The First Go-around
In the summer of 1996, Fred VE1FA, Al VO1NO, Jean-Francois "Jeff" VE2TBH, and Alain, VE2DAV attempted a 2 meter Trans-Atlantic QSO from Marconi's 1902 Glace Bay transmitter site. In fact, our ladder yagi was within yards of the foundations of Marconi's four great wooden towers.
Our antenna was a 42 element rope yagi suspended at 10 meters between two towers.
Located atop a cliff overlooking the Atlantic, it had a clear shot to Europe. Well, other than crossing Newfoundland, it was a clear shot!
The yagi was developed by Fred, VE1FA from the 33 element design described by N6JF in the March 1995 issue of QST Magazine. Using EZNEC 1 software, the design took many hours to optimize. Jeff, VE2TBH built 2 pulley systems to raise and tension the antenna at 30' up.
Seen here is VE1FA's 1996 test-bench setup. The transceiver was VE2TBH's Icom 706 that fed a 35w amp which drove a Henry 2002A linear amplifier to 600W CW.
The automation was a typical ham setup! A one revolution per minute clock motor turned a petri dish.
Half of the dish was blackened with a marker. A phototransistor/LED pair sensed the clear and dark portions of the dish, using that information, via a homebrew sequencer, to key the transceiver, amplifiers, preamp bypass relays, and operate a memory keyer sending CQ and our callsign for 30 seconds of each minute. We listened with headphones for the last 30 seconds of each minute.
The blue tub contains the hamtronics GAsFET RX preamp and the two Dow-Key bypass relays for TX. It was mounted about a meter behind the reflector on the tower.
We operated continuously for a week...
We did take a few moments to relax periodically. One evening we shared a beer with Marconi himself!
If you look closely, you'll see a paper cutout beer bottle that we placed in Marconi's hand.
It was still there several days later when we left. I wonder if the museum staff ever found it?
Of course, listening to 30 seconds of CW followed by 30 seconds of white noise is bound to take its toll on the sanity of even the most dedicated ham after a week!
Tired and each of us in need of a good razor, we shared our frustration at not hearing a reply by adopting the same pose as Marconi!
We set up the same station later that summer during our DXpedition to Seal Island off the south coast of Nova Scotia for the July IOTA contest, as seen in this photo. However, we did see that the ladder yagi performed well on Seal Is. Sable Is. (CY0), 490 km away, had a 2m 25W beacon (VE1SMU) pointed at Europe, which we copied continously "off the back" of VE1SMU's yagi for a week, at S3-S8!
The following summer, we operated a much more modest station from Fogo Island in Newfound, again during our annual IOTA DXpedition. It boasted 150 watts CW into a 13 element yagi, but instead of a petri dish, we used an MFJ-1278 multi-mode data controller!
Unfortunately, none of these attempts yielded success, but we vowed to keep trying.
Work commitments and moves around the country precluded further attempts to earn the Brendan Awards until the summer of 2014.
Serious planning started in the fall of 2013.
After much searching, a suitable rental cottage was found in Pouch Cove, Newfoundland.