A fun few hours on VHF

I know some of my “HF only” friends have a slight disregard for VHF and particularly for FM. That’s fine – it’s up to each of us how we choose to enjoy our hobby. But I defy anyone who’s enthralled by the ‘magic of radio’ not to be excited by the following circumstances…

On Monday evening, I was driving home from the station and as usual, had the FT8900 scanning on one of the VFOs. It very quickly became apparent there was some VHF tropo ducting around. 145.750 seemed particularly lively. I could hear the F5ZBH repeater in North-Eastern France very strongly and then to the west, I could hear the GB3BC repeater in South Wales. It made fascinating listening!

When I got home and found a few moments to look at the Hepburn tropo website and found that we were on the edge of a tropo duct, stretching up from western France, along the English Channel across the Netherlands and into northern Germany. I found I couldn’t hear anything along the duct, although I did work F8BRK (IN99) quickly. He was working Dutch, German and even some Polish stations along the duct.

Later on in the evening, I noticed the Swiss beacon, HB9HB coming through steadily on 144MHz. Despite a number of CQ calls in that direction on both 144 and 432MHz, I didn’t work anything, but having said that, I have noticed before that hearing HB9HB is not necessarily an indicator of working F and HB9 stations, as the beacon is so high, it may be that the ducting is going over the heads of the stations that might be available to work.

Next morning, I checked HB9HB before going to work, but it had faded. I had the rig on scan in the car as I drove to the station, looking for any tropo. To my surprise, I heard a loud FM signal with an Italian accent come up. It proved to me on 145.800MHz which meant only one thing – the International Space Station. For around 5 or 6 minutes, I was fascinated to listen to IR0ISS, one of the astronauts aboard the ISS answering questions from schoolchildren at a school near Lyon in France (of course, I could only hear one side of the conversation!).

Truly a varied and magical few hours on VHF! Oh, and by the way, by the look of the Hepburn tropo forecast maps, there could be some propagation from the southern/south-western UK towards Spain and the Canaries this coming weekend! Let’s see!

Tim Kirby, G4VXE, is a regular contributor to AmateurRadio.com and writes from Oxfordshire, England. Contact him at [email protected].

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