Antarctica calling…

2200 UTC Friday night and I’m parked right beside the sea wall at the bottom of Southampton Water.  This is the scene for my biggest ‘DX’ contact yet and a very special one: 9000 miles to the south my friends and former colleagues at Rothera Research Station, Antarctica are about to give me a call on the radio.

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My location is chosen for its close proximity to the sea water which enhances the performance of my very basic helical antenna.  Using the VOACAP online propagation prediction tool shows that at this time of night (and after our signals bounce off the Atlantic ocean twice) the 20m band should have some chance of working between our locations:

VOACAP Southampton Prediction

… and sure enough it was!  VP8ROT came through loud and clear, almost as if they were on the other side of the hill, and after a very happy 20 minutes chatting to the other side of the planet I have a new and very special pin in the map below (the yellow one at the bottom!):

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Amateur radio contacts to date.

And just for good measure, a couple of pictures of the scene at the other end of the contact which I think we can all agree is a lot more interesting than a Ford Mondeo parked by the sea:

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Terri talking to field parties over the radio on a winter evening, 2009.

Antennas at Rothera late on a summer's evening, 2009
Antennas at Rothera late on a summer’s evening, 2010

Waiting to go Portable

Currently on a short break down in Cornwall and I’m keenly watching weather data to see if there’s a chance of going out for some portable radio.  I have it in mind to fly a kite antenna from Lizard Point or nearby but obviously weather is a deciding factor.  A great tool to enhance the usual weather forecasts is the free Rain Alarm app which shows the most recent data from weather radar, very good for watching the trend and getting an idea if you’re going to get wet:

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Rain Alarm – 09:40
http://app.rain-alarm.com

Although it’s quite fine outside right now you can see a lot of showers around the area. The forecast shows better chances tomorrow so today will probably be an indoors day!

Quick tests – Netbook for /P

A very quick post to test WordPress from my Android phone and to show another quick test made today – my new(ish) Samsung netbook in bright daylight running fldigi into my portable radio setup 🙂

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Later edit- …and although my phone’s camera was struggling shooting into the Sun, the readability of the netbook’s screen was good when set to the higher brightness levels, even without a glare shield.

I’ve bought the netbook to replace my ageing IBM T41 laptop in this setup. The netbook lightens the portable kit by over 1kg, improves screen readability outdoors, is smaller and easier to pack AND is a faster machine. Obviously the keyboard is smaller than a normal-size laptop (and the IBMs do have good keyboards) but I knew this would be an area to pay attention to and I spent some time typing and comparing models in the computer shop – this Samsung NP NC-110 doesn’t compromise as much as some in the key layout and was the best for me to type on.

 

 

 

 

One other area of compromise is screen area – I’ve moved from 1024×768 on the IBM to 1024×600 on the netbook on a smaller screen (14″ has become 10″). I had thought I might end up using Ham Radio Deluxe on WinXP but the fairly busy interface is too crowded on the netbook screen – there may be some tweaking to be done. In the meantime, FLDigi (which I had been using on Linux) has a fairly minimal interface by default and looks good on the netbook. I’m still learning my way around the software so I don’t know if I’ll settle on this.