by Alan Doherty, GI0OTC
This article brings to life what Six can be like at the peak of the cycle. Old hands may or may not agree that 11th November 1989 was ‘typical’ - I remember it as bringing the best opening to the Caribbean that I’ve ever experienced. But Alan’s article describes perfectly what the band can be like when it’s really jumping - Ed.
Here follows a description of a typical day on 50 MHz in Cycle 22.
Alan, GIØOTC (ex-GI8YDZ) in his shack.
At 08:30 I entered the shack as usual with coffee mug in one hand, a pile of direct QSL cards just freshly pushed through the letterbox in the other. Huge numbers of QSLs is one of the snags when you live in a reasonably rare grid square (IO65), especially so if it’s also in a new country for most six metre DX stations. At the beginning of solar cycle 22 there were only a handful of 50 MHz operators active in GI (Northern Ireland), and of these only a couple were set-up and DX-capable.
As GI8YDZ in 1989 I was in the happy position to be one of them. And the most important thing to be successful, in six-metre DXing, is the to be close to the shack. Unlike most other amateur bands, 50 MHz can never be taken for granted. The only way to get ahead on the band is by listening to an awful lot of white noise. Just when you are about to give up and turn the receiver off, it can spring to life, and usually with very little warning. One of the most useful propagation indicators for 50 MHz, next to the amateur beacon network, are the worldwide Band I television transmitters.
Oh well, back to the description of a typical day. The first thing to do is check the TV video carriers. If there was an opening brewing, this is the part of the spectrum (46 - 49 MHz) most likely to produce signals.
08:35 The 48.250 and 49.750 video plus offsets are very strong (40-50 dB over S9) with a QTF (beam heading) of 120º - 90º. The next thing to do is check for the Cyprus beacon 5B4CY on 50.499; sure enough this is producing good signals up to 599. Having established that the band was open, I re-tuned the receiver to 50.110 where Adrian, ZC4MK was calling CQ DX. A quick call and QSY up the band clear of the calling frequency resulted in yet another pleasant contact with Cyprus. The path between Northern Ireland and Cyprus, at 2373 miles, is an almost optimum (2500 miles) distance for single-hop F2 propagation.
In 1989 there was a lack of countries able to transmit on Six in the eastern Mediterranean region. Therefore quite a bit of cross-band 28 MHz - 50 MHz operating took place. On tuning the HF receiver to 28.885 (the six-metre liaison frequency), I hear Ralph, 4X1IF announce that he was listening on 50.105.
A quick swig of the now almost-cold coffee, and a call on 50.105 got Ralph’s attention and a 559 report to boot. That was usually the height of the activity from the Middle East apart from one or two 5B4 stations.
10:00 The band is still full of video, but there’s no amateur activity. Constant checking in the direction of VK and the Far East produce no results. Mid-November is a bit late in the season for Australia, most previous QSOs have taken place in October and February.
10:30 Chat with a local, GI4OPH, exchange log details and generally try to predict what the band is planning for us in the coming hours!
10:35 Beaming South toward West Africa now; unusual, no one about. The lack of beacons in this part of the world in 1989 didn’t help.
11:00 Now, with the antenna westward, the band has started to become very noisy (rough sounding). Start to hear some weak G and European stations via backscatter, peaking at 225º. Signals continue to build, then at 11:38 PZ1AP (GJ25) pops up on .110 and we exchange 59. Next in log is DL3ZM/YV5.
I move up the band and at 12:30 old faithful Rick, K1JRW (sadly now a silent key) calls in to wish me a good morning. Another few minutes brings rock crushing signals form Ted, HC5K (another regular) a few more HCs then I’m called by VE1YX (seems to be a daily ritual!). Some more VE and VO then at 13:17, after a quick look around, I managed to break the pile-up on 50.111 to work ZF1RC for a new country.
HP3XUH is worked at 55 for another new one, back from lunch and I try to find a clear frequency to start calling CQ. 13:47 and the fun begins, AA2U starts the ball rolling, then TI2KD stops by, a few more Ws and I exchange 59 with KP4EIT again.
It’s now 14:09 and Stateside has woken up; the band sounds just like a contest weekend on 20m. Still mainly working the East Coast.
At 14:22 the path lengthens and the W4s and 5s are now bounding in. As the afternoon progresses the propagation heads out mid west, call areas 9 and 0 get their turn, then K7KV in CN87 for the best DX of the day.
17:47 The band is getting quiet now, only one or two signals to be heard. VE1YX calls to say good evening and to look for each other tomorrow.
18:00 North American propagation has all gone now. I exchange the days happening with Callum, GM0EWX. We seem to be the last two stations in Western Europe to have 50 MHz signals, the Gs and Europeans having long since lost propagation. That might be different this cycle (23), now the Spanish have 50 MHz.
Just a few lines short of six pages in an RSGB logbook - we had no computer logging in those days. Almost 150 QSOs in 11countries, 1 X-band, and 2 all-time new ones. An average days work in cycle 22. Now you can see where all the QSLs come from. Time to have a rest and prepare for it all again tomorrow!
I hope this little insight will be of some interest to the new six-metre operators eagerly waiting their first F2 season. If anyone has any questions or would like some more details, I will try my best to help. Please email me at: firstname.lastname@example.org