Today, for the first time, I reached out into the ether on HF, and had someone reach back! All with three Watts and a wire. I’m still in blog-post-debt for both field day and the new transceiver, but I’m just so excited, I’ll drop this in as quickie post for this evening. It’s not a proper QSO, but it’s as close as I’ve come yet.
(A small caveat – I’ve worked a couple field days, one with WVARA in Silicon Valley and now one with NS9RC in Chicago, but someone making rapid-fire contest contacts on somebody else’s very shiny K3 doesn’t feel like my contact, you know?… I’m still counting this as an emotional first.)
I had a 40m inverted-V thrown in a tree by Lake Michigan like I described in my previous post. I’d been listening an tuning around from about 7:45pm local time, throwing out the odd CQ, trying to tail-end some conversations without much luck. I’ve been hanging out mostly around 7.110-7.114 MHz, which are both a slow-code area and the area near the SKCC calling frequency, which seems to attract patient and friendly code operators. Finally, around 9:25pm, I heard a very, very slow “CQ CQ” right on 7.114 MHz. The call was from W4JWC, I suspect from a keyer – it was very slow and regular, and easy to copy. I shot him back a quick “W4JWC de KK9JEF,” and he came back! Still slow, medium-signal but with some serious fading.
Here’s the entire text of my first contact. I’m including it, not because it’s particularly interesting, because I think I’ll enjoy looking back on it later:
CQ CQ CQ CQ de W4JWC W4JWC K
W4JWC DE KK9JEF KN
KK9JEF DE W4JWC UR RST IS 539 RST 539 NAME IS JERRY JERRY QTH WIRTZ VA WIRTZ VA KK9JEF DE W4JWC K
FB FB JERRY NM HR IS JEFF JEFF QTH IS CHICAGO IL CHICAGO IL HW? HW? W4JWC DE KK9JEF KN
KK9JEF DE W4JWC QSB QSB SRRY SRRY DE W4JWC K
W4JWC DE KK9JEF YES QSB QSB UR RST 539 539 W4JWC DE KK9JEF KN
KK9JEF DE W4JWC QSB QSB SORRY QSB DE W4JWC K
The key thing to notice in all this is the Q-signal “QSB,” which denotes fading. In addition to dealing with general noise on the bands, both man-made and natural (including static-crashes from lighting), signals can also fade-in and out, just as if someone was playing with the volume knob. One moment the codeis loud and present, the next it just fades into the sonic underbrush. Frustrating, to say the least.
I’m calling this my first HF “encounter” because I don’t think Jerry will have copied any of my information – typically, it seems, an HF contact or “QSO” involves the exchanging of signal reports (RSTs), names, and locations (QTH). Since Jerry didn’t get mine, I don’t think I’ll be in his logbook, and he isn’t officially in mine. But he’ll be remembered here, as the first key from the airwaves to respond.
Hear you, and hopefully talk to you, on the air!