SOTA: W6/CC-075 Angel Island

Once again, I find myself in San Francisco for some meetings and have a down day to tackle a SOTA peak. In planning this trip, I noted that no matter how many SOTA peaks I activate near San Francisco, I can always find another one, and one hint is to look at the multiple sub-regions that overlap in this area. Today, I took one from the Coastal Ranges list — Mount Caroline Livermore on Angel Island, just off the coast of Tiburon, California. It’s a one-pointer, but definitely not a “drive up” site — you need to take a boat to get to the island, and there’s no way to the top except legs.

From San Francisco, Angel Island can be seen from the Fisherman’s Wharf area at the northern end of the city, and the island lies just distant to Alcatraz. As usual, I am staying at a hotel in the Union Square neighborhood, so I had to figure out how to get to the site on public transportation. Working backwards from getting to the island, at this time of year there is only one ferry service, Blue and Gold, which departs from Pier 41 several times daily, the first outbound ferry at 09:45. Since Fisherman’s Wharf is a big tourist area (less so in winter), there are plenty of ways to get there: I took the 8BX Muni bus which has a stop a few blocks away (two bucks fifty each way).

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SOTA OK/ST-064 (Vysoká)

 

A couple days after activating OK/JC-038, my family spent a day in Kutna Hora, a town with a lot of history and great architecture. The nearby Sedlec Ossuary is also a tourist attraction. On the way back to Prague, we stopped by a tall hill that overlooks Miskovice, just outside Kutna Hora.

The grass-covered hill is topped with trees, and a road runs around it. At one end, there is an observation tower topped by microwave and other antennas. Unfortunately, this time of the year, it is not open to the public. You can reasonably park anywhere along the side of the road or right at the tower.

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SOTA OK/JC-038 (Okolí)

My family and spent the holidays in the Czech Republic this year. We enjoyed a few days in Prague, had a nice visit to Cesky Kromlov, and spent New Year’s in the Lipno ski area.

What better way to start the New Year than to activate a SOTA peak? OK/JC-038 (Okolí) was not too far away, and on Google Maps, it looks like roads approach reasonably near the peak. Going northwards from Lipno, we followed route 163 and then 162, but at one point a smaller, unnamed road branches off 162. I went right by it and had to turn around, because this road is unpaved and enters the woods. It was covered in light snow, the rental car was doing well with traction, and other tire marks made it obvious where the road was, so I drove in.

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Voice in CW band

Lately, I’ve been hearing a good deal of voice in the CW portion of 20m and 40m. I’ve already made some mental adjustment to being in Region 1, where the band plan allows for voice operation below 7.1Mhz on 40m, and even on the 30m band. However, what I’m talking about is very near the bottom edge of the bands…and sometimes slightly below. I have to assume the signal source is close, but I can’t spin my delta loop to get any hint of direction.

And then tonight, I had an odd one — in the SSB portion of 20m, but on lower side band (not a matter of DSB, I checked). Here’s a bit of captured audio from 14236.5khz at 15:38z 19DEC (quality’s not great because I just recorded off my headphones with my cell phone…)

In all cases, these signals sound like a bunch of buddies talking informally, without callsigns or any formal procedure. I have to assume it is unlicensed operation, most likely in an area where there isn’t really much provision for enforcement.

Anybody recognize the language in the audio clip? I’d love to know what their chatting about.

TA/AI4SV

istanbulI had to slip a quick personal trip to the UK in my December schedule and noticed that the best round trip fare was on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul. It is not the fastest way to go, with a stop in Mauritius and plane switch in Istanbul, but it is by far the least costly way to get to London, and quality was easily comparable to my usual carrier, Air France. In playing around with the ticketing website, I noticed that there was no additional airfare to lay over a couple days in Turkey. So I did.

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HB9/AI4SV QRP

QRP gear set up on a crateI had planned an early start today, but not surprisingly didn’t feel functional until around noon (US election results kept me up all night).

It was flurrying when I went out – light, fluffy, flaky snow drifting down. A light frost formed on the recently fallen autumn leaves like a tapestry of magical fairy dust. And then I started to set up the antenna — instant conversion to driving, freezing rain. I pitched the end-fed into a tree, had a few quick contacts (Germany and Croatia), and got my drenched butt back to the hotel.

Yesterday, I had somewhat elaborate plans to activate a SOTA peak, either Tour de Gourze or Mont Pèlerin. Both would have required about an hour train ride along the Northern edge of Lake Geneva, but those plans got scuttled by a late start due to total lack of sleep last night and a bunch of teleconferences this afternoon. Still, happy to have a chance to get on the air at all from HB9. Now packing up for return to Madagascar.

FWIW, RF power levels today were about five orders of magnitude lower than anything discussed in the previous couple days at CERN.

CQ WW SSB 2016

zonesConditions were up and down over the weekend, but not so bad as I had expected. At times, I could hear, but not be heard with 100W, so again a bit more power would have been helpful. I was probably on the air for about 24 hours out of the contest period, but did use some spotting assistance, so I won’t enter in the classic category this year. Tactically, that puts me at a disadvantage, but since this was a casual operation, I’m not too concerned about score.

I am aware of one other station from Zone 39 operating in the context, FR4NT. If cluster spots are any indication, he did a great job, with long runs particularly into Europe.

I ended up working 94 DXCC entities, some of them new to me. Through the magic of an excel spreadsheet, here they are: Aland Islands, Antigua & Barbuda, Argentina, Aruba, Asiatic Russia, Australia, Austria, Bahrain, Belarus, Belgium, Bonaire, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Canary Is., Cape Verde, China, Corsica, Crete, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, East Malaysia, England, Estonia, Ethiopia, European Russia, Federal Republic of Germany, Finland, France, Greece, Guam, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Ireland, Isle of Man, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kaliningrad, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madeira Is., Malta, Martinique, Mexico, Micronesia, Montenegro, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Norway, Oman, Panama, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Qatar, Reunion Island, Romania, Sardinia, Saudi Arabia, Scotland, Senegal, Serbia, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uruguay, US Virgin Islands, USA, Wales, West Malaysia, and Zimbabwe.

Prep for CQ WW SSB

zone39I should be able to put CQ zone 39 back on the air this weekend, at least for part of the CQ WW SSB contest. I’ve had a ton of travel and a few other projects over the last few months, and have been off the air except for portable operations outside Madagascar. Timing is good this weekend, though, for me to get on the air as 5R8SV from the house in Antananarivo.

I think the ionosphere may have taken my inactivity as a personal affront, because it seems to have tanked. Not having really paid much attention to propagation conditions for a couple months, I am stunned by how far the averaged sunspot number has plummeted (to 12!).

I just ran some simulations for the upcoming weekend, and 100W with a hexbeam may be marginal for Europe, much less the US. I hope some of the higher bands will pop open here and there, but I am not expecting much.

I just looked at conditions over on solarham and hope that the choppiness of the last few days will settle down for the weekend. We’ll see!

storms-hoI should be in Madagascar in a few weeks, but I’m not sure whether I’ll be at home in Antananarivo or in the northern part of the country. There’s a chance I’ll be in Nosy Be, if so, I might be operating that contest QRP portable. While lower power might be a challenge under these conditions, Nosy Be is on NW corner of the island, and surrounded by salt water, so maybe worth a shot.

Pogoman Go!

coverIt’s been a few years since Ben Collins-Sussman and I put out a text adventure game, but we were inspired this summer by the painful rollout of Pokémon Go! to write a new one for entry in this year’s Interactive Fiction Competition (ifcomp.org). This year’s competition brought in 57 works of interactive fiction, all of which can be played for free online (or downloaded). I’d encourage folks to try a few of the games including Pogoman GO! If you are willing to rate at least five of them, you can participate in online voting, which is open through mid-November.

We hadn’t originally meant to target the competition, but timing more or less worked out that way, and it seemed like a good way to get lots of eyes on the game, while it was still relevant. The game is in a part a parody of the mobile game, but a good portion of it goes in a different, and it has been said, more surreal, direction.  More about the game over on its own website.

 

The last year of QRZ updates

jacklemurI make small status updates every month on the 5R8SV page on QRZ.com, but after a while, the page becomes too long and the info grows stale. I would hate to lose this record, though, because it’s a nice account of what I’ve been up to, so I am pasting the last year’s worth of comments below and cleaning up the QRZ page. Continue reading “The last year of QRZ updates”