This is a report of my OD5 VHF DX expedition in June 1998. This is the third time that I have been to Lebanon:
In 1993 I met Samir, OD5SK, and I tried to stay in contact with him before the following VHF activation. Unfortunately, he went to HZ to work and it was not possible to organise anything with him. In 1996, I met Rami, OD5SB, and I planned again to organise something. In 1997, it was not possible because of my job activity.
The OD5RAK antennas can just be seen on top of the tower block
In January 1998, I decided to go to Lebanon, so I contacted the RAL, OD5SB, OD5SK, OD5JQ to get some information, in particular regarding an amateur radio licence. Unfortunately, it is still very difficult to get a temporary licence in Lebanon, more difficult than three years ago. The Lebanese cant get a callsign even if they have passed the exam, and there has been no amateur exam since 1993. In 1993 there was nothing for foreign amateur radio.
The Lebanese PTT had been advised to "take the OD5/F6FLV callsign", but they couldnt give me a licence. But now it seems to be totally illegal to use OD5/ without a legal paper. Many Lebanese hams have passed their exam some years ago and they are still waiting for a licence - why it should be more easy for a foreign amateur radio to get one?
For me to be legal and to pass through the customs with my equipment,
it was necessary to have full authorisation. According to OD5CN (RAL president), OD5JQ and
OD5SB, the best solution was to use the OD5RAK callsign and to activate the radio club
station. So, Rami (OD5SB) sent me the OD5RAK licence and the authorisation, from OD5ZZ
(OD5RAK President), to operate the radio club station in June.
On 16th May 98 I sent my antennas (5el for Six + 17 el for Two + 25 m of very low loss coaxial cable for two metres) by flight cargo. I also sent along a 5el for six metres donated to OD5SB by Italian radio amateurs. The antennas arrived in Beirut on 23rd May and I was very happy as it all seemed to be very easy.
On 3rd June, I took the plane with my equipment (IC706, 350W two metre power amplifier, 75A/14V power supply, DTR for MS, Super CMOSIII keyer (very nice), SWR-meter, 30 m of RG214...). Because of the 20kg baggage limit, I was obliged to pay 1000 FF more at the airport.
Unfortunately, I left my Visa card at home and I arrived in Beirut at 21.00 with only $20 in my pocket. I did not have any trouble with the customs, with my ATA file: French and Lebanese Customs put a seal on my ATA equipment list and everything was OK (I was lucky).
At the airport I was received by F4AFG (Thierry, working in Lebanon for 2 years), who gave me a lift to Tripoli, up to the radio club (the ninth floor of a very comfortable building, 500m from the sea). Everything was prepared for me and the premises of OD5RAK were very nice. We ate a pizza with Thierry and Rami (OD5SB) and I took my IC706 out of my case, just to test if I could receive OD5SIX (200 m from there) on a single 1/4 lambda 144 MHz antenna out of the window.
The beacon was at saturation and suddenly, on the middle of the six metre band, F1BHB called CQ DX with a report near 59 (on a two metre GP antenna!!). What happened (it was 23.30 local time)? We tried to call him but the SWR was too high and I was afraid to break the TRX.
Later, I tested the HF three ele beam: the SWR was high but I could QSO in QRP with G4GRK (first contact 559/559) and something started with a few other G stations. After that Thierry and Rami left, the main power went off and I was obliged to go to the bed in the dark, without any shower and with the company of mosquitoes.
I was so anxious to setup the antennas as soon as possible, and I was so excited about the propagation, the main power break, the hot weather and the mosquitoes that I did not sleep at all that night. Later, as the building is supplied with a backup generator, I learned to use it, in case of a new main power breakdown.
First day: 04/06/98 - Installation
As the sun started to give some light, I opened my cases and I set up the two and six metre stations using the FT736 of the radio club and with a 200AH battery as a backup. F4AFG had installed a PC-computer to be able to connect the DX-cluster on two metres through the 5B4 or OD5RAK-8 gateways. As the three ele HF beam seemed to work a little on Six, I left it on until the evening, as my antennas would be there by then. I had a GP antenna at the window for two metres.
Regarding the antennas, I would like to write a large book as the story was so strange with a lot of suspense. Imagine that every day, until the last day of the DXpedition, the antennas were expected for the next day. Even at this time (2-July), the antennas have not been delivered to the radio club in Tripoli. If I had known that, I would have started to built a yagi the first day.
Imagine that the transit forwarding agency in charge of getting the antennas in Beirut is managed by OD5KM and OD5FH and that they spent a lot of time and energy to try to get them from the customs. Imagine what would be happen if the forwarding agency was not managed by hams!
Imagine also that some hams have friends in the right places, you can understand how complex the situation is.
I understand that after 17 years of war, the government is trying to establish some laws and rules. The war has been finished for more than five years but the administration is still disorganised. However, I am very optimistic for the future of Lebanon because the country is booming with the construction of buildings and roads, and because the police are starting to give some fines to the car drivers (incredible in that country, where it is not unusual to meet a car going in the opposite way on the highway).
So, do not try to understand why it is possible to import 40 kg of TRX/amplifier/electronics and not possible for 30kg of aluminium and copper pieces.
The coaxial cable seemed to be the most critical: it was necessary to give the schematic diagram of all the antennas, to get the signature from the PTT department, from the defence department, from the Lebanese army, do not expect to have a signature in one day: a week is necessary if you are lucky, so for a few signatures
But now the antennas are in Lebanon and I am sure that they will be delivered soon to the radio club, ready for the next DX VHF expedition and for any OD5SB/ OD5SK/ OD5RAK six metre activity.
0600z 50 MHz open: QSO with UT/ YU/ SM/ 9H/ YO/ 9A/ F9DI/ IT9/ I2-4-8/ OK/ LZ/ S5/ G
1000z 144 MHz Es N°1: QSO with 9A4NF and 9A3EI. Open for 30minutes, using only 25W on a two metre GP antenna at the window.
Next on Six again / I0-4-5-8/ 9A/ YO/ EU1AB/ SP/ OH1AYQ/ F6AUS/ ON4ANT/ ON4GG/ ON4KST/ DL8SET/ OK/ UT8/ many DL/ F5MUX /GDØTEP/Many G/GW3JXN
Last QSO with G4SEU at 2245z (0145am local time)
That day, I had a short break to buy candles and something to kill the mosquitoes, and naturally to eat and drink something.
I would like to explain what the propagation was like during the firsts two weeks: the propagation was so good that six metres seems to be open all the time, even during the night. During the first two weeks I slept only three hours per night. I made up for it during the day, as I was so tired: one time OD5SKbis(Nabil) came to the station, saw me asleep and worked himself a dozen HA/OK stations on two metre Es. F4AFG saw me asleep also a few times, as the keyer was calling CQ!
Most days, strong video carriers (from ex-USSR) were received at sunrise and the last QSO made near midnight and up to 2am on the morning: incredible! What would it be with a real antenna?
I counted only five days without any propagation on six metres, but even those days, every day, there was something that looked like FAI at sunset, with a QRB near 3000km, one hope only, with G, ON, PA, SP, DL and OZ/SM: very strange, no propagation but signals near 51 at sunset, from 10minutes up to a few hours.
The HF and VHF equipment, note the 'turbo IC706' on the right!
Second day: 05/06/98
0619z: SP/ OE/ US5/ 9A/.../I1-2-6-8/ OZ/ F6FRR/ F6GNP/ F1MXE/ F1ACK/ EH1BLA/ EK6AD/ SV/ CT1DYX/ EH1EH
So, 120 QSOs. The last QSO was at 2050z with DL4MDQ (but band still open with video carriers). All in QRP (5W), using the three el HF beam.
To be ready for the next Es 144 MHz opening I setup a temporary half-9el on two metres (but fixed at a QTF of 300), given by OD5SB (but no rotor available).
Third day: 06/06/98
0516z: SP/YO/ I0-8-9/ 9H/ 9A/ LZ/...
1545z: 144MHz Es N°2: 9H1CD-GB/ 9H5L/ 9H1PA
I was very excited because I heard so many many many stations during the contest in the evening, but I was not able to work them in QRP with such a bad antenna (5W on the HF beam). (The antennas have to be there at night! Saturday is a working day in Lebanon).
Fourth day: 07/06/98
0550z: 9A/ YO/ YU/ I/ M/ F9IE/ US/ GW/ many G/ SV/ SP/ ER/ ON/ DL
As propagation was still strong and the antennas were not available, I decided with OD5SKbis (Nabil) to set up a dipole on six metres so as not miss the end of the contest. After some experiences with Murphys law, the dipole was running quiet well, with 10 to 40W output but with some SWR as the dipole was near the shrouds of the iron tower.
120 QSOs again: YU/ PA/ ON/ I/ SP/ G/ GJ/ LX/ OZ/ YO/ S5/ DL
The last QSO was at 15h10z with OZ4LP (I do not know what happened after that as I was so tired).
With that propagation and a good antenna I am sure that OD5RAK could have won the contest, probably with more than 400 QSOs a lot of countries and squares.
Fifth day: 08/06/98
0417z: YO/ UT/ EK/ LZ/ SV/ YU/ I/ Z3/ CT3FT/ 9H/ SP/ S5/ OE/ 9A/ IS0/ G/ EH3-7/CT3HF/ F5MMF
1705z: 144 MHz Es N°3: IW5DAN/I5RUR
Next on six metres: OE/ I0-1-2-5-7-8/ EH6/ EH7/ YT/ HB9SJY/ EH5-2/ SP/ IS/ F8VQ/CT
So 160 QSOs with the dipole. The last QSO was at 2100z with IW5BML
Sixth day: 09/06/98
Only strong video carriers during the morning.
1000z I/9H/ a lot a G/ ON/ DL/ OK/ GW/ LA/ GM4DGT not completed
So, my first logbook (45 pages, 18 QSOs per page) was full! (after 5 days!).
Seventh day: 10/06/98
100 QSOs on Six (with CT3s again, F6ECS, 4L5O/ G/ PA/ ON/ I/ S5/ 9A/ SP/ I/ DL/ YU/ SM3BIU/ OZ/ YO/ LZ/ SM3EQY/ EH3)
Last QSO at 2035z with DJ1OJ (but band still open), QSO started at 21h48z with F6BQX
1015z: 144 MHz Es N°4: YU7MS, YU1OK, YU7VA, YZ7MON, (YO7VS heard me)
Eighth day: 11/06/98
0557z: S5/ 9H/ EH7-1-2/ YU/ DL/ SV/ LZ/ CT/ UR/ 9A/ I
Last QSO at 2116z with LZ2NW
1500z: 144 MHz Es N°5: very strong and long opening with HA/OK/SP: HA8UG, HA5CW, HA5OV, HG7JAL, HA8MV, OK2ITN, HA5CBA, OM5KM, HA7RF, HA5CBA, HA9UL, HA5RQ, OK1AMI, OK2KQQ and many uncompleted as SP9EWO, OK2ZZ but as the HA stations are still not disciplined (I have experienced that with them from a C31 DXpedition) we missed a lot of QSOs: why do they call when we request a report or a locator from an other station? Why do they answer when we give the micro to another ?
Tenth day: 13/06/98
120 QSOs on Six starting at 0543z (F5QT/ F1BHB/ F5LNU/ F5JKK/ F6HRP/ F8OP/ F1DVO)
The propagation not very good (or the band was open to desert areas) but there was something like FAI at sunset. Some days gave only strong video carriers from the morning to the night.
14th day: 17/6/98
60 QSOs: IT/ UX/ 9H/ YO/ SM/ EH7-1/ SP/ F1BBK/UR/ UT/ EI/ G/ GW/ F1MXE/ OM/ I/ F5CBQ/ /UI EH3/ SV/ F8VQ/ F1AKE/ F6HRP/F5LNU/DL/PA/HB9: last at 0014z with EH3ADW
15th day: 18/06/98
80 QSOs: UT/ SV/ IT9/ EH3/ F6FRR /5B4/ SV9/ HB9/ F6HTJ/CT/ F8ZW/ 9H/ SP/ LZ/ DL/ F1DVO/ UR/ SQ/ EH1/ YO/ G/ GW/ PA/ OH/ many OZ/ SM/ LY/ SM3JGG. In the evening, the propagation was very good but for a week I had a very strong local QRM at 59+, starting near 1600z until to the next morning.
16th day: 19/6/98
Six metres open at 0330z! 100 QSOs: mny G/ GW/ SM/ EI/ UT/ OZ/ F5QT/ SP/ YO/ EH1/ DL/ OE/ F1AMZ/ F1BHB/ S5/ SV last QSO at 1442z because of the strong local QRM
17th day: 20/6/98
30 QSOs but with many OH/ ES/ US/ 9H/ LZ/ EH7/YO/YU/.... last at 1835z with CT3HF in middle of my strong local QRM.
18th - 25th days:
21/6/98 = 30 QSOs
22/6/98 = 40 QSOs
23/6/98 = 30 QSOs
25/6/98 = 40 QSOs
26/6/98 = 40 QSOs (7Q7RM at 2030z)
27/6/98 = 30 QSOs
28/8/98 = 30 QSOs
It would take too long to give a detailed list of the countries but I worked: F5DE, F8OP, F6ARQ, F1MXE, F6BQX, I heard F1YJ calling CQ, EH9, GJ4ICD many times, PAØOOS and DL7QY and PA2VST too, T9, one /MM station near Rabat, TA, rx 4X but not possible to contact because of the OD5 law. Most days: DL/ G/ SP/ I/ 9H/ /YO /LZ... why no GI, GM, EH8 ?
I spent the last two days visiting a new part of Lebanon (Zahle) with Marie-Thérèse, to check again if anything was possible at the Snow Land Hotel (Qanat Bakiche - 2400m asl - KM73), to swim in the sea, and to get a minimum sun tan before starting work again.
I made around 1500 QSOs (two full logbooks), worked nearly 1000 different stations, 52 DXCC countries and 225 squares on six metres, with only a dipole antenna made of electric cable. I missed 7Q7RM (he called me, but the QSO was not completed after 30 minutes as that direction was closed by the tower.
- Two openings with S-America (signal on 10m from PY/LU/OA/YV were at saturation on my six metre dipole in the evening). The dipole was at the opposite side.
- One opening with the US, but not worked as I was so stressed by the EU pileups to the US, and powerless with my poor dipole.
- A few openings by TEP to S-Africa, as the ZS1-6 ten metre beacons were very strong sometimes, but the tower was a mask for the dipole.
Even with the normal problems of a DXexpedition, the experience was very successful and, as the antennas are now in OD5, I plan to be active next year from KM73 and/or KM84: not at sea level but from 1000 to 2400m asl, and up to 3000 m if possible, just in front of the sea (not for tropo: only for iono).
As the propagation was so strong and as the openings were so long, that kind of DX expedition is very difficult with a single operator, to be efficient during 30 days, 24h a day, and to be active also on 144 MHz MS and Es.
At this time, the list of stations active on six metres (all in KM74) is:
OD5SB (Rami, QRVwith 8W on a GP, will be QRV soon with a 5el from Tonna)
OD5SK is (Nabil, with 10W on a GP, could be QRV also with a 5el from Tonna)
F4AFG (could be QRV with 100W, using OD5RAK callsign, if he gets the schematic of a 2 el yagi or HB9CV to build it; he has a very good takeoff for Europe, at 10 m from the sea on a building).
Nobody is QRV in KM73 and KM84 for either six metres or for SSB on two metres.
As five years ago, the two metre band is still full of many FM things, as local music/religious broadcasts, ambulance, trucks, restaurants, links for telephone, hundreds/ thousands of two metre handy TRX used as CB, some companies have official repeaters on the amateur two metre band: nobody does anything! In June, I was permanently QRMmed by the YK people on 144.300.
First, I would like to thanks my wife (F1TFF): she permitted to me to go on holiday alone for a full month.
I would like to thank F6CER and F1CXX for their help in completing the antenna equipment (special coaxial connectors and the two metre dipole). I would like to thanks very very very much OD5SB (Rami) and his wife OD5QE (Hanan) for the arrangement with OD5RAK, the time lost, the stress and the effort made to help me for the logistic (antennas, rotor, ...) and also OD5SKbis (Nabil and its wife) and F4AFG (Thierry and his wife Zoe) for the technical help, the company and the spiritual help during that activation.
Special thanks also go to OD5ZZ (Walid) for the authorisation allowing me to operate from the radio club OD5RAK (OD5RAK - PKRS - President KARAMI Radio Society, PO BOX 782 TRIPOLI-LEBANON).
For Rami, it was the first experience to help a foreign amateur radio, during a full month in the radio-club. He would like to do it again to give some energy to the radio club. So feel free to contact him by e-mail to arrange something: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks also to the RAL (OD5CN) and OD5JQ (John) for the advice, and a special one to OD5KM and OD5FH for the long fight with the customs and the administration to get the antennas.
Lebanese radio amateurs are very very welcoming, and ready to do everything to help you. As an example (but do not follow it please !) as the two metre repeater was on the OD5RAK premises, and as it would have given QRM to me, OD5xxxx took the repeater to his bedroom. The story is that his wife had just given birth to a wonderful baby one week before, and she slept just near the repeater in June (and the repeater was working !).
The OD5SIX beacon was stopped during June as it was too close from to radioclub (QRM).
Special thanks to ICOM for the solidity of the IC706, as my personal IC706 was working 24h/day throughout the full month and as it was in contest all the time: I was obliged to put 3 fans under it as it was so hot, so it was a IC706 turbo!
(only for QSOs with OD5RAK in June 98): F6FLV - Jean-Pierre Malezet, 9 rue E.J. Marey, 78390 Bois dArcy - France
When I got back to France, my letterbox was full of QSL cards. The
OD5RAK QSL cards had already been sent to them.
At last, the antennas have been delivered to the radio club, on 7th July. It would be a good end to the story if the radio club was not obliged to pay 450,000 LL (£180) more to the customs, without notice (shipment and antennas already paid). OD5SB is dismantling the antenna package and, as you are reading this, I guess he is QRV with a five element yagi.
See you in 1999 on the magic band (from KM84 ?).
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