Tag Archives: vhf

SOTA activation Tuggeranong Hill 15 Feb 2013

This activation was on Friday evening after work, similar timing to the Majura exercise a week earlier.  The climb was not as long but had some slippery rocky sections.

I had forgotten to put the 2m hand held radio back into my backpack so I used the FT817 on 2m FM for some local contacts, including two other SOTA summits.  On 40m the conditions were quite good yielding 18 contacts into south eastern states of Australia and one to New Zealand (VK1, 2, 3, 5 and ZL2).  All on SSB with 5 watts to the dipole supported by the squid pole at the feedpoint, coaxial cable running down the squid pole to the radio.  Powered by the 2.1 AH SLA battery.

Stayed talking on 40m too long, did not pack up till about 20:30 and it was quite dark when I got back to the car around 20:45 local time.  This would be ok at a site with a decent path but the rocky slippery road is not a good one to descend in the dark, even with light from a torch.

Andrew VK1DA operating radio on Tuggeranong Hill
VK1DA talking

 

view of the suburbs south west of Tuggernong Hill
view of the suburbs south west of Tuggernong Hill

 

Mt Taylor as seen from Tuggeranong hill
Mt Taylor as seen from Tuggeranong hill

SOTA goes live in VK1 – a day of firsts

The documentation was cleared during January 2013 by the SOTA management team after some amendments and updates. VK1 was then given a start date of 1st February.

To make the day memorable we encouraged VK1 activations via email lists and a presentation at the local club a week earlier. We asked chasers to tune in and help us get our required contacts. Activations at 0000 UTC were by Andrew VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, Matt VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, Russell VK1JRM at Tuggeranong Hill and by me at Mt Taylor. I logged 20 contacts on a combination of 7 MHz SSB and 146.5 MHz FM. Later in the day Ian VK1DI walked up Mt Majura and activated successfully with VK3 and VK5 contacts.

There are a few possible approaches to climbing Mt Taylor. The route I chose was from Sulwood Drive, Kambah. This route may be a little longer than the Pearce or Chifley approaches. Parking on Sulwood drive near the intersection with Manheim St, the walking path is easy to find and leads up a steady rocky path, which eventually becomes a bitumen sealed path, gives way to compressed gravel, some concrete in places and some wooden framed steps in other parts of the trip.

Looking back down the path on Mt Taylor

Concrete section of path

On arrival at the summit, the squid pole was extended and the central feedpoint of the 40m dipole was attached to it using cord. The ends of the dipole insulated by several metres of cord are attached to tent pegs hammered into the ground. A stone could be used as a hammer but I took a rubber mallet for this purpose.

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The FT817 was powered by a 2.1 AH SLA Battery. Note the miniature morse paddle, purchased as a kit at Dayton Hamvention in 2010. This paddle is nice but too light so it needs to be held with one hand while you send with the other. Attaching it to a lump of heavy metal (not a Metallica album) would solve the problem but also add to the weight in the backpack (see below).

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Signals on 40m were very good. Easy contacts were made around VK1 and with VK3 stations, including some SOTA activators on summits in VK3.

After liaising with Bruce VK1HBB on 2m we also made contact on 7090 where we had our first SOTA contact for VK1. After that the fun began and at times three frequencies were in use on 40m, while on 146.5 FM the Icom radio chattered away with a continuous series of contacts between VK1HBB, VK1FPIT and VK1FTAY who were portable at Mt Ainslie, VK1NAM at Booroomba Rocks, VK1MA at Mt Stromlo, VK1JRM at Mt Tuggeranong, VK1DR, VK1SV and VK1DI.

On HF I did call cq on CW at one stage but activity on CW during week days is rather low. This must be why my signal was discovered by an automatic skimmer run by Lyle VK1LW, whose station logged my CQ call and that ended up on SOTAWATCH as a spot.

Everyone involved seems to have enjoyed the day. A field day with a difference. Several operators took leave from work to activate on this day and we appreciated also the efforts of VK3 and VK5 activators and chasers who turned up on time to give us contacts and get these new SOTA summits into their chaser logs. No doubt from this point on we will gain new activators and chasers as familiarity with the award increases.

I would like to use more bands for these events. Some activators are routinely making CW contacts into Europe and the USA, some are making some ssb contacts, using 20m and 15m bands.

I underestimated the amount of equipment I would be trying to stuff into my ordinary backpack, and how much it weighed when I did! And that was a single band wire antenna, and a 2m handheld with its own flexible antenna. Carrying a real 2m antenna would add more complexity and weight. The SOTABEAMS enterprise in the UK offers readily assembled beams for various bands. For HF, some operators like horizontal antennas, both centre fed and end fed. Some like verticals. Your mileage does vary depending on what you are trying to do. The verticals would surely be better for DX contacts.

Scenery

On the way down Mt Taylor I noticed a panoramic map installed by our friendly local government, showing the features of the Tuggeranong Valley and naming the mountains in the distance and on the horizon. Some of these will be familiar to readers, and some will be more familiar in a year’s time as many of the names seen here are SOTA summits.

Panoramic map on Mt Taylor
Panoramic map on Mt Taylor
Pano map on Mt Taylor
Panoramic map on Mt Taylor

The prominent mountain behind the town centre is Mt Tennent, named after a bushranger.  The fable is that he buried treasure of some kind up there before being captured.

Mt Tennent
Mt Tennent

Picture taken two days earlier without the mist was a lot clearer.

 

Mt Tennent
Mt Tennent

 

VK9NA expedition

Late comments about the VK9NA expedition I joined in January 2011.  This was a VHF/UHF/microwave and 2m EME operation.  Due to quite poor conditions for tropo across to the mainland, we eventually did most of the operation on 2m EME.  However we did try to make contacts and ran a lot of CQs on 144 MHz every day.  We did make some contacts but there were nowhere near the number of tropo contacts made last year.  The 144 MHz band was the main band used for this work.

We activated the station every day on 6m as well, from the hotel site.

Due to the high winds experienced on the hill we moved the EME station to the Guide Hall where we had been kindly offered the use of the grounds.

On Norfolk the internet access is provided by Wifi connections at hotels/resorts and a few in the Burnt Pine business area. I found it was necessary to buy several different cards to get access via NIDS, Norfolk telecom and another account for access at the hotel I stayed at. Wifi access from Mt Pitt was good, from the hotel the others stayed at, access to NIDS was not good.

The radio conditions on vhf up were not as good as they had been in 2010. This was partly due to physical weather conditions, including strong winds for the duration of the operation from 8th to 20th January. On the weekend of the summer field day conditions were very poor and the only contacts made with the mainland that weekend were on 6m, and there were not many of them.

The 2m EME operation was very successful.  Over a hundred contacts were made using JT65 via the FT897 and a laptop computer running the WSJT software.  A TE systems amplifier boosted the output power of the FT897 for EME work.  The list of stations worked is at the VK9NA website.

I greatly enjoyed the event.  I learned how to use WSJT on both FSK441 and JT65B, and learned a bit about pointing a very large 2m antenna (19 elements, 12 metres length) at the moon and periodically repointing it. For about half or more of the time, the moon was not visible so we were relying on compass bearings corrected for mag offset/declination and an inclinometer for the elevation.

I also became familiar with the FT897 and found what a great radio it is for this kind of operation. The other radios used were FT817 and a TS2000 which I found to be a very good radio too.

The TS2000 has an option to automatically transmit CW at a 700 hz offset (actually the offset equals your selected cw beat note and sidetone frequency) when you switch from USB to CW. It also has an option to automatically switch from SSB to CW mode if you press the key, whether it’s an automatic key or a hand key. Very neat.

Apart from the radio aspects it was also great to get to know Michael VK3KH, Alan VK3XPD, Kevin VK4UH. We were fortunate in being well organised on the social and meals front by Michael’s wife Roz and her sister Gail, and Alan’s wife Aileen all of whom made this event that much more enjoyable.

We did attend a few local special events such as the fish fry, the progressive dinner and the re-enactment drama based on the voyage of the Bounty, the eventual mutiny led by Fletcher Christian and the exile of the mutineers at Pitcairn Island. This history is a proud aspect of the Norfolk Island culture today.

A great event and a fun filled 10 day trip for me.

Here are some photos at Flickr:

Here is one photo of the EME antenna.  Remember  it is 12 metres long.  There are 19 elements.  Click the photo for a larger view. The long “element” in the centre of the boom is just a truss boom – the antenna has vertical and horizontal stabilisation to prevent it flexing and losing gain. EME antenna at VK9NA

Joining VK9NA VHF/UHF dxpedition to Norfolk Island

I am joining the VK9NA team for January 2011. All the details of this expedition are on the VK9NA.COM website. This is a VHF/UHF/microwave expedition which will include some 2m EME capability and will have reasonable power (75w) on 5.7 and 10 GHz too.

The station should be on the air by 9th January and will be active in the following weekend’s VK VHF/UHF Summer Field Day event.

More details on the VK9NA website vk9na.com

VHF contests: points for distance or for grid squares?

At the Dayton Hamvention 2010, I attended the VHF weak signal group dinner.

I met and chatted with a number of other people about VHF activities in Australia and heard discussions on contest rules that were familiar issues.  Should contest points be based on distance or on grid squares, or power, or what?

In the US VHF sprints they are trying a distance based formula based on 6 character grid locators.  They have found that this approach has been well accepted by contest participants.  It is now quite feasible to calculate distances based on 6 character locators, since computers are so common.  Maybe this is what Australian VHF operators would like.  The grid square bonus system is much simpler but some people think it doesn’t give recognition or incentives for longer distance contacts.

It will be interesting to see whether they decide to keep the distance based scoring formula.

Spring field day a wipeout for me

After lugging all my equipment for 50, 144, 432, 1296, 2400 and 3400 MHz from the car to the north side of the summit at Mt Ginini, it still took several hours to get set up and operational. I finally got on the air on all bands at around 6pm, after making some earlier contacts on 1296, 2400 and 3400 with VK1BL and VK2AES.

Later I made contacts were made with VK1BL/p and VK2AES/p on all six bands (3400 only with VK1BL) but conditions and activity from further afield seemed quite poor with only weak signals from a small number of other portable stations.

I was running my station from a newly purchased inverter generator.  This was not a name brand but an import sold by a Victorian dealer, mostly marketed via Ebay.  I was pleased that its noise performance was much better than my previous generator.  However at about 9pm on Saturday night, within 20 minutes have having its fuel topped up, it slowly ran down and stopped.  All efforts to get it going again were unsuccessful.  I SMSd the other local field stations telling them I had a power problem.  The next morning I could only pack everything up and go home.

What happens to the generator has not been resolved yet.  My confidence in this particular unit is zero.  I have not been able to restart it, despite following the advice of the dealer and changing the fuel to premium unleaded.  I can believe it would run better, but I don’t see why it would simply fail to restart on ordinary unleaded.

I did examine the spark plug and found it was fouled considerably.  The recoil starter still reveals compression is good so I don’t think the rings have given up.  I suspect ignition circuit failure.

Fortunately others didn’t have this problem and went on to make more contacts.  The contacts with Doug 4OE did not work out too well, with Ted VK1BL making only marginal contacts on 144.  Contacts on higher bands were not possible.   Conditions were simply too poor.

Better luck next time.