On the Air

South Orkney 2020

The South Orkney 2020 DXpedition (VP8PJ) team has been focused on this project since January of last year and it seems to have come together nicely, with only few bumps in the road and no major problems or surprises. The team is ready to leave home late next week and will all stay at the same hotel in Punta Arenas where they will meet up with Nigel Jolly (RV Braveheart) on the 12th for dinner and a last minute briefing before the ship arrives.

If plans hold, the radio operation should get underway on February 21st and run for about two weeks.

These islands were last activated as VP8ORK in 2011 by the Micro-Lite Penguin Expedition Team which made almost 64,000 contacts. By the time the VP8PJ team arrives, it will have been 9 years since its last activation. Given the cost and difficulty in reaching this remote dot on the globe, it could be a very long time until it is activated again.

At the moment, South Orkney is 16th on the Most Wanted list.

The estimated cost of the operation is $325,000(USD). Individual team members will shoulder half that cost, but they hope to raise the other half from the DX community. The team kindly requests your donations. If you work the Dxpedition and donate $10(USD) or more BEFORE they set sail your LoTW confirmation will be processed from the island. All other donors (that work them) will have their confirmation processed via LoTW when OQRS opens.

Donors of $50(USD) or more will receive LoTW and free QSL card(s).

The South Orkney Islands lie in the Scotia Sea about 600 km northeast of the Antarctic Peninsula, 1440 km southeast of Tierra del Fuego or 800 km south of the Antarctic convergence. They were discovered by American and British sealers in 1821 and have since served as a base for Scotch, French, and Argentine sealing and scientific expeditions.


SOTA Surprise

While activating Berrian Peak for Summits On The Air (SOTA) with MTR3 (5-watts CW to wire antenna 10′ up in a tree) Jose/EA5GV in Spain answers Steve, WG0AT.



Steve, K9ZW recently wrote about inspiration on his With Varying Frequency blog.

Got me thinking about what kinds of things inspire me. The actions of others often inspire me to try new things or to work harder, but we seldom would learn of these without it being in some written format. My interest in amateur radio was actually kindled when I read a book that had been published ten years before I was even born. To be certain, I would have never approached this hobby, and my life would have turned out much differently had I never found that old book in the high school library.

Yesterday, I read the obituary of Dale Strieter, W4QM and was immediately inspired by his amazing life. The words that briefly told his story were reason enough to hope that at the end of our days, something equally inspiring can be said about us.

Harmon D. Strieter, W4QM passed away on January 6. Born in Unionville, Michigan in August of 1927, he was the 9th of 11 children. He graduated from Unionville High School in June 1944 and joined the US Maritime Service. He attended boot camp and a 6-month course in Radio Technology and sailed as a 3rd Radio Officer on board a vessel in the Pacific Theater during WW2. He attended Michigan State College in 1947 through 1951 and received a BS in Electrical Engineering. He worked his way through college by sailing as a Radio Officer in the Merchant Marines or working in construction during the summer months as well as part time jobs during the school year. He obtained his Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering in 1954 and was a Graduate Assistant at MSU during that time.

Harmon worked in the Lansing, Michigan area as an Audio Engineer and moved to Cocoa Beach, Florida in 1958 to work as a Missile Guidance Engineer with General Electric and was the Guidance Engineer on the Mercury and Gemini manned spaced programs. After 20 years, the contract was terminated and in 1979, he returned to sea as a Radio Electronics Officer in the Merchant Marines. He retired in 2002 at the age of 75 after 23 years sailing on various vessels.

Since 1947 he was an avid amateur radio operator and served on the board of directors for Southeastern Division of the Amateur Radio Relay League for the period of 1969-1972. Strieter was a prolific DXpeditioner. After 20 years with GE, he returned to sea in 1979 as a radio officer in the US Merchant Marine on a ship generally anchored at Chagos. As VQ9QM, Strieter logged more than 200,000 contacts from nearby Diego Garcia, between 1986 and 2001. He retired in 2002.

He was a good neighbor and mowed 3 to 4 lawns until he gave it up at 91 ½. He liked to stay busy picking up yards or blowing off driveways in the neighborhood and was still pruning and climbing trees at 89 much to the dismay of his kids. He was big help to many of his neighbors after the hurricanes.

Every year without fail I re-read the seminal DXers inspiration, The Complete DXer written by Bob Locher, W9KNI. It’s packed with inspiration and written in way that makes it feel like an action thriller, but with enough tips for better operating results that the reader is unaware that they’ve been learning the DX game while enjoying the prose. Here’s a sample of Bob’s writing from a 1977 magazine article titled, The Far Horizon, An Evening of DX.

I start carefully tuning the receiver. A few dying signals from Europe are coming in; the band has been open to Europe all afternoon, but now the path is fading out. I tune on. There — there’s a nice signal calling CQ (looking for a contact). I recognize it immediately as a DX station. The tone of the signals carries the quirks of a propagation path thousands of miles long,


As I first read his call, I hit the switch on the 800-watt amplifier. I bring my transmitter to his frequency, and call him.


I listen — yes, there he is.


Samarkand! Sun drenched city in Soviet Uzbekistan where Marco Polo found an already ancient city, where caravans from East and West met to trade rare spices and costly silks for Toledo steel and Western gold. City of spectacular Mosques, where Tamerlane held forth. I’ve worked Samarkand a number of times, but it never fails to excite my imagination. Boris is like most Soviet hams — very brief in the contacts — partly due to lack of English, and partly due to the regulations of their licenses.

The band is now practically dead. A few South and Central Americans are coming in quite well, but it’s nearly midnight, so I decide to hit the sack. I turn off the switches, and clean up the table. Not a bad evening; one rare new country worked, several interesting contacts. Better than a lot of evenings, and maybe tomorrow night I’ll catch the Andamans, or even Wallis Island.

Books and stories about DXing can really get the blood flowing, but for the home-brewer, inspiration can also be derived in the pages of design books. Just recently I re-read parts of Solid State Design for the Radio Amateur and was surprised to discover this magically delicious inspiration for the non-appliance operator in a classic tech manual. It’s right there, in the opening chapter where the author details the intended audience for the book:

A third and important stimulus has been the amateur’s quest for knowledge of how circuits operate. Individual creative needs lure still others into the field of design, where the pride of achievement comes from the act of doing. Generally speaking, communication is for these fellows a means to an end – not an end in itself. This volume is aimed at those amateurs who are not disposed to sitting in front of store-bought equipment and simply communicating with others who are so inspired.

The evidence suggests we’re surrounded with inspiration, perhaps without realizing it.


Scrambled Eggs

In the shack a couple hours before sunrise this morning. But with no antenna other than a wire in the attic it’s not like I’m trolling for DX on the low-bands. It’s 30F outside and though a snow/rain mix has been falling since midnight, there’s no real accumulation, the ground it too warm for it to stick. Before walking in here I put chicken in a pot in preparation for the noon meal, made a pot of coffee and stuffed the last of my Plum Pudding barrel aged tobacco in a sure-enough Mark Twain Missouri Meerschaum. Mornings like this are made for low-band DXing but I’ve settled on eavesdropping on a few friendlies on 75 meters while shaking off the cobwebs with the first cup.


Sometimes I wonder if Sunday mornings will still be this enjoyable after I retire?

I purchased tickets for the SWODXA DX Dinner (Hamvention) online last night. The hotel has already been booked so the plans are nearly complete. I’ll be at FDIM on Thursday and plan to spend Friday at Xenia then that evening I’ll be at the DX Dinner. I’d like to visit the Air Force Museum on Saturday, assuming its open then. I’ll be home late Saturday evening and that will end my 39th excursion to Dayton.

Best wishes for a speedy recover to Bob Bruninga, WB4APR who told the APRS world he will be out of action while doctors determine how to best treat the football-sized tumor in his gut.

Over the last month everyone around here has been sick, including yours truly. Some weird bug that has us coughing without end and feeling a little under the weather without fever. We had avoided the flu so far. Until this week when one of my daughter-in-laws went to a doctor who diagnosed her with Influenza Type B. It’s fairly late in this flu season so hopefully it will pass without much more difficulty. Our immune systems need to recharge given that the new coronavirus appears destined to span the globe. We’re overdue for pandemic, perhaps this will be that?

Having foolishly waded into the shallow end of the ARRL CEO controversy, I’ve become disillusioned with the response. Life is too short for ham radio politics. I’m an ARRL Life Member but I’m done with the organization. I’m not sure why the internal strife of a shrinking non-profit organization gathers such an interested, rowdy crowd but there’s plenty of dysfunction to pick at if you’re so inclined. I remember well the days when 73 magazine would arrive in the mail and Uncle Wayne’s monthly column would often take up a quarter of the magazine with complaints about the ARRL. I dismissed those as chumming the water to sell magazines but maybe he was on to something. One thing is certain, he’s grinning from ear-to-ear with this latest soap opera drama in Newington.

I’ve been engaged in a long conversation with a couple of radio friends about where we’re going with the hobby. These conversations almost always conclude with some minimalist definition of a simple, off-grid, low-power station, using wire antennas and CW only. More recently the discussion has warped a little to include publishing original content via AX.25 packet over HF. So not just off the power grid, but off the Internet too.

Yeah, I know, it’s foolish. Everyone knows ham radio can’t work without the Internet…


CSVHFS Conference

Greetings VHF+ Operators!

As this year’s Conference President, I, along with the Conference’s host team, cordially invite you to attend the 54th annual Central States VHF Society Conference, which is being held at the Radisson Hotel located on the beautiful riverfront of the Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wisconsin on July 24th and 25th, 2020.

This year’s event will have all the great activities you’ve come to expect from a CSVHFS Conference: technical presentations, antenna range, noise figure lab, rover row and dish bowl, Thursday evening social activity, Friday evening trade-fest, dealer room, hospitality suite for evening socializing, fun family activities, and a closing banquet with a guest speaker and a prize table.

If you have never been to a CSVHFS conference before, you will find it a great event where you will learn many new things, meet new people, and connect with others you have talked to on-the-air. If you are new to VHF-and-above operating, you will want to be sure to attend the perennial favorite, VHF 101, an alternate track talk designed to get new VHFers successfully on the air. One thing we are certain of: if you attend the CSVHFS conference, you will go home reinvigorated about operating and experimenting on the bands above 50 MHz!

We are sending this letter out early in the new year so that you can make time in your busy summer schedule to attend. From past experience, most attendees arrive on Thursday (July 23rd) and depart on Sunday (July 26th). La Crosse, Wisconsin is easy to get to either by car or air. Interstate 90 passes directly through the city, and the La Crosse Airport (LSE) has direct connections with 3 major airports: Minneapolis-St. Paul (MSP), Chicago-O’Hare (ORD), and Detroit (DTW). Hotel accommodations at the special conference rate will be available beginning around February 1st.

Registration for the conference will open around May 1st. Be sure to visit the conference website at for ongoing updates and further information. Please direct any questions you may have about the Conference to

We look forward to seeing you in La Crosse in late July!


Bruce Richardson, W9FZ

CSVHFS President


Best Ham Shack


ARRL Stumbles

The practically new ARRL CEO has been shown the (revolving) door. According to the terse announcement from Newington:

At its meeting this weekend, the ARRL Board of Directors did not elect Howard Michel, WB2ITX, as the ARRL Chief Executive Officer. Beginning Monday, January 20, Barry Shelley, N1VXY, will become interim CEO. Mr. Shelley was ARRL’s Chief Financial Officer for 28 years and CEO during 2018 before his retirement. The board has created a search committee to select the next CEO. More details on this and other matters which took place at the board meeting will be released shortly.

This one will be difficult, if not impossible, for the ARRL to explain to members. If it was a personnel issue we will never hear it as those are not disclosed. If it was a lack of confidence by the BoD for the CEO’s bold new direction, then there’s so much uncomfortable explaining to do that no one at HQ will be likely to do that either.

It’s no secret that members have been generally impressed with the new direction proposed during Michel’s short tenure to grow the organization by enhancing member services. Apparently, he’s also been busy trying to mend rifts between the crusty old dudes (who members won’t stop electing) and newer Board members who have ascended out of growing member frustration.

Whatever the reason, and whether members ever hear the truth about it, this is a massive failure for ARRL. Particularly, for the Board of Directors who only recently were “shaken up” and mandated to “fix” the many problems facing a century-old organization that appears to be shrinking right in front of a great cloud of witnesses.