We are pleased to feature an interview with ZS8M, Pierre Tromp.
Pierre has been very busy moving to the new base over the last few weeks, but he kindly answered our questions.
Here are the questions
I assume these questions are Marion Island related.
How is your typical day at the base?
A typical day starts around 0300z (5 am local time), but could be as early at 0200z, but depends on a number of conditions. I check all my communications systems and then have breakfast. I work 40m DX into the USA until 0500z and then start to attend to my daily technical duties. I have a commercial HF and VHF radio system, satellite, computer LAN, PABX, etc that needs to be checked. By1400z my official day ends and I then spend a few hours on HF again. I try and get to bed around 20.00z.
How do you spend your free time besides ham radio?
Besides my technical duties, I also need to integrate with the team, making meals and cleaning duties when required. When I get the chance I also enjoy getting out of the base and talking walks to see some of the seals and birds. Besides that, I enjoy reading and watching a decent movie with the team.
QRM makers apart, how is the listening experience in Marion Island? Is there any
noise? Static noise, QRN? Is there any QRM caused by equipment in the base?
I also enjoy listening to certain HF stations while working in and around the radio room. I listen to these station for enjoyment, but mostly for a reference regarding propagation; Cape Town Radio (Maritime), South African Air Force (ZRB and ZRH), BBC, SABC, etc. Within the first 2 months we experience 11 lightning storms, so the QRN levels can cause problems. Due to the new generation of computer bases equipment, we have had to install our HF antenna further away from the base.
With autumn in Europe, your signals are improving.
If you had to draw an opening timetable, at what time are the signals from Japan starting to come in? At what time does propagation close down on higher bands with USA signals?
Japan starts around 1100z.
USA: usually 1500z
Running pileups can be fun, but if it’s too chaotic, it can even be “disgusting” and make you go QRT. We have noticed that you seem to enjoy it though and that you are often on the air. What aspect of the hobby do you enjoy that it makes you getting over laziness or disgust for QRM makers?
Yes, I do enjoy operating DX, especially if it’s well run and the callers are well mannered. Unfortunately, there is a culture of ‘small brain big amplifier’ in Europe and Russia. It’s very sad these operators give their fellow countrymen a bad name. I run a large spilt frequency, allowing me to side step the QRMers. They won’t enter my log book! Take note; I am condemning the QRMers, NOT all the hams in these countries or regions.
Can you tell us something more about your blacklist of QRM makers? How long is the list?
I have a list of about 20, all from Southern Europe, Russian and Ukrainian. I recognise the voice and call signs, but they just waste they time and RF power.
What advice would you give to an unexperienced ham who is so eager to have a QSO with you?
Persevere and be creative. Read qrz.com. Many Dxers have requested a contact by arranging a contact. I have helped many this way.
If you think of Italy, what does spring to mind? Only bad radioamateurs or other things? When you are back home, you could plan your holidays in our “least wanted country” to balance your 13 month stay in a most wanted country. If you decide so, we would happily invite you for a coffee!
If I think Italy, I dream of pizza. This will never become an anti-Italy issue. It is NOT that. As I have said before, there are certain operators in Europe who make it very difficult and unpleasant for everyone. Only you as a DX community can take control of this bad operating community. They live and operate within your clubs. Sort them out.
I would love to visit Southern Europe, so hopefully soon I will be sitting in Rome and eating the finest pizza!
Do you plan on operating RTTY or other digital modes?
Yes, hopefully soon.
Could you provide an MP3 file with signals coming from Europe, especially from Italy?
I don’t have any recording facilities here. I just get on with operating DX.
We know that before leaving for Marion Island, you were not active on HF bands, but mainly on VHF (also for emergency communications) and you were even appointed Radio Amateur of the Year in 2006. Now that you know HF bands better, do you think you will keep on using them more often once you are back in your home town?
Let me help you right, my home call sign is operated with pride; ZS1HF. My DX experience was limited prior to me arriving on Marion Island, however my local HF was put to good use with our local emergency group (HAMNET) and my military signal unit. So I am not new to HF at all. I have been in the commercial, military and amateur HF industry for the last 30 years. I received the Siemens award for my involvement in HAMNET.
We would appreciate it very much if you could send us a few pics of your current antenna. Also feel free to send new exclusive photos with or without your radio equipment.
I will send some new pics once we have completed the new installation and moved to the new base.
Our best 73s and regards!