VE7SL RADIO NOTEBOOK

136 kHz REPORT


ANTENNA

2200m NOW OPEN FOR CANADIAN AMATEURS!

For the past several years, amateurs in the U.K. and many other countries throughout the world, have had access to the 136 kHz or 2200 metre band. Finally, Canadian amateurs will now have the same opportunity to access this fascinating portion of the radio spectrum. Following the World Radiocommunication Conference's (WRC-07) approval of the 2200m band as a world-wide amateur band, as of DECEMBER 2009, Canadian amateurs now have full access to 2200m without the need for special operating permission.

Yes....2200m is now a HAM BAND in Canada!

Amateurs are reminded that they are SECONDARY USERS of this band (135.7-137.8 kHz) and as such, are required to operate on a NON-INTERFERENCE basis with the PRIMARY USERS (Canadian Navy, various Hydro authorities). Extensive amateur operations across Canada during the '2200m Experimental Licensing Program' (several hundreds of hours) produced no known cases of amateur interference to secondary users as well as little or no interference from the secondary users to amateur operations. Amateurs are limited to 1W E.I.R.P. and narrow-band modes of emission.

******* VE7 - JA On 2200m!! *******


LF history was made in the early hours of September 28th, 2010 when Scott, VE7TIL and Kuni, JA7NI completed the first Asian to North American QSO on the 2200m band! Spanning a distance of almost 7200km, the groundbreaking trans-Pacific QSO was the second longest on record. Congratulations to both Scott and Kuni for their truly inspirational work. For more details and pictures, see Scott's website.

******* Recent Activity *******


Here is a recent screen shot from The Alaskan Snapper screen grabber operated by Laurence, KL7UK, shows a typical night of action out here on the west coast as heard in Alaska.

KL7UK grab



Signals in descending order: VE7TIL (DFCW 'TIL'), VE7SL (DFCW 'SL'), JA1GCM (QRSS 'GM'), VE7BDQ (QRSS 'BDQ')


Another great 2200m screen shot recently received from Neil, WØYSE/7 in Layton Utah, shows three VE7's lighting up his receive system on the evening of January 15, 2011.

Signals from VE7SL, VA7JX and VE7BDQ were all doing well over the 1200km path.

Neil's receive antenna is just a small homebrew active PAØRDT mini-whip. See more of Neil's LF activities at The WØYSE Ham Radio Site

Utah grab


**** ANY OF THE ABOVE STATIONS ARE AVAILABLE FOR CROSSBAND CONTACTS WITH YOU IF YOU HAVE RECEIVE CAPABILITIES ON 2200m ****

See my web page explaining a typical crossband QSO procedure.



LF propagation was above normal on the evening of Jan 8, 2012. The screen grab shown below is from VE2IQ's excellent receive system near Ottawa.

The strong 'SL' was at full power while the short keydown at the end was at just 18 watts output.


VE2IQ grab


Good propagation returned on the night of January 19th, when VE1VDM in Nova Scotia captured my signal in the predawn hours.

VE1VDM grab


A few evenings later, both myself and VE7BDQ, completed quick crossband QSO's with Utah when we both worked WØYSE north of Salt Lake City.

This screen grab from Neil shows my QRSS3 signal sending 'R R 5NN E'. The 'E' is used as a faster way of sending 'K'.


Utah grab

Neil's grab of John sending his full call during his QSO with Utah

Utah grab



STATION ACTIVITY LIST

Who's On-the-Air .... Who's Building!

VE7TIL - ROBERTS CREEK, B.C. (CN89)

Scott is QRV on 2200m with 400W or with his MOALFA (Mother Of All LF Amps) at 2kW. Scott recently built a huge loop for both transmitting and receiving and his efforts have paid off as shown by his recent QSO with JA7NI in September...the first ever QSO between North America and Asia. Hopefully many more QSO's with Japan will occur as stations in Canada and Japan further refine their systems.

VE7TIL 2kw TX










Here is a picture of Scott's monster transmitter, using four 500W dual P-P FET modules into a four-port power combiner. The huge signal eminating from Roberts Creek, B.C. comes from this beautifully handcrafted design of VE7TIL.









VE7BDQ - DELTA, B.C. (CN89)

John is active on both 2200 and 600m with a newly constructed kilowatt transmitter capable of dual-band operation. His tx antenna is a top-loaded vertical while a loop is used for rx.

LF VE7BDQ VE7BDQ LF TX

Two dual-band 500W power modules are fed to the homebrew dual-band power combiner.

COMBINER



LOADING COIL LOADING COIL









John's loading coil has been wound with flat ribbon telephone wire on a large piece of PVC water pipe as well as a small bucket.

The inside of the top bucket also houses a 1mH variometer which can be tuned from the shack via an insulated rod.

Total inductance of the system is about 4mH.













RX LOOP

A 6' multi-turn active loop is used for receiving. The tx antenna is ~ 10m vertical with 70m of top loading, inverted 'L' style.

John has been able to copy good signals from JA7NI on QRSS during recent JA-NA tests.

The VE7BDQ LF activities demonstrate that being located on a city-sized suburban lot should be no deterrent to getting on-the-air and enjoying what LF has to offer.




VO1NA - TORBAY, NL (GN37)


Joe is very active on both 600m and 2200m and has made several contacts with Europeans on 2200m. If you are active in the east then you may be able to work Newfoundland on 2200!


VO1NA TX Joes' present transmitter uses an IRF640 at 125W...using all salvaged parts.

VO1NA ANT DECCA





Joe's dual wire antenna has been replaced by a lower, single, more storm-friendly, 100m sloper.

The 1000W Decca seen on the right can also be used on 2200m.










VA7JX - CAMPBELL RIVER, B.C. (CN79)

Jack is now on-the-air with about 100 watts. His initial QSO was with VE7SL on July 15 at 0900 on 137.777 CW mode. Stations in Vancouver will enjoy working Vancouver Island 'DX' on 2200! Jack signal was recently heard well in Kansas.

VA7JX TRANSVERTER Jack's new homebrew transverter uses an IRF540.

ANTENNA VA7JX SHACK





         Jack's 2200m three-wire flattop along with his well-organized shack














To see more of Jack's LF gear and other beautiful homebrew work, visit his website.



VE7SL - MAYNE ISLAND, B.C. (CN88)

I am also QRV on 2200m at 450W and always interested in skeds or a 'crossband' QSO with you.
See my station description and crossband QSO info on a separate page.



IF YOU ARE BUILDING or PLANNING FOR 2200m OPERATION, PLEASE LET ME KNOW FOR INCLUSION HERE ON THE ACTIVITY PAGE!


Canadians On 2200m - Historical Notes

The following information, although now somewhat dated, will provide some idea of the activities undertaken during the '2200m Experimental Licensing Program' which ran for several years preceeding WRC-07. As an amateur interested in getting-on the 2200m band, hopefully you will find the information both helpful and inspirational!

Over the next few months, as various new stations populate the band, this information will be phased-out and updated with 'recent activity' news, notes and pictures. If you are building for 2200m, please send along pictures of your equipment and antenna systems for inclusion as well as to inspire others. The more interest we can all generate, the more on-air activity will result! You will find all of the links below to be up-to-date and extremely helpful and, if you are thinking of getting started on 2200m, be sure to visit VE7TIL's website for some important things to consider before putting a signal on the air.

***********************************************************

VE3OT - Mitch Powell in London, Ontario. Presently running beacon "MP" in QRSS mode 24/7 on 137.780 kHz. Mitch is being heard well in the eastern/south-eastern USA as well as out west. Mitch has recently (Feb '06) fired up his GØMRF amplifier into a large loop and was reported in Europe.

VO1NA - Joe Craig in Torbay, Newfoundland. Joe is presently running the VO1NA QRSS beacon. VO1NA completed a two-way Trans-Atlantic QSO on June 12/03 when he worked MØBMU on QRSS30 mode. In early July, Joe's signal was also heard with good strength in Portugal and Germany. Joe's signal was recently heard south-east of Moscow by RN6BN in both QRSS and 5 WPM CW modes! If you are in the east, listen for Joe's signal. VO1NA runs 500 watts from a refurbished Decca transmitter into a 100m sloper. See the link below for V01NA's latest activities.


VY1JA - J. Allen in Whitehorse, Yukon Territory is now operational on 2200m, both beaconing and in listening mode. J is using a very large antenna system consisting of a 110' top loaded vertical, utilizing two 390 foot top-loading wires. In earlier tests, his low-power (50W) signal) was very good copy here on Mayne Island at 1000 miles distance. Now that he is QRO at 200W (soon to be even higher), his signal is very easy copy, even during the daytime. Our recent QRSS QSO was the first long-distance LF contact between two 2200m stations in Canada.

VY1JA QSL

On the evening of September 8th, 2006, just a few minutes before midnight, J and I were able to easily work on CW for the first long distance CW QSO on LF between two Canadian stations.
Since our initial CW contact, J and I have had several pre-dawn or late evening CW ragchews on 2200m. Signal levels on several of our contacts have reached 599 levels over the 1000 mile path.


*** The first confirmed European reception of 2200m signals from western Canada took place on the night of November 21, 2006 at 0700 UTC. VY1JA's trans-Polar QRSS signal was received by Hartmut Wolff located in Germany. Thanks to the diligence of Scott's (VE7TIL) and his screen grabbing system, Hartmut's capture, shown below, was confirmed by comparing it to the screen grab captured by Scott during the same time period. Jay's beacon, shown drifting downward, had just been turned on for the evening. This reception covers a tantalizing distance of over 4300 miles and is an excellent indicator of what can be accomplished with small levels of erp, even on 2200m. Congrats to Jay, Hartmut and Scott. ***

SCREEN CAPTURE FROM GERMANY



VE7SL - Steve McDonald on Mayne Island, British Columbia.


*** The first VE7 2200m QSO was completed on July 10th 2004
between myself and Scott, VE7TIL, in Vancouver.
***

VE7TIL QSL

VE7TIL QSL

As of early December, my high-power transmitter has been completed and the antenna system has undergone extensive renovation. (see 'My 2200m Station Page').

Signal reports have been received from: Washington, Oregon, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Connecticut and Ontario. Two-way crossband work has also begun. A recent QSO with KØMVJ (Duluth, Minnesota) demonstrated the viability of that mode. To read more about setting up a crossband sked, see my (see 'CQ Crossband') page.

VE7TIL - Scott Tilley in Vancouver, British Columbia. Operating authority has been granted effective July 1, 2004. Scott is presently on the air with a homebrew 500W P-P FET final driven with a homebrew DDS exciter. Scott's antenna system consists of a small 3-wire flattop about 40' high. After our initial QSO, Scott's beacon signal was reported in southern Oregon, while running about 100W. VE7TIL's 500W signal has now been copied (QRSS60) regularly by Laurence, KL1X, in Oklhoma as well as in eastern Canada and the eastern U.S.A. Scott's efficent station demonstrates that even living within the noisy city, it is still possible to operate on the 2200m band!

QRSS DX


Activity from my station has so far been centered upon receiving. Almost all DX work on LF utilizes the slow speed CW or QRSS mode. The most popular software for decoding QRSS signals is ARGO by I2PHD and IK2CZZ. It is freely available at various web sites for downloading (see LINKS section). ARGO is a very intuative user-friendly program and works extremely well. Accordingly, my first attempts at low frequency QRSS work were directed towards listening for signals from Larry Kayser (SK), VA3LK. Larry was on a nightly transmitting schedule in an attempt to see if his signal could be heard in New Zealand.

Here is a screen capture of Larry's 2200m QRSS signal as received on 06/23/01 at 0944 UTC.

VA3LK ON QRSS

QRSS signals are usually too weak to be actually heard by ear. ARGO allows signals buried in the noise to be 'seen' rather than 'heard'. The screen capture above clearly shows the sequence
"K   V A 3 L K". The signal abruptly faded out at Larry's sunrise in the middle of the next "V".

PUSHING THE BOUNDARIES... Seven days later, my overnight screen captures showed the weak signals of amateur station ZL6QH, transmitting from Quartz Hill, New Zealand on 184.4kHz. This was the first transpacific reception of LF amateur signals from New Zealand to North America, a distance of 11,715km.

ZL6QH QRSS SIGNAL

ZL6QH was transmitting QRSS in the DFCW mode which meant the 'dots' were shifted in frequency slightly from the dashes. Unfortunately my receiver calibration was slightly off and I had only captured the 'dots' and missed the dashes just a few hertz lower. Subsequent transmitting tests were eagerly monitored by numerous other stations in North America and quickly confirmed that long-distance propagation was possible, even at amateur power levels. The ZL6QH signal has now been heard as far back as VE1 land!

My next attempt at seeing the ZL6QH signal was in September of 2001. This time I made sure my receiver calibration was set correctly. Note the abrupt fade-out at my local sunrise. ZL6QH was sending the letter 'Q', with the lower signal representing dashes, the higher one dots. Note that the two dashes are run together, appearing as one long dash in order to conserve time.

ZL6QH QRSS SIGNAL

The best reception of ZL6QH on 137kHz was obtained in December of 2002. Almost four hours of continuous "Q's" were noted until the sunrise fade-out shortly after this screen shot. Note from the ARGO calibration scale that the two signals are only .4 Hz apart.

ZL6QH QRSS SIGNAL

LOWFER DX...  A number of good test targets are available within the U.S.A. on the 160-190 kHz LOWFER band. They are exceptionally challenging and a good test for your receiving system as lowfer power is restricted to 1 watt DC INPUT and antenna sizes are severely limited.

The night of January 03, 2002 provided some exceptional propagation on the LF LOWFER band. The 1 watt QRSS signals of LOWFERS "LEK" and "BRO", both located in Minnesota, were noted with strong signals around local midnight. The two stations were transmitting .5 Hz away from each other.

LEK/BRO SIGNAL

Earlier in the evening around 2100 hours, the skip was much longer and LOWFER "NC" in North Carolina was also seen briefly. Dexter's signal was .5 Hz above the "Minnesotta Twins".

LOWFER NC

* * * ALASKA ON 2200m !* * *

Unfortuantely, Laurence, KL1X (near Anchorage), has now closed down his LF station and moved to Oklahoma but his activity from KL7 land created a lot of interest. Here is a screen capture of the first really good signals received from Laurence (August 17th, 2003) after listening nightly for about one week. Laurence's signal was strong, all night long, starting shortly after local sunset until shortly before sunrise. KL1X was transmitting in the QRSS60 (60 second dots) mode. The distance is approximately 2200km. Hopefully we will soon see Laurence active again from the southern U.S.

W2XDW ALASKA


Checking the North American 'Watering Hole'

Almost all normal night-to-night activity in North America takes place within the 'watering hole' section of 2200m...a 5 Hz section of the band from 137.775 kHz - 137.780 kHz. On nights of above normal propagation, several amateur or Part 5 (U.S.) signals, along with numerous Loran Line* signals can be seen. Here is an Argo screen capture taken on a March afternoon showing several Loran Line signals normally heard on Mayne Island. Not only can they be used to check propagation but also to check your system frequency calibration.

WATERING HOLE

****** Please note that as of August, 2010, all of the U.S. and Canadian Loran stations have shut down so these (once) very handy reference signals are no longer available for calibration purposes! However, amateur activities are still centered in or around the 'watering hole' (above). The best way to now calibrate your ARGO receiving system is to listen for an amateur beacon on a known frequency or for one of the larger commercial stations also operating near the 2200m band. Once any accuracy errors in your receive system oscillators are known, this correction factor can be easily applied to the 2200m band.



INTERESTED? - THINGS TO CONSIDER

1. You should familiarize yourself with the 136kHz community. Find out what has been done, how it is being done and what some of the challenges are.

2. Download and study as much as you can find from the European LF sites. These fellows have 'been there - done that' now for several years. Find out what works and what doesn't.

3. Look at their antenna systems (loading coils / top hats / variometers / grounds). Decide if you can manage something similar.

4. You must check out your own location for noise with an LF receiver. With the proliferation of lamp dimmers, security lighting, switching power supplies and the plethora of microprocesser-controlled home-based widgets, it may be challenging, which is part of the fun. Each location is different. The VE7TIL station is an excellent example of what can be transmitted and heard, even from a noisy city location.

5. Your receiver should be stable and capable of accurate frequency reading. There are many commercial receivers and transceivers that are suitable for LF work. See what the Europeans are using. One of the best radios is also one of the least expensive, the Icom R-75, which is a superb LF receiver with a 1 Hz readout. Although being phased out, it is often found at bargain prices as well as on e-bay. Most LF'ers make do with what they have.

6. Download and install ARGO and become familiar with the way it works! This will be your main method of finding other stations, unless straight CW is strong enough. Try listening for my QRSS3 beacon on 1997.755 kHz, at the top end of 160 meters to get a feel for ARGO and QRSS reception. The beacon is normally not on, but a quick e-mail request to me will activate it for as long as you need. If you have things set up correctly, this is what you will see. Thanks to Dan Peterson, W7OIL, in southern Washington (CN85pu) for this screen capture of the 500mw signal at a distance of 340km.

VE7SL BEACON

7. Get on the air and participate in something completely different! An experimental licence is no longer required!! .



L.F. LINKS

If you are interested in learning more about constructing a station for 2200m, there is a huge amount of practical information available on the following web sites.

THE WORLD OF L.F.  - A fantastic site by G3YXM. Get the latest LF news, getting-on the air, tx circuits etc. Be sure to visit the excellent photo'gallery'of European LF stations. It's hard not to get inspired after seeing some of these fine 136kHz stations!

DF3LP's L.F. INFO  - A simple 100W LF transmitter for 136kHz using inexpensive power FETs.

DF3LP's L.F. INFO  - A simple receiving loop for 137kHz.

136kHz AT G3YMC  - A good source of 'hands-on' information.

ON7YD - AMATEUR RADIO ON LONGWAVE  - Probably one of the best sources of practical construction info. It's all here!

DK8KW LONGWAVE INFORMATION PAGE  - Lots of good links.

GW4ALG's 136kHz Pages  - Good information on station details, antennas, variometers, etc.

G3XDV's L.F. PAGE  - Pictures, station description, latest LF activities in Europe. Be sure to read the story of the huge Decca Mast operation!

136kHz EQUIPMENT  -Tx, rx, antenna and variometer info from IK2PII.

FIRST TRANS-ATLANTIC LF QSO  - Read about the first LF TA contact along with station details and pictures!

VO1NA ACTIVITY PAGE  - Latest reports, beacon schedule, station description and links.

GØMRF PROJECTS  - Lots of good stuff on tx, rx, amplifiers etc.

QRSS AND YOU  - Clint Turner's excellent QRSS page. A must see!

LONG WAVE CLUB of AMERICA  - Get the latest LF news here.

DIGITAL SITE of ALBERTO (I2PHD) and VITTORIO (IK2CZZ)  - Download the latest versions of ARGO, SPECTRAN and others.

AMRAD L.F. PAGE  - Equipment details.

The RSGB L.F. REFLECTOR  - A very busy interactive LF reflector; both European and North American.

W4DEX ON THE WWW  - LOWFER 'NC'. Station description. LF/MF information.



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