January 19, 2017


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Here on www.dxcoffee.com, you can find an interesting interview with Jerry van der Goot, PH9HB. Beside being a passionate ham operator, Dutchman Jerry also is a Boeing 737NG captain for a carrier based at Amsterdam-Schiphol. During flights, when duties permit, he often can be found on the HF ham bands operating from the cockpit as PH9HB/AM using the aircraft's HF radio. "AM" stands for "Aeronautical Mobile" and is added to the radio amateur callsign when the operator is aboard an aircraft in flight. Just as "MM", or "Maritime Mobile", is added to the callsign when aboard a ship at sea.

It's always a thrill to work an /AM station. I've done it only once, with ON/GM7DIE/AM on 20m back in January 2014. I also managed to pick up Jerry's signals, but so far I've never had the pleasure and luck of making a 2-way contact with him. Jerry's /AM activities always attract a lot of attention, and getting through the pile-up isn't easy.

Jerry PH9HB (source)
PH9HB/AM take off (source)
As Jerry explains in the interview, the antenna used on the Boeing 737NG airplane is a so-called Shunt antenna. More information on this antenna type can be found here.

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January 08, 2017

Meet Tom Christian

Last edited: 05.03.2017

Of all remote places on this planet, to me, one of the most fascinating and most intriguing has always been Pitcairn Island (IOTA OC-044). This tiny island in the southern Pacific Ocean has quite a remarkable history, and probably few places speak to the imagination as much as Pitcairn does. The island was settled in 1790 by the British mutineers of the HMS Bounty and the Polynesian men and women that accompanied them, an event retold in numerous books and films since, and therefore still well known today worldwide as the famous Mutiny on the Bounty.

Pitcairn forms the last remaining British Overseas Territory in the Pacific and actually is a group of four islands; Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno. Pitcairn Island, the second largest of the group, measuring about 4 km from west to east, is the only inhabited one. Adamstown, called after John Adams, one of the Bounty mutineers, is the capital and only settlement on the island. The entire population of Pitcairn lives in the capital and counts about 50. The HMS Bounty was set to fire by the mutineers and its wreckage still can be found today at the bottom of Pitcairn's Bounty Bay, where in 1957 it was discovered by an explorer of National Geographic. Pitcairn Island can only be reached by boat.

Tom Christian (1935-2013) (source)
Most of the residents of Pitcairn are descendants of the Bounty mutineers. So is Tom Christian (1935-2013). To the radio amateur community Tom was probably the most well known Pitcairn Islander, as he was a very active ham operator holding the callsign VR6TC and later VP6TC. Tom was the great-great-great-grandson of the leader of the Bounty mutineers, Fletcher Christian. Tom Christian also was the Chief Radio Officer of the official radio station on Pitcairn with callsign ZBP, and for a while also worked as a radio operator on a freighter ship. In 1952, at age 17, he got a training in Wellington, New Zealand to become radio telegraph operator. Tom's wife Betty Christian also holds a ham licence and was assigned the callsign VP6YL. Both Tom and Betty also regularly used ham radio to contact two of their four daughters, Jacqueline VK2CD and Raelene ZL2RAE, in Australia and New Zealand. Imagine what shortwave radio meant to the isolated Pitcairn Islanders before satellite communications and the internet found its way to the island. Unfortunately, OM Tom Christian in 2013, at the age of 77, became a Silent Key. In 1983 he was appointed the MBE - Most Excellent Order of the British Empire. Tom Christian was one of the most sought after operators in ham radio ever.

QSL card from Tom Christian from the collection of Jeff Murray K1NSS. Photo courtesy of Jeff Murray.
My interest in Pitcairn was rekindled by a recent posting of Jeff, Murray K1NSS on the Facebook QSL Chasers group, and of course by the announcement of the upcoming VP6EU 2017 DXpedition to Pitcairn, which will take place from February 16th to March 5th, 2017!

Above you can see a photo of a QSL card from Tom Christian from the collection of Jeff Murray. It's lying on top of a copy of the book The Bounty Trilogy. Jeff did not contact Christian himself but found the QSL card in a collection he purchased at a local flea market. The card is a very interesting piece of ham radio history indeed, and definitely is a wonderful keepsake!

Tom Christian in his shack in 1988 (source)
My fascination for Pitcairn was born back in the 1980s when I was still a teenager and an avid shortwave listener. It was born from a small article in RAM - Radio Amateur Magazine written by Dutch journalist and top shortwave listener and DXer Michiel Schaay. Schaay had a column in the monthly RAM magazine with listening tips for SWLs. There was no internet at the time, and club bulletins and magazines like these were the only source of information in those days. Imagine how I was looking forward every month for the new issue of  "the RAM" to appear at the newsstand. Schaay had picked up Tom Christian's transmissions from radio station ZBP a couple of times on 18.407 MHz with official radiotelephone traffic from Pitcairn to New Zealand. Needless to say that from then on I was monitoring this frequency whenever I could, unfortunately to no avail.

Article by Michiel Schaay in Radio Amateur Magazine nr. 104 of September 1989. If you look closely on the map on the southern part of the island you will find the location of the radio station.
Pitcairn is on top of my list of places I'd still very much like to make contact with one day. I'll have to depend on DXpeditions, as I believe there are no active hams left among the inhabitants of Pitcairn. It's going to be a tough one anyway, as for my "little pistol" station from the Netherlands, the Pacific always has been the most difficult part of the world to reach. But who knows, a couple of months ago I also managed to make a contact with Easter Island, which I also thought would be impossible to work. CW hopefully will do the trick someday. I'm not holding my breath though.

Addendum 05.03.2017
An interesting story dealing with the history of wireless stations on Pitcairn can be found here on the blog of Shortwave Central.

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January 07, 2017

A package from Japan - Ultimate3S WSPR transmitter kit, a little project for the new year

Last edited: 08.01.2017

Just before the year's end I was surprised by the delivery of a small package from Japan. It turned out to be the Ultimate3S WSPR transmitter kit that I had ordered from QRP Labs. I was surprised that the package came from Japan, as I thought QRP Labs is a UK based company, and this is also where I expected the package to come from.

This will be a little project for the new year. The Ultimate3S is a standalone 250 mW WSPR transmitter not needing any PC to generate the WSPR signals. I've also ordered the GPS receiver kit with it, which will be used in conjunction with the U3S. I've purchased both a 20m and 40m plug-in Low Pass Filter, but my main focus will be on the 40m band. I'm planning on building a 40m band C-Pole wire antenna and put it up in sloping configuration to use together with the U3S. It's all highly experimental, and I'd also like to see if this antenna can improve the reception on 40m of SOTA CW stations within Europe. With the often extremely weak QRP signals of SOTA activators, even the slightest improvement is very welcome.

See also my blog entry about the use of the U3S in High Altitude Balloon payloads.

Stay tuned!

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January 01, 2017

Various QSL cards

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Here's the QSL card received recently for my contact with the F8UFT expedition to the Mont Blanc! It's one of my most prized QSL cards! Many thanks to Gérald F6HBI. For more information on the expedition, also see my blog entries of December 11th and November 12th.

This is the most recent batch of bureau cards for PD7MDJ / PA7MDJ. Picked up at the local VERON club station on 16.12.2016. Lots of cards received via Global QSL this time, including quite a few for my SOTA contacts with HB9CBR/P.