Cyprus DX-pedition - The Full Story

By Henk J. Schanssema, PA2HJS and Enno J. Korma, PAoERA
Edited by Henk J. Schanssema

Note: This story contains RealAudio Sound clips. You will need a RealAudio player and a sound card to be able to hear them.
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The Preparations

Early in 1996, the idea was born: Activate the Souvereign Base Area on Cyprus on 50 MHz. Since 1992, no activity was observed or reported and many stations still had not worked that 'country'.

But how can we get a licence?
Quite a number of telephone calls were made to get in touch with a ZC4 amateur on Cyprus. The first contact was not very encouraging. It seemed that a foreign group of amateurs did not show much respect on some occasion in the recent past. It took quite a bit of percevering to find someone who was willing to check with the authorities if we could get a licence at all.
A few weeks later, we received an e-mail that our licence was issued. The call would be ZC4EKJ and the licence was subject to security clearance. This was expected to be just a formal note but it appeared to be different!
The clearance was refused - apparently because of tensions building up (we now know what happened in August) - without a formal reason given.
The flight was already booked, rigs checked, antennae (thanks MECOM for sponsoring a 5 element M2 (M-square) antenna) and all kinds of supporting stuff were bought. Several e-mails were sent back and forth but the result was nil and stayed that way. The authorities were not changing their minds.

Activate Cyprus instead
We decided to go anyway - Cyprus should provide a holiday opportunity as well - and operate from Cyprus. It was checked with the authorities if operation on 50 MHz was allowed and that appeared to be the case.
LogosNet were very kind to provide a temporary account so that we could send/receive e-mail and update bulletins on the InterNet as well. Henk provided the web space on his site and we could keep everyone updated about the proceedings.
On Tuesday, the 2nd of July, Henk collected Enno and his stuff and together we travelled to Amsterdam Airport. Henk had to park the car on a long-term car park (awful) and Enno checked in...
The clerk at the check-in counter appeared to be a extremely formal kind of human being: all the luggage was weighted and we had to pay a fortune for the excess luggage. Why don't these people understand (or at least try to) this special kind of breed who want to generate as much as possible field strength and thus needing some extra hardware which is easily compensated for by all those empty seats in the plane anyway?
In the afternoon, we were on our way...

Tuesday 2 July 1996

We safely arrived on Cyprus Tuesday night July 02. The flight with Cyprus Airways was good!
We were welcomed by Mike with whom we exchanged so many E-mails and telephone calls in order to get a ZC4 license.

Wednesday 3 July 1996

We visited the Sovereign Base Administration in Dhekelia in order to get an amendment of our licence. We were hoping to be able to operate from non-military areas.

Thursday 4 July - First Internet Bulletin Issued

"As of now we were not successful to obtain the license. It is currently being looked at by the authorities. We hope to hear more next Monday.
We will set up our 5 el. beam on our appartment tomorrow morning (July 05) and hope to be active at approx. 0900 utc.
Meanwhile we obtained the temporary E-mail account. LogosNet helped us in a very cooperative way with that !"

We could update our site and receive E-mail directly on Cyprus!

Friday 5 July - First QSO's in the 5B4 log

"Today we have installed the 5 element M2 beam (courtesy MECOM) Shortly after connecting the antenna to the IC-706, we made our first QSO with YZ1SM. It appears that the noise level is quite high. We have a sparking high voltage line running right behind the appartment ... The noise blanker of the IC-706 is one of the weaker design features.

First setup on Cyprus

An interesting feature of the Mediterranean area is the fantastic tropospheric propagation. We heard Ralph (4X1IF) on 2 meters with 599 while listening on our 6 meter antenna ! After making a QSO with the lowest possible power on 2, we also worked him on 6 tropo with 59 on both sides.
During that QSO Es propagation started out, resulting in contacts with DL, OK and YU (3 QSO's). The Bavarian TV transmitter on 48.260 MHz is a very good beacon for us. Also the Hungarian TV signal on 49.744 comes in as a handy beacon.
Look out for us this weekend when conditions are hopefully better than at this moment (NOISE)."

Saturday 6 July - Opening to most parts of Europe ... !

"Today we were pleasantly surprised with a string of openings to many parts of Europe. It started with video on 49.750 MHz at 06.30 utc, followed by YU1QC. 4N1 and S55 beacons were in as well. LA video was heard at 10 utc, as well as the OH9SIX beacon (no activity though ...).
At 10.30 we established contacts with SP9's, OH, I, and OK/OM. From 11.00 onwards we worked SMØ and ER.
Subsequently openings continued to a.o. LZ, G, HA ...
It appeared to us that the Dutchmen were all absent except for PAØLSB who was 58 with us !!!!! Jongens wakker worden !"

Sunday 7 July - Good conditions, just a few contacts

"Today, we spent some time in the mountains on Cyprus. Conditions were not very promising, so we decided to do some sight seeing...
When we returned at around 1400 UTC, the OH9 beacon was audible. Lots of TV signals from 49.75 and 48.25. The 49.75 video is very strong in band and makes it difficult to copy weak signals. Unfortunately, this adds up to line noise which is strong in the direction to western Europe. We estimate the QRM to be at least 20 dB over the noise floor, so stations simply have to be loud before we can hear them. Especially SSB is difficult, so we will basically switch to SSB first when conditions are good enough.
Today, just a few stations were worked, in spite of the fact that the band was open quite some time. Even just now (1800 UTC), video signals are still loud. It seemed that the conditions were not to regions with a high density of six metre stations...

Enno, PAoERA in operating position (with beer)...

We worked EU1AA, 9H and SM7. Check the log to find out who was worked with the 5B4/PA2HJS call.

Tomorrow, Monday 8 July, we hope to get news from the ZC4 administration, so we will keep our fingers crossed...

Next Tuesday July 9th, we will move to another appartment and will not be QRV before wednesday, because we have to move the antenna as well..."

Monday 8 July - ZC4 no go ... Conditions very soft

The bulletin speaks for it self: "We regret to inform you about the fact that our last attempt to obtain a license for ZC4 has been turned down again. We believe we have tried everything to convince the authorities that our intentions were harmless to them. We will refrain from further actions and maintain our operation as 5B4/PAØERA and 5B4/PA2HJS.
Today we have not made any new contact despite some sporadic E propagation. Video was present again during the late morning and early afternoon, as well as 4N1SIX with weak and unstable signals.
Tomorrow, July 9th, we will move to another apartment, so we will NOT be active. Listen for us again on Wednesday July 10th. From then on we will also include activity on the HF bands."

Tuesday 9 July - New apartment, line noise worse ...

The story goes on: "We have now moved to a more comfortable apartment hotel (200 yards from the UK Sovereign Base Area ...), but unfortunately the line noise is even worse than in the previous location. The noise level is highest in the direction NW, which is to NW Europe. Therefore we have to concentrate on CW. With the narrow CW filter and the TimeWave DSP filter we hope to get the most out of an opening ...
We will also set up the HF hardware, so expect us to be active from tomorrow evening onwards.
We have seen on the OH2BUA Cluster Website that NW Europe has quite good conditions the last few days. Please arrange for some of that in our region as well ..."

Henk had his birthday today and invited Enno for a good meal: which we enjoyed...

Wednesday 10 July - Conditions to Balkan ... HF installed and running

"Today we fixed the 50 MHz antenna to its definite position. We had hoped that we could reduce the line noise problem slightly, but that appeared to be idle hope. At times the noise level is S9 ! As stated earlier we have to rely on narrow filtered CW as soon as double hop E starts towards NW Europe. We have also installed the TimeWave 59+, which helps as well. It is however doubtful if we will be able to copy relatively weak signals.

Second setup on Cyprus - Lysithea apts.

Today conditions were not too bad. We have copied the 4N1 and S55 beacons for quite a while in the afternoon (13-15 utc), but the activity was very low (2 9A, 1 YO) as usual. During a local QSO with Nick, 5B4AAI, we were called by a EH station (15.30 utc), but it was too weak to copy. The 48.250 video was relatively strong at that time. At about 18.00 utc the German 48.260 video was peaking S9 at times, but again we could not make a QSO (either MUF just not high enough or line noise too loud).
We have installed an R5 (14-28 MHz) and dipole (10 MHz), which seem to work OK. So, if 6 is dead listen for us on HF ... The callsign on HF will be 5B4/PAØERA."

Thursday 11 July and Friday 12 July - No conditions ... But extreme tropo...

"We are somewhat frustated about the conditions on 6 meters. Seeing big openings on the DX cluster from NW Europe, it is hard to believe that nothing happens in this area. However, it is the truth. Nothing but noise ...
We expect to hear at least stations like the IG9/... and single hop signals, but yesterday as well as today did not even yield the standard video carriers.
For those who plan to be active on 2 meters from this area, be prepared for a big disappointment. The 2 meter band is in use by all kind of "services", which are all clearly illegally using this band. We can hear these stations with loud tropo signals on a little 4 element quad on loan from 5B4CR. Signals include music, and a lot of CB like, communication. We spoke to Ralph 4X1IF about it, and he even complained that these stations were deliberately jamming proper amateur communication.
On the other hand, tropo is amazing here. We just made a QSO with 4X6UJ on 70cm with our hand-held with a power level as low as 20 mW in NBFM. Our signal was peaking 55 in Israel ...
Listen to this contact!
The funny thing is that you will hear the signal as it was relayed back by Howie, 4X6UJ on 144 MHz!

Howie is currently planning experiments on 23 and 13cm with stations on Cyprus and Malta. But he is the only one in the region who promotes tropo experiment on the higher bands.
Meanwhile HF is running fine (10-28 MHz), and 5B4/PAØERA will be an entry in the IARU HF contest this weekend (10 MHz dipole to be replaced by an FD4 windom antenna).
We will keep checking 6 meter regularly in order not to miss a possible opening."

Saturday 13 July - Es during most of the day

"At last Es again. It started here at 08.00 utc with a lot of video from the east. We heard a 48.260 MHz carrier which came clearly NOT from Germany but from the east as well. It might have been a Maleisian transmitter (can somebody give a clue ?). Also a lot of carriers on 49.750 MHz. Around 15 utc wireless telephones from the south. We could not identify the language, but it was definitely not Hebrew and it did not sound like Arabic either ...
While the video was still humming in-band, we worked into SM from 15.40 utc onwards, followed by OH, OZ, SP, DL, PA, G and ON.
Listen to a QSO with DJ9KG (14k4) (28k8)
Although signal were relatively loud it was still a big struggle for us as the line noise was S7-9 at the time.
This clip illutrates this (14k4) (28k8)
It is a pity that so few people are capable to reply in CW. There were a lot of people who put more emphasis on getting our QTH locator rather than giving us their callsign ... Our QTH, KM64, will be printed on the QSL and is irrelevant for making a QSO.
Another point of operating behaviour: if we ask "PA3XXX cfm ?" and PA3XXX is correct, then only give "RRRRR" (roger). If you start to give your call again we might think PA3XXX was NOT correct, and the QSO might be lost.
Let's hope there will be a good morning opening soon, as during the morning the line noise is much weaker."
Listen to PAoERA when he lost his temper...

Sunday 14 July - Reasonable conditions with some nice goodies ...

"Sunday showed a lot of Es again to regions scattered to all directions. A big surprise was a call by Faisal, 9K2CA. He was 59 with us and very stable. He uses a IC-736 and a 4 element yagi at 25 m AGL. Faisal has not yet worked into NW Europe but he did work into OE and I. After our QSO (14k4) (28k8) we heard him again working with Italian stations.
Wrap-up of the day:
07.00 IH9, 9H, 9A
07.20 SV1SIX, I, IT9, S5 beacon, video from the East
07.50 G4HBA, SP9, 9H
08.00 G3IBI
08.15 OK, SV, 9K, I
09.00 Strong Spanish TV
09.50 EH3DUY
11.20 9H, YU, S5, I
12.45 OE8, 9A
16.30 I, 9A, S5, HA, SV7, 4N
18.10 EA9IB, IT9
18.30 9A, IT9, YU"

Monday 15 July was a different story: NO CONDITIONS

A picture instead...

The station fitted on a square metre table.

Tuesday 16 July - Missed openings (?) and social events...

"On 16 July, we were active during the morning hours only. From 09.00 utc onwards, we received strong video. CQ's led to contacts with EU, SP, ON, G, SM3, OK, 9A, S5 and YO. It seems to us that if more stations would be active, we could have worked more...
The conditions took a nose-dive at around 09.00. We did hear tv signals on 49.750 but no amateur signals were observed and CQ's remained unanswered.

At about 11.20, we took a dive in the Mediterranean Sea, which is a good alternative to listening to noise...
We were invited by a local 5B4 station for a barbeque, so we had to leave at about 1300. We took the IC-706 with us (it is so small that it fits well into a small aluminium case along with the power supply, keyer and even an antenna analyzer) and hooked it up to the triband beam of the inviting amateur. On six, loud signals from the S5 and 4N beacons indicated good openings. The barbeque was waiting for us, so we enjoyed a delicious meal instead of a (perhaps) good opening."

We had a look at the cluster spots the next morning and we saw that we missed one...

Wednesday 17 July - Start of a trip to Israel

On Wednesday, we left for a two day 'mini-cruise' to Israel. First, we had a look at the surroundings of Limassol and we were especially curious about possible operating sites within the Souvereign Base Area.
The cruise was cute and we enjoyed the sounds of the sea...
We arrived in Haifa the next morning.

The city of Haifa

The next day included a very nice (but rapid) excursion through the country. A walking tour in Jerusalem was very interesting. We were impressed by the many sights. A visit to Bethlehem was another distinct moment, because you are visiting the place where the roots of our culture can be found.
On Friday, we returned in the morning.

Friday 19 July - Back from Israel - What did we miss?

"We arrived back from a two day trip to Israel. We heard that there were good openings. Unfortunately, we were not there...
On July 19, nothing happened on six. We only heard weak video.
That's all for now!"

During that day, we went to the western part of the island. We visited Curium and Pafos and also had a look at the extreme northwest tip of the island.

Amphitheatre in Curium

Saturday 20 July - Lots of video from the north-east

"In the morning we have heard extremely loud video signals from the north-east. All carriers were around 49.750 but with different off sets compared to the European TV transmitters. After a couple of CQ's we heard an unstable carrier on our frequency. Switching to FM revealed the signals of RV6HF with 59. He uses an army transceiver capable of FM only.
Although the rest of the morning and early afternoon still yielded loud video sigs, no further contacts have been made despite our frantic CQ's ..."

In the evening, we enjoyed a meal with our friends from Cyprus in a nice restaurant a little north of Larnaca.

Dinner with Mike and Beryl Townley
Left to right: Henk PA2HJS, Mike 5B4MT, Beryl (XYL of Mike), Enno PAoERA

Sunday 21 July - Only faint video signals via MS - Last bulletin

Today, we issued our last bulletin. As our return flight was scheduled for Tuesday, we needed the Monday to take down the antennae and to return several items to Thanos. The bulletin concludes:
"This concludes our activity from Cyprus. We will make some QSO's tonight on 30 meters, but the R5 is already down and tomorrow morning we will take down the 6 meter beam and 30 meter dipole.
We like to thank everybody who took the time to check our pages and those who have send us encouraging E-mails. Special thanks go to Mike Townley 5B4MT/ZC4MT for general advice and various local arrangements, LogosNet who provided the Internet access, Thanos 5B4CR who provided the antenna poles and the 4 el. quad for 144 MHz.
Furthermore we like to thank the Paschalis and Lysithea apartment hotels for letting us put antennas on the roof.
We are already thinking about the next trip ... We'll keep you posted !"

Monday 22 July - Packing and preparing for the return trip

The fun was nearly over. We prepared for the return trip to The Netherlands.
Now, we can sit back and think back about the good times on Cyprus...
Henk, PA2HJS and Enno, PAoERA
Logged callsigns by 5B4/PAoERA
Logged callsigns by 5B4/PA2HJS
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