Mid-winter Nosh ‘n’ Natter @ Wright’s Hill Fortress

Bring food to heat up!
People brought food to heat up!

Wednesday 15 June at Wright’s Hill Fortress, 7.30pm.

Club members Don ZL2BL and George ZL2AG were our hosts for this event.

The Fortress is at the top of Wrights Hill Rd, and while the views from the top of Wright’s Hill are impressive, we weren’t up there for the views.  Instead we went underground to the rabbit warren of concrete-lined tunnels built in the second half of World War II as part of a protection system for Wellington from foreign invaders.   The big gun installed at Wright’s Hill could send shells around the harbour and further afield.

Members got to have a chat, peruse the old war recruiting materials, and then venture out of the meeting room to check out the restored radio shack, complete with ZC1s and other vintage equipment.   Overall it was a very enjoyable evening and not as cold as we had anticipated underground!

What do other branches do on Field Day?

Field day operations

At our May WARC meeting on Wednesday 18 May we were given a presentation on how the Patea/South Taranaki branch has approached NZART Jock White Field Day over the last 53 years. Glenn Kingston ZL2KZ, one of our own WARC members, has travelled north each year (with just one or two exceptions, such as when his XYL came down with a high fever) to assist with Field Day operations in South Taranaki.  Glenn showed photos of two Field Day sites used over the last 50 years.

For some time now, the South Taranaki branch has based their Field Day activities at a primary school located along the sea coast north of Patea.  A 60′ aluminium tower (sourced by a member who worked at the Motonui synthfuel plant) is stored on site.   This is erected each year using a local farm tractor or RV as available.   This skyhook allows for an 80m folded dipole antenna to be mounted at near a quarter wavelength above ground.  A 40m antenna is mounted lower down the mast. More recently a secret weapon in the form of a vertical incidence 3 element 40 metre yagi pointed skyward has been added to the line up of antennas.  The yagi has deployed knowledge provided by another WARC member (John Gabites ZL2AQ SK) about the incidence angle for working ZL in Field Day events.

Can WARC get back to its form in the 90’s and 00’s and win the ZL2 Patea Trophy back again from the South Taranaki and Napier branches?   Can we find a low noise sight that will perform as well as South Taranaki’s coastal location?  Can we find another 60′ skyhook like we had access to at Quartz Hill and Athletic Park?  Can we get an enthusiastic team together to operate in the 2017 contest?

Sangster Shield Contest

Will Wellington continue to hold the Tony Fletcher award in 2016?
Will Wellington continue to hold the Tony Fletcher award in 2016?

This year’s contest is from 2000 – 2300 NZST on Saturday 21 May and 2000 – 2300 NZST on Sunday 22 May.   WARC members will need to work 20 contacts to qualify.  Logs to be sent to Glenn ZL2KZ

The wind down of Solar Cycle 24

solar-cycle-sunspot-numberThe current Solar Cycle has proved to be a bit disappointing for amateur operators and will descend to a minimum within the next 2 to 4 years.   We are already seeing dead bands in most daily forecasts.  But how does our current cycle compare to earlier cycles?

The following diagram shows peak sunspots from all observed solar cycles since the 1600’s when sunspots were first recorded by astronomers.

It turns out that cycle 24 is not particularly unusual in the scheme of things!


And for an even longer perspective …

The last 10,000 years of sunspots!
The last 12,000 years of sunspots!

So what will happen in the next cycle (cycle 25)?

You will find a number of predictions online.    Because of the peak sunspot number in our current cycle there seems to be a growing consensus that we are unlikely to see the really nasty outcome of a second “Maunder minimum” (a period of almost 70 years with virtually no sunspots at all).   It is likely, however, that we are exiting from the “Grand Maximum” period.   We may well be entering a regular period that will look a bit like the period from 1724 to 1924 (a whole two centuries in duration!) in which sunspots are OK, but not good enough to make the record books.   The result is that we can expect the next cycle to be somewhat similar to Cycle 24.

Sorry to bring you the bad news!   Let’s hope one of those mid  to late 20th Century sunspot highs comes again in our lifetimes!