Communications and Electronics Section

Better Caving Through Electrical Stuff

Amateur Radio Special Event Station at 2016 Convention

Bill Frantz, AE6JV

The National Speleological Society (NSS) wanted the station for their 75th anniversary convention, and there was a plan for that station, but at the last minute the plan fell through. The convention chair called me and asked if I could throw something together in the two weeks before the convention. Since I had told the Communication and Electronics section I would make sure there was a special event station, I figured I had to do something.

I emailed a couple of hams who had run stations at previous conventions and Sam Rowe, KG9NG was able to help. Sam quickly lined up a FCC call sign, N7C.

We hatched out the barest sketch of a plan, we each loaded up a bunch of radio equipment we thought might be useful, and headed for the convention in Ely, Nevada. I arrived late Friday afternoon, and Sam arrived Saturday morning.

The convention staff had told us that we had no trees, and power would only be available when the generators were running for the main stage and dining tent, so we had planned accordingly. What we didn't plan for was the 30-40 MPH winds every afternoon that forced us to open the walls of the tent to keep it from blowing down, and the dust that covered everything.

Sam brought his standard portable equipment of several portable HF antennas, several batteries and chargers, a generator, and a MFJ box that made his Icom 706 into a portable emergency radio. I had my K3 setup, an end fed 40 meter antenna, and a 2 element wire beam for 20 meters. I brought two photographic light stands for antenna supports. As it turned out, Sam's generator made so much RF noise that we had to go QRT while we charged the batteries.

We got the station setup by early Saturday afternoon with several of antennas to chose from. Of course as soon as things were setup, we started calling CQ.

We ended up using the K3 and the wire beam on 20 meters for most of the contacts. We both liked the digital voice recorder for CQing. The initial pileup was a lot of fun. I had brought my headset and a new footswitch for PTT, so I was hunched over the logging computer handling QSOs left and right. For about half an hour I was making about two fairly conversational QSOs a minute.

One highlight was a young girl, a member of the Junior Speleological Society, JSS enjoying her first time operating the radio. Her pileup technique was excellent. It is always nice to see new people coming into the hobby.

In the future, we can always use additional operators. Since hams are usually most active on weekends, Saturday and Sunday operating shifts are needed and shouldn't conflict with most convention activities. We ended up with 100 QSOs and 98 unique stations located as far away as Quebec and Rhode Island. Not bad for a last minute operation and an antenna only 11 feet above ground. Sam and I are already planning next year's operation in New Mexico.