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Thursday, October 8, 2009

WA8VPN Shoots Another Possum!

The following is copied from an email by N8RR on the WVDXA Email Reflector. It details WA8VPN's 40-M QSO with FT5GA on the last night of the DX'pedition. This is how the Big Boys do it, so take notes!

Papa November asked me to summarize the event sequence for his Glorioso CW QSO.

It was known that 7 October was the last day for the FT5GA Dxpedition. WA8VPN was still seeking a CW QSO. Earlier in the day, FT5GA was on 15 and 30 meters CW with a good signal. Papa November and others in WVDXA were trying for a QSO on 15, but Bob was unsuccessful. The band folded and Bob was still without a CW QSO with FT5GA. They were nowhere to be found.

Messages were posted saying some of the antennas were dismounted, but that some stations remained operational. However, late afternoon passed into evening, then late evening, and no FT5GA was heard or seen spotted on DX Cluster. I thought we had seen the end of the FT5GA operation.

Somewhere around 9PM local WA8VPN called me on the phone, and asked if I thought there were any chance FT5GA might make a last minute appearance on 40M CW. I had no idea, but thought the chance was slim. I have been hearing FT5GA on 40M CW previous nights somewhere around the 03z hour, if they have been on. On the previous night October 6 I thought they had a workable signal here. Bob asked if he could come over to my QTH, in case the FT5 showed up for one last hurrah on 40. He wanted to use my station because I have been hearing FT5GA. I invited Bob over.

Around 0200z Bob arrived. I had been listening on all bands and monitoring the cluster, and not a peep was heard from FT5GA. I showed Bob the station, demonstrated the beverages. WA8VPN operated on 80 and 40M working some DX, including TO7RJ and 3B8CF on 40 CW; he knew we had good propagation to the Indian Ocean, and were putting out a good signal into that area.

After about an hour of monitoring the bands, with nothing heard on the radio or Cluster from FT5GA, Bob was just about to pack it in as a lost cause. We both figured the equipment was dismantled and operations ceased with FT5GA. At the last minute, as he was walking out the door, a Cluster spot came up for FT5GA on 7002, sent by some DX outside of North America. Quickly the FT-2000 receiver was tuned to 7002 and zilch was heard. No FT5GA and no pileup.

Some very careful tuning over a 2 minute period revealed a whisp of a signal down deep in the noise on 7002. Yes, it was calling CQ. The call FT5GA was deciphered one time, and then the signal stood by. Bob was in the operating chair, and I thought he might have the big one.

I reached over and set the XIT control for +2 khz and said to Bob: "Call him. You may never hear him again, and this could be the last shot" Bob didn't even wait and listen to see if anyone else heard FT5GA and was calling. He just blind called up 2 khz and sent WA8VPN twice.

The ghost signal on 7002 came back to someone. Bob deciphered a W and an A but that was it. I said: " I think he has come back to you, call him again" Once again, Bob sent WA8VPN twice on 7004. This time, FT5GA came back to a call and sent a report. The signal was so weak and the noise was so high he just could not be 100% sure if the report was for WA8VPN. However, the timing sequence was right throughout, and the response from FT5GA was as expected. Once again, I suggested to Bob that this was probably as good a shot as he would have. I said "send him a report". Bob sent him a 599 three times, then repeated WA8VPN twice.

The ghost signal came back sending something that could not be deciphered because the signal was so weak, but both of us could hear UP. I looked at Bob and he looked at me. I said: "You probably just worked FT5GA, if it was really him"
We listened to the QSX frequency, and there were a couple of callers, but we believe they were attracted by the Cluster spot and zeroed in on WA8VPN's signal. We did not hear FT5GA work anyone else. I don't think he worked anyone prior to Bob's calling him.

Both of us felt pretty good about the sequence of events but we were both skeptical. It was Bob's last shot for this Dxpedition, and he took it. The online log would tell if it were zero or 3 points!

At 0630 local I got up and checked the FT5GA log. WA8VPN was in there on 40M. Yes!!!!!! This had to be nearly the last, if not the last, USA QSO by FT5GA on 40 or perhaps any band. Condition were horrible, worse than I had heard FT5GA's signal on 40M any night they were on.

I would trade all of my FT5GA QSO's, with the possible exception of 80M, so that Bob could make this one. Fortunately, that was not necessary. This entire sequence and the unlikely unfolding of it is unique in my 47 years of experience. WA8VPN sure must be living right!

That's the story, and we are sticking to it.

73 Charlie N8RR

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