Sunday, March 30, 2008

 

This is another sad day for the EME community, we received information that Kjell SM7BAE has passed away. I just recently learned that Kjell was seriously ill, so his passing comes as no surprise, but still difficult to grasp.

 

Kjell and I were more or less in daily contact for more than 15 years, I can give his telephone number in my sleep if needed, it is rooted in my brain. We were united in 2 mtr EME, and we were constantly looking for new stations, new DXCC countries, and new challenges. Had it not been for Kjell, I would not have achieved what I did with my 6 yagis, he was a constant source of inspiration to me.

Our telephone conversations were not just during daytime or early evenings, they took place anytime, all depending on who or what we were chasing. Kjell knew that I was very active on HF running the European EME net, and I was also on AO-13 where potential moonbouncers were drifting around. So we kept close records on "who and where", and did not miss an opportunity to propose a sked, or suggest times for random operation during specific moon windows.

Having built, in the early days, what we name "a QBL-amplifier" (=enough EME power!) Kjell had a colossal signal via the moon in the mid 80s. Kjell kept his homebrew amplifier in a closet, next to the shack. At one time the amplifier (which was almost always ready but in stby mode) lost the bias voltage. So the tube was drawing full anode current, from a VERY stiff powersuppy for God knows how long. There were no protection circuits, so what finally shut things down was that the anode circuit melted, and fell down on the chassie bottom. This blew the HT fuse..

The top lid of the amplifier turned blueish from the heat. Kjell repaired the anode line, and fired up the amplifier again. He used that very tube for at least 20 years after that incident, and this made me decide to go for a QBL- amplifier also.. I have not regretted it.

Being a skilled farmer and used to heavy tools, Kjell never hesitated to build his own BIG antennas. As the KLM 17LBX became fashionable, he decided to build replicas of that design, and put up 24 of them. This was an array of increadible proportions, resting in his back yard. The array and the individual yagis were supported in all directions by black bale string, considered to be the farmers 3rd and 4th hand in this country..

 

Despite taking all possible precautions, the array was constantly damaged by the frequent storms at his QTH. But this never slowed him down, one day I learned that 4 or 6 yagis were broken after a storm, the next day when we spoke he had fixed them! Kjell knew that the array just "migh be needed" the coming night or the next day, so he always did what he had to do to keep things going.

In recent years the array was modified to accomodate a 6m EME array. I still remember the hesitation Kjell had when we spoke about it, because he did not want to loose performance on 2 mtrs. Well, we know the answer to that, he was doing very well on both bands, despite the combined array solution.

Kjells ability to hear weak signals in the noise was something out of the ordinary. As a matter of fact, he took part in an scientific project where commercial radio operators ability to hear weak signals in the noise was investigated, documented and analysed. As it turned out, Kjells abilities stunned the scientists. He was hearing and decoding CW-signals much weaker than any of the commercial radio operators managed, and he received a document to verify it. He sent the document to me for viewing, and he was rightfully proud of his achievements.

To hear the weak CW EME signals Kjell developed a special technique. He hardly ever used headphones, instead he was feeding narrow band audio to an old BC radio, and used the high quality speaker to listen to signals. This was done at quite high audio level in the room, to say the least.

When things were really difficult, during the two minute receive period Kjell would step back to the other end of the room and sit down on his sofa while listening to the EME signals. Kjell told me that this made it easier for him to distinguish between the noise , the ringing filter and the weak CW. And he did copy them, one after the other they went into the log. 

During this time we were talking on the radio or the telephone, day or night, trying to find out whether that DX-expedition was active or not, or whether special stations like TA/KC3RE were ready for moonbounce or not... In short, we had fun! 

During the days of the month when the moon went south for a few days, Kjell and I were constantly measuring and comparing noise from noisesources in the sky. This was, and is a good way of evaluating the system, and we pretty well knew when things went wrong, especially in his multi connection array. Water in the coax connectors is a common problem, and in Kjells 24 yagi array drying the coax out was part of the maintenance job. Drying the cable was done in the oven..

Kjell was a full time DXer, and could be heard on all bands. He was doing exceptionally well on low bands, with Top Band probably being his favourite HF band. Sweden was late in getting permission to operate on 160m, so there was a lot of catching up to do when we finally were allowed to transmit there.

Being a farmer means hard work during the sporadic E season. Kjell was of course interested in any opening on 2 mtrs, so he developed a system where his XYL would help him watch the Es indicators (TV/FM radio/144.300), and run out to him sitting on the tractor in a field, just to inform him that the band was open. This is the way to get stations in the log -> be there when the band is open!!

An EME pioneer of all times has now passed away. A truly remarkable ham radio era has ended, leaving us with an empty space on the bands.

But we can look at his achievements, and admire the results of a man who knew that patience, skills and some pretty good hardware will take you all the way. Truly a source of inspiration to all of us.

Rest in piece Kjell SM7BAE, SK.

 

73 de Peter SM2CEW