Monthly Archive: August 2017

15 Days to go: Limited 80m capability added!

80m to be tried / 160m possibbly too!

Saturday 26th August saw us test fire the 40m folded monopole antenna with the SGC-230 ATU on 80m. Local contacts out to 300km were made about an hour before sunset so it appears to radiate at least. Modelling in 4NEC2 shows that the pattern will be fairly low angle as well, although the efficiency will be down. At least it gives me something to try (considering 80m wasnt a band I was going to rely upon as this is only a one man show). So, 80m will be something to watch for from E6AG – at least on JT65

I am still planning some tests at night (possibly this coming weekend) to see how reports come in domestically across Australia to see if it has any hope of something more from Niue.

40-10m Monopole Results Speak for Themselves

To give me more of a feel for how the monopole works, I took also it for a test run during the WIA’s Remembrance Day Contest this year from the back yard of my mother in laws house in the country. The results speak for themselves. Compared to my dipoles, I was receiving reports from VK6 and VK4 of S4-5 points higher on the monopole (over typically 2000km+ paths). While I had it setup I also worked AL3/AA7CH (IOTA NA-042) on 30m and UW1M on 40m (in-between the contest calls). I have high hopes as a result for the antenna system on Niue!

Repairs and Preparations

The other thing that Steve VK5SFA and I did this weekend was go over the antenna and replace the squid pole which had split during the RD Contest. The last thing I needed was to get there and find that the main antenna was in pieces. After trying to track down a commercial source of 9m squid poles in Adelaide it was the North East Radio Club who came to the rescue with a stock of them. Thanks David VK5MDF for dropping them around to my QTH! It was then about an hours work at Steve VK5SFA’s to retrofit the pole and give the antenna a test (using my full back up station whats more). Good news was everything worked!

160m Experiment to be included

With the packing situation becoming much clearer as things are finalized I also find I have one more item of luggage I can take and fill with wire and coax. So, a plan is being hatched to at least try a full size 160m loop around the house, or if not, then a 160m dipole. No guarantees it will work but having something that can resonate down there (with a tuner at least) may make some top band contacts possible. We will see. The low bands were not a principle target of my trip (manpower and time) but if I can put up something simple then I am prepared to give it a go, considering the inquiries I have received asking me to attempt it for an ATNO, even from VK operators! 160m is likely to only be JT65 operation (and possibly FT8) but CW could be tried on request.

Then A Surprise!

So, the final packing is now underway. One final case to obtain this week and we will be set. There were some niggling questions remaining about how much coax to take etc that still needed answers. So while Googling the net I happened to stumble across Lance W7GJ’s website detailing his EME exploits on 2012 from Kaliki Lodge! Fantastic I thought, I can finally see photos of the back yard and confirm how everything could fit together. Now I am truly excited. The house looks to give me 100ft elevation overlooking the Pacific to the west north west so paths to EU and Japan should be excellent.

More news as we get ready to depart – it is getting closer now!

73 de Grant VK5GR / E6AG

Less than 20 days till Departure

It is getting closer now and most things are ready to go! A dry run of most of the station netted contacts from VK5 into Alaska on 30m and Ukraine on 40m. The backup station is now running as well and all thats needed is a backup power supply and one more travel case (which is on it’s way). So far we are under weight (but not by much) and so I am looking at what I can do to take a backup antenna should the primary be damaged. At the very least I should have enough wire, baluns and coax to be able to make a dipole to throw into a coconut tree should everything go horribly wrong.

E6AG on SSTV

Another mode I hope to operate whilst on Niue is Slow Scan TV. As I will be spending time playing tourist around the island, what better way to share the sights than to use images on the air. Look out for me on 14.230/14.233 from time to time during my stay for a unique opportunity to work E6 on an unusual mode.

What about CW from E6AG?

I have had a few inquiries for CW operation from E6AG since announcing my trip. Until now, I have advised that it most likely wont be possible. (I am not yet a competent CW operator, and while I am slowly learning Morse, it certainly isnt up to expedition standard). However, seeing how bad the propagation has been of late, I have taken the unusual step of trying to at least pack some aides to help those who request contacts using CW to achieve a QSO.

To that end, I am pleased to report that I have received support from the author of MRP40, a very good CW decoding program I have used on occasion, to at least give me some CW capability. In my time playing with CW decoders it has certainly proved very effective in under even poor conditions at decoding many CW signals. So, if you request a CW contact, understand I cant yet hand key, and by by ear reading is still normally only at about 5WPM, but through using this software as an aide I hope to at least satisfy your desires.

If you would like to try MRP40, please visit their (website.)

36 Days and Counting – Final Equipment Shakedown begins

Final planning for the equipment transport to Niue has begun. I am currently sourcing suitable cases as some of the gear will end up as checked luggage, and I having watched the baggage handlers at Sydney airport last week, well lets say I will be ensuring the gear going underneath has lots of padding.

What did we achieve this weekend?

  1. Collected the antenna from Steve VK5SFA – as well as a tuner that may allow me to load it up on 80 and 160m! I’m making no promises on those bands but will at least give it a try, although it wont be very efficient. Might be a JT65 or CW only effort there. I will be using the antenna next weekend during the WIA’s Remembrance Day Contest portable from a location on the eastern shores of Spencer Gulf so will get a feel for how it could react in Niue hopefully.
  2. Obtained the packaging for the antenna transport bag as well. Looks like the entire system including the tuner will come in at under 20kg and at a size that the airlines will accept – so looking good to have the complete antenna system in one bag.
  3. Spent a lot of time this weekend also trying to complete the integration of the software systems for running full digital modes and logging. I have worked out most of the bugs in N1MM+ for FSK RTTY (managed some marginal contacts to Europe tonight – including OE17BEACH, R6AZ, HA5AQ and SP7SP – some tweaking on macros and we should be good there). I have also gotten the CW Keyer integration done. (While I am no wizz at CW, I will at least be able to do computer generated CW on the trip for if the conditions turn bad – not as good as a well trained ear but hopefully good enough if I need to use it.) The only thing I dont think I can easily integrate is WSJT-X into N1MM. That one might need to be a manual ADIF import/export job. If you do have a trick for interfacing N1MM and WSJT I would love to hear from you!

Next Weekend is a full shakedown of the station portable so we will have a good idea of exactly what needs to be packaged and how much it all weighs. With luck, everything will fit under the luggage allowance with room to spare. We will know within the next week – then we can plan what backup radios and gear we can take (I am hoping to also take my IC706MK2G with me as a radio of last resort). Look out for me calling CQ on 160-15m as VK5GR/P next week!

N1MM Digital logging setup with 3 RTTY decoders.