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Zorro JH1AJT, Mount Athos SV/A

As mentioned in this previous Blog post, Zorro is presently operating as SV8/KH0WF on the Greek island of Ammouliani (EU-174).

I spoke with Zorro last night on the phone and this is some of the information he passed on to me.

During a 40 Meter run from SV8 yesterday, Monk Apollo (SV2ASP/A) was able to break the pileup.  They had a great 20 minute QSO.  At that point the Mount Athos information is now out on some of the European DX news channels.

Zorro (JH1AJT) and his small work team will travel to Mount Athos April 23rd to repair/install SteppIR antennas, and to also install a 12/13 Meter tower for Monk Apollo (SV2ASP/A).  Zorro is bringing a 500 watt amplifier and a Kenwood TS480HX radio that he plans on donating to Monk Apollo before departing Mount Athos on Monday, April 28th.

Due to the special requirements for radio operations on Mount Athos, and also the major task(s) of repairing/installing antennas and a tower still ahead of the team, Zorro does not know at this time whether he will have the time or if the circumstances will allow him to operate from Mount Athos.

Zorro will call with an update from Mount Athos (if possible) and I will update this Blog post accordingly.

UPDATE:  April 23rd, 1650Z (Mount Athos local 7:50PM) – Sunrise Mount Athos at 0332Z, Sunset at 1709Z.  No update as of 1650Z.

UPDATE:  April 25th, 1330Z.  No update.

UPDATE:  April 26th, 1330Z.  No update.

UPDATE:  April 26th, 1730Z.  Just got off the phone with Zorro from Mount Athos.  Here is some information he requested I forward to the Ham Radio community:

Zorro’s Greek work team has returned home.  He is alone on Mount Athos until his scheduled departure on Monday, April 28th.  Monk Apollo returned to Mount Athos today and they had a very good meeting.  Zorro and his team were able to install a new tower, but the SteppIR antenna is still broken.  There are two issues with the antenna.  One is the SteppIR motor is intermittent, the other is the Control Box is not functioning properly.  Zorro could not get the SteppIR to work as it should.  More repairs will be required.  In the meantime, he hung a 15 & 20 Meter dipole from the tower.

Monk Apollo plans to operate Sunday morning (April 27th) with Zorro at his side from around 0800/0900Z for one hour or so.  Frequency unknown.  This is all the time Elder Apollo has for radio operations as he is busy with his duties on Mount Athos.  As far as Zorro operating alone from Mount Athos while Monk Apollo is tasked, that is not a decision that can be made by Monk Apollo or Zorro.  There is a 20 Monk committee that must approve any and all communications operations.  14 of 20 committee votes are needed to allow any such endeavor.  Monk Apollo is all for furthering the hobby from Mount Athos, but it is not his decision.

– END –

Now, here’s a few of my comments. Of note, and just as in Myanmar (which took ten visits and numerous communications between Zorro and Myanmar officials), Zorro has opened a solid line of communication for future radio operations from Mount Athos.  Zorro worked long and hard to open up Ham Radio into Myanmar, and he’s ready, willing and able to work long and hard to further the hobby on Mount Athos too.

I did not know (until today) that there’s a committee that overseas radio/communications operations on Mount Athos.  I, like many Hams I’ve spoken to always thought radio was controlled by one man.  It is not.  I learned that Monk Apollo is a very, very busy man tasked with many duties.  Elder Apollo wears many different hats in support of the Orthodox Spiritual Center.

Mount Athos is way bigger that I thought – here’s a few interesting links I found:

Mount Athos on Wikipedia

UNESCO Information on Mount Athos


Another thought I’ve had.  I know a lot of people swear by their SteppIR antennas.  I also know a few Hams that swear AT their SteppIR antennas.  Seems to me Mount Athos is not the place for what I consider to be a “complicated” antenna.  A simple and inexpensive trapped tri-bander would sure make a lot of people happy me thinks.

I do not believe North America will have any chance of working SV2ASP/A at 0800/0900Z on any band, but knowing Zorro is making headway for the future should calm some North American nerves.  That sure doesn’t mean I won’t be looking though!

Good luck, keep the Faith!

UPDATE:  April 27th, 1200Z.  Monk Apollo and Zorro did indeed show up on the air today, but judging from the DX Cluster spots their signal was considerably down.  DX Cluster spots placed them on 21.365 MHz.

DX World has posted some recent pictures of Zorro (JH1AJT), the Greek Team and Monk Apollo (SV2ASP/A) from Mount Athos at DX World New Images from SV2ASP/A on Mount Athos

Take a peak at the comments below to make sure you read Kosta’s (SV1DPI) post.  A great, informative post from one of the team of friends that’s been assisting Monk Apollo for years.

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27 Responses

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  1. Jonathan W6GX says

    From JE1LET


    SV2ASP/A Monk Apollo and Zorro JH1AJT have a great first eyeball today in Mount Athos and start his Ant work.

    Hope Monk Apollo will enjoy many big pile ups with his new Tower.

    Put your beam to Mount Athos next few days. Good Luck!!

  2. Al - W1JHU says


    Thanks so much for the update on Zorro and Monk Apollo. I’m very fortunate to have worked Monk Apollo and received his QSL card. Yes , he is a very busy individual and this adds a special rarity factor to any QSO with him. Zorro is a most gracious individual with all the time and resources he expends to promote good will in the ham community.

    With regards to SteppIR antennas, I just returned from a ham flea market in Gainesville where a ham was selling a 1 year old SteppIR with the 40M trombone for $1000.00. Said he had over $4600 invested but had so many issues with the motors that the last time he took it down for repair he replaced the defective motor and decided to put a good tri-bander. I think the SteppIR could have been had for $800. That’s how motivated he was.

    Meanwhile my Hustler 4BTV w/32 radials is working trouble free!!

    Thanks again Wayne for all your efforts. See you on 240!


  3. Al N6TA says

    Good news that our dear Monk may not be the obstacle as has been suggested in the past.
    Agree that the SteppIR is not the right antenna for this place. It is what it is for now. Fingers stay crossed!

    • admin says

      I have to say I was quite naive on “Mount Athos” until I started researching it. It didn’t take long to see how interesting a place it is. For centuries, they’ve had very, VERY strict rules and protocol. There’s even been some physical rebellion and conflict recently between some “rebel” Monks and the Greek government (Google Search). Read the Wikipedia article (link above) to start. The more knowledge I acquire, the sillier I feel that I believed people when they said one man had “locked it up”. Far, far from the truth. I guess it’s like that with everything anymore, you just cannot trust or count on the information fed you by the media, friends and supposed “experts”. You have to do your own due diligence and start forming your opinion from there. Good DX!

  4. Kostas says

    Hello. I maintain the Monk Apollo’s antennas the last 12 years. I was one of the team and I returned home Saturday evening. The antenna had stopped to work last winter. After that it fell and the director’s motor has broken. Patrick ON4HIL donated a motor and we replaced it. Unfortunately while we thought that we had a broken shaft inside the driven motor, we found that all motors are mechanically ok. Unfortunately only the reflector motor had voltage. So I think the problem was the controller. Because we could not repair the controller, I thought to put the wires of the driven to reflector pins. So what I did. I had the steppir working as a dipole. I corrected the length in every band and the steppir was with swr 1:1 on 13m high. The signals on the radio seemed very good and we could send a replacement controller very soon. All was good on Saturday morning, when we leave. Sunday morning Zorro called me in my phone and told me that steppir was totally dead again. Probably the controller stopped working completely. I am very disappointing and sad as we spent a lot of energy to solve all the problems. So right now only 80m ssb, 40m and 6m are ok. Yes we installed a 6m antenna also. Steve HA0DU donated a 4el antenna for 6m and we installed it above the steppir. This antenna works FB.

    We have not ever applied for a license. Holy Council has refused a lot of times for a ham license and this does not any sense at this time. We tried to help Monk Apollo to have a better signal so the most hams have a better opportunity to work him. Personally I helped a friend (Monk Apollo) and do what I do so many years just to help Monk Apollo be on the air and all hams have a chance to work him. I believe that Zorro (who I met first time there and he is a real gentleman) has the same motivation. I promise that we will do our best to correct the problems as soon as possible either repairing the steppir either installing a new antenna. I am going to Mount Athos every year as a pilgrim and me and my friends help Monk Apollo quietly and we will keep doing this. We are looking for the best solution and hope to do it quickly.

    It is real that Monk Apollo does not give any license. Himself was needed almost 2 years to get a license!!! And finally if Monk Apollo was giving the licenses I would have one already. The most hams saying these, have not ever met him. Anyway, someone can believe what he thinks good for him. I can not change opinions and I am not interesting to do it.

    73 Kostas SV1DPI

    • admin says

      Kostas, what an informative post you delivered! It clarifies things greatly. Your comment is perhaps the most informative post on my Blog, ever – thank-you!

      Through the years I have heard many people thoughts about Ham Radio on Mount Athos. Many think they can throw money and operate with a huge DXpedition. Many think Monk Apollo defends his license by not allowing others. Some even think Mount Athos should be removed from DXCC. This is why your comment is so powerful. It explains some of this issues, and clarifies others.

      I only speak for myself here, I appreciate your timeless hard work through all these years to assist Elder Apollo and keep Ham Radio alive on Mount Athos. The more I have learned about this mystical Holy Place, the more I come to understand the many hurdles you (and very few others) have had to overcome just to visit there.

      Keep up the fine work behind the scenes my friend!

  5. Lee Nelson K6BTT says

    Kostas and Zorro,

    Thank you both for your hard work and dedication. It is very much appreciated by the amateur radio community. I am sorry that the SteppIr have been a problem. I have had similar problems with the vertical antennas. I do not think they are rugged enough for this application. Maybe a beam like a Force 12 or M2. I would be willing to contribute to purchasing one. I am sure there are many other who would be willing to help also.

    I do not have a beam antenna at my QTH because or antenna restrictions! I use several different vertical arrays. Mt. Athos is of great interest to me as it is the last one I need!

    Please let me know how I can help. Lee Nelson K6BTT.

  6. Jonathan W6GX says

    Apollo and the holy committee have allowed Apollo’s German friend to run small scale, CW-only dxpeditions over the years. Perhaps it’s not about Apollo/holy committee not giving the deserving ones a chance but rather the idea of a large-scale, multinational dxpedition to such a sacred place that turns them off.

    The beam, 200w transceiver, and 600w THP amplifier will make a big difference. However the real challenge would be for Apollo to listen for the weak signals from the propagation-challenged geographic areas such as the West Coast USA.

    Jonathan W6GX

    • Al N6TA says

      Wondering how far back that was, a non-monk op.
      I heard from Garry that a famous DL visited with minimal permission, worked a bunch and then no more such ops. Regardless, vigilance always the order of the day for those needing this one!

      • Lee Nelson K6BTT says

        I believe the operator was DL7FT. In 2001 he sent me a card for SY1MA and SV1DB/A for his operation. I don’t know the date of operation. He said he could not go back! In 1998 Dr. Salene OE6EEG ran a DX net that monk Apollo sometimes would check into. I did get to call on one occasion but he did not hear me.
        Lee Nelson K6BTT

        • Kostas says

          The man who operated cw with Monk’s Apollo callsign was Dominic DL5EBE (now Michail – he changed name as he is an orthodox now). See the ARRL bulletin back in 1998
          Unfortunately Holy Council prohibited to Monk Apollo to do it again and they threat to get his license. So no hope for this kind of operation anymore.
          SV1DB operated at 1973, SY1MA at 1972, DL7FT at 1986..

          • Al N6TA says

            Seems like a few DLs visited and worked. I received this info from another expert DXer:

            Baldur Drobnica, DJ6SI operated at Mt. Athos in mid-April 1991 as SY/DJ6SI–all CW. He drove from Germany to Athos with a transceiver and a ground plane. He talked the monks into letting him operate, ….. I worked him on both 20 and 15 CW, 9 hours apart, through an enormous pileup. At the time I had about 1000W and wire antennas, no beams. I owe the QSO’s to his skill–not mine; our local “brothers” were no help, repeatedly calling over me, but Baldur did not give in. The furor that followed his bold move really stirred the shit on that mountain.


        • Jonathan W6GX says

          It’s Dominik DL5EBE. He’s a story about Dominik and Mt. Athos.

          Here are two excellent documentaries on Mount Athos (credit to KY6R).

          Part 1:


          Part 2:


          Jonathan W6GX

  7. Gary K7ZD says

    Al, N6TA.. yes thanks to DJ6SI I have ONE CW QSO with Athos too.. 100W then and TH3JR, now in old age just WARC vert and wires but 600W 🙂 Still don’t expect another QSO (I got LUCKY with P5 on fone/rtty) 73/DX all.. what a hobby 🙂 K7ZD Gary

    • Lee Nelson says

      What time did he work him?
      Lee K6BTT

      • Gary K7ZD says

        Hi Lee.. my rather old log says I worked SY/DL6SI 16APR 91 around 13:50z on 10M CW. I heard Martti’s “demo” on CW from P5 but no joy 73, Gary K7ZD It counted OK, have the QSL around here but would have to look thru 1000’s to find it 73, Gary K7ZD (then probably KD7E)

        • Lee Nelson says

          Thanks Gary,
          Lee K6BTT

  8. Lee Nelson K6BTT says

    Is there any news on of progress of repair of Monk Apollo’s antennas?
    Lee Nelson K6BTT

    • Kostas says

      We tried hard to repair the antenna. We sent a new controller to Monk Apollo and he changed it.Unfortunately the steppir doesn’t operate as it should. It seems to have swr abt 2:1 and the signalas are not so strong as they should be. Finally and after many tries, Zorro talked to steppir and they decided to send a new antenna for free. Zorro helped again as he paid the shipping cost, new control cable and new 40m kit. The new antenna arrived to Greek Custom a few days ago and it is expected to be in Mount Athos at the end of next week. Me and my friends from SZ1A, we plan to go in Mount Athos at 25-27 of July (yes I know that we will loose IOTA contest but it is the only free weekend for all of us) to install the new antenna and I hope to solve all problems this way. I ‘ll report here when I will have more news.
      73 Kostas SV1DPI

      • Wayne, N0UN says

        Good luck on the new antenna installation Kostas and thanks for keeping us all updated!

        73, Wayne, N0UN

  9. Lee Nelson says

    Lee Nelson K6BTT
    Are there any plans for operating after the antennas arec installed? We are having good propagation to the west coast 0300-0600 GMT on 20 mtrs! I hope to work you soon. Thanks to all who helped put the antennas back on the air.
    Lee Nelson

    • Kostas says

      We have not any license to operate. We hope Monk Apollo will have the time to try his new antenna after the installation and you have the chance for some qsos. Unfortunately Monk Apollo is in church for his monastic duties until 5utc every day (6utc during winter). He needs a special license from his abbott to leave the ceremony. I ‘ll talk to him for this.

      • Lee Nelson says

        thank you for your help.

  10. sv1dpi says

    On the road to home. The new steppir is installed and is working OK. Now let’s hope Monk Apollo will have enough free time to operate (not easy)…

    • N0UN says

      Many, many people (myself included) appreciate you and your friends keeping Mt. Athos on the air through the years Kostas, thank-you! Wayne, N0UN

Continuing the Discussion

  1. SV2ASP/A Mount Athos 15 Meters CW | N0UN's Ham Radio Blog linked to this post on May 13, 2014

    […] from Elder Apollo again.  For those "not in the know", you can get up to speed by reading this earlier Mount Athos post.  Make sure to read the comments below the article as there is much more information to be […]

  2. SV1ASP/A Mount Athos On The Air! | N0UN's Ham Radio Blog linked to this post on July 28, 2014

    […] More on Mount Athos here. […]

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