Having being involved in the organising of the Jordan expedition I decided to ask around the 50MHz fraternity to see what Country was needed by most European amateurs, and, was within possible sporadic E distance, so that a possible dxpedition may be mounted in June 1995. Monaco and Hungary were the most popular request, but, it was highly unlikely that a permit would be granted to an outsider, as, their own residents were not even permitted to use 50MHz. After the success of Eric 5T5JC in Mauritania I looked at the Cape Verde Islands with interest, these Islands are situated just a few degrees further south of Mauritania and about 600kms out in the Atlantic Ocean. The distance from Europe seemed possible via ES, and so, having worked D44BC in 1989 via F2 I wrote a letter to Jślio D44BC to see what he thought about the idea, and, on returning from the Jordan expedition a reply was received.
You were wondering why Geoff had problems getting out?
Jślio, without hesitation, offered the expedition his shack and call, and now operators, equipment, flights and a hotel had to be found. The 1994 50MHz JY7SIX operators were approached, unfortunately Paul G4CCZ and Mike G3SED were already booked with Richard G4CVI for the Camel Trophy event in Belize (V31RD), this left Neil G0JHC, Nick G3KOX and Tom DL7AV. Neil was game, but taking time off in June was very difficult due to his college setting up the forthcoming examinations, and Neil had to be there. Tom DL7AV did not want the chance of missing a new Country as he was at the top of the 50MHz ladder in Germany and wanted to stay there! Nick G3KOX was thinking about it, as, the cost was quite high and he never knew what part of the World he would be in at that time. In fact, speaking of costs, here is an account of just what costs go into giving you a new Country on the bands. Basing costs on leaving the UK, the flight to Lisbon, then Sal, then onto Sao Vicente, 14 nights in the hotel, and then returning back to the UK was an amazing £1200 per person, this may I add, is not including food, equipment insurance and health insurance, and flights to the UK. So, around £1800 per person would seem the norm, was it going to be worth it we asked ourselves?
Meet Julio D44BC (in the foreground).
By mid January a kind lady called Marilyn at Travelmaker in Jersey (part of the Co-op Homemaker group) came up with a package that was just right, it fitted our needs perfectly. There were a few hiccups like inter island flights were not running after everything was booked but Marilyn ironed them out. Towards the end of January, Jślio was contacted several times by phone and fax, everything was coming together and the final details needed fine tuning!
By mid March our very kind lady at the travel shop had received all the reservations from London, Lisbon and the Cape Verde Islands, it was now a question of having a few inoculations, settling the bill, and just waiting. With only two months before departure equipment and operator briefing had to be gone through, no mistakes could be afforded, as, we were operating within Julios house, plus theres no way on Cape Verde to get that odd plug or cable that may be required.
Well two months is not that long to wait, time just flies and here we are, May 1995 and ready to leave, it was hoped that another two operators would be travelling with us, but this did not materialise due to the cost involved, however, with a total of three operators, and a possible visit of Nick G3KOX, we thought that we could handle the operating sufficiently. Armed with radios and equipment off we went.
It was an early start as Anthony, GJ7DTA and I were on the 0715 from Jersey to Heathrow, on arrival at London we were greeted by rain and more rain. After a couple of hours waiting we boarded our first long haul flight to Lisbon, a few hours later and we stepped into 25 degrees of beautiful sunshine, but where was our tour representative to meet us? We hunted around the airport but it seemed that our transfers to the hotel were just not there, rather than waste any more valuable time we jumped into a taxi (mistake #1!), it seemed that we had got a Nigel Mansell taxi driver, he weaved and dodged everything in sight, what an experience. At last we arrived at the Hotel Penta in Lisbon, room 1632 sir a voice said, it was on the 16th floor and the lift worked!! Up went the dipole and out came the FT650, guess what? Buzzzzzzzzzz, yes CT video at S9+, so we quickly packed up the radio and departed for the bar.
After breakfast we returned back to Lisbon airport, when we checked in there was a little hiccup regarding our visas in Cape Verde, we did not have them in our possession as the travel company had made arrangements, luckily I had a letter with me to state that fact otherwise we may well have been refused to board for Cape Verde. So, off we went to Sal International Airport which was a 3 hour 40 minute flight. Anthony and I were becoming a little confused with the time differences, when we arrived in Lisbon we had to add one hour, on arrival in Sal we had to go back 3 hours, what really was GMT? well, it was one hour ahead of local time, which seems strange when in the UK we are GMT or one hour ahead of GMT! As we touched down in Sal and disembarked the heat hit us, we had gone from cold wet London to Sal with an increase in temperatures of at least 18 degrees. Our last flight was onto the Island of Sao Vicente and that took another 40 minutes, this time as we touched down we both thought that we had landed on the Moon, the landscape was incredible, no trees just volcanic mountains. Julio was waiting for us, and after baggage collection he whisked us away in his gleaming white Audi. We arrived at the hotel to be greeted with sorry but we do not have a reservation for you, oh dear, what happens now I thought, Julios charm sorted things out and we were allowed to stay in the hotel until June 12th. After a few formalities at Julios house he then took us onto the flat patio roof, at first sight I wanted to go home!
After travelling 4500kms we were greeted with this! Now look at the mountains in the background! But despite all things were VERY successful considering we needed 3 hops to work well into Europe/USA. Number one tower was very badly damaged, like the top was bent clean in half. Number two tower also had serious problems, the rotator brake and gears were destroyed in the gales earlier in the year. Mountains surrounded us, what were we going to do? after a 4500kms trip we had to make the best of things, things couldnt get any worse could they? well the answer was yes! Julios trusty friend Champ (an eight month old Rottweiller) came to see what was going on, he had a good sniff at us both as we stood frozen to the floor and dare not move, then along came the three German Shepherds, could there be any more surprises? Eventually we got to bed thinking that June 1st would be some working day.
Its 7am and time to go to work, get the 50MHz beam up first, thats the priority and thats what we did. Lela, an employee of a local company had been seconded for a few days to help with the rebuilding of the antennas, this was a great help, as lifting massive beams required more than one person. We hadnt brought any silicon rubber to waterproof the antenna connections, Julio then told us that is wasnt a problem as it had NOT rained for three years! The island by the way is totally dependent on a desalination plant to provide all the water, electricity is provided by the local power station which is subsidised by 30% of wind generators donated by Denmark. (glad we worked some OZs!) At 1430z the first signal was heard on 50MHz, CU3URA/6 was S8, however there was no sign of Costas, CU1EZ. We then brought the TS940 from Julios old shack and placed it in the new operating area in his house, unfortunately when I switched it on it was dead, what else was going to go wrong? An hour later and it was working and the rest of the day was spent building and improvising on the antenna system. We needed 28.885MHz, but the 10mtr beams centre insulators were all broken except one, after careful thought the boom was chopped off with the reflector element, this would then be tuned to make a rotary dipole, and it worked very well!
The Main Radio, an FT650 with Super Keyer, was left running as a beacon with full QSK. We also had a Kenwood TS60 as backup radio which was donated to Julio along with the 5-element antenna for his help and kindness in planning the expedition.
The 28MHz antenna was tuned and fitted up the stub mast, then we salvaged the 18/24MHz beam and also fitted it to the stub mast, we now had three antennas working on 4 bands. At 1330 very strong RTTY was copied to the west on 50.066MHz, but no beacons or stations were heard. Eric G2ADR was copied on 28.885MHz telling his news about the 4K6 he had just worked, we were very envious and went back to antenna building.
Here is Anthony, baking in the hot Sun.Sadly he was going to regret not covering his back up!
Most of the hard work had now been completed and Julio now had a few bands to work on. After careful thought I decided to change our strategy, we were on air at 9am each day which meant 1100 local UK time and 1200 in Europe, this was much too late and we were losing half the day, and so we changed our operating schedule to 7am local time. At 1200 things began to happen, 48.251.4 video was copied, then ZB2VHF, and at 1317z our first contact. GM3WOJ was calling CQ and was 599.....here we go with many, many QSO's. - GM, GI, CT, G, EH, EH8, GD, GW, 9A, CT3, I, HV and 5T6/x/b were worked on both CW and SSB at strengths up to S9, it was a relief to hear those stations.
At 0940 local EA video came booming in at S9, then ZB2VHF was copied, many calls were put out on 50.108MHz but no takers, on tuning around I found G7BXS/IO70 at S9 chatting to a CT on 110! Call after call was made to him but the CTs were obviously much stronger than us, eventually he vanished. This emphasises how important it is to keep European traffic away from this segment of the band and not to encourage inter-continental traffic, as G7BXS lost a nice Country. At 1350z the band opened again, Gs, GWs, CT3FT, GJs, GU, and PAs were worked, Dennis, GJ3YHU was S9+ on SSB, we then copied GB3MCB for 90 minutes with no takers, ZB2VHF was also S5, the band died with us at around 1700z.
We now had 15 Countries in the bag and many, many stations, it really was hard work on Six, calling and calling with no takers, and so we then decided to establish ourselves on 18MHz, we did and had fantastic pile ups. 18MHz proved to be our link into Europe, South America, South Africa and the USA for passing on information about 50MHz. Later that day Eric, 5T6E, was worked for Country #16, he was S9++ on SSB. Lots of European beacons were copied on 28MHz at very good strengths, but we seemed to have the 49.999MHz saga again!
5T6E passed on information that he had a good opening in the morning, but there was nothing with us 1300kms to the South-west.This is where things started to go wrong, Anthony had spent too many hours in the midday Sun, he was burnt and feeling very ill and didnt surface at the station for two days. Later in the morning a little weak CW was heard, it got stronger and stronger and turned out to be Nick G3KOX, great stuff, another G in the log, at 1013z G3WOS called in, we gave him at least 20 reports but the power difference between us meant that Chris could not copy us. Lost! IK2GSO was logged at 1050 then things died. At 1600z ZB2VHF came romping in again, then at 1615z things went mad. 4N1SIX/S5, CT0WW/S9, GB3MCB/S4, GB3IOJ/S2, CU3URA/S5, this opening between 1615z and 1755z produced G, F, OZ, and SM. At 1935 the band reopened to G, PA, SM, DL, GM, CT, F, 5T, and OZ with many stations being worked and a few more Countries added to the score. Best DX was SM3EQY at 6000kms. Later that night W4s reported working 5T6E but we heard nothing.
The final antenna installation that took much time to rebuild, but the station was kept continually on the air on 50MHz.
Wednesday was a very spotty ES day, we started with PA2VST on SSB at 0840z, then the band was its usual dead self again. Later at 1758z CU1EZ was worked for Country #21 and ZB2VHF was heard at S5. The ES extended itself and in came GB3MCB at S5 but no stations worked. The keyer/beacon was pounded but no replies could be heard, then at 1950 weak signals were heard, K1TOL was identified and worked for Country #22. Nothing else was heard that day.
The morning brought the usual tropo signals from EA E1 TV, but that was all. G2ADR (12 watts??) and GD0TEPs QSLs arrived and were answered the same day, hows that for service. Its worth pointing out here that we caused tremendous TVI to Julios TV and his neighbours, this was not our fault but was due to the TV antenna systems that were in use (wide-band with internal amplifiers). In order to keep the peace we were advised not to transmit during the local news program at 1700 to 1800, and 2030 to 2130 local, this we did and no complaints were received, we still listened however on Six.
Things were going downhill, conditions seemed to have peaked, plus every time I called CQ or went into beacon mode Julios doorbell or phone went. I was becoming paranoid that we were causing TVI. On 18MHz things were going great, Im pleased really as things would have been very boring listening to the usual 50MHz white noise. There were some interesting comments flying around, like the one from a VE who said where were we last night when CU1EZ was worked! I said we were monitoring but heard nothing, the VE said but you are only 400kms south of CU!, well, sorry to have to correct that as we were in fact 2500kms south of the Azores! The day continued at 49.999MHz with TV being heard and that was all.
The morning started with the band opening to ON for Country # 23, there was no sign of TV or beacons, later CT3FT and CT3EX were worked, I became a little upset when I heard people calling CQ on 50.108, so we tried 50.100, then they followed us there as well. We had to QRT for a couple of hours on the afternoon as it was the Portuguese football final and we caused a little TVI to the neighbours. Later that day OZ3ZW was heard for 20 minutes calling CQ contest on 50.130, no contact emerged, I think the power difference and QRM were to blame, he was the only station on the band! At 1900z 5T6E was worked at S9+, we then went out with Julio and his wife and family for a typical local meal in the middle of nowhere. We had a fantastic local meal of Pork and corn on the cob. As we sat in the restaurant my eyes caught the roof which was covered in Palm leaves and not tiles as the norm!
Another early start, we were trying very hard but the gods had no ES for us, we were up to 23 Countries most of which were over 4000kms, so the quantity was down but the quality was there. Things were quiet again, so Julio decided to take us both to the East of the Island, the problem was Sleeping Beauty (Anthony) was still in bed! so I rushed back to the hotel and woke him up. Anthony arrived looking like a walking corpse and after a quick breakfast made by Julios wife we set off. We climbed the steep road through the centre of the island and started to descend towards the eastern side, when, Julio decided to tell us that his brakes had been behaving very strangely! Eventually we arrived at a fabulous location, the beach was made up of millions of tiny broken shells, locals were basking in the natural pools where the sea temperature was at least 26 degrees. After a few photos it was back to Julios house to see what we had missed, nothing was the answer. Later at 1600z GB3MCB was in at S3, this beacon was becoming a pain, why is it that you can hear a beacon but no stations answer your calls? At 1700 things were dead again, but weak CW could be heard at 1730z, F?ECW2P? whats this then? got it! VP2ECW, swing the antenna west quick, and yes up came the signal to 599, that was Country #24 followed by V44KAO for #25, V44K on 50.055 running three watts was S9+ over 4000kms!! At 1800z the YV4AB beacon was in on 50.025MHz and YV4AB was heard to say QRZ on our frequency but we lost him, however we were rewarded with FG5BG for another new one #26, and at 1940z things faded out. What a nice little opening to the North-west, despite having a 6000 feet mountain on the sister island in the way!
This is the view to the west, can you see the 6500ft sister island? Despite this we did work FG5, VP2, V44 and YV4 was heard
We felt a little pleased with our efforts the previous day, so we had to finish off a few jobs for Julio, the two of us carried the Alpha 76 amplifier past the Rottweiller and German Shepherds hoping that they would not decide we were stealing it and bite our legs, which would lead to us dropping the amplifier on our feet and getting a double dose of pain! Nothing was detected on 50MHz that day, we also had to move hotels as our time had expired at the original hotel, the second hotel was only 50 yards from Julios house, it was also half the price and better class! QSLs arrived from G3WOS and GM3WOJ and were replied to the same day. It was time to sit down and enjoy another good meal with Julio and friends. Julio had this friend who was brilliant at BBQing, and a special treat of Tuna was laid on, it was massive, a whole belly of Tuna, pounds or kilos of it, I just couldnt stop eating and demolished about three pounds! Never in my fishing days have I seen or tasted such fine fish.
La dogs! A double dose of pain if you upset Champ the rotweiller!
Another dead day, until the afternoon when at 1945z a beacon was heard around .039, at first I thought it maybe the FY7 beacon, but on closer inspection it was the SV beacon. I had packed up the equipment, the keyer, phones in fact everything, I could feel an opening going to happen so like lightening I unpacked everything. Calls were put out on .885 but nobody replied, SV1AHX/KM17 at 5000kms was heard working 5T6E at S5, we called and called him but he didnt hear us. At 2010z F1GXV/IN94 was worked on SSB, this was to be our last QSO.
CONCLUSIONS AND OBSERVATIONS.
It certainly was an experience of a lifetime, the propagation was also very interesting in that the 4800km distance was maybe going to be the hardest to work, that was proved wrong with many contacts at that range. Those of you who did not work the station just think, we needed a double or chordal hop to Spain first (3000kms) before we connected with the top European hop, this did happen several times otherwise we would have worked very little. Our best DX was with SM3EQY/JP81 at 5995kms, that day (June 6th) produced a very selective path clipping southern England, Holland, Northern Germany, Denmark and finally Sweden, in fact this line of propagation was very narrow indeed, something that I had never experienced before over that vast distance via ES propagation. No TEP was heard but there again was not expected in June at this part of the cycle. We did monitor the PY beacon for extensive periods but nothing was heard. Sporadic E was not copied to the South-west (PY) or even to the South-east, indicating that we were on the extreme edge of the northern summer ES. Another interesting observation that was made were the beacons, the consistency of GB3MCB and ZB2VHF were strange, as they were heard for long periods but no stations were worked, also many beacons were heard more often if they were close to a sea path, like CU3URA, ZB2VHF, GB3LER, GB3IOJ, ZB2VHF, CT0WW, YV4AB and the SV beacon, but GB3NHQ was never heard even during the UK openings! So there we have it, Julios 50MHz DXCC now stands at 46 and I feel sure he will continue his 50MHz operation with the new TS60 and antenna that we left with him, keep a watch on 50.110.
The QSL Card for a 1989 contact with D44BC on 50MHz.
It goes without saying that we must all thank Julio and his family and friends in Mindelo, their hospitality was overwhelming. Thanks also to Carlos D44AC for his kind gifts and hospitality. Travelmaker in Jersey organised an excellent package for us, so a special thanks to them. The tour company Caravella need to get their act together regarding transfers and hotel bookings, but that didnt spoil things.
COUNTRIES WORKED ON 50MHz
26 Countries were worked, of them, 15 were "FIRSTS from D4", the other 11 were worked by Julio in 1988/89/90. These were the new ones:: GD3AHV, CT3FT, EH1TA/p, EH8BPX, HV3SJ, IK0OKY, 9A2BZ, 5T6E, GU2HML, OZ4VV, DK2PR, CU1EZ, ON4KST, V44KAO, FG5BG. Congratulations to all.
de Geoff, GJ4ICD, organiser/operator of D44BC - June 1995.
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