There’s the annual RAEM contest. Apparently I earned the UPOL award simply by participation in this event? There’s the RAEM stories online. Recently there was the 115 years of RAEM award which I chased. It wasn’t a hard chase of course. Russia is my backyard and there was plenty activity. Especially in the RAEM contest.

And now there’s the RAEM book too. Well, the book has been around for a while but it now shines in my personal library.
I’m not really into history. At least not more than a healthy dose needed for general knowledge and common sense. But I find the adventures of a polar explorer intriguing. Even without the ham radio aspect. I prefer cold ice over hot beaches. Penguins over camels. Ice bears over scorpions.

During the winter holidays I read that E.T. Krenkel had written down his memoires: RAEM is my call-sign. And that there was an English translation. It wasn’t really easy but while searching I stumbled upon an online book selling platform where a German lady had a copy for sale that she described as ‘in good shape’. I took the plunge and a few days later the book was in my hands. And indeed in pristine shape.

The book also offers insights on the interbellum in Russia and probably all over Europe (poverty, famine and misery) and the evolution of radio.

I have come to the stage where he just learned CW and copied DX telegraphy news feeds for a living. He is now about to embark on his first arctic voyage. This is where the radio adventure should begin…

This one if purely for archiving purposes. In case ten years from now I wonder where my 2019 log is.

I didn’t participate. And if it weren’t for the UBA I would never participate in this small SSB contest. Especially not when propagation is as it probably is. Not that I know because I haven’t touched a radio in almost a month. I feel worse for missing the 160 CW contest. Although I didn’t see much US-EU spots on the cluster? Maybe even top band is broken?

Another reason is that six days ago I caught a bad flu and I’m still tired and recovering. I couldn’t be bothered with cranking up towers and winching up wire antennas.
Furthermore the weather turned from calm with high quality snow early last week to 8°C and a gusty 5Bft with rain. Classic Belgian ‘winter’. I hate it.

I hope for calm weather and maybe a tad of propagation in ARRL DX CW and UBA CW in a few weeks. The CW part generates quite some activity contrary to its spoken counterpart.

What is about as much fun as to write? To be written about maybe?

Earlier this week I opened up John AE5X’s website on my smartphone. You should know that I have only recently been baptized into the Church of Swipers. Three weeks ago exactly. My classic cell phone turned 8 last summer and the human interface started disintegrating. I could still run it for seven days on one charge cycle though!  I appreciated its pocket size. It was still functioning just fine yet I retired it for a few reasons.

Anyway I am not really familiar yet with the small screen (compared to my 17” laptop). So I loaded AE5X’s site to see ‘OQ5M’ popping up prominently about thirty centimeters from my nose. I was flabbergasted for a few seconds especially since OQ5M was followed by ‘unknowingly’. What have I done? What did I do? Who have I p’d off?

Closer reading soon unveiled the real story.

This is what it’s all about (starting at the 30sec mark):

I have always wondered if someone recorded my signals and threw them on the web…

I used quite a few different callsigns in 2018. Here’s an overview:

OQ5M              17171      contest + DX
OP0HQ              2041      IARU contest 20m CW
ON18FWC            9276      Football World Championship Russia 2018
OT70NNV            1449      70 years UBA club Ninove
OT70UBA            4063      70 years UBA HF Commission
ON5ZO/P             887      Region 1 CW Fieldday

That is a total of 34887 QSO which easily beats the previous top year (2014 with 28400 QSO).

I made at least one QSO on 112 days in 2018. Which is more than the double of the previous years.

Mode breakdown: 27098 were in CW, 7555 in SSB and 234 RTTY.

This means 77.68% CW  –  21,65 SSB  –  0.67% RTTY.

This is of course almost impossible without the use of these special event callsigns, especially in a no sunspot year.

The band distribution:

How on earth did I manage 779 contacts on a virtually dead 10m band? It seems May and June were the best months for 10m. Of course this means a lot of local EU contacts with these special calls.

This is with one tower, a small triband yagi, single wire antennas for WARC and 80+160. The OQ5M and OPØHQ contacts are made with 1200W in the contests. The special event callsigns were activated with the small 500W amp and field day was of course low power. 

Now if only I could make a living by running the bands and logging contacts?


I don’t like 160. There I said it. You noise lovers can have it.

I normally don’t do this contest but the tower is up, the 160m antenna is deployed and I have time to spare. So let’s see what we can do on 160 shall we? Well, we can get annoyed for one.

My only goal was to work DX. Just for fun. So I was to use the cluster / RBN and submit a checklog. But gosh what a frustrating experience. I logged a dozen EU contacts Saturday afternoon but I quit because I had to go somewhere.

I decided to sleep first because I don’t want to work dozens of EU which will just generate a ton of paper QSL again. And my setup is not cut for Far East DX – not even taking propagation into account. QRV 03.15z for USA. I found NP2J who was easily worked. That first QSO turned out to be the highlight of this dreadful event. VA2WA was another loud one. I worked him yesterday too on Top Band for the RAC Winter Contest.

I wanted to run but each time I found a clear spot, the same thing happened three times:

  1. Get called by EU only with only one American station every so many contacts.
  2. A US station would then land on top of me and start running, obviously not hearing me.
  3. I could hear the American work USA, one after the other.
  4. I had to abandon the run and find another frequency.

I felt like Dumbo, the opposite fauna-equivalent ham radio metaphor of the Alligator: I could hear plenty on the east coast but no one heard me. I really heard many W stations and PJ2T and XE2X but no one copied me. XE2X was especially frustrating because he was rather loud and I never worked a Mexican on Top Band. But it was EU only. Some of the DX signals seemed to be slightly better just around my sunrise. I tried a couple of guys before without success but they heard me in the half hour centered around my local sunrise. But most Yankees just CQ’ed in my pretty face.

Map generated by tools.adventureradio.de/analyzer (& TNX ON3DI for the idea!)

The map above shows my log projected on the map. Nothing beyond UA4 but all red lines were worked in common darkness. So it was not the right time for the east. K0OO is farthest west.

NR3X, K3ZO and W1BB were the loudest on the band. Out of 237 contacts I logged 41 Americans under these poor conditions. And yet I am not satisfied. Probably there are Belgians who would be very glad to work a few states on 160m but don’t even have an antenna for that band.

When I walk the dog here in the neighborhood I walk drooling past a few houses with tremendous gardens which would be ideal for 160m operations (and a 80m 4SQ). Wide spread lawns for an XXL radial field. Room for beverages and some even have very tall trees lined up for phased verticals. But without propagation it would be useless too.

I wonder who (apart from me) will send in a checklog because they used the cluster / RBN? Each time I started a CQ on a fresh frequency a few EU’s would jump right on me. Some of them were running elsewhere in the band. Coincidence?