15 Meter Antenna

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    Oh good. You’re now recruited for the ham antenna refurb/replace.
    Just as warning, due to a lot of history that I’m sure Mike will fill you in on there is some anti-ham sentiment in McMurdo. Also, the ham stuff falls in a sort of hole. As I understand it supposedly falls under the control of the Recreation department yet it must be maintained by IT/Comms for safety reasons. Obviously they have higher priorities.
    What job did you apply for?


    I though they bulldozed that place???
    Oh yeah, budget cuts delayed the demolition…


    Howdy from Bill,
    I love doing antenna work !!!!  I have helped quite a few folks in western Montana with towers, rotors, antennas  etc.  It is a wondertime getting a bunch of hams together and complete an installation and then the reward is hearing the antennas on the air with the happy ham….
    I am considered for Vehicle Driver and Radio Operator Position.  I was suprised when Chris at Raytheon called me to interview for both. Interview went very well and I am pleased to be considered and interviewed for this next season.  This is my third year for applying.  I was alternate for Bob Zook and SPAWAR two years ago but never made it down. Bob said they had a tech that was injured, they sent him New Zealand, but Doc cleared him and he came back finish his tour…
    Cheers  Bill Erhardt K7MT Helena, Mt.


    That’s the issue right there. Neither you nor I nor anyone else who isn’t an antenna rigger can do the work. Because it’s a company town, company rules apply everywhere. We just can’t shimmy up a tower without all the appropriate training and harness gear.
    Believe me, if they could get away with it they’d close down all the basketball, volleyball, rugby, etc. games to eliminate injuries.
    I’ll talk to the com shop manager and see what he has to say about it. Without him on board we’re limited to thowing a piece of wire up and that’s about it.


    We can use most of the bands. The big exception is a segment of the 6 meter band that is being used for a science listening experiment. Parts of 2 meters are used for the paging system. We have a ham station with a 10/15/20 antenna. The tips of the elements have not survived the 100 plus mile an hour winds very well and several have broken off. Right now we have high swr readings across the board. Previously 15 and 20 worked. RoyWendell (above) and I think it might also be an antenna connection or a balen problem. We are not allowed for safety reasons to climb the antenna. So we’ll have to try again this year. It might be possible to get you certified, but generally the antenna riggers have to do the work and they are very very busy most of the year.
    We’ve been at the bottom of the solar cycle for the last few years. 15 meters was the first to drop out. 20 meters lasted a bit longer but dropped out as well. It is slowly coming back, but will be a few more years before we hit the peak again. On the days 15 was open,  20 was hot. I was often able to hold conversations with QRP operators with them transmitting from the states on 1 or 2 watts. The record was a guy in california who dropped to a half a watt and still had a conversation withme in McMurdo.
    If you get down, we’ll try to get a group of us and see if we can get things fixed. The radios are a bit old. Some will bring down their own HF rigs, especially if you like DSL. I had a rigblaster last year that I will probably bring back. I was just getting into sending digital signals.


    Hi Mike,
    Thanks for the information on the bands, antenna, and frequencies we can operate.
    I am suprised about the feelings toward Ham Radio at McMurdo. If I am given the opportunity to be deplayed, I will work on getting information out on the role of Ham Radio. A little education about our work in emergency situations and the fact we do it all for free and buy/maintain our equipment might enlighten some naysayers !!!!
    I also do some digital work Mike. So if you bring you Rigblaster that would be great. I spent time with a very good friend N7RB (Licensed in 1934) setting up his Rigblaster to a Kenwood TS-850 with a R8 vertical and at 85 years old he is having a blast on PSK31 !!!!! I try to give as much as I can helping out hams and the reward is hearing them on the air.
    Again, thanks for the great information.
    Cheers  Bill


    Howdy Mike,
    I was thinking about the getting certified tower Basic with the folks at McMurdo as a possibility.  I checked on the class to get re-certified and nearest to me is Boise, Id in June through COMTRAIN with a cost of $1200.00 for the two day class. That includes travel, motel, meals for two days. Whew !!!! I did tower work for some time but as I approached my later years, I helped train some younger folks to do the bulb change outs at 240 feet.  I still help on the ground with a couple great tower guys but have let my certification lapse….. This is just a note for you and I have decided not to spend the monies to get re-certified just for Ham Station at McMurdo.  Maybe we can work something out and I would be happy to do the training in my off time and help the riggers on the ground if necessary. Exchange of labor for education !!! Something to think about if I get deployed Mike…
    Cheers Bill Erhardt


    Yeah, don’t spend money getting trained for that.
    With enough people interested, we should be able to get things done.
    RoyWendell, Can you ask to the comms supervisor if we got the ham equipment he was going to order? There was talk of new radios and a new antenna last year.



    What you have to understand about ham radio at McMurdo is that everything hams do is pretty mundane there. HF- shoot, we’ve got multiple redundant kilowatt transmitters and both local and remote recievers. VHF- everyone who gets out of town and even some who don’t use either HTs or mobiles hourly. Satellite-everything from Iridium phones to the Black Island uplink station that provides our phone and internet. Data-wireless serial and Ethernet links running all over the Ross Island area and beyond. Heck, for better or worse, the town fire system is even wireless. There are dozens of people whose job consists of either providing or using wireless communication.

    As far as I can discern, the ham shack provides a little PR value and that’s about it. As much as I grew up with Ham Radio and as much as it has helped my career you just have to face the fact that it’s increasingly irrelevant in today’s world. Not that it’s not a good way to pass your time after work, far from it. You just have to view it in it’s proper perspective.


    In any case, I talked to the comms shop supervisor yesterday. We have a brand new multiband log periodic antenna, multiband transceiver, and amplifier waiting for us in a milvan somewhere. The riggers have already been tasked to install the new antenna. I’d say we’re good to go.



    Oh nice.
    It’s been many years in the coming and it’s just in time for the solar cycle to start rising again.
    Thanks for checking.


    Thanks for the update Roy,
    Yep, I undertand fully. I do keep it in proper perspective. The new technology has taken over and I am part of it. Every wildland fire I go to these summers, I set it all up in the middle of nowwhere. I was reflecting while reading your soapbox, on Hurricane Rita/Katrina I ran over 25,000 feet of Cat V to tie things togeter. They could not due their job without it….

    Great news on the Ham Radio gear Roy. That is just super and I will be there if I get deployed to help. Ye Ha !!!!
    Cheers  Bill Erhardt K7MT


    Howdy Roy,
    I accepted an alternate position as Vehicle Driver for the 2008-2009 Season. I know I may not get deployed but wanted to let you know the status. All paper work is now finished along with HR Process. I am honored just being selected and maybe I will have the chance to experience this great adventure to which I have applied.
    Finished my Helicopter Crew Member update ( 3 days in Missoula, Mt. Smoke Jumper Base), pack test is done ( 3 miles with a 45 lb pack in 45 minutes) and annual Standards of Survival. I will be on the Fuel Truck for Initial Attack with two helicopers all next week as we have had 4 fire starts already this year… Will be a busy summer for me as Communications Unit Leader on an Incident Management Team and Initial Attack.  Ye Ha here we go with another fire season..
    Cheers from Montana Bill Erhardt


    Howdy from Bill Erhardt Helena, Mt.
    Just finished up the entire PQ process and will still be Alternate Driver this season. Don’t know if I will be needed, but I am ready to go including some pretty cool sunglasses. Heck I never spent this much on sunglasses before but I got the good ones…
    Been a slow fire season in Montana and only went on three fires. I spent more time on Initial Attack with the fuel truck and helicopter crew member than on fire. However, we had about 30 starts we put out and kept them small.
    Only hard one for me was three weeks in Northern California. Hot, smokey, and also Hot and Smokey. 
    Again, I wish everyone going this year fair winds and calm seas from Bill here in Montana and I will be on ski patrol all winter up here if not needed. Bon voyage to all.
    Cheers from Montana Bill Erhardt  K7MT


    Bill, were you on the BlueII or Siskyou fires? You would have been near me in Crescent City. We could have touched base.


    been following this thread…have to say what you guys do sounds awesome, and I understood about 2% of what you were talking about 🙂

    I love discovering things I know so little about, yet others know so much…

    hope you make it down Bill, I might bend your ear on how things work. when my father contacted me in the states from Palmer in ’93 I believe it was through a ham operator.

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