A few more storms were present in North America during this session mostly impacting the Midwest but it was by no means a washout. In fact, Ken, SWL/K9, located in Indiana, found success during a thunderstorm using a receive loop located inside the house for part of the evening – talk about clandestine radio! Longer haul paths were impacted overnight due to propagation and noise and reports of high QRN and approaching storms resulted in a meager night in Oceania. It was a busy session with lots of varied activity in North America, however, which often goes a long way on any night, regardless of conditions or propagation.
Geomagnetic conditions continue at elevated-quiet levels and the Bz has pushed North for persistent periods. Solar wind velocities have returned to the low category, averaging 380 km/s. DST values are the best they have been in some time and were generally at or above unity through the session.
Paul, W0RW / WA2XRM, reports daytime ground wave testing TODAY. Have a listen as there is quite a bit of skywave during the day this time of year. Here is Paul’s announcement form the 600-meter research group:
“WA2XRM is running Ground Wave Test today, 10am until Noon MST, 12 Jan. 2017. Please listen for WA2XRM on 479.903 kHz sending CW at 15 wpm. Looking for reports around CO, WY, NM, KS and UT. My friend in Nederland can not hear me any more because of “Grow Light” QRN. Hope you don’t have any local noise sources. If you have QRN you might be able to locate it with a small AM Transistor radio. Send email reports to email@example.com Paul wa2xrm”
The trans-African path showed life again as G3KEV received reports from FR5ZX. Report details can be viewed here.
Unfortunately TR8CA did not return for this session and no ZS stations have been present for over a week. Africa can be a very complicated location to operate MF and LF radio due to very high noise levels. Some of this is due to utility infrastructure in developed areas while others simply involve the latitude and season. These challenges can be very discouraging for stations trying to find success using simple stations. The good news is that these challenges are not insurmountable and a little effort can go a long way to achieving the desired result.
In the 90’s Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, spent time on assignment in West Africa and was interested in receiving MF and LF during his stay. Many naysayers warned him that he was wasting his time but Laurence stuck to his instincts. Being a little “stubborn” paid off as Laurence was successful in receiving a number of stations in Europe. That doesn’t mean it was easy. Laurence reported some nights where the noise was 40 over S9. But you keep trying, you keep fighting and eventually you are rewarded, just as Laurence was. Its very gratifying to find this type of success, particularly when someone says you can’t.
There are a number of stations in Europe ( 15 – 20 now?) that have been heard by FR5ZX over the last year. It’s my hope that many of these stations will continue to be active and operate their stations at the highest level to give these remote outposts the best chance of being able to hear under the most adverse conditions. Similarly, I hope the stations in areas where the odds are against them will continue to improve their receiving capabilities and most importantly – continue to show up each night. A wise man once said of topband: “The most successful operators are in the chair at the operating position every night and every morning.” This is also very true at MF and LF.
Trans-Atlantic reports were down again, this time only WD2XSH/17 receiving reports from G0LUJ and PA0RDT. Report details can be viewed here. Paul, N1BUG, reported that his receive antenna system has been repaired after a mishap yesterday morning but he had no trans-Atlantic reports overnight.
Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, performed a slow speed CW experiment during the evening before switching to WSPR:
“GM John. I did an experiment last night based on Jim/W5EST’s article about very slow CW in yesterday’s blog. I used MultiPSK in beacon mode and QRSS1, which is about 1.2 wpm CW. I got a couple of nice captures from Mark, KU7Z in Ogden UT. He was also able to hear my on/off carrier at times. The attachment shows his capture using Argo in QRSS3 “FAST” mode. I was running about 1w ERP. MultiPSK crashed on me some time later, not sure when cuz I was not in the shack when it happened.
I switched back to WSPR for the remainder of the night and was decoded by 20 unique stations. This data shows those that were over 2000 km distance. Getting as far east as XJM and XR indicates that prop was pretty good last night, not to mention XCR and XPQ….”
Phil, VE3CIQ, reported that the session was pretty good as he operated with only 40-watts TPO and received WSPR reports from 33 unique stations. He provided reports for thirteen WSPR stations.
Doug, K4LY / WH2XZO, wonder if this session revealed the best conditions observed in a long time. He provided WSPR decodes to twelve stations and was decoded by 48 unique stations which was the high number to decode Doug in a single session this new year. He also reported decodes of a single VE7, an area which has been eluding him recently and he shared two-way reports with WH2XCR. Doug indicates that early evening band conditions were not as good as he was tuning for NDB’s.
Rick, W7RNB / WI2XJQ, provided reports for six WSPR stations and was reported by 29 unique stations. Rick’s unique report details can be viewed here.
Ernie, KC4SIT (pending WI2XQU), submitted the following detailed report, with content from the previous session, in addition to JT9, CW and WSPR from this session:
“Yesterday I had mentioned that some of my draft failed to copy into the email I sent you. David N1DAY and I have been trying to determine why the non-trap L seems to get better reception than the L with traps. We are working to construct our 630 antenna therefor we are using 2 inverted Ls, one that has traps for 80/40 for reception. The non-trap L beats the trap L hands down, both in distance and signal strength. We have looked at Steve WD8DAS/WH2XHY PDF on inverted L for 630 meter. http://www.wd8das.net/630mPractical.pdf
There should have been 4 stations in my email to John yesterday comparing signal strength between the non-trap and trap. Here is the report. SNR for the trap L is in red.
Last night, Jan 12 was the best night ever, we thought, for reception; I’ve pulled those number for the below station and included on a line of their own.
WG2XXM: 11:00z-11:32. +2, +9, +9, -2, +3. 11:00z-11:28z -22, -24, -15, -19, -23, -19, -18, -26. Jan-12, 11:16z-11:32z. -2, -3, -5, 1, -3.
WH2XZO: 11:02z-11:28Z. +16, +21, +21, +21. 11:00z-11:32z. -3, -4, -3, -2, -3, -2. Jan-12, 11:00z-11:32z. 11, 13, 14, 11, 12.
WG2XIQ: 10:58z-11:40z.-10,-17, 0, -1. 11:02z-11:32. -26, -24, -23, -23. Jan-12, 11:02z-11:32. -15, -10, -20, -17, -14.
WI2XBV: 11:32z-11:40z. -9, -6, -5. 11:00z-11:04z. -22, -19.
These numbers were compiled Monday Jan 10 (non-trap L), Tuesday Jan 11 (trap L) and Wednesday Jan 12 (non-trap L). Interestingly enough for those of us in Flat Rock, I would have bet that Wednesday the 12th was the better of the 3 days. Sound was better, waterfall appeared more intense; but in actually Monday the 10th was the better day. We will keep you advised of our reception study. WD8DAS/WH2XHY had mentioned usinga 75m inverted V, perhaps we will give that a try. David N1DAY and I both look forward to the day we can transmit.
But speaking of good days, last night was actually great for us. Both David and I caught John’s WG2XIQ CW CQ. I was in the JT9 mode but I managed to get a screenshot (located about the 300 mark).
I also managed to catch John’s JT9 CQ. This was my first JT9 copy on the 630 meter band (the beloved 630 meter band if I might add).
I had 13 unique spots last night, my best number ever. David, who started a bit later than I did, had 12 unique spots. Here are the spots followed by my reception map. We must give big thanks to John KB5NJD/WG2XIQ who has offered us so much help and advice; we would be lost in the radio waves without him. 73 until next time, Ernie KC4SIT also awaiting WI2XQU.”
David, N1DAY’s data:
Mike, WA3TTS, experienced improvements on a number of fronts during this session:
“John: Good to see Merv move back toward the lower edge of the WSPR2 band,,,very wet ground cndx and wet power lines seem to have lowered my noise floor a bit…. using my NW EWE antenna direction for overnight reception:
Interesting that WI2XJQ had somewhat similar levels and number of decodes from EN90 as XCR overnight….
XGP was very audible overnight”
Amazingly, there were no trans-Pacific reports during this session, excluding KL7 and KH6. Roger, VK4YB, reported that strong storms were approaching and QRN was very high and that he was shutting down, possibly to return after the threat passes. It’s been a long time since there have been zero reports to or from Oceania in a session.
I was QRV just prior to 2300z using WSPR and receiving a few early reports. None of this was out of the ordinary. Just prior to 0130z I transitioned to JT9 and called CQ, quickly receiving a call from Eric, NO3M / WG2XJM. We completed a textbook QSO and I continued to call CQ for a bit.
Also providing reports were Mark, WA9ETW / WI2XHJ, who indicated that I was at -16 dB S/N at 0129z and Jay, KA9CFD, who reported me at -4 dB S/N and Eric at +4 dB S/N. Ken, N8CGY, reported Eric at -14 dB S/N. There were also the reports previously mentioned from KC4SIT and N1DAY. Ken, SWL/K9 (SWL/EN61), located in Indiana reported that he was under a thunderstorm and was listening with a loop inside the house. He provided a number of reports listed below. Ken inferred that he was able to return to the external antenna after the storms passed but was forced off the air again by storms this morning:
At 0200z I transitioned to CW for a bit and received the previously mentioned reports from KC4SIT and N1DAY. Eric had left the operating position at this point and I did not expect him to return before I transitioned back to WSPR around 0230z. WSPR yielded a solid night of reports both on transmit and receive. It wasn’t the best night that I’ve seen recently but domestic openings were strong and consistent through the night. My WSPR transmission report details can be viewed here and my WSPR reception report details can be viewed here.
Regional and continental WSPR breakdowns follow:
Eden, ZF1EJ, was apparently performing some internal tests, possibly using a dummy load, to insure that his system is ready to transmit after his transmit antenna system is finished out in the coming days. He provided himself a -17 dB S/N report near midday on Wednesday. During the overnight, Eden provided reports for VE3EFF, VE3CIQ, WG2XPJ, WD2XSH/17, WG2XJM, WH2XNG, WH2XZO, WI2XBV, WD2XSH/15, WG2XXM, WG2XIQ, WH2XGP, WI2XJQ, WH2XCR. Report details for these stations can be viewed here.
Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, experienced what was at least a fairly balanced night of received stations and stations receiving him. Higher latitudes continue to suffer a bit which may explain why trans-Atlantic reports were down significantly from previous session. Laurence did share two-way reports with WH2XCR, in fact, quite a few.
Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, experienced a slower than usual session, likely due to storms in VK where only VK2XGJ braved the weather to submit a single report. Merv shared two-way reports with WH2XZO, which has not happened in quite some time. He also shared two-way reports with WG2XJM and was also reported by WA3TTS in fine form after Merv relocated his signal to “less choppy waters”. Report details for Merv’s VK and KL7 decodes can be viewed here.
Jim, W5EST, presents, “TIME-SHORTENED 1-2 WPM QSO: SUB-AUDIBLE CW ON 630/2200M”:
“Yesterday’s blog described keyer or software-generated “QRS 1” CW at 1 or 2 WPM for MF/LF. If the TX station is below about -13 dB SNR, your ears probably can’t hear it, but your RX waterfall may nevertheless display successfully for visual copy. WG2XIQ at 1 WPM yielded visual CW copy down to -22 dB SNR on the G33DDC SDR waterfall here.
Today, let’s delve deeper. How does one transmit more information in a short time at a CW speed that’s so slow? Well, MF/LF hams and experimenters know a lot about CW QSOs and 630m/2200m, and about each other.
Many CW QSOs even on HF are relatively stylized and capable of information compression to say the same things and observe etiquette in fewer characters if we wish. For QRS CW QSO procedure on MF/LF, we can look for analogies (see Endnote*) from digital mode QSO exchanges, QRSS, DXing, and EME.
CW speed choices should be kept few and familiar in timing. I’d recommend just three choices: A) 1 WPM with 1.0 second dit, B) 2 WPM with 0.5 second dit, and C) regular CW at whatever speed you prefer to send and can tell from the circumstances would be convenient for the other station op to copy. Using the 1.0 or 0.5 second dit can help the receiving op visually deduce a character that’s partially obscured in noise. Some waterfalls edge the display with 1.0 second time ticks for your reference.
MF/LF ops have an MF/LF TX station list, so op name & QTH are optional info at the present time and until band activity greatly increases. CQing station should give their full call sign. On 630m QRS 1, a replying station can probably just send the last three letters of CQing station’s call sign to signify that CQ station–before identifying self with full call sign. Applicable regulatory requirements for station identification and procedure are paramount, of course, and operating award rules now or in future may also dictate various information elements in an MF/LF QSO.
Unlike HF where the signal report may often be merely informational, MF/LF sub-audible CW will more frequently demand on-the-fly operating decisions of the TX station operator to depend on the reception level at the RX station in the QSO. Especially on 630m, signal strength may dramatically decrease or increase in even a 20 second interval due to QSB fade-downs and fade-ups. See WH2XXP-swl/k9 three-second signal strength curves in this blog Jan. 4 for instance.
The TX station’s sub-audible CW operator is essentially “flying blind” without help from the RX station operator in the QSO. Depending on band conditions, on each station’s TX and RX antennas and equipment, and on distance and other factors, one station may need to use 1 WPM to be copied at the other end while the other station can use full speed CW!
630m QSB may clip off the beginning or end of a character or word, not to mention possibly obscuring them entirely. 630/2200m QSB is unlikely to be so brief and sudden that it would only take out a single dit or the middle of a dah of CW. (Tell us if you know different.)
Partially masked signaling characters should allow a human operator to deduce the meaning in spite of QSB. Today’s TABLE shows some signaling characters for QRS 1-2 WPM that I’d suggest, subject to your better wisdom. Tell us how to improve it!
Unlike HF full break-in (QSK) that works in a small fraction of a second, we can instead expect that for hardware and antenna reasons many 630m/2200m stations need a few seconds to change from receive to transmit. Fortunately, a normal pause in QRS CW can provide those several seconds for the TX station operator to briefly learn whether the RX station needs you to toggle QRS speed at the TX station.
One should probably maintain the same QRS speed and not be too quick to go to a faster speed since that can complicate visual copy at the other end. In short, “keep it simple” and maintain a steady hand at the QRS helm–even if you don’t take advantage of every temporary fade-up that may strengthen SNR. TU & GL on sub-audible CW!”
TABLE: QRS 1-2 WPM CW SIGNALING CHARACTERS
MF/LF QRS Transmission Remarks
CQ WG2XIQ: Just one CQ & full call sign at 1 WPM. RX before repeating.
XIQ WH2XZO: Last 3 letters of CQ station 1 WPM. Full call sign of replier. RX in between.
K: Don’t use K. Simply stop after any transmission predictable in its format.
JOHN VT: Name and state abbreviation are optional from either station.
E E E E E E: AGN, pls maintain QRS speed and repeat previous transmission.
T T T: Same as E E E E E E. Use if you prefer. (TMO code)
M M M: Partial copy, can deduce most or all. (TMO code)
O O: Perfect copy. (TMO code)
A, U, W, V, S, B, Z, D, G, N: Try shortening 1-9 to send RST or #. VWN=439. SZN=57. SNN=59 (Can’t hear sub-audible tone, assume 9.)
AA AA: Please increase speed to ordinary CW speed from QRS 1-2 WPM. –or–
CW CW: Please increase speed to ordinary CW speed from QRS 1-2 WPM.
I I I I I: Please toggle from 1 WPM to 2 WPM or vice-versa depending on current sending speed. If on regular CW, pls go to 1 WPM now. (di-dit, di-dit, di-dit, di-dit, di-dit)
NN NN: Not reading you. Pls do not TX, and try receive my blind transmission now.
RRR: All received. May mean “Yes” depending on context.
SRI: I am no longer trying to copy you, too buried in noise. Pls try later. TU & GL.
_______: 4 dahs, 0 spaces, means “TU 73 dit-dit SK CQ.” You’re callable by others, w/o CQ.
/ / # : (di-dah-di-di-dit) Please wait for me. Number 1-9 # of minutes is optional. Use when adjusting station and can’t attend RX to copy QRS.
QRT : Closing down station.
* ENDNOTE http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwjw8bLLnrjRAhWCz4MKHZi6DFIQFggoMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.marc-radio.org%2FARRL%2520Operating%2520Procedures.pdf&usg=AFQjCNGHvoriGX1pk3JGEPebFYQo5QDNDA ARRL, Operating Procedures:
QRP DXing and DX procedure http://home.windstream.net/johnshan/dx_ss_working.html
JT9 example: http://njdtechnologies.net/010917/ (scroll 10%; WI2XBV, WG2XIQ, WG2XKA)
JT9 across Pacific at -27dB: http://njdtechnologies.net/091516/ (scroll 15%)
QRSS procedure, TMO: http://www.w0ch.net/qrss/qrss.htm (scroll to bottom)
http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&ved=0ahUKEwix697TnLjRAhVK4oMKHTW1BNYQFghkMAI&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.nitehawk.com%2Frasmit%2Fg3sek_op_proc.pdf&usg=AFQjCNHTU5pP__4lxF1YazB3sWgSg2WJow PDF 2002
http://www.k4lrg.org/Projects/K4MSG_EME/ (scroll 80%)
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page or directly to KB5NJD gmail dot (com).