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