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Can a DXpedition Whisper?

from Jean-Michel (Jimi), F4DLM on May 22, 2014
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Can a DXpedition Whisper?

Can a DXpedition whisper?

Well... technically, it shouts. This is its main feature, actually.

But wait. Truth is, it's not entirely true. One of them did whisper. TO7CC, the latest DXpedition from the F6KOP Team did WSPR (pronounced whisper). It happened in La Réunion Island AF-016, on 30m from February 9th to 16th, 2014.

Isn’t it strange to operate a QRP digital mode in such an occasion? When everything was setup for the usual DXpedition traffic and the pile-ups were in full swing, I decided to satisfy a little bit of my current curiosity about the WSPR mode. So I started a WSPR-AXE beacon on 30m with a very simple antenna, a dipole installed as a vertical antenna on a fish pole with an elevated radial.

This WSPR-AXE is a very nice 1W, TX only kit, designed and supported by Jay W5OLF (see here: http://w5olf.site11.com/). It's a standalone device on a 10 by 3cm PCB with a single microcontroller chip and some classic "through-hole" components. Mine was already assembled (thanks to Ben F1JHB) and in use at home for some time. The initial reports from my home location (F4DLM in JN18), were already very good: the European zone is covered, I can be heard in the USA every day, sometimes even from VK.

Just 3 weeks before my departure to La Réunion, during one of my HAM chit-chat, my friend Ben F1JHB raised an interesting question "Why don't you experiment this mode in a DXpedition?" I agreed knowing that a "quick & dirty" antenna could easily be done in no time for the 30m band. The extra load would not be huge: in addition to the beacon, the only requirement was the usual 12V DC - 1 Amp power supply. Under dire baggage weight restriction, it still came at a steep price: I had to leave a sweater behind. Fortunately, I didn’t even need it, since the daylight temp averages 30°C (86° F). The rest was just a question of time. I ordered Jay a chip with the new callsign and grid locator (TO7CC, LG78). He did it swiftly, and I received it one week before departure.

Now I'm in La Reunion Island, the setup is done and works properly. I’m wondering how the beacon will behave in a heavy RF environment. See for yourself:

The signal was heard 313 times, by 10 unique stations. For raw data, see here: http://wsprnet.org/olddb?mode=html&band=all&limit=400&findcall=to7cc&findreporter=&sort=date.

Back at home, I wanted to know a bit more about the stations which had been listening to our signal. So I sent them an email, and had some very nice answers:

ZS6AIC, Anton, was the 1st and last one to decode us. He listens to 40m and 30m WSPR 24/7 with a SDR and an E/W 5 band dipole. He heard us consistently from day one.

OZ7IT, Jørgen, first and almost only European station to hear us, is running 30m WSPR 24/7 on a FT-817 with 300 Hz CW-filter. Antenna is normally a 60m loop, sometimes a 60/30/17/12m multidipole hanging north/south. He would have liked us to try and listen to the band. Maybe we’ll do this next time, but with more than a few meters between the WSPR antenna and the other DXpedition gear.

SA6BSS, Mikael, was the last European to hear us, using a ground mounted Butternut HF9 with ca. 30 radials in the ground, and a FT817 as a receiver.

ZL1BOE, Chris, a 72 years young man, is doing WSPR with a Flex 1500 SDR and a 43-foot vertical antenna. Like all the others, he just listened to the band and found us. That’s how WSPRnet’s magic operates: automatic listening reports displayed on a map make things livelier.

VK6XT, Rick, has been operating WSPR for 4 years, using a Horizontal 80m loop. The normal setup was: Hopping all bands 24 hour operation. Normally select 40 thru 6m in daylight and 160 thru 30 meters at night. WSPR power levels 200mW up to 5w, 10w on 160/80m sometimes.

Last, but not least, was AA7FV, Darrel. He generally uses a WSPR-AXE beacon on 20m. That night, he let his Icom PC1000 on reception on 30m and bang, there it was, TO7CC was heard in Arizona! His antenna is kind of special: “It is an offset rhombic, a wire beam pointing in a fixed direction towards Europe. It was designed to be optimum at 14 and 18 MHz, but also works well on 10 MHz. It is 12 meters above the ground. It is an unterminated rhombic, meaning that it has a sidelobe in the reverse direction that is almost as strong as the main beam in the forwards direction. Although it is beamed at Europe, the Isle de la Reunion is still within the beam. As it is unterminated, I cannot distinguish between long path and short path signals”. So which one was it: short path across Africa (18161km) or long path above the Pacific and Indian Oceans (ca. 21800km)?

As a matter of conclusion, I think you will agree with me that, for a first time, barely announced test, it provided good results. If we were to do this again, and I hope we will, I’d announce this feature well in advance both on the DXpedition website and on WSPRnet. A better antenna, located farther from the rest of the usual gear would provide better isolation from interference, both ways.

In any case I think we’ll do this again during our next DXpedition and we’ll be sure to tell you about it more in advance. Maybe you’ll want to test this astonishing QRP mode by yourself and become a Weak Signal Propagation Reporter. For more information, see here: http://wsprnet.org/drupal/wsprnet/map and here: http://www.physics.princeton.edu/pulsar/K1JT/

Thanks to K1JT for his work on this wonderful WSPR digimode, to W5OLF for his excellent kit and support, and to F1JHB for the idea in the first place. Special thanks to Frank F4AJQ, our team leader, and to all the TO7CC team members for putting up with my experimentation.

Jean-Michel (Jimi) F4DLM (TO7CC-2014)

Member Comments:
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Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by AB9TA on May 22, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
EXCELLENT Article.. It's what I always thought DXPeditions should be about - Pushing the boundaries of our knowledege about RF propagation.
And also about exploring newer ways to communicate that are much more spectrum and power efficient than Hams use now.
I'd love to see more articles with originality like this one.

Well Done Sir!!

73!
Bill AB9TA

PS, A refreshing change of pace from all the articles decrying the on-air bad pileup manners from the Rudest of the Lids. And a nice article showing just how obsolete Cretacious Wave has become.
 
Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by RSHIRE22 on May 22, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
From Florida at 7am in the morning I work the far east and Australia using longpath on 20 meters.
Longpath comms occur far more often than most hams realize. Some may not even realize when it is happening.

RS
 
RE: Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by N4JTE on May 22, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Thank you!! To me an article on eham should lead me in new directions and get me interested in something new to pursue. You have presented a wonderful article!
Regard's
Bob
 
RE: Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by JOHNZ on May 22, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
@AB9TA

"Cretacious Wave"?

A rather strange use of an adjective which is normally found in writings about geology.



 
RE: Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by F8WBD on May 22, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
Fine article. Though I remain committed to QRP CW, I confess to being intrigued by certain digital modes and might jump in one day.
 
RE: Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by N3HAM on May 23, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
"Cretacious Wave"? Hey, I resent that Lamarck! I will not Lyell to you, I find it very Darwinian. How about Silurian SSB, Permian PSK, and Devonian Digital? I hope most of us are still around to keyboard each other after the next asteroid hits. We will be rockbound for sure.
 
RE: Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by KH6DC on May 23, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
It's Precambrian to me. Long live the Kaibab and Vishnu Schist.
 
Can a DXpedition Whisper?  
by RSHIRE22 on May 23, 2014 Mail this to a friend!
WSPR is interesting the first few times but to sow my wild oats nothing beats radio telegraphy. When I feel too lazy I choose jt-9 which is narrow bandwidth similar to wspr. I just wish more dx stations would give jt-9 a whirl.
 
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