IOTA DXpedition 1999

The Story! - as shown in Jan 2000 Radio & Communications magazine.


(Amateur Radio display for the school children on both Islands)



Dxing from 2 Remote Islands in the Top End of Australia


This is the story of 3 Australians & 1 Kiwi, Amateur Radio Operators traveling to the remote Outback of the Northern Territory to do not 1 but 2 IOTA (Island on the Air) Amateur Radio DXpeditions.


Our story starts on the Teams arrival in Darwin. Stuart VK8NSB (Team Leader) was the 1st to Arrive on the 30th Oct followed by Allan VK2CA / NNN & Steve VK2SRN who had just endured a 3100km drive from Broken Hill, NSW to be part of this DXpedition Team, arriving on the 31st Oct (Sunday night). 

Peter ZL1HN was last, arriving from Auckland New Zealand via Brisbane on the Monday morning of the 1st Nov.

With the Team now in Darwin we commenced to prepare for the 1st of two Island DXpeditions, 6 days on each island, 12 days in total; a lot of work & DXing to be done.

1st Nov: That afternoon & evening Allan & Peter were sorting out the 2 laptops with our Writelog logging program to be used for logging on both islands, and also sorting out all the teams personal bags (its amazing what you can fit in a bag when you roll clothes).  While this was going on Steve (Team Tech) & myself started to sort out coax, toolboxes, antennas, ropes and all sorts of equipment that would be needed on both islands. We tested everything and made sure that we had everything we needed to run 4 complete HF stations with 8 antennas on both islands.

2nd Nov (2 days to go): We headed to Geoff's (VK8NGP / ZGP) QTH in Darwin and, after a cold drink and a bit of a chat, we decided to take as much equipment as we could to Airnorth. Geoff's ute was great (Allan's Car is not the best for room with 200kg of Radio gear and 4 Amateurs in it). Michelle  & Peter at Airnorth were fantastic. The 3 verticals to be taken were not packed, Peter asked if we could pack them. Well …. Geoff had the verticals in the ute and before I knew what was happening he yelled to me as he drove away with Steve in tow, " I'll be back in about 20mins. " When Geoff returned the 3 verticals were packed and loaded.

The rest of the day the team headed for the shopping centre to get some last minute supplies, and lunch of course. The next day was spent sightseeing and a final check of gear.

4th Nov, 0800: We were collected by Peter VK8PDG (thanks Peter, with out you it would have been a long walk), and we departed Darwin at 0900 for OC-173. The flight to Melville Island was clear the whole way, and we arrived at around 1000am local time at the "Melville Island International Airport" (Hi, Hi). While the pilot, James, was unloading the gear, he commented that we had some fancy fishing gear here. When we informed him that there was no fishing planned at all and explained to him what we were doing, he just could not believe that there was not even a hand line in the 200kg + of luggage (for the fishing Amateurs out there, fishing on any NT Island is just amazing).

Arriving at the school and meeting Maryann (Principal) about 1030am, with a goal to have every station set up by 1500 and on air at 1600, we proceeded to erect the 3 element 10m mini beam on the rotatable tripod (made and donated to the team by Geoff VK8NGP / ZGP), the R7 Vertical, R5 Vertical, Hustler Vertical and the 4 Dipoles for 80m, 40m, 30m and even a 6m dipole in case of a opening there.

We worked P29BI on 15m at 0405 UTC for radio checks with 2 stations, but the hard-core pile-ups did not begin until around 0730 UTC.

We hit the bands with 2 stations and due to spreading the antennas as far apart as we could we were able to run 4 stations on 4 bands. We were even able to run CW & SSB on the same band with no interference to each other.  Of course with only 4 guys, running 4 stations straight away would have killed us all by day 2, so shifts were implemented to run 2 or 3 stations at a time.  We had just hit the bands on 10m, 15m, and 20m when disaster struck the Team.  Peter ZL1HN, who was putting the finishing touches to the 40m Dipole, tripped and fell down an embankment and hurt his wrist .... badly. Being in such a remote QTH we could not tell if it was broken or not. It was decided that Peter should return to Darwin the following morning.

While all of this was happening Russ VE6VK  told us via Rusty KG4AU (the Teams Pilot) that his XYL was having their 1st son.  Congrat's mate! (We are still waiting for those Cuban cigars).

With the departure of Peter (ZL1HN), 1 laptop and 1 complete HF station was also lost. We hand logged about 1200 QSO's on Melville Island, and returned to Darwin on Tuesday the 9th. We had a day's break to repack equipment etc in preparation for the flight to Croker Island on Thursday morning. We also hired a 2nd laptop in Darwin.

The flight to Croker Island was clear skies all the way, and the equipment, now reduced to about 150kg, was a much better fit in the small plane.

With the schedule from Melville Island being used for Croker Island, we proceeded to assemble the two stations until about 4pm local time when all was ready.  Day 1 OC-229 finished at about 2am with two stations working over 1300 QSO's (over 1000 in the first 6 hours alone!) from 40m - 10m in both CW & SSB.

Due to her work commitments, we did not get to meet Beverly, the Mamaruni school principal, until Saturday afternoon; just when the pileups to Europe started on 10m. We sat her down in front of the FT920 and said go to it, with comments like, "How can you hear a Callsign amongst all that?" and "There are too many people calling ... Help!".  She sat and watched the team working DX on 10m for about 1hr and just could not believe the amount of people calling her small island.

Our normal daily routine on both Islands was:  10m, 15m & 12m first thing every day working the U.S with at least 2 stations running and progressing into South America (also Europe long path!) during the mornings and even some Asia during the late morning to midday on 20m, 17m, 15m, 12m, 10m.

The afternoons from about 2pm - 5pm most bands were very quite, so Allan & Myself  (Main DXers in the Team) decided to rest for the European pileups of an evening and the U.S on 20m SSB, 40m SSB and 30m CW, leaving Steve with pileups on 10FM into Asia. And there were pileups for Steve to work!  With the JA's not used to hearing a VK8 (and on a Island!) on 10 FM before, it was just bedlam! Steve mastered the pileups nicely to put many FM DXers in the log.

Allan was hearing phrase's such as " Europeans wait for no-one! " when he called for a standby for a 2 minute drink break, and myself asking them to tune up there amps now while I had a 2 minute drink break instead of in my ears on the current frequency!

With now only 3 DXpeditioners to cope with the huge pileups from E.U, U.S & ASIA we decided to run just 2 stations at nighttime. I can tell you this; sitting down working pileups for 7 to 8 hrs every night starts to take it out of you.  Especially when on 20m, 17m and 15m  your getting S9 into EU, JA & U.S.A all at the same time!  Oh but what fun it was. On our last night on Croker Island we decided to go until 1200 midnight (local) and then pack up, as we had to be ready early the next day.  Steve, who had been working 10m SSB for about 30 minutes (having just taken over from myself), and Allan on 15m, were trying to get the 9000th QSO in the log for both islands. And yes, you guessed it, Steve was the Mr. 9000!  After this we needed about 24 more for the 4800th contact on Croker Island. With about 1hr to go and comments from Allan like "Turn off Steve's radio, he's not getting this one!", the competition for the 4800th QSO was on. Allan was victor this time (loosing his voice doing it) but Steve was going to do a recount back in Darwin (Hi Hi).

2 days on each island had been committed to an Amateur Radio display for the children at the schools (Friday & Monday).  This worked out great with Mike WA5POK (a school in Texas U.S.A) and Doreen VK4MDS in Brisbane being on air, plus others from around the world (thank you all who helped) talking to the children on both islands and even having a CW chat with a Amateur in the U.S. The kids & teachers had a great time.

The team received a lot of positive feedback on the bands that what we were doing for the children was great. Thanks to all concerned, as this lifted the team and was just what we had set out to do, have fun!

The totals for the Dxpedition are:

VK8ML - 4213 QSO's with 98 DXCC countries worked

VK8CI with 4804 QSO's and 100 DXCC countries worked

Giving a grand total of 9017 QSO's with 119 DXCC countries worked.

In 12 Days (minus 4 for the children), this equates to over 1000 QSO's per day with just 3 Amateurs! We believe we had 2 successful Dxpeditions and had some great fun as well.

To Allan, Steve & Peter thanks very much for your time, effort and expense.

To our sponsors……



The teams WebPages, with online logs, photo's and more info about the islands is at www.dxpeditions.vkham.com/IOTA and if your interested in doing a IOTA DXpedition please contact Stuart at Po Box 205 Karama NT 0812. My personal goal is to do the 3 remaining NT island groups in 2000 / 2001 but I will need VK's help to do it  ...

Any questions or comments to

Back to VKHam.com homepage

Background is the Northern Territory Flag.