IOTA Expeditions to AS-120


By Marios Nicolaou (5B4WN) 21 Swenson Av., Lenton Gardens, Nottingham, NG72LP, UK Email:mzyd108@unix.ccc.nottingham.ac.uk

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 1:1,000,000 map

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.

1st IOTA expedition to MOULIA ROCKS:

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.

To 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" wave.

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!

2nd Expedition to Manijin Island

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 fibre-glass boat.

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 boat).

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)