Nov: VK7BC works ‘ZLD after 50-year gap

Frank VK7BC
Frank VK7BC

By Neil Sanderson ZL1NZ

A few minutes before the November club meeting began, I called CQ on 14040 from ZL1ZLD and got a reply from VK7BC. Although we didn’t have long to chat, Frank did mention that he had last worked ZLD in 1961 from a ship.

Curious to learn more about that, I sent him an email, and this is the interesting reply I received:

Hello Neil,

Many thanks for the short QSO, I was very pleased to catch up with your station. Last year I heard you operating but before I had managed to tune up my station ZL1ZLD had closed down!

My last QSO would have been a little before 21st June 1961, that was the day that I signed off from the MV John Wilson and flew to VIS (Sydney Radio) to sign on with AWA.

The John Wilson was a newly built bulk cement carrier. I joined her on 13th April 1961. She was only NRT of 691 tons, diesel electric powered by three ex WW2 diesel engines, used for powering searchlights I was told.

She had a low powered HF phone TX but no 500 Kc/s facility, hence the installation of a MF transmitter feeding a loaded whip to be allowed to voyage to ZL. I was allocated the “Owner’s cabin” which was quite comfortable for a smallish ship.

A few days out of Leith in Scotland the whip parted company with the ship, so we made another. It was great fun at times getting QSPs in mid ocean as you can imagine on 500Kc/s.

More fun when we had a lot of questions a day out from the Panama Canal. We were blissfully unaware that a tanker of the same name was already in the canal coming through from the Pacific!

Crossing the Pacific was very pleasant. We spent about a week tied up just astern of the good ship HMS Bounty whilst Mutiny on the Bounty was being filmed. The crew was employed tidying up the paintwork on John Wilson.

I could hear ZLD a few days out of Tahiti and managed, after dark, to work ZLD for a few days before we berthed in Auckland.

In short, a very nice easy voyage with very good company.

I spent a year or so on North and South Atlantic ships with Cunard and Holder Bros. You would probably remember the Hornby Grange as I believe she was around New Zealand a few times for the chilled/frozen lamb trade.

I will be looking out for your station again. My CW is a bit off these days with arthritis in both hands and almost everything else!

Frank VK7BC