AMATEUR BIOGRAPHY OF
BARRY MURRELL ZS2EZ
LAST UPDATED : OCTOBER 2017
I am an active amateur radio operator with QTH in Walmer, Port Elizabeth.
I received my restricted class licence in 1985 under the callsign ZR2AAB in Port Elizabeth. From 1987 to 1991 also held the callsign ZR6AMD.
After moving to Johannesburg in 1995 I changed callsign to ZR6DXB, and became very actively involved in VHF communications. I finally realised my long-held ambition of getting onto Amateur Satellites in February 2003. In September 2003 I relocated back to my home town of Port Elizabeth, and was issued the callsign ZR2DX. When restricted licencees in South Africa were granted access to limited sections of the HF spectrum in February 2005 I began HF operations, and had worked well over 100 countries before upgrading to my current Class A licence with the callsign ZS2EZ in July 2005. My HF station has become well established, and by the end of December 2011 had netted a number of operating awards, plus over 300 DXCC entities worked.
I am equipped for all-mode operation on all bands from 80m through to 2m , as well as most digital modes including RTTY, PSK31, PSK63, MFSK , Olivia, SSTV and the WSJT modes.
My primary activities are HF DXing and Contesting (mostly in RTTY), with some VHF operation.
I have been active on the 6m band since February 2001, when
I made my first contact with 7Q7RM Ron.This was closely followed by EY8MM Nodir. After this I was hooked.
The following month saw a total of 40 contacts into Europe.
In August 2001 I met Hal ZS6WB, South Africa's leading 6m DXer. Through his assistance and guidance I now have 75 countries and over 300 grids worked, and over 1500 50MHz QSOs in my log!
I have been involved with WSJT operations from the start in South Africa, and over Christmas 2001 activated 5 rare grids (KF26, KF27, KF28, KF36, KF38) for the SA gridhunters. On 13 January 2002 I participated in the second WSJT QSO on 2m between Division 6 and Division 1 (a distance of 1254km) with ZR1AEE. During the inaugural PEARS Digital Contest in 2003 I achieved third place overall, and completed 2m MS contacts with both ZS1NAZ and ZR1AEE during the contest.
Satellite operation began in February 2003, thanks to extensive
help from John Sygo ZS6JON. During a visit to John's QTH in 2002 I had worked
David VK5DG via AO-40, and this had rekindled my interest in satellite. During
December 1986 I had experimented briefly with the RS satellites, and had worked
using 2.5W on the uplink, and receiving the downlink on an FRG7 with a piece
of wire lying in the garden as an antenna! AO-40 was a different ballgame!
As I already had an Icom IC910H, I set about assembling the rest of a station
(downconverter, dish, 70cm crossed yagi and AZ/EL rotator). During my preparations
John kept my interest alive, and we made contacts via UO-14 and FO-29 along
the way. On 3 February 2003 I was ready, and worked DK1KQ for my first AO-40
contact. My first day on the satellite saw me log 12 stations (7 DL's, a GW,
an XE, a VE, an F and ZS6JON!). I was now well and truly running on satellite!
By the time I left Johannesburg ZR6DXB had been heard in 60 DXCC entities and
159 gridsquares. My application for WAC on satellite had been submitted, and
once all the cards are in I will submit an application for VUCC for that callsign.
The highlights of my satellite operations were undoubtedly working VP2EAG in
Anguilla (the only South African to do so) and contacts with ZL2ALP and ZL2MN
after several weeks of attempted skeds. ZL is particularly difficult from South
Africa due to angle and time differences, and when both John ZS6JON and myself
completed contacts with both ZL stations we were very satisfied indeed (it
was shortly before 1.00am local time).
Upon arrival in Port Elizabeth the satellite antennas were the first things to go up, even before my final move was completed. First contacts were made on 24 August 2003, with DL2MHO being the first call in the log. 11 stations were logged on a brief operating period over the weekend of 24/25 August, including the GB5FI Flatholm Island expedition. Operation began in earnest on 21 September 2003, and by the time AO-40 sadly went QRT there were 56 countries and 150 gridsquares in the ZR2DX logbook! Subsequent satellite operation on the LEO sats began again during 2008, with activity taking place on AO-51 and VO-52.
Erection of my VHF antennas was finally completed in January 2004, with considerable help from Ken ZS2BWB (now SK) and Cyril ZR2H (now ZS2EJ). VHF operation on both 50MHz and 144MHz now began in earnest, and the first-ever 144MHz EME contact from Port Elizabeth was completed with W5UN on 9 March 2004. The equipment used was : Icom IC-910H (100W) into a single Cushcraft 17B2 17 element yagi mounted 11m off the ground, with an Icom AG-25 masthead preamp and fed by LMR-400 coaxial cable. Software was JT65B.
2004 saw a number of useful 50MHz and 144MHz contacts making it into the log, but by the end of the year damage to the 144MHz antenna saw it taken down. The shack was then moved from the outbuilding where it had been located since arrival in Port Elizabeth and was reassembled in my bedroom. This required a readjustment of the antennas, and the 50MHz antenna had a feedline of about 70m! With the prospect of HF access looming, a Hy-Gain TH3JRS was procured, and was initially installed on an aluminium mast along with a 10 element 144MHz yagi. The legendary Port Elizabeth wind however made short work of this installation, and bent the 5mm wall 50mm diameter pole as if it were a hot candle! Ken ZS2BWB once again came to the rescue, and provided extensive help in welding up and erecting a 9m steel tower. Peter ZS2PL provided a vesconite bearing for the antenna mast, and the tower went up in March 2005. In 2007 the shack was relocated back to the outbuilding (along with a change to a bedroom adjoining the shack!) and the coax run from the HF radio to the tower became 40m!
ZR2DX was very active on the HF bands from the moment the regulation amendments were made official in February 2005, and by the time the upgrade to a Class A licence was completed had worked 122 countries from 889 QSOs. The majority of these contacts were on PSK31 and RTTY, as the band allocations on HF for ZR licencees excluded most of the general SSB band sections!
ZS2EZ first came on the air on 15 July 2005, and wasted no time in racking up the countries on HF. With access to the entire range of the HF spectrum, contests became a popular hunting-ground. Many new and rare ones made it into the ZS2EZ log. By the end of 2005 around 180 countries were in the ZS2EZ log, and overall DXCC tally stood at 196. This increased steadily over 2006 and the first few months of 2007, reaching 237 by the end of May 2007. By May 2010 this had reached 287, and at the end of 2011 had reached 309.
During the latter part of 2005 the RTTY bug bit in earnest. After initial dabbling in RTTY as an occasional operator, I had a good run in the CQ WW RTTY Contest, and submitted my first-ever RTTY Contest log. I had used the MixW software in the contest, running AFSK RTTY via my Kenwood TS-570S. I began to read up on serious RTTY contest setups on the internet, and realised just how inadequate my setup was! I realised that I needed proper contesting software; as WriteLog was a bit pricey at $75, I decided to try N1MM Logger. Boy, was I IMPRESSED!!! This is a seriously good package, and all for free!! In January 2006 I made email contact with Don Hill AA5AU, the doyen of RTTY Contesters, and asked his advice on how to improve my station. After considerable input from Don, I decided it was time to upgrade my radio. I sold my trusty Kenwood TS-570S, plus my standby TS-830S, and bought a second-hand (but mint condition) Kenwood TS-870S. This coupled with a new amplifier (a mint condition Kenwood TL-922A) and a new antenna (a Cushcraft A3S) led to me posting far more useful scores in the major contests, and has seen a number of operating certificates on the wall! 2007 was an exceptionally good year for RTTY contesting, with a First in Africa being recorded in the CQ WPX RTTY contest, a Second in Africa in the JARTS RTTY event and a First in Africa in the WAE RTTY Contest, as well as a number of other certificates. 2009 saw another First in Africa being recorded in the CQ WPX RTTY contest (with more than 3 times the 2007 score!) plus a continental first in the SOAB HP category of the ARRL RTTY Roundup. 2010 and 2011 were severely disrupted by antenna issues, but this did not stop Continental firsts in the ARRL RTTY Roundup for both years, as well as my best-yet achievement - another Africa First in the 2011 CQ WPX RTTY event, with a new South Africa Record score! Sadly though life (and work) intervened - I started my own business, and that coupled with the punishing Port Elizabeth winds taking their toll on my antennas saw me gradually fade from the contesting scene. In September 2014 I sold my Kenwood setup, reducing my shack to just a Yaesu FT-847 (not a great RTTY radio!) and a small solid-state amplifier (max 300W, not suitable for extensive RTTY). This downsizing (along with changes in my personal life) effectively ended my contesting operations. In April 2015 I purchased a Kenwood TS-450S - an ageing radio, but one capable of FSK RTTY! This was then in turn replaced by a Kenwood TS-590S in November 2015.
Outside of RTTY contesting, DXing has become my major interest. Thanks to my friendship with Donovan ZS2DL (a keen DXer on both SSB and CW) I began dabbling with CW as well, using my PC with CWGet software for decoding and WinWarbler for keying. Using this combination I have logged over 300 DXCC entities on CW!
In early 2008 I finally got myself onto the WARC bands in earnest when I added a Cushcraft A3WS yagi (with 30m addon kit) to my antenna lineup. This antenna was mounted on a pole some 8m in the air, and was erected with considerable help from Glen ZS2GV, Donovan ZS2DL, Basie ZR2BA, Mitch ZS2DK and Chris ZS2AAW. 17m has become a favourite band, and entity #100 was logged when I worked the VK9DWX Willis Island DXPedition in October 2008. 30m became the next target, with the magical 100th DXCC entity (T8CW) being logged in April 2009. 12m began to open up towards the end of 2009, and by the end of March 2010 stood at 142 worked, with the 100th confirmation arriving via LoTW on 31 March!!
2009 my antenna system saw a further upgrade when I added the 40m kit
to my Cushcraft A3S. This is a major step up from my trusty old wire
dipole (which had nevertheless netted 114 DXCC entities on 40m!). With
considerable help from Glen ZS2GV and Basie ZR2BA the A3S was lowered,
the addon fitted and was raised again. The difference in performance
was quite dramatic, and it made a considerable improvement to my 40m
Next phase was the erection of a 15m tower, which was obtained from Donovan ZS2DL some time back. Basie ZR2BA (a qualified engineer) added thrust bearings and a rotator plate, as well as designing a suitable cage for the base assembly. The concrete base was laid in March 2010 (with extensive help from Glen ZS2GV), with a massive 2 tons of crusher stone and 7x 50kg bags of cement used for the base. The tower was finally raised in October 2010, and supported both the Cushcraft A3S with 40m addon (at 50ft) and the Cushcraft A3WS with 30m addon (at 58ft), as well as a Diamond X50 dualband collinear and an 80m dipole. For more on the raising of the tower, see the Tower Project page.
Once the antennas had been installed, a problem showed itself : the 10m section of the A3S was faulty, probably as a result of a defective trap. Rather than go through the tribulations of lowering the A3S again, I decided to build a 10m monoband yagi. As a result of excellent results achieved with a 4m yagi (see below) I decided on a 4 element LFA monobander as designed by G0KSC. The antenna was built by Basie ZR2BA, and was assembled the day after Christmas. With help from Glen ZS2GV and Bill ZS2ABZ the antenna was erected on my old 30ft tower just in time to greet the New Year (raised on 30 December!)
During 2011 further changes were made; I added a set of 80m traps to my trusty 40m wire dipole, which was mounted on the tower in place of the old 80m dipole. I also added another wire antenna called an EZWire, purchased at Friedrichshafen during my trip in June. This is an unusual antenna - an endfed antenna with a large balun that covers 160-6m with the aid of a tuner. Furthermore with the assistance of Glen ZS2GV in December 2011 I lowered the A3S to replace a capacitance hat that had fallen off, and at the same time investigated and sorted out the problem with the 10m section of the antenna - indeed a problem with one of the traps. This was opportune as for a number of reasons it had become necessary to lower and remove the old 30ft tower. On 31 December 2011, with the assistance of a team of labourers, the 30ft tower and 4 element LFA monobander were taken down. The same team of helpers also assisted with the lowering of my 6m beam, with the plan being to reinstall this on a stronger rotator along with the 4m beam. Unfortunately during the lowering process the 6m beam suffered some damage, and was not reinstalled.
VHF DXing has been pretty much ignored over the past couple of years, but this is finally receiving attention. The new 10-Element G0KSC-design LFA Plus-2 antenna has been mounted temporarily on a 6m pole, but the rotator is jammed. This will be repaired shortly, and the antenna moved to is planned final position atop a 10m pole, along with my 5 Element 4m LFA beam. A 6m 5 element LFA antenna has been fitted to the main tower, at 54ft. Changes in the shack saw the Kenwood TS-590S as the 6m radio (with a 180W solid-state amp) and a Kenwood TR-9000 (with a 160W solid state amp) for 2m. [The TR-9000 was replaced with a 144MHz Transverter in July 2017, and a 70MHz Transverter with 50W Amplifier was added at the same time!]
have DXCC Mixed, Phone, CW, RTTY, 40m 30m, 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m
awards, as well as WAS RTTY, using LOTW exclusively. I prefer LOTW, but
finally in June 2015 plucked up the courage to submit ALL my
outstanding credits (some 368 of them) for DXCC verification, sending
them via Postnet Courier to our local card checker (Tjerk ZS6P) in
Pretoria! (Our local postal service has a diabolical reputation for
"losing" parcels!). This submission lifted me to 328 Mixed (325 of the
current list)! I also have my WAZ RTTY certificate (an achievement that
I am very proud of) as well as my WAE I (mixed) award. I also hold the
SARL's two primary awards, the WAZS and AA awards.
The CQ WAZ Diamond Jubilee Award was successfully completed in March 2010, with Award #38 being issued.
The last remaining Primary operating goal for 2010 - the ARRL WAS Triple Play Award - was finally completed on 16 December, when I logged SD on SSB. Issues with the LoTW system however meant that this award would only be processed in the New Year.
My latest goal has been chasing WAS on various bands. So far I have completed 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m and 10m. I am on the verge of completing 40m (only need ND!) and 30m (only need WV!). 80m is coming along slowly - just past the halfway mark!
I am also looking at submitting applications for WAZ mixed, phone, cw and satellite, as well as WAC on all modes and WAE I (RTTY)
June 2011 saw
another highlight for me - my first visit to a major Amateur
Convention. I was very privileged to attend the event at
I travelled in the company of my good friends John ZS6JON (trip organiser) and Paul ZS6NK. Accompaying us were Mike ZS6BDD and Brian McCoy (a non-Ham and friend of John's). We met at OR Tambo Airport in Johannesburg, and flew to Zurich via Munich. From Zurich we travelled by train to Friedrichshafen, which lies on the shores of Lake Constance. We spent a wonderful weekend at the Convention, and met a number of wonderful people. On the Friday night I was fortunate enough to attend the annual RTTY Gathering, where I met several very familiar callsigns - I had pre-arranged to meet up with Phil GU0SUP at the event, and enjoyed a great evening with Phil and his XYL as well as Andrea IK1PMR and Claudia PA3LEO, Casper HB9AWS and several others. We stayed at the Waldorn Hotel, along with Tjerk ZS6P, and also made a couple of really good friends in the shape of Lins PA3CMC and Frank PA4EME, a pair of EME enthusiasts from Holland. A truly wonderful experience which I sincerely hope I am able to repeat at some stage in the future!!
2013 saw SARL members granted access to two dedicated frquencies in the 60m band for propagation experiments. During some routine antenna work Glen ZS2GV installed a 60m dipole antenna for me at a height of approximately 40ft on a standoff from my tower, and shortly afterwards I made my first contact on 60m with Ben ZS6ANZ, on the banks of the Vaal Dam.
In 2012 I started my own business again - doing computer support and service - and this has left me with much less time to spend on radio. I do try to work the major expeditions, but it has impacted quite heavily on my contesting and general activity as I need to be available to my customers 7 days a week. In September 2014 major changes took place - my office (which includes my shack) and bedroom were swopped around, and my shack equipment was considerably downsized. In addition, in June 2015 I my girlfriend accepted my proposal of marriage, planned for August 2016. She supports my interest in Radio, encouraging me to get on the air when I can!! This led to a major revamp of my shack in November 2015, with the acquisition of a Kenwood TS-590S and an Ameritron AL-811 amplifier (amongst other equipment!) and planning for a major antenna maintenance exercise (scheduled for early 2016 but postponed due to Glen ZS2GV undergoing medical treatment). These equipment changes did however signal the end of my Satellite operations, as well as 4m allmode capabilities - to fund the new purchases I sold off my entire satellite setup and Yaesu FT-847 transceiver!
The flurry of DXPeditions in early 2016 saw a number of operating goals finally reached, the most significant of which is being the first ZS station to reach 300 entities verified for DXCC on Digital (formerly RTTY). This is a significant milestone for me! I also topped the 300 mark on 17m, and reached 300 worked on Phone as well. CW reached the 310 mark, and mixed DXCC total reached 331 - 328 without the Deleted entities. As the DXCC List total is currently 339, it means that I am now only 2 short of the Honour Roll entry at 330!!
A severe windstorm in March 2016 (winds in excess of 100km/hr) gave rise to my next major overhaul project : my venerable Cushcraft A3S's driven element snapped in the wind! As I had been contemplating upgrading my antenna system for a while, this prompted me to purchase a (second-hand) Hy-Gain TH-7DX 7 element tribander. In addition, Basie ZR2BA constructed a 5 element 50MHz LFA yagi for me, to replace the 4m LFA on the tower. On Friday 26 August 2016 the work began : Glen ZS2GV climbed the tower, removed the damaged A3S and the 4m LFA, and mounted the 6m LFA. This antenna proved to have a flat SWR over the entire 6m band! Early the following morning the work party assembled to raise the TH-7DX : Glen ZS2GV would again be on top of the tower, while Donovan ZS2DL and myself (assisted by my Agricultural Assistant and his brother) maneuvered the antenna into position. Raising the 7m long, 7 element monster into position was a major task, and took some 2.5 hours to complete. The antenna is now sitting 50ft up, and has flat SWR across all 3 bands.
Another new addition to the shack is my first foray into the world of SDR : During August 2016 I persuaded my new wife that it was time for me to add to my station by incorporating an SDRPlay SDR receiver, to be deployed as a Panadapter/Second Receiver for my TS-590S. This was followed by the acquisition of a Cross Country Wireless SDR-4+ HF Receiver and an RTL2832U USB Dongle (for AIS Ship Tracking). In due course I hope to add an additional RTL2832U Dongle as a NOAA Weather Satellite Receiver.
September 2016 saw my long-delayed return to RTTY Contesting, in the CQ WW RTTY event. This did not quite go according to plan though - minutes into the contest my amplifier quite literally blew up, forcing me to compete as a Low Power station. As of January 2017 I had been unable to source the required capacitors to repair the amplifier, so the 2017 RTTY Roundup was also entered in Low Power. This has been an uphill battle!! However despite poor conditions and a lack of power, I really enjoyed getting back into Contesting!! The 2017 CQ WW RTTY event saw me back to running High Power (as explained in the paragraph below) - a year after the amplifier failure! This time the AL-811 ran like a dream - over 700 QSOs running 400-500W the whole weekend without missing a beat!!
Early 2017 brought home to me a wonderful illustration of the spirit of comradeship amongst Amateur Radio Operators (and specifically the RTTY Community) : after requesting assistance in locating the necessary parts for the repair of my amplifier on the RTTY Mail Reflector, Pete N4ZR and Steve K4FJ came to my assistance in a way far greater than I could have hoped for! Pete sourced the components directly from MFJ, and advised a cost of around $100 including postage. As this was more than I could afford at the time (December/January are always difficult months when self-employed!) Steve stepped in and offered to pay for the components - a wonderfully generous action, for which I will be forever grateful!! Pete arranged the parts, and posted them to my friend John ZS6JON in Johannesburg (parcels sent via our Postal Service to Port Elizabeth have a nasty habit of being massively delayed or going missing between the Central Hub in Johannesburg and here!). John forwarded the parts via courier and Andre ZS2ACP completed the amplifier repairs for me. I tested the amplifier during the 2017 CQ WPX SSB contest, and thankfully everything worked well!!
During the 2017 CQ WPX RTTY Contest I happened to try listening on 80m - as usual, on my 80/40 trapped dipole I could hear NOTHING. By chance I happened to switch to my EZ-Wire antenna - despite high SWR on 80 I was clearly hearing stations! During the lull on the Saturday morning I dug out an old balun from my drawer, measured out some 2.5mm insulated wire and put together an 80m fullsize dipole. I put this onto an 8m (25ft) pole and put this pole up on a wallbracket about 15m from the shack. A quick bit of tuning and I had a dipole resonant on 80m. Conditions on the Sunday morning were poor, but I could now copy JT65 signals well!! Having always ignored 80m (at this stage I had a grand total of 39 DXCC entities on this band!) I now found myself working New One after New One - 10 in the first 5 days!! I am now seriously working towards my DXCC on 80m (worked XT2AW for my 100th Entity in October 2017, now just need the last few confirmations!) and am on the band daily now.... With the help of Glen ZS2GV I have converted my 80/40 dipole into a 40m inverted Vee, and moved the 80m dipole onto the tower at 47ft, also as an Inverted Vee. During July 2017 I resurrected my old Cushcraft MA8040V vertical, and buried 25 radials of either 10m or 5m lengths. This antenna is slightly stronger into EU than the dipole.
During July 2017 Transverters for 144MHz and 70MHz were added to the shack. As my Kenwood TS-590S has a Transverter Menu Option which automatically switches the output power to 5W and adjusts the frequency display of the radio to show the transverter output, this effectively converts the radio to a 13-band multi-mode station! It also allows me to make use of the radio's built-in TXCO and the connected MicroKeyer II with all it's facilities. The 144MHz transverter is connected through my Mirage amplifier, giving it an output of around 150W. The 70MHz transverter is connected to a 50W amplifier supplied by Andre ZS2ACP.
Another goal was achieved early in September 2017 with the completion of my JT65 WAS, with the logging of KB7Q in Montana on 40m. This has been a long time coming, and I am now shifting attention to FT8 WAS. As FT8 has only been around since July 2017, I thought this would take a while - but by the end of September I needed only 3 States (ND, RI & VT)!! A week later only ND remained outstanding... and completed on 13 October 2017 when logging WC0G in ND on 30m!
FT8 is the latest Big Thing on the HF bands, taking the world by storm - and I was quick to get in on the action! As of early October 2017 I already had over 1 000 QSOs logged, and had worked over 100 DXCC Entities. The activity levels are amazing, and it has become my main mode of operation.
On 6 August 2016 I finally tied the knot - at the ripe age of 50 I married my soulmate Tracey. We live a quiet and contented life with our 3 dogs (a Rottweiler and 2 Collies) and a cat, enjoy our Ballroom Dancing lessons and are actively involved at our local Methodist Church (where I serve as a Senior Door Steward).
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