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Mar 13 2011

Solar Cycle 24 really sucks

Recently I have been working some JT65 contacts on HF. I have been trying to get used to using that mode and having some success. Especially on the 10 meter band of all places. This surprised me because 10 meters has been pretty much dead since the start of the current solar cycle. Now most of my contacts were inside the continental United States so it was probably E layer skip but it got me to thinking. This solar cycle really sucks!

I admit that I am spoiled. I was licensed during cycle 22 (September 1986 – May 1996) one of the best cycles on record for sunspots and thus radio wave propagation on the HF bands. In those days I found my love for HF because you could work someone, somewhere 24 hours a day. Not just on HF but on VHF and higher.

During cycle 22 20 meters stayed open 24 hours a day nearly everyday. every night there was plenty of trans-polar activity to be had from the Scandinavian countries to most of the USSR. even here in Texas we had no trouble hearing the Russian over the horizon radar. Troublesome old woodpecker. 30 meters was very much the same and digital communications and cw ran round the clock.

40 and 75 meters were not so great but you could still have good reliable communications during the night and evening hours but as soon as the Flux went up they were gone.

My beloved 10 meters and its partner 15 meters are the ones that I miss the most. I lament those happy care free days as a newly licensed Ham before the egos and politics dominated the hobby as they do today. Being a Technician class licensee back then I only had phone privileges 10 meters but I used them to the fullest. I spent hours on the FM repeater here in the DFW area. I didn’t have privileges on the portion of the band where the repeater was but I did have access to the frequencies that the RF link from transmitter to receiver were on. That and a scanner and I was on the air. working stations around the world on my 70 cm handie talkie. Lower in the band I had my radio dreams come true. After spending many years in that radio service that we don’t talk about much I could not believe the things I could do on 10 meters. I had worked stations all over the United States but the distances I could cover on 10 meters blew me away. My very first contact was with an 11 year old gentleman in Arecibo, Puerto Rico named Emigdio Inigo. Not having any QSL cards I sent him a post card with a picture of an animal indigenous to this area “The Giant Texas Jackalope”. I hope he enjoyed it. I became a member of Ten – Ten international, I worked special events stations, I met a lot of great people, and that is where I developed my intense love of the hobby.

Well I have rambled on for some time but the truth is that there is nothing we can do about the current solar cycle except persevere. Hopefully the next one will be better. Until then I will continue to work the unworkable and experiment with the newer ways of making contacts in such bad conditions. That means that when we do finally have a good solar cycle I will be ready to fill my log and paper my walls and enjoy the hobby as it is meant to be enjoyed.

You know working JT65 during a bad cycle is not so bad. I was able to find a patch of hot ionized gas and work a station 5000 miles away on 5 watts. so there is still life in the old hobby yet.

Big Grins Everybody 😀

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