Transcript - Episode 79 - Bob Allphin - K4UEE
Eric, 4Z1UG: QSO Today, episode 79, Bob Allphin, K4UEE.
Welcome to the QSO Today Podcast, I am Eric Guth, 4Z1UG, your host. My guest today has traveled the world in pursuit of activating DX entities that are isolated, desolate and uninhabited, 40 in total. Out of his love for travel, he has been to 126 countries during his lifetime. I know that you will enjoy my QSO Today with Bob Allphin, K4UEE. K4UEE, this is Eric 4Z1UG, are you there Bob?
Bob, K4UEE: Roger, 4Z1UG, K4UEE your 5 and 9.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Bob, thanks for joining me on QSO today. Can we start at the beginning of your ham radio story? When and how did it start for you?
Eric, 4Z1UG: I had the same experience with a crystal set, and I'm still hooked
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah, exactly. It's an amazing, amazing hobby and I'm so glad that I was lead to it.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Did you have any mentors or Elmers that helped you along?
Bob, K4UEE: You know, this beginning I just described was probably at age 8 or 9, and I dad again was in the military so we were moving about every year or two. So I never really found a mentor until we ended up in Birmingham, Alabama. That was in 1957. So at that point I was 13, so it was 4 or 5 years there where I was kind of floundering. I was buying little regenerative receivers and becoming a short wave listener. I never really found anybody until I got to Birmingham that could act as a mentor. A neighbor, he was in the next block, Jim Wilson, of W4RKS stepped up and said, "Bob, here's what you need to do, here's the path to follow and I'll be happy to help you. " So, I got licensed at age 14, I think it was in April of 1958, I hate to say it, but that's 58 years ago. Boy it's gone fast
Eric, 4Z1UG: Yes, so you got your novice license in 1958, at age 14, what was your call sign?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, KN4UEE. I've used a lot of call signs over the years, but my basic home call sign has never changed.
Eric, 4Z1UG: And you've obviously had a lot of opportunity even to change it with, what do they call it now? They're called . . .
Bob, K4UEE: Incentive licensing?
Eric, 4Z1UG: No, they call them custom licenses you can get now? Vanity licenses.
Bob, K4UEE: Vanity license. Yeah, I . . .
Eric, 4Z1UG: You never wanted a vanity license?
Bob, K4UEE: You know I looked at that, the only thing that made any sense was K4BA, for Bob Allphin, or N4BA and I just thought to myself, I like K4UEE. It's not the best CW call and I seem to get through okay and people recognize it and recognize me. I guess I didn't want to run the risk of getting lost.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Yeah, I hear you. I've had the same call sign as well
Bob, K4UEE: Good for you
Eric, 4Z1UG: For 40 plus years and I just can't get rid of it.
Bob, K4UEE: Yep.
Eric, 4Z1UG: So, how did you feel being a new novice, with the ability now to transmit?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, after all those years of listening and of course I did the SWL thing and zeroed in on the Ham bands. I think it probably had an S38D, Hallicrafters S38D as in Delta. I was listening on the Ham bands and I had been given a surplus, 80 meter only, 20 watt transmitter. My recollection is that this thing was used in electronics training. It was . . . for 20 watts it was a good size piece of equipment. I think when young air force guys were learning the basics of electronics they built this transmitter and I happened to come in . . . Somebody gave me one. So I had that thing sitting there, hooked up to a light bulb and I would practice my CWs and I would practice what I was going to do when that license came through the mail.
So, I'll never forget when the license arrived, I had taken the exam, back then it came through the mail and I had to wait about 6 weeks, if I recall. So it came in the mail one day, and I said, "Oh my, what do I do now? I guess I'll go call CQ and see what happens. " So I called CQ about 3 or 4 times, this is again on 3714, I had one crystal, and after about an hour somebody called me back. Instead of answering him, I jumped up and ran around the house yelling, "Somebody's calling me! Somebody's calling me! What am I going to do?" And my mother calmly said, "well Bob, why don't you go answer him?" So, I did. I made my first QSO and it was a guy in a little town, it's not a little town, it's a medium size town in Alabama named Gadsden, Alabama. It’s about 16 miles away, but you know it's like working somebody on the moon; it was a great, great thrill.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Well you've got a picture on your K4UEE. com website of you as a novice sitting there at your station. What's the transmitter? Is that the transmitter you're talking about?
Bob, K4UEE: Yes
Eric, 4Z1UG: The one with the plastic cover.
Bob, K4UEE: Yes
Eric, 4Z1UG: Or glass cover, or whatever that is.
Bob, K4UEE: It's actually, that is the one Eric. That is a hand crafted screen to block RFI that I made out of a screen door screen. So we put that on there to keep it from tearing up the TVs back in that day.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Uh huh
Bob, K4UEE: I think it helped a little bit
Eric, 4Z1UG: Nicely soldered corners there
Bob, K4UEE: They are nicely done. In fact as I look at the picture, somebody must have helped me with that.
Eric, 4Z1UG: For the listeners, I'll post the link to this picture and this biography
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah, okay
Eric, 4Z1UG: From Bob's website on the show notes page. You have a knife switch on the left corner of that desk there.
Bob, K4UEE: Sure.
Eric, 4Z1UG: What is that?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, that's the way you switched your antenna from transmit to receive. It was an 80 meter dipole and I remember it was because of the size of the lot we were on, it was at 90 degrees rather that stretched out straight, it bent at the feed point 90 degrees. So that feed line, which I think was 72 ohm twin lead came into that switch, then when I had it in one position it was switched to the transmitter, and then when I was through transmitting and time to listen, I threw the switch and connected that antennae to the receiver. That's the way we used to do it. Some of the rich kids had TR switches, but not me.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Yeah, so did you have break and king with the transmitter? Or did you actually . . . when you flipped the switch you were in transmit?
Bob, K4UEE: When I flipped the switch, the antenna was then connected, I would key the transmitter. Then when it was time to listen I'd switch the antenna in the other position.
Eric, 4Z1UG: You were a young Ham, from the looks of the pictures. From your story so far, you were 14 years old. What kind of impact did Ham radio have on a kid who moved with his family all over the world?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, that's a good question. I would have to say that that experience of being in an Air Force dependent, or some people refer to them as Air Force brats; that experience of moving from place to place fairly often and being faced with leaving friends behind and making new friends in the new location, I think was a big part in forming who I am today. For one thing, I loved travel. I looked forward to going to that new place and making the new friends and of course in this hobby, with all the travelling that I've done, most of it the result of this hobby. I've visited 126 countries now and every one of those countries I've met some of the local Hams and it’s just a big part of my life to be able to be interested in travelling. Some people called it "itchy feet.” I've been in one place too long, my feet start itching and it's time to go.
I think the other thing that probably made it fun is that once I got the license, it didn't make much difference where I was because I could still stay in touch with people that I had met, or old friends that I had left behind because many of them were Hams as well. And that was fun, I remember we were transferred to Okinawa when I was 17; I finished high school in Okinawa. This is a whole different story because that's kind of where my DXing and DXpeditioning career began. We can cover that if you'd like. I remember spending an awful lot of time trying to work the guys back home, from basically 10,000 miles away.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Or it seemed that way
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah. Exactly. Exactly.
Eric, 4Z1UG: How did Ham radio play a part in the choices that you made for your career in education?
Bob, K4UEE: Well it's interesting, I'm sure a lot of people that you've interviewed Eric have said that because of amateur radio and their interest in electronics, they started a business in electronics or they followed a career that they could trace back to their early interest in electronics. That wasn't the case with me. I always had the interest, but I went off to college thinking I was going to be an electrical engineer, so you know, maybe that was a result of being a Ham and all of that. I figured, gosh, the first year at college is going to be really easy because I already know how to solder, I should breeze right through. I found out that in order to be an electrical engineer you have to understand calculus. And that's where I met my demise. I ended up in industrial management and then I went in the Air Force for 5 years, and while in the Air Force, I gravitated towards the electronic warfare side of the business. So, I guess that's another example of maybe how my interest helped me decide what I was going to do.
I was an instructor in the electronic warfare school, so we were teaching students who at the point, many of them were going into strategic air command because electronic warfare officer was on all B52's and of course the other half of the class was going to south east Asia. So, then when I got out of the service I got interested . . . I got out and became employed here in Atlanta and started building a new station. But I guess looking back on it, you know, the fact that I wanted to be a double E was probably prompted by my interest, but I failed at that and ended up getting a management degree. Then I was in the electronic warfare side of it and then when I got out of the service, my career was in sales. In investment sales. Unlike the guy who started a little company in the electronic business or went to work for Motorola or somebody like that, my career path was only slightly affected by my interest in electronics.
Eric, 4Z1UG: What kind of impact does amateur radio have on your family life?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, I think probably my wife, when we were dating did not know that I was a Ham. I think looking back on it now, that if she had, I'm not going to ask her if this is true or not, I'm just speculating; that maybe if she had known I was a Ham and known what was ahead she would have looked for somebody else. I'm joking of course, but at least I think I am. I would say that the fact that I spend an awful lot of time now that I'm retired, and even prior to that planning and participating in the expeditions and I'm away from home, just means that she's a very forgiving and understanding person. She understands how important it is to me and is willing to spend weeks on end with our kids who happen to live locally and our grandkids. I've been away on three different occasions for 6 or 7 weeks.
Usually when you go to the Antarctic region it's that long. Two weeks to get there, two weeks to do the expedition and two weeks to get home. That's quite a sacrifice. But so far, so good. We've been married almost 49 years. She's quite a special lady and certainly I thank her often for being so accommodating to my hobby.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Did any of your children follow you into the hobby?
Bob, K4UEE: No, one of the regrets that I have is that I was never able to get them interested. I do have one grandson that has shown some interest, but he's now just turned 14, well he's about to turn 15 and I'm afraid I may have missed my opportunity because he is about to be overcome by fumes. By that I mean perfumes and gas fumes.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Bob, K4UEE: So, I probably I've had influence on other family members. I mean members of other families, but not in my own family. But again, they're very supportive and for the most part they understand how important it is to me.
Eric, 4Z1UG: What rig do you operate now?
Bob, K4UEE: Well I've got two transceivers. My primary rig is a K3, Elecraft K3 and I've got a matching KPA500 and I've got a I think it's called a P1, the little Pan adapter. What I use 90% of the time is that little 3 piece Elecraft rig that you see prominently pictured in their ads and I love it. We are even using the K3s now on our DXpeditions. Also I have an Icom 756 Pro 3 that is the backup rig. I've got a K2, I've got a K1, I've got an IC-706, and I've also got an Alpha77 which I use mostly for operating on the low bands.
Eric, 4Z1UG: So are all these radios in your Ham station and you can switch between them? Or?
Bob, K4UEE: The 706 is set up at my mother in law's home up in Northeast Alabama so when I go up there, which is about once a month, I can get on the air for a little while. Everything else is in the Ham shack here in Atlanta, or Marietta. And I do have it set up so I can set up between the radios and the amplifiers. I have a number of antennas that I switch between as well.
Eric, 4Z1UG: As an avid DXer and DXpeditioner, what's your favorite rig?
Bob, K4UEE: I'd say the K3
Eric, 4Z1UG: Hands down.
Bob, K4UEE: Yep. I'm primarily a CW operator and I just like the way it works. I like the sound, I like the filtering. It's a great radio. Not that the others aren't, but this really fits me.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Well, it was designed by a CW operator or CW operators primarily.
Bob, K4UEE: Wayne Burdick, and I cannot remember the other fellow's name, but I guess they are, I know they were QRP enthusiasts because the first radios they came out with are QRP radios. I guess if you are QRP, you're also probably a CW enthusiast.
Eric, 4Z1UG: How did you develop your love for contesting in DX?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, I think . . . let’s take the DXing side of it first.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Okay great.
Bob, K4UEE: I mentioned earlier that Dad was in the Air Force and transferred to Okinawa, I had been licensed just a couple, three years when that transfer took place. So, I was in Okinawa with my radio, my DX40 and my Knightkit R100 and I inherited a Quad, two element Quad from a guy who had been in Okinawa and had operated there and now was being transferred back to the states. So he gave me that antenna. So here I am at what was then a DXCC country, DXCC entity. KR6LY, KR6 Lonesome Yankee, and I was for the first time on the other end of the pile up, other end of the DX pile up. I loved it. The challenge of having multiple stations calling you and being able to pick them out and exchange a report and get them in the log was very satisfying to me; still is today. Maybe even more so today.
I was hooked on being DX rather than being the DXer. I attribute that experience to my interest in being on DXpeditions now. But here at home, I've worked them all. I've got them all unmixed and I've got them all on phone, the only thing I lack is a contact with North Korea on CW. Then I can say it's all complete. My main theme, what I've been doing for years now, probably 30 years is participating in, or leading, or co-leading or organizing in some fashion DXpeditions. The specialty, my specialty and the specialty of the guys that I prefer to travel with is activating the really rare DXCC entities. In fact, if I might be allowed to brag here a little bit, I have activated 11 of the DXCC top 10 most wanted.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Hmm
Bob, K4UEE: Some people get a little confused, how can you activate 11 of the top 10, well (laughs) once you've been there, they're not in the top 10 anymore, so whoever was number 11 whatever DXCC entity was number 11 moves up. So, anyway, I hope to do a couple more of those. They are difficult, they are time consuming, they are expensive. They are rare in the top because of the fact that they are either hard to get, to or they're expensive to get to, or you don't want to go to them, or there's some political reason like North Korea for example where they don't allow amateur operations. So that's the DX side of it.
The contesting is something I got interested in; I guess when I was in Okinawa. I participated in a couple contests, it wasn't competitive at all, but it was fun and I enjoyed it and got a certificate or two. It was easy to win a certificate as the top scorer from KR6 because I was often times the only guy from Okinawa who was entering the contest. I guess the turning point was in 1969 when a group of us from the Atlanta area, in the Southeastern DX club went down to St. Kitts, made several trips down and shipped a bunch of towers and antennas down there and built quite a . . . one of the first really mega stations. In 1979, in the CQ worldwide side band contest we set a new world record. The previous record had been 29 million points, we scored 37 million. I just thought that was great fun - setting everything up and then operating with other guys and then achieving some great success like that.
Afterwards I got more interested in operating single band, single operator contests. Went back to, in this case Aruba in 1986 I visited Aruba on 17 different occasions operating or preparing to operate. I've always entered the contests as a single operator on a single band. So, the first success I had was in 1986 I believe I set a new world record on CW, 80 meter CW in the CQ worldwide CW contest. I went back the following year, same hotel, same antenna, same set up, and set a record on phone. Then somewhere along the line, a record from Paraguay on 15 CW . . . anyway I lose track, but 6 single band, single operator world records.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Bob, how did you decide which band you were going to operate from Aruba for example? Why 80?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, because I'm not one of these guys who can stay up and operate for 48 hours. Which is what's required if you're going to enter, for example, on say 20 meters; which is open around the clock. If you're going to try to win, certainly if you're going to try to break the record you've got to operate the full 48 hours, or you know 46 certainly. So I picked the bands where I could get some sleep.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Oh interesting
Bob, K4UEE: 80 meters is not open during the daytime, so I could stay up all night and do my best and then rest and couple hours before sunset sit down at the radio again, stay up all night and then rest again on Sunday until the contest ended on Sunday night. So that was kind of my motivation. Later I got into operating on the higher bands, but even on 10 or 15 you know there were in the middle of the night often times those bands would close down and I'd use that time as an opportunity to rest. So I've always kind of avoided the single operator, multi band operations because I really just cannot be competitive because of my perceived need to sleep.
Eric, 4Z1UG: And to eat as well, I would imagine.
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah, well you can eat and operate at the same time, I've learned that. But you cannot sleep and operate at the same time.
Eric, 4Z1UG: What kind of DX have you done on 80? Out of curiosity?
Bob, K4UEE: You mean here from my home station?
Eric, 4Z1UG: No, no, no like from Aruba for example.
Bob, K4UEE: Oh, all over the world, it’s amazing.
Eric, 4Z1UG: We usually, I grew up thinking that 80 was . . . I grew up in California, I grew up thinking that 80 was great for California. You know, at night because that's where I heard most of the stations from, but I never heard any DX on 80.
Bob, K4UEE: Really? Well, it's there. I think when I first learned that you could work DX, good DX, far DX on 80 meters is when I was in Okinawa, I did not have an 80 meter antenna, but there was a couple of guys over there who participated in one of the contests one weekend on 80 meters and they were running full power, and I don't know the antenna, but I'm sure it was a good one and they made contacts with 125 countries on 80 meters. It just opened my eyes, like you Eric; I didn't know you could do that. It’s always . . . I have also gravitated towards the low bands because I think when you make a long DX contact like that on 80 meters or 160, the thrill that you get is similar to the thrill that you got when you made your first contact as a novice.
I think one of the things that I try to do, and maybe others as well, is try to duplicate that thrill from the early days. For example, two nights ago I worked the DXpedition that's currently on South Sandwich BP8STI, worked him on 80 meters and it was like making that first contact with Gadsden, Alabama. I was just thrilled. That comes from, for me at least, from operating on the low bands.
Eric, 4Z1UG: You're just back from the Navassa Island, right? That was the 12th DXpedition that you've attended?
Bob, K4UEE: That was the 40th DXpedition.
Eric, 4Z1UG: That you were actually on?
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah, this was the 11th top 10-er.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Oh, I see okay.
Bob, K4UEE: That was this time last year I think we left Atlanta on the 29th of January, 2015 and the first group got on the island two days later, something like that. We staged out of Jamaica and I might mention the other thing that I like to do is take along a video camera and video some of the highlights and then come back and have somebody who knows what they're doing edit it. We've just finished editing the Navassa DXpedition K1N. I'm just pleased to say, we've had sales, we sold 500 copies of this thing. They are others, there's 9 all, 9 others, 10 altogether available on that website you mentioned K4UEE. com.
Eric, 4Z1UG: I'll put the link to that on the show notes.
Bob, K4UEE: Please do, please do. This last one, they're all good in their own way, but my favorite is K1N and it's just a great adventure. I get emails all the time from folks who have bought the DVD and showed it at the club meeting or showed it to some boy scouts to try to get them interested or something like that and they send me an email and say "this thing is great, I had no idea how difficult or time consuming, or complicated putting these things together is. " And the video covers that aspect of the DXpedition as well as the operating aspect.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Well you know from these stories and pictures that I see on the internet of the DXpeditions these are not necessarily vacation spots and the facilities appear to be often quite primitive. Did you ever have a moment when you thought this would be your last trip?
Bob, K4UEE: (Laughs) I have a couple of moments like that. Again, going to these really rare places, there's usually no infrastructure, there's usually no population, first of all. If there was, there's a chance there might be a Ham there and it wouldn't be rare.
I remember in 2000, I did three top 10-ers and I was sitting on Kingman Reef. The first night I was sitting on Kingman Reef and a storm came through and we were in the midst of putting up one of our shelters. The wind was blowing, the rain was horizontal, you didn't know how long it was going to last. You didn't know if we were going to lose the tent and have it go into the sea, so we were all hanging onto the tent to make sure that we didn't lose it. I did have the thought, "what in the world am I doing here?" I've had the same thought on Peter 1.
I guess certainly in 1993 on Howland Island, that's the place that Amelia Earhart was looking for when she disappeared. That was an early expedition to a top 10-er in 1993, we got stranded on the island, we were low on food and water for 7 days. I can tell you that being thirsty is the worst feeling in the world. It was 120 degrees and hot and we were out of water and I definitely thought to myself, "what in the world am I doing here?"
I don't think I ever said I'm not going to do this again, but I sure thought about it.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Well, what keeps you going back? Seems like childbirth my wife tells me, when you're going through it you're thinking, "boy I'm never going to do this again," but for some reason you end up doing it again.
Bob, K4UEE: Exactly
Eric, 4Z1UG: What keeps you going back?
Bob, K4UEE: Well I think, like a woman, who may say this is a terrible experience and I hate every minute of it, then it's over. Then as time goes on the bad part fades, the pain fades and the result and the good times all seem to dominate your thoughts. So, I think that's probably the best explanation. You forget about the bad part and you concentrate on the good part and you just say I want to do that again.
I've got to mention . . . I mentioned the itchy feet before, I still have them. I still want to see what's on the other side of that ocean, or on the other side of that island, or the other side of that mountain. I still have that desire to go to another country and meet new people. But, what we don't talk enough about is the camaraderie on the teams. I usually travel with pretty much the same guys. We've been together many times, most of us, I know that we can trust each other. I know that we . . . how people are going to react if we get into a situation that is life threatening or dangerous in some way. I know I can trust these guys not to lose their head, and apparently they can trust me to do the same. Not lose our heads and they're all good guys. I enjoy their company and being on an island together and setting up the infrastructure, setting up the tents, preparing the food, putting up the antennas and then operating around the clock for two weeks with these friends of mine, which is what they've become, there's no substitute for it Eric.
Eric, 4Z1UG: What skills do you look for in amateur radio operators to make them the right choice for DXpeditions that you've been on?
Bob, K4UEE: Well that's a good question. Some people would answer by saying, "well, they've got to be really good operators. They've got to be great. I've got to have a mix of good CW operators and a mix of good side band operators and now I need to add some good digital operators. " And that's true, but I mentioned earlier, when you're going to activate the rarest of the rare, the costs are quite high. I have been a leader or co-leader of two expeditions that cost a half a million dollars. And the team usually puts up about half of that and the DX community puts up the other half. So, one of the . . . I won't say its the primary requirement, but one the requirements is these folks have got to have some money. The costs can be anywhere from $10-15,000 per operator.
They've got to have time. Many of the guys are retired or they've got their own business and their comfortable in leaving the business in the hands of other while they're gone. I mentioned earlier the fact that they need to be a coherent team, they need to be able to trust each other and there would be nothing worse, and it has happened, there would be nothing worse than to have a guy on the teams who's a jerk and makes life miserable for everybody else. So I've spent a lot of time making sure that we don't have anybody like that, where we might suspect that he is going to cause trouble.
They've got to be compatible. They've got to have the money because of the high expense involved. They've got to have the time, because again, you could be away for 3, 4, 5, 6 and even 7 weeks in one instance. Oh, and you've got to be a good operator too. Kinda hard to find. And this group that I tend to gravitate towards, you know, meets all of those criteria.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Have you done any mini DXpeditions just to get the team together to see how you meld together before you make the big commitment?
Bob, K4UEE: A little bit of that, but if I cannot fill the team with people that I've been with before and have confidence in, and we find ourselves in a position to invite somebody new, then I interview that person and I've got to have at least two references. From people who know them better than I, or who have been on trips with them.
The only thing that we have not done very well and we are considering a new program, where we find somebody who is up and coming if you will, I guess that means younger among other things. But somebody who could be a DXpedition leader in the coming years and find a way to get them onto these expeditions and begin some mentoring.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Grooming them.
Bob, K4UEE: Grooming them. Elmering them. Yes. The worst thing you can do is go someplace really difficult and not have an idea of what to expect or better yet, have some experience when you were not the leader, but when you were just a team member and you went somewhere and you saw this happen before and you say that cannot happen again. It’s not going to sneak up on me, I'm not going to make that mistake. Or I know what to look for. So there's got to be a way, again, we're struggling with it a little bit, but we're going to come up with a way to find . . . to be able to add new people that we can more or less train, or at least open their eyes a little bit as to what's involved and when the time comes, and maybe soon, they'll be able to kind of take over.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Have you written the operating manual on how to run a perfect DXpedition yet?
Bob, K4UEE: I have contributed to one. It’s about 200 pages.
Eric, 4Z1UG: It is a process; it's something that you're doing?
Bob, K4UEE: It is and you know in that 200 pages you've got everything. You probably could boil the basics down to about 20 or 25 pages. So yes, that does exist.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Although, you know Bob, the devil is in the details.
Bob, K4UEE: Yep.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Right, so maybe it's good to have the 200 pages.
Bob, K4UEE: That's what those other 175 pages are for.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Right. You know, I was going to ask you, with regard to these entities, the Philippines has 1,000 islands and Micronesia certainly has 1,000 islands, how do you chose which islands that you do a DXpedition on? Could you make an entity out of all of these islands?
Bob, K4UEE: No. Not a DXCC entity. The rules are pretty specific. All of those islands belong to Indonesia, that's the DXCC entity. And the only way that you can have one of those islands become a separate DXCC entity is if it's 350 nautical miles from the other nearest island. In other words, if you had 1,000 islands and 999 were near the mainland, but one of them was 350 nautical miles away, that could count. Now, instead however, there is another program that is based out of the UK and run by the RSGB, called IOTA (Islands On The Air).
Eric, 4Z1UG: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Bob, K4UEE: And each of those, not each of them, but I'm sure that in those thousand islands, there are probably 10 different island groups that do count for this award. As a matter of fact, if you haven't had somebody on the show.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Bob, K4UEE: To talk about the IOTA program, you should, it’s very popular.
Eric, 4Z1UG: And that could create obviously whole new interest in activating these islands.
Bob, K4UEE: Yep
Eric, 4Z1UG: Beyond, you know once everybody has North Korea, if that happens, then this new contest, with these new rules could create a whole bunch of opportunities.
Bob, K4UEE: Well it already has. I mean, it’s been, I'm not doing it personally because its . . . you know I'm so far behind, but there are . . . I've got to say it’s been around for 15 or 20 years and I think there are something like 1,100 or 1,200 island groups and they're identified, for example, Hilton Head Island.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Bob, K4UEE: Is NA (North America) 105 or something. You know. In fact, just Google it. It’s something that is extremely popular and it's always somebody, somewhere that's activating an island group.
Eric, 4Z1UG: If you wanted to start out DXing and you could only join one DX club, which one would you choose?
Bob, K4UEE: Well, I would probably choose one nearby. We're fortunate here in the Atlanta area to have the Southeastern DX club, it's mostly Atlanta area members, but we've got members all over the world and certainly across the southeast. About 225 members or so, and that's a great place to meet successful, long time DXers and learn from them. For example, we've got a DX club meeting tonight and the speaker is one of the fellows who's got over 300 countries on 160 meters and that will be his topic. It’s nice to have a resource locally.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Mm-hmm (affirmative)
Bob, K4UEE: But we also have, if my interest was not DXing, or if I had another interest that was contesting, the Southeastern Contest Club SECC is also headquartered here and so we're lucky in a metropolitan area like this to have two different directions to go. I'm a member of both organizations because I like to have a foot in both camps. But there are national organizations that are DX oriented, there's international organizations that are DX oriented. I'm also a member of the Chiltern DX Club, based in the UK. They've all got newsletters or they've got things that they publish on regular basis and I can hardly wait to get my monthly or quarterly copy so I can read what others are saying and I always learn something.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Do you have any insight into how you would bring new Hams or kids into DXing.
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah, I do. Let’s pick them up at the point where they have gotten their license, because as a quick aside, most of the clubs, what I would call the horizontal clubs, Eric. Where these are radio clubs that encompass many aspects of this wonderful hobby. They're not just DX clubs, they're not just contest clubs, but they're involved in everything. Most of those clubs and there's 3 or 4 or 5 here in the Atlanta area have programs where they will help youngsters, or anyone for that matter study for and pass the entry exam, technician class exam. It seems to me where we all fall down is what we do with that new Ham, whether he's 8 or 14 or 49, after they get the ticket. This goes back to the way you and I learned the hobby and that's from an Elmer or from a mentor.
so, let's pick up there, that's the guy that has the interest, he may see a little bit of the magic, but he sees enough of the magic to get the license, so now what does he do? I think that instead of having this fellow confine himself to VHF and the repeaters, he should experience HF. I think one of the ways that we get these people interested is through let’s say having them and inviting them and making it easy for them to attend a field day. Which is primarily an HF operation, exercise. Having them come into your shacks during a contest and observe. Or having them come in and sit down behind that microphone or behind that key and make some DX contacts. Again, these are people that may only have an HT and working DX is working through a repeater to a guy in north Georgia and the world of HF is unknown to them. I think that that's where the magic is. And I think if we will expose them to that we can go long way towards getting those people interested. Getting on HF and then directing that interest into contesting or DXing or rag chewing. Doesn't make any difference. But rag chewing with a guy in Hawaii or Alaska or Slovenia or South Africa instead of in the next county.
Eric, 4Z1UG: I see from your bio that you also scuba dive, from your world travels, what was your favorite dive spot?
Bob, K4UEE: I think the favorite dive spot . . . by the way I got interested in scuba diving when I was in Okinawa. I joined the local scuba club there on the base and again, fascinated. I thought it was . . . I don't believe everything is magic, but I think Ham radio and scuba diving is magic.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Yeah, I agree I also scuba dive.
Bob, K4UEE: Yeah, it was kind of a surprise; we were down in the Caribbean I think we were off of Puerto Rico. I've dived a number of places in the Caribbean and they've all been wonderful, but this particular day, I found myself swimming through pools, not pools, I should say schools of 8 to 10 inch long silver looking fish which I cannot identify, but you've seen them in the movies where there's like a billion of them and they're all swimming in a direction and then suddenly they shift and go 90 degrees in that direction.
Eric, 4Z1UG: At the same time
Bob, K4UEE: At the same time, it's amazing. And I found myself in the middle of one of those schools and I couldn't believe it. I've never forgotten that experience. I also have never forgotten the first time I encountered a shark face to face. Because I was always call the chicken of the sea, referring back to the tuna fish. Charlie the tuna I guess it was.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Charlie tuna
Bob, K4UEE: Charlie the tuna, but this was in the Bahamas. I'll never forget the dive master, we dropped the hook and he said let me go over and take a look and he takes look and he says, "I've got great news for you.” I said, "oh my.” He said, "yeah, there's a school of sharks right under us. Come on in. “And everybody jumped in but me. Including my 14 year old son, and I think because he jumped in I thought well I guess I better go or I'll be the laughing stock. Anyway, we swam among those sharks for about 30 minutes. I'm not afraid of them anymore. I'll never forget that, and it happened to happen on my 50th birthday.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Well you know that's the secret of the lion tamer. You always do the show after they've eaten.
Bob, K4UEE: Well, maybe we were lucky. Our timing was just right.
Eric, 4Z1UG: You know, I've done a lot of diving, but I've never seen a shark, so at some point I hope to.
Bob, K4UEE: Well I guarantee you they have seen you. Because they hang out at the periphery of your vision. In fact, when you're down, if you'll just stop for a moment and look as far as you can see just where the visibility is fading away you'll see them there because they're watching you. They usually don't come any closer. Sometimes you stumble across them too and that's when it’s a bit of a start.
Eric, 4Z1UG: What advice would you give to new or returning Hams to the hobby?
Bob, K4UEE: Well we talked a little bit about that. I think you need to, if you don't have a mentor, if you don't have an Elmer, you need to find one. I think you find them in the local club. Maybe what you do is you start with what I called a horizontal club, a club that is a general interest club because within this great hobby there are literally dozens and dozens of directions that you can go. Dozens of very interesting things that you can get very interested in and jump into with both feet.
So, get yourself exposed to all of that, then maybe you can start picking and choosing which of those avenues you want to pursue further. Joining a DX club, or contest oriented club right at the beginning my not be the best advice unless you already know that you're interested in DXing or that you're interested in contesting. For the guys that's coming back in the hobby or for the new fellow who's newly licensed whether he's a kid or an older person, go to that club, meet some people, and start looking at the broad range of options that you've got to pursue. Then find something or two or three things that are of interest to you and then if that requires that you go somewhere else, or join another club to get a better education and a better feel, and to meet people that more about it than you do, then that's the next step.
Eric, 4Z1UG: That's great advice. And you can always change direction later on.
Bob, K4UEE: Absolutely. Absolutely. I've got a guy as a quick example, this is fellow that I met when I was on Sabah about 5 years ago, he lives in Connecticut, he always wanted to be a Ham. He owns a house on Sabah, when we were down there operating from another location, he saw the antennas and dropped by and knocked on the door. We had become fast friends and in fact I'm going down to operate at his station, which is now at his house on Sabah next month. This guy has been licensed about two years and he has done more varied things in this hobby than I have done in 58 years. He is just like a kid in a candy store. He says "well what about so and so?" And I'd say "I don't know anything about that.” He said, "well let me tell you. You know and I love it. “And I said, "well that's great.” He said "do you know anything about so and so?" I said, "no, I don't.” He said, "well let me tell you, I did this and I did that and I met this guy.” He is like a kid who cannot decide which direction he is going to go in. It’s just big wide open field and everything's exciting and new. I'm sure he wishes he'd gotten licensed years ago.
Eric, 4Z1UG: Yeah, I'm sure he has. Bob I want to thank you for coming on QSO today. You've been a fine guest and I really appreciate your finally getting you after . . . I think I've been pursuing you now for at least over a year. So, I'm so happy that you were able to take the time and meet with me today on QSO today.
Bob, K4UEE: Well, I appreciate the invitation, I've enjoyed it myself. Eric, it's very nice to meet you. 73
Eric, 4Z1UG: 73. That concludes this episode of QSO Today.
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Until next time, this is Eric 4Z1UG. 73.
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