NORFOLK ISLAND Grid : RG30xx23, IOTA: OC-005, ITU Zone: 60, CQ Zone: 32
A "Holiday Amateur Radio Activation" from Norfolk Island, from 23rd April 2016 to 3rd May 2016.
1st September 2017 : the site was transferred to a folder under the VK4ADC.COM domain as the VK9NU.NET domain name will be allowed to lapse in due course. It has served its primary purpose (i.e. advising amateurs prior to the VK9NU operation ) and is now historical information only.
It was a holiday trip to Norfolk Island & not a pure DX-pedition so operating times and bands were spasmodic as my XYL and I visited at least some of the Island's tourist attractions during our stay. Nevertheless, I managed 4-5 reasonably full days of operating as VK9NU. The antenna and gear was set up on the morning of the 24th and was available up until early on the 3rd May.
***** VK9NU LOG HAS NOW BEEN UPLOADED TO BOTH EQSL AND LOTW ****
A few people have asked what we thought of NI so I have put fingers to keyboard and created a brief thoughts page here or via the menu under the "Thoughts.." topic..
Similarly, I have created a "what went right, what went wrong" page about the holiday activation, details here or via the menu under the "Summary.." topic.
I also found the following link on JA0RUG's site to audio of some of my contacts: http://ja0rug.blogspot.com.au/2016/05/vk9nu-21mhz-ssb.html
A review of the DX Cluster spots after my return showed up some interesting comments so these have been extracted and reformatted and saved 'forever' !! Link here or via the menu.
Activity update info has been moved to the Activity Log menu....
Trapped-V covering 80M through 6M. Adjusting tails for the various bands are the protruding wire pieces.
(this is the first setup before the orientation was changed to provide best lobe positioning to around East-West.)
The VK9NU station set up on the only real table in the place.. An EEE PC, IC-7000 transceiver, LDG Z100 tuner on top of it, 12V power supply under, headset interface on LHS, foot pedal on the floor underneath.. Software is N1MM+ for logging plus a VK4ADC/VK9NU Voice Keyer application to save the human voicebox.
Doug VK9NU/VK4ADC hard at work on the keyboard... The timber panelling behind is Norfolk Pine, as is the table itself.
The operating position on the dining table. Fortunately the XYL did not complain as it was there the entire time.
Yes, the XYL got my attention with this photo opportunity... The more important facet to note is the extensive use of ferrites in both toroidal and clip-on form on almost every lead. If you do not have a good RF earth, it is the only way to keep RF out of the audio (particularly when using a headset).
I did have one physical visitor in the form of Neville VK5XD who had arrived on Norfolk for a Lawn Bowls competition. We had a bit of a chat plus a contact with JA7FAS during his visit.
Notes on activity by band:
6M: I periodically tuned to 50.110 and ran the voice keyer calling CQ a number of times without any replies. I tuned the 6M beacon segments without hearing even a single ZL or VK beacon.
10M: I only heard a few stations on this band, worked none but there was a lot of noise, local or otherwise, affecting reception right across 28MHz most of the time.
12M: I tried to work both Ross ZL3ADT and Wayne VK4ACN on this band without success. I could hear Ross right down in the noise but he could not hear me.
15M: There were a lot of stations worked from both JA and W-land with a few other countries added in. Minimal South America or Europe though.
17M: Very similar to 15M, many JA and W's.
20M: A little more variation in countries worked. This band was initially affected by a local source of noise, traced after a couple of days to the TV/DVD combo in the room.
30M: Only a single SSB contact with Wayne VK4ACN logged though many JA, W and European callsigns heard on CW. I didn't take a CW key and did not have the computer functionality to use it for CW or other digital modes.
40M: Quite a few ZL, VK, JA, W contacts plus some from Europe and South America. This band was initially also affected by the local noise source.
80M: Only a few QSOs made on this band, VK and ZL. The antenna did not tune up in the 3794-3800 DX segment (I tried it). This band was initially affected by the local source of noise but was also covered by other external noise sources making QSOs difficult.
160M: No antenna capability on this band.
Propagation was so variable that signals particularly on 20,17 and 15M would be there quite strongly one minute and literally gone by the next minute. I heard and answered a lot of stations that called but could not be logged as they disappeared before athe two-way contact could be confirmed.
0915Z @ 3/5/2016: I am now back in VK4 and the VK9NU 2016 operation has finished.
Many thanks to all who have assisted me with posts to the DX clusters and for helping along the way. It has been most appreciated. I will be getting QSLs printed but do not rush to send me your QSL as it will be at least several weeks before I have any available, possibly a couple of months.
73 Doug VK9NU/VK4ADC
If you query whether a contact was achieved between VK9NU and you and you email me direct, the only response you get will be...
I will add to the photos to the "Photos" page after my return to VK-land.... I took well over 700 during our stay on Norfolk so it will be a case of sorting out some interesting ones to add to the site..
Why VK9NU ? These days it is not a necessity to take out a VK9 callsign for such visits by a VK amateur but it seemed like too good an opportunity not to miss. The "N" part of the suffix was required to indicate Norfolk Island until only a few years ago but that requirement has been dropped. A search through the ACMA database for VK9 callsigns produced a few possibilities but searches via Google showed recent-ish activations for many. VK9NU was one of the few callsigns that had minimal history in the search results.
Google Earth location: VK9NU.kmz
The following has been left on the page for historical purposes. In reality, I did not use frequency split at any stage.
Operating overview: I anticipate that I will work mainly 7, 10, 14, 18, 21, 24, 28 and 50 MHz SSB as propagation supports during the times of day or night that I can operate, operation on 3.5 only at night. The operating frequencies that are being targeted are on the Frequencies page, subject to some changes once operations start.
The online log lookup data is expected to be updated once daily with contact details so check it the next day rather than the day we work. If you are in the log then, you are in the log. Please don't try to work me on each band, once is enough and, hopefully, there will be enough other callers to keep me busy during my available operating time.
I do not expect to have much in the way of internet access so I won't see DX Spots or receive emails / requests. Please "spot me" if you hear/work me so others know what frequencies I am working at that time.
Local time on Norfolk is now 11 hours ahead of Coordinated Universal Time (or UTC+11:00).
The transmitter power will only be 100W and without gain antennas at my end, you will need to listen carefully. I will only work SPLIT on the HF bands so calling me on my transmit frequency will not work in your favour.
If you want a chance to contact me, please follow the below:
Please listen, and listen, and then listen again before calling.
Please only call if you can copy me properly.
Please wait for me to end a contact before you call.
Please always send your full call sign.
Please call and then listen for a reasonable interval. Do not call continuously.
Please do not transmit when I call another call sign, not yours.
Please do not transmit when I query a call sign not like yours.
Please do not transmit when I request geographic areas other than yours.
If you miss out on working me, you will still have another chance at Norfolk Island a month later.... see below.
73 Doug VK4ADC / VK9NU
Visit my main VK4ADC web site to see what else I get up to....
For those who have commented about it :
I am aware that the 2016 WIA AGM will be happening there late May 2016 and I will have come and gone prior to that event. I will certainly have more operating time than most normal attendees to that event - however - I have become aware that VI9ANZAC will be activated during the event and that other operators will be active under the callsign VK9NT as well.
Extract from the WIA News 24/1/16, text edition: " So from VK3 to VK9 a team of 5 will activate Norfolk Island as VK9NT in May, to coincide with the Wireless Institute of Australia's Annual General Meeting and invites others on the Island to join them. The DXers, Chris Chapman VK3QB, Brenton Vowles VK3YB, Luke Steele VK3HJ, Allan VK2CA and Lee Moyle VK3GK will operate May 20 to 31.
VK9NT is to be on 160m to 10m using CW and SSB, with three transceivers feeding dipoles strung up about 25-30 metres high between majestic Norfolk Island Pines, and a Sloper antenna for 160m. "
Don't forget to visit www.ahrdf.net : THE forum for Australian and New Zealand amateurs.
VK9NU spots on DX clusters….
|2016-04-24 05:35:30||14200||N0UN||Calling CQ no takers|
|2016-04-24 05:49:26||14200||VK3MEG-@||/qsl via vk4adc|
|2016-04-24 06:00:49||14200||VK4SMA||Calling CQ|
|2016-04-24 09:59:41||7151||VK2SR||on vk9n|
|2016-04-25 03:24:37||18149||VK3EY||Norfolk Island|
|2016-04-25 03:40:07||18149||JR6FC||cq cq|
|2016-04-25 03:57:09||18149||VK1MTS||Norfolk Island CQ|
|2016-04-25 09:24:16||7150||VK3MEG-@||norfolk island|
|2016-04-25 09:30:16||7150||VK2LAW-@||Tnx Doug cq|
|2016-04-26 00:17:15||21250||VK4QO||SSB tnx for QSO simplex s/p|
|2016-04-26 00:24:01||21250||ZL2IFB||Norfolk Island|
|2016-04-26 00:28:17||21250||W6NL-@||CQ CQ|
|2016-04-26 03:38:38||18115||K6SCA||Norfolk Island|
|2016-04-26 03:45:21||18115||VK3GA||FB sig Doug tnx|
|2016-04-26 03:56:16||18115||WA6TFZ||op Doug simplex|
|2016-04-26 04:04:45||18115||VK7WN||tnx qso|
|2016-04-26 07:52:22||7145||VK2NSS-@||cq dx|
|2016-04-26 08:19:31||7145||FK4RD-@||tnx for qso 73|
|2016-04-26 08:54:43||3615||VK2NSS-@||cq cq|
|2016-04-26 09:18:45||3615||VK2FSAV||Doug 5/9|
|2016-04-28 01:34:35||21250||W1TC-@||55 into ma|
|2016-04-28 01:36:40||21250||KJ6TOA||building in San Diego CA.|
|2016-04-28 01:36:41||21250||JF1SNL||TNX 73|
|2016-04-28 02:17:57||21250||N5NHJ||STEADY 59 IN DALLAS|
|2016-04-28 02:19:40||21250||PJ4DX-@||Not too strong but good ears.|
|2016-04-28 02:21:47||21250||VK3ACE||Thanks Doug 73's|
|2016-04-28 02:34:01||21250||JA1MSS||CQ US at moments JA|
|2016-04-28 02:40:35||21250||VK3EY||Norfolk Island|
|2016-04-28 02:41:18||21250||WE0J||5/9 Okla.|
|2016-04-28 02:41:46||21250||JA4CYZ||GA Tnx|
|2016-04-28 02:45:44||21250||KC0OW-@||tu fer ur patience - simplex|
|2016-04-28 02:47:28||21250||NH7AA-@||SIMPLEX NORFOLK ISL|
|2016-04-28 02:49:07||21250||VK6DW||Calling CQ. Easy copy in Perth|
|2016-04-28 03:26:08||21250||JA1MSS||Come back here|
|2016-04-28 03:40:42||14195||5B4ALJ||tnx QSO!|
|2016-04-28 04:42:51||14195.2||VK3CNE||ssb cq|
|2016-04-28 04:54:55||14195||N7QT||smplx good sig into WWA|
|2016-04-28 05:15:24||14195||N2PPL||Mny tnx fer ATNO Doug! 88 Jul|
|2016-04-28 05:18:08||14195||VK3JMB||calling not many takers|
|2016-04-28 05:19:57||14195||W6LG||cq cq|
|2016-04-28 18:05:56||7090||VK3OT-@||cq dx|
|2016-04-28 18:19:01||7090||IW2GQW||tnx 5/9 up 5|
|2016-04-29 01:16:49||18115||VK5BC||tnx Doug|
|2016-04-29 01:18:53||18115||KJ6TOA||weak with Deep QSB great ears|
|2016-04-29 01:21:35||18115||KC3X||weak both SP & LP|
|2016-04-29 01:26:30||18115||VK6WX||Not strong in sth VK6.|
|2016-04-29 01:41:14||18115||JO1KKD||CQ DX...|
|2016-04-29 02:31:04||18115||KD0PO-@||Doug with gud sig|
|2016-04-29 02:35:28||18115||PJ4DX-@||Weak but good ears|
|2016-04-29 03:16:06||21250||PS2T||pse qsy to 20 samerica py5eg|
|2016-04-29 04:54:14||14203||VK4KX-@||CQ CQ 5X9|
|2016-04-29 05:00:54||14203||VK2IR||59 tnxs Doug cq cq cq|
|2016-04-29 05:05:57||14203||K2DRH||weak but workable in IL|
|2016-04-29 05:08:25||14203||VK2SOL||tnx qso utc 05;05|
|2016-04-29 05:40:08||14230||VK2HSV||Calling CQ from Norfolk Is|
|2016-04-29 05:47:46||14230||LO0SER-@||DJ3AA via remote...|
|2016-04-29 05:53:21||14230||EA8AXT||cq cq|
|2016-04-29 06:13:57||14232||VK5PAS||Calling CQ DX from Norfolk Isl|
|2016-04-29 06:24:26||14232||VK4KUS||calling cq 5/9 in VK4 73|
|2016-04-29 06:30:59||14232||VK4CC||Norfolk Is|
|2016-04-30 01:07:44||14195||VK2VCC||57 sydney Douglas|
|2016-04-30 01:12:42||14195||KJ6TOA||freq busy in NA with 59+ Dx :(|
|2016-04-30 01:17:50||14195||VK2XXM||Thnx Doug. 5x4 sigs into Nthrn|
|2016-04-30 04:44:50||14221||VK2SF||CQ Norfolk Island|
|2016-04-30 04:46:53||14221||VK2SOL||VK9NU TNX DOUG|
|2016-04-30 04:50:06||14221||R9AB||DIGI QRM|
|2016-04-30 05:02:00||14221||PY5CA||54 in s america tks PY5EG|
|2016-04-30 05:03:52||14221||VK3BY||cq cq|
|2016-04-30 08:46:31||7156||VK2HV||cq not busy|
|2016-04-30 20:59:22||14205||VK2VCC||56 doug in sydney|
|2016-04-30 21:05:34||14205||JA5BZL||fb sig cq|
|2016-05-01 02:24:06||21250||VK3EY||CQ DX|
|2016-05-01 02:28:33||21250||KJ6TOA||building in SO CA|
|2016-05-01 02:34:39||21250||NY0V||Gud in MN|
|2016-05-01 02:42:00||21250||W5SWV||tnx simplex|
|2016-05-01 02:51:44||21250||K2DRH||QRZ USA|
|2016-05-01 03:02:01||21250||N6ZN||5-5 good ears Norfolk Island|
|2016-05-01 03:19:10||21250||N7QT||strong smplx into WWA|
|2016-05-01 03:19:22||21250||VK3VKT||calling CQ|
|2016-05-01 03:28:28||21250||K6MKF||59 into NorCal SIMPLEX|
|2016-05-01 03:32:02||21250||VK3ACT-@||Tnx QSO|
|2016-05-01 03:55:24||14195||VK4BG||Looking for contacts..5/9 in S|
|2016-05-01 04:22:28||14195||PY5DK||Tnx. Douglas.GoodDX.73.|
|2016-05-01 04:35:27||14195||NH7AA-@||CQ DX ximplex|
|2016-05-01 05:02:24||14195||DK8MZ-@||Dough CQing alone|
|2016-05-01 08:24:49||7135||VK4ACN||Norfolk Is|
|2016-05-01 08:36:37||7160||VK4FXAC||calling cq|
|2016-05-01 09:07:04||7168||VK4ACN||Norfolk calling CQ|
|2016-05-01 09:26:21||7168||VK4ACN||Norfolk Is|
|2016-05-01 09:29:27||7177||VK2HV||Doug now here|
|2016-05-01 09:32:31||7171||VK2HV||qsy here from qrm|
|2016-05-01 09:52:20||7139||VK4NSA||CQ DX|
|2016-05-02 01:45:45||21250||N5MOA-@||simplex...hears well|
|2016-05-02 01:59:13||21250||W6YW||59 calif good dx cq cq|
|2016-05-02 02:32:14||21250||VK2IG-@||Not busy!|
|2016-05-02 02:43:33||18125||VK2IG-@||Tnx & 73 Doug|
|2016-05-02 02:44:12||18125||KE5FN||Nice sig in TX Doug|
|2016-05-02 02:47:31||18130||VK2IG-@||Now here|
|2016-05-02 02:55:33||18150||VK2IG-@||Now here due QRM. Simplex|
|2016-05-02 02:55:49||18150||KE5FN||now here|
|2016-05-02 03:00:01||18150||ZL4AS||Doug last day|
|2016-05-02 03:07:07||18150||VK2IG-@||Not busy|
|2016-05-02 03:16:07||18150||ZL4DH||Not a lot happening|
|2016-05-02 03:31:07||18150||AA7E||great signal into Oregon|
|2016-05-02 05:01:10||14195||VK2IG-@||Tnx Doug - not busy|
|2016-05-02 05:08:24||14195||VK3AWG||OC-005 Doug Not Busy|
|2016-05-02 05:11:40||14195||VK4ACN||Norfolk Is|
|2016-05-02 05:11:42||14195||VK2KJJ-@||Cq dx|
|2016-05-02 05:21:08||14195||VK2HV||doug loud|
|2016-05-02 05:29:16||14195||N0AH||simplex hvy QSB but workable C|
|2016-05-02 05:34:38||14195||W6QU-@||CQ Hears very well!|
|2016-05-02 05:41:09||14195||VK2IG-@||Doug. Not busy|
|2016-05-02 05:47:44||14195||EI3GYB||Badly needed- but inaudible in|
|2016-05-02 05:49:22||14195||IT9CFP||TNX QSO|
|2016-05-02 06:11:11||14195||VK4KUS||calling cqdx not busy 5/9 in V|
|2016-05-02 06:27:25||14195||KE5EE-@||Tnx simplex w/200w|
|2016-05-02 06:31:09||14195||VK2MI||calling cq|
Thoughts about Norfolk Island
Compiled 10 May 2016
N.I is a nice place to visit as a holiday destination or a Dx-pedition but I wouldn’t really want to live there. Sure, the locals are friendly and it is quiet but if you are looking for a place to retire then you would need to think carefully before moving to N.I permanently. Tourism is a major activity for all islanders and they take the island’s history to heart. They share that history with the visitors in the form of visits to historic places with talented guides to pass on the stories of the past. It is a picturesque place with many appealing scenes, to the extent of some 700 photos later, we have captured only a small part of the island for later review.
The island is only about 8km by 5km so nothing is too far away. Even so, it is not hard to clock up lots of kilometres on the hire car and at $AUS2.05/litre for unleaded petrol, the fuel bill can mount quickly as you trip along all the island’s roads. Mentioning roads, they are more like filled potholes with a bit of bitumen in between. There are very few roads in good condition so you need to be thankful that you are driving a hire car. P.S. Cows have right-of-way on the roads.
The weather is truly changeable on the island, probably due to its small size. It could be dazzling sunshine one hour, raining sometime in the next, sometimes quicker than that. We had a thunderstorm occur on our second night and it was mild for us (used to severe ones here in South East Queensland) but a few locals later commented on how bad it was.
The only fresh vegetables imported are potatoes, onions, garlic and ginger and everything else is grown on the island and seasonal. Only fruit grown on the island is available and while we were there, it was in relatively short supply. Don’t expect the range of fresh fruit and vegetables that you have available at home to be ready for purchase – their range is quite limited.
I am not aware of any five star hotels or restaurants on the island. There are a number of restaurants and takeaways in the Burnt Pine central shopping precinct but the range of food is somewhat limited. Much of the accommodation is dated though clean and comfortable.
Be prepared to pay if you want fresh milk, at about $AUS8.60/litre, and only available on Sundays after the weekly flight from Auckland arrives. Otherwise, it is UHT milk that goes in your tea, coffee or on your cereal. There are two supermarkets on the island at the moment, neither as large as a Coles or Woolworths, more like an IGA size, and with limited brands and stock levels. The stock is mainly a mix of Australian and New Zealand products.
There is currently a political storm involving the island with Australia planning on implementing commonly available things like Medicare and Centrelink Benefits for NI citizens as from 1st July 2016. The changes are far reaching and will involve NI people paying Income Tax for the first time, changes to the way their businesses are run, licensing of same, etc.. A referendum on the island indicated 78% of the NI people do not want the changes but the Australian Government is making them regardless.
Our visit was over 10 days and we checked off all the things we felt we wanted to see off a master list easily. There are many other facets that we did not undertake, and not because of time, but simply because they held no interest for either of us. I was lucky that I took amateur radio equipment to use during the trip because I would have been utterly bored before the end of the 10 days otherwise.
We have no plans to revisit Norfolk, lovely as it is, because we have largely seen what it has to offer and would be better served by spending our money visiting somewhere new.
Summary of NI Operation
23 April - 3 May 2016
Compiled 10May 2016
Firstly I would like to point out that this operation was a “holiday activation” and not a true DX-pedition so the station was not on air all day and all night. The weeks previous to the event were marred by bad family circumstances such that I was tired before I went, more-so while I was there, mainly due to lack of sleep and things still happening at home. That does not really make for late nights working DX when you wake at maybe 2AM, 3AM or 4AM and you have to be considerate of your XYL who is similarly tired so you can’t just turn on the radio and make a lot of noise, and even just speaking into a microphone is too much at those hours.
What went right…
The gear transported well within my main suitcase but it was packaged in bubble wrap to reduce the probability / possibility of damage. The total weight of the gear plus coaxes plus antennas plus accessories plus suitcase was such that I could only add two pairs of cotton shorts, two polo shirts, one pair of joggers and a pair of rubber thongs (/scuffs /jandals) before hitting the 23Kg suitcase weight limit.
The radio gear set up on the table in the apartment more or less as I had expected, the palm tree just outside the “apartment” was within a 20 metre run of coax (two x 10m actually) and was a good mounting point for a halyard to support the 1:1 balun. The fully homebrew multiband trapped dipole was able to be tied off to the frame of the communal BBQ shelter at one end and the other was held in place with one of two tent pegs taken “just in case”. I used only part of one of the two 50m x 4mm packages of nylon rope to create both the halyard and the two end ropes. The other returned home unopened.
The care I had taken in fitting toroids and clip-on ferrites on the various interconnecting leads reduced self-generated QRM to almost nothing both to and from the radio gear from the nearby antenna arrangement, particularly from RF into the headset lead and newly-homebrewed headset adapter. The only issue I noted was that on 80m and 40m, the audio in the headset seemed “edgy” on transmit but that was solved by creating a 9-10 turn coax choke balun with the feeder’s extra and unused length. I doubt that the RF pickup would have been an issue at all if an effective RF earth (eg stake) had been available and close at hand. Otherwise, the homebrew headset adapater box worked well and provided easy setup of the transmit audio from both the headset and the computer’s headphone output for the voice keyer, the internal VOX gain and delay settings, and probably the most important facet was the receiver audio and sidetone level in the headphones. That sidetone level was intentionally high to prevent me from shouting into the microphone – something I tend to do if I can’t hear myself.
The little 10” Asus Netbook EEEPC (with Win7) worked well for the logging function, my simple voice keyer software worked well too and saved my voicebox from a lot of calling of ‘CQDX’ over the days. I used the N1MM+ logging software set up for Dx-pedition style logging so that I only had to enter the callsign and the two RS(T) values, the frequency and emission mode details being taken care of by a C-IV connection to the IC-7000. I did end up with a corrupted database on day 2 due to an error I made in my backup batch file but I had done an Export to ADIF just prior to that so I was quickly able to create a new empty database and then import the ADIF file to recreate the entire log. I then made it a point to File/Export the log data to a new filename (ie xxxx.ADI ) at least every day, mostly more than once a day, so that I need not panic if something went wrong again. The whole of the N1MM logging data was backed up to an external USB drive multiple times each day too.
The multiband antenna initially tuned up close to the desired segments on each band to suit my planned operating frequencies (eg 3610, 7145, 10120, 14195, 18115, 21250, 24950, 28450 and 50110). I did take the time to do a slight tail adjustment on some of the lower bands to get them a little closer given the physical mounting arrangement was lower at the centre and the ends versus the pre-trip setup values at home. The SWR vs frequency sweep function on the IC-7000 made that task quite easy. The LDG Z100 tuner sorted out the SWR so that the transmitter always saw < 2:1 regardless of operating away from the antenna’s actual resonant frequency. I can only recommend the “tail” concept for the fine tuning process because the overall antenna length does not change. The advantage of the trap style is multiband operation but when operating from such a physical location, the shorter overall length becomes a bonus. A full size dipole antenna on 80m would not have fitted where it needed to be placed, and the same probably goes for a full size 40m dipole.
There was no real need to run split frequency on any of the bands. The pile-ups were largely manageable on a single frequency even though some JA’s do not understand USA ONLY. I had the radio set up so that I could run split if needed but it wasn’t necessary.
What went wrong…
Propagation was relatively poor and coupled with the 100W PEP from the IC-7000, some contacts were difficult to finish. QRM in/from USA and Europe would not have helped either way. The other known factor was that the dipole/V antenna was only about 5 metres above ground at the centre and one end was only about one metre above ground. That, coupled with the use of traps which decrease bandwidth and overall efficiency, made the effective transmitted power less than optimal. The physical dipole positioning initially gave lobes SE/NW but was shifted to make it more E/W and give better signals into/from the USA.
The short “longwire” (7m long) and toroidal matching transformer was tried early in the piece but the local noise pickup was worse than on the dipole so it was abandoned and repacked in the luggage straight away. A longer “longwire” plus the pre-arranging for more wire(s) to drape along the ground in lieu of an earth stake would be a good idea.
The one bedroom / combination lounge/dining/kitchen apartment we occupied was the end one in a set of four comprising a stand-alone building. The building also had two large banks of solar panels mounted on the roof (not seen in the Google Earth images) and the two Aurora Inverters were mounted on the outside wall adjacent to the palm tree supporting the centre of the dipole. The antenna placement was thus by no means ideal and a certain amount of hash was heard across 80m and 10m that seems to have come from this array. I initially thought the hash across the whole of the 80, 40, 30 and 20m bands was from the solar power system but it stayed there at night. It only disappeared when the power to the LCD TV and the DVD player was turned off at the wall. I should have tried the longwire again after solving the noise but had no real inclination to do so.
The headset I used was a combination of two different makes of headset, in that I took the microphone stalk off one headset and fitted it to another comfortable set of headphones. The original headset that had the stalk was labelled ‘noise cancelling’ and destined for computer use. In practice, the microphone picked up noises from anywhere in the apartment and even loud noises from outside – often enough to trigger the VOX. I will need to find a better truly “noise cancelling mic insert “ arrangement to improve the rejection of background noises. I also need to revamp the adapter so that I can automatically drop the audio level in the headphones when the voice keyer is running (I feel a MK2 version might be coming along soon…).
Internet access was slow and relatively costly. The wireless hotspot was supposed to be 2MB/s download but it was more like 100KB/s (or less) as web pages were really slow to open. I uploaded the VK9NU logbook to the VK9NU.NET web site at least once a day, usually more often, and it was always quite slow even with only a small file size. The cost of just connecting to the hotspot (let alone logging in) was $35 for 10 hours in minute increments. If you forgot to actually disconnect the wireless connection (like I did once for 3+ hours even though I “logged out”), the minutes meter kept rolling onward.
I made a mistake in letting Windows update run on the Netbook computer and not making sure it was set to OFF well before the trip and re-starting Windows a number of times. The PC took about 3 hours on Monday 25th to finish installing Windows updates (and was therefore unusable) when I went to do a system restart. That meant I couldn’t log - so couldn’t operate.
The apartments were relatively close together and with the almost complete quiet at night/early morning (feral roosters crowing excepted), making almost any noise (like calling CQDX or exchanging reports) would have carried quite a distance. A more suitable arrangement would have been in a building separated further from other tenants.
My XYL Christine was attending the Quilt Norfolk retreat classes for four of the days and I had to drive her there around 8AM and pick her up about 3.30PM on those days and this later time was right in the middle of the best propagation on 20m, 17m or 15m to Europe so I was obliged to QRT for at least half an hour and usually more. We went out to dinner most nights, sometimes tourist-ing as well, so that reduced actual operating time.
What to do better….
..Maybe work harder to avoid the missed QSOs – the partial contacts where a two-way exchange was not completed so the callsign was then wiped from the log. This mostly happened due to the patchy propagation but sometimes from QRM at the other end. Most of the time I could hear signals right down to the low local noise level on 20, 17 and 15m so was able to copy quite a few stations who had issues clearly copying my transmissions.
..More transmitter power and better antennas would improve the contact rate.
..I might take an extra antenna in the form of a squid pole plus a ground mounting method so that I could get a wire truly vertical, again with a nest of wires as a ground plane. (I often heard T32TV working European, US , JA and SA DX and he was using just a vertical wire antenna.) That would give omnidirectional coverage and solve the nulls issue off the ends of the wire dipole.
..Find a DX QTH that can allow larger / full-size dipoles or wire antennas. The better the antenna then the better the DX operation. Couple that with a low-noise environment to get a true winner.
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