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Solar Eclipse QSO Party   2017   Aug 21   Claimed Score

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Call: K1LT
Operator(s): K1LT
Station: K1LT

Class: SOAB LP
QTH: EM66dx
Operating Time (hrs): 3
Location: USA

Summary:   Compare Scores
BandCW QsPh QsDig QsGrids
160:
80:
40:1180066
20:
15:
10:
6:
Total:1180066Total Score5,874

 

Club: Mad River Radio Club

Comments:     [email]     2017-08-22 10:11:57
For the Great American Eclipse 2017 and the Solar Eclipse QSO Party, I traveled with Bill, WD8AMX and my daughter, Sunni, to Cerulean, Kentucky, EM66dx (transmitted EM66cw, see below). Bill and I started planning this trip more than a year ago. We found an acceptably priced hotel room in Clarksville, TN about 44 (normal) minutes away from eclipse ground zero (point of "greatest eclipse"), latitude 36.9664° N, longitude 87.6709° W. Then we arbitrarily picked a "public viewing area" in the Amish community outside of Hopkinsville, KY (Eclipseville, USA per their web site) which turned out to be 1200 meters from the point of greatest eclipse. This was the first happy accident. Originally, the trip was exclusively for total eclipse viewing. When the SEQP was announced, we added the ham radio content. The Saturday before the eclipse I manufactured a full sized 40 meter vertical. I already have a full sized "portable" 40 meter vertical that I use for Field Day, but that one is based on a 10-foot wooden 4x4 and 12-foot lengths of tubing. The "new" antenna used 6 5-foot military surplus aluminum mast sections and associated accessory hardware (tilt base, insulator, guy ring, etc.). These parts have been kicking around my barn since my ARES days in the 80s and 90s. I made 13 34-foot radials out of "obsolete" 18-gauge Beverage wire and a do-hickey to fit my battery powered drill to wind up the radial wires. The final specialized part was a 3-inch square of copper clad G10 with 4 5-position screw terminals to which to attach the radials. I completed the ensemble with a 100-foot piece of RG8. The antenna parts and mast sections, K3 and old HP laptop (with serial port), 2 folding chairs and a shade canopy all fit in the back of the Prius with enough room for the kid to spread out in the back seat. Saturday evening I perused the Writelog reflector to catch the latest wisdom about configuring the logging program for the SEQP. I also looked up the grid square we planned to visit and came up with EM66cw, which is cool because of the "cw". Since there were dire predictions of traffic apocalypse we departed Carroll, Ohio at 7am Sunday morning for the nominal 7 hour trip to Clarksville. The entire trip to Clarksville was uneventful with light traffic everywhere except the last mile in Clarksville which had minor congestion (normal congestion, per the hotel check-in lady). Once checked in, we elected to visit the Cerulean site and explore potential traffic issues. We found the site on Cornelius Road without much difficulty and talked to the proprietor. Erecting an antenna did not seem to be an issue. Then we cruised through Hopkinsville to see how many people might be there. Hopkinsville is a town of 35,000 people, and the center of town had been made over into a town festival. We didn't see 200,000 people so we had no worries of traffic apocalypse. Sunday evening Bill and I visited the "Twisted Kilt" (hard to spell that word without digits) for some food and a beer. I resisted lecturing the ladies about callsigns. Eclipse day, Monday morning we left the hotel at 7am and arrived at the Cornelius road site before 8am. See saw only light (but speedy) traffic. It took about 30 minutes to get checked in and then we picked a location at the edge of the designated area so that our antenna would be out of the way of other people. The proprietor said they expected about 1500 cars. The weather forecast called for a heat index of 103 degrees. When we erected the sun shade canopy we could not find the central hub that bind the spindly frame tubes. After some improvising we managed to put up about 6 square feet of shading hang from the hatch on the back of the car. The 40-meter vertical went together easily and greatly impressed our visitors who were also impressed by our mission to investigate low-frequency propagation during an eclipse. The ambiance of the whole site reminded me of what Woodstock or Burning Man must be like without the nudity. I have never been to either of those events. I didn't bring a table. But the cooler with plenty of ice water and cold pop made a great stand for the K3 and the plastic box that had transported the K3 made a great stand for the circa 2003 Compaq laptop (with serial port!). The vertical exhibited an SWR of 1.4:1 on the first attempt, so no further effort was made to tweak the antenna although Bill periodically straightened the radials that people were determined to wade through. Operation commenced at 1421Z. The first three contacts were quite difficult with extremely weak signals even though the other stations reported 579. After the third contact, I switched the RX antenna from "Beverage" to "main" which helped immensely. I forgot to bring an external keyboard, so finding all of the Writelog "rapid entry" keys on the laptop keyboard added to the thrill. I used Writelog and the "HF grid square" contest module. I typed the sent and received RSTs into the "name" field with a slash separating the two fields. After some fumbling I configured the message macros with different RSTs so I could send semi-accurate signal reports (569-599) with only the 10 message buttons. Most of the time I forgot to look at the s-meter when someone called me. Several people stopped by to observe the operation. One guy was curious about how Morse code worked these days, so I showed him the laptop keyboard nut I also dug the Bencher paddle out of the car and plugged that into the K3. He was very impressed by the "2-way" motion of the paddle versus the 1-way movement of a straight key. I made a contact for him using the paddle. After that I used the paddle for several contacts and I was amazed that I could actually make myself understood. When the eclipse began I began to look for signs of anomalous propagation. Contacts came from only the EM/EN and FM/FN grids. Nearby stations were particularly weak, probably because a vertical makes a lousy NVIS antenna. Signals generally seemed weaker as the day aged. At 1534Z I worked N7S in DN72. He was CQing and came back easily. I heard him a couple more times while tuning. At 1743Z W6YX called me with a no-QSB 579 signal. I didn't hear him again after that. About 10 minutes later, I heard 2 7-land stations exchange DM grid squares. I heard another 7 (call already forgotten, no pencil or paper for notes) CQing, but he didn't answer my calls. The 3 7s were heard over about 2 minutes and then there was no further DX. After the anomalous propagation, the eclipse started to get interesting. The light was noticeably weaker, and oppressive heat diminished and the breeze picked up slightly. Of course the people around me started to get excited and that was infectious. Totality was awesome. It was both night and day at the same time. The solar corona was plainly visible. We saw the diamond ring but no Bailey's beads. A big 4-engine jet flew by at a relatively low altitude just at totality. He was probably at 10,000 feet judging from his apparent size. This desccription is utterly inadequate to describe the experience. You just have to be there. After totality ended, my enthusiasm for the radio stuff was greatly attenuated. I made a few more contacts including the zippity NO3M. My last contact was at 1833Z for a total of 118 QSOs. Many people started to leave a few minutes after totality. We hung around until after C4 (the very end of the entire event). Then we took down the vertical and packed it up while sipping cold Cokes. We exchanged greetings and email addresses with our neighbors and departed the Cornelius road site around 3:30 pm local time, about an hour after the end of the event. There were few cars to be seen at that time. We promptly got lost on the back roads and both smart-phones were being problematic about navigation. Ultimately we circumnavigated Hopkinsville and congratulated ourselves on escaping without traffic issues. Once we reached the Western Kentucky Parkway, traffic apocalypse began. The return trip was city rush-hour style traffic for 11 hours. The big bottle neck was all traffic exiting western Kentucky heading northeast had to fit onto a single tightly curving on-ramp to I-65 in a major construction zone. But slowdowns continued until we reached Ohio. We stopped at a rest area next to the Miami River bridge at 4:30am. The stop was packed with travelers. When we resumed the trip we still had on more 40 minute delay waiting for a repaving project near Wilmington on I-71. The trip that took 6.5 hours on Sunday (1 hour removed from Clarksville) took 14 hours on Monday. We arrived back at my house at 6:30 am after traveling all night. I have never before traveled by car non-stop for 11 hours. Sunni slept almost all night in the car. She has already 3 14-hour drives to Cape Cod this year to help with attending to my recently widowed mother. Nevertheless, she found the return trip exceedingly painful. Bill took a brief nap to while Columbus rush hour elapsed before his own drive home. After my own 2-hour nap, I typed this report while slowing unpacking the car. Apparently, we were really in EM66dx, not EM66cw. The "dx" would have been even more cool than "cw". Oh well. I hope I generated useful data for the HAMsci people. I had fun doing a "real" Field Day, especially at the event of the century (so far). I found the anomalous propagation I hoped to observe. The score is raw with no bonuses. I thought about making a QSO during totality but that proved to be a completely ridiculous idea. Note again that I transmitted EM66cw although we were actually in EM66dx.