MZ5A - Nov 06 - Contest Report by Ian G3WVG
I arrived at the Eshaness Lighthouse, Shetland (65 miles North of the airport) on Thursday afternoon. The weather was OK and I had two hours of daylight left. This was to be a simple operation with basic antennas. My nearest neighbour in Shetland was Hans MM0XAU who lives about a mile away and very kindly he came over to lend a hand.

Unfortunately attaching any wires to the actual lighthouse tower was forbidden but the lighthouse grounds has a 25' flagpole and this was to be the support for a 160m dipole. The other antenna was a butternut HF6V. By the time it was dark, at around 3.30pm, the antennas were up. Then things started to go wrong.

The changeable weather in Shetland is, to say the least, extreme. The weather on top of a 200' cliff overlooking the Atlantic is even more so. The buffeting wind that blew up that night didn't break the HF6V but was so strong that the tuning coils were changing their shape, shorting out turns, so that the SWR on 40m and 80m was fluctuating wildly. On top of that some of the radials were ripped away. By Friday morning the weather had calmed down and it was time for a rethink. I had to put up some other antennas.

Fortunately I had taken a lot of coax, 200 metres of RG8 mini, a good compromise between rf loss and weight for air travel. So I got up an 80m dipole next to the 160m. I also had a single driven element of an A3S which I put on a 15' pole lashed to another shorter flagpole. (Lighthouses seem to be keen on flag poles!) Next came what was intended to be my "best" antenna, a full size vertical for 40m using a Spiderbeam pole. This was lashed to fence post on the edge of the cliffs. By this time it was getting dark again. So, all that I had to do was to wait nine hours until the contest started. I went to bed and soon fell asleep (knackering work does that to me!)

But the sleep didn't last long. Soon I woke up to the sound of the wind howling down the chimney. No antenna could survive this, I thought, but in fact at the start of the contest only one of the antennas had failed. Unfortunately it was my 40m "best" antenna. Going into the night, to the edge of a gale swept cliff with a torch, to find the problem just wasn't an option. So I started the contest with 80m and 160m. After a couple of hours the Alpha tripped on infinite SWR on 80m and minutes later it tripped on 160m. So that was it, no LF antennas. There was nothing for it but to go outside and see what could be done. The wind was terrific and the rain was horizontal. What had happened was that the twine holding the ends of both antennas had severed. I was able to make a rough repair and get the ends up in the air again. By now I was soaked to the skin and tired, so I set the alarm for an hour before dawn and got a couple of hours sleep. The wind eased by daybreak and I was able to get some mults at the grey-line and then go outside and fix the antennas when it got light. The first task was to get the 40m vertical back working, then to get the ends of the other antennas back up in the air.

That was it for antenna work. After 10 hours into the contest all the antennas were functioning and despite more gales everything kept working until the end. Using simple antennas at 60 degrees North, I didn't get much action on 15m or 10m, but 20m was OK and so was 40m. Propagation certainly sounds different up there. Being a wanted Mult helps when CQing, but when you're chasing Mults it's signal strength that counts, and I was never able to crack any pile-ups except on 40m where I had a competitive signal.

On the second night I was so tired, that for a few hours I was sitting at the radio in a trance-like state! I was not only incapable of making sense of received Morse Code, I could not send it either. (apologies to any recipients!). In total I operated for 40 hours out of the 48. The eight hour deficit was split evenly between running repairs and sleep. By the time the contest ended I had made just under 3,300 QSOs. I'd had a memorable and most enjoyable time, I certainly won't be appearing in any leader boxes this year but for a low-key "dxpedition type" entry I was very pleased with the result.


The antenna de-rig on Monday morning (again assisted by Hans MM0XAU) was made in pouring rain and strong winds. I flew home from Shetland with six flight cases carrying a total of 145 kg. Remarkably I wasn't charged a penny for the excess baggage and the trip was made with "airmiles" so it was quite a bargain.

At Heathrow I was kindly met by the friendly face (and spacious Land Rover!) of Nigel G3TXF who was still buzzing after his superb 160m single-band operation. He had already traveled to Shetland the previous week to do a little recce for me and to deliver some of my baggage. Now that's what I call a pal.

73 Ian G3WVG
MZ5A : CQWW CW 2006

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