In January, 2007, a radio friend suggested that we make a
DXpedition (a radio expedition) to Prince of Wales Island off the
I am rather a timid soul, but I am a good follower. Rich Warren, N7TCO, is a born leader. He brought the gumption into our adventure.
In general, I don’t do well in new situations, so I had to
plan the Alaskan Adventure in great detail to build my confidence and comfort
level. What with the ferry schedule being what it was, we had to stay in
Rich picked me up at three o’clock in the morning of Thursday, July 19th. It was an omen. You see, Rich got the date wrong and I wasn’t expecting him until Friday morning! I met him at the door, groggy and disoriented but still able to stammer out a ‘What are you doing here?’ Rich looked a little sheepish when I told him about the mistake, but with his typical sense of adventure he just replied, ‘Let’s go now anyway!’
After six months of preparation, I was mostly ready, even a day ahead of time, but in the excitement, I left behind a box of important papers and small items I’d accumulated for the trip. I also didn’t get a chance to do the last minute shopping for perishables. But with Rich’s urging, off we went!
We drove to
The Museum was founded when two radio collectors joined
forces and collections. They endowed the organization with enough funds to keep
it going. They purchased a great building in old town
It took us a while to find the ferry dock – good thing we had
an extra day. But find it we did, and we got in line to board the MV Columbia,
part of the Alaska Marine Highway System. We were to ride it the six hundred
The mission of the Alaska Marine Highway System is to
provide safe, reliable, and efficient transportation of people, goods, and
The Alaska Marine Highway System has been operating
year-round since 1963, with regularly scheduled passenger and vehicle service
to 32 communities in
During the past ten years the Alaska Marine Highway System has carried an average of 400,000 passengers and 100,000 vehicles per year.
Our first impression of
Once in Hollis, we were on
Using the internet from home, I had located a nice rental in
But the reality we found was far from perfect. The first thing I noticed was that the stove was propane, not electric like I expected, ditto the clothes dryer. There was a panel box in the bedroom, but it wasn’t fed with 220v. How were we to power the amplifier?
Julie’s diagram was not accurate and her distances were greatly exaggerated. We got one leg of the dipole up pretty well, but the other leg went off at a ninety degree angle and had to follow her roofline. I couldn’t believe that I didn’t research the terrain better: our apartment had a lovely view of the bay and the scenic fishing boats, but mountains surrounded us. Oh, and did I mention the power lines that ran parallel to our dipole about ten feet away from it? The proof of the poor situation was when we hooked our Hallicrafters Hurricane up to the antenna…and heard nothing. Rich pointed out that I could quit feeling bad about not being able to use the amplifier; we couldn’t operate at all.
Rich was a rock in this and suggested that we go out and climb a mountain. I was in a blue funk and stayed at the apartment while Rich went out looking for a good location. He returned in a few hours with the news that about twenty miles from Thorne Bay was a great hilltop location, elevation about two thousand feet, with good propagation, a place where we could operate our radios successfully. I put on a happy face and said, Great! But I could see the “luxury” slipping from our grasp completely!
It was a good location, but we weren’t prepared for a
mountain top expedition. Rich said things would be fine; I rolled my eyes and
thought the worst. Off we went to Craig, the largest town on
The installation worked and we actually made contacts! W7ASF/KL7 was on the air! (The above photo was the view from our hill. We looked down on the ferry lane.)
Being a fan of vintage electronic gear, I brought along a Hallicrafters SR-2000 Hurricane (ca 1964) for our main station. Something happened to it in the jiggling enroute and power was down to 200w – out came the backup station, Kenwood 930S and Swan Mark I amplifier. It worked fine throughout our operations. I was especially pleased with the amplifier. Rich brought a Kenwood TS-50 and ran mobile on the way up, then fed a second dipole on our mountain top. Who says you need to have expensive gear to operate a DXpedition?
Don’t overlook the hassle factor. We had to dismantle
everything each afternoon. When it rained, which wasn’t often, all we had was a
makeshift tent that Rich erected out of two small tarps he’d brought along. And
there was nothing to eat for lunch but baloney sandwiches. It took a lot of
skill for Rich to negotiate the 4WD road up to our operating location, so there
was no going back to the apartment during the day. Practically, we were limited
to eight to ten hours per day of operation. Since the road was not negotiable
after dark, I missed my most hoped for action: contacts with
We didn’t find too many hams who were part of the IOTA
program. We did a good job of telling people with whom we spoke about it and
encouraging them to start “collecting” islands, starting with ours. Even during
the contest, fully half of our contacts were with stations where we were their
first contact. There were a few comments of thank you for putting the
What wasn’t disappointing was the thrill of being in the middle of a pileup and being the station that people wanted to work! I can see why some folks get the contesting bug and spend lots of money and energy going to exotic locales. It was a blast!
We took a day off to go fishing, as any visitor to
[Rich with a monster King Salmon]
[Mike with his, well, fish.]
We had an overnight layover in
We spent an uncomfortable night there, but had a great
experience the next morning. They provided a continental breakfast that was
pretty good and we had a very nice chat with a couple of building contractors
I should mention some of my mistakes: I brought ‘way too much food. Like boxes too much. I did up a menu for our two week trip and packed for that. I didn’t allow for the two ferry rides, a day and a half each, where we couldn’t get to our food. With the mountain topping, we just made sandwiches for lunch and often got back to the apartment too tired to each much. We took along a computer to log with, which of course we ended up not able to use; there was supposed to be wireless at the apartment, but it didn’t work. Since we didn’t have a laptop, electronic logging meant taking a whole console and accouterments along; I wouldn’t do that again.
So, we did a few things wrong and had a few things go wrong; nevertheless, we overcame the obstacles and had a great time seeing Alaska and being a rare station that everyone wanted to talk to. I look back on the trip fondly.