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It really all started back in the late 1960's when, at the age of 6 or 7, I got a AM/FM radio for christmas. We only had two audible AM stations on the East Coast during the day on AM at that time ( only one on FM ) BUT at night I used to tune up the AM band and hear many far away places like New York, Chicago, Ohio, Texas, and even California - which was amazing for a 7 year old who only heard of these exotic places from the conversations of grownups. Fast forward to the early 80's and I was a radop / telop in a Communications Regiment in the Canadian Armed Forces and MF/HF was my number one interest and remains so to this day.
After the Army I looked into Amateur Radio and found that it has the same HF band segments with the same propagational characteristics with only slightly different frequencies than I was used to operating. Since then I have been involved in everything from DX'ing on MF/HF to SSTV, Packet, QRSS, ULF, ELF, LF, MF, HF, VHF, UHF, SHF, AM, FM, SSB, CW, PSK, RTTY, Satellite, AM and NDB DX'ing, NCS, CanWarn, Contesting and EME. BUT when I found 160M I was hooked. It was the extraordinary challenge of DX'ing on MF that drew me in. When I also found Contesting I combined them together for the ultimate challenge. Now I spend my time either Contesting on any mode/freq or chasing DX on Top Band between contests. My favorite mode is, and always will be, CW. I also try to do SO2R in most contests I operate. Its hard to get rates of 200+ / hr with wire antennas in the trees and SO2R is the only way to stay competitive with the better built stations.
At my first "real" QTH in FN04 I had 5 towers but when I moved to FN03 there were thousands of trees and clearing the forest was out of the question. With some trees over 100' tall I decided to try utilizing wire antennas up in some of the higher ones and found that they actually worked very well for the time that we were there. Now at the new QTH in EN92 I am just 2 miles from Lake Erie and sitting on some of the most fertile land in South Western Ontario and I am in the process of rebuilding the antenna farm. I have also noticed that there is very different propagation down here from what I can see so far on 40M, 80M and 160M. As well the noise level is almost always -127 dbm ( 300 hz bw ) on all bands so it is a really quiet EMI / RFI environment for weak signal ops. Last but certainly not least is the fact that the Elgin Plateau where the QTH sits is located 141' above Lake Erie and provides some noticable gain on my take off angles on almost all frequencies. The only thing really missing here is a salt marsh.
Currently the antennas at MGY consist of about 20,000 feet (6.4 Km ) of wire ( not to mention100's of feet of feedline ) and are geared for operating on the lower bands of 40M, 80M and 160M. Currently they consist of :
 An 80M Inverted V at 55’ running North / South fed with 450 Ohm ladderline. Also used for RXO on 160 and SO2R from 10M through 80M.
 An 160M Inverted V at 55' running East / West fed with 450 Ohm ladderline. Also used forSO2R from 10M through 80M.
 A 1/4 wave Inverted L for 160M at 85' with 120 1/4 wave radials fed with RG8U-LL.
 A 530' Beverage used for 3.5 MHZ and 1.8 MHZ running 330 - 150 Magnetic. Fed with LMR400. ( QRV for the winter season only )
 A 440' Beverage used for 3.5 MHZ and 1.8 MHZ running 035 - 215 Magnetic. Fed with LMR400. ( QRV for the winter season only )
 A 440' Beverage used for 3.5 MHZ and 1.8 MHZ running 090 - 270 Magnetic. Fed with LMR400. ( QRV for the winter season only )
 A full size 160M inverted V at 100'.
 A 20M Extended Double Zepp running South West / North East and fed with 450 Ohm ladderline.
 A 20M Extended Double Zepp running North West / South East and fed with 450 Ohm ladderline.
 A 40M long Wire.
 A 80M 1/4 wave Inverted L at 50' fed with RG8U-LL and utilizing a 100 1/2 wave radials.
 A Tri-band Hi-Z 4-8 Element Circle Array is currently in the planning stages.
For HF my primary Rig is an Icom 7600 while my Secondary Rig for SO2R is an Icom 756 PIII and a Icom 756 is also there in reserve. My old MFJ TNC-2 from the early 90's was replaced by A Rig Blaster Plus and handles all of the digital modes. Four antenna tuners and four computers complete the Shack and handle all the antenna switching, modeling, all digital modes, greyline DX'ing, propagation forcasting and contest logging. The HEIL Proset Plus enables me to reverse the polarity of the incoming audio in the headset making the audio eminate from the inside out not outside in as with other headsets and is paramount to copying weak signals that are near or in the noise.
I have always run either QRP ( 5 watts ), QRP/p ( 1 watt and down ), or at most 100 watts and enjoy chasing records on 40M, 80M and 160M as well as competing on the lower HF/MF bands ( I competed in my 500th contest in 2012 ). I have also been involved in the QRP ARCI contests ( usually running 1 watt on 160M as well as the higher bands ). There is no better sound than hearing your callsign coming back to you from half way around the world knowing you sent it using 1 watt. Also there is no better guage of how effective and efficient your entire system is ( from radio to antenna and everything in between ) than running QRP/p. If you do have RF leakage or deficiencies in your connectors, feedlines etc. you will soon know about it.
After 35 years and over 20,000 hours ( as of Jan 2012 ) being on the air including professionally ( Armed Forces ) and as a hobby, I heard the ultimate radio phenonmenon - a LDE - Long Delayed Echo - of a few seconds my signal returning to me about 24 seconds after it was transmitted. It was just barely audible and had a heavily distorted almost backscatter or auroral flutter quality to it with almost all of the CW tone missing and sounded very much like a spark generated transmission. The audio entered my passband and then faded out after a few seconds and was shifted down about 800hz in frequency. Due to the sequencing of the received signal in the LDE I was able to match it with the original transmission that had been transmitted 24 seconds earlier. LDE's should not to be confused with the normal echos you can sometimes hear on the higher frequencies when your signal circles the earth and hits your antenna from the opposite direction after about 133 ms. I was fortunate enough to have it recorded digitally as I was competing at the time in a contest but never discovered it till months later when I was reviewing the audio files. For a quick description of what LDE's are you can try http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_delayed_echo
I have included one of the articles I have written that relates specifically to 160M. This particular one I wrote for CQ Amateur Radio in 2003 and will give you an idea of the basics of propagation on 1.8 Mhz and show you how to get started either competing or DX'ing on Topband.
If you want to know more about Contesting in general check out http://www.qsl.net/zs1an/contesting_faq.html
If you want to know more about 160M and the challenge it presents check out http://www.spacew.com/cq/cqmar98.pdf
Carl Luetzelschwab, K9LA, has a number of excellent articles about 160M and is a very good read for anyone who wants to better their understanding of "Top Band" as well as increasing their contest scores and DX totals at http://myplace.frontier.com/~k9la/html/160m.html
I hope to work you on the air in either a contest or DX'ing.
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73 es DX,