Tuesday, October 20, 2020

KONG41 - Day Four

Nothing spectacular to report the last day. Signal levels were generally high on the trans-polar paths, but more interference than usual (or wanted) due to higher signals from Europe/Middle East as well. 

Pacific came early yesterday as well, with New Zealand mixing with UK at 09:00. The hope for a nice NHK-1 opening at 10:00 was lost due to increased noise levels.  The 1-kW Asahikawa relays in Enbetsu and Wakkanai (792 and 927 kHz) were nice and strong, also Aomori 963 and a few others. The noise levels were on the high side for the rest of the day.

Checking early night with Jaguar, one can see how WLQV Detroit 1500 changes from day power/pattern to night power/pattern. I would suspect they use two transmitters. The day transmisson is about 3 Hz high while the night transmission is about 8 Hz low. The drifting at the start of the night transmission might indicate a warm-up drift. WLQV is 50 kW days, 10 kW nights.

The main use of this feature is to spot stations with high daytime powers before they power down or power off.

Dinner was a bit the same as yesterday. The starter was different though, duck liver paste. The main course was leftovers from the lamb, cooked in Barolo with chopped vegetables thrown in. Then for dessert, another round of chocolate mousse with cloudberry jam. The duck liver paste was served with a 5 puttonyos Tokay Aszú from 2013. A Lopez de Heredia Rioja from 2008 went very well with the modified Barolo dish. Another round of Banyuls for the dessert.

We do test a few beers during our stay. Below is a selection...

Yesterday's weather: It warmed up a bit so the snow and sleet turned into rain. 3-4 degrees Celsius, some dry periods. This morning's view from the living room:

Monday, October 19, 2020

KONG41 - Day Three

Monday! How time flies. Sunday started off nicely with a few daytimers closing down, such as KUYO-WY 830, KQLX-ND 890, KKOJ-MN 1190 and KDOM-MN 1580. Signal levels were good all Sunday, but night reception was a bit disturbed from snow-induced noise. After checking the Mount Loran recordings, the WNJC 1360 test was heard at 05:41.

Pacific stations arrived early, the carrier from Tonga-1017 was visible from 06:30 and very well readable at 09:00. New Zealand arrived early as well, but so did the rest of the Asian continent so they weren't easy to pick.

Tonga, while still alone on the frequency

As the day passed, the snow shower activity eased off a bit, and spending time outdoor was quite pleasant. 

KONG HQ to the right, neighbours including the guesthouse to the left. Facing west.

As evening drew nigh, we did our usual unusual-beer routine, before settling at the dinner table. Starters was salmon tartare, consisting of smoked and fresh, sashimi-quality salmon, together with red onion and chive. A Knewitz Riesling Eisenerz accompanied this course very well.

The main course was a lamb thigh, baked at very low temperature for a very long time - 7 hours in fact. An excellent meal with mashed root vegetables and a spicy sauce. We chose Italian for the red wine, a Langhe Nebbiolo 2018.

Dessert was M&M... Magnificent and Massive! Chocolate Mousse with a cloudberry jam on top. Wow. A 2008 Banyuls didn't make it worse! All this bought us into instant and deep hibernation mode, from which we only just recovered!

Weather report: Snow and sleet showers which eased off during the day (and a starry starry night followed). Temperatures still just on the "red" side during the day, a few degrees below at night. Almost dead calm. We appreciate that.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

KONG41 - Day Two

 A somewhat uneventful night sort of peaked at 06:00 with loggings of rare WBHR Sauk Rapids MN 660, and new (to me) WVAL 800 from the same city. WREY-MN 630 also noted. Good signals from Minnesota and the eastern Dakotas - more suprising was that at the same time several Colombians were audible, and even Radio Monumental, Chacuí Paraguay 1080. And then KKMO-WA on 1360. Propagation which we, with directive beverage antennas, call unfocused.

WVAL-800 is a good example of "seeing the station" with Jaguar software. With CKLW being the huge channel dominant, it is useful to use the Jaguar Spectra tool to see which other stations are visible, but maybe buried in the dominant station's signal. As luck would have it, WVAL came from virtually nothing to a good signal a few minutes around the full hour, and then faded away.

The Spectra tool view also gives a good impression of how many stations are actually on the frequency, but not audible. Since stations tend to have small, and often stable offsets from the nominal frequency, one can make qualified guesses about station identity.

Ole arrived around noon after an arduous journey on snowy and icy roads. DX-peditioning is not for the faint of heart! Later on we did another trip to Mount Loran for battery and SSD replacements, and finishing antenna repairs. Frequent snow showers and slushy roads.

Dinner time! Fried salmon with carbonara. The white wine came all the way from New Zealand, a 2018 Yealand Sauvignon Blanc. For dessert we enjoyed a blueberry pie with custard, and of course Amaretto!

Weather is much the same, snow showers with clear skies in between and temperatures just below freezing.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

KONG41 - Day One

 OK, so here we go again! We were doing some math yesterday, and found out that over the past 24 years we've actually spent more than a year together on this location! Starting off with extremely basic equipment, and little comfort, the journey has been spectacular indeed.

Anyway, I picked up OJ Sagdahl at Berlevåg airport on Friday afternoon, and we headed directly towards our Mount Loran remote, battery-powered Perseus/Jaguar/1000-metre beverage setup. After replacing the battery and the SSD, we discovered that "something", most likely a reindeer, had messed around with the antenna. The antenna lead to the transformer had been torn off, so the last four nights of recording were total silence. After half an hour, the damage was repaired, and there was no sign of the reindeer so it probably got away unharmed.

Mount Loran remote setup, Kjølnes lighthouse in the background. Facing East.

Not too much to report station-wise - KGMI Bellingham WA 790 isn't too common though. Tonga-1017 and Marshall Islands-1098 were heard with moderate levels.

Early in the evening Ole Forr reported that he's on his way from Andøya, a 12-hour drive even in summer conditions. Now: Icy roads.

We were only two for dinner this first day: The usual self-composed Bjarne-style fish gratin. We were supposed to have chocolate pudding with custard for dessert, but there simply wasn't room for any more.

Ole told us this morning he decided to rest a bit in Karasjok before doing the last 280-km leg. We will head out towards Mount Loran later today to pick up the latest catches and do final antenna repairs. And with that, below is the usual morning picture from Kongsfjord. Temperatures just above freezing in the day, at or below at night.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

QSLs: Three Surprising Catches from Australia on 936, 1485, 1602 kHz

Very early and very late in the DX season are the best periods for hunting Aussies on MW. In short: After spring equinox and before autumn equinox. The 80 degrees beverage is best suited, because on the summer side of equinox the 50 degrees beverage points too much to the north, where daylight lasts longer.

I had an excellent opening on September 3 which rewarded me with two 200-watt ABC outlets, and my first in-band Tasmanian station. 

The first one I logged was 5LN ABC 1485kHz Port Lincoln, SA. I have been monitoring 1485 for some time in hunt for ABC, and heard the Majestic Fanfare and some audio with quite good quality. This made me check 1602 kHz, since ABC stations have been heard on 1602 before on my location. And like on cue, there it was, 5LC ABC Leigh Creek, SA. Much weaker, but legible.

I have been hunting Tasmania on 936 intensively with no luck for at least a year. With the two South Australia stations audible, I knew there should be a chance of hearing 7ZR ABC Hobart. And indeed I did. At the half hour UTC (which btw is full  hour in South Australia but half hour in Tasmania), I heard a promotion for a show on ABC-TV, then half an hour later the Majestic Fanfare was audible with a fair signal. 

All three receptions were confirmed this morning.

The distance from Kongsfjord to Eyre Peninsula and Lincon is around 14,200 km. Not bad for 200-watt signals in a congested band. Hobart is 15,480 km away and of course my most distant Aussie reception.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

KONG40 Report: Antennas and Preparing for the Season

 A little belated, here's an update of the KONG40 DX-pedition which took place from Sept 4 to 6. Actually it's not much of a DX-pedition as such, more of a preparation expedition. Because things need to be in place for the equipment to survive the winter with minimal human presence!

Fellow DX-ers Ole Forr and OJ Sagdahl had a loong drive from southern Norway, especially since driving through Sweden and Finland was out of the question because of Covid-19. This added 4-5 hours to the planned 20-hour drive. They "landed" in the early afternoon. Four main objectives:

1. Set up the temporary, battery-powered Mount Loran 1000-metre beverage listening post.

2. Set up the remaining of four beverage antennas, a dual-beverage antenna aimed at North America's west coast.

3. Set up their own gear in Kongsfjord and make all systems work.

4. Test a few beers.

The Mount Loran deployment was most urgent since we needed to be finished before daylight faded. It's quite a bit of work involved - a heavy reel with the antenna wire, a box with a PC, a Perseus, I/O units and a 100 Ah battery. At the site, we need to negotiate an 800-metre walk at a rather steep angle, so a wheelbarrow is a necessity. Having done this a few times, we're well drilled with the procedures and spent only two hours from leaving the house until we were back (it's a 20-minute drive to and from).

Being quite satisfied with the day's work, we enjoyed a few fabulous beers, such as the Lervig Supersonic and the Tank 7. For dinner we had my own secret recipe fish soup, comprising fresh cod fillets, chopped carrots, seleriac, red chili, leak and almond potatoes. Chocolate pudding and custard for dessert. Weather: Awesome. A bit windy, but dry and 17-18 celsius. Like a warm day in July.

Saturday: Lots of equipment needs to be placed, and preferably in a tidy manner. Contrary to previous seasons, and with the help of a slightly refurbished 1950's home made rack, things do look quite good. Below are OJ's and Ole's equipment.

Third on our list was setting up the dual beverage. Sorry that there were no photos from the work, but the weather on Saturday was as nice as on Friday, if not better. More beers were tested, and for dinner we had fried salmon with carbonara. A red wine I don't remember anymore fitted the meal reasonably well. For dessert we had the rest of the chocolate pudding. 

Sunday was more relaxing, although last night's recordings from Mount Loran had to be collected together with a battery replacement. Later on we inspected the beverages and diverted to the tip of the peninsula where the navigation light stands. Even warmer this day, 20 Celsius, still windy but a welcome chill it was.

This last day we tested some beers (surprise....) and for dinner we had a home-made (and pre-made) fish gratin. The ultra-secret recipe was haddock fillets, fried bacon and onion, leak, carrots and macaroni. A round with Calle's Riesling with this one, and for dessert another home-made (and first-made) thing that proved delicious, blueberry pie with fresh blueberries picked along the antenna paths! Unfortunately, we ran out of custard.

On Monday morning Ole and OJ headed for Andøya and more antenna work. I drove to Vadsø to check out my new car. 

Next time we meet will be in mid-October for the 9-day KONG41 DX-pedition.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Dragonfly RX-666: Some Points to Consider

Having spent quite a few hours with the RX-666 over the weekend, I feel confident enough to come up with an evaluation of the receiver and its interaction with software. The link is here.

Saturday, August 08, 2020

Dragonfly RX-666 - A New Player?

(Updated AUG-9 2020)

I have been playing with the new, China-manufactured RX-666 for quite a few hours the past couple of days. There has been quite a bit of interest in this device, especially since it claims to sample a whopping 32 MHz of bandwidth. I will do a write-up soon, but since questions are plentiful, I will outline some points of interest below.

1. The RX-666 is the brainchild of IK1XPV Oskar Steila and his project BBRF103. There is no controversy on this. The Chinese manufacturers (whoever they are) used his open-source project, which is completely legal. What surprises me (and him) is that they never let him know about it. 

2. It uses an LTC2208 ADC from Analog Devices. This is a 16-bit ADC. Some say it is the same that sits in the Excalibur G31/G33 etc. series. I can't confirm that. Oskar's original design used the LTC2217 ADC.

3. For VHF/UHF use, it uses the R820T2 tuner chip. It has capacity for 8, possibly 10 MHz, for instance for use on the FM band. The modified HDSDR exes are needed for sampling 2, 4 or 8 MHz. On the official HDSDR version, it will only sample 2 MHz. VHF/UHF will always start fully attenuated, leaving you to assume that there is no coverage.

4. Current sampling rate options are 32, 16, 8, 4, and 2 MHz. Alias-free ranges (limited by firmware filters) are 28.8, 14.4, 7.2, 3.6 and 1.8 MHz. Minimum LO setting is 1000 kHz with 2 MHz sampling. This means that with the current dll, minimum tuneable frequency is 100 kHz. No VLF reception yet. 

5. There is no LNA in the circuit, so sensitivity is a bit low. A good-quality preamplifier resolves this.

6. On an i5-6500 PC with 8 GB RAM, full sampling requires 30-55 % CPU. Recording 32 MHz to an external hard drive is more challenging, resulting in stutter. Playback of a 32-MHz file in SDR Console is ok.

Sampling 32 MHz with original BBRF103 dll and official HDSDR software

7. Software is available from the manufacturer in some sort - a version of HDSDR which does not seem to be original, an ExtIO dll and assosiated files, and Cypress drivers. Driver must likely be installed manually (I had to). No problems though.

8. The RX-666 will run from an official HDSDR installation. And more: It will run with the dlls that Oskar developed for his BBRF103 project.  I strongly recommend any RX-666 owners to use the original HDSDR software and the original BBRF103 dll files.

9. Temperature control: None except the box which is warm but not hot. Internal air temperature is around 40 Celsius after 6-7 hours with full sampling. Ambient is 23 Celsius.

10. DO NOT USE THE OPTIONAL 5VDC CONNECTOR!   You don't need it either.

Tuesday, July 07, 2020

QSL: Shetland Islands Broacasting Company 96.2 MHz FM

An excellent July 1 Es opening towards mostly Denmark and Sweden (192 logged stations) ended with  exceptionally strong signal levels from stations in Shetland and the Orkneys. SIBC had a good signal for about half an hour, with RDS decoding most of the time. An MP4 video with an "SIBC" jingle on was sent to the station. Shortly afterwards, I received a friendly response along with an e-QSL. SIBC shares the Bressay tower with BBC transmitters - at one time it seemed like it was the only transmitter location that was heard on my FM band. 1800 km.

Thanks Svenn M. for sharing v/s.

Saturday, July 04, 2020

FM Logs For June 2020

June was a good month for FM DX up here. Most openings were to the south, meaning Russia, Belarus and the Baltic states with some stations from Poland, Germany, Sweden and Denmark too. The complete June log is available as a pdf file here.