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Inside the VP8PJ QSL Bureau

June 05, 2020 By: Chris G3YHF Category: Club

Tim MØURX is QSL manager for some major DXpeditions as well as being a Wythall Radio Club member.  Here is his inside story of the QSL manager’s life for the recent VP8PJ expedition to Signy Island in Antarctica….

The recent DXpedition to South Orkney Islands VP8PJ took the QSL work here at United Radio QSL Management Bureau to a new level.

I have had the pleasure of working with the Perseverance DX Group since their activation to Mellish Reef VK9MT in 2014. So I was delighted to be asked to be involved with the VP8PJ DXpedition

As always, the project starts with a conference call with the team about 18 months before the DXpedition to explain what is expected of me and what I expect from the team.  A verbal agreement on all points is noted and is followed up by a contract agreed by email. 

For me there are two parts of this expedition that required a lot of work.

Prior to the expedition I need to make sure that the features and tools on OQRS (Online QSL Request System) were all set up correctly and working. 

An important part of this relates to the team’s donors.  VP8PJ had donations from 1,500 supporters and they wanted these supporters to get something back through immediate LoTW uploads and free QSL cards for those donating upwards of $50 to the expedition funds.

This requirement alone needs a tool that I call “Donor management from Excel”.  This feature saves me a huge amount of time. The Excel file uploads to OQRS and populates the QSL requirements to the log including mailing address labels.  It also queues the QSOs to LoTW (Logbook of the World) for those donors lucky enough to be in the log.

The main work for me is from when the DXpedition started in late February through to March.

It had been planned to make live log uploads from the DXpedition on site.  Sadly, the path to the satellite – of which they only could see the southern-most footprint – was just 8 degrees above the horizon. As the site on Signy Island was mountainous to the north it blocked the path to the satellite.

This meant that getting any log update from the team proved really difficult.  It involved a tricky Zodiac boat ride (photo right) from the site to the MV Braveheart (the white vessel in photo below) anchored in safe waters.  Then the Braveheart had to move away from the island so that the team could access the satellite and send me the log.

This process proved too complicated given the conditions, so we decided to upload the whole log at the end of the DXpedition. 

When we did get the final log update there were tens of thousands of log checks being raised and the strain on the OQRS was quite immense, but after a few hours it settled down and the QSL requests started pouring in. During March I had dealt with 800 busted / missing call inquiries on my OQRS and dealt with a further 400 emails.

Although most of the emails were straight forward there were a few emails that tested my patience with some people being rather rude and ignorant, but we got through it!

In April it was time to turn to the QSL design and further conference calls to talk it through and to decide on how the team wanted the card to look – a theme, a font style and the very important placement of the foundation and corporate logos.

It was these organisations that dug deep to help pay for the serious $330,000 cost of this expedition so getting everyone represented on the design was crucial. After a couple of weeks Max ON5UR had finalised the QSL design and this was then sent to the print room.

While the designs were being printed, I printed out both sets of labels, one for the 4,700 addresses and another set of 6,000 labels for the QSOs. Up to 7 QSOs per label. I had previously ordered 5,000 envelopes and overprinted the postage paid imprint back in February. So putting the labels on the envelopes was quite a huge job and then to keep them all in call sign order. 

On the 11th May the QSL cards arrived from Belgium in 3 huge 35kg boxes. With lock down it meant that I had to do this on my own which gave me some concern as I also have a full time job to do!  So every hour while I wasn’t working or sleeping I was sticking the 6,000 labels on the cards and then stuffing all the envelopes.

Finally I had 4,715 letters ready to post… So maybe now i can relax knowing that the job is done!

Already the team have announced their next project New Zealand Sub Antarctic Islands DXpedition (OC-037).

See more photos of VP8PJ DXpedition here