ZS6EZ's Report on ZD9IR

Last updated 2002-10-10

Chris de Beer ZS6RI fired up on the air in late September as ZD9IR. Chris is the team leader and medic for the South African team at the weather station on Gough Island. Although part of the same DXCC country, Gough is geographically distinct from Tristan da Cunha where most of the ZD9 hams reside. The island is uninhabited save for the weather team of about six. Team members typically stay for a year, and are replaced by ship around September.

As always, the Northern California DX Foundation (NCDXF) has provided support. Chris is using an amplifier that they donated previously. They also helped him to acquire a second radio, to ensure that his well-travelled IC735 doesn't leave him in the lurch. He also has a Force 12 C3H, specially hardened to survive nasty weather, and an assortment of wires, poles and insulators to make low band antennas. Unfortunately, environmental concerns have made it difficult to take more elaborate low band antennas.

Chris enjoys CW, SSB and RTTY, and has exceptional skills on all three modes. His track record includes a year on Marion Island as ZS8IR, during which he delighted the world with regular low band activity. He has also operated as 5H4IR, 5H9IR and as part of the very successful ZK1XXP DXpedition.

Chris will be active on all bands from 1,8 to 30 MHz, including the WARC bands. With a year of activity, rest assured that you'll have a reasonable crack at him! While his work commitments must obviously enjoy priority, those who can remember the ZS8IR operation will testify that Chris will not be hard to find.

QSLs are again being handled by Chris R. Burger ZS6EZ. You can find full QSLing policies on his Web site. The short version: Direct cards will be dealt with as they arrive, and all unconfirmed non-duplicate contacts will be confirmed via the bureau after his return. There may be some delay initially, until cards can be printed. We won't start exchanging logs before the cards are printed, so the QSL manager cannot answer questions about the log contents. We may eventually put a log checker on the Internet. If this happens, you'll find a link on this page.

Life on Gough Island

The tiny community on Gough Island lives in isolation for most of the year. The intermittently publish newsletters to at least pretend to keep in touch with the outside world. You can have a look at their newsletter to get an idea of what it is really like. Of course, you'll need a PDF reader. If you don't already have this useful tool, you can download one from Adobe's Web site.

Gough Gazette 47#1, dated 2001-10.
Gough Gazette 47#2, dated 2001-11.
Gough Gazette 47#3, dated 2001-12.
Gough Gazette 47#4, dated 2002-01.

Schedule Requests

I am receiving dozens of sked requests every week. It would not be practical to try to honour these requests. It is very likely that most of the needs will be filled within the next few months, as Chris will probably make tens of thousands of contacts. If you really, badly, desperately need something and you don't catch him by June or so, we can try and help. Until then, it's more productive if Chris spends his time working the masses. I hope you'll agree, or at least understand.

QSLing status

Cards arrived from the printers during February. Everything received up to the end of January was mailed during March. Over 1000 letters have already been mailed. You can check the latest QSLing status elsewhere on this Web site.

Bureau cards will only be processed on Chris's return, around the end of 2002.


2001-10-01: The supply ship has left for the mainland, and Chris has started his first tentative operations. He has been heard mainly on 18,1 MHz. His barefoot signals should become more prominent once the beam is assembled and all the equipment unpacked.

10-05: Chris has now made around 800 QSOs in four days of intermittent operation. He's been on 10, 15, 17, 20 and 30 m. Sounds like a good start!

10-08: Chris has the amplifier up and running. The beam should follow within a week or so, as Chris gets the initial chores and paperwork under control.

10-11: After some trouble with overheating in the transmitter, Chris has put his surgical skills to good use and fixed a problem with the fan. Both radios and the amplifier are now in good health, and Chris expects to be able to get the antennas flying in the next week or so.

10-23: All the preparatory work is done, and Chris expects to erect the tribander before this weekend. He has well over 1000 QSOs in the log, using the loaded wire antenna. 18 MHz is the biggest single band thus far, accounting as it does for almost 500 QSOs.

10-24: Chris has installed and tested the C3H. We saw around 2 S units of improvement over the wire antenna, and something like 4 S units of F/S. The SWR is not the greatest, probably because of the proximity to the metal roof, but it looks like there is gain and directivity. What more could we ask? Chris has promised to send some pictures soon.

10-29: Chris wanted to make a serious effort in the CQWW DX Phone contest this weekend, and was dismayed to find that conditions were absolutely rotten. On Saturday, he managed to make only about 200 QSOs. He called CQ for several hours, with no responses and no signals heard on the band. Fortunately, things improved on Sunday and he was able to end the contest with something like 1370 QSOs and a million points. At least a new record for ZD9 is pretty certain! I personally had underestimated the difference in propagation between us, as what little time I could spend listening this weekend produced continuous signals from all over the world. Gough Island is something like 2500 km from Cape Town, or 4000 km from where most of the ZS6 stations live. The QSO total has now passed 2500, with 38 zones and over 110 countries in the log.

11-06: Chris has advised that his 40 m antenna is working well. He has even been hearing Pacific stations. This morning, he had a good run of Europeans and Americans on CW.

11-20: Chris has been working on low band antennas. He now only has the air-cooled dummy load that the bases uses as a standby antenna, but has already made some contacts on 40 m. With real antennas, he should be a lot louder.

12-01: Chris made another million-plus effort with something like 1700 QSOs in the CW contest, with another ZD9 record fairly certain.

12-10: Chris has not made many contacts recently, as the antennas are being buffeted by 80 kt winds. The SWR swings all over the place, so he can't really get on the air, although the antennas are intact. He has started working on RTTY equipment. Almost 6000 contacts are in the log.

2002-01-15: This last weekend, Chris was very active. There are now over 6500 QSOs in the log, with 40% CW, 60% SSB and a few RTTY contacts. The vast majority of contacts are above 10 MHz. We're expecting QSL blanks in February, and the labels database for all requests received before the end of November has been completed. All those requests are expected to be answered within a week of the cards arriving.

01-21: This weekend the bands were very busy, with VP8THU and others using up a lot of spectrum space. Chris had mixed success, with limited propagation. He did have one good run on 18 MHz SSB. The week before was limited, with gales of up to 70 knots. Chris phoned me one night, with the strain audible in his voice, asking me which way the beam should be turned to minimise wind exposure. The C3H held up, though.

01-29: Chris reports a busy weekend, with over 8000 QSOs in the log so far. It's been hard to find a spot on the band, with the VP8GEO operation's huge pileups! Chris has maintained the 40/60 mode split, with no new progress on RTTY. A new Super Combo Keyer recently arrived on an unscheduled supply ship. Chris now has it running, and can now call CQ on CW and SSB while busy with chores on the computer. His activity level should pick up considerably.

02-20: I've had trouble keeping in touch with Chris, as the satellite link has been down most of the time. According to the DX Summit, Chris has been fairly active. The last few days show activity on 28 MHz SSB and 10 MHz CW. I have the logs up to 27 January, and will get the remainder a.s.a.p.

02-27: Chris is well over 10 000 QSOs now. He continues to be active, with the DX Summit showing 14 and 28 MHz activity, both CW and SSB, over the past three days.

03-26: The satellite link has been down intermittently, and it is difficult to communicate with Chris. He has now passed 12 500 contacts, and continues to be reasonably active. All QSL requests received up to the end of January have been mailed. I expect to receive logs for February and March soon, and will process those cards within a week or two.

04-09: Almost 15 000 QSOs are in the log, up to 04-08. Chris is reasonably active. The DX Summit spots often show "Strong" and "no takers", indicating that Chris is at least making a dent in the demand.

05-13: Chris has passed the 18 000 mark now. He is regularly on most of the bands above 7 MHz.

05-16: Bad news! The first real winter storm has destroyed the C3H. Gusts of 90 knots were recorded, and the antenna is in pieces. Chris has promised some pictures. The Roaring Forties ain't the best place for antennas! While the beam has helped the signal strength tremendously, Chris is hopeful that he'll be able to maintain a strong presence with wire antennas. He plans to emphasise CW a little more in future, to make better use of what propagation is available.

05-18: The antenna pictures show that the damage is perhaps repairable. We will try to get replacement parts on the last supply ship, although the schedule will be tight.

06-13: Less than a month after the antenna disaster, a new antenna is on the way on a supply ship out of Cape Town. Rusty Epps W6OAT, Tom Schiller N6BT of Force 12 and the NCDXF Board of Directors all bent over backwards to arrange logistics and funding. We expect that Chris will have the new beam up and running by month-end.

In the mean time, Chris has been very busy working the US West Coast, usually by long path. I've had piles of letters and dozens of emails from ecstatic Left Coasters, as this has been Chris's first real success into that part of the world.

06-30: The new antenna, funded by the NCDXF and supplied in record time by Force 12, made it onto the ship with less than a day to spare. It was installed today. Chris has added some guy lines in the most crucial directions, and the new C3S/H has a much beefier boom than the original C3/H. Chris says that some real nasty weather is approaching, and the antenna will prove its mettle (or otherwise!) within a few days. Here's hoping!

08-26: Chris has had a problem with his amplifier, and is now running barefoot. However, he continues to have good success into most parts of the world. His return has now been fixed. He will sail for Cape Town in the first days of October, but will have to start dismantling antennas around mid-September. About three weeks remain; don't miss the opportunity!

09-10: Chris has taken down the beam, and is very busy packing in preparation for the arrival of the ship. However, he continues to be active intermittently, using the wire antenna.

09-16: The ship has arrived, and the handover is in progress. In a few days, the ship will leave the island to lay some buoys. When it does, Chris will have a little more time to play radio. He is hoping to make several hundred more QSOs. They will probably sail for Cape Town around 1 October.

10-10: Chris has just called from Cape Town. He's back in the country, bringing this adventure to an end. I expect to see him next week, and will see if we can add some stories to this site.

Pirate activity

I get requests for non-existent contacts all the time. There is some genuine confusion, and some wishful thinking involved. However, when a dozen people request confirmations for similar contacts around the same time, it is neither wishful thinking nor confusion. Instead, it is clear that someone has been having some perverse fun at DXers' expense.

I will list all known pirate activity on this site. If you made contacts around this time, don't bother to send a QSL request. I will simply return the request with an explanatory note. If you refrain, you'll save us both a lot of time, and yourself some money.

Date       Times        Band      Mode  Area        Note

2002-09-21 21:23-21:28  18,1 MHz  SSB   Japan     
2001-10-10 21:41-21:51  18,1 MHz  CW    Japan       Chris went QRT at 21:38
2001-10-28 18:51-18:56  28 MHz    SSB   Eastern US  CQWW Contest
2002-03-12 21:30-21:42  14 MHz    SSB   Eastern US

This page is hosted courtesy of Bernie van der Walt ZS4TX. Check out his Super Combo Keyer. It provides full two-radio support on CW and SSB, with no external switching required. It supports most of the popular logging packages. Join the Big League with a minimum of fuss and bother!

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