Dxpedition to Niue Island
Bill Dawson, W7TVF
Alan Van Buren, K7CA
On 3 February 2000, we (Bill Dawson, W7TVF; Barbara Shockley, and Alan Van Buren, K7CA) checked in at Las Vegas International Air Terminal at United Airlines. All of our baggage was checked through to Auckland, New Zealand. We arrived at Los Angeles at 7:10 a.m. We found a sign for Air New Zealand at gate 25, but found that it had been changed to gate 21. We boarded the flight at 10:45 a.m. for Auckland. After sitting on the
runway until 12:10 we were on our way to Auckland -- a 13-hour flight in a 747.
The flight was delightful and we received two full meals and various snacks, orange juice and soft drinks about every 20 minutes during the flight. Complimentary wine was served after each meal as well. The service was superb, prompt and efficient by everyone involved. I have never had service like this on any other airline. We landed in Auckland some 12 hours later at 9:10 p.m.
Al and I had discussed the 4:1 transformer for our antenna, and decided we had both successfully forgotten all about it. We called Jim Wilson, N7JW, in Utah and he sent one by special carrier for us, which was to be delivered to Niue Island. To our knowledge it never made it to Niue -- at least not while we were there.
We located all of our baggage and checked through customs and security x-ray. We then left six pieces of our luggage in secure storage at Auckland Airport. We took our carry-on bags to our hotel room -- which was a comedy of errors as the
name of our hotel, Harbor View Station had very recently been changed to Auckland City Hotel.
The Airport Taxi driver or anyone around had no knowledge of Auckland City Hotel. After an hour or so, we called Doug Miller who told us where the hotel was located. We finally found the hotel and checked in (at around 3 a.m. Las Vegas time), and we were completely exhausted. We slept until 7 a.m. local time and we got up and then started walking to the downtown Queens Street area.
On Saturday evening I called Ron Wright, ZL1AM0, and he and his wife are to have lunch with us tomorrow and chat about places in the Pacific. Al, Barbara and I toured the Queens Street area of downtown Auckland for most of the day with three or four trips from our hotel.
We had a taxi scheduled to pick us up in the morning to take us to the airport for our flight to Niue. Ron Wright gave us some information on Samoa and Niue, as well as Tokelau. He warned us nor to drink the water unless it was boiled. He said mosquitoes were terrible there and the centipedes were nasty critters and gave a mean bite. Barbara and I were not bitten at all by mosquitoes, as we had taken vitamin B12 for a month before we went to Niue -- but poor Al had not taken vitamin B12 and he was being eaten alive. He started taking the B12 and I think that he found that it helped even the short time that he took it. We also never saw any kind of centipede or critters on Niue.
Ron told us that you must go by small, dirty, boats from Samoa to Tokelau and you could get stranded for weeks if the boats did not run. It is a 300-mile trip and takes 30 hours by boat.
We flew out of Auckland on Sunday which made us get to Niue on Saturday just after noon. We had a problem at the Auckland airport with Royal Tongan Airlines, as our checked baggage was overweight by 67 kilos, not to mention that our carry-on luggage, which was 70 kilos, exceeded their carryon luggage limit of 7 kilos! This means that we were a total of 137 kilos overweight -- and the charge per kilo is $11.00. After begging and pleading with all I had we managed to pay only $113.00. The lady in charge for Royal Tongan Airllnes, Kerry told us to go to William at the airport in Niue, which I did -- and he let us leave with all of our weight with no problems. Ida, of the Niue Tourism Bureau, met us at the airport and was very helpful in providing whatever we needed.
We arrived at the Niue Hotel and the manager, Dylan, allowed us to pick our rooms, which were #9 and 10. That put us on the end of the hotel next to the Pacific Ocean -- excellent for our antenna set-up, which we started putting up as soon as we got in our rooms. Despite the fact that we had to homebrew a 4:1 transformer, we had the antenna up and almost 10,000 feet of radials strung before sunset on 6 February.
The next morning Al and I started laying more radials on the north side of the antenna, which was close to the bush. Al had on shorts, so he started out through the dense vegetation to lay a radial and suddenly he went out of sight -- and then just as suddenly, he appeared again with a swarm of hornets biting him around the arms and legs. We jokingly said that particular radial was our fastest work of the trip. From then on, we used the rock-throwing method of radial installation. For the benefit of the uninitiated, the rock-
throwing method of radial installation is to tie the radial wire to a rock with about 130 feet of wire and throw the rock as far as you can. If it is not far enough, you will never know the difference anyhow. It worked very well and then we got our full compliment of radials laid.
The Niue Hotel treated us royally with service and food that was unbelievable. We had dinner each evening and we had all kinds of fish such as yellow fin tuna, bluefish, and wahoo. We enjoyed all of these specialties as well as a complimentary breakfast each day consisting of four kinds of tropical fruit, cereals, roast, coffee, as well as fruit juices. Our chef was a Polynesian fellow named E'note and he was a great chef. He even served Al's dinner in his room at the radio -- it was E'note's suggestion that he do it, so we could have our dinner without interrupting the operator.
We were having some intermittent problems with our antenna but could not pinpoint anything until Wednesday evening when I noticed huge corona arcs about four feet long off the end of the 160-meter top hat. A short while later I told Al that the Dacron guy ropes on the top hat were on fire and falling to the ground.
That should have finished the operation until after sunrise the next day, as it was too dangerous to try to take the antenna down in the dark -- but, about 0900Z we decided to try to replace the Dacron ropes by flashlight.
After that, we checked and found that the Alpha was tripping off because of high SWR. We checked the antenna by flashlight and found that the bottom sections had slipped down into each other and lost the shims.
At this point we decided to close the operation until morning. We slept until 1800z when we replaced the shims and raised the antenna back up. We still had an intermittent open so we removed the top sections of the antenna and made it a 33 foot vertical and it worked beautifully on 40 Meters.
Later in the day we put the antenna back up but we shorted out the 80 meter trap and extended the top hat wires so the antenna resonate 1.828. We worked all night on 160 with great signal reports.
On Thursday we lowered the antenna again and shortened the top hat wires to resonate the antenna on 3.503. The pile-ups were unbelievable from everywhere and the antenna worked perfectly. We worked the high bands on Friday and the pile-ups were even worse than before but they were unbelievably courteous and a pleasure to work.
I personally would like to thank all of the operators who called or worked us at Niue for the very courteous and considerate way that they conducted themselves. I had heard that all DX pileups were like a shark feeding frenzy but I did not find it that way at all. That is what I refer to as an unusual experience on the amateur bands.
On Friday I worked the high bands. The pile-ups were unbelievable but controllable. I worked the high bands and we worked 80 Meters all night. On Sunday of our second week we got on 20 Meters for the first time.
What a pile-up! I worked until 0430z and then we shifted to 80 Meters where we worked all night.
On 16 February Barbara and Bill went for a tour of the Island with our cab driver, Tony Kauie, and he gave us great tour of all of the special places on Niue. He took us to his home, his girl friend's home, and his aunt's home and ice cream shop at the end of the island. He took us to the Matavia Hotel -- its a palatial place but not good for our radio operation due to no open space. The hotel and pools are on about four levels on the side of a coral cliff overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
We went to the Telecom Director’s office and talked to him about leaving our coaxial cable and roils of wire. He was very nice and said he would keep it for us for our next trip. We went to see William in the travel bureau about getting a waiver on our overweight luggage, as per Kerry of Royal Tongan Airlines in Auckland. He told me to enjoy my vacation and not to worry, he would take care of the problem.
Along the radio operating line, I should mention that almost every day we had some kind of disaster with the vertical antenna. All of it was caused by corona, which had three to four foot arcs, and burned the Dacron ropes used to tie off the ends of the antenna top hat wires. Our radials, #28 bare copper wire, corroded quickly and would also catch on everyone's feet as they couldn't be easily seen. The Niue Hotel was very nice in not mowing the grass in our part of the area where we had the antenna.
The hotel and staff were thoughtful and made sure that we had whatever we needed. When it was raining and we were going to our meals they would have our umbrellas open just inside the door so we didn't get wet.
Our equipment was a Ten Tec Omni VI+, a Yaesu FT-847, and an Alpha 9lB -- all of which operated without a single problem, which made it even more fun. We used MFJ Superlite switching power units and they worked flawlessly. On 17 February we rebuilt our antenna for 160 Meters. I operated 30 Meters with pileups-- USA, Japan, Russians, and Europeans until 0600 when Al went to 160 for Europeans. After the European opening I went back to 30M and bigger pileups of Europeans, Asians and others. I worked 30 Meters until just before time for the East Coast sunrise and then QSY'd to160 to work the east coast.
On 18 February I started out on the 30 meter band again and had another gigantic pileup. I had wall-to-wall calls and at 0545 I had worked some 400 Q’s in about three hours -- and that's buzzing when you are hand logging with a paper and pen! I had to QSY to 160 Meters at 0545. At sunrise Al worked 4X4NJ, 4X4DK, SV8CS and 5B4ADA. That was such a big lift for us to accomplish just that much. We had several problems relating to corona so we made corona rings at the end of each top hat wire and the problem was permanently solved.
Our last night of operation was terminated at daylight on Sunday morning when Al woke me up. We lowered the vertical antenna and started disassembling it for shipment. Barbara and I started taking up the 10,000 feet of radial wire which we had installed under the antenna. In about an hour we had all of the radials up, the antenna disassembled and packed for shipment, all coax rolled up and ready. I then went into Al's room to remove the transformer from the Alpha 9lb for shipment. By 9:10 a.m. on Sunday we were picked up by the hotel shuttle van and we were off to the airport for our return flight to Auckland. All of the people that we had been staying with were at the airport to see us off and wish us well.
It was indeed a great experience to make such a trip and I'm sure that I will never forger it. My two friends feel the same way.
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO, January 2002 issue.
Nancy Kott, WZ8C
I have received letters asking about straight key operation that indicate people have questions about the very basics of using a straight key. To newcomers, a straight key can be foreign even though it's operation is quite straightforward.
Here is a sample letter from my mailbox, "Hi Nancy, I have a question. I recently purchased a Vibroplex straight key. One of the adjustments that can be made is a screw toward the rear of the keying arm that controls how much vertical play exists (i.e., how high the key knob sits in a resting position). Because it is somewhat disconcerting to me to have the key hit the upper resting point while keying, I have adjusted the screw for perhaps ¼-inch of play. Then when keying, I am maintaining continuous control over the key; that is, I never let go of it, holding it with thumb and forefinger. Therefore, the key lever never hits its upper stop,
"I am wondering if this 'continuous' holding technique is best. Because I am maintaining key lever position continuously, I suspect it would be more fatiguing to key like this, as opposed to allowing the key lever to hit the upper stop in between dits and dahs. The alternative would be to reduce the amount of vertical play, and use more of a 'striking' action instead of the 'touching' action I am currently using. Which would you recommend?"
Another ham wrote to say there must be something wrong with his straight keys because they fall apart when he "pounds harder" to emphasize a phrase or point he wants to make during a chat on the air.
Let's take a look at how and why we use a key. Consider the a straight keyas a tool used to make sending code easier. It is a simple tool to use, and the rewards are immediately recognizable. When used correctly you can send code comfortably, smoothly and quickly. If you let the key do the work, it should feel effortless.
Your key will withstand a considerable amount of abuse, but you should not be pounding on your key. You can emphasize a word by sending more deliberately or slowly; however, pounding harder does not make the code any louder or stronger. Pounding is work; it will slow you down and cause your arm to get tired. Strive for a light touch.
A straight key consists of a base, an arm with it's knob, a pivot point, a spring, and adjusting screws. You'll find different configurations but they basically work the same way. I'm going generalize here because I cannot possibly cover all the different variations. The arm of the key moves up and down on the pivot point, causing two contact points to come together. There is a contact point on the under-side of the arm, matching a contact point on the base. Pressing these
contacts together creates the dots and dashes of the code. A short contact makes a dot and holding it longer makes a dash The spring controls the amount of pressure needed to push the arm down.
It is very important that these contact points are aligned concentrically. If they are not, loosen the adjustment screws on the sides are the pivot point and move the arm so the contact on the underside of the arm is directly over the contact point on the base.
This can be a touchy operation, so take your time. Be sure to adjust the screws on both sides as you are tightening them up and that the contacts remain aligned. Tighten these screws until there is no side-to-side motion, but the arm still moves up-and-down freely: It should feel secure, but not binding.
The gap between the contacts should be small. The thickness as a sheet of paper, or a dollar bill, is about right size for the gap. Place a strip of paper between the contacts and tighten the vertical adjustment screw until the paper cannot be pulled through the contacts, then gradually turn the adjustment screw until the paper can be barely palled through without tearing the paper. Then lock the adjustment screw in place.
Next, tweak the screw controlling the spring tension. Turning it to the right will create more tension by compressing the spring, and turning it to the left will loosen the tension. I recommend using a light spring tension. As I have said earlier, using a key should be light and effortless, not pounding and tiring. Having a lighter tension setting will also allow you to send faster with less effort. It should not be so light that the arm does not bounce back up, but you should be able to move the key arm down with a very light touch.
After adjusting the tension, you may have to go back and re-adjust the gap space. Once you have it set the way you want it, tighten the lock nuts securely.
If you have been using a different gap size or tension, these new settings may feel strange. But I promise it will improve your sending speed and accuracy when you get used to them.
The sound of your code i called your "fist." This slang term comes from the way your hand looks while you are sending code. It looks like you are loosely making a fist, That is term deceiving because it does not mean you are pounding! To use your key, put it on a level, nonslip surface and place your forearm and elbow in line with the key and positioned so that your index finger rests on the farthest part of the of the key knob. The thumb and middle fingers are then in a position to lightly hold the edges of the knob. The wrist should remain above the table by about 1/2 inch or so. Open and close the key contacts with a wrist movement, keeping the elbow stationary. Your fingers should not leave the key while sending, but do not grip it tightly and pull it back up, Allow the spring to return the key to it's original position. If you find you are pounding, make sure you are not sending by moving your whole arm up and down at the elbow.
Mount your key on a heavy base so the key does not slide around, If you cannot mount it to something substantial, set it on something that will help keep it stationary, like a mouse pad or a thin piece of rubber.
Setting up a key is a matter of personal preference, but if you start with the basics of having a small gap, loose spring and tightened down screws it will give you a good start. If you start with a bigger gap it may seem easier, but you will probably want to reduce the gap as you get more proficient, so you may as well start out with good habits
and not have to retrain your motor memory later.
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO February 2003 issue.
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 1/14/03
By Gordon, KB2UB
U/L Building Melville.Meeting opened at 5:37 PM. Traditional introductions all around.
TREASURER'S REPORT –
Northrop Grumman still has not cashed the postage check.
REPEATER REPORT –
Cables have been ordered by Facilities to repair the Bethpage repeater tower. Received
call from N2NFI that word on the street is there will be a new tower constructed at the Hauppauge site.
Need better participation in Thursday 2 meter net. Sunday HF net pretty good propagation into Florida, around 12 participants, including Mike KJ6XE.
VE REPORT –
Five VE2 attended licensing session. There were two applicants. One failed CW. One passed Extra class.
One card received.
KE2LJ Pat Talked up Ham Radio University to be held this weekend. There is no flea market. Gordon West is expected to speak. Pat and Bob will present digital radio program.
Ed Talley W2IVA, a Past President, gave a talk on his father's ham history and had copies of original documents from the 20's. He also had some technical standards for spark gap equipment and QSL cards from that era.
Bob W2ILP gave another in his series of lectures on digital communications. This session covered MFSK techniques. A handout was provided.