Thursday, July 13, 2017

Band Spanning The Globe


Although sunrise saw the sun climbing through what should have been a clear sky an hour earlier, I wasn't able to see the sun in the sky for another hour because of the smoke hanging in the air.
The smell of smoke had me glancing around on occasion, thinking that there must be a forest fire burning nearby.

In actuality the smoke had moved in over night from the dozens of wildfires burning in British Columbia, including a 4,200-hectare blaze near Cache Creek. The fires have displaced thousands of
people across the B.C interior since their beginning's this past week.
Here in southern Alberta after a week of above normal temperatures, a cold front had pushed through the province, leaving us with cooler than normal temperatures, that included several days of rainy weather.
Late yesterday afternoon the weather had cleared, and I knew that morning would bring clearing skies, giving me the perfect opportunity to head on out for a day in the Rockies. With my manpack loaded in my mobile, I headed west, with my destination being the end of the road 50 kilometers west of Turner Valley AB, where Junction creek joins up with the Sheep River. Once there, I would ford the Sheep river and hike up to a high meadow that I'd explored previously, this meadow  overlooking the front ranges of the Rockies.

Of course I had another reason to make the hike, as besides the 10-60 meter vertical
antenna that I normally use with my FT-897D, I also had brought along my recently acquired Webster Band Spanner 10-75 meter antenna that dates back to the 1950's and 60's.
Now I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I'll bet that no one has used a Webster Band Spanner on anything other than a mobile, the original purpose this antenna designed and built by the Webster manufacturing company of San Francisco was meant for. In fact the manual that came with the antenna, has a photo on the cover of the manual, showing a WBS mounted on the rear bumper of a 1961 Chevrolet Corvair, how cool is that!

Since acquiring the antenna, and having mounted it on my mobile where I'd operated it over the course of a week or so while running tests with it, the idea was to see how it compared with todays mobile antennas, and in particular the gearmotor antenna that I designed and built and normally is used on my mobile.  As expected I discovered that although the WBS proved to be close in performance on the higher bands that included 10-20 meters, the WBS was not as capable when it came to the lower bands of 40-80 meters. Of course this was to be expected with its smaller diameter less efficient coil.

Still it was refreshing to work the bands from my mobile with this very cool new/old stock mobile antenna built by the Webster Company in the 1950's, that some describe as being the first screwdriver antenna. While I had been switching antennas back and forth on the back of my mobile, it dawned on me that it might be fun to run some tests with the WBS mounted on my manpack, and I had done exactly that, finding that the WBS proved to be a great addition to my normally used 10-60 meter vertical antenna.
This was some of the thoughts coursing through my mind as I made the hike up to the mountain meadow located about 2 kilometers from where I had left my mobile. Since I go no where without my camera, I stopped several times for photos, this proving to be the break I needed to catch my breath from the mostly uphill although gradual hike to the meadow.

If you are not familiar with the Webster Band-spanner, it is a center loaded antenna with the loading coil wound directly on the fiberglass support column. A circular contactor attached to the lower end of whip establishes internal electrical contact with desired loading coil turn.

This continuous adjustment permits exact antenna resonance to be achieved anywhere within a given band, minimizing loading problems and band switching. The antenna is designed for 5 band operation, covering 75-40-20-15-10 meter bands (also MARS frequencies), with no external taps or projections. Band changes are simple, the whip is raised or lowered to a pre-calibrated setting corresponding to the selected band. This type of continuous adjustment permits exact antenna resonance to be achieved anywhere within a given band. The antenna is very well built, with the coil section epoxy sealed. The  whip can be pushed down into the bottom column for clearance or storage if the antenna is not being used.

Once I arrived at the meadow overlooking a very smoky landscape, I quickly off loaded my pack, and with the WBS all ready mounted in place on the coaxial junction box that is normally used with my 10-60 meter vertical antenna, as both antennas are terminated with 3/8'x24 tpi threaded studs, all that was required was to find a level spot to set up on, and then plug the mic in, turn on the rig, and check the bands for any activity. With nothing much happening on 20 meters, I re-positioned the whip by moving it to the 40 meter position of the WBS, and was relieved to find some activity allowing me to make several contacts with hams located in the US.

When I first set up and checked 40 meters, I thought that possibly I would find activity related to what was happening in the BC interior with the wildfires, but never did hear anyone to the west over in BC, although I should have been able to work them if I had heard anything. Before leaving home I had checked on information, but I hadn't been able to find any information as to whether or not there was a command center located in the area of the wildfires. So possibly if there was emergency communications being provided by local hams on the ground, it may have been happening on the VHF repeater system, of which several there are several located in the area of the wildfires.

Still, my time spent hanging out in this beautiful high mountain meadow was not wasted, as I am pleased with how well the Webster Band Spanner connected up to the FT-897D mounted on my manpack performs. The Webster Company would have been pleased to know that their state of the art 1950's (at the time) HF antenna is more than up to the task of working the world in 2017, as part of a portable station located on the side of a mountain in the southern Alberta Rockies.

NOTE..... all photos expand

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