March 15, 2010

ARRL International DX -- Antarctic Edition

Hello from Adelaide Island!

Coming from an active contesting group, one of the things I'd looked
forward to trying out while down South was getting involved in a
contest, and being that rare DX! The summer season at Rothera is very
busy radio-wise, involving a lot of time running our Aeronautical Radio
Station (like Air Traffic Control, but we only make 'suggestions',
instead of telling people what to do.) Evening are taken up either by
late-night flying, or a round of skeds with each of our field parties,
with the result that there isn't much time when the radios aren't in
use. Fortunately, Rothera's summer co-incides with the off-season for

The ARRL International DX phone contest, the first major phone contest of the season, fell on a weekend towards the end of the summer season with a good chance of there being no flying out of base, so I decided to dust off my K3, hook it up to an Acom 2000 and one of the base antennas, and see how I did.

After finishing work on Friday, I started converting the tower into
a contest shack.

The shack, pre-setup

The shack, ready to go


There's nothing like starting a contest with a fully-stocked fridge!

I started calling on 20m a few minutes before the start of the contest to warm up, and worked W3LPL and LU1EEG. The first half an hour of the contest proper was quite slow, only yielding 5 contacts. However, patient calling (and the K3's voice keyer!) paid dividends eventually, and at 00:30 the pile-up started. I couldn't stay up too long, owing to work the following morning, but 178 Qs were logged before I finally called it a night.

Saturday dawned bright and blustery, and was taken up by a training session for Winters in the morning. The weather had calmed down by the afternoon, and I decided to take a break from base to head up to Vals, our local 'ski resort' for a few hours.

Looking down towards the ski hut from the top of the run

Skiing back to base

Rothera Station

After formal dinner on Saturday evening, I sneaked off to the tower for another stint. I discovered that searching-and-pouncing was a complete waste of time for me, since no-one in the States seemed to be beaming in my direction (oddly enough!) I tried running again, but really struggled to find a frequency. Eventually I found a suitable spot and started calling, and before long was inundated again -- at one point working at a rate of over 200 Qs/hour, and finishing the evening with
379 contacts logged.

Sunday was a quiet end to the contest, with lots of other activity on base. Propagation didn't seem to be in my favour earlier on in the day, but I'd set myself the goal of 500Qs, and sat down for another stint in the evening. Unfortunately, 20m had turned into a bit of a zoo by that point, with everyone anxious to squeeze out a last few contacts. Without enough room to work split, and with everyone frantically calling, my Q rate was significantly down on Saturday's.

Final result: 524 stations in the log, in just over 5 and a half hours total operating.

All in all, not a bad start for a casual contest entry from down South. Unfortunately, CQWW WPX falls on the weekend of Last Call---the final ship visit to Rothera for the season. The RRS Ernest Shackleton is due to depart on the 28th, ushering in the official beginning of Winter, and no more contact with the outside world until late October, so I might not get much operating time!

One of the antennas in use, with a very rare Antarctic rainbow.

73 from Sands Contest Group, VP8 section!
Mike, M0PRL / VP8DMH


g0rdh said...

Hello Mike,

What a fantastic report and such a unique shack and vista available to you as you clocked up the contacts over the weekend.

As always your photograph's are fantastic and lovely to see.

Its good to see you making the most of whats left of the summer out there on the ski's etc.

As you will know we took part in the contest and managed to keep our antenna's up unlike the same contest and "The great storm of 2009"

Were just coming into spring in the UK and the snowdrops and bluebells are in full bloom and lift the spirit after what many may have seen as a period of doom and gloom, especially in places like Cumbria who suffered serious flooding at the end of 2009 closely followed by heavy snow to add insult to injury.

The big debate on the local news is "whats happened to the Daff's normally in full bloom at this time of year, but don't worry were assured they will be in bloom by Easter.

I look forward to your next posting.

Best 73
Brian G0RDH

The Daily DX said...

Mike do you know who VP8DNA is?
Bernie, W3UR

Gianni I1HYW, said...

HI Mike,
good to hear about your participation in the Contest and happy to know you are enjoying Radio activity from down South.
I don't know if you have ever visited WAP (Worldwide Antarctic Program) web site at but that is a good place if you wish to leave some information about further activity. As you know, there is a large number of Hams WW that are enjoying working Antarctic Station and for you, being at Rothera Base (WAP GBR-12)could be a great opportunity to give them a new contact.
I'm just asking if you will have a chance to visit Lagoon Island Refuge, which is a place not too far away Rothera. That will be a "New One" for the Antarctic Chasers as this place is not referenced yet.
If you wish to download and print the WAP-WADA Directory (which contains all the Antarctic & Sub-Antarctic settlements divided by Country) you can do it from the Homepage of WAP site.
Enjoy your Antarctic long winter and hope to hear you soon.
Feel frre to drop me a mail if you wish at:
Best wishes from Italy
Gianni I1HYW