Sunday, 28 September 2014

CTARC Report on Meeting of 27 Sep '14

On Saturday, 27 September 2014 at 14h00 B: the Cape Town Amateur Radio Centre held its September Meeting of 2014. In spite of cool-ish weather, the meeting was well attended.

Above: CTARC members gather for the meeting
Above: Hans / ZS1HA, back in Cape Town from his extended trip to Europe

Our chairman Rob / ZS1SA opened the meeting and mentioned forthcoming events, such as the Field Day and End-of-Year function. Details of these will appear on this blog and in the CTARC Sunday morning bulletins. New members and visitors were also welcomed and given the opportunity to introduce themselves.

Above: Rob / ZS1SA opens the meeting
Then we were treated to a special treat in the form of a call on 20m (14195 kHz USB) and report to the Club from Paul / ZD9ZS, who is currently on his DXpedition at Tristan da Cunha. Paul and Nigel / ZD9XF are doing well and continue to work their pile-ups (Nigel has logged around 17000 CW contacts thus far). They are scheduled to close down the DX station on 3 October when the SA Agulhas returns to Tristan. However, as always, weather will play a big role as to when (and whether) a vital two tons of supplies for the isolated community are offloaded, and when Paul and Nigel set sail back for Cape Town. They hope to set up a HF station on the vessel so they can work QSO's while in transit back home. In the mean time, they both remain active on HF for the last few days of their DXpedition.

Above: Rob in QSO with Paul / ZD9ZS, while Hylton / ZR1HPC looks on.
Above: Owing to the improved solar figures, comms on 20m with ZD9ZS were good.
Rob then introduced the main speaker, Dennis / ZS1AU, who spoke on DXing and Propogation and the skills required to work the number of stations to achieve the treasured DXCC certificate ("The first 300 are easy to get; it's the last few that take decades!"). You may be surprised to read that, while Dennis has been an active ham for most his life, it was only in the 1980's that he decided to really pursue the DXCC. From then on, there was no stopping him!

There are the basic requirements -  having a good transceiver and antenna, as well as hearing sufficiently good to copy weak DX accurately through the noise floor. Then, while much propogation information is available through the Internet, knowledge of when and to where the bands open (specific to YOUR location) is something that can only be discovered with lots of experience. In addition to following the HF beacons as indicators of band openings, Dennis encouraged hams to join regular international HF nets (and to hear which DX stations calling into these nets can be copied locally). Getting involved in international HF contests is also useful to build up the necessary operating skills and to learn how to cope with the unexpected!

The current solar cycle, times of day and seasons of year, the prospects for propogation in the future and the choice of working Long- or Short-Path DX arond the Great Circle route were also covered. Dennis also showed us his collections of QSL cards and told us some hair-raising tales of entire collections that get lost in the post en route to the ARRL. (The lesson here - scan in copies of your precious QSL cards as a backup...).

All in all, another great meeting and well worth the effort to attend. We look forward to the next meeting on 25 October 2014.

Above, left to right: Dennis / ZS1AU is introduced by Rob / ZS1SA
Above: Dennis' talk was most interesting and informative
Above: The Herculean effort Dennis had to make to collect the QSL's from
over 300 stations - and the fact that they were almost lost in the US postal system -
is a very emotional subject for him!
Above: Dennis shows off one of his vast albums of QSL cards
Above: Pick a card - any card! Here Dennis dared the audience to ask him to show off a card
from any DX entity. He has the lot (plus a few extra to spare) !
Above: Unfortunately Dennis was unable to show us a
QSL card from Outer Wogga-Wogga. But he does have
all of the rest!
Above: Dennis shows his Alt-Azimuth map based on Cape Town.
It shows the bearings and distances of all the continents and countries in the world.
Essential for knowing where to point the beam antenna.
Above: Fred / ZS1FK, who travelled all the way down from St Helena Bay to attend the meeting.
Note the interesting homebrew container behind the seat of his Honda!