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Amateur (‘Ham’) Radio


Last week my XYL{1} said she’d leave me if I didn’t give up ham radio. Over.{a}

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


We are intrigued by the design on the first card. It appears to show palm trees growing on a beach, neither of which are features of St Helena{2}
We note that the second card was issued by ‘J. Munn, D.W.S., Longwood’ - the island’s ‘Diplomatic Wireless Station’.

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

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.

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 page Radio on St Helena.)

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 ZD7ZD (Bruce Salt), ZD7FT (Peter Constantine), ZD7DL (Daniel Leo), 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). ZD7ZD also operates the digital modes RTTY & PSK.

ZD7ZD 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.

World Amateur Radio Day

World Amateur Radio Day, on 18th April, is not celebrated on St Helena, other than perhaps with a QSL or two.

Read More

Below: Article: ZD7W Competes for St HelenaArticle: Stardate 050306…is there anybody up there?

Article: ZD7W Competes for St Helena

Published in The Sentinel, 12th November 2015{3}

ZD7W Competes for St Helena

Oliver Sweningsen, Visiting Radio Amateur from California Represents St Helena in an Annual Worldwide Competition.

Over 30,000 ‘radio hams’ spend a weekend exchanging reports and logging radio contacts in the CQ Worldwide Contest in late October each year. The objective is to talk to as many stations on as many high frequency (HF) radio bands as possible over the 48 hour contest period.

Preliminary results indicate station ZD7W located on Tomb Road placed 18 of approximately 10,000 competing in the All Band Single Operator classification. ZD8W made 3,747 contacts in over 140 countries during the contest period. Faraway places like New Zealand and Australia as well as familiar places like the Falklands and Ascension Island were logged. Stedson Stroud, the warden of Green Mountain National Park is ZD8S and, he contacted Oliver on all six bands. Oliver said the highlight was ‘hooking-up’ with a friend in Montenegro, with less than 15 minutes to go. Oliver and Ranko 4O3A established contact on 5 of the 6 active radio bands, adding to the country multiplier counts of each station.

Oliver credits the favourable geographic location of St Helena, in the South Atlantic Ocean. With the help of Bruce Salt (ZD7ZD) the station was installed at the Tomb Road house of Andrew and Sheree Joshua. The aerials were installed at favourable locations to ‘beam’ signals to the United States and Europe where there are high populations of contesting amateurs that all want to talk to St Helena. Other radio amateurs including Daniel Leo, Peter Constantine and Gary Mercury met with Oliver and his wife Ann during their stay. Oliver has been a Radio Amateur since age 13. He said the hobby sparked a life-long interest and career in electrical engineering. Oliver noted that Daniel Leo, who oversees the radio club at Prince Andrew School, is helping many learn radio and electrical fundamentals. Rainbowirls, Kaelize Thomas and Qui Sim-Green visitedthe station to participate in a demonstration and talk to a station in England. Perhaps they will be engineers one day.

Oliver and his wife Ann drove and walked many miles while visiting the island. The Sweningsens have worked and travelled throughout the world and, they believe St Helena has unique scenic and historical attractions. In particular, they both enjoyed the countryside views and visits to Napoleon’s Tomb, Longwood House and, the Museum in Jamestown.

The Sweningsens sends greetings to their many new friends on St Helena.

Article: Stardate 050306…is there anybody up there?

There’s an article about local Hams contacting the International Space Station on our page Exploring Space.


{a} Amateur Radio enthusiast humour


{1} 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!{2} Well, we do have golden sandy beaches, but they are not at sea level!{3} @@RepDis@@