G4YSS: G/TW-004 BISHOP WILTON WOLD on 160m for Solar Eclipse, 20-03-15
G4YSS (using SSEG club callsign - GX0OOO/P)
SOTA & Eclipse Experimentation on 160m - Unaccompanied
All times: UTC
IC706-2G HF-VHF-UHF QRO multimode set to full power.
80m link dipole on 5m mast. Loading coils with slug tuning for 160m.
5-section 6.8m CFC mast (Blue/ White colour coded - not the usual 5m SOTA mast.)
One 7.5 Ah SLAB Battery (Fully discharged)
Two 4.4 Ah Li-Po Battery with paralleling harness (Not fully discharged)
Today there was a solar eclipse which reached 90% at 09:34z in northern England. The RSGB devised an experiment starting at 08:00 in order to study propagation changes on low frequencies during the eclipse. They stated that 160m CW was the preferred band and mode (no disagreement there!) with 80m as backup. It was assumed that the ‘D’ layer might recede for a short time.
I have never put this particular SOTA on the air before but mainly because it is a drive-on summit which would save time, it was ideal for the experiment. It is also the closest SOTA to my home QTH in Scarborough. The ‘summit’ is a low one of 807ft but it overlooks its immediate surroundings very well in all directions. It certainly doesn’t look the part and is barely worthy of the name summit. However it is a nice area.
Set off from Scarborough at 07:40 and arrived inside the activation zone down the side road from the A1079 near Fridaythorpe at 08:10. There is a wide flat verge on which to park at SE 8248 5655. This is well out of the way of the main road and traffic is sporadic, consisting mainly of tractors and the odd single-decker bus.
The mast and dipole were erected and the feeder led down to a folding chair for the operator and a mat for the equipment. The 160m loading coils were then fitted and the antenna VSWR tested. Since the mast used today is almost 2m higher than the coil’s design spec. the reading was over 3:1 at the chosen starting frequency of around 1.832 MHz. Also the ends are usually supported on 1m long sticks. In this case the top of a 2m high thorn hedge was pressed into service for this purpose. To compensate for the extra AGL, the slug tuning slugs were adjusted from the usual 4.7 position to around 5.4. The station was ready to operate at 08:35 and the solar eclipse had begun.
G/TW-004; BISHOP WILTON WOLD, 246m, 1 pt, 08:10 to 11:00. 9 Deg.C, 2 mph wind. Thin cloud with hazy sun. No rain or low-cloud. WAB: SE85. LOC: IO-94-PA. Good phone coverage (Orange-EE).
160m CW - 4 QSO’s:
08:36 - G0VOF/P S2S G/SP-015 on 1.832:
At 08:36, seconds after switching on the rig, I heard Mark G0VOF calling CQ SOTA on 1.832. We soon had a QSO in the log, exchanging 589/ 599 read from the meter. In fact Mark’s signals (and possibly mine too) were up and down in QSB from 539 to 599 but I hadn’t reckoned on working Mark this easily and maybe not working him at all. The feeling of achievement was further enhanced when I remembered that Mark was on Easington Fell G/SP-012 (Grid ref SD730486 - LOC: IO83TW) so we had here a summit-to-summit. The path from my summit to Mark’s was 109km at 267 degrees with the Pennines in between. Not bad for openers!
09:04 - G4OBK on 1.833:
After I had worked Mark, Phil G4OBK then called him so I sloped off up by 600Hz and started calling Phil in the hope that he might hear me round the sides of his IF filter. In fact he didn’t respond but I knew he was busy getting ready to set off for Belgium SOTA’s later today. He would be back in the shack sometime soon I hoped and I didn’t have to wait long. At 09:04 Phil answered my CQ on 1.833 and he was a collosal signal. I gave him report of 599 plus 40dB and I got 599 in return. Phil was not far away in Pickering (SE794831). We had a clear path of 27km on a bearing from TW4 of 354 degrees.
09:08 - G4AZS/P S2S G/WB-015 on 1.833:
A barely readable signal appeared after one of my CQ’s and I was lucky to make a QSO out of it. I am certain that only low noise levels at both receivers allowed it to happen at all. Judging by the reports and his timing, Adrian seemed to be hearing me better than I him and I had to ask for a repeat of RST. The exchange was 449/ 339 and it was a good QSO in the end. That was no less than two Top Band S2S QSO’s and in daylight too. My first QSO on Top Band SOTA was an S2S with Ben Nevis (2004 - NP17 in the dark) but I don’t think I have ever had two from any summit before.
Several tries - no success:
The maximum coverage of the sun by the moon of 90% occurred at 09:34. The next 45 minutes was spent either calling CQ on 1.833 or trying to contact stations at various places on the 160m CW sub-band. From several I called, only one (G4UZE on 1.831) sent a ‘?’ followed by a ‘G?’. He continued for a minute or two sending a further 'G3? but QSB was pronounced and try as he may, he lost me. More often than not I would call a station and drop carrier to hear him calling CQ again. Their signals were relatively strong but either they were using massive power or they had QRN or both. They were all fixed stations so QRN is a normal situation for them on 160m. I had to wait until 09:56 before I worked the next station.
At least amongst all this I’d had time to squint at the sun through my welding mask and try a few photographs.
09:55 - G3YRO on 1.829:
This was as easy as the previous three quarters of an hour had been hard. Roger was coming to the end of a CQ when I found him on 1.828.8 MHz. I wasn’t ready but called him anyway. He had a distinctive note to his signal which was a powerful 58 on my meter so I thought it would be another case of one way traffic. I was pleasantly surprised when he responded to my callsign sent only once. It’s not often ops sort out GX0OOO/P from all those dashes when given only one chance but Roger did, quick time! The exchange was 589/ 559 and his QTH was Newcastle. We swapped names and I sent my locator but I probably should have sent ‘Nr York’ which might have been more immediately useful to him. I never seem to be quite clued up enough on SOTA QTH’s. If someone asks, ‘Where is it near?’ I struggle to think. My head is full of grid refs and the names of mountains and access routes. Nearby towns and road numbers come a poor second.
After more fruitless CQ’ing on 1.833, at 10:03 I QSY’d to the ‘advertised’ SOTA SSB channel of 1.843 expecting nothing.
160m SSB - 1 QSO:
160m SSB was merely a token effort. I had qualified the summit on CW and on Top Band too and the RSGB experiment was not as far as I know, in SSB. I’d logged two S2S’s so I could now go home happy.
I spoke the CQ into the mic. without conviction and was really shocked when someone came straight back. This was Steve Webb of Cobweb fame and I knew him from old. I gave a talk at Scarborough Amateur Radio Society a few years back and he told me now that it had inspired him to go out portable at least. I think I remember working him when I was on a summit once, dragging a wire behind him as he walked. Steve was in Swinton near Malton perhaps 18km north of me. Initially signals were around the 55 mark but after Steve made a rapid adjustment to his 20m high vertical antenna and feeder combination, we swapped 57 to 58 reports and it was a steady easy copy. It was more like a chat on 2-FM really and it lasted 20 minutes. I thought there might have been some SOTA chasers afterwards but a CQ or two resulted in nothing but a QRT from me.
The 160m CW stations I heard but couldn’t work:
08:56 on 1.824.4 - GW0ETF. Answered CQ but no reply (569)
09:00 on 1.824.1 - G3XTZ. Answered CQ but no reply (569)
09:23 on 1.829 - M0BTZ. Answered CQ but no reply (519 to 559 QSB)
09:27 on 1.824.1 - G3XTZ. Answered CQ but no reply (549)
09:40 on 1.831.3 - G4UZE. Answered CQ but no reply (549)
09:44 on 1.824.3 - GW0ETF. Answered CQ but no reply (569)
09:49 on 1.832 - IV3YY. (529 Not called - called by DL8W? but no QSO?)
09:49 on 1.832 - DL8W? (569) See above.
09:52 on 1.827.6 - G3PQA. (579 - called by weak GM)
09:53 on 1.827.6 - GM3SQQ? Answered CQ but no reply (529 QSB)
09:54 on 1.824.9 - M0BTZ. Answered CQ but no reply
10:22 on 1.810 - G3RAU. ‘TEST’ (Continuous test 589)
10:24 - G4ERW (?)
Apart from getting my mast and dipole badly entwined in a newly flailed thorn hedge, a first for any SOTA I’ve ever been on, packing up was easy. It was just a matter of stuffing it all into a shopping bag and walking off. By now it was sunny which made the 5 metre walk back to the car rather taxing. A short rest after 3 metres restored me and I just about managed to make it back. By 11:30 I was home in Scarborough.
This was a most unusual SOTA which felt nothing like a SOTA at all. No sweat, no rucksack, no danger, not even any walking boots and a chair to sit on! I think it was the lack of a sense of achievement which caused me to stick with the Top Band work I had done though I could have put on another band or two. I said I would possibly try 80m but by the time I got round to looking the sun was almost back to normal and there were few stations on there.
The call to go home and have a civilised lunch won the day I’m afraid. I should have stopped at Octon for the funeral of an colleague of years gone by but how could I show up in my scruff? I did go to photograph the GB3YC repeater mast to check what was going on there. I heard that a new radiator had been erected.
Top Band was without doubt the busiest I have seen it in daylight. I hope the experiment is a success. On the face of it, there may well have been enhancement during the eclipse but that doesn’t explain why I worked Mark G0VOF at 08:36 with such good signals and well before the maximum at 09:34. It must have been a leftover from night conditions but it doesn’t always remain that good for that long after dawn.
There were some strong fixed stations calling CQ but I couldn’t touch them. Noise is likely to be the problem there and possibly my location well to the east. Us SOTA stations enjoy almost zero noise conditions though I did see S3 hovering on the band today for a short while around 10am. What it was I couldn’t say.
Medium Wave 1602 kHz:
On Wednesday I drove Roy G4SSH to Seamer station for his train to Kings Cross. On the way, I showed him a broadcast station on 1602 kHz MW which I said I was going to monitor for eclipse enhancement. It’s near enough to Top Band to get a good idea of propagation there and I have used it in the past for that purpose on the way to pre-dawn SOTA’s.
The station comes from a ship - the Jenny Baynton; an ex light vessel moored off the the Netherlands coast. It radiates Radio Seagull and I listen to it in the car sometimes. It is a low power station of around 1kW so it doesn’t go far inland from Scarborough in daylight. Sadly, I partly forgot to keep taking a listen on 1602 and partly I was too busy on 160m.
During our 160m SSB QSO Steve G3TPW mentioned out of the blue that he had been listening to a station around 1600 kHz (obviously Seagull on 1602) hoping for enhancement but had found, ‘No change in signal strength for the duration of the eclipse.’ He did however report that half of his flock of ducks started heading for their roost. Apparently the other half weren’t fooled.
Maybe the changes on 160m had little to do with the eclipse. Afterall, there was still 10% sunlight peeping round. Was it perhaps the effect you get when there is suddenly a contest on a 28 MHz band that you thought had been closed for months? We could ponder that one forever.
TEN 160m QSO’s - G0VOF!
In an email from Mark G0VOF, he told me that he had worked not just four but TEN QSO’s on 160m today. What a marvellous effort which occurring in daylight, must be congratulated. Well done to Mark! What a great day for Top Band and thanks for the S2S.
QSO’s: 5 comprising
4 on 160m CW
1 on 160m SSB
Ascent/ Distance: 0m/ distance 5m.
Thank you to Phil G0UUU for spotting my CQ QRG of 1.833 MHz… It bore fruit.
Thanks to SOTA chasers and the other stations worked and to the RSGB for arranging it.
73, John G4YSS
(Using Scarborough Special Events Group callsign; GX0OOO/P)
G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold QTH. 160m. Eclipse, 20-03-15 G4YSS
G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold QTH. Eclipse at max 09:34, 20-03-15 G4YSS
G/TW-004 Bishop Wilton Wold QTH. 160m. Eclipse, 20-03-15 G4YSS