All posts by Thomas Witherspoon

POTA Field Report: Reviewing the MFJ-1984LP EFHF with the Icom IC-705 at Lake James State Park

I’ve been a ham radio operator since 1997, but until 2016, I had never purchased a pre-made portable antenna–I had always built my own.

During the 2016 NPOTA (National Parks On The Air) program, however, I purchased the EFT Trail-Friendly end fed 40, 20, and 10 meter resonant antenna and it quickly became my favorite field antenna. I found that it was simply built better than I could have built a similar antenna at home.

Pre-made antennas, though, come at a cost. Most time-tested, trail-friendly, portable antennas will typically set you back $90 US or more. You can make similar antennas much cheaper especially if you already have some of the parts (wire, toroids, RF ports, enclosures, etc).

Recently, while browsing the MFJ catalog, I stumbled upon the MFJ-1984LP End Fed Half Wave wire antenna designed for for field use and retailing for only $49.95 US.

That price point is very attractive because I believe if I built this antenna myself and needed to buy new parts, I might easily sink $20-25 in it.

Most MFJ products are manufactured in the USA and the company has an incredibly extensive and diverse selection of items in their catalog. Why I had forgotten they also sell antennas is a mystery to me.

MFJ is well-known for offering products that are basic,  affordable, and accessible (they’re available directly from the manufacturer and through most major radio retailers across the globe). I wouldn’t expect their antennas to be engineered like Chameleon Antenna, for example, but I would expect them to work well and get the job done.

I know the folks at MFJ and (in the spirit of full disclosure) they even sponsor QRPer.com, so I reached out to them and asked if I could evaluate their MFF-1984LP which is their most affordable field wire antenna.  They kindly sent one my way and I took it to the field last week.

I should add here that MFJ welcomes critical reviews, which is one of the reasons I asked them to be a sponsor. That and, well before they knew me, I was an anonymous customer and they repaired my MFJ roller inductor tuner for free a good two or three years after the warranty expired. My experience with MFJ has only been positive.

First impressions

The antenna looks exactly like the product photo in their catalog (see above).

For a field antenna, the coil enclosure is a little on the large side (especially compared with my EFT Trail-Friendly), but it’s still very backpack-able. Knowing MFJ, they kept costs at bay by using one of their standard enclosure boxes for this antenna.

The enclosure also has an open grill to allow the coil to dissipate heat (see above). I found that a bit surprising since the core is so large inside, but I assume some heat must be generated if you’re running 50% duty at a full 30 watts (the maximum rated power). The matching network impedance ratio is 49:1, so there will be loss and heat.

The 66 foot radiator wire has a dark jacket that glides nicely over tree limbs and doesn’t encourage tangling when unwinding.

The end insulator is made of a thin plastic/composite material that is lightweight and shaped so that it won’t snag on tree limbs.

To the field!

Hey–the proof is in the pudding, right? Let’s put this antenna on the air and make a real-time video of the activation!

Last Wednesday (February 17, 2021), there was a break in the weather so I made a detour to Lake James State Park (K-2739) en route to visit my parents for a few days. I left the house without deciding what park to activate, but picked Lake James because I knew I would have access to tall trees and my pick of operating locations.

Gear:

Deploying the MFJ-1984LP is no different than deploying any other wire antenna. It was super easy using my arborist throw line. That thin, rounded end insulator did certainly glide through the tree branches with ease. No hint of snagging.

On The Air

I connected the antenna directly to my IC-705 with no ATU in-line. Hypothetically, I knew this antenna should be resonant on 20 meters where I planned to start the activation.

Keep in mind that pre-made antennas are often designed to be a tad long and need to be trimmed so the operator can tweak the resonant point for their preferred spots on the band. Since I tend to use the lower part of the band for CW, I typically leave my antennas with a resonant point somewhere on the upper side of the CW portion of the bands. It’s not super critical for EFHW antennas because they tend to have ample bandwidth to give a full meter band good matches.

I had not trimmed the MFJ-1984LP, but decided it should be “resonant enough” for my purposes.

I found a clear frequency on 20 meters and checked the SWR. It was spot on at 1.3:1 on 14,031 kHz! Woo hoo!

I started calling CQ and collected several stations in short order despite the poor propagation that day.

I then moved to the 40 meter band and discovered the antenna also gave me an excellent match there. I started calling CQ POTA and was rewarded with a steady stream of contacts.

I imagine I could have racked up a lot of contacts at that activation, but I made up my mind that I wanted to fit in another quick activation afterwards, so cut it a bit short.

In the end, here’s a map of my 18 contacts made in 26 minutes of on-air time:

Not bad for five watts and a wire!

Video

I made a real-time, real-life, no edit video of this activation which starts shortly after I deployed the MFJ-1984LP and ends a few moments after my last QSO. Against my better judgement, it includes all of my mistakes (including my inability to form the number 4 that day!):

Click here to view on YouTube.

MFJ-1984LP summary

No antenna is perfect and each time I start a product review, I keep a list of pros and cons. Here’s my list for this EFHW antenna:

Pros:

  • Very affordable at $49.95
  • Effective: results so far have been excellent
  • EFHW is a proven field antenna design and resonant on several bands
  • No coil on the radiator to snag in trees (see con)
  • Backed by MFJ warranty
  • Purchase supports US manufacturing

Cons:

  • Bulkier than comparable low power field antennas
  • No built-in winder (MFJ should consider altering the design to include one!)
  • Radiator is 66 feet long since there is no in-line coil to electrically shorten the length (see pro)
  • End insulator is effective, but feels slightly flimsy

In the end, there’s no magic here: the end fed half wave is a time-tested, proven antenna design and the MFJ-1984LP delivers. In terms of performance, I couldn’t be more pleased with it right out of the box. This isn’t a military-grade antenna, but it should last for years with proper use.

POTA activators that have access to trees in the field will appreciate the MFJ-1984LP. I should think you could also make an effective “V” shaped antenna if you have a telescoping support that’s 29-33′ tall.

I’m not so sure the average SOTA operator would find this antenna design as convenient–especially on high summits where you’re near or above the tree line. It could be difficult deploying a 66′ wire. That and this antenna is bulkier than other designs. If you’re backpacking it in, you typically want the most compact solution possible (this is where the EFT Trail-Friendly, Packtenna, and QRPguys designs really shine).

I will certainly employ the MFF-1984LP regularly–especially on days with less-than-stellar propagation.  I think this might become a go-to antenna for the MTR-3B, LD-11, and IC-705 since all of them lack an internal ATU.

If you’re looking for an affordable, effective wire antenna, I can certainly recommend the MFJ-1984LP.

Do you have an MFJ end fed half wave antenna? What are your thoughts?

Click here to check out the MFJ-1984LP at MFJ’s website, and click here to download the PDF manual.

Tom’s “Salt Water Amplifier” approach to portable & pedestrian QRP DX

Many thanks to Tom (G0SBW) who writes:

Hi Thomas

I thought I would drop you a line to say how much I am enjoying your posts – so much so I have subscribed.

I came across your posts while researching POTA (it is now available to hams in the UK and I have signed up for it). […]Most of my QRP sessions are pedestrian mobile but as I get older (I’m 82) I think they will become more /P.

What is quite different for me is that almost all of my operating is done from salt water marsh areas – so no trees at all for antenna supports. Of course, there are ways of getting around this problem by using masts with verticals, and mag loops. Using the readily available salt water amplifier, I’ve had quite a bit of DX success with SSB QRP. I’m now busy getting my CW up to scratch to get along better with POTA.

Here is a link to a YouTube video I made last year which shows a couple of my type of activity. It was made for a presentation so it is a bit long at 30 minutes:

73. ( or maybe that should be 72?). and Keep safe

Tom G0SBW

Thank you, Tom! Brilliant presentation! Thank you so much for sharing (although you’re making me homesick for the UK). I love the idea of the sea water amplifier effect and have employed that in the past to my advantage.  I wish the coast were a little closer to my QTH, but sadly it’s a good 4.5 hour drive at minimum.

Thank you and please let us know if you post new videos.

Click here to view Tom’s video on YouTube.

Poor propagation but impressive QRP DX with the CHA MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna

One of the funny things about doing field activations is you never know what to expect when you arrive on site, setup, and hop on the air. It’s part of the fun, really. There are certain things you can control, and then there’s propagation.

On Sunday, February 14, 2021 (yes, Valentine’s Day), we had a modest break in the weather and my wife and daughters encouraged me to hit the field to do a quick activation before an afternoon movie marathon. Sunday was the first day I had seen the sun at our house since the previous Wednesday when the cloud ceiling descended to the altitude of our house (3,300′ ASL) and stayed there. It also wasn’t raining incessantly on Sunday, which was a welcome change.

I checked with my go-to propagation friend Mike (K8RAT) before heading out the door and he informed me that things were dismal. I wasn’t surprised: earlier that morning I worked a couple CW stations calling CQ POTA on 40 meters who had very few takers.

Still…I wasn’t going to let propagation stop me.

“Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead.”

I chose the Zebulon B. Vance Birthplace (K-6856) as my POTA site because it’s the closest park to me that has a covered shelter. I fully expected rain to move in within an hour and really didn’t want that to cut my radio play short.

Once I arrived on site, I decided to deploy my  Chameleon MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna. Why would I use a multi-band vertical instead of a more efficient wire antenna on a day with dodgy prop?

Aren’t you a handsome antenna!

For one thing, I had a limited amount of time and the MPAS 2.0 can be deployed and packed up within a few minutes. Also, I could position the MPAS 2.0 close to the shelter so if heavy rain moved in, I could even keep the base of the antenna protected and pack it up under cover. That and I really didn’t want to fiddle with a wire antenna in the rain if I didn’t have to.

Gear:

On The Air

In short: I only made 12 contacts during this brief activation.

But what I lacked in quantity, I made up for in quality!

Let’s skip straight to the QSOmap of the activation. Keep in mind these are contacts made with a vertical antenna and only 5 watts of power (green poly lines are CW, red is SSB):

Click to enlarge.

Days like Sunday we can’t expect large pileups with five watts, but we can expect normal–albeit brief–openings that allow for some serious low-power DX.

My five watts and a vertical caught Raffaelle’s (IK4IDF) attention in Italy. Sure…he has good ears with a nine element HF Yagi, but I worked him with 5 watts over a distance of 7653 km / 4755.36 mi.

951 miles per watt? Yes, please! I’ll take that!

Parks On The Air isn’t really about working DX, but it’s so much fun when it does happen.

Video

I made a video of the full activation which includes setting up the Chameleon CHA MPAS 2.0. As I mention each time, this is a real-time, real-life video so keep expectations low. 🙂 It includes a number of mistakes on my part.

Click here to view on YouTube.

I’m hoping this odd pattern of bad weather will break soon. I shouldn’t complain: I feel pretty fortunate that we haven’t gotten hit hard with some of the heavy winter conditions affecting much of North America right now.

As soon as it dries up a bit, I’m ready to hike to a local summit for a little SOTA (Summits On The Air) fun! I can’t wait…

Ozarkcon 2021: Free registration now open!

(Source: Tim McDonough via the Four State QRP Group)

OZARKCON 2021 REGISTRATION IS NOW OPEN!

Good Morning
I am pleased to announce the Opening of Ozarkcon Virtual 2021 registration.

Due to your exceptional support of our kit sales efforts for the last year, the 4SQRP Board of Directors has decided that the Conference will be Free of charge.

The event will take place on April 10th at 8:30 am CDT.
We will be broadcasting via Zoom and are limited to 500 participants, so please sign up early.

You can register in several ways, from the main website Ozarkcon Radio button, or direct at www.ozarkcon.com.

The conference will be an open meeting platform so you can come and go as you like. The closing date for registration will be March 26th or until all seats are filled. We have a great lineup of speakers with a variety of topics.
Some of the highlights are:

  • Special event station K0N will be on the air all week beginning April 4 th.
  • The Wackey Key and Homebrew contests will take place prior to the conference.
  • Prize Drawings will be held throughout the day of the conference with the results being posted on the Ozarkcon web page.

Details for all of these events and how to register for them will be announced at a later date. Updates to the conference will be posted on the 4sqrp groups.io email reflector.

If you’re not a member, feel free to join at this link: https://4sqrp.groups.io/g/main

If you have any questions or need assistance with registration please drop us a note at this email: registration@ozarkCon.com

We are looking forward to you joining us for a Educational and satisfying day.
72
Johnny AC0BQ, President

Mark discovers an affordable IP67 rated protective case for the Yaesu FT-891

Many thanks to Mark Hirst who writes:

Thomas,

I got a new FT-891 recently and wanted a protective case for taking it out into the field.

A mixture of internet searches and Amazon algorithms turned up this very affordable case which closely matches the size of the radio, as the enclosed photograph shows.

It uses the familiar pick and pluck foam, although in two layers.

The base layer is a bit thin, so I might put a layer of rigid plastic over it to stop the feet of the radio pushing down to the outer case.

I prioritised the side wall thickness opposite from the carry handle, as the case is designed to sit on its side like a briefcase.

Via Amazon USA ($29.31)

Via Amazon UK (£20.99)

Mark

Wow, Mark! I do love the size of this case and the fact that it fits the FT-891 so perfectly.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about building out a case to hold one of my smaller QRP transceivers (the KX1, KX2, or MTR3B) in the field to be used when it’s raining. Perhaps this has been on my mind because I’ve been enjoying nearly 5 straight days of rain and fog! A case like this would be an affordable solution and I wouldn’t feel terribly bad about drilling through the case to mount antenna, key, mic, and headphone ports.

Thank you again for the tip!

Note that the Amazon affiliate links above support the QRPer at no cost to you. If you’d rather not use these links, simply search Amazon for “Max MAX004S.” Thank you!

Pairing the Elecraft KX2 with the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 at Lake James State Park

For the past four days here at my mountain QTH in North Carolina, I haven’t seen the sun. The cloud ceiling has been low and our house has been in the middle of it. It’s been rainy and foggy with temps floating a few degrees above freezing.

Last Tuesday (February 9, 2021), however, we had one day with glorious weather and I’m so pleased I carved out 90 minutes to perform a park activation on my way back home from a short trip.

I picked Lake James State State Park (K-2739) because it’s such a short detour and has numerous spots where I could set up my gear.

The temperature was a truly balmy 60F/15.5C–possibly even a tad higher.

Lake James State State Park (K-2739)

On my way to Lake James, I knew I’d use my Elecraft KX2 (it was the only transceiver I had on this trip) but debated what antenna to deploy. I chose the Chameleon MPAS 2.0 vertical antenna because, to my knowledge, I had never paired it with the KX2 and I enjoy shaking up my transceiver and antenna combos.

Gear:

The brilliant thing about antennas like the CHA MPAS 2.0 is how quick they are to deploy: it takes me all of three minutes or so.

On the air

Since the Elecraft KX2 has a built-in battery and built-in ATU, I basically connected the radio directly to the antenna and was on the air in moments.

The CHA MPAS 2.0 is the vertical equivalent of a random wire antenna: it’s not resonant on any one frequency and requires an antenna tuner to achieve a good SWR.

As I mentioned in the video (below) I always keep my expectations low when deploying a vertical antenna in areas like western North Carolina where ground conductivity is poor.

Maybe the antenna decided to prove me wrong, because I hopped on 20 meters CW and logged a number of stations across the country including Washington state and British Columbia with a measly five watts.

It also happened that my buddy and fellow POTA activator, Steve (KC5F), was just down the road activating another site in the same county. It’s rare that Steve and I can work each other because, typically, we’re too close for skywave propagation and too far for ground wave. Not this time! We were close enough for ground wave on multiple bands–it was great fun working him park-to-park on every band I tuned.

I moved from 20 meters to 17 meters, to 30 meters, 40 meters and back up to 20 meters SSB.

The great thing about using the MPAS 2.0 is how incredibly easy it is to pick up and move from band-to-band–there’s no manually tuning a coil or changing links on a multi-band diplole. In fact, the MPAS 2.0 covers 160-6 meters, so I’ve lots of options if band conditions are wonky.

Video

Here’s an unedited video of the entire activation:

Click here to view on YouTube.

In the end, here’s how my QSOmap looked with 32 stations logged:

I look back at activations like this and am reminded of the magic of HF radio. It’s truly phenomenal, in my mind, that with less power than it takes to light an LED bulb, I can make contacts across the continent pretty effortlessly–CW or SSB–even during the solar doldrums! Good fun!

In other news, my ankle is healing nicely and once this cycle of nasty weather clears, I’m looking forward to putting some SOTA sites on the air!

How about you? Do you have any field radio plans? Has the weather or C-19 lockdowns gotten in the way? Please comment!

Maxpedition Fatty: My choice Elecraft AX1 antenna case/pouch

I’ve gotten a number of inquiries from QRPer readers and YouTube subscribers regarding the case I use for my Elecraft AX1 antenna.

It’s a Maxpedition “Fatty” Pocket Organizer and I think it’s nearly ideal for the AX1.

The elastic straps inside the pouch keep the elements of the antenna organized and separated. They don’t hold the sections tightly in place, but they do the trick.

I store the two AX1 counterpoise wires (one for 40M, the other for 20/17) in its interior zipped pocket.

The Fatty pouch also stores a small Muji notepad and mechanical pencil (for logging).

I actually keep a logbook specifically for the AX1 because it’s so fun to see just how many miles per watt I’ve achieved with this pocket antenna.

I also like the clam shell opening.When I arrive on-site, I open the case and everything is arranged and prepared for assembly (which takes all of 2-3 minutes). Since every piece of the AX1 assembly has its own dedicated spot in the Fatty pouch, I can tell at a glance if I’ve forgotten something.

In the spirit of full discoure, you should know that besides being a radio enthusiast, I’m also a hopeless pack geek.  I almost exclusively buy backpacks and travel gear from smaller manufacturers mostly located here in the USA. I support companies like Red Oxx, Tom Bihn, and Spec-Ops Brand to name a few. I have even helped pack companies with their designs and pre-production evaluations (much like I do for radio manufacturers).

Maxpedition is a US-based company that manufactures much of their gear in Taiwan (I believe). Although I originally purchased this Fatty pouch and two other Maxpedition pouches about six years ago, I can say their their quality and durability are superb.  The zippers all work fluidly, seams are well-stitched, and I’ve never had one fail on me in any way. Their gear is more affordable than most of the packs I typically purchase.

I wish Maxpedition made a padded case that would fit my IC-705, Elecraft KX3, or even the Elecraft KX2 (although the Lowe Pro packs Elecraft sells seem to work well). I’ve never tested Maxpedition slings and backpacks, but I may give one a try soon. I would love input from any readers who are familiar with larger Maxpedition packs.

Click here to purchase a Maxpedition Fatty puch from Amazon (this affiliate link supports QRPer at no cost to you). Or click here to purchase directly from Maxpedition.

Why I sold my Xiegu G90

Many thanks to Brain who asks:

“Thomas, I read your review of the Xiegu G90 transceiver on the SWLing Post and it seemed your overall impression was positive. I bought a G90 some time ago and love it. So far, I’ve only been listening with it, but hope to pass both my Technician and General class license exams this month. Curious why you stated that you sold it after your review. Could you shed a little light on that decision? Inquiring mind here. Thanks so much for your articles and videos.”

Good question, Brian! And bravo on tackling both your Tech and General class license exams in one go! We’re rooting for you!

The short answer is it had more to do with my own personal preferences than the radio’s performance and specifications.

As I stated in my review, I think the G90 is a great value and certainly a capable field radio. It must be one of the most popular portable transceivers in the Parks On The Air (POTA) program (along with the Yaesu FT-891) which is certainly worth noting.

You would be hard-pressed to find a transceiver with the features of the G90–including an excellent internal ATU and 20 watts output–for less than $600 and the G90 is currently only $425 US.

If you have a limited budget, and like the overall specs and features of the G90, you really can’t go wrong.

Personal preferences

When I review a product, I do my best not to allow my own personal preferences to cloud my judgement. I try to imagine how I’d review a piece of gear based on being in a number of other operators’ shoes.

One of my pet peeves, in fact, is to read a product review and find that the reviewer is indulging in nit-picking and hyper-focusing on particular characteristics, features, and design shortcomings. I want to hear the negatives for sure, but I also want to feel comfortable that the reviewer’s personal preferences didn’t cloud their overall objectivity.

I also value real-word, hands-on experience in a product review.

After purchasing the Xiegu G90, I took it to the field and made a number of POTA activations with it. It never disappointed. I also used it in the shack for a couple of months. I found that the display was quite useful, easy to read, and it had most of the functions and features I tend to use in the field. Never once did I feel it was under-performing or not meeting my expectations. If anything, the G90 exceeded my expectations.

In fact, I remember telling some of my friends that the G90 was a “keeper” after taking it on a few field outings. But after my review, I found that I rarely reached for it when heading to the field. Why? Turns out some of my own personal preferences surfaced:

Memory Keying

Most of my other QRP transceivers have CW memory keying and/or voice memory keying. The Xiegu G90 does not.

For POTA and SOTA activators, voice and CW memory keying is a useful feature, as it frees you to do other things like log, eat a sandwich, or talk to others while calling CQ. In other words, it can help with your “work flow.” If you’ve watched my activation videos, you might have noticed that I tend to use memory keying for calling CQ and, sometimes, for sending 73s.

When walking out the door to hit the field, I tend to grab my transceivers that have memory keying functions.

Audio

The G90 has an excellent internal speaker for use in the field. With that said–and this is hard to describe–I find its overall audio characteristics a little “harsh” and unrefined. I found that, over time, the G90 gave me a bit of listener fatigue during long sessions in the field or shack. That’s not to say it has bad audio–it’s just not as good as some of my other transceivers.

Key clicks

ARRL lab testing shows that the G90 has key clicks in transmit. In fact, the key clicks were bad enough in their testing that they suggested never using the G90 with an external amplifier.  For those of us who don’t use amplifiers, this may never be a factor at all. Also, Xiegu retailers sell affordable external amplifiers to pair with the G90, so I must assume it doesn’t affect all amplifiers negatively. If I’m being honest with myself, I think this was another nail in the coffin.

In summary…

I knew the G90 would collect dust, so I sold it.

However, I know operators who love the G90 so much, they sold their pricier rigs after buying a G90. I even know operators who own two G90s: one for the shack, one for the field. With a total investment of only $850, I see why they made that choice.

The G90 just wasn’t for me though.

A final note about the new Xiegu GSOC

Ironically, I was asked by Radioddity to evaluate the new Xiegu GSOC controller only a couple weeks after I sold my original G90. Since the GSOC is designed to pair with the G90 , they had to send me another G90 on loan for the evaluation.

If you have a G90 and have considered purchasing the GSOC, I would strongly urge you to read my latest review of the GSOC.

In short: I can’t recommend it. The G90 is a much better radio without the GSOC controller, in my opinion.

Do you own the G90?

Have you even owned or operated the Xiegu G90? What do you consider to be its pros and cons? Please comment!

POTA Field Report: Activating Kerr Scott State Game Land with the Elecraft KX2, 5 watts, and a not-so-resonant wire

Some of my most enjoyable field activations are those involving the least amount of equipment and accessories. Maybe it’s my “less is more” mentality, but it is amazing when all I need to get on the air is one radio, a feedline, logging notebook, and a simple antenna.

That was my set-up earlier this week (February 8, 2021) when I activated Kerr Scott State Game Land–a site I hadn’t visited since last summer.

Kerr Scott State Game Land (K-6918)

I was the first person to activate Kerr Scott State Game Land back in June of 2020.

I vividly remember that activation because, as I noted in my field report on the SWLing Post, it was Kerr Scott that taught me an invaluable lesson:

“[I]f you don’t have a “spot” of your activation on the POTA site, it’s like you don’t exist.”

This was truly a tipping point that lead me down the path of doing CW activations in order to benefit from auto-spotting via the Reverse Beacon Network (RBN). Only a couple weeks after this activation, I made my first CW activation and the rest is history. While I still use SSB during activations, CW has become my favorite mode even though I’m still not that great of an operator.

I speak about this a bit more in my activation video below.

Gear:

Once I arrived on site, I deployed my EFT Trail-Friendly 40/20/10 meter end-fed resonant antenna.

The last few times I deployed this antenna in the field, it hasn’t been resonant on 40 meters and I suspect this is due to damage to the coil near the end of the radiator. I decided I’d give it one last test  by suspending it in an overhanging tree branch about 50 feet high so it would not touch other branches.

When I turned on the KX2, I set the internal ATU to “bypass” and tested SWR. Sadly, it was unacceptable, so I re-activated the ATU to get a good match.

My buddy and fellow POTA activator, Steve (KC5F), reminded me recently that the radiator on this antenna can be replaced with enough wire to make a simple end fed half wave. That’s probably what I’ll do because, frankly, this antenna has served me so well for five years and over 150 park activations I’m not ready to simply toss it. I will need to order some proper wire for the EFHW, though!

On The Air

Since I have no mobile phone/Internet service at this site, I decided to make this a CW only activation, hopefully taking full advantage of auto-spotting to the POTA spots page.

I started on 40 meters because I had pre-arranged with my buddies Mike (K8RAT) and Eric (WD8RIF) to listen for me on 7063 kHz. I did this in case auto-spotting wasn’t working, which does happen from time-to-time. It’s always important to have a back-up if possible especially for sites (like this one) that carry significant travel time.

I hopped on 40 meters, called CQ POTA and within 29 minutes, I logged 26 stations. That’s about as much activity as I could possibly expect during a Monday morning activation!

Next, I moved to 20 meters and started calling CQ. The first station I worked was CU3BL in the Azores, then WD5GRW in Texas, AB6QM in California, then IK4IDF in Italy, and finally KH2TJ in California.

I then moved to 30 meters and worked N5GW in Mississippi before going QRT with a total of 32 stations logged.

Not at all bad using 5-10 watts!

Here’s a QSOmap of this activation (click to enlarge):

Activation Video

I made a real-time, real-life, no edit, no advertisements video of this activation. Feel free to check it out if you like:

Click here to view on YouTube.

One of the things I rarely mention in my videos and field reports is how much I love the trips to/from an activation site. I’m a traveler at heart and while I’ve been fortunate enough to travel to and live in some pretty amazing countries and cities, I still have a deep appreciation for simply driving through the countryside and taking in the scenery. I appreciate the mundane as much as I do the majestic. It’s a beautiful drive.

Kerr Scott Game Land is located in the little farming community of Boomer, NC which, I understand, was named after its first postmaster, Ed “Boomer” Matheson.

Warrior Creek, next to my activation site at Kerr Scott

Before it was called Boomer, the community was known as Warrior Creek–the very creek running through Kerr Scott Game Land.

Even though I know there’s no connection, when I hear the name Boomer I can’t help but think of the incredibly cute and cheeky red squirrel that we WNC natives call “Boomers.”

Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) and the Personal Space Weather Station project

Many thanks to Tracy (K7UO) who shares the following article from EOS (Science News by AGU):

Ham Radio Forms a Planet-Sized Space Weather Sensor Network

For researchers who monitor the effects of solar activity on Earth’s atmosphere, telecommunications, and electrical utilities, amateur radio signals a golden age of crowdsourced science.

Space weather events, triggered by solar emissions and their interactions with Earth’s atmosphere, can have significant effects on communications and navigation technology and on electric power systems. As with terrestrial weather events, the economic impacts of space weather–related disruptions can be substantial, affecting satellite systems as well as systems on the ground. A severe geomagnetic storm (on the order of the Carrington Event of 1859) could have a catastrophic effect on modern infrastructure. Even solar storms of more ordinary size can induce currents in the power grid that drive up energy prices, affecting manufacturing and commerce.

Considerable interest exists in developing space weather forecasting technologies that use Earth’s ionosphere as a sensor for events in its neighboring atmospheric layers. The ionosphere occupies a privileged niche in the geospace system, as it is coupled into both the terrestrial weather of the neutral atmosphere below and the space weather of the magnetosphere above.

Although we have a good understanding of ionospheric climate—diurnal and seasonal variations are well known, as are the rhythms of the sunspot cycle—there are new and vital areas of research to be explored. For example, it is known that the ionosphere—and near-Earth space—experiences variability (e.g., radio signals can fade in and out over periods of seconds, minutes, or hours due to changes in ionospheric electron densities along signal propagation paths), but this variability has not been sampled or studied adequately on regional and global scales.

[…]The Ham Radio Science Citizen Investigation (HamSCI) is a collective that unites amateur radio operators with the research community in the space and atmospheric sciences. This confederation of scientists, engineers, and hobbyists holds annual workshops during which ham radio operators and space scientists share findings. A new HamSCI effort, the Personal Space Weather Station project, aims to develop a robust and scalable network of amateur stations that will allow amateurs to collect useful data for space science researchers. The next HamSCI workshop will be held virtually 19–21 March 2021, and it will focus on midlatitude ionospheric measurements.

A Ready-Made Volunteer Science Community

From a communications point of view, the electromagnetic spectrum is a finite resource. Signals from broadcasting, telecommunications, and navigation all have their own demands of bandwidth and range. Spectrum allocations are managed by government agencies, such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the United States. Most countries allot some of the available spectrum to amateur users for the purposes of recreation, experimentation, and the promotion of international goodwill. There are more than 760,000 licensed amateur radio operators and uncounted shortwave listeners in the United States alone.[…]

Click here to read the full article at EOS.

Click here to learn more about HamSCI Workshop 2021.