SOTA NEWS – DECEMBER 2008
EDITORIAL – by Roy G4SSH
Welcome to the December edition of SOTA News. My thanks go to the following contributors:- Tom, M1EYP, Les G3VQO, Graham G3OHC, Phil G4OBK and David G3RDQ.
SOTA activity on the HF bands dropped to a very low level during the month of November, mainly as a result of the onset of winter weather and activators waiting for the start of winter bonus. There were many days with either no activations or just one or two spots. 1st December sees the introduction of the Winter Bonus period, which runs until the 15th March.
SOTA AWARDS ISSUED by Barry GM4TOE, SOTA Awards Manager
Barry is away on holiday at the moment but a double list of awards issued in November and December will appear in the next edition of SOTA News.
ANNOUNCEMENT FROM THE SOTA MANAGEMENT TEAM:
Within the British Isles, we are fortunate in having an established and independently maintained list of summits that conform to the P150 parameter. Indeed, the very existence of such a list greatly assisted the creation of the very first SOTA Association in England.
Few other countries have the luxury of a pre-determined list when they decide to join SOTA. In such cases there is often no alternative but to pore over detailed maps searching for relevant spot heights, and then counting the contour lines to determine actual surveyed prominence. This is a time-consuming task, and is very prone to human error. Whilst it may be relatively straightforward to find eligible summits in true mountain ranges, the task becomes much more difficult in areas of rolling countryside. As recent UK research has shown (using Detling Hill G/SE-013 as an example), the activation zone alone can cover many kilometres, so the zone of prominence can be absolutely huge. The problem is compounded where national boundaries cross such areas, as two or more separate sets of often incompatible maps are required. Such was the situation facing the founders of the Belgian SOTA Association early in 2007, thus it was almost inevitable that errors would creep into the summit list.
Now, fast-forward to November 2008, and the arrival of Marc G0AZS onto the MT. His useful array of mapping software and, more importantly, the expertise to use it, allowed a thorough review of Belgian summits. The results revealed what many had long suspected. A significant number of Belgian SOTA summits fell short of the required P150. Deletion of such non-summits would have left the Belgian Association rather bereft, so Johan ON5EX, the resident AM, submitted a case for reducing the Belgian prominence parameter to 100 metres, as allowed for in the General Rules. Once again Marc’s software was brought into play, and it was soon determined that Belgium has sixteen P100 summits, a much more rewarding total.
Close cooperation between Johan and the MT produced a revised ARM with the new summits, and it was agreed that the changes would take effect at the start of 2009.
The existing summits will remain valid until 31st December, so there is still time to visit them. Points gained in such activations will, of course, still count towards your totals, whilst a new set of uniques await activations in
The new Belgian ARM will shortly be uploaded to the SOTA website for your perusal, and the database/SOTAwatch amended to reflect the changes.
THANKS TO ALL by Graham G3OHC
I would like to send my many thanks to all the activators who have got me “hooked” on SOTA this year, for both the help and encouragement given to me. I had my first CW QSO’s for over 25 years since joining in the SOTA activities and made my first activations on summits for many years. My confidence has returned thanks to SOTA, having been QRT since having a stroke in 2000 - my CW , while still needing some work on it, is improving all the time - thanks to those that QRS for me !!
I will be away in New Zealand from 4 December to end of January visiting my daughter and grandchildren, so will be missing from “the chasing pack” for a couple of months - however, I will be back in 2009 to pick up where I left off.
SOTA has rekindled my interest in amateur radio and I am happy to have made new friends on the bands - my logbook has never had so many entries in it for years ! I realise I have had over 2000 SOTA QSO’s in 2008 from over 1400 different summits, for me absolutely brilliant.
I have also had the old club call re-issued, so look out for G4GRG / GX4GRG as well in 2009.
So, I look forward to 2009 with more chasing and hopefully doing more activations - long may SOTA prosper !!
Again, many thanks to all
73 Graham G3OHC
UPCOMING ACTIVATION by Phil G4OBK
Next Wednesday, December 3rd, Judy has got a trip to New York arranged – she gets back late on Saturday night. That leaves me free for Thurs/Fri/Sat when I hope to do either one or two days in the NP area on HF. I intend taking our dog Treacle on her first activation! I think she will be bored (like any XYL except Audrey of course!).
I will try to activate NP-017 Fountains Fell and NP-031 Birk’s Fell on the one day. That should bag me 14 points and take me past my target score of 150 points by the end of 2008. If I can do that on Thursday 4th if the WX is good enough and then return home and recover Friday I may go out again on the Saturday if there is any enthusiasm left but then try to do one or two in Dentdale – maybe NP-011 and/or NP-015.
If I can get these done I can add them to my list of activated NP’s as I intend to eventually finish them all off. I’ll try out the new handheld with an attached whip to see if it gets out, but main interest is to get on HF.
SOTA CHRISTMAS QUIZ 2008 by Tom M1EYP
A fun SOTA quiz of 50 questions has been written by Tom
M1EYP. There are some straightforward questions, some that
may require a bit of research, some that may require a bit
of lateral thinking. There is no prize, other than the
"bragging rights" within the SOTA fraternity, it’s just a
bit of seasonal fun.
The quiz questions will appear as a thread in the SOTAwatch
reflector on Monday 1st December 2008. Answers to questions
should be posted as replies in that thread, but please note
only one question may be answered in each post. A separate
post must be made for each different question you wish to
answer. This is to avoid duplication in the initial “rush”;
participants should check up the thread if their question
has already been answered.
Tom M1EYP reserves the right to delete any duplicate correct
answers to keep the thread manageable, but some topics may
initiate some discussion or debate, which is encouraged.
Who will get the most correct answers? Remember, once a
question has been correctly answered, it cannot be "claimed"
by any subsequent participant. First come, first served!
Anyone can join in (even Jimmy M3EYP) because Tom has
compiled these questions entirely alone.
Can the SOTA fraternity, between them, get all the questions
correctly answered in time for Christmas? Good luck, and
seasonal best wishes.
Reflections of a Novice Activator. By David G3RDQ/P
Looking back I realise that I first came across SOTA in October 2004 when I replied to Jon GM4ZFZ/P calling CQ on 40m CW with little success.
I had an enjoyable QSO with Jon.
I later learned that despite being a good strong signal in the south of England ,and probably the rest of Europe ,he failed to qualify the summit due to a lack of contacts.
My, how things have changed since then.
I worked no more SOTA stations until 2006 when I had 4 more SOTA QSO’s.
I worked 6 more in 2007.
But then in 2008 things started to happen when I became aware of the web site and the ‘spots’ and ‘alerts’ system.
In January in worked 11 , in February 55 , with many more worked every month since then. By the middle of the year I started to think about being an activator too.
But what equipment would I need and how would I reach those hilltop sites as I have no car just a 90cc scooter that I bought to get around locally when I retired.
Luckily my XYL has a car and so has my youngest son who still lives at home.
I have a fairly new rig at home that my XYL bought me for my 60th birthday (TS480AT).
I bought a small balun to make up a 40m dipole and found a 4 section ally pole in the garage that had not seem the light of day for many years.
My scooter has a small (not sealed) lead acid battery so that would do for a start as long as I was careful how I carry it.
So one fine sunny June day I dropped my son off at work and used his car to travel to the nearest summit Walbury Hill (G/SE-001) . Left the car in the car park and walked up the bridleway. Spotted the trig point in a field of sheep to the left.
Set up by the trig point and sat there enjoying 51 CW QSO’s accompanied by the constant sound of skylarks . Wonderful , I was rapidly getting hooked on this !
The second trip was in July to Win Green (G/SC-008) accompanied by my XYL and our disabled dog ‘shortie’ who gets around in a little chariot because her back legs are paralysed due to a slipped disc nearly 5 years ago now. This trip was on the pretext of it being a nice day and with the prospect of calling into a carpet shop on the journey back! Luckily the summit is quite close to the car park so Shortie could make the summit unaided .This time the trig point was in a field of rather inquisitive cows , flies and all.
As well as a good handful of 40m CW contacts I managed one 6m CW contact a first on this band from this summit.
The third summit was Lewesdon Hill (G/SC-009) in July again with my XYL (Janet) and ‘Shortie’.
This time the access path is not so easy so I ended up with Janet carrying the pole and me the disabled dog in her chariot with the scooter lead acid battery hanging below in Tesco carrier bag! Half way up the hill I realised that I had left a vital piece of cable in the car so I had to go back and start again. We never did find the trig point ,if there is one, so set up in some woods at the top of the hill.
Did wonder if signal would get out okay from woods but had the advantage of being able to tie the dipole ends higher up off the ground using the trees.
Again a good handful of 40m CW contacts.
I also learned that the 40m dipole would work on 15m as well being 3 times half wavelength .
I managed one 15m CW contact a first from this summit on this band.
My fourth summit was Staple Hill (G/SC-004) in July and at the week-end . This time solo. However before activating I managed to lock my car keys in the car.
My morning was spent sorting out the car keys problem so activation was delayed until the afternoon .
Again plenty of 40m CW contacts (more chasers around at the weekend) and 2 cw contacts on 15m , a first for this summit. Again set up in woods which worked well.
My fifth summit was Long Knoll (G/SC-007) in July again with Janet and ‘Shortie’ the dog.
This walk in from the road seemed much further than shown on the map, perhaps made worse by having to carry the dog in her chariot as well as everything else for much of the way. But it was well worth the effort as this is a charming little summit with good views from the trig point.
Again plenty of takers on 40m CW with the bonus of 2 contacts on 15m a first on this band from this summit.
After these trips I decided to make an attachment for my scooter so that I could strap my pole onto the side.
In August I scootered to Butser Hill (G/SE-004) .
Having parked my scooter in the car park I removed the battery and carried it to the trig point and set up from there.
Plenty of 40m CW chasers but no propagation on 15m this time.
A week later I scootered further afield to Black Down (G/SE-003) , which is probably about as far as I want to go on my scooter !
I parked my scooter in the second car park up the access road ,removed the battery and carried it up through the woods to the top of the hill. This time I was unable to locate the trig point.
Conditions must have been quite poor that day as I only made 12 contacts on 40m cw .
Before leaving home I had made up some extra bits of wire to extend the dipole legs to work on 60m attaching it to the guy rope (Tesco washing line!) with clothes pegs.
It was not until I had two goes at shortening these extensions did I get it to resonate.
I called CQ on SSB several times before getting a 3/2 report from G0HNW near Huddersfield, a 3/3 report from G0GNE who was very close by and a 4/1 report from GI8SKN in Northern Ireland.
Enough to put you off 60m for life ??
I had trouble retracing my footsteps back to where the scooter was parked and at one point thought that I was completely lost on the slopes of this wooded hilltop. I think more by luck than judgment I did eventually find it.
At the end of August I managed to borrow my XYL’s car for a trip out to collect some slates for a porch I was building.
I took the opportunity to make it a whole day out going via Swyre Head (G/SC-012) followed by Nine Barrow Down (G/SC-013). My first two summits in a single day.
Did wonder if the scooter battery would last but it turned out okay.
Activated both summits on 40m CW. My first double activation in one day.
Just about made it to the slate supplier before it closed , phew!
I thought it was about time that I got myself a SLAB so bought a 7AH one from the local branch of Screwfix. Early in October I again borrowed the XYL’s car to go and visit my brother who is in a nursing home at Aldershot.
Looked for the nearest summit to visit at the same time.
This was Leith Hill (G/SE-002).
I set up in woods just to the west of the tower.
New SLAB worked fine and gave me another batch of fb CW contacts on 40m.
I have mostly used my TS480AT set at 10 watts output which must be horribly inefficient but at least the battery has lasted each time until all callers have been answered.
Totals to date:-
10 summits activated and all qualified.
4 firsts (new band activated from summit)
317 contacts .
To get a 5w lighter QRP rig that will allow me to carry my kit further.
Not to take the Bencher paddle that weighs a ton but to use a much lighter straight key that I have or make/acquire a lighter paddle.
Try making a linked dipole so as to access other bands.
Try re-alignment of the dipole legs by 90 degrees before closing down in case there are any chasers off the end of the dipole.
Get a camper van !!!
Finally a big ‘THANK YOU’ to all those chasers who have called or spotted me as without your efforts this would not have been half the fun that it has been.
DEAR SANTA By G4SSH
Christmas is fast approaching and I have been testing items which would make suitable gifts for the dedicated CW enthusiast who has everything. Check out the following out-of-the-ordinary suggestions for adding to your Christmas list.
MORSE CODE TIE. £11.99
Sold by “Transair” at Shoreham, Coventry or Fairoaks Airports, by phone or via the web. www.transair.co.uk Click on “Aviation Themed Ties” then “More info” for a picture. The one I have is the example pictured in silk with the Morse code in green on a dark blue patterned background. When I ordered mine by phone I spelt my post code out as “Yankee Oscar One Two, four November Oscar” and the receptionist called me “Captain”. When I queried this she replied that she knew I was aircraft cabin crew because I had used that “special code”.
Sales 01273-466000 Rating 9/10. Very smart.
MORSE CODE WATCH £ 59.00
Hailed as being the only Morse Code Watch in the world (a not unsurprising claim come to think of it), and very hard to come by outside of Tokyo, it’s about as different as it gets.
The watch has three modes for telling the time, two of them somewhat impenetrable and one of them straight forward. As its name suggests, the principal way it announces the time is by beeping out the hours and minutes in Morse Code through an in-built speaker. In the very likely event that you didn’t quite catch all the dit dit dah-dahing in your panic to decipher them, you’ll be relieved to know that you can see the time displayed in red LEDs on the watch face. This of course is also in Morse Code, and as it’s quite probable that your code breaking skills are a tad on the rusty side, you’ll still have absolutely no idea of what the time is.
If, however, you really do want to know what the time is (there’s always one), another press of a button will reveal it in a standard digit form - not nearly as much fun, but considerably more informative. Type Morse code watch into Google.
Rating 4/10. A novelty watch, but impossible to hear the CW outdoors.
MORSE CODE DOORBELL. Approx £15.00
Most wireless doorbells now come with a selection of chimes and the facility to record your own 30 seconds of music. Simply plug the music lead into a keyer or oscillator and Hey Presto! Your callsign (or one of your choice) will be sent for different doors. The one I tested was obtained from Argos Cat No: 003/3716 Byron SX-202Able Door Chime kit. My postman was most impressed and as an ex-serviceman has been trying to read the burst of 23 wpm CW without success for weeks.
Impresses guests and especially Hams if you are expecting them and key in their callsign beforehand, unfortunately no one else in the family can understand which door bell is being pressed. However one switch changes it back to ordinary chimes.
CALLSIGN CAR REGISTRATION PLATES. From £250
In the UK visit the DVLA web site and have fun making up combinations of your callsign to see if these are available and the cost. Some Hams think these are a total waste of money and others get a feeling of pride every time they drive off. I received mine for a present and find that having my callsign on the car completely disguises its age. There are two layouts. The simple G4 ABC or the new format GM04 ABC
Mind you, I still get a surprise when waiting for my car after an MOT and the garage receptionist shouts “G4SSH?”
Check them out at dvla.registrations.co.uk Rating 7/10
(It would be interesting to know if it is possible to get your callsign on plates in other European countries).
SOTA STATS (correct as of 28.11.08) by Tom M1EYP
World Top 20 Activators (points)
- GM7PKT 3369
- DL2HSC 3019
- DF2GN 3052
- DJ2AY 2870
- DH8DX 2714
- DM2KL 2641
- G1INK 2453
- DG0OCZ 2546
- DL3AWK 2492
- G4YSS 2027
- DH0DK 2354
- DJ3AX 2460
- DH3ZK 2266
- DG0JMB 2316
- DJ9AY 1918
- DL1AWC 1840
- DH7WW 1506
- M1YAM 1318
- G4RQJ 1400
- GW4BVE 1281
World Top 20 Activators (uniques)
- G1INK 344
- GM7PKT 308
- LX1NO 297
- DG0OCZ 291
- DH8DX 285
- DL3AWK 273
- DJ3AX 271
- DL1AWC 244
- DF2GN 232
- GW4BVE 211
- DG0JMB 200
- G7KXV 199
- DJ2AY 198
- DH0DK 195
- G4ERP 192
- G4OIG 190
World Top 20 Activators (QSO’s)
- G1INK 18880
- DF2GN 16526
- LX1NO 11611
- DH8DX 11290
- GM7PKT 9092
- G4RQJ 8170
- DJ3AX 7951
- DH0DK 7320
- G4YSS 7011
- DL2HSC 6874
- HB9AFI 6234
- M1EYP 6116
- GW4BVE 5893
- DM2KL 5746
- DL4FDM 5274
- G4ERP 5237
- G3CWI 5068
- G0PZO 4941
- DJ5AA 4773
- G3TJE 4642
World Top 20 Activators (activations)
- DL2HSC 724
- M1EYP 710
- G1INK 627
- GM7PKT 613
- G3CWI 535
- DH0DK 457
- G4RQJ 438
- DM2KL 432
- DH8DX 412
- DJ3AX 410
- DJ2AY 408
- DF2GN 398
- DG0OCZ 390
- DL3AWK 364
- G4YSS 357
- GW4BVE 357
- DH3ZK 351
- DG0JMB 330
- M1AVV 330
- M1EYO 316
73 Tom M1EYP
CW REPORT – November 2008 - by Roy G4SSH
CW activations, in particular, suffered badly from both the deteriorating weather and heavy contest activity during the month of November and there were many days with no CW spots listed. Although the bad weather affects activators in particular, it can also have an adverse effect on chasers; here on the east coast of North Yorkshire there were days during the past week when precipitation static on my antenna caused by driving snow in gale force winds wiped out all the HF bands for many hours.
Mid-winter propagation at the bottom of the sunspot cycle was also very evident on the lower bands. During the first weekend, Jure S57XX was just a whisper on 7034 KHz but N6TV in California was 559 in the SS “stateside” contest at 0830. Fortunately Jure moved up to 30m where he immediately increased to a comfortable 579 on 10121 KHz. On the 22nd Nov Norby on 7032 was in competition with K1OV in CT USA, whilst K4IN was 579 on my vertical antenna on 7032 KHz at 1030 on the 25th. Shortly afterwards I was attempting to copy Aage LA1ENA on 7032 under N4TB in Florida. Mike GW0DSP worked W2SF on New York with his FT-817 5w QRP to a dipole antenna whilst on the aptly named Hope Mountain on the 24th.
There were cross border activations from DL/H B9BAB, DL/OK2QA , DL/ LX1NO and DL/HB9CMI.
Many activators dodged the contest activity by moving to the 30m band and there is an increasing number of activators starting on this band. Heard active here were:-
S57XX, OE5EEP/5, LA1KHA, DL4ZBY, S53X, OK1DDQ, OK1CYC, HA5MA, HA5LV, DL7VKD, DK1BN, F5AKL, F5IUZ, GW0DSP, F8BUO and HA5CQZ,
A warm welcome is extended to the following SOTA newcomers, heard active using CW for the first time:- Karel OK4DX, Laci HA5MA, Viktor HA5LV, F8BVX, Pavel OK1MCS, Karel OK1FKL, F8BUO, Sean M0GIA.
John G4YSS commenced his winter SOTA season a little early on 80 and 160m, using the unfamiliar club call GX4BP of the Scarborough ARS, during the month of November. He made 5 contacts on top band from LD-008, 3 from LD-003, 13 from LD-001 and 9 from LD-005, so delighting the increasing number of 160m SOTA chasers (21 at the last count). He was giving a good signal on 80m on 3557 KHz. This under-used band is giving excellent coverage during the winter months.
LIST OF CONTESTS DURING DECEMBER 2008
There are not many contests scheduled for the month of December that will adversely affect SOTA activators (Mainly top band or 10m.) but watch out for:-
14th only 0001-2359 SKCC CW Sprint.
20th only 0001-2359 OK DX RTTY contest
20th only 0001-2359 Russian Digital contest
20th - 21st 1400-1400 Croatian CW contest
28th only 0200-0959 RAEM CW contest
27th-28th 1500-1500 Original QRP contest
SOTA News can only be as interesting as the items submitted. If you think your particular field of interest is not being covered then please submit an article by the 25th of the month. Have you a favourite SOTA? favourite mode? favourite rig, antenna, or favourite band? How did you find your first day / month / year as an activator or chaser? Your comments and experiences will be read by SOTA enthusiasts all across Europe and beyond, and your input will be most welcome.
My very best wishes for Christmas and the New Year go to all readers, chasers, activators and SWL’s.
SOTA News Editor