was always ok, but time was a limiting factor.
The activation was originally organised in February 2002 and was planned as a 1 man activation. I had always planned to activate at least 2 VK Island Groups, maybe more & had also made initial enquiries about the possibility of activating the "Mamanuca Group" in the 3D2 (Fiji) group and/or either Banks or Torres Groups within YJ (Vanuatu). It became very apparent that the remoteness of the YJ Groups could cause some major logistical difficulties, so I bowed out gracefully quite early, although this group would certainly offer a challenge for the future. Ma
I had a good base in VK with my long time friend Bryan and was based initially in "Ipswich" about 40k west of Brisbane. After the 24 hour journey with Royal Brunei via Dubai and Bandar I arrived in Brisbane just after midnight to be met by Bryan and his wife Carol. The 25 degrees was a little warmer than the 4 degrees in the UK we had left behind. The first days were relaxing with a bit of touring around the local area and acclimatising to the 37 degree daytime temperatures.
On the Saturday it was time to do some creative packing. I packed one case with 15k total including radio gear, this was to accompany me to Bundaberg, where I had booked 2 nights accommodation at Branyan Retreat (1 prior to the Lady Elliot activation and 1 after it). My host Noel in Bundaberg was very happy to oblige in storing excess baggage and I then did some very creative packing in order to get within the 10K weight limit for the journey to Lady Elliot. The radio gear consisting of an Icom 706MK2G/Switch mode PSU/Cables etc and homebrew dipoles weighed 8k and was packed in 2 laptop cases, plus a DK9SQ super lightweight fiberglass extender mast which went to 10meters in height (Lent to me by Roger G3XFA) & weighed just 1.5k - this was 9.5k in total. So with 1 extra T-shirt and a few essentials in my hand luggage (0.5k!!) I checked in at Bundaberg airport for the 40minute 80km flight to Lady Elliot.
Following the arrival at Lady Elliot I checked in and met the manager. I had pre arranged that the operation was to take place and the staff were very helpful and even asked which reef unit I would prefer to give me the best reception!. Also there is no TV on Lady Elliot! After choosing unit 1 which was well in the clear, the setup of the station began. I put the fiberglass mast up and tied of the 20 and 17m dipoles off on palm trees which were conveniently placed. All the antennas were homemade and were cut to resonance with an MFJ analyzer before the trip. I checked SWR on both 20 and 17 - perfect on both bands . Band conditions during the VK day were very quite, with just the odd JA and Pacific Island station, although ZK1JD Jim was a frequent caller in just see how I was doing! During the evening the long path to EU opened up nicely for about an hour or two - and then the short path at about 23.00 local. I spent a total of 4 days (3 nights) on the island, so had 3 good openings to EU. The day gave me ample opportunity soak up the 37 degrees of OC sun and to cool off in the Pacific & of course to look around the Island which is a "Corel Cay" and measures only 800m x 600m. The Island is the lower of all the Barrier Reef Marine Park Islands and holds a max of only 120 visitors at 1 time. Access is only by air from Bundaberg or Hervey Bay.
After 4 days on Lady Elliot is was time to replenish the sunscreen and head back to Bundaberg - so following the flight I was kindly met by Noel. We returned to Branyan and he then took me into Bundaberg for an evening look around the town. I arrived when the town was having the Xmas Lights celebration. Every the year the townspeople put on a "Carnival" and have numerous floats/bands etc - so I joined in the pre Xmas spirit and had a few beers with the locals! - (somehow 37 degrees hot and sunny doesn't seem like Xmas!). The following day I bid farewell to Noel who took me to the airport for the flight to Brisbane & then onto Cairns for the Fitzroy OC-172 activation
I arrived into sticky Cairns on time, but there was a delay in the Catamaran service - this would mean that I would now arrive on Fitzroy just before dark and the chances of getting the antennas up in time for the EU opening was not looking good. I arrived about 10mins before sundown and was also given a very warm welcome by the staff on the resort. I was allocated Reef unit 8 which was an end unit, Fitzroy has a TV service and I needed to be creative with antenna positioning so as not to cause TVI. Also the location of the antenna on Fitzroy proved more difficult than on Lady Elliot. Too many trees caused SWR problems on the first day of operation and I had to employ some remedies to get the system to work, so the first openings to EU were only mediocre. The second day gave me the opportunity to experiment with the antenna and after an hour or so I had the 20m dipole working well. I extended the 17m dipole to get it working - as the trees were affecting it somewhat. That evening the opening to EU both long and short path was very good and I decided to operate all night as I'd effectively lost 1 nights operation. This proved very fruitful with over 500 in the log, although it was difficult with temps at 32 degrees all night. At 06.00 local i'd had enough and decided it was time to sleep! Again the bands were very quiet during the day with only small openings to VK/ZL etc. The days were again spent exploring the island. Fitzroy is located approx 35km off the coast from Cairns and is somewhat larger and more commercial than Lady Elliot. It has a 1500 foot mountain at its heart. It has no air service, but is accessible by catamaran from Cairns Trinity Warf.
After arriving back in Cairns I discovered that I was "Lunch" whilst on Lady Elliot. I had suffered aboutinsect 100 bites on my legs and it looked quite a mess! and had swollen up badly - so after a quick visit to a local chemist I was armed with some local VK potions to get my leg back in 1 piece. I caught a flight back down to Brisbane that evening. I again returned to Bryans QTH and the following morning left for Nth Stradbroke OC-137. I had only 1 day here and had to be back in Brisbane by evening, so had no chance to work the EU long path opening. I worked about 50 stations mainly JA's and a few from the US, so on reflection OC-137 needs much more time throwing at it - (maybe next time). I did however get up to Bribie Island (OC-137 until 2005) and worked from the QTH of Aub VK4HBA for an afternoon on the following day before returning to visit VK2KSG Steve in Murwillumbah NSW for the night. I then returned to Ipswich QLD for the last 2 days before returning to the UK.
I would like to thank the following people for their help and support of the activation. My hosts in Ipswich QLD Bryan and Carol. The Staff and Management of both Lady Elliot Island Resort and Fitzroy Island Resort for allowing the activations to take place. My host in Bundaberg "Noel" at Branyan Retreat www.branyanretreat.com . Fiona Boyd at Travelonline Australia for organising a multitude of travel arrangements and help with the operating permissions www.travelonline.com . Steve VK2KSG in Murwillumbah and Lisa in Pottsville NSW. Aub VK4HBA for a fine tour of Bribie Island .G3XFA Roger for the loan of the PSU and Super lightweight mast.
INFO: IC706MK2G - 100w -
homebrew dipoles for 20&17m at 30feet - 25amp Switch mode PSU - 30 foot
Fiberglass Telescopic mast
The QSL has already been designed and direct QSL's will be answered sometime in the new year
Where to next? Check out http://www.percy.me.uk/vk2iay2003.htm for the OC-160/171/137 activations of Hook, Dunk, Moreton and Lamb Islands in Nov/Dec 2003