Home > 90th Commemoration > Day 3: The D Day – The Sacred Moments

Day 3: The D Day – The Sacred Moments

ye90pkEntering the third day, I had two important things to anticipate: 1) press coverage, and 2) the sending of the morse code as the ceremonial event of the commemoration. As the actualization of this project was only made certain at Wednesday (1st of May), I couldn’t think of the details of the plan. So that publicity for this event was second to all those technical preparation. However, I had contacted the main local newspaper here long before, of which its director was a classmate of mine: Pikiran Rakyat / PR. I bbmed him again and he told me he would contact the editorial board, but then I didn’t see there was a sign of commitment that the reporter would be assigned (until later when another reporter of PR let me know that one would really come to Gunung Puntang). I was more convinced with another one, though: Kompas – a nation wide newspaper. The reporter surprisingly contacted me thru Twitter (@ttpra). He said he would come with a photographer. The intense instant responses using Twitter has made me believe that they’re really going to come for coverage. (As it turned out, they both came).

Morning was felt like coming so fast. I got a bit concerned as I didn’t see any operators working on any transmitters. I had my guess and I was right: it’s the problem of propagation again. So we were just round and about in the area. The QSL Manager (Agus Gunarso – YB1LZ) kept reminding me about taking photo of the whole crews, operators, and officials in front of the ruin, but I said it’s better for us to wait until the press come. I was thinking of Kompas. I just couldn’t forgive myself if I lost them. However, they didn’t appear until about 11 AM. Communication with them using Twitter was difficult because the Internet was down and cellular signal was unreliable. As some part of the sky had turned to grey, I made up my mind that the photo session should be done right away. Then I decided to ask someone to let them catch us up to the ruin if they come. There wouldn’t have been any more chance to do that if rain fell.

So here we are with the banner : (I was excluded because I took the pic)


Those with green t-shirt are the YE90PK team. Agus was also not present as he also took it with his SLR. The one with purple t-shirt and a woman to his left is Emiel Woudstra and his wife. Funny, here we once wondered why VRZA should send a “spy” to see what we do here. Ha, ha, ha … as it turned out, it was a coincidence that Emiel married to an Indonesian woman who lives in Bandung. Before he left Netherland he was asked by Jan-Willem if he could do anything to help us. His wife told me that Emiel is a handyman for anything electric / electronic. He explained to me he was a satellite communication technician and once worked in the same office with Jan-Willem.

(Update at 12/05/2013)
Agus messaged me saying that we should upload a picture of the whole crews only. I agreed because there’s me and him in it :)


As the sun got dimmer approaching the evening, we discussed the exact frequency that we would transmit in CW (morse code) to the Netherland. We had this before, but it was somehow like postponed with an argument that we should wait until near the last moment to see the band condition in accordance with the propagation. However, this time I want us to be more decisive. Started with Emiel who asked me if I had informed Jan-Willem with the frequency, then I went to one of the hut where some of the operators were hanging out. By chance, they were talking about what I had in mind. Pak Asep (YB1HDF) suggested us that we should be prepared at least in three bands and in each band there should be two frequencies. There was no argument for this from the rest. The frequencies are :

14.009 Mhz, 14, 045 Mhz / 21.009 Mhz, 21,045 Mhz / 28.009 Mhz, 28,045 Mhz

emielipadI sent those six freqs (of three bands) to Jan-Willem and Ron Goossen right away using SMS. Alas! minutes after that Emiel let me know that the SMS was only received partly. It was hard enough for me to be able to send SMS because the cellular provider in my cellphone was very very poor. I had to go round different places with my hand holding up my Blackberry until I got a short splatter of signal that could send the message through. Emiel could know that because he was in contact using Skype with Jan-Willem in his iPad. Apparently he has changed his cellular card to a better one (mine was XL, his was XL too but then changed to Telkomsel). Emiel then offered me to send the frequencies using Skype by just typing into it. It worked. Not long after that I got an SMS from Ron saying, “Tom, I received the frequencies. Tnx”.

The plan was like this: from the three transmitters that we had, working in different band, we assigned each with two frequencies, from which the operators would call PI90PCG (the callsign of Radio Kootwijk for this Special Call) using CW. Each transmitter would do that alternately in that two frequencies. Once there’s a contact and that the quality of the contact is good (5-9-9), then we would decide, that frequency would be used.

So at about an hour before the designated time (12.00 UTC or 07.00 PM local time), the CW operators started to sit in front of the rigs. Agus was back and forth checking one transmitter to another. I wanted to be sure myself, so I did the same. Then Agus yelled if someone had handy transmitters to be used for reporting from three separated transmitters. It took sometime before I realized that I brought two of them. I quickly went to my tent to get the pair, set it in UHF, and gave them to Agus. It’s a better coordination now. But the relief doesn’t last long as when I found it myself that two transmitter had problems. The one in 14 Mhz got problem with the keyer. The other one, in 21 Mhz, suddenly had to transmit without the power amp. The amp just didn’t work. The operator (Pak Asep, YB1K1Z) got worried if 100 watt of the barefoot power wouldn’t be strong enough to get to the Netherland. While the one in 28 Mhz, operated by YB1HDF (his name is also Pak Asep), worked just fine. He kept calling CQ PI90PCG over and over but none answered.

I didn’t know what others felt, as it was dark already, but I got so anxious. De Groot failed to send his message to Netherland exactly 90 years ago when Radio Malabar was opened officially by Dirk Fock. Now, with all these much better technology, … how come we could still fail ? Yes, I imagine de Groot would roar with laughter if he sees us doing all this in morse code as we have Internet already. Why bother sending the message in the archaic way ? Sure thing, that is exactly the challenge, and added more to it, here we have an agreement with our counterpart in Netherland for somekind of a schedule started from 12.00 UTC. I, Agus, Jan-Willem, and Ron Goossen discussed about it in email previously. The schedule was a guidance for what we should do in every minutes started from 12.00 UTC. What I had in mind was like wanting the CW operators to follow the schedule as precisely as possible (but maybe I was just being a perfectionist by heart).

yb1kizWhile some tried to workaround with the problems, suddenly someone shouted, letting us know that a contact was made. Unfortunately, it was in the one with no power amp. All of us rushed to the transmitter. I grabbed my movie cam and went there and tried to get as close as possible with Pak Asep for the best shot. It was so crowded in such a small space. I couldn’t change my angle, and so with the press. A moment later it was decided that it’s OK to go barefoot, especially after both ends seemed to be able to get the beep-beeb (dit dah) properly. That was before 12.00 UTC. Thanks God! Pak Asep then sent “OK I will try send message in 12.00”.

It was started in 12.00 with YE90PK (our call station here in Gunung Puntang) calling PI90PCG in morse code. Then PI90PCG sent “Hallo Bandung” three times (this should remind us all that the phrase once was made popular by the communication with Radio Malabar). After exchange reports of the quality of the transmission, the message is keyed by Pak Asep. Only few people know what he was doing. We just entrusted everything to YB1KIZ. The message is :

"Uwe Majesteit veroorlove mij bij de openstelling voor het verkeer van het draadloos station op den Malabar dit eerste telegram tot Haar te richten en daarbij den wensch uit te spreken dat door dit feit, waardoor Nederland en Indie rechtstreeks en vrij van vreemde inmenging in telegrafisch verkeer treden, beide landen nader tot elkander gebracht worden. De gouverneur-generaal van Ned.-Indie, Fock."

Of course we know this text in advance from our preparation with our Netherland counterpart. According to Ron Goossen, that was only a part of the Dirk Fock message to Queen Wilhelmina at 5th May 1923. I tried to use Google Translate to know what it means but the English translation is just plain bad. Then I asked a friend, Holdiana, who lived in Rotterdam. To my surprise, she said that it was in Old Dutch. She tried her best :

“Your Majesty permits me by the opening of the wireless telex station at Malabar, to direct this first telex to her Highest and to address the wish due to this fact. Where the Netherlands and Indonesia are directly and free of any foreign influences regarding telex connections. Both countries will be brought closer to each other. Governor General of Netherlands-Indie, Fock.”

I think we could understand the message, although I have some ‘rasing brows’ in the grammar :)

From the schedule, it is said that after confirming the acceptance of the message, YE90PK is supposed to wait for about 4 minutes. The note for this adds: “Here in the Netherlands the message will be handed over to the director of Staatsbosbeheer, Piet Winterman”. After that, PI90PCG sent “Hallo Bandung” again for three times and YE90PK answered that call. A moment later, as also written in the schedule, PI90PCG sent a message in bahasa Indonesia. Pak Asep was able to take the whole message perfectly. However, we want them to send it again just to be sure. I got the paper from Pak Asep. The message says :

“Badan Kehutanan Nasional Belanda yang bertempat tinggal di Radio Kootwijk, di tengah hutan Veluwe, ingin memberikan ucapan anda semoga sukses.”

Confirmation of the message acceptance was sent again. Then the communication ended. As we knew that we managed to do all this, we roared in happiness. It was a success! We congratulated each other, and Pak Asep, YB1KIZ, was the man of the day. (His hand was cold when I made the handshake).

This collage should give you a picture of the sacred moments :


Later on, Pak Asep told us that initially the quality of acceptance as reported by PI90PCG was not 5-9-9. Instead, it was 5-5-9. Then the signal from Kootwijk got bigger. It could be that they boosted the power, beamed the antenna, or both. After that, what was sent by YE90PK was taken as 5-9-9.

OK, the ceremonial event was done, but the Special Call  was started again in three modes (voice, cw and RTTY) until 7 AM the next day, after which the Special Call from YE90PK was closed. When I write this report, I know from Agus that the total amount of stations logged was about 3000 (mixed in that three modes).

That’s the best that I could remember about the third, the last, day of the Special Call there in Gunung Puntang. I wonder what the story is at the other side in Kootwijk.

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