Chapter VII

Pioneers in Greece

1. General George Zarifis (retired) SV1AA.

As recorded in detail in chapter 5, George was undoubtedly the first Greek amateur to have two-way contacts using radio telephony, way back in 1921. He was also the first amateur to operate from the island of Crete in 1938.

2. Dr Costas Fimerelis SV1DH. (Transequatorial propagation).

On October 9th 1988 at 23.10 GMT a new world distance record was established on the 50 MHz band by the Greek experimental station SZ2DH operated by Costas Fimerelis SV1DH and a station in Tokyo, when it was proved that the signals had travelled a distance of 30,650 over the South American continent. This is 15,000 kilometres more than the short path between the two stations, over which there was absolutely no propagation at that moment in time.

A simple 5 element Yagi and a power of 100 watts was used at SZ2DH. The contact was on CW but the signals were so strong that it might well have been on SSB. It is estimated that 8 hops were needed to cover this record distance.

Most people know by now that SV1DH was one of the principal stations involved in the very successful Transequatorial propagation tests which took place during the 21st sunspot cycle between 1977 and 1983. Costas gave me a simplified explanation of the phenomenon first noticed by Ray Cracknell ZE2JV and Roland Whiting 5B4WR way back in September 1957, namely that VHF signals can travel great distances across the equator (5,000 to 8,000 kilometres) during the years of high sunspot activity.

Costas said that usually stations located approximately the same distance north and south of the magnetic (not geographic) equator can contact each other shortly after sunset at both locations. The first such QSO took place on the 10th April 1978 between ZE2JV and 5B4WR. Two days later ZE2JV contacted George Vernardakis SV1AB and this contact was followed a few days later with QSOs with SV1DH and SV1CS. (Fuller details of these contacts are given later in this book in the interview with SV1AB).

In October 1976 there was a rumour that 145 MHz signals had been heard directly between Argentina and Venezuela. With the imminent beginning of sunspot cycle 21 many amateurs in the northern and southern hemispheres began organizing tests on 50,144,220 and 432 MHz. Within less than a year successful 2-way contact was established between Argentina and Venezuela on 144 MHz.

Greece is favourably placed for TEP to countries in Africa where there is considerable amateur radio activity, like Zimbabwe and the Union of South Africa. So towards the end of 1977 SV1AB and SV1DH began looking for colleagues in suitable geographic locations with the appropriate equipment and the time and inclination to engage in tests which could go on for months and months on end. Very soon the following stations agreed to participate in the tests. The northern group included SV1AB, SV1DH, 5B4WR and 5B4AZ. In the southern hemisphere participants were ZE2JV (now G2AHU), ZS6PW, ZS6DN, ZS6LN and ZS3B.

After 4 months of daily test schedules, early in 1978, successful contacts took place on 144 MHz, some of which constituted world distance records for that time, as can be seen in the accompanying table. Amateurs in Malta, Italy, France and Spain soon began to participate in the tests, as well as amateurs in other areas of South Africa.

It can be seen from the world map that the magnetic dip (shown as a heavy line) is very different to the geographic equator. The QTH of SV1AB is in a suburb 10 kilometres north of SV1DH's so George's contacts with the stations in Africa always had that edge on them.

In South Africa Dave Larson ZS6DN had set up a beacon which was first heard in Athens by SV1AB in February 1979. Within a few days ZS6DN had QSOs with SV1DH and SV1AB. The latter contact was a world distance record via the F-regions of the ionosphere because of the extra distance involved owing to the locations of the two Greek stations, as mentioned in the previous paragraph.

For anyone who may be interested very comprehensive reports of the work done in transequatorial propagation during cycle 21 and earlier appeared in articles written by Ray Cracknell ZE2JV/G2AHU and Roland Whiting 5B4WR/G3UYO in the June/July/August 1980 issues of Radio Communuication, the journal of the R.S.G.B. and in the November/December 1980 issues of QST.

Record Transequatorial Propagation Contacts During Sunspot Cyle 21

Stations MHz Date GMT Km

YV5ZZ/6--LU1DAU 145.9 29/10/77 02.00 5,000

World record distance on 144 MHz. First Western hemisphere contact.

JH6TEW--VK8WJ 144.1 10/02/78 11.50 5,060

First Pacific area contact.

KP4EOR--LU5DJZ 145.1 12/02/78 00.12 6,340 New world distance record on 144 MHz.

YV5ZZ--LU3AAT 432.1 13/02/78 01.10 5,100 First reception of 432 MHz signals in Western hemisphere.

5B4WR--ZE2JV 144.1 10/04/78 17.40 5,800 First T.E.P. contact between Europe and Africa.

SV1AB--ZE2JV 144.1 12/04/78 18.00 6,260 First Greek distance record on 144 MHz.

SV1DH--ZS6DN 144.1 13/02/79 18.15 7,120 New world distance record on 144 MHz.

SV1DH--ZE2JV 432.3 20/03/79 18.20 6,250 First reception of 432 MHz signals between Europe and Africa.

I4EAT--ZS3B 144.1 31/03/79 18.50 7,890 World distance record (reception) on 144 MHz.

3. George Vernardakis SV1AB. (V.H.F.)

In March 1988 I visited George Vernardakis SV1AB (formerly F9QN of Marseilles, France) who spoke to me about his contribution to the transequatorial tests and his other experiments in connection with Moonbounce, Meteor Scatter and Sporadic E propagation.

"In 1965" George told me, "I was the only SV station equipped for contacts via meteor scatter so it was easy for me to make contacts with many European stations. The longest distance I achieved was with UA1DZ a Physics Professor at the University of Leningrad in the Soviet Union."

Norman: "Forgive me for interrupting you, but please explain in simple terms what you mean by meteor scatter."

George: "Meteor scatter is a way of making contacts on 2 metres by reflection from meteorites--'shooting stars' as they are called colloquially--which we see on clear nights during the summer. Of course they are not falling stars at all--they are meteorites which burn up when they hit the earth's atmosphere, leaving the trail that we see. We take advantage of this phenomenon for bouncing our signals off the trail but unfortunately it is a very short-lived event. Once when there were a lot of meteorites I was able to maintain contact with LX1SI of Luxembourg for a whole three minutes on SSB. It was during the period of the Persides which usually occur for a week in August when the earth's orbit takes it through this cloud of space debris. Millions of meteorites can be as small as a grain of sand and of course leave no visible trail when they strike the earth's atmosphere. The earth goes through other major clusters in April and in December. The phenomenon can also affect signals on lower frequencies. One can be in QSO on 20 metres via ground wave with a station a couple of hundred miles away with signals around s2 to s3. Suddenly one or two words are heard at s9 which indicates a momentary reflection off a meteorite trail."

George also explained that in order to defeat the brevity of the time when communication was possible it was customary to record a message on a tape recorder and transmit it at high speed. The other station would also record at high speed and then play back at normal speed to hear the message normally.

I asked SV1AB to tell me about Sporadic E propagation.

"In this form of contact the signals are reflected from an ionised area 90 to 120 kilometres above the surface of the earth. I have been having contacts by this method for about 18 years now even before the advent of SSB on two metres. I have had contacts with England and with Moscow to the north-east of Athens. The phenomenon occurs for three or four months during the summer, and never during the winter. The ionisation moves very rapidly sometimes--you may be talking to a station in Malta and he suddenly disappears and a station in Yugoslavia comes up on the same frequency."

"Every summer" George continued, "we get Troposcatter which allows communication on all frequencies from VHF to 10 GHz even. This type of propagation occurs during certain special meteorological conditions, like high barometric pressure and extreme heat. We sometimes hear stations in Malta and Sicily with very loud signals."

"In 1966 I built an aerial array consisting of 8 nine-element Yagis for 2 metres with the axis of rotation pointing to the North Star enabling me to track the Moon automatically. I was hoping to make some Moonbounce contacts, but at that time it was very difficult to construct low noise preamplifiers. After many days and hours of trying I managed a single brief contact with F8DO in France. Some time later I heard that Mike Staal K6MYC had heard me in California.

"The funny thing about this aerial array was that it enabled me to receive television signals from Nigeria on Channel 3 but only when I raised it up to an elevation of nearly 90 degrees."

Norman: "I understand that Costas Georgiou SV1OE is the only Greek amateur who has had successful QSOs via Moonbounce."

George: "Yes indeed. But it was many years later, using a low noise GASFET preamplifier. K1WHS in the U.S.A. has an array consisting of 48 Yagis which enable him to contact stations with more modest installations.

"In 1970 a technician from Stanford University came to Athens because the tracking station they had set up on Mount Pendeli could not pick the University's satellite, whereas they were getting good signals from it in Spain. One of the assistants at the station told the American that he knew an amateur who could pick up signals from satellites, meaning me. The American, who happened to be an amateur himself, immediately asked to see me. When he saw my 8 antenna array he suggested we should use it to try and pick up the University satellite. I pointed out to him that my array was for 144 MHz whereas the satellite beacon was transmitting on 136 MHz. He gave me the coordinates for the next pass and I rotated and raised my array in anticipation. When the exact time arrived my modest receiver picked up the satellite beacon loud and clear. The American got so excited he asked me if he could use my telephone to call the University in the U.S.A. He told them the satellite had been heard at last in Athens, and by an amateur no less. Later I received a letter from NASA thanking me for the assistance I had given. When the American left he gave me that 50 MHz converter you can see there on the shelf."

Norman: "Tell me about your contribution to the transequatorial tests of 1979."

SV1AB: "I had been in regular contact with ZS6LN on ten metres long before Costas SV1DH appeared on the scene. I remember asking ZS6LN why we should not receive South African stations on 2 metres when we could hear them so well on 50 MHz. He had replied that the two frequencies behaved in a very different manner, but there was no harm in trying. He got ZS6PW and ZS6DN interested in the idea, particularly ZS6DN who had much better aerials and a very good QTH. He was the one who stood the better chance of being heard in Greece. We arranged a schedule of transmitting and listening every evening. First they transmitted and we listened, and then we transmitted and they listened, and contact was maintained on ten metres."

Norman: "You said 'every evening'--do you mean that the Sun has something to do with this type of propagation?"

George: "Most certainly. All the contacts that were made subsequently were at least one hour after the relevant part of the ionosphere was in darkness."

George then described how the first signals were heard via transequatorial propagation.

George: "First we heard the beacon on 144.160 MHz set up by Ray Cracknell ZE2JV in Southern Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe). The date was April 12th 1978 at 18.00 G.M.T. Ten months later I heard ZS6DN's automatic beacon with a colossal signal, but he was not at home! I went to 20 metres and put out a frantic CQ for any station in South Africa but got no reply. I returned to the cross-band frequency on 10 metres which we used regularly for 28/50 MHz QSOs and managed to contact a station in South Africa who was very far away from ZS6DN but who kindly offered to QSP a message by telephone. He was told that ZS6DN had gone out but would be back soon. I was terrified that the opening would not last long enough. But in a few minutes I heard him calling me slowly on CW and we exchanged reports at 17.20 G.M.T on February 16th 1979. This was a new world record for the longest distance on 2 metres

"Three days earlier, however, when I was not at home, Costas SV1DH had established the first TEP contact between Greece and South Africa when he contacted ZS6DN. As you know, my location is a mere 10 kilometres north of SV1DH's. I have a tape recording of my QSO with ZS6DN as well as with ZS6PW whose signals came through a few minutes later at 17.34 G.M.T. on that historic evening.(The local time in Athens was 7.34 p.m.).Of course the distance record was broken again on September 17th 1981 when I contacted ZS4BU who is 110 kilometres further south than ZS6DN."

Norman: "Were all these contacts only on the key?"

George: "Yes, all the contacts were on CW. On several occasions we tried SSB but there was so much distortion that not a single word could be identified. TEP has a lot of flutter and fading and as you can hear on the tapes even the morse comes through like a breathing noise, not a clear tone. This applies to contacts between Greece and South Africa. Contacts between Japan and Australia where the distances involved are smaller, have been made on SSB."

Norman: "What about cycle 22?"

George: "see how things go. If anything is achieved it should be in 1990 or later. With modern equipment we shall be able to hear signals that were buried in the noise in 1979."

4. Dr Spyros Tsaltas SV1AT & George Delikaris SV1AM. (Mobile).

The first two licensed amateurs to make contact on 2 metres in Greece were Dr Spyros Tsaltas SV1AT and George Delikaris SV1AM. They had put together the famous Heathkit 'TWOER'. Crystals were plentiful on the surplus market, but it was not easy to find two of the same frequency. SV1AT transmitted on 144.720 and SV1AM on 145.135 MHz. The first contact took place at 13.30 local time on the 21st of December 1963.

A few days later SV1AT had a cross-band QSO with George Vernardakis SV1AB who was transmitting in the 20 metre band on 14.250 MHz A.M. as he had not completed his TWOER yet.

At that time SV1AT was the Secretary of the Radio Amateur Association of Greece. He suggested to the Committee that the Club should apply for a temporary licence to be granted to SV1AM enabling him to transmit from his vehicle while in motion. The licensing authority gave the licence "for experimental purposes only, and for a period not exceeding one month".

And so it was that the first 'mobile' QSO took place on 2 metres between licensed Greek amateurs on the 27th of January 1965 at 19.25 local time. SV1AM was travelling in his car and SV1AT was at his home QTH.

5. Costas Tzezairlidis SV4CG. (SSTV).

In 1970 Costas Tzezairlidis SV4CG built a unique electro mechanical machine using two motors to achieve horizontal and vertical scanning. He had found a motor which rotated at 960 R.P.M. which corresponds to 16 revolutions per second, the exact speed required for the horizontal scanning. The speed of the second motor was 1 revolution per second. The reciprocal motion was produced by a cam through an 8:1 reduction gear. A weight attached to the microscope pulled it back to start the next line. The microscope was focussed sharply on the drum carrying the picture to be transmitted. Resolution was excellent.

The 'microscope' consisted of a cardboard tube with a 13 cm focal length lens at one end and a Philips OAP12 photo-diode at the other with another lens in front of it. This primitive microscope produced a picture of reasonable quality.

For reception SV4CG made a converter using the long persistence P7 c.r.t. With this set-up Costas had his first SSTV contact on 40 metres with SV1AB on February 28th 1971. After that he had many contacts on 7 and 14 MHz as can be seen from the extract from his log. (The special commemorative prefix of SZ0 was used by all SV stations during 1971).

6. Costas Georgiou SV1OE. (E.M.E.)

Up to the end of 1988 the only Greek amateur who had positively authenticated Moonbounce contacts was Costas Georgiou SV1OE. His very first contact was made in 1982 when he contacted VE7BQH in Canada on 2 metres. In the ensuing four years Costas managed to work four more stations: K1WHS, SM4GVF, W5UN and KB8RQ.

In 1982 Costas had been trying for three years, without success, to hear his own signal via Moonbounce. The reason for his failure was that he was unaware of a very basic fact.

"I was completely ignorant of the Doppler shift effect", Costas told me. "The frequency of received signals varies according to the position of the moon. If it is to the East of your own location the signals return 500 to 1,000 Hz below the original transmitted frequency. For years I had been sending long dashes slowly and waiting to hear my signals return on the same spot, which they never did. This happens for one instant only, when the Moon is at 180 degrees azimuth, exactly due south. When it moves to the west of south the returning frequency is correspondingly higher. Using a 50Hz audio filter (which is essential for Moonbounce) it is very easy to miss the weak signals. Soon after I found out my ridiculous mistake I began to hear my signals, naturally with a delay of one or two seconds because of the enormous distance involved--770,000 kilometres, 385,000 there and 385,000 back.

Costas continued: "My next problem was finding the moon. I had no computer at the time and no Keplerian elements. I mounted a small video camera in the centre of four 16-element Yagi antennas and rotated the elevation and azimuth motors until I could see the moon in the centre of the monitor in the shack. Of course when the sky was overcast I was out of business. Much later when I obtained a little Sinclair ZX80 computer life became easier.

"When I made my first contact I was simultaneously in QSO with SV1AB and SV1IO on 1,296 MHz who could hear what was going on. I remember SV1AB got very excited and began shouting 'I can hear him, I can hear him!' The QSO was with VE7BQH. Later Lionel sent me a very valuable present, valuable not for its cost but for the fact that it was something quite unobtainable in Greece at that time--a very low-noise preamplifier for 2 metres.

"After the successful launch of Oscar 10 those amateurs who had complex antenna systems and low-noise receivers they had used for Moonbounce congregated on 145.950 and spoke to each other on QRP which prevented ordinary mortals from hearing them. By QRP I mean outputs of half a watt or less. But when finally one day I broke into a net QSO I arranged schedules for Moonbounce with two stations in Sweden. I had a successful contact with one of them but never heard the other. The reason may have been a very simple one: the polarisation of signals returning from the Moon varies from one moment to the other, so if you have been transmitting with horizontal polarisation and go over to reception it is very easy to miss the answer of the other station if the polarisation has changed."

SV1OE then explained the very strict procedure which must be adhered to for Moonbounce schedules.

"Schedules are arranged to last one hour. The first station to start transmitting on the hour must be the one whose QTH lies to the east of the other. The calling frequency for Moonbounce is 144.011 MHz., and the duration of the call is 2 minutes, but for the first minute and a half you call CQ DE SV1OE and during the last half minute you also give the call of the station you are trying to contact, for instance G3FNJ DE SV1OE. You must on no account transmit for more than two minutes because at the beginning of the third minute the other station will begin transmitting the same pattern of signals. But if he has heard you he will alter the pattern. For the first half minute he will send SV1OE DE G3FNJ and for the ensuing minute and a half he will transmit the letter O which signifies that he has heard your callsign completely and without difficulty i.e. Q5 in the Q Code. If I have also heard your callsign completely I will send G3FNJ for half a minute followed by RO for a minute and a half, which means that I have also received your callsign and your O. And you will reply RO 73 which concludes the successful contact.

"There are one or two other letters that can be used. Sending M signifies that I hear you well but can only copy 50% of your transmission, equivalent to Q3. And the letter T signifies I hear you but cannot read you at all--Q1.

"It has been found by experience that the best sending speed is 8 w.p.m. Sending slowly or very fast presents problems at the other end."