Mini "expedition" in Oignies-En-Thiérarche (Belgian Ardennes: Viroinval )
Geographical centre of the European Union (1995-2004)

Location situated in BelgiumDoesn't it look cold? Well it was!
Locator: JO20HA

Guy, de ON6MU

Equipment The simple, old but effective equipment I used
  • In the middle of nowhere: Oignies-En-Thiérarche in Viroinval (close to the French border)
  • Locator JO20HA
  • A bungalow in the middle of the forest
  • Cold temperatures: lowest temperature was -8C°, highest being only 2C°
    No rain (little snow), scattered clouds with several sunny spells
    Low winds about 30km/hour

The crew

  • Guy ON6MU
    Supported by my lovely XYL Machteld!
    and my son Kenny as my assistant antenna constructor...
    and my youngest son Jonathan as SWL, well... he heard the radio noise while playing his computer games HI.
The dwelling place for the mini expedition
About this 4 day "mini expedition"
  • Saturday
    We arrived at our location on Saturday the 21th of February 2004.
    Was not easy to find this desolate location in the middle of nowhere HI.
    Knowing this little "adventure" would end on Tuesday the 24th we had no time to loose!
    So I started my first primitive station setup that same evening. Yes, only using a (temporary) piece of installation wire of 5 meters as antenna, I could already receive several stations. I prohibited to transmit on that piece of wire inside the house. It's never recommended to transmit on an antenna inside due to the excessive radiation that can occur (and I did not want to loose the rest of my little hair I had left on my head HI).
    The first impressions whit that simple setup was satisfying, meaning... the good conditions and location...
If you look closely you'll see the longwire
  • Sunday
    The next day (Sunday) I tuned to the broadcast of the
    UBA on 3624Khz. Yes, still using the inside "antenna" (was a late Saturday night and an early rise HI)!
    Very strong signal was the result. Some details:
    - 09:35h UTC - 3624KHz - ON4UB - S9+20dB
    - very little QSB, excellent audio. Lowest measured signal was S9
    - almost no QRM (the advantage of being in the middle of nowhere HI).

    Later that day me and my son (tnx Kenny) mounted the longwire antenna outside the bungalow. We did not reach the entire 40 meters of the wire I had with me to use as longwire. I had to trim the antenna till approx 20 meters in length.
    Connecting the antenna to the
    balun (see pic) was a easy. Strapping it to the that big old tree was a bit more tricky. Again, my son helped me out. The coax lead inside through a small slit in the window. Just a tiny bit of "modification" on the window (cough cough) helped to be able to close the window with the coax leading through it.

    First tests (with my
    home made tuner) came out positive. I had no difficulty to tune the antenna and almost no RFI (a good ground does do miracles). Now I was rest assured I wouldn't loose my hair burning 100Watts on that little piece of wire hanging outside while working a pileup HI.
    Very good conditions on 15meters! Plenty of US stations on the band till approx 18:00h
    16:30h Several European SSTV QSO's on 20 meters
    Nice prop on 40meters and later in the evening on 80 meters (logged plenty even till very late in the night).
my homemade balun

me at work...well ok, at play...
  • Monday
    Monday afternoon I did some little VHF experiments although I was not really equipped for VHF this time. Using a simple VHF/UHF portable and a quarter wave antenna mounted directly on the portable I could work a French repeater in the middle of woods (145.662,5Mhz) and a Belgian repeater. Alas, only very few OM QRV on VHF (FM or SSB) these days!

    Again nice clean conditions on HF: 15 meter band was wide open direction USA
    Logged stations on 20 meters using SSTV AND PSK31
    Logged stations on 40 meters (could have been a lot better if there wasn't so much traffic and QRM of those big guns)
    QRM building up on 80 meters later in the evening making it alot harder then yesterday.

    Around 22:00hours I decided to dismount the longwire and just "play" SWL with the "inside antenna". Well..."antenna"...You could hardly call it an antenna. Because time was limited I used only the centre pole of the coax as antenna (first as SWL purpose)! Tuning the "antenna" was not obvious. My antenna tuner did smile big time (with all the power it could eat HI). I'm sure it was cosy inside the tuner with the heat building up in there. Ah well, it was just as a small experiment. I reduced the power to a safer 10 watt level (do not ever transmit high power while standing near your antenna! Electro-Magnetical Interference over certain levels can cause physical damage inside the human body).
    And guess who popped up on 80meters just 15 minutes after removing my longwire? My good friend
    Steven ON4CLC!
    We made contact on 3617KHz using my "coax antenna". Signal report: S3R4 (QRM). Tnx Steven for the experiment!
    After closing down our QSO I noticed I lost the rest of the hair on my head too HIx3.
this is no Texas ranger HI, I was making a QSO on a French repeater
  • Tuesday
    After a nice relaxing "expedition", lots of hiking through the forest and consuming excellent wine, we started to load up everything on Tuesday morning around 09:30h. We arrived at my home town Aalst in the afternoon.
    A summary will folow later.

    My very best 73"
    Guy, de ON6MU
Aalst, my beautiful home town

VHF and The Ardennes
  • Last year in August 2003 we stayed in Rendeux (Beffe JO20SF). It was a one week stay that began on the 2th of August 2003 on a very sunny Saturday morning. I was packed with a Kenwood TM-255 and a MFJ-9406 to be active ONLY in VHF, being 2 meters and 6 meters. For 2 meters I used a 4-element Tonna (8dBi) mounted approx 10 meters from the ground and my old trustworthy Kenwood TM-255. The magic band was being set up as an experiment. I tuned a wire of 6 meters (1 full wavelength for 50MHz) and spread it horizontally with a slight angle. The fed point being +- 20° higher connected to the balun.
    SWR seemed ok, but that doesn't mean the antenna is working as it should! Of course I took a home made wire dipole for 6 meters with me just in case (and to be able compare the two antennas!).
    2003 being one of the hottest summers we had in decades allowed excellent VHF tropo in the early mornings and sometimes late at night! Temperatures of over 33C° in the shade was daily course.

    The same evening I did some test on 2 meters SSB (without tropo that time). Made, amongst others, contact with:
    -Willy ON2BDJ JO20CW RS51, distance 122Km
    -Steven ON4CLC JO10xt RS51, distance 129Km
    -Francois F6IFR JN09TT RS55, distance 283Km

    Several nice VHF contacts folowed during the week. A few more examples using my 4 element and 45 watt:
    -G8XL JO01FD RS55 372Km
    -G0BBB IO91PK RS57 458Km
    -G3MEH IO91QS RS54 463Km

    Later that week
    Steven ON4CLC and I made a QSO on 50MHz using my dipole and longwire. Signals were very faint RS40 and no propagation but we did manage to make the QSO.
    During the entire week propagation on 50MHz was poorly. I did manage to work a few European stations though using the long wire. Working QRP (pp 10Watt) between a lot of big guns was almost impossible to get through. Several days went by without any propagation on the Magic Band.
    I did some tests with a 5/8 omni directional 2meter VHF antenna which was a total disaster. No local activity either. Using my 4 element polarised vertical did allow me to work several stations (FM) in a radius of 120km (also the Brussels repeater ON0BT). On the omni I heard nothing (or very little). It wasn't the first time I did tests with a omni vertical (5/8 wave) in such areas and with same results, yes even on those high hills. Using a simple beam made all the difference in the world!
    As you can see on the photo I had a great open view, nothing close by which could obstruct the radioation pattern or cause huge reflections, which helps a lot hi.
    Paul ONVL954 received my station 51 on his homebrew 4el yagi at 45m ASL, locator JO10XW

    I did receive a APRS digipeater with RS55 but even with 45watts I didn't even got one digi through! It's a shame that some of those digipeaters are so deaf. I found one other APRS digipeaters (using my 4 el vertical) did not "hear" me as well even if I could receive them quite sufficiently RS55 (no there was nothing wrong with my TX ;-). Must be the amount of traffic they hear. Perhaps a secondary parallel sync APRS frequency ONLY for QRP stations would be a solution... APRS...well it was a disaster up there.
View from our window (Rendeux Beffe)

The equipment I used

My antennas mounted at the side of the balcony

Guy, de ON6MU


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