DXing With Minimal QRP - Keynote # 9, 2000
Last month, the Keynote was a bit jammed with material, and Nancy had to cut a bit off the end of my column, so before I really get started this month, here's what was left out last time:
This is from one of my readers, KG4FXG, who writes - "Quote me if you like in Keynote, hopefully I will finish my Tentec Shortwave Receiver and start building my TT2 and other QRP Rigs. I am a new ham and my perspective and enthusiasm comes from my love for CW and simple rigs that I can understand, therefore qrp is my new friend. I worked Special Olympics this weekend at Emory University and then the Dacula Parade on Monday. At the end when all of us hams are standing together bragging about our radios I always like to say, "See, isn't qrp great, I'm so glad that you are eager to operate 5 watts or less". So they look at me like I'm crazy. I tell them the states that I have worked turning the power down on my big rig and they are amazed. I love my new Bencher Paddles and hit CQ with 5 watts on 40 meters, after the second call at only 13 wpm I had a qso from Alabama that lasted 45 minutes. WOW!"
Now let's get on with the business at hand. As you are reading this, it should be some time after the fall season has arrived, and while that means cold weather coming here in the northern hemisphere, it also means that the summer doldrums should be over and the bands should once again be hopping with DX for the QRPer as they were last fall and winter. While the entire subject of propagation is too complex to discuss here, there are many great sources of propagation info on the internet. I have links to many of the best sites on my web site if you would like to know more about the subject.
I will just say that one of the causes of the summer doldrums comes from the fact that many of the DX signal paths pass through the northern hemisphere. In summer the northern hemisphere is heated much more than in winter, so the ionosphere is less dense and the ions are spread out more thinly than they are in winter. As a result, radio signals are not reflected or refracted back to earth as well in summer. So even though the solar flux numbers are just as high in summer and the A and K index numbers are just as low, working DX is not as easy as it is in winter, especially for the QRPer.
Since the southern hemisphere is more dense during the northern summer, long path signals from say the USA to India that go near the south pole will be good in summer, but still long paths are not the easiest way to go for the QRPer because the greater distance means more signal absorption.
I know we have readers in both the northern and southern hemispheres, so I hope the previous info isn't confusing to our southern hemisphere readers. I did want to mention it though, because I have been asked many times why, with the great SF, A, K numbers we have had this summer, it wasn't very easy for the QRPer to work DX.
To those who asked, cheer up and get ready for this fall and winter. It should be great! With that in mind, I'm going to repeat some material from some of my very first columns about working DX.
I never thought that QRP and DX could mix unless you had a big antenna farm in a great location. However, over the past 7 years I have proved myself wrong by making around 5000 DX contacts in 187 countries. I believe that anyone with a minimum of effort can get the basic DXCC award using minimal QRP which is what I call QRP and simple wire antennas. I hope the following tips help you achieve that goal.
The most important thing to remember about DXing, whether it be with minimal QRP or a KW into a stacked array on a 200 foot tower, is to LISTEN before you do anything. Of course, before you can work the DX, you have to be able to hear it.
Once you can hear the DX station, now you listen to see where the DX is listening for replies. If you hear him work a station right on his frequency, then you know he's listening there. Zero beat him and get ready to call, but again don't jump in too quickly.
Listen to find out the pattern of the DX station's exchange. Sometimes after the exchange of info, the DX station will just say TU, and then start listening for replies. Other times he will send QRZ?, or QRZ? de X2XXX, or just X2XXX. Some stations send dit dit. Whatever it is, learn when the DX station is done with a QSO and ready for the next call before you jump in.
Now you are ready to try the station. When that telltale signal comes from the DX station, send your call once, nothing else. If you are fortunate, the station will answer you by sending your call and a signal report then K. You say TU and give him a report, and K. He will acknowledge you and move on to the next QSO. Very quick, like lightning, but you now have a new DX country in your log.
Of course that is the ideal situation, and it is not going to work that way every time, even for the most powerful station in the world, and certainly not for the minimal QRPer. Not to say it doesn't happen, though. A few times I have beaten out a fair sized pileup to work a DX station. How? That will have to wait till next month, unless you have internet access. In that case you can find this materail in my past columns, all of which are available there.
Check my web site at home.windstream.net/johnshan/. Write me at John Shannon, 478 E. High St., Kittanning, PA 16201-1304 or Email me. Till next month, 73 -30-