Seven thousand mile DX on a rubber duck
Allen Sherwood, K6USN
It is a little before 7 a.m. and I am standing up to my knees in the surf of the fabled Coral Sea, at Palm Cove, Queensland, Australia. This is nearly as far as the paved roads go in Far North Queensland. I am alone on the endless white beach, except for a gliding albatross low on the water to the east as I squint into the rising sun. The waves lap softly here, as the Great Barrier Reef breaks up the big South Pacific swells a few miles off shore. There is nothing between me and San Francisco except 7,000 miles of salt water, and the tiny radio in my hand.
A nearby rusty sign warns of "Esturine crocodiles" that live in these waters and beaches, along with "sharks and marine jellyfish." While the former prefer to chop you up in bite size pieces. the nearly invisible but highly toxic jellyfish just brushes against you and you
are on your way to Silent Key status before you can say "whoa, what was tha.....”
This was my sixth trip to Far North Queensland, or “FNQ" as the Aussies say: I came to sightsee and dive the Barrier Reef and to explore the Daintree Rain Forest oldest on the planet. Being an avid Ham and DX'er I endure lugging the HF radio and associated antennas along. Or I did, until the events of 11 Sep. 2001 put a different spin on airport security. The heap of coiled antenna wire, batteries, and strange (to non-Hams) electronic parts do nothing to enhance express check-in at airports enroute.
I painfully recall one recent time in the South Cook Islands (ZKI) when a local security agent became suspicious of my “wireless apparatus" and asked me to "turn on" what happened to be a random wire tuner. Explaining that the tuner didn’t use power and therefore could not be made to “play" almost caused me an indefinite stay in the local "gray bar hotel." Worse, the Air New Zealand flights were only twice a week and mine was ready to depart while I sweated bullets at the outdoor check in counter trying to make my tuner "play" for the security staff.
That earlier airport experience was in part the reason for me being in the water at this unholy hour. In my right hand was a Yaesu FT-50R HT, and in my left was a small cassette tape player to record this for the next radio club meeting back home. This constituted my entire Ham radio package, along with a Diamond tri-band VHF-UHF antenna that was attached to the HT and was about 4 inches in length. The surf line location was selected for the ground plane enhancement of salt water, and moved me out from under the palm and mangrove trees that lined the beach. I had a clear shot at the Cairns repeater, VK4RCA, about 20 miles across a small bay. The "power supply" was four AA batteries in the HT with one watt out. Now that’s what they call “fair dinkum simple, mate!”
As it turned out, I could move further up the beach and still hit the repeater, but for my first try I liked the dramatic effect of wading into the warm water of this South Seas paradise.
The process was delightfully simple. I keyed the PTT, and announced "VK4DSN to use the node" and followed this with the three digit node number for the W6RHC repeater in Chico, California followed by the DTMF key for "zero." I then called Bill Pope, W6TKE, the control operator of the hometown IRLP Node. and stood by.
Less than eight seconds later, back came Bill, sounding just like the local repeater. Over the course of the next four days we had had schedules at the same time and all were completed "full quieting" and without QRM or atmospheric fading. In fact, we had some round table QSOs with other hometown Hams who were mobile in the repeater coverage area and listening in. Local Aussie amateurs also joined in, making it a new DX experience for a lot of them, too.
To terminate the contact and shut down the Chico node, all I had to do was announce “VK4DSN closing the node" and punch in #73 on my keypad. This returned both repeaters, 7,000 miles apart, to local control. This same simple procedure works for most IRLP nodes,
What is Internet Radio and how widespread is it? For a quick overview of this new “mode,” simply type in "IRLP" on your search engine (I use Google) to access the IRLP web site and read up on the worldwide locations (nodes) in active use and the protocol involved.
IRLP started in Canada in 199'7 in an attempt to link Canadian repeaters across the continent. The concept, pioneered by Dave Cameron, VE7LTD, was to be a seamless radio link without satellites or leased lines or controllers, but interfacing VHF/UHF repeaters with the Internet with voiceover IP software.
The IRLP has. as of this writing, grown to over 600 active nodes worldwide. (To see the worldwide grid of IRLP Nodes, look up "IRLP" on your Internet Search Engine.)
In my case, I looked up "Australia/New Zealand" and found that node 648 was in Cairns, Queensland, I e-mailed the control station, Jeff. VK4MTV and asked if this was an open repeater and if I could access the node during my upcoming visit. His response was "it
is open slathel; mate? which is Aussie speak for "have a go at it!" The repeaters in Australia are generally compatible with our 600 kHz offset, so it was easy to set up 146.95(-) on the HT and I was in business.
While I've not yet tried HT "Dx’ing" from other countries besides Australia, the possibilities are exciting, and offer some new opportunities to work the world with very simple equipment. While at home, I can now use IRLP to link another similarly equipped repeater around the world, or check into a “reflector” (Denver, Toronto, Sydney, Las Vegas, to name a few) and wind up talking to anyone who has access to an IRLP node in a large "round table" QSO.
If your club repeater is not yet linked to IRLP, now is the time to look in to it, Check the IRLP web site for information, interface hardware and freeware · software to get started. It should cost under $100 and does require the Linux operating system. The IRLP is large and growing. This is done with a lot of volunteer labor and the spirit of cooperation with technical assistance is outstanding. Just like the "old days" in Ham radio!
As a new IRLP user and "non-techie” I am amazed at the simplicity of operation and the fact that this can be accomplished with a simple, low-power HT and rubber duck antenna. Internet Radio Linking should breathe some life back into ail those local repeater systems sitting mostly idle out there, and hopefully be a good bridge for attracting new Hams and potential DX'ers.
If you are going to operate IRLP overseas, you will in most cases need a license from the host country. The ARRL web site will give you details on applying. In my case, 15 minutes in the Cairns regional office of the Australian Communications Authority and the payment of a small fee, and I was reissued my old call, VK4DSN. Don't underestimate the thrill of checking into your local repeater from 7,000 miles away -- and with a DX call!
Standing in the Coral Sea up to your knees at sunrise is however, optional.
Proposal for a North American school radio day
Ginger C. Eldridge, KC5MTI
While the young people in our hobby are enthusiastic, Amateur Radio is not a younger generation hobby. While there may be many reasons for this, I believe the main reason is our youth have not been exposed to this wonderful pastime. Experts tell us it takes three or more positive experiences before a person will 'warm up' to a new pursuit. From
visiting with young Hams, this certainly appears true for Amateur Radio.
Many clubs, such as the one I belong to (Valencia County Amateur Radio Association, NM), work hard to introduce youth to our hobby. We participate in JOTA, try to get invited to schools to demonstrate our hobby, teach licensing classes, and have our advertised Field Day set up in a park where the general public can visit. Some members invite children to their shacks for Kid's Day and actively look for other opportunities to demonstrate Amateur Radio to young people. "The Big Project" being implemented by ARRL has already demonstrated a positive impact on the limited number of students involved. Still, considering the age of the Amateur Radio ranks, something more must be done to get the younger generation interested in Amateur Radio. The annual School Club Roundup is an admirable effort, but since its focus is on existing Amateur Radio school clubs, it is essentially “preaching to the choir." Also, the contest nature of the Roundup does not lend itself to generating interest from those getting their first exposure to Amateur Radio. I believe a North American School Radio Day could be a great way to get more young folks hamming it up,
From our club's experience with demonstrations to youth groups, we knew the excitement and interest comes when the youngsters are able to talk to others on the radio, especially if those con acts are around the nation. Unfortunately, our experience is that we have to have several operators standing by on local repeaters since few Hams are listening for, or respond to, our HF CQs. Pondering this situation led me to thinking about having a School Radio Day, during which Amateur Radio would he demonstrated in schools throughout the United States and Canada. With many schools on the air, and with many Amateur Radio operators knowing this and visiting with the students, each year we could introduce Amateur Radio in a positive way to a large number of school age children, and their teachers,
Local clubs could set up School Radio Day stations in schools in their communities: In addition to HF and VHF rigs, most setups would probably include CW demons[rations, maps to locate contacts, propagation information, the role of Amateur Radio during emergencies, QSL card displays, preparation of QSL cards for contacts, ARRL handouts and more. I envision this being most beneficial in middle schools, The station could be set up in one teacher's room with each of her classes seeing the demonstration and having a chance to get on the air. Alternatively, the station might be set up so different teachers would bring a class to the station during each class period. In either case, about 100 students would get a hands on Amateur Radio demonstration. Some clubs may be able to activate two stations; either stations in two different classrooms or in two different schools. When I was teaching at the middle school level (before quitting to become a stay at home mother) many of my colleagues and school principals would have welcomed such an activity.
I believe this would he beneficial to everyone involved. Teachers would have one more way to drive home the relevance of the material they are teaching. After all, as ARRL's "The Big Project" has demonstrated, our hobby ties into the curriculums of science, math geography, English. languages, and computers. Students would benefit from the demonstration of the relevance of their studies to an exciting bobby. The exercise would help bridge the 'generation gap' that seems to exist between youth and adults. Since schools are traditional locations for emergency evacuation centers, the Amateur Radio clubs would have an opportunity to practice in a place they might one day be asked to provide emergency communications. The Amateur Radio community would benefit because some of these students will decide to take their interest further and pursue a license. Schools and teachers would be more receptive to becoming part of "The Big Project" and more school club stations would spring up. All of this would make for a win-win situation for all involved.
The public relations possibilities of an annual North American School Radio Day should not be overlooked. All of have the local television stations and newspapers visit when good things were happening. A few suggestions from the club as arrangements are being made will probably generate news releases to the local media and result in favorable coverage for the schools, the clubs and Amateur Radio in general Participation
in School Radio Day and the resulting publicity would foster community relationships with the club and Amateur Radio as a whole. Meeting the teachers of our children and our neighbors as we demonstrate Amateur Radio capabilities will help generate community trust and support for our ARES and RACES roles.
While clubs have been mentioned, I believe that one Ham could put on a School Radio Day operation with one radio in one classroom. In fact, this could be much more personal and very effective, especially in an elementary school environment. Teachers who are Hams will also begin to set up radios in their classrooms for School Radio Day.
Using the smallest numbers I can imagine let me demonstrate the impact this could make. If only 25 percent of the nearly 2,000 active ARRL affiliated clubs listed participated with just one station in one school, we would reach 50,000 students and their teachers each year. Using Congress's method of presenting figures, this would be over 500,000 students in just ten years. It would seem participation by the Amateur Radio community might start near this level and expand with time. The demand could become so great that a Fall mid Spring School Radio Day might become necessary.
Careful consideration should be given in setting the date for School Radio Day. Certainly a day when the frequencies would not be busy with other events would be desirable. Some communication with our children's educators may identify other considerations, such as just before a holiday when the students are a bit less attentive to normal class room activities. It might be desirable to have it on a Friday just before a big contest so the contest stations could stop in for chats as they checked out propagation and equipment.
Talk it up to your fellow Hams and at your club meetings. It will probably take the ARRL and/or Worldradio to generate the critical mass of School Radio Day Stations and individual operators required to make the event successful and an annual event, So mention it to your contacts there too. I'm hoping to catch all of you on the air next year during the first annual North American School Radio Day, either assisting the students or visiting with them.
Reprinted from WORLDRADIO January 2003 issue
GRUMMAN AMATEUR RADIO CLUB
MINUTES OF GENERAL MEETING – 2/19/03
By Pete, N2PYV
The meeting was called to order by Gordon at 5:40 p.m. Pat was absent. All present introduced themselves.
Finances continue to be in good shape.
REPEATER REPORT –
The tower cables on the Plant 14 roof have been repaired. We have to wait for better weather to get the antenna functional and the repeater back on the air.
The owner of the Hauppaugue tower wants to meet with us on Friday (2/21). Gordon will go. They are installing a new generator and it is believed that they are planning to install a new tower.
NET REPORT –
The 40-meter Net on Sunday was good. Today’s 20-meter net was good with seven check-ins. We need more people to check-in on the Thursday night 2-meter Net.
VE REPORT –
There were seven VE’s present but no applicants.
Northrop Grumman was closed because of the snow conditions on Tuesday.
Joseph K. Bizzaro, WJ2B, Extra was voted in as a Sustaining Member
John Caruso stated that he had many older radio parts that he would like to give to anyone that could use them. Call him at (516) 731-7406. He also gave a brief history and status of the Grumman Memorial Park, encouraging people to buy bricks for the walk there. He mentioned that there is a group planning an air show at the Calverton field on September 20 & 21, 2003.
Tom Provost, AG2A gave a very interesting presentation on communicating via meteor scatter.