Contests for me have always been less about competition and more about discovering new things in radio. Due to the sheer number of stations on the air, contests provide the perfect venue for compressing a variety of radio experimentation into a minimal amount of time:
- A/B antenna comparisons
- QRP possibilities on 160 meters
- bands open later than thought possible
and more, depending on your interests.
This past weekend’s 10m DX Contest was a lesson for me in the phenomena of long-path. If radio is Magic, long-path propagation is Magic squared (or magic for squares, as my XYL might say).
At about 8am local time, I turned on the K3 and pointed the antenna toward Europe, ie northeast - 10 meter’s usual destination at that time of day. Some Europeans and African stations were there alright but most were weak thanks to what I would (in polite company) call cruddy conditions.
But then there was a spot for XV1X in Vietnam. I had an inkling this was long path so I nudged my antenna to the southwest and tuned to the spotted freq. He was there, plain as day.
After working him, I turned my antenna to the northwest – the normal direction from Texas to SE Asia – and signal strength fell from S8 (LP) to S3 (SP). On the dipole was also S3.
To me, this was a bit of a surprise. I had always been under the impression that if the ionosphere is capable of propagating a signal the long way around the world, then the usual (short path) signals would be super-strong. With this in mind, I would be more apt to listen for Asian stations on 10m on my mornings only of Europeans signals were exceptionally strong.
But this is wrong and the low signal strength of that morning’s European signals was misleading regarding the overall condition of the band.
A celebratory bowl of pho is in order – the perfect complement to our sudden freezing weather. Here’s XV1X on 10m long-path: