SOTA summit: Temple Hill W6/SC-369
Activation Date: November 26, 2016
Portable operation: Yes
Radio: Elecraft K2 operating at 50 watts
Antenna: Buddipole in full length dipole configuration
Bands used: 15m, 12m and 17m
Furthest QSO: ~7,750 miles with VK1AD near Canberra, Australia
Hike in: Yes
Solo operation: Yes
ATT Coverage: Excellent
Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2016
Almost 8,000 miles apart with completely different journeys to our chosen “peaks” and vastly different gear to setup it was serendipitous that we where both ready ahead of schedule and at exactly the same moment. A very positive sign!
As a reminder radio communication can be very fickle. What might work now might not be repeated for days, weeks or even months. The ability to communicate long distance is driven/governed by the sun’s impact on earth’s outer atmosphere and the sun’s behavior is fickleness defined. So trying to make a voice connection from a North American peak to an Australia peak with all the vagaries and compromises of equipment and the sun’s fickleness is akin to correctly predicting the outcome of a presidential election.
Spurred by the recent success of both the Australia to Europe and separate North America to Europe Summit to Summit SOTA events, Andrew VK1AD wanted to see how viable a North America to Australia Summit to Summit event could be and with that in mind asked if any of the North American SOTA community where interested in seeing what we could achieve. Always game for something fun I volunteered and picked what I thought was a promising peak in Laguna Beach up at 1,000 ft with a clear and unobstructed view of the resplendent Pacific Ocean. Setting up an antenna close to the edge of a peak that has a rapid drop off is very advantageous to promoting effecting long distance radio contacts.
Its Thanksgiving weekend here in the US and Temple Hills, my chosen peak, is a very popular destination for people to come see the sea to the west and view the peaks to the east. At moments I felt as though I was setting up my station in the middle of a shopping mall during Black Friday, people everywhere. Lots of people wanted to know what I was up to….was I about to launch a drone, what was I doing? And so I told the story of radio and SOTA and today’s goal of reaching Australia. Its satisfying to get comments like “cool” from people and kids distinctly younger than me and I hand out my “business cards” to encourage follow up.
Given this was primarily an experiment and not an event to seek points it seemed having a way to communicate real time would help us immensely. Andrew suggested using WhatsApp. Not being familiar with the app itself I was very familiar with the story of how the company of 30 or so people where acquired for $20 billion by Facebook. Definitely a dream come true for some and with that happy thought I install the app.
Tuned to the 15m band and listening for no more that a nano second I can hear a distinct Australian accent calling VK1AD and then acknowledging my call sign.
We did it, quite possibly to our amazement and promise each other QSL cards to memorialize this as we had made a little bit of SOTA history. This is the first summit to summit contact between North America and Australia. We both reconfigured our antennas to operate in the 12m and 17m both yielding contacts although 15m seemed the quietest and easiest contact. 12m was a struggle with very weak voices and 17m stronger voices but with a lot of background noise that tends to overwhelm the voice. All in all a very successful Thanksgiving weekend activation and something that possibly exceeded our expectations.
During my short hike back to my car two sets of people stopped me and asked if I had made contact with Australia. “Yes” I responded and as I walked on I could hear a ten year old girl shouting “cool”.
She’s right it was a “cool” morning.