IOTA is an abbreviation for the Islands On The Air award that
seems to be the leading award at the
moment, getting a lot of attention by top worldwide DXers. The aim of the award is to contact islands
that meet the following two criteria:
i) The island must be large enough to appear on a
ii) The island must be located at least 200 meters from the
shore at low tide.
Of course Cyprus being an island counts for that award as it is, but
other islands located around the
mainland also qualify for IOTA, and an operation there would certainly attract a lot of attention
from IOTA chasers.
L to R: 5B4AFM (Stavros), 5B4WS (Agis),
5B4WN (Marios), 5B4XF (Paris), 5B8AH (Nestor)
Having realised this, Philip G4WFZ, a member of the IOTA committee,
organised the first expedition
that took place from Yeronisos island in May 1995. However, due to technical problems the operation
lasted only for 2 hours. The demand by IOTA chasers urged Stavros 5B4AFM to begin organising
another expedition to one of the Cyprus Islands given the reference of ASIA no 120. After a hard
effort and with the help of 5B8AH, Nestoras, Stavros managed to organise everything and to get some
sponsors to help cover the expenses of the expedition. The island of choice was Moulia Rocks.
Located about 1.5 Km from the shore of Kato Paphos and measuring about 35 meters in length and
6 meters wide it appeared as a piece of rock thrown in the middle of the sea. Under the flag of
5B4NC and using the name of Nicosia Contest Group, we set the date of the event as the 10th-13th
of July. The operators to take part were 5B4AFM, 5B8AH, 5B4WN (Marios), 5B4WS (Agis) and
5B4XF (Paris). 5B4NA (Tasos) took charge as cameraman and 5B4AFM's father and uncle were
responsible for the transport from the shore to the rocks and back.
expand Map press here
The big day had come. Full of excitement we set off from Nicosia
carrying all the equipment and
arrived to Paphos by midday. Having let the boat into the sea, and having loaded the boat with all
the necessary gear to last us for 3 days, we left the shore heading towards the island. The sea at that
point was calm and there were no signs to suggest any deterioration of the weather.
Boarding on the island was very easy and soon the pile of gear was on
solid rock!: 2 generators, 2
verticals, 1 tent, 2 tables, 6 chairs, 2 HF stations with tuners and other accessories. As soon as
darkness fell, all the external work had finished. What was left was the setting up of the radio
equipment into the tent. It was not much later that we realised that one of the verticals refused to
tune. We did not give it much thought and we quickly set up the other station. At about 18:00Z
Stavros put C4MI AS-120, on the air. Very soon, the pile-ups had grown very fierce and split
operation using the numbering system had to be introduced; it was obvious that those IOTA dxers
from all over the world were waiting for us. The log pages were filling up with stations at an amazing
rate but soon it was time for 20 meters SSB to pack up. 5B4WN then took over changing from SSB
to CW. The pile-ups were huge and with an amazing propagation towards North America, CW
seemed to have the best QSO rate.
At about 5 o'clock in the morning, after 6 hours on the Air and 900
QSOs in the log with at least 450
US stations, Stavros let out the bad news: The sea became very rough and the situation was very
worrying. We switched off the rig and had a better observation of the situation. The sky was full of
clouds and the wind was blowing very strongly. We decided to wait some time before packing
everything up, hoping for calming of the sea. For our bad luck the sea got worse and the waves were
splashing all over the "island". The solution was obvious: we careful placed the HF rig into
waterproof containers and decided to call the operation off. The weather forecast news were also
discouraging and a further deterioration of the weather was expected.
The operating position (tent). Notice the waves, splashing
against the rocks
Having packed everything and placed it on the only piece of the
island that was not reached by the
waves, we waited for help to arrive. Unfortunately, the rage of the waters could not allow the boat
to approach near enough to load the gear onto it so we decided to wait for a weather improvement.
Stranded on this small piece of land our blood pressure was fluctuating as every wave was breaking
onto the island. It was not at all amusing looking at the waves passing over our ex-operating position
and ending up into the sea in the other side of the island.
5B4AFM sitting at the only place of the island not reached by the
waves. Notice the tent which later collapsed by a "gigantic"
Having stayed for about 4 hours not able to do anything, the sight of
the boat was the most
pleasant side we have seen for some time. The rescue operation had begun. A big, heavy and very
ingeneous "anchor" (a plough!) was thrown into the sea, and 5B4WS (Agis ) swam "navy seal" style
to the island holding up a rope to help stabilize the boat from the island. Then using a smaller boat,
the equipment was "shipped" from the island to the boat, few things at a time. After half an hour
everything had been loaded and with the tiredness and anxiety obvious in our eyes set off for the
shore. It was an interesting experience, that HAD TO BE REPEATED!
The disappointment of the many IOTA chasers that missed the C4MI
operation as well as the size
of the pile-ups encountered, urged us to organise a second operation from the AS-120 group of
islands. Moulia Rocks was ruled out and much attention was paid to Yeronissos isl. and Manijin isl.
However, even though the former was big enough and looked as a good operating place, the
Arcaeological department turned down our application due to the presence of archaeological findings
in recent years. That left us with Manijin, the name of which called for trouble. Setting the date as
the 13th of August, the organisation plans started well in advance. 5B4WN, 5B4WS, 5B4XF and
5B4KH were to be the operators of the C4MA operation. In the abscence of sponsors this time, the
Nicosia Radio Club, funded part of our expenses that included the hiring and running of the generator
for 2-3 days. 5B4SF (Vassos) took charge as the transporter from the shore to the island in his
The 13th of August had arrived, with all the equipment packed,
arrived at Peyia ready for the new
venture. With the help of 5B4NM, the boat was put into the water and soon we set off for the
island. It was not much later that we discovered the difficulty of unloading the equipment. Luckily
enough, we had an inflatable boat that we used to ship the equipment from the boat onto the island,
similar to the rescue technique used at Moulia Rocks.
Landing on Manijin island. The yellow dingy was used to transport
all the equipment to and from the boat (picture taken from the
The island was quite big, compared to Moulia Rocks, represented by a
big group of unconsolidated
rocks. There was nothing growing on the island, and the only inhabitants were wild pigeons that
nested in the cavities of the rocks.
With the sight of the pigeons, and with 2 hours of light we quickly
left the exploration of the island
for the next day. The antenna was quickly erected and the operating position was selected among the
rocks. It was 16:38Z GMT that everything was ready and C4MA was put on the air. First me,
5B4WN, then 5B4XF and then 5B4WS, we all took our turns bringing satisf
action and delight to
the IOTA chasers as they worked us. Darkness fell, quickly and the bands soon died off. With very
little CW activity going on, we waited for 20 meters to open again at dawn. However, the band
appeared dead well into the morning and it was not much later that we realised that there was
something wrong with the reception of the radio. Proceeding at a slow pace, we had great difficulty
digging out stations from noise level....
The operating position: 5B4WN works a CW pileup, while 5B4XF is
checking the charge rate of the batteries!
Midday placed the sun well up into the sky, and the heat was becoming
unbarable. With one of us
at the mike, the other two decided to take a closer look at the island. Having been amazed by its
serene beauty we decided to try our luck fishing. It was 5B4WS voices that could be heard at a radius
of 5Km as he proudly held a 15cm long multicoloured-fish.....
The proud fisherman, 5B4WS. The background shows
the operating position between two rocks
At 11:00Z GMT held an operator meeting: the radio was not working
properly so we decided to call
the operation again off. It was not much later that 5B4VX (Marios) called us on 2 meters, on behalf
of 5B4SF. We informed him of the situation and our decision. Soon, afterwards, we started packing
up and by 15:00Z GMT we were ready to go. We loaded the equipment the usual way on the boat
and headed for the port. It was there that we saw 5B4KH, that had just come from Nicosia to operate.
During our operation of 19 hours C4MA was proudly insterted in the logs of about 1700 stations from
all over the world. To all those IOTA hunters that missed AS-120, the only thing to say is that we
will try to be back next year.
Special thanks should go to our sponsors from the 1st operation:
LOUIS tours, Carlsberg and
Kenwood. 5B4NC for helping out with expenses in the second operation, the operators 5B4AFM,
5B8AH, 5B4XF, 5B4WS, our QSL manager 5B4KH, our "sea captains" Mr Andreas Tsiakkouris,
Panayis, 5B4SF, the cameraman 5B4NA, 5B4MB for the hospitality in Paphos, GCT Varnakides for
lenting us the batteries and many others without who these operations
would have never happened.
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This story has been read
times since 6th February 1996
Written by Marios Nicolaou (5B4WN)