1A: A DX WHOSE HISTORY STARTED MORE THAN NINE HUNDRED YEARS AGO
There are some DXCC entities, which, regardless their position in the “most wanted” list, send the DXers’ hearts throbbing. The Sovereign Military Order of Malta is doubtless one of them. According to “The DX Magazine” it occupies the 79th position in the list of the worldwide most wanted Countries. For the American West Coast it is a “most wanted” included among the first 30 elements of the list, it occupies nearly the 44th position in Asia and in Japan. Only in Europe it is after the 100th position but this does not seem to frighten European DXers, whose calls produce the insuperable wall against which the expectations of all those who hoped to obtain even just a QSO were wretched.
Why is the SMOM Country?
The Order of Malta, fortified by its more than nine hundred years history, analyses the reality according to a perspective we could define patient and “millenary”. That’s why determination is an essential element for those who want to come into contact with such an ancient and prestigious institution.
And it was exactly thanks to a group of Roman people’s strong determination that SMOM was added among the entities admitted inside the prestigious DX Century Club on 29th September 1981 (with the QSL confirmation from January 1982).
Certainly, if all that has been done it is thanks to those who have believed in this project from the beginning, putting a lot of effort in it. I make reference to the historical core composed of Mario Gallavotti I0MGM, Mario Monaco I0MXM, Alfonso Porretta I0AMU, Tony Privitera I0IJ, Antonio Vernucci I0JX and many others I am not able to list but who struggled in order for the extraordinary peculiarities of the Order of Malta to be recognized by the ARRL in the 1980s. Many months spent studying the complicated and troubled history of the Order gave to Rome the prerogative to be the only capital city which can boast three DXCC entities in its territory.
Only few people know that the 1A prefix was chosen in occasion of the first programmes, precisely in the 1980s, following the praxis of that period, according to which other “particular” entities used the prefixes of the 1AA-1ZZ group, which was not allocated by the ITU. It was, in fact, a set which was left free for the radio amateur activities that sprang from “ambiguous” or “contested” territories. In those years, Spratly used 1S, while the operations from Minerva Reef took place through the 1M prefix. So, the Capitolian team decided to adopt 1A, which had never been used before, trying to underline that the activities did not take place from the Italian territory. From that moment, this decision was never questioned, but the suffix was debated. In those years, a 1A0A station sounded like a piratical operation. You should forget today call-sign trends characterized by shorter and shorter contests; that’s why the two letters KM (Knight of Malta) were chosen. In that way the agreement was reached and 1A0KM made history in DX.
The birth of 1A0C
The circumstances, which actually led to the birth of the first operating station from the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, are, also, famous for unfortunate reasons. In fact, 1A0KM was born in order to support the communications between the unities of the Order that operated in the territories shaken by the terrible 1980 earthquakes and the head office of Rome. To a certain extent, 1A0C was born in similar circumstances. In fact, some CISOM radio amateurs (the Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps) felt the need to study the aspect concerning emergency communications in depth.
A large scale project concerning precisely this theme had been prepared for a long time and, more than one year before, some radio amateur call-signs had been issued by the Grand Magistry and the Reliefs Corps had then assigned them to some operators. So, the emergency of the earthquake in Emilia has completely changed the situation, showing all its dramatic power and underlining the importance of these skills in the backgrounds in which CISOM operates every day.
An entity which is difficult to avtivate
However, as it is known, it is necessary to be aware of the difference between permissions and authorizations to exert a station from the territory of this DXCC entity.
Permissions to install a station as a radio amateur are granted in very small quantities and always in periods of the year in which diplomatic and service activities allow it. These are usually short periods and they often do not coincide with the best propagation openings, where it is necessary to manage various stations work simultaneously in a yard which is only 100 meters long and 70 meters wide.
The way in which angles, paths, radials encumbrances and anchorages have to be analysed has to be much more similar to a “Tetris” field than to a “field day”. Everything has to perfectly fit in in a background where many compromises come into place between the performances and the aerials dimensions. Eventually, some choices have to be taken and it is bound to renounce to something. This year, this meant for us the fact of not working on 160 meters.
Moreover, difficulties concerning equipment are not the only ones that people operating through 1A have to meet. Rome, as all big cities, is characterized by a quite high noise level. Actually, the attempt is to obtain the best possible result dealing with any kind of noise. But, regardless all these difficulties, the excitement felt when transmitting from that small plot of land in the heart of a big city is unique.
41.000 QSO in 4 days
From the outside, it is almost impossible to judge an expedition considering all the factors. Certainly from the inside, a team knows if the group dynamics have well operated and whether the expected goals have been achieved or not. I think 41000 QSO in such a short time can place this activity among the greatest successes of the thirty-year history of this prefix. The preliminary works which led us to this event have been long and tiring. From the very first moment we knew we wouldn’t have been able to do all that we would have to. That’s why we have decided to invest all our strengths in two definite areas of the world: the USA (in particular the West Coast) and Japan. Moreover, these are the areas with the highest OM density and with the greatest number of attempts in search of the QSO with an Order of Malta station. The propagation, even if it is in a better period of the solar cycle than the activities in 2007, gave us two powerful “flares”, which have considerably reduced the possibilities of DX during two out of the four periods of work. To be honest, I think with America it would have been hard to do something better, but the result could have been better towards Asia. Unfortunately, towards that direction physical obstacles are numerous and signals coming from Japan are faint and difficultly decipherable (because of a high pile-up). Maybe the situation could have been improved by inserting a Japanese operator inside the team. He/She would have been able to speed up QSO in SSB, using his/her mother-tongue. But unfortunately, we have not been able to recruit a Japanese colleague in due time for the activation.
Modern by tradition
I would like to conclude this short report of the 1A0C activity by a hint at the fund-raising campaign in favour of the CISOM. I would like to thank individually all the people who contributed to the initiative through a small or notable grant. The funds raised will be used for the purchase of radio equipment, which will be employed by CISOM in emergency situations, where it constantly operates. As soon as possible, we will furnish you the proof through a detailed report.
I personally believe seeing that in this period of worldwide economic crisis radio amateurs engage in solidarity, with no cultural barrier, is beautiful (and the simplicity of this word is not fortuitous at all). Evidence of this: the international origin of the offers we are collecting.
So, while we take down the radio amateurs’ equipment from the villa, our eyes fall on a series of panels temporarily prepared in the yard. A series of images, taken in the most desolate and sorrowful places of the world, where the humanitarian activities of the Order of Malta are immortalized. Among them, three sentences which have stricken me stand out: the first one states “Let’s go where the others do not want to go”; the second one states “Let’s do what the others do not want to do”; the third concludes “We are the last ones to go away”. So, while I close the Hexbeam in its box, I feel proud of having taken part, even just for a few days, of this almost millenary glorious history.
1A0C: the 6 meters adventure
by Jose Ramon Hierro Peris
Having the idea of activating the SMOM during summer the 6 metre band came first to our minds.and with the lack of a firm F2 so far this cycle to offer DX at mid latitudes Sporadic E propagation is always a refuge for the magic band enthusiasts.
Since 1A was added to the DXCC program on September 1981, several aficionados groups have operated from Villa Magistrale dell’Aventino.
Outside of the Sporadic E season in the lower part of the solar cycle few contacts are made using tropospheric ducting and terrestrial communication means.
The ones made in summer on 6 metres with Sergio, IK0FTA, at the key produced contacts to most ham radio populated places via one or two “Es” hops.
At the Aventine’s summit, one of the Seven Hills of Rome, you not only can enjoy the quiet atmosphere around but have an almost clean 50 MHz spectrum, which surprised us, considering you are in the middle of a bustling large city.
The antenna location was chosen on the most suitable place to cover North America, Japan and most of the European territory. Our focus was to contact those countries not widely covered by previous operations, mainly in the Americas and the Far East.
Although the Sporadic E mechanisms are not very clear yet, it is widely accepted that high solar activity does not favor it. Before and during our four days stay El Sol was very flare productive. There were 81 C and 15 M class flares during a 9 days period. X-Ray radiations from those events sparked off plentiful radio blackouts on the HF bands, obvious on 50 MHz.
Whatsoever the reason was, the only full day with the fun of a strong Es was the first one, 1 July. At 9:51 UTC was the kick off. And the band folded at 19Z. The next day the band looked promising but shortly after noon only weak footprint openings showed. Meanwhile the band was Es absent, although we were not in the middle of an important meteor shower, we managed to log lots of stations reflected off the rocks,not forgetting reflections off Saint Peter’s Dome, as Sergio, IK0FTA, suggested.
We were not able to hear or to be heard in Japan but managed to grab some 23 QSOs with North America in two brief openings via Es multihop.
Notwithstanding the bad propagation, ending with 2125 QSOs, 57 different DXCC entities in 4 continents fulfilled our expectations for such short operating time.
What is CISOM?
The Order of Malta’s Italian Relief Corps (CISOM), counts some 3000 volunteers (medical, paramedical staff and assistants) in the three North-Centre-South units into which the corps is divided in Italy. Founded in 1970, it carries out rescue and assistance operations during natural disasters. It intervened during the earthquakes in Irpinia, Umbria, Puglia, Basilicata and Abruzzo.
In addition to its work in Italy, the Corps has also participated in international humanitarian initiatives such as the consignment of food aid for children in Hungary after the collapse of the Soviet bloc (1990) and, more recently, in Kosovo and in the entire Balkan region.
What is the SMOM?
The Sovereign Order of Malta is a sovereign body as provided by international law. The Order – based in Rome, on via Condotti, has its own government, an independent magistracy, bilateral diplomatic relations with 104 countries and is granted the status of Permanent Observer in many international organisations such as the United Nations. The six Grand Priories, six Subpriories and 47 National Associations of Knights on five continents manage its operational activities. The Order issues its own passports and stamps and creates public institutions, endowed with judicial autonomy. The Order’s day to day life is governed by a Constitution and Code, reformed in 1997.
The Grand Master governs the Order both as sovereign and religious head. He is elected for life, within the professed knights in perpetual vows. He is assisted by and presides over the Sovereign Council, which is composed of four high offices – Grand Commander, Grand Chancellor, Grand Hospitaller, and Receiver of the Common Treasure – as well as six other members, all elected by the Order’s Chapter General for a five-year term. The Council of Government and the Board of Auditors, whose compositions reflect the international character of the Order, assist the Grand Master and the Sovereign Council. The Chapter General also elects these two bodies for a five-year term.