The Perfect Storm

 

Who knows what makes for good propagation? I mean, we certainly understand the role of the sun and its interaction with earth’s magnetic field, but sometimes there’s something else involved that is harder to predict. It’s like those crazy days during a solar minimum when 10 meters opens up, or those days when the sunspots are rolling, but the band is closed. At the end of the day, it can sometimes just come down to chance. The odds can be in your favor, but that doesn’t mean you’ll complete the circuit.

Even though the stage has been set for great trans-Atlantic and Pacific DX for over a month, things had been kind of slim. I had heard a couple of Spaniards on the band, and even a couple of Brits, but none of them were anything to get too excited about. A little audio here and there, but nothing else. My morning runs through the dial haven’t been much better, when I even bothered to wake up for them that is. You can only have so many mornings filled with a blistering noise level before you decide that bed feels a little too comfy, and you decide to sleep in.

I have no idea what possessed me to get out of bed at 5 AM this morning. Maybe it was the fact I didn’t work at Job #2 last night, and managed to get to bed at a fairly early hour? Maybe it was the cat, who decided it would be fun to walk across my face until I let him crawl under the covers? Or maybe it was the little voice in my head reminding me of how good the bands had been the last week? Whatever it was, I found myself cruising around the dial with the Perseus at around 5:15 this morning.

At first, I didn’t really hear much of interest. 4KW was audible on 5055 with music from Chris DeBurgh, but it was a really rough copy at best. The Solomons seemed to be strong on 5020, but they looked stronger than they sounded, and needed more modulation. I was thinking about going back to bed when I popped down to the mediumwave band, and found the propagation conditions of a lifetime. The bands that had been dead suddenly came to life. The propagation drought wasn’t just over, the perfect storm had arrived.

Imagine my surprise when I received not just one, but multiple Japanese stations all across the dial. JOUB on 774 kHz was the strongest, with a Halloween themed English lesson. Check out the signal strength on this one. That station is 5866 miles away, and its peaking at just under an S9. Amazing!

This was the exact same English lesson that west coast DXer Ron Howard had reported a couple of weeks earlier on the World of Radio mailing list, so this was an easy one to identify. If that didn’t nail it down though, I heard the same programming in parallel on 693 kHz, JOAB.

Japan was audible on several other frequencies as well, including 747 kHz. The best audio of the morning though came from JOUB about an hour later, when their English lesson taught the listeners three important phrases:

This is not the end of the world
God will never give you anything that you can’t handle
All you can eat buffet

(FYI, cut the third one off in this clip. I will upload it in its entirety when I get a chance.)

And just to top it all off, the station that I caught a whiff of (at best) last fall was present this morning, and much stronger than before. My presumption at the time was that this was a China National Radio outlet, and I am sticking to it. Let me know what you think.

I was really hoping for a Korean station to pop up this morning, but no such luck. I think I may have heard a little from a KBS outlet up the band from 1098 (there’s something very distinct about the sharp, staccato cadence of North Korean radio), but there wasn’t a lot to work with. Who knows what the band will serve up tomorrow? If conditions hold out, the sun stays quiet, no one wobbles the magnetic field, that magic X factor sticks around, tomorrow could make for another interesting morning.

EDITORS NOTE: I have had some folks more knowledgeable than I am take a listen to the 1098 clips, and they have strong reason to believe it was CNR 11, part of the Tibetan service. If that transmitter was the one at Golmud, it is 11,248 km away from my receive antenna.

Perfect storm indeed.

Fresh Catches from this Morning

The SAL-30 has been up and operational for about ten days now, but I haven’t really had a chance to put it through its paces. Not so much out of laziness, but more out of timing. Summer is not DX season in North America, expecially for the frequencies where this antenna excels. Aside from distant static crashes, there’s usually just not a lot to hear. Or is there?

Over the last week or so, I’ve managed to get some S9 signals out of Sonder Grense on 3320, as well as a couple of appearances by Radio Candip on 5066.4. Sure the bands were noisy, but Sonder Grense was a strong S9+, while Radio Candip was an S7 to 8. While SG is a pretty consistent catch here, its not usually that strong. Radio Candip, on the other hand, isn’t a station I hear very often at all. If I could hear both of these stations at decent levels with the new SAL, I wondered what else I could hear? I made a mental note to check the bands the next morning I happened to wake up early, and went about the rest of my evening.

SIFTW

I found myself awake this morning at around 5 AM local, or 10 hours UTC. In my half asleep state, I reached over to the Palstar r30cc radio that sits next to the bed and made my way through some of the programmed frequencies. The Australian domestics were sort of audible, but weak. No need to get out of bed for them. A quick spin of the dial later and I’m hearing English on 3325. Wait, English on 3325? Am I dreaming?  I’m still not sure about that, but it did convince me to get out of bed and in front of the radios to see what was going on.

Here’s some clips of what I heard this morning.

3325 Khz, NBC Bougainville, Papua, New Guinea. i always have trouble telling NBC and RRI apart, I’m leaning towards New Guinea on this one. I did hear a few English phrases thrown into the conversation (see the second video), as well as what I think was a discussion of Christianity, two things I don’t associate with Indonesia. Feel free to correct me if I am wrong. By the way, I expect YouTube to drop the copyright hammer on the first video shortly, so catch it while you can.

3905 KHz, RRI Marauke, indonesia. Again, another chance for me to brush up on my lacking ability to tell the difference between NBC and RRI. I’m going with RRI on this one though. While it doesn’t appear in this video, Shazam was able to identify a pop an Indonesian pop song from a band called Cokelat. Thank you, Shazam!

Of course, the HAM QRM picked up right before I recorded this, but you get the idea.

SIBC, 5020 KHz, Solomon Islands. I don’t hear the Solomon Islands very often, so its always good to catch them at a nice level like this. What really has me intrigued though is that little carrier wave on 5006 KHz. The schedules show that it could be H3A out of Tokyo, but it was well past local sunrise by now, so it never got any stronger. This one is definitely on my target list of stations to check for.

All in all, this was a morning worth losing sleep over. While the Aussies never did materialize on 2325 and 2485, VL8A was pretty loud on 4835, even with WWCR blasting away on 4840. Japan’s Nikkei 1 and 2 were both strong on 3925 and 3945 as well. Even Voice of the People was audible over the North Korean jammers on 3912. there were so many targets this morning that I forgot to check for TW8H, and the cross. I guess I’ll be getting up early again tomorrow.

As Steve McCroskey would’ve said in the movie Airplane!, “Looks like I picked the wrong week to cut out caffeine.”

Getting Ready for the SAL-30

After coming home Friday to find a box of antenna parts from Array Solutions on my front porch, the heavens opened up, and rained out any antenna construction plans I may have had. The good news is that I’ll be ready to go on Saturday, armed with everything I’ll need to get the new and improved SAL-30 up in the air by sunset.*

500 foot spool of 12 gauge wire: CHECK! The standard kit comes with 24 gauge, but I used 12 gauge when I put it up originally, so I’m sticking with it. unlike the loops on the SAL-20, which were constructed with 65 feet of wire each, the SAL-30 will be using a whopping 95 feet for each loop. That’s a lot of wire!

Replacement mast poles: CHECK! Since the SAL series of antennas requires a fiberglass mast, and will not work with aluminum, I bought replacements for the ones Fido destroyed. I should have an extra section when I’m done.

Guy rope and tensioners: CHECK! The SAL-30 kit came with enough guy rope for two levels of guys for the mast, as well as enough to support the loops itself. they also included eight tensioners, which is handy as well. Let’s hope I don’t screw up with the cuts.

New support stakes: CHECK! I decided to beef up the stakes I was using with more heavy duty supports.

Cable ties: CHECK! Cable ties are the duct tape of amateur radio. They’ll come in handy during the initial construction phase.

Heatshrink tubing, and insulators: CHECK! Heatshrink tubing is a Godsend to HAMs, almost as useful as cable ties for antenna projects. I actually have dogbone insulators for this job, although the makeshift PVC pipe sections I used for the SAL-20 worked just fine.

Soldering gun and solder: CHECK! Actually, I better double check this when I get home. i might need to get another tip for the Weller.

Nice weather: CHECK? If the forecasters are to be believed, we are supposed to be in the seventies this Saturday, with a 40% chance of afternoon thunderstorms. I’m not crazy about the 19 mph wind, but well, welcome to Iowa.

IMG_20160417_110059676
Dude, you go ahead and get the antenna up. I’ll stay here and guard the couch. could you hand me the TV remote before you go please?

So the stage is set, and I am very anxious to see if this new antenna can hear. If I don’t screw anything up, and the thunderstorms stay away until Saturday night, I should be ready to put this new antenna through its paces early next week.

Now if my helper was as enthused about this project as I am.

*I say this knowing full well that it is not true. As with all of my projects, I am certain there will be at least one trip to the hardware store for things I didn’t anticipate, I just don’t know what those things are yet. It would also be a good idea to mow the lawn before getting this beast up, as it will make my life easier in the long run. Hopefully I can get that done before Saturday.