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Friday, March 5, 2010

Ian's Ham Radio Page

I started in ham radio in the early 1950's with the call sign 4S7IW as a young man in Ceylon. At that time there was plenty of ex-military radio gear left over from World War II, as Ceylon was the base for South East Asia Command. There was, and still is, a flourishing Amateur Radio Society where I became Editor of the monthly 4S7 Bulletin and also produced the first ever  4S7 Callbook.  The Bulletin was produced monthly by a hand cranked stencil duplicator or 'mimeograph' as it was called.

I am now forgetting people's callsigns, but Gabriel 4S7GR (who showed me how a few watts of RF power can illuminate a strip light and encouraged me to go for the exam), Soma 4S7YL (who had an amazingly high power AM station), Paddy 4S7PG and Shelley 4S7SG were all my Elmers. I was also a founder member in 1964 of the South East Asia Net which is still going strong.  See

My radios

Before I got my amateur license I was using a Hallicrafters SX-28 "Super Skyrider" receiver similar to this one.

Designed in 1940, it had 15 vacuum tubes and covered 550 kHz (0.55 MHz) to 43 MHz in six bands.  Wikipedia states that President Harry S. Truman kept an SX-28 behind his desk in the Oval Office, and that the SX-28 was used by intercept stations during World War II which passed on messages that were decoded at Bletchley Park.

My first ham shack had a two tube c.w. (6C4 crystal oscillator & 807 final)  transmitter operating on 40 meters, with an RCA AR88LF receiver: 

My crystal controlled transmitter was replaced with a Heathkit DX40U (60 watts of c.w. and AM with a 6146 tube in the final) which gave me a lot of pleasure, both building and operating it.

Heathkit was a great company and I later built many other Heathkits.

I then upgraded to a beautiful Collins KWM-2 with its power supply that fitted into a Samsonite suitcase. It was obtained  through an advert in QST from Owen, W9ADN of Organs and Electronics in Lockport, Illinois who exported the radio to me in its suitcase. I had to go down to Colombo to clear it through Customs who were slightly bewildered to see it when I opened the suitcase for inspection. However I had my ham license to show them and was good to go.

I used this radio with a Hygain Thunderbird three element  monobander on 20m at 70 ft.  I believe I was the only 4S7 operator on ssb at the time which made me very popular with DX'ers and caused some mighty pileups! My QSL Manager was K8RTW who sent me the matching 312B-5 station control console for working split frequency.

Some Kenwood radios I have used over the years are:

Kenwood TS530S

Kenwood TS180S

Kenwood TS430S

American Mount Everest Expedition of 1963

A ham I often spoke to on 20m was Father Marshall D. Moran S.J.,  9N1MM in Kathmandu, Nepal,  where he was the Headmaster of St.Xavier School, known as "Father Moran of Kathmandu" . 

Father Moran

It was through him I became involved with  the American Mount Everest Expedition of 1963, led by famous climber Norman G. Dyhrenfurth.

Communications between the Mount Everest Base Camp situated on the Khumbu Glacier at 17,800 feet (9N1ME operator Al Auten, using a Collins KWM-2 and a dipole) and 9N1DD (operator Lt. Col. Bill Gresham, Military Attaché at the American Embassy) were difficult or impossible after sunset, due to the lengthening of the skip distance.  I was 1500 miles away and well placed to act as the relay station between them, so I passed many messages during the time they were on the mountain.  It was all about supplies and logistics, mention of the Sherpa porters and so on.

This is an extract from "Americans on Everest" by James Ramsay Ullman (the official historian to the expedition, page 195, published by J. B. Lippincott Company 1964, Library of Congress Catalogue Card #64-14475:
There was a goodly predinner crowd that evening at the Yak and Yeti Bar (in the Hotel Royal, Kathmandu). I (J.R.U.) had told the press that there might be an interesting announcement forthcoming by eight o'clock.......  At 7:40 I heard I was wanted on the phone.
Bill Gresham's voice was studiedly casual. "I've just been gabbing with a ham called Ian Wollen in Ceylon," he said. He'd been talking talking to 9N1ME and had a message for us.*  There was a pause. "The message is that two mail runners left at 1300 hours, May one. Repeat: two mail runners left at 1300 hours, May one."

* Footnote at bottom of page: At the time Mr. Wollen had no idea the message  meant anything but what it said. Later, however, he was told - and warmly thanked for his remote assistance."

This is how the message got out to the world, that two climbers had reached the summit.  I later got a very nice letter from  Norman G. Dyhrenfurth which I treasured for a long time - it unfortunately disappeared on one of my many moves.  Later, my wife Kit and I were lucky enough to visit Nepal and stayed with James in his house in Kathmandu. He liked Nepal so much he became to head of the Peace Corps there. I remember he had an amazing collection of science fiction and a glass jar containing some of his toes which he lost due to frostbite.

The KWM-2 accompanied me after I left Ceylon, so other callsigns it was used with were: MP4BGS (Big Gulf Station Bahrain), MP4DAU (Das Island), MP4TCD (Trucial States, now United Arab Republic) and MP4MPD (Muscat and Oman).  

When sailing I used both a Kenwood TS50S and an Icom 706.

 I hold an American Extra Class license as W3UZI.  My radios in use are an Icom 746 Pro and a Kenwood TS120S with its external VFO.  Antennas are a Gap Challenger vertical and a long wire.

I am also licensed as G3UZI for life as I am over 70 years old!

1 comment:

Graham Eade said...