NZ Net News 130, 13 Apr 2024

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Featured key

Vibroplex Double Lever bug

Vibroplex Double Lever bug, after restoration by W.R. Smith. Photo:

By Randy KN6W

The second Vibroplex model had separate dot and dash levers, and is called the “Double Lever”, “Dual Lever” or “Twin Lever.” Production of the Double Lever began in 1907, when Horace G Martin was in Norcross, Georgia. The Double Lever was available until about 1926, although probably very few were sold after about 1920.

There are three main variations of the Double Lever. Norcross Double Levers have a “half frame” design. Later models have a squared-off full frame (pictured), and still later models have a rounded full-frame design with the inside cut out in a cloverleaf design.

* If you have an interesting key for this feature, please send a nice clear photo and a few words describing it.

Quick notes

Antique shaving mug with telegraphy key and operator's name


Shaving cream mugs from the late 19th and early 20th centuries were often personalised to reflect the occupation of the owner. You can see a great selection of telegraph-themed shaving mugs at

ZL4LDY in Dunedin returns! It was great to hear Dave (using his trusty Blue Racer bug) check into the net on 10 April, ending two and a half years of radio silence. As many of you will know, Dave is an NZ Net veteran and skilled traffic handler. He is also blind and, in the past, made use of remote station ZL2KS in Blenheim. Unfortunately, his access software relied on Adobe Flash, a product that is no longer available. The good news is that Dave now has his own IC-7300 and, thanks to assistance from Alan ZL4MD, he has a terminated end-fed vee at his home. Welcome back OM!

On 10 April we marked the 56th anniversary of the Wahine disaster. On that date every year, I re-read the excellent report on this tragedy by NZ Net member David Smith ZL2WT, and I am always moved by the many little details in it.

Another good read is the Oct 2023 edition of CQ magazine, which contains a feature on the amateur radio gear aboard explorer Thor Heyerdahl’s famous Kon Tiki raft in 1947.

Maritime Radio Day is 15 April (anniversary of the Titanic sinking), followed by World Amateur Radio Day on 18 April, International Marconi Day on 25 April (Marconi’s birthday 150 years ago) and Morse Code Day on 27 April (Morse’s birthday 233 years ago).

Photo flashback

Postcard showing RMS Titanic in Southampton, 1912

The photo shows RMS Titanic/MGY berthed at Southampton, from where the new liner would sail on her maiden voyage on 10 April 1912.

Postcard from Jack Phillips to sister Elsie reads Thanks very much for your letter. Having glorious weather. Went to Cowes yesterday. Will write later before we sail. Love, JackAfter hitting an iceberg, Titanic sank in the early morning of 15 April, with the loss of approximately 1500 lives.

What is special about this photo, is that it is actually a postcard, sent to Elsie Phillips by her brother, Jack Phillips, on 6 April 1912. Jack would die just a few days later as one of the heroes of the Titanic disaster.

John George (Jack) Phillips turned 25 aboard Titanic. Despite his youth, he was a well-seasoned telegraphist, having learned his trade while working for the Post Office in 1906. He had served on numerous vessels for the Marconi Company before being assigned to Titanic as senior wireless operator.

After sending numerous distress calls, and receiving responses from other vessels, Phillips finally abandoned ship as water flooded around his feet. He ended up on an overturned collapsible lifeboat where he later died of exposure to the severe cold.

Harold Bride, Titanic’s junior wireless operator, always remembered Phillips as “the man who saved us all.”

During his career, Phillips kept in frequent touch with Elsie, and she saved almost 300 postcards he sent to her during this time. Phillips often chose postcards that depicted the ship on which he served.

On holiday with the NZ Net

Gerard ZL2GVA operating QRP from Marehau, New Zealand

Photo: ZL2GVA

By Gerard ZL2GVA

Here is a photo of me operating from the dining table in Mārahau last Friday (5 April 2024).

The rig was a K1, with about 6W output, from a homebrew Li-Ion battery pack. There might have been a drill battery in the garage of the Airbnb house, that I could have used, but I didn’t bank on that. Last year, in the Netherlands, I thought that would be a safer option than taking a homebrew battery through airport security. And, yes, on the way back I was asked to open my suitcase in Shanghai to show them a couple of AA NiCads!

The antenna at Mārahau was a 20m long wire, fed through a 1:9 balun, and 8m of RG-174 coax, hanging from the top of telescopic pole. This was set up on the 2nd floor balcony (just leaning against the roof), with the wire sloping down to a bush in the garden.

Acceptable copy from all NZ stations, plus fragments from VK3DRQ in his QSO with ZL2GD after the net.

[Ed note: Gerard is using genuine Palm Pico paddles, a favourite of portable operators but, sadly, no longer in production.]

Net numbers

Graph of NZ Net monthly data for past 36 months

NR18 R ZL1NZ 45/42 AUCKLAND 0800Z 1APR24
ZL1AYN 21 ZL1NZ 21 ZL1PX 16 ZL2GD 16 ZL2GVA 17 
ZL2KE 9 ZL2LN 2 ZL2TE 14 ZL3TK 13 ZL4BDG 1 
ZL4FZ 4 ZL4GW 4 ZL4FM 1 ZL4KX 19 TOTAL 209 
QTC 36

Why some folks love bugs

Line drawing of a J35 bugBy Ky KY5VAR

  • They look so awesome
  • The haptic feedback (vibrations) long before iPhones!
  • The symphony of sound from dits and dahs before electronic keyers
  • You can adjust the speed as you improve
  • They’re just too cool to not touch them

One thing is for sure though. If you run a bug you are one of a select few who have taken on the extra effort to master a special art form.

Morse challenge

A few days ago, I picked up the following signals on 7009.88 kHz. This recording is only a very small part of what I copied. Maybe you’ve heard these signals too.

Your challenge:

  1. What are the 3 “words” in the recording?
  2. What is notable about these “words”?
  3. For a bonus point, what’s this all about? (Explanation will be in the next NZ Net News.)

Please send your answer via radiogram or email to ZL1NZ.

Answer to previous Morse Challenge

Amateur Radio Day is on 18 April. The correct answer was received from ZL1ANY and ZL2IR.

Video: Some nice bug keying by UY1IF

Advertising archive

1983 NZ Post Office advertisement in Break-In magazine, seeking radio amateurs to work as radio operators

Break-In magazine, September 1983


If you have suggestions on how to make the NZ Net better, or things you’d like to see covered in these updates, please contact ZL1NZ. You might even like to write something for the newsletter.

Thanks for reading, and I hope to hear you soon on the NZ Net!

Neil Sanderson ZL1NZ, Net Manager
New Zealand Net (NZ NET)
3535.0 kHz at 9pm NZT Mon-Fri