Alaska Antenna Adventures: Beer Cans and Moose!

Beer Can Antenna

My adventures in Alaska were a great introduction to “home brew” construction.  Antennas are a big “do it yourself” area.  You build it, you adjust it, you re-build it, you make it perfect, and in the next ice storm it comes down!!!  That was in 1948. I find myself going through the same cycle today, in 2011.

I remember two antenna adventures from Alaska.

I don’t recall the first wire I put up, or how it was held up at each end.  Probably not on trees, as the local pine trees were very short.  My KL7OO logbook shows that I had both a 100 ft long wire and a 175 ft collinear zepp antenna. One was fed by an open wire line—two bare conductors held about 6 to 8 inches apart by heavy, ceramic insulators. As I recall, the two wires came through  the Quonset hut wall and connected to the send/receive switch before going to the equipment.

One night there was a horrendous crash and the entire building shook.  Again and again, it sounded like someone was smashing glass bottles onto our steel Quonset hut roof, or glass insulators!!! Or ceramic open wire line insulators!! The send/receive switch disappeared through the wall of the hut!!!  We put on coats and ran outside to see the world champion moose crash through the scrub pine trees trailing wires and smashed insulators from his huge antlers.  With each head shake this massive mammal snapped heavy copper wires, and with each lunge he uprooted scrub pine trees until finally he disappeared into the night. We set the alarm clocks an hour early so there would be time to clean up the mess before reveille at 0600.

On another occasion, one weekend in mid December we hams were sitting around the cherry red stove, inventing things, and I was playing with the soldering iron, soldering legs on pennies so Lincoln could stand up.

All of a sudden we all came to the same idea—a Beer Can Antenna!!!

I calculated the length of it, about 16 feet of cans needed to be a half wave on 10 meters or a quarter wave on 20 meters. About 35 cans would do the job. As I recall; Calvin Beets, KL7SD, and another ham  went to the local post exchange to get the beer (and more drinkers) And Sergeant Charlie Bellman, W9KMH, went to the Motor Pool, of which he was in charge, and brought back torches and solder.

In those days beer was in steel cans, not this soft aluminum of today.  Steel is very easy to solder to.  Hold two cans together, apply flux paste, slowly rotate the pair while heating the can junction hot enough to melt solder. Our biggest problem was emptying the cans. Of course, this was 3.2 % beer, only slightly stronger than flavored water.  We sat around telling war stories and slowly the stack of cans began to lengthen. By mid afternoon we had the 16 feet.

It was a bright, sunny day with about a foot of snow on the ground, and we easily found a perfect spot to erect our Beer Can antenna.  My idea was to mount it on a Coca Cola bottle as a base insulator.  Sitting on its base insulator and held in place by three strong ropes our Beer Can antenna was a marvelous sight.  By now we had a sizeable group of non-ham “helpers” who promptly saluted our successful erection with the last 6-pack of beer.

The KL7OO logbook shows that our first contact was with Jerry, KL7RE, at Fort Richardson. Then we talked with Toi, KL7CN in Anchorage.  Calvin went to Warehouse #3, about a mile away, and helped us tune up the antenna but the band was dead for DX..  A few days later it opened up and I worked W2PEZ, W3KTE, and W4JME and other hams in the New York to Virginia strip. The Beer Can antenna was a huge success.


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Really a wonderful tips..

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