It was late Friday afternoon, the car was packed and the mental checklist was ticked off (I made a paper one too). Eduan and I needed to get to the RaDAR “Ops area” before dark, a drive of about 35 km from town. It is a dangerous stretch of road where cattle and horses roam freely in search of grass to eat, ever more difficult with the winter in sight.
The purpose of the ops was the April RaDAR Challenge with world wide participation. I had my plan of action in mind and a dual purpose, spending time with my grandson and introducing him to the operational side of RaDAR which he has seen me do on numerous occasions. This was the real thing!
We set up “base camp” starting by deploying the well known ZS6BKW multiband antenna in an open stretch of grass. The mast was the well known South African “Eskom pole”, a telescopic fibreglass pole used to work with high voltage power lines. Some are rejected for their purpose but make ideal masts for amateur radio!
With the antenna deployed and the feed point position defined, it was time to put up the five man tent. I orientated the door in line with the feed point that it be easy to feed the coax through even with the door zipped closed. We put a fold up table inside that would make a comfortable operation position for our RaDAR Field station. There was a 220 v a.c. power point nearby and I laid a long power cable to the tent. This may sound strange to the field day purists, RaDAR operators take advantage of everything at their disposal – a real life simulation. I did have a standby 18 A/Hr SLAB in the event that we may experience “Load shedding”, a real problem in South Africa. Fortunately none came so we had power throughout the ops period for our field station. I set up the radios and connected all the cables. On my to do list, building it all into a flight case that deployments are quicker.
I used my smartphone as an WiFi Internet hotspot and so I had an Internet connection on my Netbook to be able to access the SARL Forum, Facebook, Google+ and the RaDAR Spotting website. These websites proved invaluable during the RaDAR Challenge for giving feedback, promotion and spotting.
Eduan and I watched TV while we ate a few snacks. It started getting late so we switched off the TV and went to sleep. 02:00 local time (00:00 UTC) would be the start of the 24 Hour RaDAR Challenge. According to VOACAP only much later the next morning would there be the slightest chance of working Jack VK4JRC in Australia.
To be continued, “The April 2015 RaDAR Challenge” …..