I have just returned from 7 very enjoyable weeks in Europe. Whilst there I had the honour to stay for a week with Marnix OP7M, his wife Martine, and their 16 year old son Goan. I have spoken with Marnix many times on the radio, and also on Skype, but this was the first time we had met in person. My wife Marija and I had a very enjoyable time at Marnix and Martine’s home, with plenty of laughs, good food, lots of stories, and our fair share of Belgium beer. Whilst staying with Marnix, we also met Eddy ON6ZV and his wife Carine and their son.
Marnix knew I was a keen SOTA & parks activator, so the day after arriving, on 29th July, Marnix, Eddy , myself and Marija headed over the border into Germany for a SOTA and WWFF activation. It wasn’t a short drive to get there. In fact it was about a 3 hour drive to our destination near Prüm. However, Marnix had told me that this was a beautiful area, and was well worth the drive and an opportunity to see the Belgium countryside. Indeed it was. He and Eddy also had plans to activate another summit / WWFF area on the way home the following day, in Belgium.
The chosen summit in Germany was Schwarzer Mann, DM/ RP-003, which is 697 metres (2,286 feet) above sea level and is worth 6 SOTA points. Its grid square locator is JO30eg. The summit is located in the German (Low Mountains) Association in the Rhineland-Palatinate Region. It is located in the western part of the Eifel mountain range, which is known as Schnee Eifel (Snowy Eifel) and is about 14 km from the little village of Prüm. Schwarzer Mann means ‘Black Man”. It is the highest peak in the Schnee Eifel and the third highest in the Eifel. The summit was first activated by DL/ON6DSL/p on 24th December 2007, and has been activated a total of 42 times since.
Map courtesy of sota.org.uk
The summit is also located in World Wide Flora and Fauna area, DLFF-047, German-Belgian High Fens-Eifel Nature Park. The area is known as Naturpark Hohes Venn-Eifel in German and is often called the North Eifel Nature Park (Naturpark Nord Eifel). It is a cross border nature park with the German federal states of North Rhine-Westphalia and Rhineland-Palatinate, as well as the Belgian province of Liege. The park comprises a total area of 2,485 km2.
Map courtesy of wikipedia.com
The areas surrounding Schwarzer Mann is a well developed hiking area and the largest skiing area in Rhineland-Palatinate. The heavily wooded mountain side is covered mainly with spruce trees and is host to some rare wild animals including the wildcat, which sadly I didn’t see. Or maybe that isn’t so bad!
Image courtesy of wikipedia.com
We set up just north of the summit off the L20 road which passes through the park.
The vegetation here was very different to home. Despite it being summer time, he forest was lush and green and very thick. A stark contrast to the parks in South Australia during summer. And not a single gum tree or kangaroo in sight!
Because of reciprocal licensing issues, I was not able to operate under my own call sign. Germany did offer the option of a 3 month temporary licence, so prior to leaving for Europe I applied for a German temporary operating licence, which would have allowed me restricted operating rights. However, I had left my run a bit too late, and did not receive the documentation from DARC until I had left Australia. But there was another option. As I am a police officer, and Eddy is a police officer, we used the call sign of ON4IPA, which belongs to the International Police Association (IPA). In fact, Eddy is the caretaker of that special call sign and the Chairman of the IPA in Belgium. As I am a Detective here in South Australia, this was a really neat call sign to use.
Our equipment was Eddy’s Kenwood TS50, and his ‘Hy End Fed’ half wave end fed antenna which we attached to the top of a 9 metre squid pole. A very easy antenna to erect. More information on this antenna can be found at…..
I initially started off on 20 metres on 14.244 and called CQ a number of times, with Eddy at my side doing the logging on the laptop. But there were no takers. I kept calling CQ for about 5 minutes, before being called by Vincenzo IZ5YHE and then Rudolf OM3CHR. However their signals were extremely low and it was a struggle to make the contacts. With a degree of frustration, we checked the antenna and it appeared ok.
I kept calling CQ for a few more minutes, but sadly there were no takers. Now I was starting to get disappointed. Perhaps band conditions on 20 m were not good? So we QSY’d over to 40 metres where we tuned across the band and found the Commonwealth Games special event station, GA14CG. Signals were still down despite being able to make the contact. Something was clearly wrong. Again we checked the antenna and it appeared all okay.
Again, I put out some CQ calls and no takers. So this time we hooked up an LDG auto tuner, and found the VSWR to be very high. After further checking we found an issue with one of the patch leads and replaced it. This solved the problem and we were back in business. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I then moved up the band a little to 7.144 and called CQ and this time I was greeted by a number of callers. My first caller here was Keith G0TSH. A steady flow of European and UK callers followed. I worked a total of 43 stations before moving back to 20 m where I worked another 5 stations before handing the mic over to Eddy.
A number of the stations that I worked during the afternoon, recognised that I did not have a Belgian accent. They must have been wondering why is an Aussie operating a Belgium call sign in Germany? This included Manuel, EA2DT, who I have worked many times before whilst I’ve either been in a park or on a summit in Australia. During the QSO Manual said; “One question. Is you Paul, Victor Kilo 5 Papa Alpha Sierra. Is you Paul, roger?'” Once I told Manuel that it was in fact me at the mic, he was very excited, as was I.
I ended up with a total of 51 contacts. The majority of those being on 40 metres, and all from Europe and the United Kingdom. The following countries were worked:-
- Czech Republic
- Slovak Republic
Sadly it was the wrong time of the day for good propagation to Australia.
As a result of this activation, I found that World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) is extremely popular in Europe. Many of the stations I worked were very keen on the WWFF reference number. Who knows, maybe WWFF will kick off and become popular in Australia too. It hasn’t been for the lack of trying!
Wikipedia, 2014, ‘Schwarzer Mann’, accessed 9th September 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schwarzer_Mann>
Wikipedia, 2014, “High Fens-Eifel Nature Park’, accessed 9th September 2014, <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Fens_–_Eifel_Nature_Park>