After nearly a year of waiting, the 2004 Tarantula Migration Dxpedition got underway at dawn on October 23rd. Fully packed and ready to go, the dauntless dx-team of K6SGH and KG6JMJ hit the road and headed off to Larsen Meadows at Rancho Alegre. Dauntless indeed! Despite some bad sushi the night before, KG6JMJ looked a little green as he climbed into the driver's seat of his pickup.
We arrived at the site and I started to figure out where I was going to hang the loop. As I walked around I immediately noticed two telephone poles on either end of the large portion of the meadow. One pole was being used as a flagpole and had a rope on a pulley...ideal. The other pole and a climbing rope on it attached at the top with an eye bolt. The two poles were about 250 feet apart and would serve as end supports for the dipole.
I noticed a metal building at the top portion of the meadow which looked like storage. I walked over and saw pvc piping of all sizes and lengths laying on the ground. Against one side of the building were dozens of 20 foot wooden flag poles. Wow! Everything I would need to construct additional supports. Using locally acquired antenna resources was a central goal in this year's dxpedition for me.
So I started winding out the four sides of the 80 meter loop I was going to construct. The best laid plans.....seems like I forgot to pack the second piece of wire I had measured out. How can this be? Hummm. One cool brew later I decided to just put up what I had and go with a 185 foot long dipole. Odd length, but I had an odd length of wire. I fed the dipole with ladder line and figured I'd be able to tune it from 10 to 40 meters.
Here's the dipole as seen from the center support. The entire length of the antenna was very flat at about 25 feet. I guyed the center support and pulled the entire antenna tight from the other end. The antenna ran basically east-west. I used a couple of pvc pipes as supports and ran the ladder line away from the antenna and out to my operating position inside my VW EuroTrash camper (aka: tarantula mobile) seen below.
Here's the K6SGH operating position inside the tarantula mobile. Seen above are a Yaesu FT-847, Rigblaster module, Palstar tuner and laptop with logging program. I ran the Yaesu off the rv battery in the camper and everything else ran off a honda 1000 watt generator. The bands were hopping and it wasn't long before we started racking up contacts. I spent quite a bit of time talking to our contacts as we were operating rag-chew mode not contest mode. The dxpedition was neither a special event or a contest. More of a field day and a chance to work with emergency power and field antennas.
That being said, KG6JMJ's station was quite different from mine. Ken used his new 2 element SteppIR on a 30 foot pushup. We needed to keep our antennas a distance apart. The lower portion of the meadow contained an open air building which had table set up near a fire and horse shoe pit. Ken's SteppIR went up in less than half an hour. There was electricity at that facility so we did not need to run a line from my generator across the meadow. Ken was prepared to run dc power from several batteries but as it turned out he didn't need to. Shown below are Ken's SteppIR 2 element yagi and KG6JMJ at his operating position.
UNUSUAL SOLAR EVENTS:
Previously, we have suggested that the solar flux index and tarantula migrations were positively correlated. So we shouldn't have been surprised to find that the solar indicies were are their best during our dxpedition.
In the perfect world, a high solar flux index and low K and A indicies would make for the best propagation.
So, IF the migration were to be large during our dxpedition, THEN the observed SFI/Ka ratio would be HIGH SFI, LOW K and A...and the bands would come alive.
And so they did and the following graphic dramatically shows this:
Notice the rapid spike in Sunspot numbers starting around October 11th in the graphic. In fact, during the 24 hours of our operation, the SFI index rose to 132 while the K and A indicies were at the lowest reading possible...2 and 1. Thusly, the best dx band opening in the last year (during the so-called solar minimum) was correctly predicted by our 2004 Nojoqui Tarantula Migration Dxpedition team!!!
They laughed at the dx-vane effect first described elsewhere on this website. Many now reap the benefits of hanging antennas in freespace. If the solar minimum is now, then we can expect steady increases in tarantula movements in the coming years. So don't be surprised if your next pet has eight furry legs and santa brings you a 7800.
While I was working the many dx contacts early Sunday morning, out my window I spied these two bucks going at it. The area was heavily populated with mule deer and wild turkeys. You can see about 17 wild turkeys there to the right of the bucks. Notice the lack of visible tarantulas? Wait a second...those aren't turkeys...they're tarantulas in turkey suits. Crafty spiders indeed!