VP8DMN – Falkland Islands

Between 21 and 29 January 2010, Martin G3ZAY and I were QRV from Darwin, East Falklands (SA-002). Over the period of our trip we focused as much as possible on the low bands, especially 160m and 80m, and in total we made 7,500 QSOs. All QSOs appear in our log search page on Club Log. The entire expedition log has been uploaded to LoTW.

QSL via M0OXO – www.m0oxo.com

We travelled to the Falklands from RAF Brize Norton in England, down to RAF/USAF Wideawake on Ascension Island, and then to RAF Mount Pleasant in the Falklands. In total the trip is about 13,000km and takes 24 hours or so. It was a great relief to finally arrive in good weather, although the Falklands are very windy and some of the time our antennas were standing in 95km/h winds! See below for a photo of an 18m pole being stressed into an ‘S’ bend.

Our location at Darwin House was picked with the help of VP8NO, Mike. The objective of this site was to use the low take off angle of the salt water to enhance our signals and make the best of the conditions. Mike got this just right – have a look at the  map of our location.

Our equipment comprised two small amplifiers, two Elecraft K3s, 2×18m Spiderbeam poles and 1×10m vertical. We used a 500ft beverage which Mike VP8NO built, and laid approximately 1.5km of radial wires, most of which were coupled with sea water. The radios in particular are wonderful, and we were able to avoid any station interference by using the outstandingly clean TX signal of the K3s.

At times the weather was extremely pleasant, with temperatures nearly at 20 degrees celsius. This is of course because January is the peak of summer in the Falkland Islands…but the wind never really stops.

Our operating technique was that Martin G3ZAY would operate in the mornings while Michael G7VJR would be QRV from sunset through to sunrise every day. In the afternoon, we were both up and available to do antenna work and, occasionally, we were both on the air on HF at the same time. This schedule works well but after a week of working night shifts Michael was getting a bit grumpy with the conditions – so thank goodness, on the last night, the 160m conditions were perfect! 🙂

On HF bands, conditions were quite excellent when they peaked, but the QRN (summer conditions) could make the bands below 30m very difficult to use when the crashes were too strong and continuous. One night, we were only able to make about 50 QSOs throughout the hours of darkness due to S9+20db QRN, while the next night was just about the most perfect 160m opening with QSOs beyond sun rise into JA, which is 17,800km short path.

You can hear an audio recording of our signals, created by JR7VHZ Yasu.

Local copies: VP8DMN 1 / VP8DMN 2 / VP8DMN 3

As you can see in the great circle map, the JA to VP8 path is a true SS-SR path and an extraordinary opening is needed to make it happen on 160m! (Note: JA is in the centre of the map, and VP8 is in the bottom right). Congratulations on 160m QSOs to:

  • JA3ONB Yasuo
  • JA7NI Kuni
  • JA8ISU Kazuo
  • JR7VHZ Yasu

The photos below are just a handful of pictures to give you an idea. A full write-up of this trip will follow soon in the CDXC Digest.

Particular thanks are due to CDXC and GMDX for their help with our expenses. Also, thank you to Mike VP8NO and his wife Heather, to Bob VP8LP and Janet VP8AIB, and to the owner of Darwin House (Sheena) for their help with our station. Thanks to Bob G3PJT for the loan of his excellent light-weight FET amplifier, to Neil G0JHC and Mark G4AXX for their support with our expenses, and to G3TXF for assistance with shipping arrangements to the Falklands. Martin and I had a great time and are extremely grateful for all the QSOs – particularly on the low bands. vy 73!

Michael G7VJR, Martin G3ZAY – VP8DMN

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