here are many different DXpeditions being conducted all over the world. Some may be day trips as well as weeklong and even for a month at a time. It is common for DXpeditions to be made by radio amateurs who leave their own country and go to remote, unpopulated places of the world not otherwise easily accessed. However, the small less exotic QRP-expeditions are not as notable or well known as those DXpeditions to remote regions of the world. These smaller QRP-expeditions do not require a lot of time, material or money. In the brief time usually allocated, these QRP-expeditions allow the radio amateurs to conduct many QSOs from places that are rare for the radio operators at home to otherwise make contact. I only want to discuss these QRP-expeditions as they allow the radio amateur to test homemade equipment and to get experience with using low input powers.
Our QRP group is known as UR-QRP-C which will be described later in the article. I hope this will help others to organize and conduct similar expeditions by other radio amateurs in other parts of the world. First, let's look at QRP in general to help clarify the intent and purposes of our own QRP-expedition. So, first let's look at a brief history of QRP worldwide.
Brief History of QRP
Circa 1920 and before the propagation of radio by the Ionosphere was well known and understood, many amateur radios used a low-power level of 5-10 watts maximum. Such low-power level for transmitters was limited by the capacity of the tubes available at that time. Plus the cost of the tubes was very high and hard to obtain.
Despite the power limits, the radio amateurs used transmitters that ran between 1-10 watts and worked all over the world even with the rather poor receivers used in those days. Gradually advances in tube manufacturing came about and then cheaper and more powerful transmitter tubes became available. Then the radio amateurs could begin to run more transmitter power, which fast became the trend, leaving low-power operation behind.
As a further limiting factor, the transmitters of the "old days" primarily used batteries as a source of power. Later, with the availability of alternating current power in homes likewise allowed the use of higher levels of transmitter power.
The "DX hunting" part of the radio amateur hobby was the main driving force that caused the radio amateur to increase transmitter power and to use antennas that are more efficient today. At the beginning of the Second World War, the majority of radio amateurs were already using transmitter power levels that could no longer be classified as QRP. After the end of WWII, the surplus military radio equipment became available to the radio amateurs in many parts of the world. Many working transmitters and receivers could be bought in junkyards for ten cents (USD) a pound. Components such as tubes, inductors and capacitors capable of handling hundreds of watts of power could be bought for the same amount. It was a grand time for the radio amateurs and they took advantage of it. The greatly improved high sensitivity military receivers and the more powerful transmitters allowed DX contacts to become commonplace.
This period is historically very interesting in the way it influenced ham radio development. Immediately after WWII (1945-1950), significant advances in tube engineering greatly increased the capability for the construction of radio sets of almost any level of power and sensitivity desired by the radio amateur.
However, history took an interesting turn. In the middle of the 1950s, transistors became available to the radio amateur!
The experimenters began to build transistor transmitters with great enthusiasm because the miniature portable transmitter had arrived and was the new wave of the future. It is interesting to note that the initial path of development of the transistor is similar to the early development of the vacuum tube. Originally, the first tube transmitters were crystal controlled and so were the first transistor transmitters. As the development of the semiconductors progressed and transistors became more efficient and handle more power, the transmitters and receivers became more complicated. High stability variable frequency oscillators (VFO) began to show up in the transmitters. Previously, VFO equipment exhibited poor stability for transmitting.
Then the amateurs started building homebrew transistor transceivers for the amateur frequency ranges from 160 to 40 meters. These first transceivers had low power ranging from several milliwatts to several hundred milliwatts. This was not much power as compared to the powerful tube transmitters but the radio amateurs at least got on the air with them making contacts, many of which could be classified as real DX.
It could be said that the middle of the 1950s was the beginning of a revival of the QRP-operations. About this same time the space age began which also made use of low-power HF and VHF transmitters. These transmitters could be heard over great distances. As a consequence, the myriad of space engineering projects resulted in the further development of high-quality semiconductor production and circuitry. More specifically, this inspired the construction of very high-quality solid-state transmitters by the radio amateurs. This was also the time that the term QRP became synonymous with "low power operation" as used in the radio amateur jargon. Before this the term QRP, as we use it now, was seldom used.
At the end of the 1950s and beginning of the 1960s, solar activity (the 11-year cycle) also allowed DX QSOs to be made with very low power. This caused an even greater demand for the construction of QRP-type transistorized transmitters. In the 60s, semiconductor development and engineering improved transmitting transistors to a higher degree and this allowed the construction of even better QRP rigs. During this time, the first QRP clubs were created which helped the low power operators share information about various components and circuits and set up skeds for low power operation in an organized fashion.
As part of this new QRP club movement, power levels to be considered as true QRP were determined and set as 10 watts. At the same time, 5 watts was designated for CW and 10 watts was set for SSB. Then QRP clubs began to be organized in the various nations around the world. At first the QRP operators were just part of regular clubs, such as the QRP section of the DL-AGCW (Germany) and SCAG-CW (Scandinavia). Then larger QRP clubs came into existence such as ARCI (U.S.A) and the G-QRP (England). Because of its popularity, the number of QRP clubs has continued to grow in different countries around the world. Today, it is impossible to know the exact amount of QRP clubs, as the number grows daily. Many clubs conduct regular operating competitions and others conduct DX-QRP expeditions.
These competitions can't be classified as competitions in the normal sense. While other types of competitions are more open to the general amateur radio community, the QRP competitions are kept between low-power operators or other radio amateur friends only interested in pure QRP. Plus, this allows everyone to test their homemade QRP gear by making contacts with others who may be doing similar things.
Many manufacturers, that make transmitting equipment, have responded to the QRP hobby. Because of this, there is a broad spectrum of QRP gear on the market. These can either be purchased as a kit or already built. Many are multiband and others are for one band. These kits can be CW only or both SSB and CW.
The Purpose of Our Expedition to Ancient Crimea
QRP operation gives a unique opportunity to combine amateur radio and tourism. QRP gear is lightweight and easy to take on a trip. It is not uncommon now to hear an amateur callsign from some remote mountain locations or islands far off of the beaten path. Many times radio amateurs that go to the seashore or to other countries take QRP gear to listen for local information and work the radio amateurs of the countries being visited.
The idea to go to Ancient Crimea for a QRP-expedition has been considered by the members of our QRP club for quite some time. Finally in May of 2001, the QRP-expedition became a reality. We set other things aside, collected our backpacks, stuffed them with QRP gear and other tourist gear into them and left for the Crimean mountains. This expedition gave us a good chance to visit with the other members of the QRP club, visit ancient places in Crimea and to go to AI-Petri Mountain in the locale.
We followed a schedule to work from the mountain and the difficult climate found there on AI-Petri plateau, which would evaluate the operating capability of our homemade gear and other operating procedures. Also, we could enjoy the archeological sites found in Crimea. What a great combination of activities!
I hope other radio amateurs will be motivated to follow our example, when they read all about our trip to Crimea.
Preparation for the QRP-Expedition
The story of the QRP-expedition would not be complete without the tale of how we prepared for it. The preparation quite possibly took more time and energy than the expedition. I am not going to dwell on how much time and energy it took to get our call sign EM5QRP. That story (and the gray hair which it caused) belongs to the chairman of the QRP organization (UR-QRP-C) Peter US1REO. I will only describe the technical aspects of the QRP-expedition. I hope that this experience described will be useful to others who are planning to go on a QRP expedition in the future. The process I followed is outlined to give you an idea of what I had to do in order to prepare for this particular QRP-DX expedition.
I planned to take two homemade transceivers for 160, 80 and 40 meters and a commercially built CB transceiver called the "Promed-72". All of the equipment has been checked and I had used all of them for field operations in the past. It should be noted that for these long-distance expeditions, only equipment that has been carefully checked in the field and proven reliable should be taken. Equipment that is unreliable even when used in the ham shack at home will definitely fail in the adverse conditions of the rugged mountain conditions.
Some equipment problems had to be solved before we left and the most basic was the standardization of all connectors on all the transceivers. Headphones, microphones, telegraph keys all need to be connectable to each transceiver so these standardized adapters had to be fabricated. The same connector consistency was needed for the antenna and power connectors, so more adapters had to be made for those too. Unfortunately, my equipment was made at different times and I was not consistent with such things when I built them, using different connectors for each transceiver.
The 40-meter transceiver was built in 1995 and the transceiver for 160-80 meters was built in 1999. The 40-meter rig was built for a 15Vdc supply (10 R20 or D-type batteries) and the 160/80-meter rig was designed for a 3Vdc (2 R20 or D-type batteries). The HF transceiver Promed-72 was designed to work on 12Vdc, but would work on 15Vdc. As luck would have it, all three of the transceivers had different connectors for the antenna, headphone and telegraph key.
Therefore, I had to make some adaptor cables for all of my gear. These jumpers allowed me to use the same microphones, earphones, telegraph key, antenna matching system and power connector with any of my transceivers.
Here is a good rule to follow: don't modify or work on any operating transceiver immediately before the trip. Why? Because it is very likely to create unexpected problems and the transceiver to be dropped from the list of gear for the expedition. All repair work needed should be done well in advance of the QRP expedition-months before if possible. This gives time for the repairs or modifications to be well tested and checked out by the time of the expedition.
Three weeks before the expedition was to start, I put all of the transceivers intended for the trip on my desk, turned them on and left them on. From time-to-time, I would be able to make contacts and have a QSO allowing me to fully check the rigs to be sure they worked well.
It is extremely important that the transceivers to be used on the expedition be capable of working into both matched and mismatched antenna loads. Often during the expedition, antennas that were matched would suddenly shift to unmatched due to detuning by the weather or other factors. When this happens the SWR on the feed line will increase and could cause the final output transistors to fail.
These conditions make it necessary to use an antenna matching system, (ATU) in order to properly match field-practical antennas to the transceivers. I had made two lightweight matching devices some years ago and have used them both successfully in the field and at home. These same ATUs proved to be of very valuable service at Ai- Petry!
In addition to the homemade transceivers, I had built some wire dipoles for 160, 80 and 40 meters. These antennas and different connectors, couplings, wire and nylon cords for guy lines were all packed in my luggage.
The kit of directional dipole antennas for 20,15,10 meters I had built, with the intent of installing the beam antennas oriented toward the USA or Oceania for making QRP-DX QSO to those areas. However, often life changes the plans of man and we did not manage to use the beam antennas in our operation. The reasons for this will be explained later.
I had a large stockpile of candles and a big lantern prepared for the QRP expedition knowing we would have to operate around the clock. Therefore, we had to be prepared for night operations. With the very busy night operations the lantern helped us greatly with logging our QSOs during the dark nights.
A tent and accessories consisting of a sleeping bag and plastic ground coverings was packed. Candleholders and many other small necessary items were also packed. It turned out that the tent was not needed for reasons to be explained later. I will continue to mention the most important items needed. I am very familiar with what is needed and those planning such expeditions will be able to better organize a similar trip by reading about what went into our expedition.
It is a good idea to take a maximum of needed equipment and not to take any useless and unneeded gear. Unfortunately, some things will be forgotten and other items will not be used by virtue of circumstances at the expedition site. It is better to have duplicates of essential gear than to have to cancel or limit the QRP operation because of lack of one component that was left behind.
To the list of required items, it is most essential to pack the proper assortment of foodstuff. In this case, cans of stew, dried soups and everyone's kasha (breakfast cereal). On Ai-Petri, there are no shops and to find more food supply, Yalta is the closest place to purchase more food. It is a very difficult place to reach, particularly if the weather is not favorable.
Now the preparations for the expedition are finished. Laid out on the floor is the vast pile of things needed for the expedition. It is first sorted in a manner ready to pack in a backpack and large suitcase and secondly to pick up and carry off. The first was easy to do and the second is more difficult. Although very heavy, I was able to handle it alone. However, the weight of the gear for many other types of DXpeditions is in the range of tons of weight! Therefore, the QRP gear and antennas and other equipment have much less weight and is easy to pack and carry by comparison. Now the preparation stage of the QRP-expedition was finished.
I took a taxi to the railroad station and waited for about a half an hour for the train from to Kursk to arrive. There I met Nickolai, UA3WX, one of the members of the QRP-expedition. We got tickets in Moscow, but ended up in different coaches, to go to Simferopol and we departed after meeting with the other members of the expedition.
At 14:30 we arrived in Simferopol. Thanks to the Internet we knew when the others would arrive. The members from the Ukraine were coming from Nezin, a small city in the Ukraine. Peter, US1REO and Victor, US1RCH arrived in Simferopol at 13:30. They met Dmitry, UU4JCQ, who lives in Bakhchisarai in the Crimea. Wladimir and his two sons, Pavel, UR6IRL and Sergei, US1-555. The QRP-Expedition was coming together, all shook hands and photographs were taken for all to remember the event. Then we started to look for transportation to Ai-Petri.
The problem was solved when we found a very roomy Microbus that had room for us to sit and for all of our things. After all the gear was loaded on board the Microbus we departed on the Crimean roads for Ai- Petri plateau. Some parts were the old original roads while some parts were somewhat newer. Since the middle of the 1970s these roads have not been used very much. Nowadays the newer roads are more widely used which passes through the Angar mountain pass.
The old road we used has played a large part in the past for the conquering of the Crimea. Part of the old road passes through the Ai-Petri plateau. On occasion it is covered by snow at times during the winter. In addition, in the mountain sections of the road, landslides occur that cover the road. When this occurs, powerful snowplow tractors must come to clear the road. However, our driving on the serpentine road from Bakhchisarai to Ai-Petri was done in good weather, as snowfalls and landslides are rather infrequent in May, It took one and a half hours after we left Simferopol to get to Ai-Petri.
It is necessary to describe the unique location called Ai-Petri, as it is unusual in shape. The top of Ai-Petri is both flat with a large triangular peak on one side of the plateau with an altitude of 1,234 meters (4,000 feet) above sea level. It is only possible to get to the top of the mountain with mountain climbing gear and sufficient experience. The word of Ai-Petri encloses both the plateau and the triangular peak of the mountain and they are not far apart. The plateau in several places reaches an altitude of 1,200 to 1250 meters 3,900 - 4,100 feet). Our location was at an altitude of 1,170 meters (3,840 feet). Fig. 1 shows a sketch of the layout (of course it's hard to read at the size below, so there is a link under the image to a larger one that can be loaded).
Click for Larger Image
The Shelter for Operations at Ai-Petri
On May 3, 2001 at 1700 hours, our expedition arrived at the tourist shelters on AI-Petri, the destination for the day. There is a strong wind blowing across the plateau almost constantly so dwellings are in narrow ravines or behind rocky formations for protection against the wind. These many locations, protected from the wind had many unsightly poorly finished houses. One of the features of these little shacks is that the windows do not open. This is necessary to seal the houses from moisture when a cloud has covered the plateau and to keep the heat in the house during times of high winds. However, this time Ai-Petri has blessed us with sunny weather, which does not happen often. Nevertheless, we observed the clouds on the distant horizon that were approaching the plateau.
A long way from us we were able to see the large radomes, which concealed military radar antennas. We will see how the radar affects our receiving equipment. In all tourist information, the site is called an observatory, but it is not an observatory and not to be approached or you will be stopped by military personnel. Therefore, we stayed away.
After unloading our many countless items, we located the host of the shelter to arrange our accommodations. The shelter is in a place protected from the wind. In the last expeditions to the Crimea, I had stayed twice in this shelter and knew the host. Therefore, I had to arrange the accommodations with the host.
The shelter host was Vladimir Romanovich Kulymin, who was born in the Crimea near Yalta, and as a child fell in love with the mountains. As a young boy, he explored many Crimean mountains. Later in the long evening conversations he told us about many new and interesting facts, which can be not be found in books. Vladimir has climbed the majority of the mountains in the USSR area and has climbed to the top of many of the mountains in the Crimea area. However, there are few if any mountain climbers who have not had a fall of some type, if they have been a climber very long. Eventually a climber will fall due to an extreme situation either on a mountain or from a rock face. Vladimir fell from a rock face and was badly injured. After a long period of medical treatment and convalescent period, Vladimir returned to the Crimea. He was never able to climb again. Since that time he has worked as the shelter host on Ai-Petri.
The tourist shelter was constructed in 1950 and last year (2000) was its 50-year anniversary. The local one and only restaurant was built later and was open at times during our stay on Ai-Petri.
After all the arrangements were made and we had paid the required fees for the shelter we began to unpack. An inspection of the room showed that there was no place to run antenna feed lines out of the shelter. The airtight type construction allowed no opening windows in order to keep the heat in during the strongest wind and to keep the dampness out when the plateau is covered by clouds. Thus, no holes!
When Vladimir found out the details of our stay and about the QRP-expedition and its purpose, he drilled two holes in the house for the coaxial cables for the GP and LW antennas. It is interesting that our radio amateur hobby can interest anyone particularly one of so many abilities and other interests.
The shelter was not intended for prolonged tourist stays. It was designed with the original purpose in mind that tourists would only spend one night and a maximum of two days. So, the two rooms were of very small dimensions. One room had the dimensions of 2.5 x 2.5 meters (click for imperial measurements) and this is where five expedition members were staying, RK3ZK, UA3WX, UU4JCQ, US1REO US1RCH. The other room was still smaller in dimensions, 2 x 2 meters. This is where US7IRL, US6IRL, US1-555 lodged. It is rather strange that on such a large place as the plateau of Ai- Petri the shelters were so small. Even on a space craft the compartments are probably larger than our shelter. Well it is not about shelter; rather it is all about QRP and that is all that mattered
Also, the limitations of the dimensions are dictated by the size of the place where the house could be built. It had to be built where the occasionally high winds on Ai-Petri would not blow the shelter away and compact enough to conserve heat.
The first task that faced us was to put the antennas up while the weather was still good, which we were all convinced was a rarity on Ai-Petri. The elements can be fierce at times. Below in Fig. 2 is another sketch of how we rigged up the antennas:
UR7IRL brought a GPA-30 antenna made by the Fritzel Corporation. This antenna was only supposed to work on 20, 15, and 10 meter. We subsequently managed to use it on 40 and 30 meters. UU4JCQ brought a homemade antenna for 18 MHz, which turned out to work very well on the 27MHz CB range. Our group then began to put up the antennas.
I had brought a mass of wire antennas. These were the dipoles for my transceivers and some wire Yagi antennas for 15,20, and 30 meters and some deltas for 20 and 40 meters. Unfortunately, there was a problem installing the wire antennas.
The Borrowed Antenna
Our Makeshift Antenna
Rigging the ground
Since the shelter was situated in a narrow gulley, we needed a high mast for the antennas. The only mast in the vicinity was one used by a mountain rescue service, so we asked the owners if we could string up our antennas. Permission was granted and we installed a 55-meter long wire. I installed a small wooden mast on a shed near to the shelter and then I climbed the rescue service mast and installed the long wire there. Next, I fastened the other end to the small wooden mast. While I did this, the others installed the vertical antennas. I helped US1REO and US1RCH with their antennas while the others of the group finished the installation of the rest of the verticals.
An adequate ground was needed for good operation of the LW antenna due to the low impedance it presented to the ATU. Therefore, we decided to use the metal cover of the shelter for the ground. After this was done, the antenna current went up significantly by 20-30%.
The ground planes were installed using cords and guy wires. At 1900 hours, the antennas were installed and now time for supper. Our supper in the shelter followed this in the rather large dining room of 3.5 x 4.5 meters was considered to be a large room by comparison to our tiny individual rooms described above.
This Part 1 has taken us through the preparations stage of the trip and we shall all now turn in for a restful night. In Part 2 next month, we commence the fun partQRP operations! -30-
Brief Biography of
Author Igor Grigorov email@example.com
Igor Grigorov has a first class radioamateur license with the callsign RK3ZK. He has published more than 300 articles and eight books for professional and amateur radio. He has received more then 100 radioamateur awards and is an active participant in many QRP contests. Each summer since 1986, he operates either from mountains or from kayaks or simply from various campaigns. For example, in 1991, Igor took part on a radioamateur expedition at Kizhi Island. On the expeditions he tries out different antennas and radio equipment. As his primary interest, Igor conducts experiments with "invisible and substitute antennas" which enable him to work from what would seem as impossible places. After a resolution by Russia to use WARC bands and bands 136kHz, CB band 27 MHz, Igor is one of first to actively work on them.
Igor was born in 1962 in
Belgorod, Russia and finished high school there in 1979. After high school, from 1979 to
1980 he worked in the factory Energomash in Belgorod as a mechanical worker.
In 1980, Igor entered Kharkov Institute of Radioelectronics, where he studied until 1984. Having completed his main body of higher education, during 1984 through 1985 he worked as an assistant engineer in the factory "Sokol" on the assignment of "Signal" and computer management by radio-transmitting equipment of aerial services of aerodromes in the Special Designer Bureau of the factory. In 1985 Igor resumed studies at Kharkov Institute of Radioelectronics, and completed graduate studies in 1987 as a radio engineer-specialist on subjects of radio-transmitting devices and antenna-feeder systems. After graduating from the Institute, Igor was trained as a Military Specialist for signal intelligence. He then worked as an engineer in the Special Designer Bureau of Factory "Sokol" concentrating on development of digital telephone stations.
In 1990, Igor worked as an engineer at the joint-stock company Progress on development of transmitter-receiver devices and antenna-feeder systems for 27-100 MHz. In 1992, he worked for the police on control, repair service, maintenance of radio receiving-transmitting devices and antenna-feeder systems for 1-180 MHz bands. At the time Igor was an operator of an emergency service communication station on HF and VHF bands. Since 1998 he has worked in the Customs Committee of Russian Federation as an engineer on repair, maintenance, installation of transmitting-receiving devices and antenna-feeder systems for 140-180 MHz bands. From the beginning of the year 2000 to the present time, he works in the joint-stock company Specradio in Belgorod as an engineer for antenna-feeder systems for range 0.2-18 GHz at signal intelligence stations.
Igor is married to Alise (Olesya) Kotko who attended Belgorod University with post-graduate studies at the Moscow Institute of Pedagogical, followed by scientific work in the shaping of ecological culture of junior school boys in educational activities. She now lectures at Belgorod University.
~ antenneX ~ February 2002 Online Issue #58 ~
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