#19: VP8GEO – South Georgia (and my first mega dxpedition . . . )

This was my first “mega” DXpedition that I chased. I remember not liking pileups to the point where I wondered if I could make Honor Roll without having to jump in huge pileups and work split like a pro.

This was the Point of No Return. Once you commit to becoming a pileup and split afficionado, you are in “The DX OCD Zone”, or “The DOZ“. This is the point where I decided I’m going for DXCC Honor Roll, a sub condition of The DOZ called HRS, or Honor Roll Retention Syndrome. If you don’t believe me, Google it!

I also remember getting good at working split and then warming up to the full DX experience. I was in, Hook line and sinker.

VP8GEO and VP8THU were the blueprint that the VP8 2016 team would follow. Back in 2001 and 2002 I had no idea that South Georgia and South Sandwich were separate entities. I only chased VP8GEO, and I also only worked DXpeditions once on a band – I started out with only one band being my goal, anything else seemed like excess. I made a huge mistake that I would regret for 15 years – I thought VP8GEO and VP8THU were the same entities, and only chased VP8GEO.

VP8GEO and VP8THU had several members from what I think is one of the most important and legendary mega DXpeditions in the history of DXing: VK0IR. There are so many back stories, and while I enjoy a great relationship with all of these team members, after VK0IR, some of the team split off into separate “factions”. I learned all about these factions and how some DXpedition leaders disagree and won’t work with each other due to a short list of reasons. The good news is that in this – there is competition, and the upshot of it is all great for DXers – it means the various team leaders are passionate about their approach – which they think is best – and in the end – the armchair DXer (like myself) only benefits. I learned about all of this working with Bob, KK6EK on both TX5K (Clipperton) and VK0EK (Heard Island). HOWEVER, this competition is only good when there are many DXpedition teams competing – this will soon become a major detriment as resources – both funding, transportation availability, access and available DXpedition team members become more scarce – and “resource sharing” will become very important.

SA ITU Zone: 73 CQ Zone: 13

Added to the DXCC List: on the original 1937 list. – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/South_Georgia_and_the_South_Sandwich_Islands

It is a territory (possession) of the United Kingdom. The Argentinian’s claimed it for a while in the 1970’s, but lost that claim after the British – Argentinian Falkland War.


Rareness Factor: Top 50 Rare – but activated a surprising number of times and consistently since the ARRL DXCC List was created. It has grown more rare in the last 15 years since there seems to be fewer hams visiting from the British Survey. It is easy to get access and a license – but it is now costlier than ever due to transportation costs and ship charter availability. The last two mega activations coupled South Georgia and South Sandwich on the same trip – which makes sense given cost and ship availability. I fear that these will become a lot more rare in the very near future and extending out into the future.

Current Clublog Most Wanted (as of this writing): #41


This is the first in this series that warrants a section that lists past DXpeditions. I don’t do this for Garden Variety entities – only for those that seem to stay in the Top 50 or so indefinitely. If you want to see QSL cards for every activation for just about every entity – even the Deleted entities, you have to check out this most wonderful web site:


Without further adieu, here are the DXpeditions to South Georgia:

1947 VP8AD
1948 VP8AD
1951 VP8AU
1952 VP8AU
1956 VP8BK
1961 VP8GE
1967 VP8IE
1968 VP8IE
1970 VP8JV
1971 VP8JV
1972 VP8MX
1976 VP8MS, VP8OT
1979 VP8SU
1980 VP8SU
1981 K8MFO/VP8
1986 VP8BUB
1988 VP8BRR
1989 VP8BUB
1993 VP8GAV
1995 VP8SGP
2000 VP8CKB
2002 VP8GEO
2004 VP8SGB
2006 VP8SGK
2008 VP8DIF
2016 VP8SGI

That’s a whopping 69 years of activations – and it doesn’t cover those before the DXCC program was revived after WWII – which would not be many years anyway since the list was created in 1937. Another way of looking at the distribution of activations is with this stepped chart:

South Georgia has been activated consistently since 1947 – or after WWII. That is so close to the original list that the coverage here is as good as it gets – I don’t feel much is missing. What is interesting as a trend – the biggest gap has been between VP8GEO and VP8SGI – and I am sure its because of cost. Transportation on the Braveheart is easy enough to get – but what used to be activations by visiting British Survey hams now seems to fall into the mega DXpedition purvue – and the cost is getting prohibitive. I don’t see the mega DXpedition to such places as sustainable from a cost perspective. That’s not to say it won’t be activated – maybe a flurry of climate change science trips or eco tours would reverse this trend?

Merit Badges

Cold and Windy

Hot Stuff


A polar place. Rare and increasingly more expensive and harder to activate – but not as bad as say Heard Island, Crozet or other South Sea polar entities. South Georgia and South Sandwich can be accessed by way of The Falklands in about half the travel time as getting to Heard Island from “anywhere”.

DXCC Entity “Vital Stats”

The QSO was made during West Coast evening, on 17M – I remember it being pretty easy with a Cushcraft MA5B and 200 watts – and the solar conditions were close to the second peak of Cycle 23:

Cycle23 Start 1996-08 Number 11.2 Peak 2001-11 Number 180.3 Years to Rise 5.3 Years to Fall 7 Cycle Length 12.3

Important DXCC Resources

  1. ARRL DXCC Standings – http://www.arrl.org/dxcc-standings
  2. LOTW – https://lotw.arrl.org/cgi-bin/lotw_page_auth/default
  3. Clublog – https://clublog.org/index.php
  4. The History of the DXCC by (me) – History of the DXCC

BTW – I think the best DXCC List is either found at Clublog or in LOTW. The ARRL DXCC Desk and other parts of its web site regarding DXCC almost look abandoned. Luckily, LOTW and their standings lists look well kept, supported and looked after.

Parting Shots

There is a sadness writing about this entity – several “legendary” DXpeditioners or DXpedition leaders have now gone SK or retired from DXpeditioning since then, and with 3Y0Z’s demise – there is a lingering question and cloud hovering over begging the question: “Have we passed what could be called the glory days of mega DXpeditioning?” It sure feels like it.

On a positive note – South Georgia might still be activated if the world decides that doing polar science is in vogue from places other than the South Pole. Politically, the climate change nay sayers are in charge now – and budgets in all countries seem to be slashed. Climate change science offers ways for hams to activate such places – so be careful what you wish for. Having a scientist who is a ham doing science and operating in his spare time is the only way I was able to get one QSO with Crozet Island – I seriously doubt you will see a mega DXpedition there. 3Y0E was a similar situation.  The pendulum swings both ways – and who knows – maybe a new airship that can land and deploy people to such places without needing a runway will be invented! Will there still be DXpeditioners left interested in activating such places? The future holds the answer. Maybe fully remote controlled FT8 “Pods” will be deployed for a fraction of sending a team there? It wouldn’t be the same as sending people there – but I do think if we don’t start doing something cost effective that these activations will become near non existent. 3Y0Z is the bell weather IMHO.

When I finally did decide that I wanted Honor Roll – and it was with this particular DXpedition – I also had a slight “panic” that with cost and access issues – I better work hard and fast because with the aging Boomers and the rising Cost – these trips might not happen after a while. I think my 2002 thinking was a bit prophetic – its just a gut feeling and I could be proven wrong.

Another aspect of my years chasing DXCC – I’m glad I got this done before FT8 took off. While I think its a great mode – I wanted to make Honor Roll with SSB and CW (only). I’ve noticed on some bands, all of the activity seems to be FT8 these days. I really am hoping we can deploy FT8 automated “bots” to places like Bouvet – where they can operate for months or years until the weather disables them. Do it for $50K max instead of $750K. Just a dream. But all of this shows that things have changed since 2001 in a big way.

I can sit back and be really glad I started my quest in 2001 . . . and am just about done. In a strange way – I feel that I am part of DXing history.

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