Winter 2009 Issue
Dalton Highway Arctic Circle road sign. (Photos courtesy of the authors)
In our ham radio hobby, it is rare when you actually get to both see and operate inside the natural medium that supports our RF signals and takes them to faraway places. Such is the case in the far north of Earth’s Arctic Circle. Alaska’s Arctic Circle just happens to be one of the places on Earth to which people can actually drive. Because of the summertime conditions, the Alaskan Arctic Circle has a full day of the sun’s effect on radio propagation. Sunrise, sunset, full daylight, and twilight are the active times in which the 66° 33' N latitude location offers operators of radio equipment a full-day possibility of having their signals reach somewhere far away, DX locations. Depending on the ham bands used, the RF signals can take multiple hops to reach exotic distant locations.
The magic becomes evident when astronomy
programs are put to the task of showing (from an outer-space perspective
high above any Earth location) the difference between day and night. It is
along that magical line where the direction of the RF path really jumps
out and gives a very clear picture as to where the paths are pointing. It
is best to make 24 one-hour incremental prints of each day’s activity to
help with the visualization during the middle of the night, when one is
very tired from logging 6- to 10-plus straight hours of contacts.
Just as with other types of DXpeditions, the signals may not be very strong at the start. It helps considerably that just one station finally receives that all-important first contact and creates a big fuss that alerts all of the masses to follow. Many contacts can follow that first effort, and once everyone has figured it out, you are on the fast track to running QSOs just as fast and furious as you can hear and log them!
I wrote down all of the contacts using pen
and paper with a glance at the clock for time. The contact rate was slow
enough to use to the closest minute for the log on phone contacts. The CW
guys were all electronic in the logging and operational parts of the
process. It was very impressive to see the fully automated logging and
exchanges with that many stations calling from all over the world.
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