NZ Net News 96, 24 Dec 2022

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Silent key: Bruce Scahill ZL1BWG

Bruce Scahill ZL1BWGLong-time NZ Net member Bruce ZL1BWG became a Silent Key on Monday 12 December 2022. Bruce had gone into hospital earlier in the day and died in the evening with his wife Lyn and family at his side. He was 67. His death is a shock to all of us on the NZ Net and a great loss to the New Zealand amateur radio community.

Bruce was a very keen CW operator and supporter of NZ Net, Straight Key Night and the Sangster Shield QRP contest. He routinely entered Jock White Field Day and the Memorial Contest as a CW-only station.

In a 2010 article for the FISTS Down Under newsletter, Bruce recalled getting his Grade 2 amateur licence in 1981.

“Approximately six or seven weeks later, I entered the Field Day contest, in the straight CW section; it was called jumping out of the frying pan into the fire. However, all things considered, I didn’t do too badly and it was an enjoyable experience. I continued right through the 1980s, mainly on 80 metres, primarily on CW, as I found that so many times it was so much easier to read stations, especially during high QRN.

“One of the best CW competitions I remember from then was called a ‘left foot’ contest, which literally meant that you keyed with either right or left foot! I found that I could scrape about 10wpm, but it was hard going!”

Lyn says Bruce preferred using a straight key, as to him it had its own ‘signature’.

“He tried paddles quite a few years ago, but just couldn’t take to it. Arthritis forced him to use paddles, which he said was less strain on his wrist and he came to enjoy using them. He would love to have been on the last SKN (4 December) but the arthritis had other ideas.”

Recently, Bruce treated himself to a new Begali HST single-lever paddle and was enjoying it very much. He checked into the Net most nights, right up until a few days before he died.

Although he was deaf and had very little vision, Bruce didn’t let that stand in his way. He received a lot of help from Lyn, whom he jokingly referred to as his “screen reader”. Whenever we featured a visual Morse Code challenge in the NZ Net News, Lyn (not a CW operator) would carefully describe the dots and dashes so Bruce could work out the answer.

Bruce also loved music and years ago had a small business transferring old recordings onto CDs.

“Basically he had good pitch and was musically inclined and he could sing,” says Lyn. “He was brought up with music and radio. He collected 78rpm records and was a huge fan of people like Enrico Caruso and Peter Dawson. I think this love of music is why he was able to hear as well as he did.”

Bruce’s death was announced on the NZ Net on Tuesday 13 December, followed by a “final call” to ZL1BWG (sent very slowly on a straight key) and then one minute of silence. For those who weren’t on the air that night, here’s a recording:

On behalf of all NZ Net members, we send condolences to Lyn and the family.

From Paul ZL1PC:

We were all shocked and surprised at Branch 28 Whangarei to hear of the passing of Bruce ZLIBWG. He was a real character in the Ham radio world and in particular his love of CW. He had a vast knowledge of amateur radio in general and could tell you all the ins and outs on practically any make or model of rig that you could name. If you ever had a problem with a radio he could almost fix it over the air.

He was a keen regular part of our Tuesday Branch 28 cw net and would step in as net controller when required. Everyone was always intrigued with Bruce being a white stick operator, on his ability to listen to a difficult callsign and a whole string of numbers, then send them straight back without writing anything down. He also enjoyed SKN night and Sangster Shield and helped the club win the branch award many times.

We will all miss him in the club as I’m sure all other CW operators in ZL & VK will.

Read more:
Northern Advocate: Deaf pair bring music into new age (7 Jul 2005)

Quick notes

Christmas tree design created in audio editing softwareAlthough we end 2022 on a very sad note, and Covid appears to be resurgent, I hope everyone has an enjoyable and safe holiday season. The NZ Net will operate every day except weekends.

The 20m VKCW net is taking a holiday break until Wednesday 1 February.

ZL2WT breaks radio silence. What a delight it was to hear David on the net Friday 23 December. It’s been too long OM, hope you can join us again soon.

Peter ZL1PX has written an interesting article about Pacific Islanders who served as Coast Watchers during World War 2, and about the radio gear that they used.

NZART Portable Activity Day is Sunday 1 January. It is not a contest so it is up to you where, when and how you operate. There will be a lot of Summits on the Air (“SOTA”) activity on this day (VK and ZL) owing to them being able to claim double activation points by operating either side of 0000z 1 January UTC (1:00 pm NZDST). You could therefore activate a SOTA summit, or if that is a bit much, participate in the NZART Awards programme by activating a lake, lighthouse or park (make sure you know the rules before you start). Alternatively you could just go to your favourite spot and make a few QSOs. Apart from SOTA, which stresses portable activity without your station being connected to a motor vehicle, you are free to use any method of portable operation you like.

CANCELLED: Christmas broadcast from SAQ

SAQ operator, Christmas Eve 2021

SAQ operator, Christmas Eve 2021

Covid-19 is again spreading around the world, including to Sweden and to Grimeton, home of the Alexanderson Alternator station SAQ.

Due to Covid-19 infection in the Alexander team, SAQ will not be able to air its traditional Christmas Eve message.

The group has announced: “No one is seriousely ill, only mild symptoms, however we can not put anyone in the team at risk. For that same reason, the radio station will be closed for visitors and amateur station SK6SAQ will not be on the air.

“We feel very sorry for this and ask for everyone’s understanding. From the whole Alexander team at World Heritage Grimeton Radio Station, we would like to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!”

The Alexanderson alternator transmitter, which operates on 17.2 kHz, is the only remaining example of early pre-electronic radio transmitter technology. The station, built 1922-1924, has been preserved as an historic site. From the 1920s through the 1940s, it was used to transmit telegram traffic by Morse Code to North America and throughout the world during World War II.

More information about the Christmas Eve event and the transmitter can be found at the Grimeton Radio Station website.

Photo flashback

ZL1PZ QSL card from 1977

Ian ZL1PZ became a Silent Key in May 2022 at the age of 101. He was active on VHF until shortly before his death. Here’s one of his QSL cards from 1977. Not many of us could list a 20m SSB station as all homebrew!

Monte Palomares commemoration planned

MV Monte Palomares

MV Monte Palomares. Photo: JM Blánquez,

NZ Net member Manny VK3DRQ is one of only six people who survived a shipwreck in the North Atlantic in 1966. (His story of the sinking of MV Monte Palomares / EDMI, which took the lives of 32 mariners, appears on

In early 2023, Spanish amateur Andoni EB1CU will be commemorating the Monte Palomares tragedy using the special callsign EG1NMP. The letters stand for Naufragio Monte Palomares, meaning “wreck of Monte Palomares.”

This event will start the 7th of January at 00:00 and finish the 10th of January 2023 at 24:00 Spanish time (GMT+1) using all amateur bands and modes.

Morse challenge

This feature will return after the summer holidays.

Answer to previous edition’s Morse Challenge

In NZ Net News 95 I asked you to copy the Morse Code heard at the beginning of the musical piece Lucifer by the Alan Parsons Project.

I thought it was quite a good exercise. Although there are two signals heard at the same time (using identical Morse, I believe), we can discriminate between them because they are at different pitches and not in synch. Sort of like copying a station over the air while another station is transmitting on a nearby frequency.

Hopefully you could “lock on” to one of these signals, in which case you should have copied the following (repeated several times):


I don’t know what it means, but congratulations to Davide IK4DCT who copied the message correctly.

Video: Taming noisy relays

If your rig uses a noisy relay for QSK, this easy modification may help reduce the noise, and encourage you to take advantage of your QSK capability.

Advertising archive

QST magazine advert for EF Johnson amateur radio equipment, December 1953

QST magazine, Dec 1953 (rearranged slightly to fit the newsletter layout)


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