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QSO from the Astoria Column

posted Sep 28, 2013, 3:48 PM by Charles Boling
Astoria Column
September 16, AD7UF and family left for a week-long family outing to Twin Rocks, OR.  On the way, we stopped by the Astoria Column.  Naturally, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to check out propagation from the top of the 125' structure, so, after taking the whole family (including a certain daughter who was scared stiff -- she fears heights even more than her father) up to the top and back down (we didn't stay long up there, and it was impossible to play radio the short time I was up there), I returned with with KF7ZIK 30 minutes later, and made a second ascent up the long spiral stairway with my Wouxun KG-UVD1P on my belt.

The weather was much better on the second climb (the wind was less, and there was more sun and less rain), and after orienting myself (and trying not to get dizzy) I put out an unanswered call on 146.52, then surveyed repeaters.  I was delighted to find that I could work the Baw Faw repeater with my rubber duck.  From the ground (the hill is 600' above sea level) I could only hear noise when the repeater transmitted, but from the top of the tower I could hear it clearly.  I didn't know for sure what direction the repeater was visually from where I stood (yes, I know Astoria's near the ocean, but close-up, there's an awful lot of water all around, and visibility still wasn't that good), but I found a corner that seemed to be in the right direction where the signal was stronger.

I put out a call and managed to raise N7PRJ, who answered me and patiently worked with me while I tried to obtain a better signal.  I stuck out my arm and positioned myself about a yard away from the column, so that the concrete-and-rebar structure could act as a reinforcing reflector for my 2m signal.  Not much of a gain, but it seemed to help.  It was a tough copy on both ends, but like 'PRJ said, considering considering where I was (and what I was working the repeater with), my signal wasn't bad!  We had a nice little chat, and said good-bye.

I thought it was pretty nifty that I could work the repeater from there, because I can work that same repeater from home -- even up the river valley -- with an HT.  Just like from Astoria, it's a stretch -- I can listen from the office but have to go outside to carry on a conversation -- but still, the idea that I can talk from Astoria to home with two handy-talkies on 2m using a single repeater is kind of neat.

Not that I'm the first one to use the tower to enhance RF propagation! In fact, according to the Wikipedia article linked to above, the nation's first real CATV (which originally stood for Community Antenna Television) system was built by allowing people in the neighborhood to share an antenna on top of the Astoria Column so that they could pick up TV from Seattle.  (Further research showed that Ed, the fellow who put it together, used the Astoria Hotel for his first shared TV system; the antenna on the Column came later.)