Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Mapungubwe trip feedback

Monday 24 March

We arrived at Leokwe camp at around midday 1000z.

I Immediately set to work erecting the mast and assembling the 6M3SS  M2 antenna.

The antenna was installed and equipment all connected by 1200z. But there was this uncanny silence. The noise level almost nil. On CW the S meter only intermittently illuminated the S1 LED on the K3 and this was with the preamp switched on. On SSB there was about 2 LEDs illuminated. I was worried, was the antenna working? The SWR was nice and low, all seemed to be OK.

The 6m band was dead quite, not a hint of any activity. Then some two and half hours later the band opened up, much to my relief.

First station heard and worked was ER1SS 1443z
During the course of the afternoon and evening I made some 60 QSOs.
I don't think there were any new countries worked.
I was rather tired and called it a day fairly early. This might have been a mistake I subsequently see that a EA9 was worked by my friends down south. Oh well, maybe I will get lucky and work him before I leave.

Tuesday 25 March

The band opened up at 1215z and I worked some 20 stations. The band reopened again at 1620z and lasted until 1748z, but did not yield much surprises and signals were generally weak.

At 1817z the band opened up this time It behaved differently. I worked many stations from EA8 Canary Islands and worked a new station in TR8 Gabon and worked TJ3SN in Cameroon. During this time I worked Ian ZS6BTE and Braam ZS6AYE via back scatter. This most certainly was not a common occurrence.

Total QSOs from Mapungubwe National Park now stands at 163.

I hope I am able to include the image of what my antenna sees. I tried to show the constraints of my location.

Pointing due north is OK. In fact if one looks carefully you will see the confluence of the Limpopo river and the Shashe river. This is where The borders of South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe meet.

If I beam 15 degrees either to the west or the east I have a problem with close in rocky outcrops some 50m higher than my antenna.

Some have asked if I will be operating from A2 Botswana. Unfortunately not. The actual border might be some 3 km away, but the border post is not that close. Then there is the issues with licensing, border formalities, safe venue etc.....

 Maybe in the future I will consider planning a excursion to this 6m RF devoid country.

Such expeditions require substantial time, effort and expense. All this, only to rewarded with facing a rude, undisciplined and unruly  pile up?

Wednesday 26 March

Started monitoring the 6 m band at around 1000z and called it quits at 1900z.
First signals heard was from IT9 and 4X at 1650z followed by a short run up to 1739z
Only the usual Mediterranean countries were worked. A total of 25 QSOs of which two were QRP and there was one mobile station.

I worked several EA stations, but still no illusive EA9 :-(

Thursday 27 March

Wow !! What a afternoon.

The band opened up early and was open for a very long time, some 210 QSOs were made. Most, predictably most were from the Mediterranean area with a few countries slightly more north: Germany, Switzerland and Belgium.

I worked several QRP stations and including one station that was using a simple dipole antenna. Just goes to show that it does not take much when the band is open.

At one stage there was a pipeline into Spain, with many stations giving me S9+40 reports, but still no EA9 in the log :-((

Managed to work: 9K, TK, HB9, OE, DL and ER

At times the action was fast and furious. For the most part running the pile was a exciting and rewarding experience, but sadly there were a few LIDs that made me very angry. Calling out of turn and ignoring the instructions given. I some times wonder why I subject myself to this. This poor behaviour is simply not acceptable.

I was very close to calling it quits and returning home on Friday i.e. Returning home one day early, due to the pesky LIDs, but this would have been a huge waste of money and effort. So I decided to stick with the plan. I will be QRV until Friday night as planned.

What is the best way to deal with these despicable operators?

Friday 28 March

This was my last day and the band opened up briefly on several occasions, but the openings were pretty poor for the most part.

At one stage there was a pipeline into Azores - CU this was most peculiar especially so early in the afternoon. Quite a few CU stations were worked.

The highlight of my day was when I was called by EB9SCW he was very weak and I sure hope I have his call correct.  Conditions at the time was very poor and moments later the band closed.

This single QSO will make my trip worthwhile if I have it correct, since it is a new DXCC entity for my 6m log.

Total of 455 - 6m QSOs were made from Mapungubwe national park.

All said and done this was a interesting few days and I am looking forward to comparing notes with the other 6m friends (down south) when I get home.

The venue is interesting, we came face to face with a Leopard yesterday during one of our game drives.  The chalets at Leokwe are comfortable, air-conditioned and well equiped.

Leokwe chalets

Shack visitor
Antenna view to the north (Europe)
Image showing the 144 grid squares worked

QSOs VS. Date and Time

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

Another great 6m opening….

Today we had another great surprize on the 6m band.

We had a short (30 minute) opening to China. Quite a few South African stations made several QSOs into China.

I managed to make only one QSO and that was with Li BA8AT on CW

So what is the big deal? 

It appears as if this is a first. According to the info at my disposal there has never been any prior QSOs between South Africa and China on 6m.

Now I understand why it is called the “magic band”

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Mapungubwe - 6m expedition

I have made plans to operate 6m from a place as far north in South Africa as is practically possible.

The venue is Mapungubwe nature reserve. It also happens to be the spot where South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe borders meet.

Operation will commence on 24 March and will end 28 March 2014.

The grid locator: KG47qs

Main focus will be on TEP using CW and SSB; I will however try and assist with local MS skeds using FSK441 if there is a requirement.

I plan to run an attended beacon on 50.103 MHz calling with a very short ‘CQ’ followed by a 30 second pause. I will be within earshot, please call if heard.

As far as I know there is no internet access at this venue. I will endeavour to drive to a spot where I can access the cellular network once a day, to check my email to see if there are any special requests or messages. Email adress is OK on

My DXCC wish list for the trip

1A, 3V, 5A, 7X, C3, E4, EA9, ES, GD, GI, GM, GU, GW, HB0, HZ, LA, LY, OD, OH, SU, T6, T7, UA, UK, UN, YI, YK, YL

Friday, 21 February 2014

Another killer tool....

I have discovered another 6m DX killer tool embedded amongst all the other useful functions of Clublog.

Select “Propagation” on the left menu.
Select the DXCC country e.g. Australia and click on “Run propagation report”.

The very first graph is for 6m. With this one can see at a glance if the country has been worked and how frequently and what the prime times are. One can also refine the search by selecting the month.

Using this one can clearly see based on the uploaded logs the best month by far to have a 6m QSO between South Africa and Australia is April and the optimum time is 0600Z and 0800Z.

Then as a reality check select Italy and run the test again.

The data is accurate, but to be really useful it needs the buy in from all the regular 6m users. I suspect that only a small percentage of the regular 6m DX’ers use Clublog.

This powerful tool can only deliver if we all upload our logs to Clublog.

6m activity derived from uploaded logs

Monday, 3 February 2014

Pileup behaviour

This last week has been interesting. Working FT5ZM for an all-time new one was great. Amsterdam Island is well situated and one F2 hop away from South Africa.

As predicted by VOACAP it is/was very easy for me to work them. The predictions showed that we should have had no problem to work them 160m through 15m, but as it turns out we have had many openings on 12m and 10m as well.

The most memorable QSO was the single CW QRP QSO I made with them on 15m using my ZS2AA call.

I worked them with 5 watts and a wet noodle. Dropped my call only once, without resorting to using the /QRP suffix. Only after they replied did I add the /QRP suffix. This was while the pileup from EU and NA was still going strong.

This clearly shows how important it is to call at the right time and to know where the DX is listening.

What is it with the unruly/bad behaviour with the stations calling?

I cannot understand why anyone would continue calling, knowing full well that the DX station is trying to work someone else. The frightening thing is that it is not the “odd” station; it seems that there are many doing the same.

I honestly think it is time that the DX expedition operators teach transgressors a lesson. I.e. work them, but do not enter them in the log. Just maybe the idiots will eventually learn to behave in an appropriate manner.

We really don’t need these LID’s spoiling our fun. I am all for a bit of competitive spirit, but blatant disregard to the instructions given is simply unacceptable.