Lots of bright colours over much of the North Atlantic! There looked to be some possibility of a repeat of Dave, PJ4VHF’s incredible reception of the Cape Verde beacon, over a distance of some 4700km (and perhaps further?), as well as a north-south path touching on Ireland.
Up until lunchtime on the 20th there was nothing other than a slight enhancement on my AIS receiver (a useful propagation tool at 162MHz, online at MarineTraffic) showing ships slightly further south of Cork than usual – certainly nothing exceptional. I wasn’t even hearing the stalwart ED1ZAG beacon in IN53 but the forecast maps were marginal for that direction.
At approximately 14:35z, a weak cw-keyed signal appeared just very slightly above 144.436MHz, rapidly becoming strong enough to identify as D4C in HK76mv! The Monteverde Contest Team’s beacon is at a distance of some 4165km from EI3KD, with a tolerance of five kilometers or so, which probably makes it the furthest tropo distance yet heard from within IARU Region 1.
I immediately spotted the beacon and commented in the ON4KST chat to alert others, and shortly afterwards Tom, EI4DQ in IO51wu also logged D4C. In fact, at that time it seemed he was copying the beacon slightly better from his location a few kilometers to the south and closer to the coast, showing just how marginal these paths can be!
The beacon displayed very slow and deep fading over a period of tens of minutes but did get very strong at times, such as this recording I made at 18:38z on the 20th:
Interestingly, at the start of the opening there were no other indicators on 144MHz, i.e. absolutely nothing from Madeira, the Canary Islands, or the Spanish mainland. ED8ZAA did finally appear at around 18:30z climbing to a pretty decent strength, and contacts followed with EA8AVI (IL28fc, 2716km) and EA8TX (IL18qi, 2711km).
In the meantime, Xara D44TD had gone to his home location in HK86no to attempt a contact but, unfortunately, there was no tropo link to him despite many hours of trying. Xara is located on a different island in the Cape Verde group, more than 200km east of D4C and, being near sea level, is some 750m lower: Either, or both, of these factors would easily explain the different propagation. Also, I never once heard the CS3BTM beacon during this opening, which is almost exactly on the path to D44TD – at the time I thought that beacon was QRT but I’ve since seen it spotted on the dx cluster, so it just goes to show how selective the path was. Anyway, huge thanks to Xara for trying so hard.
The D4C beacon finally faded at approximately 04:30z on the 21st May, so it had been received here, non-stop, for just about 14 hours. This, for me, was a truly memorable experience which is only likely to be topped by a two-way contact with D4… one day!