Saturday, April 26, 2014

Interesting APRS story..........

A local amateur friend, AB2MS, Todd Brown shared an interesting story with me on our Monday morning commute a few weeks ago. I was very impressed by the story and asked Todd if he would write down the story and send me a few pictures to post on our blog. His story follows (with a few edits and only two of 5 pics):
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
We all get random emails, usually spam or something that doesn’t get much more than a glance. But sometimes those random, unexpected emails can lead to an adventure. On April 8, I received an email with the subject “Balloon from U-Mich down near you”. I thought it sounded odd, just out of the blue, but the subject drew me in to read it:

Todd,

de Dave KB3EFS up near Alexandria Bay. A High Altitude Balloon from U-Mich Ann Arbor is down near you. See http://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FAETHR1-1&timerange=172800&tail=172800 
It looks like the area is a swamp or a forest. I can get you contact info for the group at U-Mich if you or others want to go get it.

73
Dave
KB3EFS

The balloon was tracked on APRS so the whole journey was online for all to see.
Clicking on the link, here is what I found:




Seems the balloon had quite the trip, reaching almost 40,000 feet and over 120 MPH! So where is it?






About 11 miles east of me, just west of Central Square, not a huge trip to go out there. But what about the terrain? Where did this thing decide to end its parachute decent back to earth? I could hope for an easy recovery, but I knew I wasn’t that lucky…… so I bring in the satellite view! Ugh, out in the middle of nowhere, and where does that creek go? Oh, looks like it spreads out into a swamp. Great news during spring thaw…… So where to begin? Looks like a farm to the west of it. Farms are a good place to start looking for land owners and info. 

So Saturday rolls around, nice warm sunny day and I follow the directions my GPS I giving me to get to the farm. I first met two of “the boys” tinkering on a car. I explain the situation and they point to “ma and pa” down sawing firewood. I drive past the house and see the apparent owners. I again explained the story to “pa” and he told “ma” to stop her chainsaw and come over so I could retell the story again. After having heard it they seemed quite cooperative and I was sent off with another one of the boys in a manure covered farm truck. He guessed it was in the swamp, but was determined we get closer so maybe at least a glimpse of the payload could be seen and the actual location could be determined. After stopping to say hi to everyone on the route (farmers know EVERYONE around) we drove up a field as far as he dared and set out to find us a balloon. I had plugged the coordinates into my handheld GPS, so we had a general idea of where it hopefully was. 

Skip ahead a half hour after pushing through brush and stepping in mud, and the GPS points ahead to the left…….. right into the swamp. We trudged further ahead, skirting the muck (for the most part) and suddenly stepped into mud up to our knees. A little further and through the trees we see what looks like a bunch of plastic sheeting. Could it be? The GPS is pointing right at it. We already were wet up to our knee, so it was time to get a closer look to be sure. Sure enough that’s all it could be. Now I’m thinking how far I had trudged, how long I had already spent looking and the fact I was already wet. One thing to do now……… empty my pockets, hang my backpack with camera in a tree and go for it. I brought the cellphone as it was waterproof and luckily my Leatherman. 
Getting close, I can see the payload:


















So how do I get that down from up there in the tree? Parachute cord! I mean it looks like it’s tangled around a few branches, why not! Well, after straining the cord as much as I dared and not wanting anything to snap back and knock some teeth out I tied it off and thought. Leatherman! I still had my Leatherman in my pocket. It has a saw. So I wade over (now wet almost up to my chest) and realize the tree is more than twice the diameter of the little saw. Who am I to let that stop me now?
I finally had the prize at ground level and could grab it and make my back to the guy waiting at the edge of the swamp for me. 

All in all it was quite an adventure. It shows the use of APRS tracking the balloon, and my digipeater was the closest station to the landing site. I guess it also shows how crazy and / or determined I was. The guys at U-Mich Ann Arbor were quite happy I retrieved their payload which was a tiny radio / GPS / TNC unit and it now could be re-used for more educational purposes. They sent me a prepaid envelope to send it back to them and included an 8’ balloon to pique my interest in trying my own launch.  

I encourage everyone to visit http://www.projectaether.org/main/ to learn about these balloons and their use in research and education. They have a lot of info and videos to check out, plus they announce launches so we can watch for another to come this way. I just hope it lands in a better spot next time. 
------------------------------------------------------------------------

- Todd, Thanks for sharing this cool story! 

3 comments:

  1. At least I came out of the deal without any ticks, leeches or snake bites!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A little wet but an adventure with APRS

      Delete
  2. Lost 2 of those in lake Ontario late 2014 near you had they washed to the shoreline.

    http://aprs.fi/#!mt=roadmap&z=11&call=a%2FN2NXZ-8&timerange=3600&tail=3600
    http://aprs.fi/#!call=a%2FN2NXZ-9&timerange=3600&tail=3600

    ReplyDelete