addition to having such a wonderful space that he makes available to the WVDXA, Rick added the name of the WVDXA to his Flea Market spaces with the Hamvention Committee.  That means the WVDXA will always have those spaces in the event Rick is not able to attend.  Thanks to Rick's generosity, the WVDXA will have a PRIME location at the Hamvention for as long as we want it.
     Many folks showed up to take advantage of Rick's hospitality as well as to just stop for a minute and chat.  We probably should have had a sign-in sheet!  Dave, K8MN, who was not able to attend this year, had some of his "spies" send him the photo of the WVDXA banner above and the shot of Seth, W8FG, and Dave,W8HYX, manning Rick's booth.
     At the DX Dinner, the WVDXA gathered 9 of our members in the lobby of the Marriott Hotel and made a formal presentation of our $1,000 donation to the Amsterdam Island, FT5ZM, DX'pedition (see photo below - click on any photo to make it larger.)  You can visit the Sponsors page of the FT5ZM web site HERE and click on the "Club and Organization Sponsors" link to see the WVDXA logo.  One of the leaders of that DX'pedition, Bob Allphin, K4UEE,(he is in the dark coat to the left of Garry, W8OI) made a very gracious speech about our contribution.  He noted that our "per-capita" donation was among the largest they have seen.  Thus, considering the size of our group, we were quite generous and he truly appreciated how deeply the WVDXA dug into their savings to help fund this operation.  Bob, by the way, has visited 120 DXCC entities and operated from 69.  He has participated in 37 DX'peditdions and NINE of those were from entities listed in the Top Ten Most Needed.  FT5ZM with be his TENTH from a Top Ten Most Needed Entity!  In addition, the operators who are signed on to the FT5ZM trip are nothing but the "cream of the crop" of DX'ers so whenever it's possible to work them, those guys will pull your signal out of the noise.
     In addition to the 9 members of the WVDXA who were present, there were 9 members of the FT5ZM operation there to accept our donation.  The WVDXA actually had more members present but some failed to put themselves in the photo.  Hunter, KD8SZF, and Mike, N8WC, were in the lobby watching the presentation but not in front of the camera.  They must be camera shy!
     At the DX Dinner, the WVDXA table was directly beside the NH8S Swains Island tables.  Hal, W8HC, and Clark, W8TN, were seated with the Swains Island crew instead of the WVDXA this year because they were both on that DX'pedition.  When it came time for the SouthWest Ohio DX Association (SWODXA) to announce the DX'pedition of the Year, it came as quite a surprise (to me at least) that the NH8S operation was selected.  You can see on the left a photo of the award.  At a breakfast the next morning, the NH8S team leaders presented each of the members of the DX'pedition with a similar plaque for their own.  WOW!
     Even though there was some rain during the Hamvention, this turned out to be a very nice one. It was the 44th consecutive Hamvention I have attended and the second for Charlie, N8RR.  Charlie even got his photo on the ARRL web page in the first picture in the Saturday Roundup HERE.  Tim, K8RRT, Steve, KC8FVE, and Clark, W8TN, were judiciously cropped out of that photo - Hi! 
     One of the things I heard comments about from several folks was the ability to talk to people they have worked on the air but seldom (if every) have a chance to see in person.  As a case in point, to the right is a photo of Arnie, N6HC, talking to Eric, T6MO.  Tim, K8RRT, was especially pleased to talk to Eric because Tim had chased him for well over a year before he finally managed a QSO just days before Eric returned to the U.S.  Tim also managed to grab Charlie, N8RR, and bring him to see Eric.  Charlie has the distinction of being No. 1 on the Leaderboard for T6MO in ALL of North America.  Charlie worked Eric on 8 band slots and the guy in second place (W1JR) only manged 7 band slots.  I can certainly see this would have been an historic face-to-face QSO.
     So, the Hamvention is done for 2013.  I hope all those who managed to attend had a marvelous time.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

N8WC's CushCraft R-8 Project

     Tim and I were VERY pleased to help Mike, N8WC, get his CushCraft R-8 up in the air and working.  He did an excellent job putting the antenna together.  And, it is obviously working FB.

     For those who were not there, Mike, N8WC, had assembled the CushCraft R-8 and it was waiting in his garage when we arrived.  I put a coax connector on his cable and Mike and Tim got the cable run through the side of the house into the shack.  We then carried the antenna out in the yard and stood it up for a test.

     The test results on Tim's MFJ-259B looked good so we proceeded to attach a 3-foot piece of 1-1/2-inch water pipe to the top of the tower.  Tim, K8RRT, took care of this.  This mount was about our 4th or 5th idea.  We had a good deal of difficulty acquiring the right parts but finally got what we needed.  The 3-foot piece of pipe is clamped to a tower leg with four U-bolts on the inside of the tower so that it can be supported laterally by the bracing of the Rohn 25G.  This left enough room above the top of the tower to mount the R-8 on the water pipe.

     The BIG part of the project was pulling the antenna up with a gin pole.  It was difficult because we had to attach the rope BELOW the center of gravity.   This meant the antenna wanted to turn upside down!  But, with Tim at the very top of the tower, Mike, N8WC, just below him, and me providing the "ballast" to hold the end of the rope that was supporting the weight of the antenna - we got 'er dun!

     Once a coax connector was put on the other end of the feedline, we tested again and the numbers were not as good as when we were out in the yard but still mostly good.  Maybe this is because Mike has a metal roof on his house just a few feet below the antenna.

     We had another issue with the Kenwood TS-940S/AT which had not been used for over 20 years.  Tim and I were about to give up and head home when Mike came up with one more idea that was the key to fixing the transmit portion of the transceiver.  With that I found a spot for FG5FR on 30-M (at just after 5 p.m. local time) and Mike managed a very nice QSO with him (First Call by the way!)  Then, when Tim and I were back in Charleston, Mike telephone to say that he saw a spot for a ZL on 12-M and managed to work him on the First Call as well.

     All in all it was a VERY successful day!  We adapted, we overcame, and the end result is that Mike is back on the air.  The job would NOT have been completed today if it were not for EVERYONE!  Each person filled a vital role and solved a piece of the puzzle to get the job done.  It sometimes DOES take a "Community" to complete a project.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Clipperton Island 2013 - Feb. 28 to Mar. 10

The next big DX'pedition to Clipperton Island will soon be operational.  Their ship, the Shogun, is expected to leave San Diego today.  There are 25 radios operators on this trip and they plan to operate 10 complete HF stations - all using Elecraft K-3 radios. Antennas for HF will all be verticals.

Of special note, Lance, W7GJ, will be setting up a dedicated station well away from the main operation, specifically for 6-M.  Lance will have a K-3 and an Alpha 8406 6-M amp with his own generator.  The antenna will be an M2 6M8GJ.  Look HERE to see Lance's description of this antenna.  You can also look at Lance's web page describing his part in the TX6Koperation HERE.  That page describes his plans for his 6-M operation from Clipperton including frequencies and his EME (moon-bounce) plans.  An email from Lance today pointed out that he ". . . will be beaconing toward NA on 50.190 JT65A daily from 1800-1900Z . . ."  if he is not on the moon or there is other prop.  Otherwise, he will be beaconing in various directions on 50.117 as explained on his web page.

If you are interested in the planning that goes into such a large undertaking, you can access the "Project Description" as a PDF file from their document page HERE.  In that document you will find that the total budget for this DX'pedition is just under $235,000.  Each operator put up $6,500 each plus his airfare to San Diego or Cabo San Lucas.

One major feature of this operation will be the implementation of an internet application which will allow stations to see what is happening in near real time.  Here is how this system is described on their web site:
DXA is an innovative website that allows DXers to view the QSO log and the status and activities of the DXpedition in near-real-time. Within a few minutes after making a contact with the DXpedition, the DXer is able to see confirmation of that contact. Information such as the callsigns logged in the last minute and in the last hour, and the bandmodes currently being worked by the DXpedition, are displayed in a simple, automatically-updated interface. The entire application runs within a standard browser--no software needs to be downloaded or installed. The image below [at left here] is a screenshot of a simulation of the DXA interface as it will appear for the TX5K operation.

This should be really cool to watch your screen show (with a green square) confirmation of your QSO within a minute!  Plus, this will prove that you actually worked TX5K and not a Pirate as only TX5K can activate the green squares.  The DXA page can also be used as the Log Search for your call or other calls.

Here are links to other web pages concerning this operation:
The main web page for the TX5K operation is HERE.  
The link to connect to the DXA application is HERE.
And, a link to the "Quick Tips" page that will show you what is available from and on the main page is HERE.
The Team's Blog is located HERE.
There is also a mention that the team may update on various social media web sites so if you are on those, keep an eye out for TX5K's postings.