Category Archives: Trip

Snowdonia SOTA Trip 2017

Between the 24th and 26 March 2017, five CUWS members activated two SOTAs in Snowdonia. Jonathan GW2HFR, Dom M0BLF, Nige M0HZR , Rob M0VFC and William M0ZXA climbed Y Garn (GW/NW-004) on the 25th and Moel Eilio (GW/NW-022) on the Sunday. Unlike some previous CUWS SOTA trips, the weather was remarkably pleasant (other than a slightly chilly first night) resulting in good views from the top. The bands were very active – favourable conditions and the coinciding CQWW WPX contest made it very easy for all operators to exceed the minimum required contacts and enjoy a couple of hours playing radio on the summits.

View from Y Garn

View from Y Garn

In true CUWS fashion, the campsite chosen featured an on-site pub – although this year’s also featured a micro-brewery which together provided exactly what we all needed after a long day’s walk!

Iceland (TF): 2016

Six CUWS members (Jens DK2AB, Martin G3ZAY, Dom M0BLF, Rob M0VFC, Dan M0WUT, and William M0ZXA) visited Iceland between the 11th and 18th September 2016.

Three days (20th – 22nd) were spent operating from the Westman Islands (“Vestmannaejar” – EU-071) and the others were spent exploring the country – locations visited include Reykajvík, Ϸingvellir, Geysir, Gullfoss, Seljalandsfoss, Landmannalaugar, Skaftafell, Jökulsárlón and Skógarfos – quite the whistle-stop tour! Our APRS track is shown below.

Despite all this travelling, some extra time allowed us to opportunistically activate an Icelandic SOTA, Hjörleifshöfði (TF/SL-216.) This was the first time it had been activated, as the Icelandic SOTA association was commenced two weeks earlier on September 1st.

For QSL information see QRZ.com entries for home callsigns.

CUWS Lake District SOTA Trip 2015

From the 10th to the 12th of April 2015, a handful of CUWS members embarked on a long and arduous SOTA mission to the Lake District. Along the way, we’d face such dangers as the British motorway system, a stiff breeze, and campsite badgers.

Present on the expedition were Rob Chipperfield (M0VFC), Dom Smith (M0BLF), David Turner (M0TNR), Dan McGraw (M0WUT) and me, then the proud owner of M6IKY.

Day 1

Most of dream-team departed from Cambridge Friday in a couple of cars, picking up Dan from a train station. A long drive and several service stations later, we arrived at the campsite. We were duly warned about the campsite badgers (dangerous, hungry creatures apparently), then proceeded to make camp as the wind built.

Day 2

Campsite on the morning of Day 2.

We woke to wind, snow on the mountains, and rain in the foothills, but we were all keen to get going, so we started up the first hill, Stony Cove Pike (2503’, LD-018). The ascent went well and in no time we were setting up various antennae on the summit. Due to solar activity, the HF bands were inaccessible at best, but some local VHF contacts were made.

M0BLF and M0TNR working from Stoney Cove Pike with M6IKY functioning as antenna support.

After a quick lunch, we decided that the next planned summit was going to take too long in the adverse weather conditions, so two smaller peaks were found: Little Mell Fell (1657’, LD-037) and Great Mell Fell (1762’, LD-035).

SOTA selfie. Much wind. Wow.

More contacts were had at the top of both summits, most interestingly with another pair of radio amateurs (both called Victor, G4ONL and G4TDM) from Ireland who we proceeded to swap summits with.

In the evening, the dubious decision to enter a pub quiz was made,
which we narrowly lost after a series of questions about golf and celebrities which were not our specialist subjects!

Day 3

Initially the plan for the final day was to find some more peaks, but we found that the pass was blocked with snow when we got up. Rob bravely tried to get over, but the intrepid Škoda was defeated by a particularly steep section.

Mildly discouraged, we decided that going to the Blackpool amateur radio rally was a better idea. Some members spoke to friends of theirs, some got signed up to the RSGB, others bought suspiciously-large toroids for an unspecified project involving a band-pass filter; a fairly typical mix, we felt. Having spent a couple of hours bumbling around and bumping into the two Victors from the previous day we called it a day with some bacon sandwiches and headed for home.

David really loves bacon.

Ascension Island (ZD8): 2013

From Monday 2nd – Friday 6th December 2013, G3VFC, G3ZAY, M0BLF, M0VFC and M1BXF will be operating as ZD8UW from Green Mountain, Ascension Island.

We’ll be active on 40m-10m, mainly SSB and CW. (Being equatorial, there’s little point in taking the extra weight for 80m, I’m afraid.) There may also be some WSPR operation overnight. The best time for the path to the UK is likely to be in the mid-mornings on 17m and 15m, or the mid-afternoons on 12m and 15m. We’ll be operating with Elecraft K3s.

We won’t have internet access at the QTH, but logs should be uploaded roughly daily to Clublog. The logs will also go on LoTW once we’re back, but we can’t apply for the LoTW certificate in advance as we won’t be collecting the radio licence until we get to Ascension. QSL will be via M0OXO.

See also: Ascension Island (ZD8): 2009

Faroe Islands (OY): 2013

Five CUWS members (Martin G3ZAY, Michael M0GXM, Greg MD0IGD, William M0ZXA and Gavin M1BXF) went to the Faroe Islands from the 17th to 24th June 2013.

We stayed in three youth hostels – for the first four nights we were in the Faroese capital Torshavn, then one night in Gjov and two in Sandavagur. The equipment was two Elecraft K3’s, one Yaesu FT100 and a Yaesu FT-817, plus a Spectrum transverter for 4m. Antennas included vertical antennas, vertical dipoles, slanted dipoles and a quad antenna for 6m.

QSL info:

QSL for OY/G3ZAY, OY/M1BXF and OY/M0ZXA via G3ZAY.

QSL for OY/M0GXM via M0GXM.

QSL for OY/MD0IGD via MD0IGD.

(Details correct on QRZ.com 2013-10-02)

For more information about the islands, see the Wikipedia entry

Miquelon Island (FP): 2011

In September 2011, 6 CUWS members (G3ZAY, G4EAG, M0BLF, M0VFC, M0TOC and M1BXF) went to Miquelon Island. Miquelon is the largest island in St Pierre et Miquelon, which is a French-owned territory just off the coast of Newfoundland.

We stayed in the Motel de Miquelon, a very ham-friendly establishment right on the coast of Miquelon.

QSL info:

QSL via home calls – for cards from multiple operators, QSL via G3ZAY.

Log analysis

A total of 17920 contacts were made with 124 DXCC entities using RTTY, SSB and CW, on 10m – 80m.

The log contained 9272 unique callsigns, with 74 people who worked all 6 operators.

For more information about the island, see the Wikipedia entry

For more information about the DXpedition, see http://dx.camb-hams.com/dx-peditions/cuws-in-fp/

DXpedition to St Pierre et Miquelon

From 23rd to 30th September 2011, six members of the Cambridge University Wireless Society are active from St Pierre et Miquelon, a couple of French-owned islands off the south coast of Newfoundland.

On the trip are G3ZAY, G4EAG, M0BLF, M0TOC, M0VFC and M1BXF.

We’re active on 80m-10m in SSB, CW and RTTY.

As of 27th September, we’ve made over 10,00 QSOs already.

For more information, see dx.camb-hams.com If you like our DXpedition, please ‘Like’ our Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/CUWSinFP or follow us on Twitter @CUWSinFP

Ascension Island (ZD8): 2009

Six CUWS members (Martin G3ZAY, Michael G7VJR, Tom M0TJH, Gordon G3USR, Simon G4EAG and Hugo M0HSW) were on the air as ZD8UW from Ascension Island (AF-003) between 1 January and 9 January 2009. We were active on all HF bands, both SSB and CW.

We were on Green Mountain, with a clear view to the horizon from about 210 degrees to 45 degrees. Other paths were totally blocked by the mountain.

QSL info:

We don’t need your card if you don’t need ours! If you are happy with an LoTW confirmation then please save the planet.

Log search
All QSOS are also in LOTW

Log analysis:

We were spotted 2110 times.

Best DX: ZL taking into account our QTH! Also KH6 (even on 80M), KL7, UA0 on 160M, various exotica such as PY0, YS, HK, EP, JY, XW, OD, EL, OA, ST, HS.

Weirdest DX: TN on 160M (Republic of Congo). Not far away, but truly rare. Other African DX included Cameroon and Angola.

Band	CW	SSB	DXCCs
160	1452	0	70
80	1181	521	58
40	1133	1825	80
30	1661	0	61
20	1170	3139	100
17	1051	2286	87
15	765	1240	80
12	193	297	27
Total QSOs	17914		
Total DXCCs	125		
CW	48.05%		
SSB	51.95%		

For more information about the island, see the Wikipedia entry

Les Minquiers (GH): 2007

gh6uw

Cambridge University Wireless Society (CUWS) regularly undertakes short IOTA or SOTA expeditions, and, normally once per year, operates from somewhere in northern Europe. Recent activities have included Iceland (2005), The Faroes (2006) and Svalbard (2007).

2007 is our 75th year on the air, and has been particularly busy, with IOTA trips to St Kilda, and most recently to Les Minquiers (The Minkies) in the Channel Islands, near Jersey.

Location and History

The Minkies (EU-99) are a large collection of rocks approximately 10 miles south of Jersey (QRA IN88xx); they are part of a reef, which can be seen on clear days at low tide from the southern coast of Jersey. However, Jersey has some of the largest tidal ranges in the world, and only a few of the rocks are permanently above the sea line.

The most significant island is Maîtresse, which is about 50m long and 20m wide. It is steeped in history and has an assortment of around ten stone cottages in various states of repair, including the most southerly toilet in Britain (often the subject of QSL cards in the past – see http://www.seapaddler.co.uk/Toilet.JPG). There is no power or running water, but there is mobile telephone reception.

Following a long-running (but friendly) dispute between Britain and France, the reef, along with the nearby Ecrehous, was awarded to Jersey by the International Court of Justice in 1953. They made the news headlines again in 1998 when there was a French ‘invasion’, which lasted one day.

The Minkies are close to both France and Jersey, but the waters around them are treacherous, and most mariners avoid the entire area, following an extensive network of buoys to avoid the possibility of running aground on the rocks. It is this difficulty of access which makes EU-099 an enigmatic and attractive target for radio expeditions.

CUWS Expedition

Our visit to the Minkies (IOTA EU-099) took place between 3 – 5 September, 2007. We were pleased to use the unusual Jersey club prefix, giving us the callsign GH6UW. The team consisted of alumni: Martin G3ZAY, Dominic M0BLF, Tim M0TDG and Michael G7VJR.

Early discussions in April 2007 with Jersey contacts revealed that visiting the Minkies would not be possible without a degree of support from the local harbour in St Helier. A previous radio expedition had run into difficulties during the IOTA contest in 2004, and as a result there was some reluctance to conduct another radio trip without additional reassurances and planning. Indeed, our initial request to go to the Minkies was declined immediately.

For CUWS, any expedition comes with the additional responsibility of representing an internationally recognised University. In this case, we felt it was best to persevere. Further correspondence followed, and our plans were eventually accepted, having now explained our approach and willingness to treat the islands with care. This, however, was not all.

We were delighted to now receive an offer of transportation to the Minkies from the Jersey coast guard, and use of the Jersey States building on Maîtresse. Suggested times to make good use of the tides and advice on the trip were also given to us. This additional help gave us a great head start; we would have a roof over our head and would be able to avoid using an expensive chartered boat, and side-step some obvious problems with the benefit of local knowledge.

Getting There

We flew into Jersey cheaply, but this gave us an added problem of carrying only what our hold baggage could contain. When it comes to radio equipment, power supplies and linears are never light enough.

After hiring a car, there was just enough time to shop for provisions, obtain water and fuel and a Honda generator on Jersey. As the tidal waters dictated our departure time around 1pm on Monday 3 September, we were sure to double check that we had everything we would need to be fully ready for departure. A frantic morning!

After ferrying our equipment down to the Albert Quay in St Helier, we were amazed to be invited aboard the Duke of Normandy, a 500 tonne vessel which is normally in full-time use manoeuvring cargo ships and the like. Our kit was loaded onboard and we departed, in perfect summer conditions. GPS maps and sonar equipment showed our progress into ever more complex shipping lanes around the Minkies. When we reached Maîtresse (about 1 hour later), we transferred to a smaller craft that had been towed by the Duke Of Normandy, and disembarked onto the shores of the island.

Arriving is a special moment on any expedition. The weather was perfect as we came ashore. I will not forget the clear, shallow waters and the wonderful weather that graced our entire trip to the Minkies – we were treated to beautiful sunrises and sunsets, and luxurious summer weather. My fears of having to abandon our trip due to poor weather (remember it flooded in July!) were unfounded.

Although rocky, Maîtresse and the outlying rocks are charismatic and charming, and to be able to swim in the sea was the ultimate refreshment.

On the air

As we carried our equipment to the top of the slip way and onto dry land, our priorities quickly turned to commencing our radio activities. We had just 48 hours to make as many contacts as possible.

We were soon able to erect a 20m vertical antenna on top of the highest point, using a 10m SOTA pole. 9 elevated radials were used. The rig was an Icom 706 with 300W (using an inexpensive RM500 AM/SSB linear). Dominic M0BLF began CQing on 20m SSB, logging to WinTest in DXpedition mode. A pile up was quickly underway and Dominic reached a rate of 180 Qs/hr.

We were keen to put two stations on the air, and had brought a range of 100W Dunestar band-pass filters. The next station to go on the air was for 30M CW, which we judged would be a good, long-haul band which would benefit from our 360 degree salt water take off. Using an Elecraft K2/100 (completed just days before the expedition and barely tested), Michael G7VJR began operating on 10MHz using a lead acid battery outside. Within 15 minutes or so, GH6UW was split and listening up around 2kHz. The DXCluster had, presumably, started to draw attention to our activities.

With no mutual interference, we were delighted to be putting out a solid signal on phone and CW simultaneously. The logs continued to fill, and as evening quickly arrived we began to receive more and more attention on the bands. Pile-ups became raucous and sustained, and we were soon working friends in the States and Japan, although Europe was giving us good rates and we felt it best to take all callers.

With time now less of an issue, Martin and Tim had arranged meals and tidied up to remove dust and grime from the buildings where we were lodging. Martin soon had dinner sorted, and Tim was able to take care of the generator, and take over on the 30M station. Incidentally, the Honda EU10 1KW generator was quiet, reliable, portable and efficient – it consumed only half the fuel we expected.

Our operation continued during the night on CW, with Tim and Dom putting in the hours, and come morning we commenced SSB operations again. We were now ready to try 40M SSB, so a third antenna was erected to support our 40M dipole. With this extra choice we had a better chance of working EU during the day, and we would be ready for the DX later.

We were disappointed that 40M did not give us much access to ‘G’, although we did appreciate the perseverance of those stations who were able to break the EU wall and work us, including club members back in Cambridge, Christian M0SCH and Christian M0TBF. Stations in GU and GJ were super-strong so we were delighted to add some locals to the log, too.

Other than a brief (< 100 QSOs) spell on 17M, we were content to use 20M, 30M and 40M. Although an 80M dipole was constructed, we dismantled it for practical reasons – given the choice, we favoured 20M and hoped for more DX. We were fortunate indeed (SFI 66) to work many JA stations. Of particular note, though, were ZL1BYZ, VK4BUI and VP8NO who were able to work us on CW – a wonderful surprise.

These days, even a small operation will suffer some deliberate QRM, and so it turned out to be for us, too. We were disgracefully jammed on 20M and 40M in particular, and had to avoid split operations on 40M as this seemed to reduce the problem somewhat.

While not operating, I might add that we were able to enjoy Mediterranean conditions on Maîtresse. Swimming, photography and sleeping were popular past times while not operating on the radio. Our stay was also livened up by a few visits by passing yachts and even an ex-military French telegrapher, who was overjoyed to see us using morse code. We also met two contemporary dance students who were staying in one of the other huts, and were kind enough to tolerate our intrusion (before our departure, spare food and supplies were transferred to them).

On Wednesday 5th September, we were picked up by the Pilot boat from Jersey Harbours and returned to St Helier, a little sunburned, but very happy to have made our mark on HF and given EU-099 a fresh airing.

We spent a few more days on Jersey, staying at the Jersey YHA near St Martin (in its own right, a perfect HF location on a cliff top with spacious grounds). While there we met GJ7DNI by chance, having spotted a Versa tower passing by on his trailer. By Friday, we were unable to resist a visit to the Jersey Beer Festival in St Helier, before flying back to England the next day.

QSO Statistics

We made a total of 3654 QSOs in just under 48 hours. This was split as shown in the table below:

Band: SSB: CW: Total QSOs As %
40m 951 (51.2%) 906 (48.7%) 1857 50.8%
30m 0 (0%) 693 (100%) 693 18.9%
20m 800 (78.1%) 224 (21.8%) 1024 28.0%
17m 0 (0%) 80 (100%) 80 0.02%
Totals: 1751 (47.9%) 1903 (52.1%) 3654 100%

There are 3083 unique callsigns in the log. 5 people contacted us on four bands, 51 on three bands.

Top five countries: USA (18.0%), Germany (15.0%), European Italy (7.6%), England (6.1%) and European Russia (5.6%).

A total of 86 countries were contacted.

Breakdown by continent: EU (76.7%), NA (19.5%), AS (2.2%), AF (0.7%), SA (0.7%), OC (0.1%).

Online resources

We have a number of online resources related to this trip, as follows:

Expedition summary: http://www.domsmith.co.uk/amateur-radio/dxpeditions/2007/minquiers/

Online log search: http://clublog.g7vjr.org/l.php?log=GH6UW

Expedition video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vDY2j0dB-hE

Photographs: http://flickr.com/photos/dnas2/sets/72157601912436618/

Lastly, our QSL manager is Dominic M0BLF. The above links are all included on his page, at the top of the list of URLs above.

Acknowledgements

We are indebted to Jersey Harbours, in particular to Peter Lawrence and Ian Lamy, whose advice alone before the trip was invaluable.

We were fortunate and immensely grateful to also have their help in providing transport and access to the States building on this trip. Their generosity exceeded anything we could have expected – it made such a difference. Thank you again, from all of us at Cambridge University Wireless Society, for dedicating so much of your time to supporting us. It cannot be overstated how much we appreciated your help.

RSGB IOTA Contest 2005

Our entry into this contest could probably be used as the basis of an article entitled “How Not to do a Contest.” We arrived on Heimaey mid-afternoon on Friday. Heimaey is the largest and the only populated island of the Westman Islands which all count for EU-071. The group of G3ZAY, M0TJH and M0BLF who had been on the mainland for a week were joined by M0TDG who flew out from the UK the day before the team headed for islands. The journey to the islands had been somewhat eventful as we had to divert down a bumpy unsealed road around the coast to avoid a blockade by lorry drivers and we also discovered that Iceland’s largest music festival was taking place on the islands the same weekend. Despite all this, it did not take us too long to find the tourist office who then put us in touch with owner of the site where we would be camping. The normal campsite for the island was being used for the festival so we were staying in the local scout site.

Setup began that evening. We were entering the Multi/Single Low Power DXpedition category so all the antennas had to be single element. We started cutting dipoles for each of the contest bands and after the traditional CUWS inability to cut two dipole legs of the same length, we were ready to get on the air. We immediately found that conditions were extremely poor and very little could be heard. We had intended to try to make a lot of QSOs that evening to spread awareness of our activation but there were very few people we could contact. Other problems that we discovered that evening were that the computer cw keyer was not functioning correctly and the IC-706 we brought with us would not power up. Fortunately we had an FT-100 with us also so we still had a working rig. No amount of adjustment, tin foil or harsh language were able to fix these so we called it a night.

The morning of the contest dawned bright and the good bit of news was that M0BLF’s stern bedtime words to the IC-706 the night before had got it working again. However, the cw keyer still caused problems so everything had to be sent manually and a new problem of intermittent S8 QRM that we never positively identified but we suspect came from the imersion heater in the hot water tank. We discovered an on air problem that as our callsign was not the same as the standard CEPT callsign (our call was G6UW/TF) and some operators refused to work us claiming our call was illegal. This did not seem to be a problem during the contest but it is unlikely that we will ever be able to tell. As the last few adjustments to the station were made (including deciding to build a 20m vertical instead of a dipole), the weather began to cloud over very quickly and the wind started to get up. As the contest started, a full Atlantic gale was blowing towards us.

The contest started extremely slowly and it was very difficult to hold a QRG because of our weak signal. Greater success was had with cw although the keying was dodgy at best due to the complicated exchange and the computer keyer not functioning. As the day progressed, the gale outside strengthened and we discovered that the constant shaking of our telescopic masts was causing them to collapse in on themselves and then fall over. This happened several times and to make matters worse, whilst restoring our 20m vertical to a more vertical attitude, the mast snapped around 2m from the base. This was partially fixed but the mast was still notably shorter. As the evening wore on, we found out that the island’s airfield had been shut and some of the tourists trapped by the closure were being put up in scout building we were operating in. This meant we couldn’t use SSB much as it would disturb them too much. At around 0200, the combination of the appalling weather and both antenna masts falling within a couple of minutes of each other, we called it a night for a couple of hours to get a little sleep and allow the weather to improve. The wind had died the next morning and conditions were slightly better on the air allowing a few more contacts but by the time the contest finished, we had been limited to just 314 QSOs which gave us a paltry final score of just 137970 points.

The score breakdown is as follows:

Band CW QSOs SSB QSOs Total QSOs
10m 0 0 0
15m 4 13 17
20m 196 77 273
40m 17 7 24
80m 0 0 0
Total 217 97 314

While this wasn’t a competitive score, it did give us a chance to see a little bit of the islands (though the weather limited this somewhat too) and it was good to provide a multiplier for other stations. Hopefully conditions will be better in the future allowing a much higher score.

Checking reduced the score to 123546. This left us 85th in our category. Not a great result but we did provide a multiplier for quite a few others. Results can be found at http://iotacontest.com/2005/iotaScores.php?q=ims.