Summer 2007 Issue

A VHF Contest Expedition
to Prince of Wales Island, Alaska


Operating the ARRL June VHF QSO Party from Alaska and bettering a
1970 effort was the goal of K7CW and KLØRG this year. Here is the story
of their efforts on 6 and 2 meters using the call KL7FF.

By Paul Kiesel, K7CW

This is a view of Big Salt Lake on the west side of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska.

In 1970, the moderator of the “World Above 50 MHz” column for QST magazine at the time, Bill Smith, then KØCER (now WØWOI), drove his pickup with camper to Ketchikan, Alaska to take part in the ARRL June VHF QSO Party. Bill, using the call KL7ABR, operated the contest in Ketchikan because there were no roads anywhere else near there back then. However, Ketchikan is close to mountains that block any attempt to transmit to the east. Therefore, Bill was able to make contacts to West Coast states only via meteor scatter and sporadic-E. There probably was propagation in other directions, but the mountains kept Bill from making contacts in those directions.

Ever since that trip by Bill, I have wanted to do the same. I was hoping to better the effort made by KL7ABR in 1970. Over the last three years, I had strongly been considering the idea of doing the June VHF QSO Party in southeastern Alaska. I discussed this with Kevin O’Connell, KLØRG, and others, but made no decision to prepare for such a trip until 2006, when I retired. I called Kevin early in 2007 and told him that I had decided that this was the year for the contest effort. Kevin, an avid VHF weak-signal afficionado, immediately volunteered, and we became a two-man team for the competition. We would use the DX Scavengers Radio Club callsign, KL7FF.

In the meantime, I discussed the upcoming activity with Ed Cole, KL7UW, who is making great efforts to popularize weak-signal VHF in Alaska. Ed thought it was a great idea to submit a club entry from Alaska. In order to get things going, Ed took steps to make the Alaska VHF Up Group an official organization and obtain club affiliation with the ARRL. Ed published information on his web page, <http://www.kl7uw. com/>, which gave details of our contest plans. He also contacted many Alaskan amateurs and vigorously promoted the VHF contest effort and weak-signal VHFing in general. Unfortunately, the club affiliation didn’t arrive in time for the contest, but interest in the activity was still piqued. Excellent job, Ed.

Kevin and I discussed possible locations in southeastern Alaska. Of primary importance was the necessity of having a clear shot with low take-off angle to Canada and the United States. I did a lot of Internet research, seeking possible accommodations. I made many phone calls to owners of vacation and hunting cabins. Some had electricity, but most had unacceptable radio horizons.

Finally, I located a cabin near the eastern shore of Prince of Wales Island, near the town of Thorne Bay, in grid locator CO35rq. From the published Internet photos and from discussions with the caretaker, Tim Lindseth, it appeared that all the necessary specifications would be met. We needed to know for sure, though, that we would have a clear shot to VE and W. A good horizon in the direction of south central Alaska would be a major plus.

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