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H44PT: My last operations as H44PT were March / April 2000

Commitment

UKSMG DX Dinner - sharing memories - making plans

Whilst my return to H44 was my little secret, I could always back out. I went public at the UKSMG DX Dinner in February 1999 and the following month it was all over the 6m DX news in JA. No way out now. Thanks Hatsuo!

 

Timing and Travel

From my cycle 21 logs I knew that March / April was a good time for DX from H44. It's a long way to H44 from Cornwall. With only two 737 flights a week from Brisbane to Honiara careful planning is required. I managed to use up a lot of Air Miles with British Airways scheduled to get me to Brisbane on Saturday 25th March and booked a reasonably cheap ticket onwards to Honiara for Monday 27th March.  

Logistics

My contacts in Solomon Telekom had agreed to provide the site, the mast, the coax, the power supplies, telephone and internet access. In fact everything except the rig and the beer. (And they even provided the beer at the end of my stay!)

Cheap tickets mean, in theory, limited checked baggage and very little carry-on. The reality from London to Brisbane was a 35kg case plus another 15kg in a PC / flight bag which I carried casually as if it was empty. And that was just my IC706MkIIG, small switching PSU, TE Systems 350w PA, keyer and a few other "essential" bits.

Peter VK4APG - waiting to work H44 on 6m Peter Garden VK4APG had kindly offered to:
bulletput me up during my time in Brisbane and
bulletbuild and test a 5ele K6STI for 6m and 10m delta loop designed to pack down into a 2m length of PVC drain pipe.

Thanks Peter - things would have been MUCH harder and much less enjoyable without your help.

Final testing of the K6STI at VK4APG
Dinner in Brisbane on 25 Mar Dinner in Brisbane on 25 Mar - left to right:

Lyn, Wendy, Peter H44PT, Alan VK4BKM, Scott VK4JSR, Peter VK4APG, Adam VK4CP, Michelle, Carol.

I left Brisbane for Honiara with the 35kg case, a 10kg 2m long pipe AND the "lightweight" carry on. For reasons I cannot go into here, my excess baggage was not questioned and I got an emergency exit seat (l-o-t-s of r-o-o-m).

My "secret weapon" was an IC756pro shipped directly from Icom Osaka and waiting for me on arrival in Honiara.

Touchdown

Monday 27th March 2000, 8.30pm and I'm finally stepping down off the Solomon Airlines 737 at Henderson International Airport after 12 years away from Guadalcanal.

Clearing customs was easy - seems I was "known" and my "fishing rod" did not worry anyone. I was met by my old friend and Solomon Telekom colleague Harry Zoleveke. During the drive into town I was struck by how much had changed yet how familiar it all seemed.

The manager at the King Solomon Hotel had granted my request for a hillside room facing out over Iron Bottom Sound - my take off to JA was assured!

It was 2300 local (1200z) by the time I had caught up on 12 years of stories with Harry in the bar. I was wide awake and just had to check if the rig had survived the journey OK. I strung my wire dipole inside the hotel room and switched on. 49.750 + offsets S9++, in-band video wall to wall and YES, V73AT just signing with someone. So, at 1205z on 27th March 2000 H44PT is again in QSO on 6 after a gap of 16 years. Then KH7R, VR2 and many JAs worked in the first hour! Suddenly I was tired.

The Site

I had been offered a number of sites and had chosen Kaimbea (a VHF / UHF PMR and link site in my day) because I was told that it now only had a few microwave links and nothing much else.

Very wet. Dirt roads flooded. I re-learn my dirt driving skills – it’s a hire car – who needs 4wd?

I dive up to the site and my heart sinks. Twin towers bristling with VHF and UHF antennas including what appears to be FM broadcast arrays and a large HF antenna. My worst fears are realised when I enter the building:

bulletracks of PMR
bulleta rural subscriber system
bulletan Alcatel switch
bulleta 1kW FM broadcast station
bulleta suite of HF receivers fed via a broadband distribution amp.

Day One 28th March  (Days are local time)

Plenty of help assembling the antennas!

I am committed, so the beam goes up as planned and operations begin late on Tuesday 28th March. 

The first tune around is not promising - the band is full of low level wandering carriers from the switch. Serious earthing and a big decoupling loop in the coax get rid of most of these unless I beam at the building (ZL direction).

PAOA "power" FM - 1kW on 97.7 gets into the telephone but thankfully not my PC or my front end.

 

Now the problems really begin:

One of the HF receivers has the audio monitor turned up - I notice that whenever I go on transmit on 6m or 10m, the noise level comes up by about 10db – possibly blanking any weak SSB from remote villages.

My first thought is that I am overloading the distributlion amp but I notice that the noise is continuous so long as I am  on TX – even with “zero” output i.e. no audio on SSB. So, not an overload problem.

I am using the IC706mkIIg feeding both the 6m 5ele and the delta loop via a diplexer. I notice that if I disconnect the 10m antenna whilst working on 6m the noise problem disapears. A little more detection work proves that the IC706mkIIg is the sourch of the problem. Limited filtering after the PA means that the rig puts out wide band white noise from top band to 60MHz whatever frequency you happen to be on! It is very low level and not a problem if you are using an ATU and / or LPF / HPF but a real problem for multi band contesters etc. (I now understand that this is a known “feature” of these rigs – I found out the hard way.)

Now the good news; replacing the 706 with my new IC756pro straight from the box removes any trace of the problem. Built in ATU, more robust filtering – I guess you really do get what you pay for!

By the end of day one I am fully operational – and the band is DEAD – not even any night time TE to JA! 

Day Two 29th March Serious Operation

I have internet access, e-mail and 28.885 (which is still just as valuable as it was back in cycle 21 – at least in the pacific).   So, with most emc problems except power line noise solved, I settle in to some serious operation. The power line noise is a real problem – it is from multiple sources and very difficult to cancel.

I am happy with my manual antenna peaking system - I have a micro FM TX on 433.450MHz re-transmitting my RX audio. So, I run outside with my IC-R10 scanner (usually in the rain) and peak on real time signals - then dash back into the freezing A/C room to make the QSOs.

An extra bonus is the daily load shedding power cut around 1pm local for 2 hours. No power = no power line noise but we have a UPS so operation continues!

I commence operations mid afternoon with a few dozen QSOs on 10m ending with a chat with Nev  4W6/VK2QF for a first. We both hope for a similar event on 6m.

09:26z and my first QSO on 6m from Kaimbea – K6MYC/KH6. I follow this rapidly with WH60, V73JK VK8MS+ 2 other VK8s, 4 VR2s, HL, YF1OO, 2 YCs and many JAs until the band dies at 12:59z. Time for bed.

Day Three 30th March

A few QSOs on 28.885 to see what the guys in VK are hearing. My first QSO with Peter VK4APG – now all I have to do is work him on 6m as thanks for the hospitality and antennas.

The FO beacon is in – but nothing else. Back on 10m - chat with KB6NAN and the west coast gang.

08:57 Bang – KH7R 59++ on 6m but nothing else until 10:41 when the band opens to JA. I love working JA pile-ups; I take a break for DX every 20 or so QSOs and evereyone stands by – thank you all for making operating such a pleasure in this part of the world. One hour later, still working JAs and then 6 VR2s come in. More JAs then QRZ DX and at 12:02z I get BV2DP for a new one rapidly followed BG7OH a string of VR2s and two more BVs. Then someone throws the big propagation switch and it’s time for bed.

So, many of the old faithful indicators are still there; FO5DR/B most days, KH6 beacons, 49750 from the north most evenings and lots of commercial trafic above 40MHz to the west. Thank heavens for my beacon keyer and the voice memories of the 756 or my voice would have gone already!

Day Four 31st March

I spend the morning and afternoon on 10m – lots of demand for H44! Running keyer on six but no indicators. Nothing on 6 this evening except 4W6/VK2QFs beacon keyer at 11:35z in four about 20mins at 599+++ (Nev has gone to dinner!)

Day Five 1st April

22:51z (31st) YES! 4W6/VK2QF .115 SSB 59 for a H44/4W6 first on 6. Followed by VK8s OT,MS, AH, GF and VK8RAS/B 599. A few VK4s on 10m then back to six for a nice CW and then SSB QSOs with Bill VK6JQ in Broome.

A nice afternoon and evening on 10m but nothing on 6m.

Day Six 2nd April

Another busy morning and afternoon on 10m but nothing on 6m. 10:15z and finally the night time TE returns –  open  JA6 – but only for a short time – then it’s back to working EU on 10m until closedown at 12:32z.

Day Seven 3rd April

A good start to the day with Jukka VP6BR on 28.885 along with ZLs, VKs, Bob W6BYA and V31PC.

Finally at 23:12 (2nd) something on 6m – VK3SIX/B – I work a couple of VK3s and a VK5  – then back to .885 for an afternoon and evening on 10m.

It’s 09:35z (20:35 local) and I’ve been calling on .110 and .115 for hours. QRZ? - 4X1IF – not loud – not in for long but in the log on SSB for another H44 first – thanks Ralph.

I continue to call but nothing. I return to working EU on 10. 12:23 and the band is open to the north – 11 VR2s and one BV but no JA. Time for bed.

Day Eight 4th April

Things are looking up – 9:20am local and it’s open – three ZL2s and a ZL3 – It’s hard work beaming ZL with the power line noise and telephone switch hash. Back to .885 for a chat with Peter PY5CC.

02:30z and there is Nevs keyer 599+++. I call 4W6/VK2QF and we have a long chat on SSB on an otherwise dead band – great recording here – pieced together from tapes at both ends of the QSO – isn’t technology wonderful! I sign with Nev and there are VK6JQ and VK8MS/M. All quiet again so it’s back to 10m.

It’s a very quiet night then out of nowhere 10:39z N0JK/KH8 and N5OLS/KH8 59++ followed by VK6KZ and VK6JQ. 10:58 – quiet again! Time for bed? NO – 11:48 VK8KTC then the night TE kicks in – BV2DP – a string of VR2s and Okinawans then it flips to the west again 12:46z 9V1JA for another new one. Ooops – north again back to BG7OH, VR2s and wall to wall JAs. 13:32z YB0CBI (not a new one – worked YB0X cycle 21) and 9V1UV. Just a few more to the north then off to bed.

Day Nine 5th April

.885 is buzzin this morning. 22:30z 2 ZL2s, 7  ZL3s,  and a ZL4 on 6m through the hash – plus VK3, VK5 and VK8.

23:39 At last I work Peter VK4APG plus 4 other VK4s on 6m– it’s safe to return via Brisbane! Another chat with Nev in East Timor and further QSOs into VK2,4,6 and 8 – a good mornings work. I go back to .885, chat with Jukka then remain on 10 to work the world.

A quiet evening on 6m – I stay on 10m working EU.  11:42z – open to JA – I work the JA pile until 13:08z – last QSO VR2XMT – no DX tonight.

Day Ten 6th April

The usual morning traffic on .885 then an afternoon and evening on 10m. I leave my keyer running on 6 but nothing.

10:27z – here we go – the JAs are in.  11:19z – band died – videos all gone – chat on .885 then early night?

11:53z – loud 49.750 for 2 minutes – then JA2IGY/B 599 “flutter” – no other signals. Oh well, final CQ before bed……I hear someone saying “hello Peter!” QRZ (eh?) QRZ (can’t be) QRZ again – it is – “PY5CC – Peter you are 52 in GG54RE thanks for the new one via long path!”  I take a while to recover from this but eventually call CQ DX South America and work LU6DRV (for a first), LU1DMA, LU2FFD [best DX @ 26,450km], LU9AEA, LW5DX, and LW5EJU then CX2LI (another first). Then the band drops back to normal TE - BV2DP. After a few minutes the band goes quiet and I go to bed.. Take a look at the path - why didn't I hear any EU??

[Seems I was a very good signal in Argentina - received this recording from LW5EJU H44PT CQDX Thanks Nestor!]

Day Eleven 7th April

I wake up and check the log – was I dreaming? – no, they are all in there and on the mini-disk!

The usual morning chat on .885 then N0JK/KH8 59++  followed by ZK2XO both on 6m.

I talk to Fred PY2XB on .885 – he was out during last nights long path opening – sorry Fred.

I spend the afternoon on 10m as usual.

My  old friends at Solomon Telekom have arranged a party – I meet many people from Telecom and Government. We all try and catch up on 12 years of stories and drinking and by early evening we are all very happy / sad. After a couple of hours to recover I spend the evening on 10m as usual with just a brief late night opening on 6m to VR2 and BV.

H44PT and friends from Solomon Telekom
Doing our bit to keep Solomon Brewery in profit

Day Twelve 8th April

This is it – my last day – I will stay as long as the band is open and work as many new stations as possible before I must QRT.

A good start, Jukka VP6BR is very loud with severe multi path echo on .885. I call him on 50.110 and he is hearing me. We both move to 6m and eventually I get my 559 from Pitcairn – I can only give Jukka 419 but he is in the log 21:10z (7thApr) for a prized first Pitcairn to Solomons on 6m.

ZL2TPY and then my only brief W Coast US opening follows; K6QXY, N0XX, N6CA, N6KK and W6CPL interspersed with 7 VK4s mainly on backscatter.  A few minutes later I am called by HK3YH  for another new one (thanks Hans – nice to work you from UK and Solomon Islands). Then AH8LG and KH2KU and it’s quiet again.

23:02z sees ZK2XO, a VK4 on backscatter and a single JA on sidescatter(?) Then  it is off  to the Yacht Club for Sunday lunch.

It’s 01:56 and I’m back from the yachty and well lubricated! 6m QSOs with VK4CP, VK4BRG and VK3ART get me warmed up for the afternoon session.

On 10m I have my second long chat with  old friend Ray, HS0/G3NOM who I introduced to Thailand  with a short contract about 10years ago – he’s now settled there.

At the end of a long session on 10m at 05:15 suddenly TI5BX pops out of a dead band on six – not a new one but a nice QSO all the same.

I take a four hour break here due to a very heavy thunder storm (and the effects of the yachty).

09:26z (20:26local) the night time TE kicks in early and I start on the JA pile-up. I take regular breaks for “DX only – no JA” and work HL5XF and V73AT around 12:00z, then VK4JH at 12:20 and VK4APH at 12:40 on b/s  plus a couple of KH2s later but no real DX. My last QSO is at 13:04z with JA9IPF just as the band is dying. I return to my hotel room for the last time pleased that my final night has been one for JA – 337 SSB QSOs in 3 ½ hours. To those who did not manage to get into my log – I hope to be back again one day – and perhaps also H40.

Day Thirteen 9th April

I need to be at the airport by 9:30am local. I check out of the hotel early – it is wet, VERY wet. The night security guard helps me take down the beam and delta loop. Each of us wearing only  underwear and flip flops this is not a sight normally seen at 7:30am Sunday morning in Honiara but skin dries more easily than clothing! By 9:0am the antennas are back in their 2m drain pipe for transport, all my gear including my new (and heavy) IC756pro is packed and Kaimbea Station is returned to a reasonable state of tidyness. 

Time to leave--got very wet taking the beam down before the mad drive to Henderson Field.

I have said many goodbyes over the weekend but Harry Zoleveke is at the airport, as he was when I arrived, for a final farewell. My three large items of checked baggage weigh in at 65kg against the allowance of  20kg. I am told the excess baggage charge but after many smiles, long hand shakes and a little help from my friends, I am given three baggage tags and a boarding pass. After this long process I am unable to hide the true weight of my carry on bag (>20kg) and this gets a final wagging finger and a smile as I depart through immigration. Farewell Solomon Islands.

Summary of Operations

Here are my H44 6m results:

Unlike VK & ZL, condx were not good from H44. However 23 countries worked as follows:

New countries (for H44PT)

4W6, 4X, 9V, BV, BY, CX, LU, PY, VR6

New entities

V7, VR2

Previously worked countries (but nice to work you all again!!!)

HK, HL, JA (873 QSOs), KH2, KH6, KH8, TI, VK, W, YB, ZK2, ZL.

Total 1051 6m QSOs. Best DX LU2FFD 26,450km!!

 

G8BCG UKSMG Member # 1570

G8BCG / H44PT SMIRK Member # 4780

G8BCG UKSMG Member # 1570

 H44PT / G8BCG contact details: E-mail: Peter@h44pt.org.uk