Thursday, May 13, 2010

VE8EV/P - Instant Expedition

I've always put a great deal of effort and planning into my island trips. I've operated from up here for years so I know what the requirements are for success. Go when the propagation is good, take the biggest antenna you can, and run as much power as you can bring with you. Then, if you're lucky, you'll be able to fill the log with many contacts. How do I know all this? I've done it the other way before and it sucks! Low power to a dipole antenna from inside the auroral zone is next to useless except under optimal conditions.

When an emergency work trip to Sachs Harbour on Banks Island (NA-129) came up last week I grabbed my radio and the backup dipole antenna that was still packed from my Greens Island trip and set out to see what I could do with it in my spare time. The first night I was there I strung the antenna from my favorite flood light pole and spent a few hours on the radio. No huge pileups but with perseverance I was able to make a few dozen contacts on CW and SSB. It was all downhill after that.

For the rest of my four day stay I was only able to make a handful of additional contacts. The bands were crowded with no less than three contests running on the weekend (one each on CW, SSB and RTTY), the propagation got worse every day due to multiple solar flares and there was persistent local QRN that I couldn't locate. I called CQ endlessly, alternating between SSB and CW without any answers. At one point I even got up in the middle of the night and went up to the airport to try my luck during the peak midnight sun grey line hours. One contact. After a while I gave up and went back to bed.

I'm not giving up forever, though. I just need to be better prepared next time. Instead of a dipole, I'm going to build a lightweight, collapsible ZL-Special antenna for 20m. If I can find a way I'll get a little 300-400W solid-state expedition amplifier that'll lend an extra 6dB to my signal without the huge weight penalty of the FL-2100B. Then, a little Arrow dual-band yagi will get me onto the satellites to hand out the rare grid square to VHF operators. Hopefully I'll have everything together in time for my annual trip to Ulukhaktok on Victoria Island (NA-006) which I've conveniently scheduled to take place during the IOTA contest in July ;)


Bill said...

John - A pleasure to finally work you recently while you were /p on were a lonely CQer with that trademark CW polar warble! Came across your blog last year thru a contesting link and thoroughly enjoy your posts here. All the best in your future radio adventures and writings from there in the "cold country"!

73, Bill W1WBB in RI/NA-031

Anonymous said...

Wow missed you again from NA129. Hope to catch you next time.