Between a rock and a hard place

Here’s the rock:

And here’s the hard place (source):

Current Solar Flux report: SFI: 137 A-index: 13 K-Index: 3
Summary for the past 24 hours:
Space weather for the past 24 hours has been minor.
Radio blackouts reaching the R1 level occurred.

Last weekend was a treat: SFI = 190 and low A/K values. I played in the WW RTTY contest and made about 150 QSO. Plenty DX but no big rates. California, Washington and Oregon coming in S9+ late in the evening. It sounded better than 20m in some of the CQ WW CW and ARRL DX CW we’ve had in the recent past (2006-2010). Then 20m would open only marginally to W6/7, with only a few weak signals. But this time, the sun let us taste a sample of a very delicious dish: long DX openings on 10m. The sun gives and takes of course: on Monday the A-index jumped to an incredible height and while the SFI gently dropped off during the week, the A and K values remained too high for much fun so I didn’t even fire up the shack.

I also followed the Rockall adventure. A dozen of Belgium’s finest ànd craziest ham operators would activate a rare IOTA or rather a ROTA (Rock on the Air). I don’t care about IOTA and I’ve got GM confirmed everywhere but I know almost all the guys involved so I’d like to work them. I was active on Saturday and by accident I saw a local announcement on the cluster. The pilots were in contact with the ship and were holding a 40m QRG. I went to listen, checked in with the guys and soon I was hooked and carried away. There were at least 15-20 ON hams checked in. We heard the live announcement coming from the ship (ON4ATW/MM) that ON4HIL managed to get on the rock and actually climb to the top. The atmposphere on the frequency was very ecstatic. Almost as if we were monitoring the landing of the first man on the moon  🙂

I had to QRT for the afternoon but had high hopes of working them on 40m because the comms from the main vessel with the pilots in ON was S9 on my dipole. Upon my return however: not a trace of MM0RAI/P. I only heard heavy S9++ wideband QRM. Later in the evening the wideband QRM was gone, which was good but it was replaced by wideband man made QRM which is bad. Simplex callers, DX cops and genuine SOBs made copying The Rock very hard. I still tried to work them and I actually think I worked them but when the operator confirmed my call, there were a couple of those unicellular species wiping him out with useless blahblah. So let’s see if I’m in the log or not. If not, I don’t really mind because I had my fair share of excitement in the morning.

In between some general DX, there is also the Oceania DX SSB contest. I worked 25 stations, most of them (9) on 40m. DX on 40 SSB: I really don’t have much of that in my logs. My main focus for the weekend isn the California QSO Party. That one turned out to be fun last year (remember?) so I marked it on the agenda for this year. As I’m writing this, we’re halfway through the party but it turns out that current propagation really sucks to W6. Best band yesterday turned out to be 15. On 20m there wasn’t anything to be worked. And signals on 40m CW were light and fluttery. Not a single 40m SSB contact. Let’s see what the rest of the day brings…

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