|The VP6R Expedition Team on Pitcairn Island (source)|
Last year around this time the worldwide DX ham radio community had its full attention set to the VP6R DXpedition to Pitcairn Island, which took place between October 18th - November 1st, 2019. Now everybody who knows me even the slightest, knows how immensely fascinated I am by Pitcairn. I've been for a long time, and making a contact with Pitcairn Island would be a dream come true! I've written a blog entry about Pitcairn before, about its most famous ham radio operator, Tom Christian, VP6TC (SK), and how my fascination for Pitcairn came about. You can find that blog entry here.
For VP6R my best chance would be working them in FT8 Fox/Hound mode, and with my little pistol station and modest wire antennas, and taking into consideration that we were at the bottom of the solar activity cycle, the most likely and maybe only window of opportunity would be around 07:00 UTC on 40 or 30m. Due to being at work around this time, my chances were narrowed down to just the weekends. And there were only two of them in the period that VP6R was active! The first weekend in the morning I indeed managed to receive the FT8 F/H signals of the DXpedition both on 40m and 30m. Decodes were sporadic, and conditions just weren't good enough for me to make a contact.
So, that left only one weekend remaining, one weekend to make that dream contact with Pitcairn! It was the weekend of October 26/27, the last weekend of October, which traditionally also means it's the weekend of the CQ WW SSB contest. This didn't promise much good, and I was afraid that the 40m FT8 F/H frequency would be congested with SSB splatter from big gun contesters. And much to my horror, when checking on Saturday morning it was indeed! I can't remember if I saw any cluster spots for VP6R FT8 F/H on 40 or 30m that day, but at least I did not catch anything from them that day.
So now there was only one day left, Sunday October 27th, 2019, one day to make my dream come true! The contest would still be in full swing on Sunday, so the only chance left was 30m. Since VP6R was also participating in the contest, I was afraid they would be preoccupied in that and maybe wouldn't do 30m FT8. I needed a little miracle!
I remember waking up that Sunday and immediately checking DX Summit and the excitement seeing spots being made for VP6R on 30m FT8! I hurried to the radio, and my body got filled with adrenaline when the laptop produced numerous VP6R decodes. I started calling them, and then suddenly not much later and without much effort VP6R was in the log! I'd made the contact! I couldn't believe it, the little miracle had happened! It's quite amazing since I was using my HyEndFed 10/20/40m antenna (which isn't resonant at 30m) tuned with the built-in ATU of my Yaesu FT-991. On 30m it definitely isn't the most efficient antenna set up there is! But still it managed to get my signals all the way to that intriguing island in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, the most remote inhabited island on the planet, inhabited by the descendants of the Bounty Mutineers. Wow!
|The Little Miracle that Happened! Screenshot from WSJT-X.|
To my relief, the contact soon was found in the VP6R online log (ruling out having dealt with a pirate). LotW and the much coveted paper QSL followed some time later. I remember meeting one of my ham friends of our local VERON club at the yearly VERON hamfest in Zwolle later in November, and proudly telling him that I'd made the contact. Like many others, he'd worked VP6R on many bands in various modes. But to me that one FT8 contact on 30m was The Little Miracle that Happened!
|QSL card received for my contact with VP6R|
Nodir, EY8MM, one of the expedition members, has put together a wonderful photo book of the VP6R expedition. It's for sale here or can be downloaded for free here. You can also take a look at Nodir's website at www.ey8mm.com.
The official VP6R website can be found at pitcairnDX.com.