The Importance of Location - Keynote # 1, 1999
What is one of the most important factors in QRP work, and one over which many of us have no control? It's our location. Unless we are wealthy enough to pick out a superb location and move ourselves there, or fortunate enough to have been born in a superb location, we simply have to put up with what we have.
I am one of those whose location is far from ideal for ham radio. In fact back in the 60's it caused me to become disenchanted with ham radio and give it up for several years. I have since learned how to live with what I have, and I am again having fun with ham radio.
If you are in a similar situation, don't let it get you down. Just do the best with what you have. Don't try to compete with others or get discouraged because they seem to do better than you do with similar equipment. Remember they may live in an ideal location for ham radio.
Let me describe my location in a not overly detailed way, but such that you can get an idea of what I am talking about. I live about 3 blocks from the Allegheny River which over the ages has carved out a rather deep broad valley leaving this location surrounded with hills of varying heights on all sides. On the average this leaves me with a blockage of 5 to 10 degrees in most all directions. This means that the DX signals that normally come in at low angles are attenuated or blocked by the hills as are my signals heading out to the DX station.
As a consequence, I will normally not be able to work DX as easily as someone who lives say, on top of one of the hills. Oftentimes the person on the hill will be able to work a station with the signal taking only a single hop because the arrival and departure angle of the signals can be at a very low angle. At the same time under the same conditions for me to work the station, the signals must take 2 hops with the consequential loss of signal strength in the extra pass through the ionosphere and the midpath bounce off the earth's surface.
I have done some extensive comparison of my results with those of a friend of mine who lives in the flat lands of Ohio with no hills at all to contend with. It is quite interesting, and shows very clearly what an advantage he has over me. We are both about the same age with the same ham experience. Neither of us is any more skilled than the other. We both use QRP and wire antennas in our attics.
I am not going to go into a lot of detailed statistics for fear of making this boring. However just as an example, we'll consider Russia and Africa. It so happens that to my north is the lowest gap in my surrounding hills. Perhaps only 2 or 3 degrees of hills at the most. That is the direction my signals take to reach Russia. It so happens that both of us seem to be able to work Russia equally well. I can work quite weak Russian signals easily because the signals pass freely through that gap in my hills.
Now to my east lie the highest hills. In that direction is the heart of the African continent. My friend can work Africa much much easier than I can. He has easily worked the Eastern part of Africa out to Reunion Island. I have trouble even hearing stations from that area of the world. While I can work Africa, virtually all of my African contacts are with the west coast of Africa. Why? This involves much shorter distances so the attenuation of my sigs by the hills are not quite as much of a factor. Analysis of results in other directions is equally as telling. Where I have the hills to contend with, his results are always better.
What is my point of telling you all of this. Merely to say that you should not get discouraged with your QRP operation if you can't match someone else's accomplishments. Take into consideration the location factor. That will probably be a big factor in the difference. That other person you're comparing yourself with is no better than you are. It's not that at all. Don't get discouraged - just stop and figure it out.
And to those of you with the superb locations, etc. - don't gloat over your accomplishments. Be proud of them, and mention them to others, but in a humble way.
I don't want anyone to become discouraged with QRP and/or ham radio, and give it up. We need all of you to keep this hobby strong.
Finally remember even if you don't have the ideal situation or location, you can still have fun with QRP and ham radio. I certainly do. I don't care if other folks have better results than I do. I only compete with myself.
I have predicted to my friend that he will easily catch and surpass my DX totals because of his superb location even though he hasn't been chasing DX as long as I have. I will be quite disappointed if he doesn't do so.
Gee, my page is used up again. Remember to check out my web site for many helpful ham radio aids. It's at home.windstream.net/johnshan/ or Email me or write John H. Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304. For now, very 73 and good QRP DXing to you all. -30-