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Amateur (‘Ham’) Radio

CQ, CQ, CQ

Yesterday, my XYL{3} said she’d leave me if I didn’t give up ham radio. Over.
Amateur Radio enthusiast humour

Before international telephones and the Internet there was Amateur Radio - still going strong on St Helena.

Radio Stations

Other radio station pages:

Active stations:

• S.A.M.S. Radio 1

• S.A.M.S. Radio 2

• SaintFM Community Radio

Closed stations:

• Radio St Helena

• SaintFM (2004-2012)

• S.A.M.S. Pure Gold

Related:

• Diplomatic Wireless Station

• Communications

• St Helena Radio History

Below: History • Radio scene today • World War 2 • Read More

History

Early radio transmitter (Museum of St Helena)
Early radio transmitter (Museum of St Helena)

1966 QSL Card {1}
1966 QSL Card{1}

1967 QSL Card {2}
1967 QSL Card{2}

1975 QSL Card, Billy Stevens
1975 QSL Card, Billy Stevens

 

According to ‘St Helena 500’, by Robin Gill & Percy Teale, published in 1997, the first Amateur Radio station in St Helena went on air in 1952. Anyone who has information about this station please contact us.

Billy Stevens, ZD7SD, C. 1972
Billy Stevens, ZD7SD, C. 1972

Amateur broadcasters also played a leading role in establishing broadcast radio on St Helena. In 1958 Percy Teale obtained a temporary license and made a one-time broadcast to a public meeting in the Cinema Hall in Jamestown. Another notable broadcast was made by Mr. Freese from the Arts Club in Jamestown on 3rd January 1960. ‘The Ham of Half Tree Hollow’, Billy Stevens, even went on the air with scheduled musical programming. He used to broadcast to the island from the Three Tanks area, broadcasting on the medium wave band. He would do a show every Sunday morning, and people would go along to his house and give him a sixpence for a request. We understand his ‘station’ was named ‘Radio Bamboo’.(More on our Radio on St Helena page.)

The island’s first ever Amateur Radio Rally was held on 8th July 1967 - attracting six participants. You can read part of a story about a visiting amateur from America, Jules Wengalare W6YO, who visited St Helena in 1977 and met with Billy Stevens (ZD7SD) and his wife Sybil (ZD7SS), operating from here as ZD7YO.

A feature in the St Helena News Review from 6th February 1981 on amateur Michael Francis (ZD7AL) included the note:

Probably Michael’s most interesting contact since he has been operating Ham Radio was to have been able to talk to King Hussein of Jordan. He did this on the 4th January 1980 and within a month received a QSL Card with a photo of King Hussein.

In December 2007 local amateur Derek Richards (ZD7CTO) had the rare opportunity to speak with a pilot on board an Angolan Boeing 747, passing over the island at 35,000ft en route from Luanda to Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. During the conversation the pilot also reported that in previous passes over the island he had been able to listen in to Radio St Helena.

The radio scene today

QSL card for ZD7VC
QSL Card for ZD7VC

Operators use the ‘ZD7’ prefix. Several stations are in regular operation, including ZD7VC (Bruce Salt), ZD7FT (Peter Constantine), ZD7DL (Daniel Leo), ZD7JC (John Cranfield), ZD7CTO (Derek Richards) and ZD7DC (David Clarke). Special operating licences also exist for the St Helena Scout Group (ZD7SSG) and Prince Andrew School (ZD7PAS), though these are rarely on air.

Operation is usually on 40 metres (7MHz), 20 metres (14MHz), 10 metres (28MHz) and 6 metres (50MHz). ZD7JC and ZD7VC also operate the digital modes RTTY & PSK.

ZD7VC also has regular contact with ships that pass St Helena.

Visiting amateurs also sometimes broadcast from St Helena, using a guest ZD7 prefix. In June 2011, for example, G3TXF made 12,000 QSOs operating for nine days as ZD7XF. His website records the details.

While the yacht Carpe Diem was travelling down to South Africa to take part in the 2018 The Governor’s Cup the crew kept in touch with home via our local radio amateurs.

World War 2

Here are a couple of pictures from 1943 showing radio operators in action, though whether the operations are Amateur Radio or Military we don’t know.

Radio Operator, 1943

Radio Operator, 1943

Read More

Article: Stardate 050306…is there anybody up there?

By Nick Hewes, published in the St Helena Independent 31st March 2006{4}

ZD7VC Bruce Salt
ZD7VC Bruce Salt

ZD7GWM Garry Mercury
ZD7GWM Garry Mercury

Two Saint Helenians made a notable achievement earlier this month, as the International Space Station was contacted by radio for the first time ever from the Island.

Bruce Salt, of Half Tree Hollow, and Garry Mercury (better known to many as Huggy Bear) of Longwood, both made radio contact with the astronauts as they floated at a distance of 220 miles above the Island. They received a tip-off from some radio hams in South Africa that one of the astronauts - Bill McArthur - was also a keen ham operator. It was apparently Bill’s ambition to make contact with hams in 100 countries whilst he was bombing through the Earth’s orbit. By the time Bruce and Garry ‘worked’ him, he’d already notched up 107 countries!

Bill McArthur
Bill McArthur is the Commander and ISS Science Officer on the Expedition-12 crew

How did they know just when to work the Space Station? The only time you can really make contact said Bruce, is when the spacecraft is directly overhead. Luckily the tip-off I received from South Africa told me the precise fly-over times, and also the times when Bill McArthur would be awake (remember, there’s no day or night in space!) and receiving signals. To be honest when we got this South African tip-off, I thought we wouldn’t have a chance of making contact. I’ve only got a very basic seven foot antenna, and Huggy Bear’s antenna is not even secured - it just leans against the gutter of his house and is tied to a ladder to stop it blowing over! 99% of radio hams who want to make this sort of radio contact would be equipped with sophisticated elevating antennae, which can be telescopically extended or retracted in order to catch the correct signal. But we had nothing like that. That’s why it’s so amazing we were able to contact the astronauts. His readability was so clear - there was no hiss at all. I went to Longwood to meet Garry, and to ask him about his experience of this unique contact. Bruce told me that the International Space Station was going over, and that Bill McArthur had made it known that he wanted to make as many contacts as possible whilst he was in space. On the first day I had a time window of about ten minutes. It was beautifully clear, and then you could hear it fade away, as the station slowly got out of range. It felt great to realise that our VHF contact with this space ship 220 miles away was the first ever from St Helena - my heart was pumping! Garry’s mum, Elvina Mercury, said the radio contact had made a real impact on both Garry and on Bill McArthur, the astronaut. Garry was thrilled to bits, and the astronaut was also thrilled to have made contact with such a distant place as St Helena she said.

Garry said that he had been a ham operator since 1992. It was Bruce who first got me into radio hamming he said, I heard him talking about it at Prince Andrew School in 1992. He then invited me to talk to a guy in the States. It was so great to meet with nice, helpful people who live so many thousands of miles away. One of the most surprising aspects of this contact was the tiny amount of electrical energy it took to contact the space station - only 50 watts, which is less than it takes to power a 60 watt light bulb! When you consider that the radio signal had to travel 220 miles before it even reached the Space Station, it does make you wonder at the amazing sensitivity of radio equipment.

When I asked Bruce about this, he told me that he once worked a guy in the USA who was using only a ten watt receiver. Then we experimented, and he began to reduce the wattage of his transceiver. We found that even when he was broadcasting at only one single watt of power, I could still just about make out what he was saying. It was mind-blowing, when you consider that he was 6,227 miles away! Regarding the technical aspects of the contacts, Bruce gave me the following details. The first contact was on Saturday 4th March at 13:02hrs (1:02pm). I contacted him on 145.200MHz FM (2 metre band). His call sign was NAISS, whilst mine is ZD7VC, and Garry’s is ZD7GWM. We were able to give a signal report, without which any contact is rendered null and void as far as the record books go. Then on Sunday 5th March, I worked him again at 11.56 GMT.

You may also be interested in St Helena’s role in Space Exploration.

Laugh at funny Amateur (Ham) Radio humour - LOL

Footnotes:
{1} We are intrigued by the design on this card. It appears to show palm trees growing on a beach, neither of which are features of St Helena!{2} We note that this card was issued by ‘J. Munn, D.W.S., Longwood’ - the island’s ‘Diplomatic Wireless Station’.{3} Code for ‘Wife’. In the days when signals were sent primarily using Morse Code it was helpful to abbreviate common terms with short codes. Note the gender bias because there does not seem to be a code for ‘Husband’ - most Hams are male (and, presumably, Straight). The term for another (Male) operator is ‘OM’ - Old Man, but in the case of a female operator it is ‘YL’ - Young Lady; not just gender-biased but patronising too!{4} Reproduced for educational non-commercial use only; all copyrights are acknowledged.

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