06 June 2016

June 2016

June 7: for a DXer, happiness is ... a confirmation on Logbook of the World for P5/3Z9DX - that is Dom from Poland operating from DPRK, the Democractic Peoples Republic of Korea, commonly known as North Korea.

I already had Dom's QSL card but the LoTW confirmation makes it easier to apply for DXCC credit.

An American group was planning to be in P5 about now but for various reasons to do with visas and lack of discretion they pulled out. Dom was originally planning to go back to P5 later this year and may still do so although operating at the pointy end of a rifle under the intense gaze of government officials may have put him off, understandably enough.

June 8: it has been a frustrating day's DXing today. This morning (late June 7 UTC), as on previous mornings, TY2AC was spotted on 20m CW: I heard NA stations working him but didn't hear him at all, neither LP nor SP. An Iraqi was spotted on JT65 on 20m this afternoon: his CQ signal decoded OK but I guess he didn't hear me, or I was doubling with other callers. Conditions were poor this evening on 30 and 40m too: I heard some of the spotted stations OK but their signals were weak. 

June 25: I've spent some time lately on LF, mostly camped out on my usual 80m haunt, 3505 kHz, for the dawn and dusk greylines. One morning this week I was up and on the air by about 19z (7am local), about 30 mins before dawn, early enough to catch an unusually strong echo on my own transmitted signal thanks to the K3's QSK+ setting and the amplifier's PIN-diodes. The echo was strong enough to be a distraction but since I was mostly using the memory keyer to send CQ on a loop, it didn't matter.

I turned on the audio recorder (Audacity) to capture and measure the phenomenon. Here's the audio trace of the Morse letter B at the end of my callsign:

Reading the trace from left to right, there is a burst of band noise (the space between the F and the B of my call) followed by a flat line as I sent a dash (there is no sidetone on the K3's recording socket so it goes silent while I actually transmit), then another burst of band noise as the receiver kicks in, followed by three dits separated by 2 more chunks of band noise, then a longer listening gap to the right end of this clip. Notice the prominent block of sound after the final dit: that wasn't someone calling me but the echo of the dit, the other echoes having presumably arrived while I was transmitting. 

I measured the delay at 0.16 seconds from the start of my final dit to the start of the echo. At the speed of light (300 million metres per second), the radio wave would have travelled 48,000 km in that time. The Earth's circumference is about 40,030 km so most likely the signal had gone all the way around the globe, bouncing between Earth's surface and the ionosphere along the way which (along with measurement inaccuracies and perhaps a non-great-circle route) would account for the remaining 8,000 km. 

Within just a few minutes, the echo subsided and was no longer audible by about 25 minutes before dawn, so this was a brief pre-dawn round-the-world path on 80m ... well, pre-dawn here but dawn was breaking maybe 1,000 to 2,000 km to my East, and it was dusk on the far side. I wonder if perhaps my signal went out to the East, got deflected by the tilted ionosphere at dawn into the greyline path, whizzed around the world in the greyline, then popped out to the West and back to me in the same way? I'm guessing, of course.

I've recorded and measured round-the-world echoes before, including an even more amazing double-trip echo on 12m but it is very unusual to hear the echo on 80m ... and at the same time disappointing that I get so few replies to my greyline CQs.

The DX news sites are reporting that Dom 3Z9DX expects to go back to North Korea for a few day's operation, on SSB on a single HF band (most likely 20m I guess). I'm keeping an eagle eye on the cluster for P5/3Z9DX. Given the extreme demand for P5 QSOs, I won't be calling this time if he turns up on 15m SSB again ... but I sure hope my pal Stan ZL2ST will bag his last one for top of Honor Roll, and if Dom is on 20m I probably will call if his CQs are going unanswered which tends to happen around lunchtime in the Pacific area. I don't consider that selfish: if I make it, it will be my first ever P5 QSO on 20m.

Three more direct QSL cards turned up yesterday, all from Tomi HA3RY from his trips to TX3A (Chesterfield), PT0S (St Peter & St Paul rocks) and VK9GMW (Mellish Reef). Tomi had already confirmed them on LoTW but was kind enough to send cards for my DXCC album. I now have just 23 empty card slots in the album including the 11 DXCC countries I haven't worked yet. I'm really looking forward to the day when the album is finally filled and I can brag to anyone who'll sit there long enough to take it in.

29 June: another frustrating morning on LF here. Signals are weak to nonexistent on all the bands I've checked from 80 to 20. Around dawn, ZS1C was barely perceptible at or below the noise floor on 80m, although I quite clearly heard at least some of the Europeans working him (evidently they were struggling too, making lots of repeats). RI1FJ was repeatedly spotted on 30m but not even my wild imagination was enough to hear anything at all from him, again, despite hearing the EU pile easily. I half-heartedly called a couple of Carribbean and EU stations on 20m but none of them heard me, whether LP or SP, apart from an FOC pal Karl DJ5IL. Funny how FOC members can almost always hear me when many others don't.

Having just hit 300 countries confirmed on LoTW for 17m, I've applied for 119 DXCC endorsements today. I ought to dig out the QSL cards for a few more slots too but it's always a slog to figure out which cards I need to send, find them, list them online and package them up to send to our friendly local field checker. LoTW is the lazy option, and excellent value at about 18 US cents per slot - way cheaper than QSL cards, although I still plan to fill my DXCC album with nice picture postcards from the whole world.

30 June: excellent service as always from the DXCC desk at ARRL - my LoTW updates were all approved overnight:

Now I have to go through the rigmarole of updating Logger32 with the credits, then figure out which slots I have confirmed but not yet credited, then dig out the corresponding QSL cards and compile a card application as well.  All in all, that will take a couple of hours, then a week or three to wait for the card update to be processed.  If I can be bothered, that is.