On Saturday morning at 09:00, myself, M1EAK (Colin) and G0MBA (Tony) met at the Martello Tower to activate it as part of the Castles and Stately Homes on the Air weekend. I’d managed to organise the special event callsign at short notice and we were all really looking forward to a lot of QSOs throughout the day and perhaps a pileup or two.
Firstly we hammered a big earth stake into the ground at the bottom of the Martello Tower and consumed sausage sandwiches. We then spent some time setting up a full size horizontal loop for 40m around the top of the tower and at about half past ten we started operating.
I was expecting 40m to be a little quiet at that time of the day but I was hoping that the higher bands would be active and we’d get some contacts in the log. I’d sorted out logging software and prepared a crib sheet so the operators would have information to pass onto callers but there was one big problem – No callers. The bands were totally dead, absolutely quiet. We tried tuning around but heard nothing.
I carried on calling on 40m but there were still no replies and it was an hour or so later that I thought to check the Global D-Region Absorption Prediction page of the NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center website and that explained why the bands were dead.
That map should be completely black – If the colours start appearing then the bands are going to be degraded and they were really degraded. We had a meeting and decided that we’d take a break. Tony headed off home to do some repairs on his amplifier which had popped a valve a few minutes earlier and myself and Colin along with Kevin, M0GWE who had joined us decided to retire to the pub next to the Martello Tower for a pint and to have a look at the F1 qualifying. We kept a check on the NOAA / Space Weather Prediction Center website to see if things were improving and they were albeit very slowly. It was a good couple of hours later that we returned to the Tower along with Yan, M0YNK who had joined us.
By the time we returned the bands had improved fractionally – We had two QSOs on 40m, with a Dutchman operating portable in Germany and a local station just a couple of miles away in Colchester. We experimented with some different aerials but the conditions were just so awful that nothing worked.
In the end we gave up at around 17:00 and went home.
An hour later the bands had recovered enough and 40m was buzzing as per normal.
We have decided to put GB4MTG on the air this coming Tuesday, the 31st May from around 20:00 (local time) for a couple of hours. We’re going to try and have two stations on air, one running the higher bands, 10m, 15m and 20m and the other on 40m. I don’t know exactly what aerial we’ll be using for 40m yet, either a small tank whip type vertical or a doublet fed with open feeder back to a balanced ATU. It won’t be as big a station as we originally planned to do but a lot of people are hoping to work the CASHOTA stations so we’re keen to give them the opportunity to do so.