TopBand: Topband story of E44/HA1AG - LONG!
Wed, 17 Mar 1999 16:14:04 +0100

Dear friends,

Here are the notes I made of our 160m activities from Palestine as
E44/HA1AG and a summary with some figures:
Our location was at the Adam Hotel, an approximately 30m high building
(10x40m) facing with the narrower side to the Mediteranean sea. The top
of the building was about 40m ASL. The sea was about 30m from the
building at low tide. Our room was on the top floor but on the city side
of building. The longer side of the building had a 320degs/140 degree
orientation. There was also an empty building lot on the Northern side
of the hotel (between our hotel and the Palestine Hotel). Main
directions: EU was the same as NA: roughly 320 degs. JA was
approximately  40 degs. 
We gave up our original intention to build an inverted L and decided to
go for a sloping dipole from the top of the building over the empty
building plot down to the sea. The direction of the sloping dipole was
chosen to be 0 degs. On the top of the building their was an equipment
room with a TV antenna mast on the top, so we chose that for supporting
the high-end. The lower end was a 2m piece of rusty metal pole I found
lying in the sand! 

The 160m operations were carried out by Anti, HA3OV, and me.  
23/Feb/99 - SFI=127, A=7 
No 160 antenna yet. During the day with Lacy HA3NU and Gyula HA1TJ, we
made a 160m dipole. Gyula made a balun transformer (no core). After
lowering the antenna a couple of times down to the beach we got it
resonating on 1825 with a 1:1.1 SWR at the feedpoint. In order to
minimize weight, we used RG-58 C/U cable for the feedline. For this
antenna we needed 50m, so the measured feedline loss was only about 2.5
24/Feb/99 - SFI=120, A=11
Our first attempt on 160m began at 18:25 with a barefoot rig. CQing for
minutes and nothing happened... At 18:32 9H1BM calls in and was followed
by HA0IT three minutes later. At 18:45, the whole band seemed to explode
and the rate went up like a rocket.  This night I had one of the most
memorable pileups of our operation.  HA3NU was having a good rate on 20m
to NA so we thought that the first night we would focus on 160M running
barefoot -  [what else could we do then, anyway :-) ] and thus leave the
amplifier on  20m. HA3OV took the key at 2230. The first NA  getting
through was W3BGN at 22:47 followed by  N2NT and surprisingly RA0FA from
Sakhalin. UA0FZ and UA0MF called long after their local sunrise. Anti
left the band at 23:55 for the announced 80m CW activity. On the first
evening 487 contacts were put into the 160M log. 
25/Feb/99 - SFI=120, A=7
In the morning JA1JRK mentioned on 20m that we were heard in JA around
2040 with a 559 signal. We decided to give it a try with the amplifier
this second night. I went to 1823.6 at 20:10 and the EU Topbanders were
already waiting. We stood by for JA about every five minutes and we
raised JA1JRK at 20:22. His signal was a true S9 as well as JA4DND's who
called right after him. Three other very loud JAs made in to the log
within minutes but later I couldn't pull out more calls although I heard
many calling.  They were just too deep below the noise floor. The other
problem was that the Russians and Ukrainians ignored our CQ JA request
and kept calling right in the JA window. Later I found that the Western
Europeans largely ignored our CQ NA and PSE EU QRX requests the same
way.  Even the USA East Coasters don't stop calling when we tried to
work the Midwest and so on. Anti and I agreed that the slogan about 160M
being "The Gentlemen's Band" seems to have litle meaning these days! 

This night we had quite a lot of interference problems and at 2200Z Anti
took the keyer and I went to install ferrites on the telephones and on
the power cords of the TV sets... Still lots of EU's but the frequent
QRZs to outside of EU remained fruitless. At midnight the band counter
showed 639 contacts. 
26/Feb/99 - SFI=116, A=3 
We expected better condx for this morning and seeing the recent values
of the geomagnetic indices, we thought it would be our best opportunity
to work some DX.  At the shift change we decided to run 160 until
sunrise with the amplifier while trying to follow the condx with the
barefoot FT-990 on the other bands.
We could operate now in any band combinations without station
interaction and even 160-80 wasn't a problem although the 160 m sloping
dipole was between the legs of the 80m inverted vee. Sacrificing some DX
condx to work down the piles of EU callers the first two evenings paid
off well this morning because we could work NA between the occasional
European call-ins. 125 different North American were logged this
morning. 20 mins before sunrise the band opened up to the W5 and W0 call
areas as well. The southern W5s were the strongest at this time. Right
before sunrise I pulled out 2 full calls from W7 but they didn't
respond. Despite the several attempts I made with .I6.?? we couldn't
complete the contact. My guess for this call was that it may have been
NI6T but later Garry told me that he wasn't calling at that time. As is
often the case,  the QSB always brought him up when the caller sent the
"I6" part of his call - so I never was able to pull the whole call out
of the noise. The best period was the 30 mins before sunrise (0412) -
between 03:41 and 04:11. 64 NA QSOs were made in this period. The condx
took a rapid dive just after sunrise. Last NA contact that morning was
K9NR at 04:22. It seemed that the condx could have let us work much
deeper into the West if it had lasted a bit longer. In the minutes after
sunrise the midwest region callers were much stronger than the East
coast but only for a brief period. I stayed on 160 until 0440 but after
0422 only EU called in.

This evening we were a bit late getting to 160 and appeared on 1823.6 at
20:40 QSX'ing to 1909. Unfortunately, EU did not take to this very well
and the JAs reported heavy QRM on our TX QRG. Until 2100 only some
really big guns called in and Anti was afraid that we had already missed
the best JA condx. However at 2100 the JA-tap opened and in the next
hour we managed to make 59  additional JA contacts. It was nice to see
the footprint of the condx as it went through the JA island chain
starting with the 0s and 8s and finishing with the 6s. Then the CQWW 160
SSB contest started up and wiped out everything. On SSB we had some nice
runs but not really fruitful and since we had decided not to take part
in the contest, (but to work as many different stations as possible), 
we reduced our 160m activity for most of the weekend contest period.

27/Feb/99 - SFI=115, A=5 
Day 1 of the 160m SSB contest - only 37 contacts were made this day
using the barefoot rig.  
28/Feb/99 - SFI=123, A=14 
Checking the band at 0340 we found much less SSB activity than a day
before so we thought it might be worth for a try. We found an empty hole
at 1810 and started to call CQ using slow CW. The announcements made on
the other bands about this 160 activity helped us to have a handful of
EUs calling us, which cleared the band a bit. In spite of the tremendous
QRM of the overdriven amplifiers of the contesters, a few North American
stations managed to get through. The first one was W4ZV whose signal was
extremely strong. We realized the QRM problem on the US side and
repeated the calls and reports many times. Sometimes it sounded like a
MS contact: R559 R559 R559... Topband QSO nr. 1000 was K2XA at 0416. 15
minutes after our sunrise, the band was completely empty.
We returned to 1823.6 at 1945 and were amazed  at the intensity of EU
callers even after having 800 of them already in the log. Since we had
solved most of the RFI problems by now, we jumped between the bands
trying to use all opportunities to work DX. The attempts this evening
towards JA remained fruitless.
1/Mar/99 - SFI=120, A=33 
As anticipated, the band condx were really poor this Monday morning and
we found the band virtually empty. Frequent CQs and some call ins. In
order to work DX on 80m,  this time the 160 operation was done with the
barefoot rig. This morning I noticed an interesting phenomenon: All the
EU callers were from two specific regions: the first region included
west-UR, east-SP, OM, HA, YU and LZ. The second region included LA,
north-SM, G. Although there were many callers from the regions between
these tiers they were considerably weaker (15-20 dB). The only one
worked from NA this morning was K4PI who called me several times and who
was a true S9+ but gave me only a 449. In an email he said that there
was very heavy QRN on his side this morning.
Learning from the experience of the previous days, we decided to show up
on 160 with the barefoot rig before the DX condx appeared in order to
avoid the situation we had the day before when we were jammed
continuously in an attempt to force us to give up on attempting DX
contacts. In less than 2 hours, 220 EU were put into the log. After 2000
we QSX'ed for JA every five minutes but no one called us. We did,
however, hear some JAs calling someone on 11 but obviously  it was not
us. The first Japanese was JA8EAT at 2050 and seeing the 0's  and then
the 1s getting stronger , I expected to repeat the sweep through JA down
to the 6th call area once again. Interestingly, though,  the condx ended
very suddenly at the  JA2 area at 2111 (exact sunrise) and despite our
frequent attempts to continue,  no 5's and 6s were worked this evening.
Not having the second half of the condx expected was a bit disappointing
in spite of the 18 new JAs worked in a short 20 mins. I left the band
shortly thereafter in order to work Far East on 80m.
2/Mar/99 - SFI=130, A=18 
Judging from the condx we had the day before we didn't expect any great
opening for this morning. I QSYed from 80 at 0345 and was surprised to
be called by North Americans immediately after the first QRZ. The
stations I worked with  ease were not the well-known big guns so condx
must have been much better than I anticipated. Among the DXs it was a
pleasure to hear K1MEM back on the air again. Bill, K0HA, put out a big
signal as always. In the latter phase of the contact he had an S7-S9
signal. Suddenly the condx went away exactly at sunrise (0407 this day).
It was a great surprise to hear such nice DX signals this  morning.
Actually, I may have made a mistake by not coming to 160 earlier (but
maybe the 220 US we worked this morning on 80M would have a different
opinion, however). But, I thought 160M would take longer to recover from
the high absorption conditions caused by the increased geomagnetic

This evening we were on 80m instead of 160 working towards JA. We
couldn't work JA earlier because of the RFI problems so we wanted to
give them a chance on this band as well. We had a great opening on 80m
and JAs were worked even one hour after their local sunrise. 
Showing up on 1823.6 at 2245 resulted in a  good EU pile-up. At this
time the whole of EU could be worked with roughly the same signals. As
time passed,  the two-tier propagation started to develop again. 
3/Mar/99 - SFI=137, A=15
Learning from the lesson I got the previous morning, I went to 160 half
an hour earlier e.g. 1 hour before local sunrise. Maybe history repeats
itself but good condx doesn't and I found hardly anyone to work. HA0HW
called and told me that I was being spotted on the EU clusters as
"begging". W1JR called me at 0342 but his signal was way down from the
level I usually hear Joe. He called again later, just before sunrise,
with a much better signal but no other NA were worked this morning.

Interestingly this two tier condx was at its best before sunrise as
well. A G0 called me and advised that he had worked me using his WARC
dipole and roughly 20W from the tuner. Huh!!... The last contact, our
1579th on Topband was OK2SLS at 04:09. 
I can only say that it was a great pleasure to work 160m from the
magnificent location we had in Gaza. I can hardly imagine any better
location to operate the low-bands from. Based on the experiences I got
last year in Mongolia, I expected much higher noise level from the
overhead power lines. In Gaza, though, it was actually nonexistent on
160m and the only noise we had to combat with was the QRM. I built
several theories for the very regional two-tier propagation we observed
but I would gratefully appreciate to hear what others of this
"searchlight" phenomenon.
Anti and I made 1579 contacts of which 1406 were made on CW. The
breakdown by countries based on unique calls is the following:
DL: 201
K : 154
UR: 146
I : 107
OK: 104
UA:  88
JA:  73
SP:  63
HA:  58
G:   47
Thank you all for calling us!  We had a great time and it was our
pleasure to give many of the 160M deserving a NEW ONE!

Zoli HA1AG

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