At the end of the work day last Friday, I noticed DXmaps showed 6 meters QSOs from the southeast U.S. to Latin America. And so as soon as I finished work, I went to the club station to see for myself.
I heard some 6 meters signals but they were weak. I therefore decided to assess conditions. My first check was to listen for beacons below 50.08 MHz, but I heard none. I then tried scanning the beam 360 degrees while on the CW calling frequency and on a couple of CW frequencies higher, but heard nothing. However I had heard some SSB phone higher up and went back there. At first I just noticed relatively local phone stations, but I didn’t hear their contacts. I then tuned to the phone calling frequency, and then a little lower.
And there was the first DX! CE3SX in Santiago, Chile, at FF46, on phone SSB. 6 meters was indeed alive, at least to the south.
But the band conditions were tenuous. The signal was ghost-like, as if not fully there, and difficult to copy. Eventually I copied the call sign and QTH. Then I called, and right away had a successful QSO. I don’t know how easily he copied me, but he got my information right away.
I then went back to a stronger phone signal, and worked WA3VXJ, Karl. He was talking from near Pittsbugh, PA, but he was operating remotley through Skype from Englewood, FL, EL86.
Given that the signals were weak, but there, I then tried working CW and JT65. I made two JT65 contacts without much trouble, with LU8EX in Argentina GF05, and with CX5BL in Uruguay GF15. I saw on the display, more faintly, signals from two N3 stations in the FM grids, but they disappeared before I could get to them. Meanwhile both of those South American stations stayed on JT65 for awhile, but I didn’t hear anyone they contacted.
I then moved down to the CW section, below 50.11 MHz. I heard two strong stations in south Florida, and worked them: AE2DX in EL88 and WC4H in EL95. I heard them work other stations both south and north. When I tried scanning the beam north though, I couldn’t find any signals. I even tried calling CQ. I therefore decided to keep pointing south, and work what I could in that direction, while there was an opening.
Again, all the South American stations I heard were weak and ghostlike, as if coming through shimmering waves that distorted them. But they didn’t fade away. I took the approach to listen carefully to the ongoing QSOs, to glean all their information first. Determining the callsigns was difficult, as a “dit” or “dah” could fade out. But they kept calling CQ, and often enough they kept working other stations. I had to listen many times before I felt reasonably sure of the callsigns. I then tried contacting. I succeeded in contacting: PY2RN in Brazil GG66 Sao Paulo, PY2XB also in Brazil GG66, ZP6CW in Paraguay GG14, ZP5SNA also in Paraguay GG14 and close in frequency too, and LU5FF in Argentina FF99.
By then I was getting tired. But I got in one more phone QSO with a strong station in Florida, Rudy WD4AB in Miami EL95.
Later during the weekend I looked up the stations I contacted on QRZ. Many of them had substantial antenna systems for VHF and above. Perhaps that accounts for how the South American operators could copy me quickly. It is as if I walked into another special part of the ham radio forest, with specialized foresters and hunters.
As one who had been away from ham radio for awhile and who is not familiar with VHF, I value having our club station available with its capabilities. I have the chance to try more bands and modes than I’ve done before, in new situations, including ones like this, with a 6 meters opening. Our experienced members have been developing our station equipment. That’s good for them. And it is also good for our new and less experienced hams. We have a good asset to help us develop our experiences.
Below are e-QSLs we received from the 6 meters opening. Most also confirmed on LoTW right away.
73, Gary WA2JQZ