I have just returned from taking part in the DX expedition to Swaziland. I certainly enjoyed the experience and had a lot of fun. In some respects the event was more successful than anticipated and then again in some other respects, a bit disappointing.
My intention all along was to operate primarily on 6M and I was hoping that conditions would allow for a few QSOs via TEP/F2 propagation. Lance W7GJ had requested a sked via EME. To be quite honest, I was not very optimistic of achieving success. I had heard from various sources that local QRM was a huge problem on 6M and that a QSO via EME was not likely due to this issue.
There were many changes to my plans and preparations for this event. Initially I planned to take along a small 3 element Yagi, the 6M3SS and a lightweight mast. However, after conceding to the EME request, I had no option, but to consider erecting a more substantial antenna with more gain. Daniel ZS6JR from CQ DX African Safaris, was involved with the DX expedition and I approached him to see if he could help. He said that I could use his 7 element M2 - 6M7JHV. This is a big antenna, so I had to arrange for a more substantial mast. My good friend Hal ZS6WB, kindly loaned me a 3 section mast and tipper base that was strong enough to support this beam.
At the end of the day, I ended up using the 6M7JHV mounted 8m AGL, the transceiver an ICOM-756 Pro 3 and a SPE Expert amplifier 1K-FA running 400 Watts.
At moonset of day 1, Saturday, I worked Lance W7GJ and ironically Mike W6MYC of M2 fame. The following day, Sunday, I worked G8BCG and W1JJ and on Monday I worked K2ZD. The signals were surprisingly strong and the EME QSOs were completed fairly quickly. I worked all the stations I could decode and see on the waterfall.
I had fairly high hopes that we would have a fair chance of TEP openings into Europe, since the timing was near perfect. March and April (equinox) are known as the best months for TEP. However, the solar activity was disappointingly low. We had the briefest of openings on 3 occasions and I only managed to work 18 European stations
The following stations were worked via TEP / F2: EA7KW, EA7DUD, CT1ANO, EA5BM, EA3LL, EA3MS, 5B8AD, 5B4MF, IK0VAQ, IK0FTA, I0WTD, IK0EIE, 9A2AA, IT9HLR, I6BQI and IZ8DWF
During the mornings, I concentrated on Meteor Scatter (MS) and managed to work: ZS6NK, ZS5Y, ZS2ACP, ZS1AGF, ZS6BUN, Z21LV and via Tropo ZS6HA and ZS6JON
For the balance of the time, I used a memory keyer, calling every 30 seconds. I must have made several thousand CQ’s and ended up with a handful of QSOs. I guess looking at the effort versus the result, it hardly seems worthwhile, but I have no regrets. As far as I know, North America has never been worked from Swaziland via EME on 6 metres. I am not sure about the other continents?
I was a little disappointed to learn that LoTW will not be used by 3DA0FC.
73, Pierre ZS6A
|3DA0FC Swaziland 6M station|