Heard Island Expedition 1997 (Scoping Document)

Previous Radio Expeditions to Heard Island

[The material in this section was taken verbatim from Stephen Pall's articles in Amateur Radio (Australia) Aug., 1995, pp. 32-33 and Oct. 1995, p. 35]

The first amateur radio activity from Heard Island came in 1947 when Allan Campbell- Drury signed VK3ACD/Heard. He was on the island for 15 months and returned to the island for the two following years with ANARE. It was also reported that in the years of 1948-50 Michael Vause was signing as VK1HV/Heard. According to CQ magazine, N. T. Lied used the VKØNL callsign in 1963. Bob Allison was also reported in the same year using the callsign VK1RA. Don Miller W9WNV "used" the call VK2ADY/VKØ in 1966. In 1969 Bill Rohrer W7ZFY was heard with the callsign VKØWR when he USCG Southwind stopped to unload some scientific equipment. Hugh Milburn WA6EAM signed VKØHM in 1976 when he was on Heard Island in connection with a group making celestial observations for the National Mapping Authority.

There is also a suggestion that a year later a French group visited the island and F2JD was reported to be active using the VKØHM callsign. The National Mapping group apparently visited Heard Island several times. In 1980 the ship Cape Pillar took some members of the mapping group to the island. The call VKØRM was used by the radio officer of the ship. He made only a limited number of contacts before his equipment failed.

There was not reported amateur radio activity between the years of 1980-1983. 1983 saw the start of the properly organized combined scientific-amateur DXpeditions to the island. To the delight of the "deserving," not one but two independently organized DX groups visited the island in January-February 1983. The West Australian VK6 DX Chasers Club combined with a mountaineering group on the island from 21 January to 21 February 1983 and made 30,000 contacts under the callsigns VKØHI and VKØCW. The operators were Dave Shaw VK3DHF and Al Fisher K8CW.
Jim Smith VK9NS was the leader of the other group, HIDXA, which visited the island more or less at the same time as the VK6 DX Chasers Club expedition. HIDXA, the Heard Island DX Association, was formed in 1980 with the sole objective of activating this rare DXCC country. The HIDXA group of five amateurs and 13 scientists landed on the island on 5 February. The operators were VK9NS, VK9NL, VKØSJ, WA8MOA, and OE1LO, using the callsign VKØJS, and made 14,000-plus contacts with 138 countries. The adventurous an very often dangerous sea voyage in the old whaling ship Cheynes II to Heard Island and back to Albany, WA is a separate story in itself.
No radio amateur activity was then noticed from Heard Island until late 1986, early 1987, when Frank VKØDA spent two months on the island as a member of the ANARE team.

The 1995 Expedition

In mid-1994 Ralph Fedor KØIR, Expedition Leader for the 1994 Peter I (3YØPI) DXpedition, invited two of the team members, Robert Schmieder KK6EK, and Peter Casier ON6TT, to plan an amateur radio DXpedition to Heard Island for 1995. The planning was done entirely on Internet, probably a first for a major expedition of this nature. Permit 95-1 was granted by the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) in January, 1995, and assembly of the team and equipment, and search for transportation, begun.

The project was positioned to take advantage of the innovations from the 1995 Easter Island Expedition XRØY/Z, led by KK6EK and NP4IW. It was planned to deploy a beacon supplied by N6EK and the NCDXF; use a Pacsat station to upload the logs and other data; implement e-QSLs used for the first time on XRØY; implement a high-speed computer logging network; post WWW pages and provide a callsign server to get access to the logs; and carry out extensive analysis of the radio logs to test radio propagation models and software.

Finding a suitable vessel within the available budget proved to be more difficult than expected. Searches were made in Australia and South Africa, as well as through other governments, including France, which has the research base on Kerguelen Island, only 200 miles to the north. In July, a vessel operator in Australia contacted the group and offered a vessel at an affordable price, and a contract was drawn.

With transportation assured, the gear was shipped to Australia, and the team alerted to be ready. The final team included KØIR, KK6EK, ON6TT, Arie Nugteren PA3DUU, Harry Buklan RA3AUU, Bob Fabry N6EK, Junicho Tanaka JH4RHF, and Willy Rusch HB9AHL. In mid-September, 1995, the team became suspicious that the vessel operator was not making appropriate preparations. Inquiries to the boatyard indicated that the vessel was inadequate for the voyage, and the operator was apparently intending to flee with the monies placed on deposit. Uncertain of the circumstances, the team elected to fly to Australia and proceed with legal action if necessary. The operator did, in fact, flee under cover of darkness, leaving the Expedition group without a charter and without the deposit money. Attempts were made to locate another vessel, but none was available within the remaining resources. Legal means proved inadequate to recover the deposit, and the team elected to reschedule the Expedition for the 1996-97 season.

Given the revised schedule and the necessity for rebuilding the team and financial resources, KØIR asked KK6EK and ON6TT to take primary responsibility for the 1996-97 Expedition. The Expedition was scheduled for the interval Dec 1996--Feb, 1997, and brought under the auspices of Cordell Expeditions, which is the research organization directed by KK6EK.

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Last update: 3 Oct. 1996 Robert W. Schmieder cordell@ccnet.com