DXing is something that has never really been a part of my ham career. Not because I haven't had any interest in it, but mainly because I haven't had much of station to speak of. Being restricted to compromise antennas and low power does a lot to dissuade you from seriously pursuing DX (especially during these sunspot-lean years). Yes, I know it's possible to make DX contacts with such a station, but it takes a lot of time and dedication. Frankly, I just didn't have the attention span to sit at a pileup for hours trying to get lucky.
Now that I've got a decent, permanent multiband antenna up in the air, it seems like a good time to give DXing a more serious try. When I heard about the K4M DXpedition to Midway Island, I figured that would be as good of a chance as any to get my feet wet. It's not very difficult to make trans-Pacific contacts from my QTH, and with thousands of miles of salt water between us and very little land, I knew I had a decent chance.
The first few days were a bust (thanks frequency cops and jammers), but by the time the operation was starting to wind down, I managed to get 3 QSOs with K4M, all on 19 October. Right around dawn (the best time I've found to hear trans-Pacific DX from here), I snagged them on 40 meters CW then QSYed a bit up the band to get them on phone. Neither attempt took a ton of effort, although I found the SSB contact to be particularly easy...although it shouldn't be that tough with 100 watts. A few hours later, I saw them spotted on 17 meters, so I gave that a try as well, and got them in the log after about 15 minutes. Pretty cool!
I'm sure this isn't very impressive to most of you old timers, but it was fun for me. I watched eagerly for the next logbook update to make sure I made it in the log. Sure enough, all three QSOs were up there by the end of the day. I was so happy that I made the donation so I could get the QSL sent direct to me. I feel like I'm doing everything backwards in ham radio, but it's great fun to finally experience what just about everyone else already knows.
Today is our housewarming party, so that means chores, chores, and more chores for me. I figured I could still have a little ham radio fun by firing up WSPR and letting it run while I took care of stuff around the house. I didn't really expect it, but my little 1 watt signal to the random wire is managing to haul itself to nearly the other side of the globe this morning. Both VK6DI and VK2AWD have been receiving my signal fairly reliably. I was hoping that I could hear a VK station here in Beaverton, but it doesn't appear that either of those two are set up to transmit. Regardless, it's still really gratifying to see your modest signal make such a spectacular trip.
Here's a screen grab of the latest spots of me uploaded to the spotting page. I'm hoping to run my WSPR beacon a bit more over the next few months at various times of the day to try to get a better picture of what propagation is like at my QTH. I've been so constrained in my HF operations in the past, I've never really been able to count on working any DX and I have no grasp of what the propagation characteristics are like (other than the generic characteristics of each band). Neat stuff for sure, and I would like to try other bands. However, I think I'm going to stay off 40 meters until the agreed-upon frequency is changed. Right now the WSPR watering hole on 40 meters is just about smack dab on the QRP frequency, much to the chagrin of a few QRPers. I can't say that I blame them, I don't think that was the wisest choice. A lost of WSPR participants run 5 watts, so it's not like these are microwatt beacons we are talking about. In the mean time, I'll continue to have fun on the other bands.
Got home from work and had an itch to try a bit of PSK31 this morning. 80 and 40 seemed pretty dead at sunrise, but 20 meters was already hopping with signals. I was wondering if I would ever catch the EU stations from the new and improved QTH, and I finally got my answer this morning. All kinds of different European prefixes were streaming across my PSK monitor window, which was a pleasant surprise. I didn't have much luck trying to work a GM0 or ON8, but did manage to finally snag a quick QSO with Peter, DL3APM. I was running the IC-718 at about 20 watts into the 70-foot random wire. There was a fair bit of QSB, but copy was good enough to allow a good contact on the first try. I know that most of you are probably yawning about a QSO to Germany, but this was kind of exciting to me since I haven't had a EU QSO since I don't know when. WIIGII!