Get the information you need on Grids.
by John F Lindholm, W1XX
It's all about collecting grid locators, the new VHF cousin of DXCC. And determining your locator is a piece of cake!
If you live in Virginia Beach, Virginia, you are on exclusive FM26 real estate; the rest lies under the Atlantic Ocean. If you live in the farthest northwest reaches of Washington state, your CN78 designator will make you very popular on the VHF bands. Should you be vacationing next summer at the Cape Cod National Seashore, don't plan on relaxing at Nauset Beach: You'll be pestered constantly on 50 MHz for your rare FN51 exchange. And those of you who live in southern California and have always dreamed of going on a DXpedition, turn your gaze on San Clemente Island. The southern half of this tiny land mass in the Santa Barbara Channel is the sole foothold in DM02. A new series of prefixes? Nope. FM26, CN78, FN51 and DM02 are grid locators!
That's right. All those funny designators are grid locators. Though they may sound funny now, they may not be all that strange after you start hearing them used as standard QSO exchanges above 50 MHz. So, if you thought the 20-meter DX pileups on FB8WG, Spratly, or 1A0KM were bad, you ain't heard nothing yet. Wail till there is a 6-meter E-skip operation from Burrwood, Louisiana (EL58), at the extreme southernmost point of the Mississippi River delta. The bands will go crazy!
Why all the excitement? Because confirming contact with 100 2 degree × 1 degree grid locators above 50 MHz will earn you membership in the exclusive century Club -- not the popular DX Century Club, but its new counterpart, the VHF/UHF Century Club, or VUCC. It's here: The brand-new ARRL-sponsored achievement award for working grid locators measuring 2 degree longitude by 1 degree latitude on frequencies above 50 MHz began January 1, 1983. The ARRL Ad Hoc Committee, which has been studying ways of promoting VHF/UHF activities, has enthusiastically recommended this program to further boost activity on the higher frequencies.
Individual awards will be issued per band, with initial qualifying levels as follows: 50 MHz - 100; 144 MHz - 100; 222 MHz - 50; 432 MHz - 50; 902 MHz - 25; 1296 MHz - 25. Each award will be endorseable in increments of 25 for 50 and 144 MHz, 10 for 222 and 432 MHz, and 5 for 902 and 1296 MHz. This certificate, offered for 222 and 432 MHz, will indicate membership in the HALF Century Club. For higher frequencies, the QUARTER Century Club will be appropriate. But only those contacts made on January 1, 1983 and after count for VUCC credit. Recognition for microwave activity above 1296 MHz is under active consideration, with qualifying levels to be instituted in the near future retroactive to the same starting date.
To exchange grid-locator information, you must first identify your own grid locator. That is the easy part. Your 2 degree × 1 degree grid locator, measuring approximately 100 miles by 70 miles, is indicated by just two letters (the field) and two numbers (the locator). For most North Americans, the first two characters of your locator designator can be read directly from the map (see table 1). For the third and fourth character numerals, simply convert your longitude and latitude (consult any road atlas or topographic map) as indicated in table 1. The grid locator has worldwide application. It is the so-called Maidenhead Locator System, named after the village outside London where the European VHF managers met in 1980 to endorse a replacement for the present European QTH Locator. This system was introduced in West Germany some 30 years ago and spread like wildfire throughout Europe and North Africa. Originally conceived for European use, it has outgrown its geographical host and is unsuitable for worldwide application. Thus, the Maidenhead System, applicable throughout the globe and recently approved for use in the Far East at the Region 3 IARU conference held in Manila, appears at just the right time.
Collecting grid locators became quite popular throughout Europe, as impressive totals were amassed by VHF/UHF enthusiasts on the continent. Grid totals are published regularly within each country. Gridpeditions (if that term catches on, remember you saw it here first!) were made to put rare grid locators on the air, especially during contests. Why not partake of the fun and games in North America?
Collecting grid locators is not exactly a new concept to North America. The Central States VHF Society paved the way in 1981, when it announced a similar awards program. The intent was for ARRL to adopt the program eventually. This announcement is made with the full approval of the CSVHFS Board of Directors. Our thanks to Central States for providing valuable leadership.
Although the minute details for the award have not as yet been ironed out, this should not preclude anyone from starting on day 1. QSLs will be required, but verification will be conducted at the local level. ARRL-affiliated clubs that meet the requirements of the new Special Services Club program will be eligible to appoint a VHF Awards Manager, who will be duly certified to verify QSLs and applications for HQ issuance of awards. Thus, it is expected that many certification points will be established throughout the U.S. and Canada. Overseas amateurs will be equally eligible for VUCC membership, with cards checked by those traditional awards managers who wish to assist. Detailed instructions will be provided to all involved in the verification procedure to ensure uniformity of inspection.
No contacts are permitted for award purposes through repeater or active satellite devices. The first step in applying for the initial award is to request an application from ARRL. Included will be information as to the nearest verification point for sending QSLs. The VUCC certificate, endorsement stickers and grid maps of the U.S. are now available.
The VHF/UHF Ad Hoc Committee, which orchestrated this beehive of activity, has one more trick up its sleeve. I can't reveal all of its magic at this time, but I suggest you get your VHF running shoes ready and keep a keen eye in the coming months on the Contest Corral section of QST. You may have the opportunity to exchange grid locators on an organized basis sooner than you think!
For those who want to turn your computer loose on doing your grid locator problems, you don't have to wait. WA5IED and SM5AGM have developed basic programs that should work well on most home computers.
by Bill Moore, NC1L, Century Club Supervisor
Date June, 1997
Since this article first appeared in January 1983 QST, a few additions were made. In addition to the previous bands mentioned the bands listed below, with their required credits and endorsements, have been added:
2.3 GHz, 3.4 GHz, 5.7 GHz, 24 GHz, 47 GHz, 75 GHz, 119 GHz, 142 GHz, 241 GHz and Laser (300 GHz)-- 10 Credits
3.4 to Laser are 5 credits
All endorsements over 902 MHz are 5 credits.
In addition, Satellite is considered a valid VUCC award. All credit for Satellite both above 50 MHz and below 50 MHz are credible for VUCC. Satellite is the only VUCC award which allows credit for under 50 MHz.
In January 1996, new fees were added to help maintain the increasing cost of operation. As of January 1997, all new VUCCs are $10.00. Replacement certificates for lost or those who have chosen vanity callsigns are also $10.00 each. The fees include the lapel pin.
For those who have a VUCC prior to January 1996, the VUCC lapel pin is available for $5.00.
Other changes include the availability of all VUCC forms and VHF Awards Managers to be downloaded here.
If you don't have access to the Web, please send a SASE to ARRL HQ/VUCC, 225 Main St, Newington, CT USA 06111 or call (860)594-0234.
With this launching of the grid locators awards program, we wish you all luck. And we'll look forward to somebody operating from EL79, Apalachicola, Florida, a grid locator that is 99 percent occupied by the Gulf of Mexico.
Table 1: How to Determine Your Grid Location *
* For those geographical areas not encompassed here, a complete explanation appears in the April 1982 issue of The Lunar Letter, entitled Worldwide QTH Locator System Proposed by Region 1, by Lance Collister, WA1JXN.
1st and 2nd Characters: (Check the North American Grid Locator or the ARRL World Grid Locator Atlas.)
3rd Character: Take the number of whole degrees west longitude, and consult the following chart:
|Degrees West Longitude||Third Character||Degrees West Longitude||Third Character||Degrees West Longitude||Third Character|
4th Character: This number is the same as the 2nd single digit of your latitude. For example, if your latitude is 41 degrees N, the 4th character is 1; for 29 degrees N, it is 9, etc. This four-character (2-letter, 2 number) designator indicates your 2 degree × 1 degree locator for VUCC award purposes.
Table 2: More Precise Locator
To indicate the location more precisely, the addition of 5th and 6th characters will define the sublocator, measuring 4 × 3 miles. Longitude-latitude coordinates on maps, such as U.S. Department of the Interior Surveys, can be extrapolated to the nearest tenth of a minute, necessary for this level of locator precision. This is not necessary in the VUCC awards program.
5th Character: If your number of degrees longitude is an odd number, see Figure A. If your number of degrees longitude is an even number, see figure B.
Odd Longitude Degrees (Figure A)
|Minutes W. Longitude||5th Character|
Even Longitude Degrees (Figure B)
|Minutes W. Longitude||5th Character|
6th Character: Take the number of minutes of latitude (following the number of degrees) and consult the following chart.
|Minutes N. Latitude||6th Character|