Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sometimes the Planets Align VP8STI South Sandwhich

I managed to log VP8STI early this morning.  That South pole path has not traditionally been easy from my QTH.  I've heard VP8STI since the first day and have called and called but they have been very weak, and the pileups prodigious.  I do like the high speed contest style exchange BUT given fluttery nature of their signal, the cops and tuner uppers, the high speed has proven to be more of a hindrance than an advantage.  

It's been cold in Florida.  So last night I went to bed early about 21:00 with my heating blanket cranked.  The human bladder is an amazing alarm clock.  There are stretch receptors in the bladder wall and as they stretch they assault the consciousness (and unconsciousness) with an ever increasing barrage of input.  Eventually the assault will not be ignored.  By the time you reach your 7th decade you realize you do not control your bladder, your bladder controls you.  I'm of an age where I now have a 5 hour bladder.  Sure enough at 2:10 mother nature woke me.  After I reset the stretch receptors I pondered whether to return to my cozy bed on this chilly Florida night, or head down to the shack to hear what I could hear.  

Disappointing.  There was a pileup of maybe 4-6 stations but the VP8 was watery and weak on my 40M vertical, my preferred band.  I could make out the VP8 but he was working JA after JA waaaay down in the mud.  I noticed on my grayline map it was JA sunset so he was working their grayline as hard as he could.  I could even hear some JA's as their grayline was also  enhancing signals to my QTH.   He was doing about 40 wpm with no real flutter and some QSB, actually very readable, but I had little hope I was going to crack the Asian express.  I decided to wander around to other spotted freqs to hear what I could hear.  On 30 they were running RTTY and invisible on my panadapter, but I could see some stalwart RTTY boys churning away for a contact.  On 160M nothing.  The VP8 was already over an hour into daylight and I figured my warm bed was calling.  Likely the best I could hope for was a rapid descent of his signal into my noise.

Note the JA sunset

As I returned to 40M for a last listen, he was considerably louder.  I thought ??? and then remembered they were going to be using some kind of directional antennas on the low bands.  On 40M it turns out they are running a 4 square which was working as advertised, and the beam was now on the USA.  

There still wasn't much of a pileup, now maybe 10 stations 

I fired up the amp (love that instant on), quickly checked to see if I was tuned and found a station to tail end all in the matter of 10 seconds.  5 seconds later he was in my log

Here is his signal strength (VFO A)

My band noise was running under S0 maybe -121 dBm.  

This evening I was confirmed in his log

As I made some screen shots for this blog post the pileup continued to build.  Like I said sometimes the planets align.     

So for all of my plans of using multiple panadapters and skimmer screens to scour the pileup in the end it comes down to right place right time, same as always.  By 3 a,m, I was back in bed.  

I stopped by my shack on the way out to work about 7 a.m. and there were still stations working him, at least 5 hours into his daylight on 40 CW.  As I left I realized it was now my turn for the grayline terminator to be flying over my head.  These VP8 ops are some very seasoned and smart operators.  The op I worked was Axel DL6KVA.  He has a tip of my hat!

Here is a video

73  W9OY

Monday, January 18, 2016

Big Pileup Management VP8STI

South Sandwhich and South Georgia

The VP8STI activated today, and the pileups are ridiculous.

The DX is on 7.025 and the pileup extends to 7.40 or beyond

So how does one manage the available information and try to make a reasonable stab at placing ones transmitter where the DX might be listening?   Here is how I set things up using the Flex 6500.  The 6500 has 4 possible "receivers".  I set up 3 to cover the band using 2 different methods.  In the top panadapter there are 2 receivers called slices.  Slice A is the slice I am listening to.  The DX is on 7.025 and I have this receiver locked onto 7.025 so if I inadvertently click something the DX stays in my headphones

note the blue lock above my cursor

Slice "B" is one of my transmitters.  You will note the red TX is active in this slice on 7.0299 in the above pic.  If I hit the key I transmit here, BUT I can also transmit using the slice in the second panadapter

By clicking the Flag Pole in this slice the top of the pole turns yellow and the transmitter is now active on 7.0357 and if I hit the key I transmit here (note the red TX has shifted to this Flag).  The reason I use this setup is I am also monitoring CW skimmer

The skimmer panel on the right goes to the top panadapter and I can decode CW from 7.025 to about 7.035.  The skimmer on the left goes to the bottom panadapter and decodes from about 7.033 to 7.043.  When a station sends 599 or 5NN 599 is printed in red next to this frequency.  By watching the callsigns and the 599's, you quickly learn the distribution of calls in the pileup and you can see something of the pattern of the DX op as he moves or doesn't move through the pileup.  This setup allows me to monitor a little more than 20 khz of pile up with a good knowledge of what is happening in the pileup  If the pileup was 30-35 khz I would simply open up another panadapter and crank up another skimmer

And my desktop would look like this.  If I click on any station or any 599 or any spot on any panadapter my transmitter is immediately scooted to that freq ready for action
The progran that cooridinates all of this is W1RF's SDR-Bridge 

A third party program written by Ed W1RF 

So far the DX has eluded me.  He is there but damn weak and way too much QRM on his freq to make the trip so I decided on writing a blog post while I listen and hope for improvement.  You can get most of this functionality on the 6300, but the 6500 really shines for this advanced pileup busting!

73  W9OY

Saturday, January 16, 2016

K5P Palmyra

I haven't been too active lately especially on DX.  I've been involved int the Alpha testing program with Flex radio and a new SSDR version was just released and working out the kinks is both interesting and time consuming.  After 1.6.17 was released I was on 40M CW and Craig K9CT gave me a call.  Craig is a well known DXer, contester and also a Alpha group member.  In the course of conversation he mentioned he was heading to Palmyra for a DXpedition.  Palmyra KH5-P is a top ten most wanted DX need.  It's an atoll about 1000 miles south of Hawaii close to the equator, and is protected as a natural environment by the US government.  I needed me some KH5-P so I decided to stay tuned.  I figured it would be easy... Man was I wrong.  Between being equatorial and the band conditions lately, I've had virtually NO PEEPS out of KH5 

I listened the morning they fired up and they were readable on 40M but I needed to go pass the gas (anesthesiologists joke) and the pile up was BIG so I didn't make the trip.  I figured noproblemo.  I spent the next 3 days trying to get a contact.  Things went from bad to worse as far as conditions were concerned, and I resorted to getting up in the wee hours to try my luck on 40M.  I listened dutifully on the other bands but 40 was my best shot.  


I set up my desktop for DXing and here is a shot of the pileup

Not too bad.  The op was ND2T.

You can read Tom's bio by clicking the pic.

His pattern was to work on the same freq moving occasionally, so the trick was to figure out where he was listening.  I tried various techniques but wound up resorting to using a freq suggested in a spot comment in Spot Collector.  Hey any port in the storm!  He was totally weak

VFO A is the RX VFO he is literally 2 dB out of the noise, dipping below the noise with QSB.  VFO B is the pileup

Tom is an excellent op and he managed to get my callsign and persevere until I was safely in the log!

I published a video of the DXpedition and conditions at my QTH the morning I worked them.  You definitely need headphones to listen to this one

good time  

73  W9OY