I mentioned in a previous post that I had a brief chat with Dick ZS6BUN over dinner at the RSGB Convention. He talked about VHF activity in South Africa and we each have an IC-9700. QRZ.com informs us that he is interested in weak signal work at VHF. Dick touched on the subject of TEP on six metres. Of course, not everyone at the table was into VHF so it was only a brief conversation on the subject.
“For some years stations in South Africa (ZS) have had a 70MHz allocation. The 9000km path between the UK and South Africa is particularly interesting as both ends lie at the extremity of the trans-equatorial zones. A contact over this TEP path is quite possible around Sunspot maximum and should take place when conditions are particularly good on the 50MHz band. Possible openings between the UK and South Africa will probably occur during the month of October.”
I am a newcomer or at least very late returner to 4 metres; I have limited experience and 50 watts to a quarter-wave vertical. However, I am very much interested in VHF propagation and was surprised by the comment about TEP on 70 MHz as far as the UK is concerned.
I emailed Dick in South Africa to ask him if he had any knowledge about this. He replied that he worked TEP on 50 MHz but was not equipped for 70 MHz However his friend Willem ZS6WAB is active on four metres TEP and has been for quite a long time. This was useful information and set me on the trail to find out more.
It turns out that Willem has worked into Europe on 4 metres and it looks as though he is the SSB record holder for distance although there is one longer into Italy via ISCAT. So there have been TEP QSOs between South Africa and Rome and to Mallorca.
What I cannot find is any reference to 70 MHz TEP QSOs further north in Europe, and apparently not to UK.
I would welcome any additional information. It is just conceivable that UK – South Africa contacts at 70 MHz could be made via TEP and some other mode of propagation, maybe very enhanced tropo, even Sporadic E, but both SpE and TEP are seasonal (SpE around the solstices and TEP around the equinoxes) so they may not coincide. TEP is apparently via chordal hop relying on two reflections via the F layer without an intervening ground reflection. One of my correspondents has suggested that the “geometry” may not be right for contacts beyond around 7,500 km on four metres. Has that distance been exceeded? I do not know.
An exciting couple of days after my previous post about working the Spanish station on 4 metres!
Yesterday things started to happen on 144 MHz and in just over 20 minutes from 1510z I worked IK0FTA, IK0SMG, IK0RMR, and IK0BZY all in JN61, all 59. I did not hear anything else in terms of DX on the band though some other stations did. I felt pretty pleased with this “haul.”
Then, much to my surprise (again) having gone back to 70 MHz for a look just after 1800z I worked 9A2SB (JN95) and 9A1Z (JN86). My 50 watts SSB and small Moonraker vertical are doing well, far better than I hoped. I think I rather like 4 metres. I certainly did not expect this sort of DX on 4 with the antenna I have, but this is terrific! I have worked just four squares and three of them are rather distant, and 9A2SB is nearly 1,500 km away.
As I mentioned last time, I purchased a small vertical antenna for four metres. It is the Moonraker SQBM412. A friend of mine, Mike, G8EFG kindly installed it on my garage roof a couple of weeks ago, and it is only less than four metres above ground, although my QTH is quite decent for VHF.
Activity is lower than I had hoped on 70 MHz and I had managed to find just one station which was an FM contact. Then last Friday, 3rd June I heard a station on SSB calling CQ at about 30 miles distant. He was very weak. I called him but he either did not hear me or he was looking for DX as there seemed a possibility of Sporadic E propagation for better appointed stations than mine.
Then tuning around I heard EA4CZV calling CQ DX and I called him more in hope than expectation. After some persistence on both sides we completed the SSB contact and I have IN80 as a new square and actually only my second one as the other is the guy down the road I worked on FM.
Of course, with a vertical and not a yagi I have little or no antenna gain but maybe the polarisation factor is less critical at this sort of distance, which was 1280 km, not to be sniffed at.
I am therefore very pleased with the antenna and have said so in my review. Maybe I can work some more DX with it on four metres. It is going to be fun trying!
I have put my money where my mouth is as they say and have purchased a small vertical antenna for four metres, or 70 MHz if you prefer. I have also acquired a stand to put it on, with a short pole to which to clamp it. I just need some help to put it where I want it, so that is the next step.
Of course, a small vertical is quite modest as opposed to a yagi for 4, but with the Sporadic E season coming up I might work a little DX, especially as polarisation may not be critical over the long paths of Es propagation. I hope I will be on the air in time to find out, with my IC-7100, which is still in the box it came in. I shall see…
I also look forward to working stations in the UK too. I gather activity is not high, but there are apparently pockets of amateurs active in various localities. I certainly want to give 70 MHz a good go and will put on my thinking cap about 50 MHz too.