It’s been some months since we’ve seen any sort of decent tropo opening on VHF/UHF, in this part of Europe at least. However, there really was no excuse for being unaware of this one in advance because the forecasting websites (F5LEN and Hepburn) had been predicting something nice for the end of September for at least week prior. It turned out to be exceptional!
The Hepburn maps looked like this:
Tropo forecast, period 28th September to 3rd October 2015
|28th September 2015||29th September 2015||30th September 2015|
|1st October 2015||2nd October 2015||3rd October 2015|
Previous experience in interpreting these maps told me it was no “sure thing”. There were enough “blotches” (discontinuities) showing to add some doubt about how far the paths would go; but there was no doubt it was going to be worth paying attention!
With hindsight I would say the maps were pretty much spot-on: The opening from southern Ireland was right on the edge with signals, especially over the longest distances, generally appearing for minutes at a time, sometimes never to be heard again. An extreme example was when, once or twice, a signal would go from S9 to not audible between overs. The propagation was generally extremely selective, with “chalk-and-cheese” differences noted even between stations just a few kilometres apart. All-in-all, it was somewhat similar to Sporadic E. Now just imagine an Es opening lasting several days, where the band appears dead but you know something could appear at any time – it amounted to pretty hard work finding the dx!
Notable contacts from my log are in the maps and table below. I had problems with my 70cms setup beforehand (albeit just 30W to a 19el F9FT @4m agl), but luckily managed to get it repaired before the propagation started, so the log includes a few nice (and very nice!) 432MHz contacts too:
EI3KD tropo QSO maps 28/09/15 to 03/10/15
EI3KD tropo log, 28/09/15 to 03/10/15
I didn’t have the audio recorder running much of the time but I did record my highlight, which was a very unexpected SSB QSO with LY2WR (KO24fo, 2172km) on October 3rd, when I thought conditions had faded…
I started tuning around the band again after that 2m QSO and then realised I’d seen that LY2WR was also active on 70cms. I quickly went back and asked him to try on 432MHz and an exceptional contact was the result!
Of course I was very happy with what I’d heard or worked during this tropo opening but I have a niggling feeling I didn’t quite get the full potential out of it, simply by not being at the right place at the right time with another station at the far end… I spent many, many hours constantly listening for YL3AG in KO06, with a sum total of an extremely weak signal heard for probably no more than a minute; the duct just didn’t favour that particular path.
Finally, it must be noted that there were some fabulous results from the U.K., with stations that were probably more favourably placed for this particular opening. One example was Paul, G4RRA’s amazing 2m contact with RA3LBW at over 2400km. I know there were many more great contacts not just from G, but also GI, GM, etc. Hopefully we’ll get to hear more about those too!