Sunday, September 20, 2015

Sleep, Interrupted

Shortly before dawn this morning the smoke alarm sounded for a couple of seconds. It's almost impossible to sleep through, just as designed. Suddenly awake, I guessed it was a false alarm, probably due to a mains power glitch. But I couldn't be sure. The lack of smoke was no assurance since there are 3 alarms, one on each floor of the house, and they're wired together so that if one triggers they all sound.

Fighting off the temptation to go back to sleep I took the prudent step of walking through the house in  the pre-dawn quiet to confirm nothing was amiss. Once I reached the basement I was fully awake and could not resist the lure of the shack. Although conditions were poor due to a geomagnetic disturbance there is still the possibility of DX toward the Pacific, including the low bands. Northward paths were heavily attenuated, which I discovered while playing in the Scandinavia Activity Contest.

Very disturbed conditions confirmed by the high K-index, as posted at WM7D's site

First I just had to check propagation toward northern Europe. I expected little and I heard nothing. It was daylight in Europe so the low bands would be closed in any case, and solar flux was too low to open the high bands until after sunrise. So I tuned around 40 meters even though the DX cluster network didn't display anything of interest.

I came across a strong signal operating DXpedition style near 7.015 MHz. I could just barely make out some distorted backscatter signals up 1 to 2 kHz, confirming this was a split operation. A couple of QSOs later he signed his call: E6GG, the current multi-station DXpedition on Niue. Two QSOs later I was in the log. I then spotted him, which seemed to grow the pile-up quite quickly.

Continuing to tune around I found FK8CE coming through. I kept tuning since I'd already worked him on 40 meters, only pausing to spot him. Flipping down to 80 meters CW I found a pile-up on E6GG. Since it was still 20 minutes before sunrise, with my poor antenna I heard nothing. However it was nice for a change to hear the band so quiet; all the neighbourhood lights and appliances were switched off at that early hour.

Not willing to wait for the sunrise enhancement of 80 meters propagation I shut down and headed upstairs and back to bed. I was soon asleep, happy that another band country was in the log. It just goes to show that if you get on at the right time there is interesting stuff to work even through dreadful conditions.

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