Sunday, December 18, 2011

RAC Winter VE8RAC(VE8EV) SO Mixed HP

Call: VE8RAC
Operator(s): VE8EV
Station: VE8EV

Class: SO Mixed HP
QTH: Inuvik, NT
Operating Time (hrs): 20

Band CW Qs Ph Qs CW Mults Ph Mults
160:    23    5       4      3
80:     63   31       4      6
40:     96   91       9     10
20:    128  215       9     11
15:     97  303       9     10
10:     26  156       5      7
6:       1    1       1      1
2:       1    1       1      1
Total: 435  803      42     49 Total Score = 581,854


+11 RAC

What a deal, two contests with no aurora in the same year! I had lots of fun and was able to wave the RAC flag pretty evenly across all the bands.
Sure glad I'm not the one who has to answer all those VE8RAC QSL requests!

73 and Happy Holidays,
John VE8EV

Monday, December 12, 2011

Checks and Balances

My XYL is fond of reminding me that life is all about checks and balances. When it comes to amateur radio under the auroral oval that is especially true. When the high-latitude K-index is zero (as measured at the NOAA station in College, Alaska, only a few degrees south of us) propagation will generally be good. Higher than zero is not as good, and more than two is just plain bad. According to my research, there have only been 15 days this year where the high-latitude K-index was zero for the whole day. That means that for any particular event, like a contest or dxpedition, the chances of having good conditions are only 1 in 23 or about 4%, just slightly better than the odds of rolling snake eyes on a pair of dice. The rest of the time we just struggle along and do the best we can under the circumstances. More sunspots certainly help but that also increases the frequency of solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and other solar badness that rains down from space and stirs up the aurora.

I’ve been pretty lucky this past couple of years with having those long odds come in during expeditions and contests. If you’re planning an Arctic dxpedition you can at least try to increase your chances a bit by scheduling it for a period during the sun's 27-day rotational cycle with no recurring coronal holes. Coronal holes increase the solar wind and generate high K-indices. For contests and other fixed-date events though, it's all luck of the draw. I managed to hit the low K numbers for most of my island expeditions in 2010 but our trip to Tent Island in June this year was something of a washout due to the poor conditions. For many years I had fantasized about what the ARRL Sweepstakes contest would be like without aurora and this year it finally happened. The K-index was at zero for the entire duration of the contest and it was everything I always dreamt it would be. The high bands were open late, the low bands were productive, and new records were set. Only two weeks later I decided to get on during the CQ World Wide CW contest and maybe pick up some new countries for DXCC. A little bit farther south of us conditions were being reported as great although many had difficulty working stations on paths that crossed over the pole. The K-index here peaked at 4 and there was a solar radiation storm to boot. I could hear a few weak signals from the west coast of the USA but that was it.

The high Arctic certainly is an interesting place to live but it's all checks and balances when it comes to ham radio.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

ARRL 10-meter Contest

Call: VE8EV
Operator(s): VE8EV
Station: VE8EV

Class: SO CW LP
QTH: Inuvik, NT
Operating Time (hrs): 14

Band QSOs Mults
CW: 322    63
Total: 322 63 Total Score = 81,144


Just 100 watts and a vertical for this one so I decided to go CW only. The marginal antenna, low power, aurora, low SSN and lack of time all conspired to keep the numbers low. Given my limited CW prowess it was probably just as well. When I had time to get on the radio I'd find a quiet corner at the higher end of the band and run callers with only an occasional foray to S&P the loud guys. I got up early Saturday and CQ'd away for four hours without a single caller, hoping for that mythical morning opening to Europe. It didn't appear and I suspect that from this part of the world in December it never will. Still, the band was open to everywhere in North America for at least five hours both days so I certainly can't complain.

My ability to copy CW is still a bit ropey and I was kind of nervous at the very beginning. Wouldn't you know the very first answer I get to my cq was 7K4QOK! Once I got through that the rest was fairly smooth sailing. The rate meter actually hit 100 for a few short bursts so I guess I'm starting to get the hang of it. Worked a pretty good cross section of W/VE, a handful of Asians, VK/ZL, and a few South Americans (although not as many as I remember from the old days on 10m).

Lots of giggles in this one for some reason. The best was working the W8 with the drifting TX. He was zero beat at the start of each call but his frequency would increase with every key stroke until he was out of my passband. After three tries I finally opened up the filter to 3K and got him in the log. For some reason it sounded hysterically funny and I chuckled about it all day long. I also found it very amusing that it took me three tries to figure out why the KH7 station was laughing at me instead of sending his exchange. Is this what normally happens to people after listening to beeping for hours on end?

Happy Holidays and hope to hear everyone in the RAC Winter Contest next weekend!

John VE8EV