Tag Archives: Bob (K4RLC)

Proper QRO: K4RLC Tours The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station

Many thank to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following guest post:


Visiting VOA Site B: The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station

by Bob (K4RLC)

Two week sago, Dale (W4AUV) and I were treated to a “under the hood” visit to the last remaining Voice of America transmitting station in the United States. It is located in eastern North Carolina, and officially known as the “Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station” part of the “Office of Cuba Broadcasting” in Grimesland, North Carolina. Also, known as “VOA Site B.” This type of shortwave broadcast station is only one of a few remaining worldwide.

[Note: Click on images to enlarge.]

VOA QSL Card showing some of the 38 antennas

This VOA site has been on the air continuously (24/7/365)  since the 1963 on-site dedication by President John Kennedy, broadcasting up 8 transmitters at a time on the short wave bands. There are three 250,000 watt and five 500,000 watt GE, Continental and Telefunken  transmitters feeding 38 possible antenna configurations, with an Effective Radiated Power of 2,000,000 watts. (There is also a 39th antenna, that is a Dummy Load that will handle 500,000 watts).

The antenna field covers over 6,000 acres of flat, costal plain wetlands, not far from the  Atlantic Ocean, so it has a minimal absorption factor and a salt water boost.

Front of VOA Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station
Wall plaque in lobby explaining the legacy of Edward R. Murrow, who became known while a CBS Radio correspondent in London, broadcasting during the “Blitz” the infamous bombing of London by the Nazis during WW2 (click image to enlarge)
TCI “Curtain” antenna made of 4 dipoles wide & 6 dipoles high, pointed at Cuba. It is controllable in both vertical and horizontal azimuth, depending on the configuration has to up 23dB gain at a 4 degree take off angle

The antennas are fed by over 26 miles of 300 Ohm open line “ladder line” with a minimal SWR and minimal signal loss. The largest antennas are called “Curtain” antennas, given their configuration, of matched horizonal and vertical dipoles suspended between large towers, giving the visual impression of huge curtains.

There are also  rhombics, each 6 wave lengths long. The rhombics are not used as often, given their narrow bandwidth and narrow beamwidth. The Curtains can bathe a large geographic area (such as part of a continent) with a very strong signal. The primary broadcast areas for this station are Cuba, Central and South America, and Africa (although the antennas could reach out and touch Russia and eastern Europe, when needed).

Curtain and Rhombic antennas fed from the antenna switching center
Glenn showing Dale features of the GB-6 transmitter console in the large 8 transmitter control bay
GB-6 Transmitter Monitor & switches
The antennas are well constructed & fed with minimal-loss  open feed line. Note SWR of 1.1:1 at 75,000 watts !
Glenn & Dale studying the transmitter output in the main control room complex
Larger control panel for each transmitter. Note image of “Casper the Friendly Ghost” over the meters for GB-7: There are current problems with the transmitter and, in technical terms, “it’s spooked” !
Antenna switch controller for matching the 8 transmitters with 38 antenna configs.

Glenn & Dale examining the open feedline from Switching station to antenna field; 8 inch coax to Switching station

Many of the engineers are hams, including Macon (WB4PMQ), the chief engineer. Gary (N2AD) transferred to Greenville when the VOA in Bethany, Ohio closed. (The Bethany VOA site operated during WW2 into Germany, and was referred as the “Ohio Liars” by Hilter !)

Glenn (W7GSW), a US Navy communications vet, has been at the site many years and conducted much of the tour for Dale and I. Continue reading Proper QRO: K4RLC Tours The Edward R. Murrow Transmitting Station

Field Radio Kit Gallery: Bob’s MTR-3B Bug-Out Go-Kit

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following article about his portable field radio kit which will be featured on our Field Kit Gallery page. If you would like to share your field kit with the QRPer community, read this post


MTR-3B Bug-Out Go-Kit

by Bob (K4RLC)

I wanted to build a lightweight Bug Out Go Kit around the incredible Mountain Topper MTR-3B LCD model.

Bass Pro Shop sold a tackle box that seemed perfectly for this. I took a Bear Grylls Scout Knife and cut/customized the partitions as needed. The Elecraft AX 1 antenna and tripod mount, and a flexible tripod fit perfectly.

Counterpoise consists of three 13 ft BNTECHNO 22 AWG silicon wires, attached with a Mueller 55 alligator clip to the tripod mount.

The CW Morse Outdoor Pocket Paddle (and cable) fit into another section. For audio, use either generic ear buds or the rechargeable cell phone speaker with PChero volume adjustment cable.

For power, rechargeable Li-Ion 9 volt batteries use a USB connection, so no separate charger is needed. I keep this in the car.

It’s a great set up for POTA and lightweight enough to throw into a backpack for the steepest SOTA climb. The MTR-3B, the size of a deck of playing cards and not weighing much more, is an awesome QRP rig that’s still a keeper, if you can find one.

Equipment List:

K4RLC activates Woodbury WMA in Marion, SC

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following POTA field report:


Woodbury Wildlife Management  & Heritage Area (K-8151), Britton’s Neck, Marion County, South Carolina

by Bob (K4RLC)

Woodberry WMA (K-8151) is a 26,000 acre natural area over an hour inland from the Atlantic Ocean and formed by the confluence of the Great and Little Pee Dee rivers. Geologically, it is an area called the Coastal Plain given that in geologic time all this land was under  the Atlantic Ocean. In North and South Carolina the Coastal Plain is basically land between Interstate 95 and the Atlantic Ocean. Historically, this land has importance as a site of many Revolutionary war battles. The namesake of Marion County is the famous American Revolutionary War General Francis Marion, known around here as the “Swamp Fox”. His military tactics against the British Army formed  the origins of guerrilla fighting. Britton’s Neck is known named for the Britton family who settled the area around 1735 and operated the very important Ferry across the Pee Dee River, carrying farmers and their crops as well as soldiers. After this area had its timber harvested by a paper company, the state of South Carolina with help from the Nature Conservancy, acquired it.

I like to operate in such off the track places as it  really feels closer to nature. Given that they have been activated only a few times, they are rare for POTA and many want to contact them, especially in CW. The dirt road coming in ran through an old cemetery, started in the early 1800s. On the other side of is a small cleared area with a kiosk that has a map and tells you what’s in season for hunting. In addition to the usual animals, the listing says that it’s always open season for feral pigs also known as wild Boar, given their destructive nature on the environment and nearby farmers’ fields. Near the kiosk is a metal mailbox like structure with a latch on it. When you open it, there is a sign in book where you list the date, your name, and what you’re hunting for. Five of the entries directly above me said they were “COON” hunting, and another hunter wrote “Hog”. For my listing I just wrote “radio” and thought that might puzzle a few  hunters ?.

The set up was the usual with the old Alinco DX-70TH which is been used on the beach so many times, the beach sand and salt water in it now gives it a distinctive chirp on transmit. Old-timers let me know that a chirp was present (599C) but I think it’s just a unique part of the radio signal. The antenna was a 17 foot Chameleon MilSpec whip on a small metal tripod (no coil), set on top of a large aluminum screen wire mesh, now known as “the magic carpet”. As there were no picnic tables, I set up in the backseat of Alanna’s K4AAC van. Operating was pleasant with the cool day and no bugs. There were some other equipment issues. As the Alinco  does not have an internal keyer, I used an old MFJ portable keyer with the key made from two stiff pieces of copper and rubber feet for pads. You get a forearm workout using this. (Apologies for my sending.)

Nevertheless, I quickly worked 40 stations all the way from Utah to Italy on 20 CW. This portable station was lighting up the Reverse Beacon with very strong signals up the East Coast and down in the Caribbean.

After activating, I wanted to explore more and drove the single lane dirt road further into the woods.

Cell service was pretty good and I got to talk with my uncle Randy who had been part of a hunting club here 40 years ago. Randy shared some stories of comradery, mostly hanging out with his young son Edward and friends, cooking around an open campfire, telling tall tales to each other. He knew the area well and told me I had about another 10 miles of dirt road before hitting a dead end  at the river. As daylight was failing, it seemed wise to turn around and save the longer trip for another time. It was only fitting that in the dark, in the headlights in front of me, I saw a large black bear lumbering across the dirt road, dragging a dead deer behind it. This was truly nature.

73 de K4RLC Bob
Windy Hill Beach, South Carolina

Bob pairs the KX2 and AX1 for ultralight travel-friendly SOTA in Greece

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) for the following guest post:


Field Trip to Greece: September & October 2023

 Bob (K4RLC)

A trip to Greece had been on the bucket list for my YL Alanna K4AAC and me for several years. In fact, we had to postpone the trip twice due to COVID. An opportunity arose to take a unique trip to Greece with the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill, rather than a more touristy cruise. It’s always good to have fellow Tar Heels around, to share experiences.

This trip involved a few days in Athens, seeing the classic archeologic sites such as the Parthenon and the Acropolis, as well as exploring the packed downtown markets, such as Plaka and Monasteraki Square. Then the group would travel to the South of Greece on the Peloponnesian Peninsula staying in a fishing village called Gytheio, founded in the 5th Century BC, and port to the Spartan warriors.   From there, there would be day trips to historic sites. These included a trip to Areopoli, where the Greek revolution against the Turks started in 1821. Another trip would be to Monemvasia, an island fortress founded in 50 AD.  Other trips would be to Mystras (the last outpost of the Byzantine Empire) and ancient Sparta. On the return trip to Athens for departure, the tour would stop in Ancient Corinth, which had been civilized by the Greeks by the 8th century BCE and where the Apostle Paul preached ethics to this Sin City of ancient Greece.

As I had taken the KX1 and KX2 to various places overseas, I, of course, wanted to operate portable radio  in Greece. Past treasured memories included enjoyment operating with the KX1 on Suomenlinna Island, in the Bay of Finland, and with the KX2 in various Caribbean sites, including St. Lucia in 2019.

One of the first things I did was to consult the SOTA Summits Database for peaks we might be near. In the Peloponnesian (PL) region, there are about 180 sites, many of which had never been activated. Once we got there, we found out why. The peninsula is extremely mountainous, with steep barren peaks up to 4000 feet, rising quickly from the shore. In fact, talking with Cristos, our guide in Areopoli and a local young man, he said that he and his friends would hike about 6 to 8 hours to a summit, then spend the night in a cave before returning home. Obviously, this would not fit in with our somewhat rigid tour schedule.

Olive tree grove & Taygetos Mountains
SOTA map of Peloponnesian Peninsula with Gytheio circled

I was very excited to see that Mt. Mystras, where we would visit, also was a SOTA site (SV/PL-012), as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Centre.

I found it curious that Mystras had not been activated since 2017. I found the name of the last ham who had activated this site, and took a chance of sending him an email at his QRZ address. I was very pleased to get a nice reply from Cristos (a common name in Greece, named after Saint, or “Agios” Christopher), who said that he lived in the north of Greece some distance away and had not been back. I asked him if he had to seek permission to activate there. Cristos said they just didn’t ask anybody, but that I should be “careful of the guards” as I’m not a local.

I took his caution under advisement and reached out to the Greek Radio Union. I received a very nice email from Takis, Vice President of the Greek Radio Union. He advised me that my call sign on the Peloponnesian peninsula would be SV3/K4RLC/P. That is, in Greece the geographic location of operation still matters, while it doesn’t in the United States. And I also should use the designator P, identifying as a portable station. Takis went on to write that radio operation in many the archaeological sites is now “prohibited” by the Greek Ministry of Culture and Antiquities. I filed that away for consideration.

The tour was culturally enriching, taking in the incredibly long and complex history of each ancient site we explored. Just as memorable, we were extremely well fed with local cuisine, including fresh fish caught that day, especially eating by the water in Limeni on the West Coast of the Mani Peninsula. I have to admit we ate spanakopita at least once for 10 consecutive days (it’s even served at breakfast)!

The trip to Mystras also included a trip to ancient Sparta, civilized in the 6th and 5th centuries BC. We were fortunate to have an archaeologist who is currently excavating Sparta as a guide to the fascinating history here. On the trip to Mystras, three miles to the west of Sparta, the bus stopped at the tavern where we would return to eat later that afternoon, for a pre-tour bathroom break. Bathrooms are few and far between in ancient sites, and most of our group could be considered geriatric and needed proximity to a bathroom. Mystras  is a 682 meter sharp  peak over the town (see photo). Continue reading Bob pairs the KX2 and AX1 for ultralight travel-friendly SOTA in Greece

Bob’s POTA weekend in eastern North Carolina

Many thanks to Bob Conder (K4RLC) who shares the following guest post:


North Carolina Parks On The Air Activation weekend

Bob (K4RLC)

The first North Carolina Parks On The Air Activation weekend occurred September 9 & 10. Between a limited amount of time available and weather, I only was able to activate three parks, including an over-night camp out. The primary goal was to return to the Dismal Swamp State Park (K-2727) in Camden County. While the Dismal Swamp in Camden County is a rare and sought after County on CW for those wanting to work all 100 North Carolina counties and all 3000+ US counties,  it also is a place comforting to my tortured soul.

As there is no camping at Dismal Swamp State Park, one camps at the nearby Merchant Mill Pond State Park (K-2745)  in Gates County. This is a pleasant small State Park with canoeing and fishing in a 190 year old millpond, with old-growth Cypress trees. It is near the lower extension of the larger Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, which begins in Virginia.

As an older park, Merchants Mill Pond SP does not have any hook-ups for water or electricity. Fortunately, I was camping in our Solis campervan, which is self-contained by solar power and good for boondocking.

The oppressive heat gave way to rain, so I set up inside the van at my campsite. This gave me an opportunity to use my new favorite portable radio, the Penntek TR – 45 Lite, a QRP CW only radio. An outstanding feature of this rig is that it has no menus, only knobs and toggle switches, and reminds me very much of my radios from the early 1960s, but with modern specs.

The internal keyer performed well with the Putikeeg magnetic paddle from Amazon. Even though there was distant thunder, I felt it was safe to set up an inverted V on a fiberglass mast, bungee-corded  to a trailer mount hitch on the camper van. I ran the RG-174 coax through a rear window by sliding the window screen open a bit.

Not wanting to invite an onslaught of mosquitoes, I only used red lights inside the Solis, reminiscent of military operations. The TR -45 Lite did well on 40 CW with 5 W and the inverted V in the rain, and no mosquitoes invaded the van.

The overall goal was to return to the Dismal Swamp. I started early in the morning, setting up on a picnic table in the park between the Canal and the walkway, along the canal. Even though it was midmorning, the weather became interesting, at  90° F and 90% humidity.

For this activation, I used the old IC 706 MKIIG and a modified Wolf River coil set up. I used the Chameleon 17 foot telescopic whip. This whip is Mil-Spec and has a great feel and quality of workmanship. However it is 11 inches too short for the Wolf River “Sporty 40” coil. To address this, I made an 11 inch jumper from solid copper wire left over from my Dad’s days with Southern Bell telephone, and fitted it on an alligator clip, clipped to the top of the whip. The other modification was not to use the three 31 foot radials. For this activation, I tried the KB9VBR “Magic Carpet” ground plane.

This is a 32 x 84 piece of aluminum window screen, laid on the ground, under the antenna tripod. It may be a dB  or so less than the radials, but it sure takes up a lot less space, especially in a crowded parking lot. The key is the Whiterook MK-49 made by ElectronicsUSA. It is my favorite backpacking key, lightweight and withstands being thrown into a backpack with no protection. This set-up worked well both on 20 and 40 CW, juggling CW keying with eating leftovers for breakfast until the rain came.

I then decided to wander on some back roads in Eastern North Carolina and wound up in historic Edenton, originally built in the early 1700s and the first capital of the Colony of North Carolina. Their diverse history is reflected in the town square, where there is a 13 Colony US flag, a monument to the Confederate War dead, and the British Union Jack!

The radio setup was very pleasant at the Historic Site (K-6842) near the Albemarle Sound, which begins at the Eastern North Carolina coast, and runs to the leeward side of the North Carolina Outer Banks on the Atlantic Ocean.

I decided to try the TR-45 Lite again, but this time with a Buddipole on 20 meter CW. Propagation was variable with early contacts in Utah and Idaho, but the band became difficult. It was very pleasant operating with the ocean breeze and looking at the 1886 Roanoke River lighthouse,  until the rain started again.

So it was time to pack up, but a return trip to spend a weekend in Edenton would be a very pleasant activity. On the way out of town, I passed a puzzling POTA  site, the National Fish Hatchery (K-8007), established in 1898, and home of an Annual Fishing Rodeo. Activating there was tempting, but the rain was prohibitive.

All in all, it was a very pleasant activation for the first NC POTA weekend. I got to test different radio and antenna configurations. I would say for the TR -45 Lite, the inverted-V worked best. For the ICOM IC-706 , the “Magic Carpet” aluminum screen worked very well and was very easy to set up.

I did not have time to do a head to head comparison of the antennas; that is a Fall project.  Please note I originally got a stainless steel screen from Amazon, but testing with the Rig Expert showed that it really did not conduct as well as aluminum and had higher SWR, so make sure to purchase the aluminum screen.

For a first NC POTA Weekend, the results were modest and certainly can be improved upon next year. Down east on the Outer Banks, Jockey’s Ridge and the Wright Brother Memorial  is on my future list, but an annual pilgrimage to the Dismal Swamp (especially in non-summer months) is a must.

K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure at Stone Mountain State Park

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following POTA field report from December 2022:


K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure: Stone Mountain State Park North Carolina

by Bob (K4RLC)

As 2022 was coming to an end, I wanted one last Summits on the Air/Parks on the Air (SOTA/POTA) activation. Stone Mountain North Carolina is around 3 hours away in Northwestern North Carolina, near the Appalachian Trail and the Blue Ridge Parkway. It is a huge state park of over 14,000 acres and some wilderness areas.

A little background about this year might be helpful.

Earlier last year, both Alanna K4AAC and I were diagnosed with COVID, which turned into long serious COVID, lasting almost 3 months of acute illness, followed by several months of recovery. We are both healthcare professionals, and were vaxed and boosted and being very cautious, so it’s somewhat of a mystery what happened. One of us does have multiple medical risk factors which may have added to the complexity.

Nevertheless, we did what a lot of Americans did last winter and spring, with buying RVs and campers, and bought a Winnebago Solis camper van.

The Solis is Winnebago’s smallest van, built on a Dodge Pro Master commercial chassis. What appealed to me is that you can be completely self-sufficient, boon-docking with it. It has a 140 Watt solar panel on the roof which charges two 100 amp hour AGM batteries.

Off the grid, this powers a small refrigerator, house LED lights, water pump,  and a ceiling fan.

The Solis also has a 20-gallon propane tank, which runs a two-burner stove and a really nice furnace for cold nights. It sleeps two comfortably with a Murphy bed. Also has a sitting area with a table for dining, which can be used as a desk or an operating position for the radio.

Since getting the Solis, we have really enjoyed making trips to the beaches and mountains of Virginia,  North Carolina and South Carolina. In addition to enjoying exciting POTA/SOTA activations, we have been replenished by nature’s beauty and feeling safe in the fresh air.

Returning to my Stone Mountain adventure, I guess not many people camp in the middle of the week in December in the mountains. Initially, I was the only person in the large campgrounds. Eventually, a couple with their dog and a trailer set up at the far end. We never had any contact. It was really eerie, especially with the pea soup fog that hung around.

The most prominent feature of Stone Mountain State Park is Stone Mountain itself.

It is known as a “Dome Monadnock,” as it is a large dome of granite/quartz still standing from the Devonian Age about 400 million years ago, while the earth around it has eroded over thousands of years. (Stone Mountain Georgia is the same geologic feature). Continue reading K4RLC’s December 2022 Adventure at Stone Mountain State Park

Bob’s three day POTA camping trip in and around the Dismal Swamp!

Many thanks to Bob (K4RLC) who shares the following POTA field report from February 2023:


Dismal Swamp Activation – February 2023

by Bob (K4RLC)

The Dismal Swamp is a lovely place !

The goal for this winter was to activate the Dismal Swamp in northeastern North Carolina, both as it is a relatively rare area, and during the summer it is full of critters like snakes, gators, bears, and mosquitoes as big as birds. So, in February I did a three day trip.

First, I activated the Dismal Swamp State Park (K-2727) in Camden County North Carolina, off US Highway 17.

This  state park contains some  historically important lands to the US. In pre-revolutionary times, George Washington actually bought some of the swamp land  and attempted to drain it to make it farmland. His plan failed, but there is still a marker for his house on the Virginia side. Indigenous people lived here 13,000 years ago, and flourished off the rich fish and animal life.

During the Civil War, the Dismal Swamp was an important part of the Underground Railroad, for those escaping from slavery in the South to freedom in the North. Some slaves used ancient Indian villages as the foundation for building communities deep in the swamp. There are still remnants of this rich history. Originally, the Great Dismal was over a million acres, but now is only half that size.

To make this activation more interesting, you first must go to the Gate Keeper and sign in with your name and give the model and color of your car before you can enter the park. This is to keep track of lost souls who might wander off the path in the swamp, never to be found.

The Gate Keeper also controls the bridge over the Dismal Swamp Canal, which is part of the Intercoastal Waterway up the East Coast of the United States, sometimes called a water way Interstate. This canal was also historically important for transporting materials in the 1800s.

During World War II, when German U-Boats torpedoed merchant ships off the coast of North Carolina, the Dismal Swamp Canal became an important waterway for military transport.  Once you enter Dismal Swamp State Park, there are several hiking trails along the Canal and back into the Swamp. One even takes you by a Moonshine Still which unfortunately was not still operating.

I set up the trusty ICOM-706 MkIIG at a picnic table on 20 meters CW, and soon had a nice pile up going. Someone spotted me on the POTA site and RBN. Soon, I was getting emails to my cell phone asking for contacts. Little did I know how rare Camden  County was,  especially on the 40 and 20 CW bands.

I wish I had had more time to explore Dismal Swamp State Park, including walking the 20 mile path along the Canal, but I wanted to go to the Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge (K-0566) which was over an hour’s drive away, with the entrance across the border in Virginia.

On the way, I got an email from a ham in Hungary who needed a nearby county on 20 meters CW – Pasquotank County. Since it was only a bit out-of-the-way, I thought the least I could do was to drive there and help an overseas fellow ham. Continue reading Bob’s three day POTA camping trip in and around the Dismal Swamp!