Not in the Log!
One of the Local QRPers was by the other day, and he made his way up the hill. This one was, at the same time, looking down in the dumps and also showing the characteristic all knowing look. He was huffing and puffing a bit, and he sat down and looked at us without speaking. "What's new?", we asked in an upbeat tone, not wanting to ruin such a nice spring morning.
“I think conditions have changed so that we will not be able to work very much DX anymore.”, he proclaimed, sitting down beside us. He handed us a few of his QSL cards that had “SRI - not in Log” written across them. We looked at them carefully. “This happens from time to time”, we advised, “even to the best of us. It doesn’t mean you’ve lost your touch. Even the Old Timer speaks of the time when he was sure he had worked one of those Antarctic DXpeditions on 80 meters, and it came back marked ‘NIL’. It just happens. Why is this going to stop anyone from working DX?”
The QRPer was starting to sweat a bit, and he looked at us, “Yeah, but not three times in one year! And two of them were with big gun stations who were at least S9. I was sure I worked them! I heard them come back to my call as clear as a bell, and I believe I’ve finally figured out what is going on. It’s not good, either!”
We learned long ago that when a QRPer has a theory about why he can’t work DX, it is usually better not to ask. But, it is equally as unpleasant to switch topics, for they always veer back onto the original subject with a vengeance. We took a deep breath, held on to the arms of the chair, and asked innocently, “Why is it that we won’t be able to work as much DX?” His face lost its frown and he began talking, now with a look of new found knowledge. “It’s got to do with global warming and the affect it has on the ionosphere, coupled with how well our stations are grounded.”, he declared. “I never had a very good ground system until last year. Remember when I bought all those surplus ground rods and that big spool of wire?” We nodded slowly, and he pressed forward, “Well, I put all those rods in last summer, and I connected them together with the extra wire, and I have all of this tied to the base of my tower. I probably have the best ground system on the east coast!” We were sceptical about this for some of the low banders had miles and miles of radials, but we thought it best not to mention it.
“And you know that the better your ground system is, the lower your take-off radiation angle will be.”, he continued. “So this should make long haul DX a lot easier, right?” We thought about what he was saying and it made sense, so we replied, “Yes, that’s the general rule. Not always, but yes, in most cases that’s true.” “Exactly!”, the QRPer said, “That’s part of it. But there have been well grounded stations in years past, and they didn’t miss the DX, so there is another factor. The global warming is making the air in the upper atmosphere warmer and lighter, and lighter air rises. It’s taking the ionosphere up with it. Maybe only 10-15 miles, but the whole ionosphere is rising! And with my low take-off angle combined with the higher ionosphere, I’m skipping right over the DX station. When they are on DXpeditions, they usually don’t have a very good ground, so their signals are hitting me, but mine are skipping right over them!”
Usually we just get up and walk away when faced with such nonsense, but this time we had to hear more. “OK, if your theory is right, why are they coming back to your call? If your signals are skipping over them, they can’t hear you.” The QRPer grinned and replied, “That’s it! They aren’t hearing me. Not at all. What is happening is that the signal is travelling all around the earth, and when I let up on the key, I head my own signal off of the back of the beam! And in a pileup, when I hear my call, I think it is the DX, but it’s really me! So I send ‘R R 5NN’ and that too skips over the DX, and I hear the report off of the back of my beam. So I’ve been working myself. And that’s why I’ve been getting ‘Not in the log’ on a lot more of my QSLs!”
What could we say when faced with something like this? We looked at the QRPer for a moment and tried a logical approach, “How about split operations. If the DX is transmitting on 14.020 and you send on 14.025, why are you hearing yourself on his transmit frequency? How does your theory explain that?” He jumped up, staring at us with his beady little eyes and replied, “Doppler shift. If my signal has to travel all around the earth, it’s shifting in frequency.”
We gave up! We learned long ago to pick our battles, and this was one not worth fighting. So we simply said, “Then the solution to all of this is to unhook your ground system, right?” The QRPer nodded. “Yes. But don’t tell anyone else. Let them think they got a report from the DX and they’ll stop calling. And there will be more DX for us! Get rid of your grounds!” And with that he was off down the hill, confident that his days of not being in the log were over.
Son of a Gun! We had contemplated asking him if he had considered that maybe he heard his call wrong, or if the DX station simply had worked someone with a call that was close. Busted calls are not a new thing! Or maybe we should have told him that now and then we end up NIL when we are sure we should be. It’s one of the Mysteries of the Ages and the Eternal Enigmas of DXing.
But, during the bottom of the cycle, when the Low Days of DXing are upon us, Local QRPers come up with some interesting theories! And, back in the deep recesses of our mind, we recalled that VE1YX never grounded his station. Ever. And he has Number One Honor Roll. Maybe the QRPer was on to something. But more likely, he was simply not in the log! DX IS!
This story is in the public domain and may be reproduced in any format. - VE1DX
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Last updated 15 December 2020