May 05, 2018

Life's too short for QRP! (WSPR chatter 4)

Last edited: 06.05.2018

Latest news 06.05.2018 - DJ0HO/MM has been confirmed as being located on the German icebreaker and research vessel RV Polarstern! See the addendum below!

I like the challenge of WSPRíng with 200 mW with my QRP Labs U3S. But sometimes you really want to be spotted by that special station, and after trying for a while you start to realize that 200 mW just ain't going to cut it, at least not without some extraordinary propagation conditions helping out.

Such was the case for me with DJ0HO/MM. This station the past two months or so had been making WSPR spots from the area around the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetland Islands (see also my blog entry of April 7). I really wanted to be spotted by this station, but my 200 mW WSPR sgnals just everytime failed to excite some electrons in the station's antenna.
So, giving the popular ham radio phrase "Life's too short for QRP" new meaning, I gave the U3S some rest and decided to do some WSPRing on the 20m band with my Yaesu FT991 instead, using no less than a massive 5 Watts of power, yes, 5000 mW! :-) In WSPR, and compared to the 200 mW I normally use, this was like going from QRP to high power QRO operations! :-) And it really showed; I got way more spots, much better SNR reports, and while I was at it I was spotted by stations in Japan, India and New Zealand to boot, countries I haven't been able to reach yet with my 200 mW signals (see also my WSPR DXCC list). But most importantly, I was finally also spotted by DJ0HO/MM!

The first spot for PA7MDJ from DJ0HO/MM appeared on April 29th from grid GC29ma, just north of the mysterious, remote, and desolate Elephant Island. Elephant Island is an ice-covered mountainous island, it's part of the South Shetland Islands, but lies in its extreme outer reaches. The island was named for the many elephant seals spotted on its shores by the early explorers. Elephant Island is most famous for having been the refuge of Sir Ernest Shackleton and his men marooned there after the loss of their ship in the Weddel Sea during the Endurance Expedition in 1915.
A second spot appeared two days later from grid GC39al. The antenna I used during both spots was a sloping dipole for the 20m band.


Elephant Island. Photo by Terry Allan (source).


DJ0HO/MM near Elephant Island hearing PA7MDJ on April 29th, 2018

Raising the power from 200 mW to 5 W is not automatically a guarantee that your signals will be picked up, and the fact that I was spotted by DJ0HO/MM only twice shows that it was still no easy feat.

DJ0HO does not have a qrz.com account, and it surprises me that almost no information can be found on either DJ0HO or the WSPR operations of DJ0HO/MM. The only thing I've been able to find is that the callsign belongs to a Dr. Walter Jörg Hofmann, the owner / skipper of a sailing yacht. I initially thought the WSPR monitoring was done from this sailing yacht. But the past few days on the map of wsprnet.org  I noticed that, after having spent many weeks in the Antarctic, DJ0HO/MM was moving up north, and at some point had reached the southern tip of South America and was sailing just east of Tierra del Fuego. I'm no expert at maritime navigation, but the speed at which DJ0HO/MM had managed to sail from Elephant Island to Tierra del Fuego made me suspect that this could not be a sailing yacht. At the time of writing the last spot in the wsprnet.org database from DJ0HO/MM was made on May 4th from grid FD66it.

I started to suspect that DJ0HO/MM was operated from a bigger ship, maybe a research vessel. In that case the most likely candidate would be the German research and supply vessel RV Polarstern. I checked the ship's 2018 schedule and learned that from March 17th to May 6th the ship was on a biological oceanographic research cruise (PS112) in the area "WESTERN ANTARCTIC PENINSULA SCOTIA SEA". The cruise would end on May 6th in Punta Arenas, Chile, which would have the ship sailing along the coast of Tierra del Fuego just prior to it! This schedule corresponds VERY closely to the movements I've seen for DJ0HO/MM!


The RV Polarstern (source)

The Polarstern 2018 schedule (source)

I thus can do none else than strongly suspect that DJ0HO/MM was located on board of the RV Polarstern! If somebody can confirm this, please contact me.

In other WSPR news; I've also been receiving some High Altitude Balloon WSPR flights including SA6BSS (BSS #?) over Greenland and VE3KCL (U3B-15) near Northern Africa. Also the hospital ship USNS Mercy (see also my blog entry of April 27)  is still active, and I've been receiving its WSPR signals again, this time from Sri Lanka.


WSPR balloon SA6BSS over Greenland heard by PA7MDJ


Addendum 06.05.2018
DJ0HO/MM indeed is the RV Polarstern! For some reason I'd missed it, but earlier Felix Riess DL5XL had already replied to my blog entry of April 7th with the following information:
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Jörg, DJ0HO, is an electronics engineer on board the German icebreaker "Polarstern" (not exactly a "sailing yacht"). More information about the ship can be found here: https://www.awi.de/en/expedition/ships/polarstern.html - He uses a Red Pitaya STEMLab 125-14 with an active receiving antenna to monitor up to eight WSPR frequencies simultaneously and regularly uploads reception results to wsprnet.org through the vessel's satellite link. DJ0HO will be on board until the ship returns to its home port of Bremerhaven, Germany, in June 2018.
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Thanks for the input, Felix! I appreciate it very much!



See also:

https://www.awi.de/en/expedition/ships/polarstern.html
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elephant_Island
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Imperial_Trans-Antarctic_Expedition

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