Tristan da Cunha September 2012

Welcome to ZD9UW

On 17th September 2012, Martin G3ZAY and Rob M0VFC will leave England and start our journey for Tristan da Cunha - the most remote inhabited island in the world. The first leg takes us to Cape Town, where we board the MV "Baltic Trader" and embark on a seven day journey over the South Atlantic Ocean. Weather permitting, we should arrive on Tristan around the 27th September, where we will operate from until the 4th October before returning to Cape Town.

It promises to be the adventure of a lifetime!

More information

Our operating plans and goals
QSL Information
Requesting a QSL card
Tristan Educational Trust Fund
Help support the Tristan Educational Trust Fund, and receive a special QSL card posted from the island - sign up before 19th September
Meet the operators

Latest news

LoTW upload complete

The ZD9UW log has now been uploaded to LoTW.

LoTW currently reports a processing delay of approximately 42 hours, so the first QSLs can be expected on Sunday (11th November) late afternoon to evening.

If you are in the log but don't get an LoTW confirmation in due course, email me (address on QRZ.com) with your QSO details and I'll check they match my log.

ZD9UW approved for DXCC

I've just received the following most welcome email from Bill Moore, NC1L:

Hopefully this will mean the LoTW certificate will follow shortly, though I'm aware LoTW is currently down for maintenance.

QSL Update - 3rd November

Another quick QSL update:

I'm currently waiting for the LoTW certificate for ZD9UW. As soon as I receive it, I'll upload all QSOs.

By way of some statistics, I've confirmed 706 QSOs with 511 different callsigns. This corresponds to around 16.5% of QSOs in the log so far.

Here's some of today's outgoing mail:

QSL Update

Thanks to so many of you for your kind donations when requesting QSL cards! Any excess from these after QSL expenses will be donated to the Cambridge University Wireless Society, G6UW, who did so much to help me get into this part of the hobby.

I have just collected the QSL cards from the printer's, so will start sending out direct cards today. It may take me a short while to get through all the requests, but you should expect to receive your card in the next week or two if you have already requested it.

I've not yet received the LoTW certificate for ZD9UW, but as soon as I do, all QSOs will be uploaded to LoTW as well.


As of 1230Z, ZD9UW is now QRT, with just under 4300 QSOs in the log from less than four days on the air.

I'll write a better summary in due course, but right now I've got to get everything packed away before we leave the island in a couple of hours. A huge thank you to everyone who helped make this trip what it is, either back home or the (very many!) of you who called me over the last few days. A couple of photos to end with, one of the operating position (a repurposed chest of drawers and bedside table) and one of the view from my front door...

73 for now, and look forward to working you soon as M0VFC again (maybe /MM first...)


Expected departure time

I've just been told that the Baltic Trader may depart tomorrow (4th October) at around 1200Z - earlier than the scheduled date of the 5th. I'll keep operating as long as possible, but it looks like tomorrow morning will be the latest unless this changes.

As a result, I'm going to concentrate purely on HF SSB - I know there were several of you looking for ZD9 both on 6m and RTTY, and I'd love to have activated both, but with this very limited amount of time, I need to concentrate on getting as many people in the log at least once as possible, so I'm very sorry to have to cancel these two. Another couple of days and it would have been possible!

Please note that tomorrow morning I will be concentrating on JA / VK / ZL on 20m from around 0600-0800Z.

An update from the island

A quick "guest" post from M0VFC!

Firstly, a huge thank you to a whole load of people: Martin G3ZAY for so much of the organisation that made the trip possible, Dom M0BLF for keeping this website updated while I'm (mostly) without Internet access, Gerald G8AKL for relaying news back while I was on the Baltic Trader via frequent contacts on 10m, everyone here on Tristan for being so amazingly friendly, and of course everyone who has spent the time trying (and hopefully managing) to work me.

If you're interested, the photo shows my guest house for the week - as you can see, the very large volcano behind means there's absolutely no take-off to the south. However, west through north to east is a clear view of the ocean. The antennas from left to right are a vertical dipole for 10m, elevated ground plane for 20m with a single elevated radial pointing north (thanks VK4OQ for that tip), and a ground plane on 15/40m. Yes, the power lines are just as close as they look!

In terms of operating, the pileups have been immense: even spread out 5-10kHz up, it's often simply a wall of sound, and copying even a single character initially can be difficult at times, so sorry if it's taken a little time to get to your callsign. The trick is to work me before I'm spotted - often I spend several minutes calling CQ with no replies until the first spot goes up, at which point it goes from nothing to what seems like the whole world within seconds.

One request: if I'm asking for a particular partial callsign or geographic area, please respect that. If I'm asking for VK/ZL long path (a very difficult opening that only exists for a short time), I will not work you if you're in Europe, so please don't make everyone's life harder by calling.

I'll try and keep uploading the log to Club Log every day or so, currently in the morning (so I can get a cup of coffee in the Cafe at the same time).

Log uploads

The ZD9UW log from 30th September is now on Clublog, so you can make an online request for QSL cards for those QSOs.

Robert will try to upload more logs when he can, but he has limited internet access, so it may take over a day before your QSO appears.

Robert's time at sea

Now that Robert is on Tristan da Cunha, he has sent the following message about the 10-day journey to the island:

'Generally, the crossing was very pleasant, if slow. There was a wonderful group of passengers with an amazing wealth of experience - one guy, when asked how many countries he'd visited, simply replied "all of them" - and he's not joking! A couple of the days were rather rough, but it was really just a greater or lesser degree of roll. After the first day or two we mostly stopped bouncing off the walls, but it definitely needed thought whenever you put something down that may roll around.'


Rob M0VFC arrived on Tristan da Cunha earlier today (30th September) and managed to get on air as ZD9UW on 15m just before 1800 UTC this evening. He's currently only using 100W due to a minor issue with the amplifier, but he hopes to resolve this very soon.

Just a reminder: Rob has very limited internet access in ZD9. This website and the @ZD9UW Twitter feed are being updated by Dom M0BLF, who will be in regular contact with Rob during his stay. If you have any messages for Rob, you can email the address shown on QRZ.com. Emails will come to Dom, who will relay them to Rob when possible. Please do not ask questions in Cluster spots, because Rob will not see them while operating.

M0VFC/MM from the Baltic Trader

Rob has been active from the Baltic Trader, the cargo ship taking him to Tristan da Cunha, as M0VFC/MM for the last few days. He installed a vertical 10m dipole at the stern of the Baltic Trader behind the bridge and set up his K3 on the upper bunk in his cabin. Signals were anything between 42 and 59 in the UK. His operating periods were fairly short as he had to remain standing and brace himself against the motion of the ship.

We're pleased to report that he's happy and has made good friends with the ship's crew. Unfortunately, the weather has delayed them a little, and so they are now expecting to reach Tristan tomorrow morning (Sunday 30th September).

Update from the Baltic Trader

We've been informed that the Baltic Trader (the cargo ship that Rob is on) has been slightly delayed. They are now expecting to reach ZD9 on Saturday 29th September.

Luckily, the weather on Saturday afternoon is looking good, and so Rob should be able to land quickly. Please note, however, that if the weather changes, it may take some time for him to get ashore.

Leaving Cape Town

The Baltic Trader, the cargo ship that Rob is on, left Cape Town at about 17:30 UTC today (20th September). As long as there is AIS coverage, you can follow the vessel's progress on the MarineTraffic website.

One operator down

Some bad news unfortunately: Martin G3ZAY has been forced to cancel his onward journey from Cape Town to Tristan.

Rob M0VFC will still continue, and be active as ZD9UW. This means that it's now a single operator activation, and will concentrate primarily on SSB with some RTTY. Since our goal is to enable as many people as possible to work ZD9 for the first time, this means the number of bands we can activate will be limited - concentrating mostly on the higher bands.

We're sorry if this means you don't get to work us on the particular slots you were after - we'll do our best given the situation!

Update: Just to clarify, Martin's decision not to continue his trip is a precautionary measure to avoid aggravating a previous problem that had just recurred. There hasn't been any sort of serious incident.

Unexpected visit to the Baltic Trader

Wow, what an evening!

We met up again with Paul ZS1S, Robert ZS1FF and Bruce ZS1IF for dinner at the Royal Cape Yacht Club, but before doing so, Robert very kindly took us for a tour of Cape Town harbour in his yacht, and we got the opportunity to see the Baltic Trader from the water, as well as many of the other sights of the harbour during a fantastic sunset. The phone camera couldn't do it justice, but more photos to follow later - for now, it's time for an early night before we pack up and get ready to depart in the morning

This might be our last post before we get to Tristan, but Dom M0BLF will update the site if we manage to get in touch with him before then...

Meeting the locals in Cape Town

Last night, Paul ZS1S kindly invited us for a beer with James ZS1AIE and Robert ZS1FF:

James visited Tristan a couple of years ago - sailing with a friend from Cape Town to Saint Helena, then down to Tristan before heading home - an adventure that took them nearly two months! With the sun setting, we then headed up Signal Hill and around some of the wonderful sights of Cape Town with the sun setting:

Arrived in Cape Town

After an uneventful flight, we've made it down to Cape Town - complete with all our baggage!.

So far the Baltic Trader is scheduled to depart on time, but we'll know more tomorrow. The crossing is predicted to take 7-8 days, which would get us to Tristan around the 27th or 28th September, but if the weather there is poor, we may not be able too get ashore immediately.

Nearly ready...

With less than a week to go, it's time for some final preparations: gathering equipment together, packing suitcases, swapping clothes for more radio gear, re-packing suitcases, and so on. Definitely a combination of excitement and slight nervousness now!

Remember to sign up for the special Trust Fund QSL card before 19th September, and get your card posted from the island.