Random QRP Thoughts - Keynote # 10, 2001
I've had this column sitting in the can (as they say in the movie and broadcast industries) for a while now, so some of the material is a bit old, perhaps. However it still applies, so I might as well empty the can and have Nancy publish it this month.
This month some random thoughts about QRP. I get a lot of these thoughts as I'm sitting at the rig waiting to work a DX station or while my CMOS Super Keyer II is busily calling CQ for me. Unfortunately I don't write them down as they occur to me, and have to recall them from memory as I write the column like I'm doing now.
A couple days ago, I managed to work D68C on 15M. Now the QSO was so easy that I thought maybe it wasn't really the DXpedition, but just someone pretending to be D68C. Well I just now checked their on-line log, and my call is in there, so I did work the Comoros for my QRP country # 193 worked. This leads me to a couple of the things I had been thinking about to put in this column.
Often times the QRP station may not be sure if a DX station logged him correctly or not. I often will get something like K3WP? TU 599. I'll then correctly send my call two or three times and my exchange. Then the other station will respond with QSL 73, but never repeat my call correctly. Now how do I know if he ever made the correction or not. A high powered station will often be able to come back to him again and ask if he has the call correct, but with QRP it often isn't possible to do that. This is where the on-line logbooks come in handy. You can check to see if you have been logged correctly or not. If so, great and congratulations. If not, you can try to work the station again, or contact them via land mail or email and explain they may have logged you incorrectly. If you provide the correct time and other details of the contact, they generally will believe you and make the correction. If you're in this situation, you can check sources of on-line logs from well over 2500 stations via my web site address given at the end of this column.
The next point is why did I work D68C so easily with my 5 watts and dipole. There are any number of reasons, some or all of which may apply. First the D68C operation has a group of top-notch operators who have spent their ham careers digging weak signals out of the noise and clamor of a pileup. Also they have top notch receiving equipment and antennas at their site. However perhaps the most important factor is propagation. If you happen to try for a remote DX station at just the right time when all of the places that your signal bounces off (well, actually refracts through, to be technically correct) the ionosphere are in just the right state, your signal will make it through.
It so happens that in the direction of the Comoros from my location, there is a high hill which means that to clear that hill my signal must take off at a higher angle than I would prefer. As a result it will be forced to take one, two, or even three extra hops to get as far as the Comoros than if I lived on top of that hill with a flat horizon in that direction. As a result, the southeast part of Africa is very hard for me to work. However, and this is my point, I was there at the right time when conditions were just right, and even though my signal undoubtedly was attenuated quite a bit on its way there, I was heard and copied for a QSO rather easily.
Keep these things in mind if you do get discouraged when trying to work someone. Just keep trying and when conditions are just right you will be able to do it.
Along the same lines in working DX, I'm finding it harder and harder to locate a new country to work as I approach 200. The main reason is my way of doing things. I don't like to use packet or Internet spotting to locate DX stations for me. I prefer to tune around the bands and find them myself. I believe it is much more rewarding doing it my way than to watch the spotting networks all day, and when a new DX station shows up to go and try to work it. Only one of my 193 countries came directly from observing a DX spot. That was when I was checking out some links on my web site and happened to notice V51AS was on 30M at a time I knew I could work the West Coast of Africa fairly well. I went to my shack in the other room and made the QSO easily.
I feel that using DX spotting is like this analogy. I love fishing, and especially love catching carp. But suppose I went out and caught some carp, brought them home and put them in a pond in my back yard. Then I could go and catch a carp any time I wanted to, but would that be enjoyable? No. The effort to hunt out that good spot in the river, use the right bait at the right time, etc. is what makes catching the carp fun. I feel the same way about DX spots pointing out a DX station to me and think it lessens the thrill of working the DX.
Keep in mind though that my aversion to spotting is only personal and I have nothing against those who do use it, and I don't recommend not using it. It's your personal choice. In fact I may have to start using it myself some day if I want to get well beyond 200 countries. I have links to the DX Summit spots in the DX section of my web site if you want to use them. Also if you are unfamiliar with DX spots, that would be a good place to find out about them.
Since I'm near the end of the column here I'll stick with the DX topic and put off my other thoughts until a later column.
If you're a QRPer, 2001 may be the last really good year to work some choice DX as many signs are in that sunspot cycle 23 is past its peak and on the decline now. Perhaps the main sign is that the Sun's magnetic field has reversed its polarity, something that generally happens near the peak activity point of a cycle. So don't delay, get on the bands now and chase that DX if that is your wont.
I promised my URL earlier in the column so here it is: home.windstream.net/johnshan/. If there is anything you'd like to share with me, send me email or regular mail to John Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304. Till next month 73 and good DXing. -30-