South Sandwich DXpedition May Need to Go Off Air “Abruptly” Due to Weather
[UPDATE: 2016-01-25 @ 1516 UTC] VP8STI/VP8SGI Chief Pilot Antonio Gonzales, EA5RM, reports that the worst of the storm has passed, and the DXpedition team is safe. "They made antenna repairs, and they will be on the air with four stations until tomorrow morning," he said.
[UPDATE: 2016-01-25 @ 0924 UTC] VP8STI/VP8SGI Chief Pilot Antonio Gonzales, EA5RM, reports that over the past 24 hours, two of the DXpedition’s tents and most of its Yagis were destroyed by high winds. Both main tents collapsed partially, and the team worked through the night to save them. The transport vessel Braveheart recorded winds of 70 MPH. Because of the antenna damage, VP8STI was only operating on 40 meters.
The storm has put the South Georgia VP8SGI operation in jeopardy.
“Once they can assess damage, they can determine whether they can proceed to South Georgia or not,” Gonzalez said, adding that VP8STI was wrapping up its operation and had asked the Braveheart to extract them from South Thule Island as soon as possible.
“They regret that they have fallen short of their plans,” he said, “however the team and crew safety is most important.”
The US East was not the only place to suffer a blizzard this weekend. The VP8 DXpedition now on South Sandwich reports it’s been hit by some serious winter weather that could curtail the team’s stay. The poor weather is a result of a strong South Atlantic storm.
“Since early this morning, we have been experiencing blizzard-like conditions with strong winds and heavy snowfall,” DXpedition Co-Leader Paul Ewing, N6PSE, said January 24. “Some of our antennas have become damaged by the high winds, and the snowfall is making access to them very difficult. It is also increasingly difficult to refuel our generators.”
The VP8STI operators have been soldiering on through the adverse conditions. Ewing said the main concern, however, is the four tents housing them and their equipment. One already has suffered damage from the high winds.
“We are in VHF communications with the Braveheart, and we are discussing contingency plans to abort or shorten the DXpedition, if safety requires,” Ewing said, pointing out that the Braveheart, the vessel that transported the DXpedition members to the island, has been unable to maintain its anchor position and was moving out to sea. Three stations are now active, Ewing said, adding, “we are becoming increasingly less confident that we can maintain this activity.”
“We hope that we can continue, but we feel the need to inform you that our activity may abruptly come to an end in the name of safety of our team and the crew of the Braveheart,” he said.
Ewing said the VP8STI team is doing its best “under extreme circumstances” to stay on the air. “This DXpedition has thoroughly tested each member physically, mentally and spiritually,” He said. “We pray for a safe return.”
VP8STI was scheduled to break down camp early this week and move to South Georgia Island for the second half of the massive DX undertaking. The VP8STI team has been on the air from Southern Thule Island since January 17. As expected, the pileups have been hectic. The DXpedition is hoping to spend 10 days on South Sandwich and on South Georgia.