“The chatter on the ON4KST chat site was prolific, so much so that I had a hard time keeping up with all the happenings. I know I lost track of much of it. ” – Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV
That pretty much sums up the first evening of the First Annual Midwinter 630-meter Activity Weekend – There was a LOT of activity on 630-meters.
About today’s report: Because there was so much that happened overnight I am sure to leave out some important fact. Please send me an email at KB5NJD <at> gmail dot <com> if you have further pertinent details or corrections. The main event really was the cross band activity put on by the guys in Canada. At the time of this session report, I have only limited details about who worked whom. The complete report will be posted after the event is over. Much of this content comes directly from posts on a variety of email reflectors told in the operators own words while some of the content is my first-hand experience as an operator. Thanks to all that contributed.
The basic format of the special event was simple: “anything goes” – operate what YOU want to operate and put on a show for the receiving audience. After night one the modes in use seem to have been limited to CW, QRSS, JT9 and WSPR. That’s a good mix to have. Too many modes tends to dilute and confuse everyone that is taking part. I suspect similar modes will be seen tonight.
Band conditions were pretty good early on. There was some question as the evening persisted but I think we are so conditioned to look at WSPR reports that when it comes down to operating aural CW, we tend to think the band is poor if the signal is weak. It only takes a -11 or -12 dB S/N for normal CW to become quite painful to copy. Late evening WSPR reports from my station suggested good band conditions into the Midwest with weaker propagation to the west and Pacific Northwest. This seems to corroborate some on air observations where the western paths may have been better earlier in the evening. The geomagnetic field was quiet and the Bz was pointing only slightly to the south. Solar wind persisted near 450 km/s.
I began transitioning my station around 2330z, about 30 minutes before sunset in North Texas. My first operating activity would be CW on 474.5 kHz so I adjusted the match a bit by throwing a series of high speed CW dits and adjusting the motor that controls the variometer as I watched the scope match. In between transmissions I was hearing a signal – it was “XJM” as in Eric, NO3M / WG2XJM, in western Pennsylvania. It was now 20 minutes prior to sunset and Eric was a strong RST559. This QSO set the stage for what was going to be a very strong session and at least two more CW QSO’s with Eric during the evening, one at a ridiculously low power level.
I caught Eric CQing a bit later on 474 kHz and it sounded like this:
The Canadians had variable start times for their operations and Mitch, VE3OT, was the first to enter the bullpen for two-way cross band CW QSO’s. I should note that I had no copy on Joe, VO1NA, in Newfoundland. Mitch sounded great on 477 kHz and was hearing me very well on 7058 kHz. I had the presence of mind to start the recorder as Mitch was sending his final transmission:
Mitch also posted the following report on the LOWFER reflector:
At 0100z I transitioned to JT9 for a bit and was pleasantly surprised to hear Al, K2BLA / WI2XBV, in Florida answering my CQ. A number of stations reported the QSO, including Ralph, W0RPK, Garry, K3SIW, and Ken, SWL/K9, in Indiana even sent a screen shot with the following transcript:
More CW at WG2XIQ yielded a QSO with Larry, W7IUV / WH2XGP, in Washington state followed by a very loud second QSO from Eric, NO3M / WG2XJM, that sounded like this:
Not too long after the second QSO with Eric, it was time to start looking for Canadian cross band stations again. Next in the bullpen was Steve, VE7SL. I had listened for Steve earlier but it was much too early. When he finally popped out of the noise, his signal was there to stay and Steve remained strong each time his signal was on the air. The recording was made rather early, before his signal on 473 kHz had a chance to strengthen but it yielded a good QSO with me transmitting on 7066 kHz. As in previous instances, I remembered to press record and was able to get a small sample just before our QSO began:
More CQing yielded the final formal CW QSO with WG2XJM for the evening and this one was incredible. Eric was using the MOPA during the event and had turned the power down to 7W TPO which was as low as the transmitter would go. He called me and was a solid RST539 and was easy copy. He indicated 7W during the QSO, but it did not register at the time that he was talking about TPO and not ERP. Eric notes this morning that the ERP was probably somewhere between 0.5W and 0.7W. That’s remarkable and takes me back to my 1W ERP days! For stations questioning their ability to put an effective signal on the band, let this be an example for what is possible. Equally amazing was that Ken, SWL/K9, recorded part of the QSO, presented below. In this recording, WG2XKA’s beacon is the higher-pitched signal and Eric is the lower-pitched signal, telling me that he is running 7W TPO. I am heard later in the recording, responding to him, not realizing just how QRP he really is at the moment. Thanks to Ken, SWL/K9 for providing this recording:
I also had a nice note from Larry, WD0AKX, in Minnesota, who had heard my CQ during this same CW cycle:
At this point I decided to tune around a bit to see if I could find any random stations CQing and found Rudy, N6LF / WD2XSH/20, operating a beacon on 472 kHz:
Followed by Brian, WA1ZMS / WD2XSH/31, higher in the band:
At this point I needed to look for other remaining Canadian stations. I could hear parts of the transmission from Toby, VE7CNF, I think, but never heard John, VE7BDQ, or Mark, VA7MM. Perhaps that will change tonight. I also never heard John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, but saw a signal fading in and out around 475.3 kHz where he was transmitting. I switched to WSPR2 before bedtime and found the band to be really very serviceable and open.
So that was my perspective on the evening. Below are a number of comments and reports made by stations about what they observed through the session as posted on various reflectors, the ON4KST chat / logger, or direct email:
Fritz, W1FR, posted the following signal reports on the 600-meter research group email list:
Renee, K6FSB, had the following report for Rudy, N6LF / WD2XSH/20:
Ralph, W0RPK, posted the following signal reports on the 600-meter research group email list:
Garry, K3SIW, posted the following comments on LOWFER, along with comments from Mark, WA9ETW, and Mike, WA3TTS:
Brian, W1IR / WG2XPJ, and Dick, W7WKR / WD2XSH/26, posted the following WSPR reports from the session on the 600-meter research group email reflector:
Doug, K4LY / WH2XZO, was looking forward to operating in the event but had a mishap that prevented that from occurring, at least making transmissions on 472. Doug reported that “WG2XJM peaked 589, WG2XIQ 569, WG2XKA 559, VE3OT 539” and completed a cross band QSO with VE3OT. Not a bad haul at all!
John, WA3ETD / WG2XKA, reports that he ran a CW beacon at 250-watts TPO until around 1000z. He received a number of reports from the usual operators in addition to an aural reception from WA8ZTZ in Detroit on ‘an old King receiver with 50′ long wire, end fed’ who was looking for NDB’s. John also received an audio file from John, W1TAG, containing a daytime reception report at 1300z from Holden, MA. John notes that the audio has been filtered in post-processing:
Neil, W0YSE/7 / WG2XSV, sent the following report from his operation in Vancouver, Washington:
Neil also forwarded a report from Frank, K2NCC, showing the decode of Neil’s CW beacon:
Toby, VE7CNF, reported that his first night cross band QSO’s included KU7Z, W0YSE, VE7KW, VE7BGJ, KG0D/7, W6RKC plus locals VE7BDQ, VA7MM. He also had reception reports from N6SKM and heard WD2XSH/20 on 472 khz and WG2XSV on 476.1 kHz.
Mark, VA7MM, reported four calling stations on the first night: VE7KW, VE7BGJ, KU7Z and W6RKC.
Steve, VE7SL, reported 10 cross band QSO’s on the first night.
More updates about the special event as they become available. Don’t forget that the MRHS will be joining us tonight!
WSPR participation and activity was very high, with 89 MF WSPR stations observed on the WSPRnet activity page at 0500z. This number does not include all of the stations that were QRV in the activity weekend.
Regional and continental WSPR breakdowns follow:
HamWSPR.com provided the following North American WSPR reports for the session:
There were no trans-Atlantic or trans-African reports during this session.
EA8BVP on the Canary Islands reported DK7FC, EA5DOM, and G8HUH:
Eden, ZF1EJ, reported many of the usual WSPR stations from around the US during the session in addition to providing a number of reports for CW stations operating in the special event.
In Alaska, Laurence, KL7L / WE2XPQ, operated a bit of WSPR overnight while spending some time in the activity weekend, with reports from Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR. KL7L was designated as WSPR2 receive-only.
Merv, K9FD/KH6 / WH2XCR, was also active in the activity weekend and switched to WSPR during the late night, with numerous reports from around North America, Japan, and Australia. Merv and Larry, W7IUV / WH2XGP, were making attempts in the late evening to arrange a CW QSO, which would be the first CW QSO between North America and Hawaii on 630-meters. Unfortunately band conditions did not cooperate on this night but perhaps tonight will yield better conditions for aural CW.
John, VK2XGJ, sent the following screen capture showing the very light trace of Merv’s signal in the waterfall:
Phil, VK3ELV, had a few late reports from the previous session by TNUKJPM:
Additional anecdotes, statistics, information, and comments:
Luis, EA5DOM, reported that a station in Melilla, EA9, is QRV on 630-meter receive and is interested in transmitting.
Spiros, SV8CS, reported the following first QSO between SV and LA on 630-meters:
Jim, W5EST, provided the following commentary on 630-meter S/N variations:
“Why do 630 m signal SNRs vary so much and so rapidly over time spans of minutes? This happens even in the deep nighttime hours when it’s a storm-free night over most of North America. From what I’ve seen in the WSPR database, 2200m SNRs vary much more deliberately and gradually than the volatile way 630m signal SNRs behave.
Perhaps someday I will be ready to venture an opinion what mostly causes such 630m SNR variation. Is it a result of multipath interference between O-wave and X-wave#? Is it multipath interference between reflected wavefronts of one or both of these wave-types by differently tilted electron density contours of an ionospheric region? Is the answer some other physical mechanism entirely– short-term variations in the geomagnetic field, particle fluxes due to space weather, etc? If you know, send us the explanation and level-set the rest of us.
For the time being, I decided to go back to the basics–how radio waves of the same signal strength arriving with different amplitudes and phases combine and produce dB of signal strength in the receiver. WSPR tells us SNR, but I’m ignoring noise variations by focusing on storm free nights and assuming that the WSPR decoder gives a fairly steady noise average over its two minute timeslots. By contrast, the various amplitude components of an arriving 630m signal at random phase angles are about equally likely to be any phase angle value and combine variably somehow.
The illustration shows just two 630m signal S components S1 and S2 arriving at your RX antenna with different amplitudes and phases. The upper family of curves shows that if one signal component S2 is at least about 10dB stronger than the other component, then the strength of that component dominates. The lower family of curves shows a pronounced dip in combined signal SNR when the signal components have more nearly comparable amplitudes and approach 180° out of phase.
The night of Feb. 2-3 XZO-w1vd, xka SIQs were about 9dB. Only one of the curves is capable of producing that amount of variability, namely the curve where one signal component S2 is about 2-3dB stronger than the other component. Hmm. How can that amplitude relationship come about? It’s not necessarily that a 630m signal S has only two such components for the mostly 1-hop path between Doug’s XZO (SC) and New England. Instead, this description acts as if that were the case. And why the different behavior of 630m vs. 2200m? Food for thought! Tell us what you think, and GL in the 630m event this weekend!”
Additions, corrections, clarifications, etc? Send me a message on the Contact page or directly to KB5NJD <at> gmail dot (com)!