Monday, February 16, 2015

K1N - Fabulous DXpedition

My Results from K1N
Well, it's over now. The much-anticipated K1N DXpedition to Navassa Island is now over. Lucky for me, I made it into the log multiple times, which makes me quite pleased.

Granted, it was a pretty easy shot from here in northwest Georgia to Navassa Is compared to other parts of the world. They were quite strong on just about every band, with the exception of 10 and 12m. I never heard a peep from them on 6m.

The pileups in the low bands were completely crazy in the evenings. All of my contacts 30m and below were made in either the 0900z or 1000z hour -- 4 or 5 AM local. That's one of the secrets of working DX -- be on the band when others are not! The one exception was 60m, and, honestly, the channel was so crazy I'm not entirely sure how I made it into the log.

All of these contacts were made with 100 watts and wire antennas, either the Inverted-L or the 80/40m dipole. Working DX does not require huge amplifiers and large antennas.

The team on Navassa Island did a fantastic job handing out contacts despite unruly pileups, deliberate QRM and the usual craziness. I witnessed on CW pileups that extended over 30 kHz with people continuously calling. Finding the listening frequency in the second receiver was an incredibly difficult task, and quite often I was just guessing -- but a few times I got lucky.

As I told my friend Mike, W1YM, now that I have Navassa Is on nine bands, I'm planning to volunteer to operate the next time team heads to the island. Perhaps in 10 years....

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

K1N - in the Log!

From the Department of "OK, that was a little bit weird":

Just after the SuperBowl, I easily found spots for K1N on 40m - they had just started operating. He was quite loud on the Inverted-L. At that point, the challenge wasn't in finding the DX, but finding exactly where he was listening.

As a belated Christmas present for myself, I bought the KRX3 -- the second receiver option for the K3. After ten months of chasing all the W1AW-portable stations, I became pretty proficient at pressing the REV button and tuning around to find the split listening frequency. Months I spent thinking that this would all be so much easier if I could just hear both sides at the same time.

Adapting to the second receiver wasn't so easy. While I've had a little practice with two radio operation, it isn't easy concentrating on one signal in one ear, and perhaps a bunch of signals in the other. I've had a little time to practice with it, and while it is really handy, I find that sometimes its easier to just listen to one receiver at a time.

In any case, the bedlam I found surrounding K1N was a LIDfest in the extreme. K1N was clearly asking for European stations only, and yet there were thousands of K, W and AA-AL stations calling madly. More than 15 kHz of the 40m band was covered in signals repeatedly sending their calls. It was going to be very difficult to discover the DX stations listening frequency. Add to this mess the number of operators who could not figure out how to properly configure their rigs for split operation. Plus the frequency cops repeatedly sending "UP UP", clearly interfering with the K1N transmissions.

Please, guys. I have written about how to work DX before. You have to LISTEN. Stop transmitting, and listen.

After about 40 minutes of that mess, I turned the rig off. I'd work them later. I hoped. Well, I'd have nearly two weeks of chances.

The next morning, I woke a little early at about 4:30 AM. I felt rested, so I figured I'd go out to the shack and check on K1N.

I half expected to hear K1N on at least 40 and 80m. I had heard them briefly the evening before on 80m, only to hear the operator send VERY TIRED QRX 5 HOURS. Great. (Well, I'm sure those guys were exhausted from the trip and all the setup)

Nothing to be found on 80m, but K1N was hoppin' on 40m. And seems like most of the lids had gone to bed. About five minutes later, I figure out roughly where he's listening (only about 9 kHz of people calling this morning), and it's time to join the fray.

Wait. He's gone. For about five minutes, there's no transmissions from K1N. Then a series of Vs, and he's back - works a couple of Qs, then disappears. Hmm. I keep calling for a while. I figure the generator may have quit, or someone tripped over a cable or something. Might as well call as I'm listening.

That's when something weird happened. You see, I'm using that KRX3 module, listening to the K1N transmit frequency in my left ear, and my own transmit frequency in my right ear. Then, very clearly, I hear "AA4LR 5NN" -- in my right ear. My transmitting frequency. OK, that's not right. I figure it's just some lid out there that's heard me calling over and over, and is just messing with me. Or maybe I'm just sleepier than I thought. I glance up and confirm, visually, that I am indeed operating split. Yes, thank God I'm not a lid -- today.

But, he comes again "AA4LR 5NN" -- insistently. Speed, cadence and strength are about right -- but it is definitely in my right ear. Well, why the heck not: "R 5NN TU" and the reply comes "TU UP" -- again in my right ear. But nothing else.

Right about that moment, the operator must have realized something was amiss. Next transmission is in my left ear - "K1N UP". For a moment, I'm flabbergasted. Did I work him, or not? Well, if I did, I know exactly where he's listening - so I send my call exactly once. "AA4LR 5NN", "R 5NN TU", "TU UP".

There. In the space of 20 seconds -- less time than it takes to read about it, I'd worked K1N twice -- once simplex, once split. Once in one ear, once in both.

About an hour later, I find there's spots on 80m. He's very strong, but even stronger on the trap dipole. The pileup is fresh, and hasn't had time to get as unruly as 40m. In three minutes, I found where he's listening and he comes right back to me.

UPDATE: Looks like he logged me twice as well, as I have two 40m CW contacts in ClubLog. Fine operator!