By John Attaway, K4IIF, 73 Magazine March 1966DXpedition to the British Virgin Islands VP2VD, 1965During the period October 21-24, 1965 a DXpedition was made to the British Virgin Islands by Dave Gynn G3SBP, Ernie Hendry K4CAH. and the author, K4IIF (John Attaway), operating under the call VP2VD. Although each had previously operated from DX locations, this was the first effort on a concentrated operation within a limited time period. Naturally many unexpected problems arose, all of which were at least partially solved, so that the expedition reached a successful conclusion. These humorous and not so humorous problems, and their solutions, comprise an interesting account which everyone who has dreamed or planned toward a DXpedition will find interesting and enlightening,.The planning period December 1962 The idea originated 3 years ago while standing on the front porch of the home of KV4BZ. It was a clear bright day, and Jost van Dyke, Tortola, and the other British islands to the east seemed very close. January-February, 1963 Regular skeds were kept between K4IIF and Dick Spenceley KV4AA, the grand old man of the Caribbean. However, it was quickly found that although Danny Weil VP2VB, could easily obtain a license as a British citizen, for LL S, citizens it was another matter entirely. No license could be obtained and the idea was set aside. July, 1965Rumors began to circulate of a pending reciprocal operating agreement between the USA and the UK. A letter was quickly dispatched from K4IIF to old friend G2BVN (Roy Stevens) DX editor of the RSGB bulletin. "What gives, Steve?" August 15, 1965K4I1F de G2BVN: " — an agreement is now being negotiated between the U. S. and the U.K, and it should not be too long, —sorry I cannot offer you an immediate solution John, but I will be pleased to keep you posted." August 28, 1965Ernie K4CAH, signed on as 2nd operator. September 9, 1965Reciprocal licensing was still very indefinite, but KV4AA Came up with an ace-in-the-hole. Dave G3SBP, ex 5N2RDG, engineer for Cable & Wireless Ltd in St, Thomas, was sweating out the reciprocal agreement from the other side. Meantime he might be interested in a VP2 operation. Letter contact was quickly made. September 21, 1965 K41IF de G2BVN: "-we saw representatives of our GPO at the end of last week and the news is that the form of application and the necessary paperwork and checking organization for reciprocal licensing should be operational bv the end of October." This made it definite that reciprocal licensing would be too late for us, so the licensing burden fell fully on Dick Spenceley's ace, G3SBP, but there was no problem as Dave wrote "I have applied for a VP2V call and hope to get confirmation of it sometime this week. September 22, 1965We were sure of a ticket, but what about a QTH? We had not been ashore in these islands. A land line call to ARRL Director Bob Denniston, W0NWX, revealed that his favorite retreat, the Treasure Isle Hotel on Tortola, had power 24 hrs. per day. However, Bob cautioned that it was surrounded by high mountains and that propagation was poor. September 23, 1965G3SBP de K4IIF: "We are rounding up gear, —can you get a pole for the beam? How much trouble is it to get from St. Thomas over to Tortola?" K4IIF de Treasure Isle Hotel, Tortola, BVI: "We are pleased to confirm your booking from October 21-24." September 25, 1965 K4IIF de G3SBP: "Re the pole, we should be able to get something in Tortola even if it is only 2 x 4's. We can't carry a pole or mast on the boat. There are 2 boats daily to Tortola, the trip requires 2 hours." K4IIF de K4CAH: "Looks like you too are burning up the typewriter. — I have been promised a triband beam and possibly a Xmtr and Rcvr" October 4, 1965K4IIF de G3SBP: "The ticket is in hand. The call is VP2VD, However, they specify 200 watts maximum so no linear, Can get a 20 ft pole, 4x4, at 21 c/ft" October 8, 1965 K4IIF de K4CAH: "The gear loan fell through. I will box up my own personal S-Iine and take it. Can't locate the man with the beamOctober 10, 1 965K4CAH de K4IIF: "W4DQS has sent me one of the SX-lI7’s used at San Felix, and I will take my SBE-33 and TO Keyer." October 15, 1965 K4IIF de K4CAH: "W4PJG has volunteered to be QSL manager. Still unable to locate the man with the beam," October 16, 1965W4PJG de K4MF: Ur offer to handle QSLs is gratefully accepted, October 18, 1965 Beam finally obtained but too late to check it out. The beginning of a serious problem. The trip down, October 20, 1965 The only serious travel problem arose when we met at the Miami Airport and compared notes on the weight of our luggage it appeared that the airline would soon be holding mortgages on our respective homes to satisfy the overweight charges. However, by putting some items in the baggage of Sonny McCoy, a prominent citizen of Ft, Myers, Fla. who was going along to see the country, and by carrying a few light weight items, such as the power supplies, on board as hand luggage, we succeeded in scraping by with only a $40.00 charge. We then resolved to make good use of air freight on the return trip.After meeting Dave Gynn G3SBP. for the first time at the St Thomas airport we adjourned to the latter's jeep ? and with K4IIF sitting on K4CAH and Sonny McCoy sitting on the TH-3, we drove to the QTH of KV4AA for a pleasant reunion over beer and supper. After eating, everyone took a turn at the mike of KV4AA before turning in for our last good night's sleep for several days. The next morning, October 21, we arose early, ate a good breakfast, then drove down to the waterfront in KV4AA’s truck to catch the morning boat to Tortola, The trip was beautiful V. I. scenery being second to none. On the way over we got our first view of the highest peak of Tortola, not knowing at this time what role this peak was to play in our later operations.The operation begins— but with problems On our arrival in Roadtown, capital of Tortola, we found that October 21 was the local patron Saint's day, and all businesses were closed. Consequently we couldn't get the pole we had planned to use for an antenna mast. However, the hotel was more than cooperative and allowed us the use of its 20 ft. flagpole, the top of which could he reached from the roof. No ladder was available, but G3SBP solved the problem by walking across an adjacent wall and climbing vines onto the hotel roof. Unfortunately, Dave's arms and legs became casualties when the vines turned out to have thorns.Shortly G3SBP and K4IIF had the dipoles for 40 and 80 meters up while K4CAH worked on the assembly of the beam. The other hotel guests stood around watching in amazement and the owner of the local radio station, call letters ZBVI, was attracted to the commotion, After investigating the scene she dispatched a jeep to the station to secure a tape recorder for an interview. A 15 min. interview was subsequently taped and broadcast at 6:30 PM on prime evening time, a thrill to the DXpeditioners to out weight world tensions in the local news. However, after this interesting interlude our problems became really troublesome, As mentioned earlier we had not been able to check out the beam prior to departure, and we found that the boom to mast bracket and the clamp joining the two halves of the boom were missing. It was later found that these had been removed as a practical joke. Different people have different ideas regarding fun. Despair momentarily took over, but not for long as a Rube Goldberg arrangement of ropes and wooden wedges was devised which held well enough to support the beam. At 1925 GMT the S-Line was tuned up on 15 meter SSR and KZ5AY was worked for the first QSO of the expedition. Contacts followed with W4LZ and WA4LUG on 15, then a string of YV's on 20 meters. However, contacts to stateside were virtually non-existent on 20 even after long CQs. The reason appeared obvious. The beam was looking directly into the side of an 800 ft. mountain rising almost vertically between the hotel and the USA, A gap in the mountain allowed us to skip over to YV and KZ5, but Bob Denniston was right, propagation to the states was hopeless. We were ringed on 3 sides with only the southeast completely open. As daylight waned, Sonny and Ernie elected to climb the mountain in an attempt to find a solution to our dilemma. However, after 2 hours they came limping back into the hotel with nothing but bee stings, scratches, and the news that right behind this mountain was another one even higher. With this we QSY ed to the hotel dining terrace for a delicious supper, typical of the excellent meals put forth daily by the Treasure Isle during our visit. After supper K4IIF tuned up on 40 meter C:W and kept a sked with Bill K IGK, in Auburndale, Fla. for the first CW contact. During the QSO the line voltage fluctuated so severely that the lights became very dim every 2-3 minutes. This rendered the automatic keyer almost inoperable as it went wild during the dips, sending dots when the dash lever was struck, We sounded like the worst lids on the band and finally had to go to a straight key. Afterward, 19, 40 meter CW contacts were made with the states and Europe before a violent thunderstorm forced us to QRT. During this time we had a pleasant visit with Row Roy VP2VA, proprietor of the hotel, who promised us help in the morning to get the beam higher. The early morning 7 mc SSB sked with KV4AA, W8EWS, and K5JLQ was kept at 1150 GMT, following which, true to his promise, VP2VA arrived with a 15 ft. section of pipe, and shortly we had the flagpole extended higher. Everyone scurried to the rig, tuned to 14 mc SSB, and QSOs followed with W4ZYS, W4FJG, and numerous Central American stations. However, at about 1315 GMT the band quieted and we settled back to a pace of only 4-5 contacts per hour. At 1815 GMT K4KDN was worked keeping intact the record of contacts between Herb and K4IIF from every DX location visited by the latter to date. We were now convinced that the DXpedition would be a complete failure unless something drastic was done. The CQ DX Phone Contest was due to begin in a matter of hours and it would be our last chance to run up a respectable number of QSOs, Consequently, K4CAH set out to find a portable generator for rent while G3SBP called on John Home of Cable and Wireless Ltd, for help in selecting a new QTH, John suggested looking at the site of a new tropospheric scatter station being constructed by Cable & Wireless Ltd, on the highest peak of the island, about 1500 ft above sea level. They made a quick inspection trip and Dave returned ecstatic over the location which was unobstructed in all directions. The only disadvantage was the road, 5 miles of which were designated jeep only, daylight only. In the meantime Ernie had found a generator for the "nominal* rent of $20.00 a day. We later found that it normally rented for $5,00, but the jolly Americans got a special price. Not impressed by the decrepit appearance and cough-sputter of the generator, it was decided to hedge our bet by splitting up. K4CAH and G3SBP went up the mountain with the S-Iine and di poles for 20 and 80 meters while K4IIF remained at the hotel with the transceiver, SX-I17, the beam which was not movable, and the 40 meter dipole. Upon arrival at the top, Dave and Ernie quickly set up shop in a small wooden shed built as the construction superintendent's office. As soon as they tuned up on 20 meters they had a pileup. Whereas 5 contacts per hour were being made at the foot of the mountain using the beam, the dipole at the mountain top was yielding up to 2 QSO's per minute, alternating roughly 50-50 between stateside and DX. Contacts with Europe, N, America, S. America, Africa, and Australia were made in the first hour. The first stateside QSO was with Herb W4KET in Ft. Myers, with Jim WA4DDG, in Tampa right behind. Between 2015 and 2300 GMT over 250 contacts were made for an average of better than 80 per hour. Contact was established with K4ITF (K4IIF?) at the hotel and plans were made to bring up the rest of the gear and some 1 food. However, with sundown approaching no one could be found who was willing to tackle the road up the mountain with prospects of returning in the dark* Things looked discouraging until John Home arrived at the hotel about 2200 GMT and agreed to take the Land Rover up one more time. The vehicle was hastily loaded and as a consequence the 40 meter dipole was left on the ground at the hotel. The only food which could be secured was a loaf of bread and some cheese plus a few cans of beer. The Land Rover reached the summit at 2300 just in time to catch the last few minutes of the short tropical twilight After quickly unloading John went back down the mountain leaving us completely isolated until the next morning, the nearest native cabins being about a mile away. However, that first evening must go on record as one of the most beautiful ever experienced. It was a dark, moonless night, and St, Thomas lighting up like a Christmas tree 20 miles away across the water, and the glow of the lights of San Juan 80 miles way will long be remembered. The CQ phone DX contest, October 23-24 After 4 wonderful hours on 20 meters the band had begun to sputter and fade as 0000 GMT and the contest approached. However, we decided to stick with this reliable band and K4CAH took the first turn at the mike while G3SBP and K4IIF madly scurried around converting the 80 meter dipole to a combination 80-40 meter antenna by inserting insulators and jumper wires 33 ft. on each leg. This normally simple job was complicated by darkness interrupted only by weak light from a very sooty lantern. The band held up just long enough for us to complete the antenna conversion as Ernie logged in 9 countries in 5 zones during the first 16 minutes. These ranged from YS2SA in zone 7, our first contest contact, to OE5CK in zone 15. Twenty really began to fold at this point and QSOs became few and far between. Consequently, the mike was relinquished to the author who QSY’ed to 7095 kc and went to work on the stateside pileup* The first contact was at 0049 GMT with WA2SFP, Over the next hour 31 contacts were made with W1, W2, W3, W4, W5, W8, W9, and VE. The going was slower than we had anticipated for two reasons, one being that we were frequently QRM’ed by other DX stations operating near 7095, and the other was the trouble in distinguishing the stations calling us from those calling other DX stations. Most of the DX was "listening 7200 up," At 0200 another fry was made on 20 meters but signals were few and weak, and only 2 contacts could be made so the insulators were jumped to convert the duo band dipole to 80. This job will long be remembered by K411F and K4CAH who climbed the wall of the partially completed building in pitch darkness to attach the necessary wires. It was resolved at this point to have a flashlight for the next night. The first QSO on the 80 meter band was with W1AQH at 0246, after which 4 countries in 3 zones were worked in about 20 minutes, It was then discovered that the gasoline supply was diminishing at an alarming rate and would be exhausted before the morning band opening if not conserved. Accordingly, we shut down for an hour and attempted to rest on the floor of the shack with a roll of blueprints for a common pillow. Upon recranking the generator at about 0400 we found to our surprise that 20 meters was wide open to the Midwest states. In a frantic hour from 0416 to 0516 K4CAH logged in 82 QSOs, These included 32 W0's, 24 W8's, 13 W9's, 6W5's, 1 W4, plus KP4, KV4, OD5, ZE1, VP2, and ZS4.At midnight we got an unexpected visit from Colin Barnes, hotel Asst. Manager, and Petri Keen, English freelance photographer, who braved the mountain road in the dark to see that all was well with us, G3SBP elected to return to the hotel with them so that at least one of us would be rested for the next day's operations. After 0530 the going got rough again on 20 meters and only 1 DL, 2 4X4's, and a VE were worked in a 45 minute period so at 0625 we again QSY'ed to 80 meters, and in 28 minutes worked 19 stations in 4 countries and 3 zones, At 0650 the gasoline supply had us really scared, however, and we shut down for a second time. At 0907 we again went back on the air after a totally unsuccessful attempt to sleep on the hard floor. We logged in 9L1HX and ZS1DG on 20 meters before trying the 40 meter pile again at 0916. During the next hour we made 37, 7 mc contacts in 5 zones and 4 countries. The number of DX stations using this band and tuning "7200 up" again lowered our contacts per unit time ratio. The bedlam around 7200 kc must be heard from the DX end to be appreciated, and equally so the 3800 up segment, as almost all stateside stations are on these frequencies during the late night and early morning hours. At 1028 we were again on 20 meters working LA3AF, after which 6 more countries in 3 continents quickly followed. To our surprise WA2SFP, who had been our first 40 meter contact, called us S9 at 1043 and the stateside parade was started much earlier than expected. The first from other east coast call areas thru the pile were W1BPW, W3AZD, and W4BW. At 1058 W6HET was worked for the first 6 on 20 meters. At 1100 the Florida DX Club gang began to hit with rapid fire contacts by K4HNA, WA4NGO, WA4DDG, K4SHB, et ah From 1043 until 1230 GMT 4 pages of log were filled at 40 contacts per page. These were mostly W, K stations, but many DX reliables such as GW3NWV, OA4KY, KV4AA, HK4EB, YV5RIG, HC5CRC, and VP3HAG were also represented. At 1230 the morning jeep arrived with a fresh can of gasoline and that crisis was oven We found much to our chagrin that the generator had been leaking gas all night and that if we had had a flashlight we could have fixed it and operated continuously, "For want of a nail the horse was lost." At this time we crossed all fingers and tuned to 15 meters to find out whether a 40 meter dipole fed with RG58AU coax would load and get out at all. We were particularly dubious since the wire was stretched from NE to SW putting Europe directly off the end. Much to our amazement, our first CQ brought an immediate answer from OE3WWB after which a wonderful pileup developed. Ten countries in 5 zones were logged on the first page of the 21 mc log, Here it must be stated that the courtesy of the W, K operators during this time was phenomenal. Frequently, S9 + W stations alerted us to S4-5 European stations buried under the pile and then stood by while we worked the Europeans before making their own QSOs with us. When we called QRZ Europeans only not a W-K was to be heard. Many familiar DX signals were heard including F8RU of the IARC, DJ6QT, GW3NWV, and of course CX2CO. It soon became obvious that 15 meters was to be our bread and butter band as we begun to fill the standard contest log sheets at the rate of 3 per hour ( 120 contacts) at the height of activity. Our only disappointment with the band was poor propagation to South America. Only 3 YV's and 1 HK were logged as compared to 48 D-D' s and 25 G's. The antenna must have had some unusual lobes.The contest to this point had been exhilarating though sleepless, the only objections being the rather monotonous diet of bread and cheese which we had obtained on our last minute dash up the mountain. While fresh op G3SBF, who had returned on the morning jeep, busily logged in 15 meter contacts a makeshift 10 meter dipole was constructed out of bits and pieces and hung just outside the shack. Due to the shortness of the feedline the 28 mc antenna was so low that members of the party had to stoop to walk under it. However, at 1345 we loaded it up and results were superb, proving again that if you can't afford a good antenna buy a mountain top QTH. The first forty 28 mc QSOs required exactly 20 minutes as we developed a vertiable pipeline to W8 land. Sixty-two W8's were worked on this band compared to only 39 W2's and 29 W4's, VE3LZ was worked to be the first station to QSO us on all 5 bands. Unfortunately the skip was short and although we had high hopes for 6 land contacts on 28 mc we made no QSO's with the Californians. One KS6 slipped thru on very long skip. Just before noon K4CAH and K4IIF hitched a ride to town on a passing land rover leaving G3SBP alone on the rig for a 3 hour period. A cold shower, a delicious lunch sans cheese, and a 30 minute nap really filled the bill before heading back up the mountain fortified with bed spreads and cushions to make the shack more livable. The afternoon climb was courtesy of Row Roy, VP2VA, in the hotel land rover. On arrival Dave was Found busily logging in QSO's while the generator coughed and sputtered, but ran on. Loss of the generator was a continual worry but despite dire predictions to the contrary it continued to function until the operation was concluded. During the afternoon a steady pace was maintained on 15 meters until about 2140 when contacts became thin and we shifted back to 20, The QSO rate on 20 was satisfactory but it was obvious that absence of the beam was hurting us. Despite the 5/9 reports being sent to us we were too easily QRM ed by adjacent splatter in the 14110 kc area. The 14 mc operation continued until past 0000 GMT but the nice opening to Europe of the previous day was not repeated. Most all }f the contacts were with the states except for i sprinkling of VE, YV, and central Americans. By 0100 the pickings had become so slim that we returned to 40 meters. At this puncture we hit the worst doldrums of the contest as only contacts could be made in 30 minutes. These were all W2's except for Foy W4RLS, who struggled through giving us a 3/3/40. Thanks ole Buddy, we were needing them about then. At 0200 we gave 80 meters another whirl and worked DJ1JW who was 5/9++, but was he only European heard. Would like to get a look at his sky wire, The 3,8 mc band sounded real good and a lot of stations were calling CQ contest but after a return of only 6 QSQ's in 40 minutes we again QSY'ed to 20, However, we could only make 12 contacts in the succeeding 2 hours on 20. At this point K4IIF and K4CAH, who had been either operating, logging, or working on the antennas for 42 consecutive hours minus the 30 minute nap at lunch, collapsed in a dead stupor and slept for over 5 hours. Dave carried on during the night but the bands were extremely erratic and did not pick up again until 1040 GMT when DX stations again began to roll through on 14 mc, A good opening to Europe was experienced including 3 consecutive OH3*s at 1122-26. A few W4*s were worked around 1145 and then we QSY'ed to 15 meters. Conditions on 21 mc the morning of the 24th were quite good and many additional European stations were logged. However, the contact speed was a little slower as so many had been worked the first day, A short 10 meter break was taken from 1250 to 1255 to work two ZS, a ZD8, and a KV4, and then we retimed again to 15 meters. By 1300 more W-K's were being worked than Europeans, but DL's, G's, and SM's continued to mix it up and OH0NC was worked at 1359 for an unexpected multiplier. By 1420 we seemed to be in less demand on 15 meters. Whether this was propagation or not we didn't know ? but we QSY'ed to 10 meters and resumed our pipeline operation to the states, making 56 contacts in 40 mins. before taking up the 21 mc battle again at 1500 to fill 4 more log sheets. At 1800 we QSY ed back to 28 mc for the last go round, having learned that the last possible ride down the mountain would be at 2000 GMT, a heart-breaking 4 hours before the contest was due to end* However, the last 2 hours were used to good advantage as 5 and Ja more log sheets were filled with 10 meter QSOs at a rate of about 110 per hour. At 1951 it was up to K4IIF to make the last contacts, K4JEY and then VE3FYF, before saying the hardest 73 ever to a still crackling band. By 2000 all antennas were down, loaded on the land rover, and the last trip down the mountain had begun. The VP2VD group would like to thank the staff at the Treasure Isle Hotel, particularly J, R, Roy VP2VA, for cooperation far beyond the call of duty and the personnel of Cable and Wireless Ltd,, particularly Mr. John Home and Tony, for their help in allowing us to use the facilities under construction at the Challwell Tropospheric Scatter Station, May we be in position to help you some day, John, K4IIF (now SK)A man should keep his friendship in constand repair (Samuel Johnson (1755).
Roy Stevens, G2BVNThe RSGB is pleased to announce that Roy Stevens, G2BVN was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in HM The Queen’s Birthday Honours List.This justly deserved honour is yet another tribute to the untiring efforts of Roy Stevens in the cause of amateur radio.
Diary of a DXpedition VP2VD
K4IIF, Hall of FameThe CQ Amateur Radio Hall of Fame was established in January 2001 to recognize individuals - radio amateurs or not - who significantly affected the course of Amateur Radio, as well as radio amateurs who have made significant contributions either to amateur radio, to their professional careers or to some other aspect of life on our planet. This year's inductees are: - John Attaway, Sr., K4IIF (SK), served for more than 20 years as CQ's DX Editor, proposing the establishment of the CQ DX Hall of Fame in 1967. Professionally, John was a chemist who spent 26 years as Director of Scientific Research for the Florida Department of Citrus, where he worked to improve the quality of Florida orange juice. He served on several industry committees and was named to the Florida Citrus Hall of Fame in 2001Message in 425-DXN 1463K4IIF, Dr. John A. Attaway, Sr., Winter Haven, Florida, USA is passed away 15 April 2019, 88 years old.
Dave Gynn, G3SBPFirst licensed as 5N2RDG January 1961 to January 1963. G3SBP license obtained in 1963. Operated as VP2VD from 1964 to 1966 and G3SBP/KV4 from late 1965 to 1966. 8Q7BN from 1982 to 1983. J6LMT from 1983 to 1984. G3SBP/W2 and G3SBP/W3 during 1985. G3SBP/4S7 1986. VS6VU from 1987 to 1991. Retired in 1994. Active again as G3SBP on All bands and Modes.
Ernie Hendry, K4CAHThere is not much information about Ernie, K4CAH. This is what is found on the webRobert Ernest Hendry II (Ernie) was born on August 27, 1935He died in Forth Myers, Florida on May, 6, 2019. He was 83 .