Thursday, 23 July 2015

Vatican Magic

courtesy: K7CW
Late last month I made mention of a truly amazing 50MHz contact. It was the QSO made by K7CW (Paul, in Tahuya, Washington) with HVØA (operator Francesco, IKØFVC) at the Vatican. Working the Vatican station is tough enough on HF, but snagging it on 6m, from the west coast, is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience ... some even described the QSO as 'miraculous'!

June 21st was one of the better days of this year's poor Sporadic-E season. Stations in the western part of North America had an early-morning opening to the Caribbean as well as to South America, when YV1KK was worked by stations in the PNW region.

Here's how it happened here. I hadn't been paying attention to it, but N5DG had worked HVØA. Somebody mentioned that HVØA was going to QSY to 50.078 and was going to be looking for NA. I thought this choice of frequency was odd because some Europeans are not authorized to use frequencies below 50.080. But, I decided to go down there and check it out, because doing that has often paid off (re the CYØX QSO which brought me to start doing this). The propagation to the Caribbean and northern South America was demonstrably quite good (I worked my first YV), so checking out this European spot made even more sense.

I swung my beam up to a heading that I thought was good enough for Italy and tuned down on .078. Fortunately, there were no beacons coming through on that frequency, so I could concentrate on digging out any weak signal that was there. I slowly tuned around .078 and, for a while, heard nothing. After a few minutes, I began to sense that there was some tonal quality to the noise (musical noise). It was just there as no more than a hint, but I slowly tuned it so that it matched the frequency of my CW sidetone. I hoped that the other station (if there was one) would also have his filters set the same way. When I thought I had it about right, I switched in all my CW filters to the tightest setting (50 Hz) on both my transceiver and also my JPS NIR-12 outboard DSP filter. When I did this, the signal to noise ratio improved so well that I immediately started copying, "CQ NA CQ NA de HVØA HVØA" He was solid copy, but I needed those tight filters. I got his attention on the first call! He called me back using K8CW and gave me 599. I'm sure he was receiving me well, but probably didn't believe I was a 7. He kept calling me K8CW and I kept correcting him. I gave him a 599, too, but it was just a jerk-knee response that someone might do upon being the object of a miracle. But he was solid copy. After our QSO, I stopped hearing him. I logged him at 1631Z. The spotting record shows that N5DG and K7CW were the only North American stations to work HVØA on June 21 on 50 MHz. So, that's my side of the story.

courtesy: K7CW
I happened to be listening to the exchange myself but heard nothing from HVØA although two Italian stations were heard over the next few minutes.

No magic for me that day but kudos to Paul and his fine station, as well as to Francesco,  for the heads-up operating and being on top of the short propagation window that morning!

courtesy: K7CW and

These are the moments that 6m diehards live for, especially those on the west coast ... reminding us once again why the 'magicband' deserves its well earned moniker.

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