Why is Bulgaria in Scandinavia?

Location: Man Cave in Berwick-upon-Tweed

Contest: Scandinavian Activity Contest (SSB), 24 hours over October 13 and 14, 2018

Contest Software Used: N1MM

Portable operation: No

Radio: Elecraft KX3, PX3 Panadapter and Hardrock 50  operating at 50 watts SSB

Antenna: Cirro Mazzoni Baby Loop

Bands used: 40m

Hike:  None….I sat for 4 hours (it was fun!)

Solo operation: Just me operating as M0SNA

Recommend: Yes

Photos: Copyright Paul Gacek 2018

Trying to explain ham radio to other people can be tricky especially if you’re hoping to leave them with a positive and supportive impression. I’ve long given up on converting people but having them appreciate it is a win all round. Portraying it as something beyond old men tapping morse keys or different old men huddled over soldering irons always leads me to start with it being a diverse hobby or better still a passion that encompasses supporting public services in emergencies, a “maker” activity with people designing and building radios, an intersection of adventure and travel via SOTA and  suitcase DXPeditions through to contesting.

Much to my surprise (or not) the few contests I’ve participated in have been a blast. Some combination of community, program management, endurance through to frustration and euphoria separated by moments, seems to resonate with me.

Here I am in North Northumberland with my new and yet to be fully installed Ciro Mazonni Baby Loop and a medley of SOTA centric low power radios in my well appointed man cave. The lure of a Viking radio get together was just too tempting. In fairness, I’d never have known had I not been diligently reading my newly acquired DX Daily subscription by Bernie McClenny W3UR which I think is really good, especially if you, like me find the idea of a suitcase or better DXPedition akin to eating a 5 star Michelin restaurant i.e. fabulous.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 7.48.35 PM
Scandinavian Activity Contest include Greenland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, Faroe Islands and Svalbard

Tipped off to this Nordic rendezvous, I pointed my Baby Loop over toward Sweden realizing that without my planned Yeasu 450 rotator being installed, this would give me the best chance in the rain of nabbing stations at the expense of some gems such as Svalblad Island or Greenland. Operating from the radio deadzone of Laguna Beach, California usually netted me lots of W this, N that, V this etc from across the USA and Canada and so this was a chance to bone up on my European call sign format and better still my rusty geography including why Bulgaria is in Scandinavia.

Contesting with a Magnetic Loop …..uhm….difficult for a Search and Pounce operator

I always knew that the Mag Loop was a trade off but the finite time to retune every time I wandered 3 or so Khz left or right was a little painful. I could hear station 10s of Khz away from my tuned frequency but transmitting needs to be spot on. Oodles of power (which I don’t have) nor a choice DXCC entity (such as Saint Lucia versus England where hams are thicker on the ground) makes running a frequency harder as we did in Costa Rica and so my role is that of lowly Search and Pounce.

Scanning, tuning and then calling wasn’t particularly efficient and clearly is a fact of life with the Baby Loop (and in fairness any Magnetic Loop antenna).

Baby Loop sitting temporarily in my jungle awaiting a permanent mount and rotator

50 watts …well 500 watts would be better

It’s easier to find target Vikings with a Panadapter as you get to visualize the spectrum and see where potential Nordic brothers linger. My mega watt station (I exaggerate, my 100 watt Yaesu 857) isn’t Panadapter enabled and so the ever trusty Elecraft KX3 and PX3 were pressed into service along with my home-brew Hardrock 50 watt amp. Now we come back to the Magnetic Loop which while super quiet in avoiding/suppressing noise (I hear the other guy better) it is inefficient in that 50 watts delivered on 40m is somewhat equivalent to 20-25 watts into the air ignoring any line loss which I know isn’t a safe assumption.  All is not lost as radio waves are like magic and a very very small signal can be interpreted many miles away.

Panadapter help visualize which parts of spectrum potentially contain useful signals (voice, morse….)
Kit built Hardrock 50 watts amp – great addition to my station

Permanent installation with a rotator would help

The Loop is directional in that it is deafer at 90 degrees to the plane were it’s the least deaf. If I’m pointing at Sweden (which I was) then Ragnar Ladbrok’s descents on the Faroe Islands or worse still Greenland won’t hear me. The permanent installation was partially held up awaiting OpenReach (who relieved me of few hundred quid) having promised to relocate a DSL cable that occupies the air space above my garden/back yard with no direct benefit to me, only distant neighbors. Upon arrival the OpenReach works team declared it was impossible and too dangerous to move. Learn to live with it Paul…..

Was it fun…..hell yes

I wasn’t really a serious participant at any stretch of the imagination but I netted 30+ contacts (pathetic really….) but I learnt a lot about my station and what to do including bringing my KPA500 amp from California. It was good to re-familize myself with N1MM, a amazing piece of free contesting software that is actually really well thought out and effective.

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 4.51.16 PM

Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 4.51.35 PM

Scandinavian stations are defined by prefixes as follows:

  • Svalbard and Bear Island JW
  • Jan Mayen JX
  • Norway LA – LB – LC – LG – LI – LJ – LN
  • Finland OF – OG – OH – OI
  • Aland Islands OFØ – OGØ – OHØ
  • Market Reef OJØ
  • Greenland OX – XP
  • Faroe Islands OW – OY
  • Denmark 5P – 5Q – OU – OV – OZ
  • Sweden 7S – 8S – SA – SB – SC – SD – SE – SF – SG – SH – SI – SJ – SK – SL – SM
  • Iceland TF

Saturday afternoon I had a rather curt LZ operator tell me I wasn’t in the contest and to “butt out”, but I am in the contest (excuse my lame pun) I declare to myself. LA, LB etc are the start of Norwegian call signs and the whole point of this Scandinavian Activity Contest is to learn about JX, OJ0 (that’s Market Reef…sure, you find it on a map) and even  XP which wasn’t just a bad OS but Greenland and so Mr Strong Signal LZ seemed a prime target. Silly me had forgotten that LZ is Bulgaria. Go figure that one! For those of you that remember the Wobbles and in particular Uncle Bulgaria, can attest to the fact that we all know Bulgaria isn’t in Scandinavia.

I’ve booked myself in to the 2019 Viking Rendezvous with a promise to have a better station or better location.

Slavblad here I come!!


  1. I love reading your escapades and description of operating conditions, as well as enjoying your photographs. Very disappointed in the guy from Bulgaria and his attitude. Guys like this turn off potential new hams and newbies. Have fun and ignore these critical idiots.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.