Radio Equipment

Centered on 28, 50 and 144mcs we have developed a system of rapid deployment and mobility. We usually drive to a predetermined spot about 2300utc, erect the station, and monitor/study the events of the evening.

The 144mcs array is mounted in the bed of the truck. It is 100% self-sufficient, and can operate while mobile up to speeds of nearly 85mph. It is composed of two (2), seven element yagis, (nine foot booms) spaced six feet apart, with the top yagi just above the twelve foot level. Part of the units prowess, is it’s ability to rotate while in motion (given there are no Semi trailer trucks coming in the opposite direction, as the boom will extend nearly three feet over the width of the vehicle).

We are also capable of running power of 400 watts. Now, with the ability to seek the highest ground, moderate power, the ability to copy cw while driving, and a relative gain of nearly 11db, it makes a lethal weapon. Average daily tropo distances are in the 350-400 mile range.

The six meter array is not as complex, however it requires a “parked” situation. We have been using a five element Cushcraft antenna. I realize this is not perhaps the most optimized antenna, however, operations in these environments called for rigidity, easy to assemble features, and an ability to be assembled-dissembled in quick fashion. I would be willing to say my six meter antenna has been assembled more than any in the world (as Kim and I have to build it and tear it down on every evening). Multiply that by five years of Mosquitoes, heat, freezing temps., and pitch darkness, it is a small wonder the thing still works at all. We peaked in late 1997, with an elapsed time of just under seven minutes to assemble!

In 1997 we began using the hf frequency of 7.268kcs on the 40 meter band for liaison work while in motion. It worked very well back to Minnesota and Iowa during the daylight hours for relaying information, and arranging times and plans. Our vehicle is also equipped with a GPS unit (great for instant grid and subgrid calculations, along with distances and bearings to stations). Last is the cell phone, which I can still state that there is much of this Earth that is not within some coverage area.

This particular day brought us to the VE4-VE5 border at DO97. It was a fantastic locale, surrounded by wilderness and gently rolling eskers. The video I also took here, (just after I took the snapshot) was highly corrupted by intense magnetic force. The disturbance overhead was so great it violated the audio on the video to such a degree that the sound was not usable, and much like a 144 ssb qso during severe aurora.

Another great tool we use is the 50 and 144 portable beacon system. Developed in late 1998 as a bistatic aurora detector, it is perhaps one of the most important items we take with us. The 50mhz unit utilizes a three element yagi, perched about 30 feet, and running 100 watts. The 144mhz unit is composed of one, seven element yagi at 26 feet, and running 100 watts. Hence these are both totally self-sufficient, (running on four deep-cycle batteries in parallel) they can be placed in the remotest of locations and run for nearly two days at a time. Usually placed about 60 miles abeam my location, I can tell at a moments notice the arrival and intensity of localized radio aurora.

This was circa 1996 near Flin Flon, Mb. As one can see, this was before we took aurora seriously, as we are only running two, five element yagis.

The above beacons have unleashed valuable information that may not have become a possibility due to the lack of (human) hams in this region. I have taken great steps to record and study, the results in changes of various effects caused by the aurora. Below is just some of the objectives I have overtaken in the past years from the auroral zone:

  1. Measuring polarity differences in signal strength
  2. The phase differences between that of 50 and 144
  3. Antenna elevation angles of localized aurora at high latitudes
  4. Minimum distance of auroral-propagated signals using steep elevation angles
  5. 100 hours alone on positive Bz plasma injection versus vhf signal levels
  6. Strong diurnal magnetic peaks that yield no radio aurora
  7. Vhf charging signals (dielectric) during electron events

Some of the other “more crazy” equipment consisted of two (separate axis) magnetometers. This was accomplished by running sets of copper-clad wire in lengths of over 1000 feet, over-the-ground, and thus giving me a crude level of magnetic activity above my location. This was soon abandoned, as the time and effort involved was somewhat “questionable.” Also, with Canopus coming online with accurate readings from nearby stations, made for a much better alternative.

EO26 Radio QTH
Here is a nice spot Kim and I used to use. It is near the town of Gillam, Mb., with a large lake towards the north. Unlike in the USA, or Southern Canada, at these locales one can just “pull over” to the side of the road and be qrv in minutes. Besides, the next vehicle to pass-by could be “days” away.

Another auroral detector was found by accident in 1997. After filming several hours of intense visual aurora with an old (1980s vintage) video recorder, I stumbled onto what was very unique. It seems the overhead aurora will distort the film’s audio to such a degree, that it sounds much like ssb on two meters during an auroral storm. So, now all I have to do is film “straight up” for several minutes, review the tape, and listen to see if the aurora is present.

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