This is the DXpedition report made by Steve Jones of USA who operated ham radio from Paro last month. He worked the Bhutanese airwaves under his visitor’s license with the Call Sign A52SJ. I reported his arrival and his story on this Blog on October 12, 2017.
In an age of super fast internet, the lowly wired wireless still attracts the world's most brilliant brains. I believe that the appeal has to do with the complexity of this primitive and yet most bankable mode of communications.
It is my hope that some day the DeSuung would introduce ham radio in their training curricula, so that a select group of the specialized DeSuups are skilled in ham radio communications. When every other form of communication fails, ham radio will be the only one that will stand up and communicate. It will work even from the top of Mt. Everest.
To all of you who helped me and/or tried to work me at A52SJ on 160 meters,
Thank you! Unfortunately I worked no US West Coast (or any US coast for that matter), but I had a blast. Bhutan is a wonderful and fascinating place. And the people are very friendly and helpful! Gross National Happiness is a fine line they are navigating, but so far they are maintaining their unique culture while borrowing what’s useful from Western technology. I was even able to see the area where Gus Browning operated AC2H in Wangduephodrang when I worked him there from Sacramento in 1965. There were no paved roads to the town back then. Gus’s Hammarlund HX-50 now resides in the Bhutan National Museum in Trongsa.
My station was up and on the air about 6 hours after our Airbus 319 landed in Paro, thanks to Yeshey Dorji’s (A51AA) great team of helpers. It worked as planned and I was able to work everything I heard on 160 meters. The 1-wavelength Beverage was wonderful, dropping noise by about 10 dB when running the K3 in Diversity RX mode. Signals just popped out of the background. But “everything I heard” on 160M was all of only 9 QSOs! CW conditions were terrible. JT5DX answered my CQ the first day as soon as the sun went down, but then I heard nothing on CW for the next 2 weeks except a too-faint RL9Y and the 2nd harmonics of Chinese broadcast stations.
On FT8 I worked Asia and Europe, including PE1RNU near Amsterdam, but there seemed to be a black hole toward North America. I didn’t even hear/decode any JA’s. I did see my call decoded and reported on PSK Reporter all over the US East Coast and Midwest, but no one called me from there. The Bhutanese would say the propagation gods were wrathful. I tend to agree.
With the Beverage I heard some signals on 80M (i.e. many JA’s) and lots of worldwide DX on 40M and above. But my Inverted L was cut for 160M and I couldn’t easily switch bands. I thought about lowering the L and cutting the wires into a dipole for 80M or 40M just to make some contacts. But it would have been very time consuming to restore the L to 160M if propagation improved, so I decided to stay on 160M and hope for an opening. If I were to do this again, I’d bring a remotely switchable tuning network to allow quick band-switching on the TX antenna. That might require a bigger suitcase! I was unable to exchange emails with you real-time as the Hotel Olathang’s WIFI was too far away from our cottage. I checked emails only when we were near the hotel lobby at breakfast or dinner, and that’s why my replies to you were typically rather untimely.
Again, thank you all for your great encouragement, and I hope to work you on 160M someday from N6SJ.