Nearly three years ago, the process to add Pratas Island (20 deg 43 min N, 116 deg 42 min E) was begun. In January of 1994, a group of amateurs, including Martti Laine, VR2BH were able to travel to Pratas and put it on the air. Since non-Taiwanese had not been permitted to remain on the island after the supply plane returned to Taiwan, Martti was able to operate only about two hours and then QRT.
The next trip to Pratas was organized and conducted by a group of Taiwanese DXpeditioners and was held over a five day period later in 1994. This effort was more successful and over 5,000 QSOs were made throughout the world.
At the same time, an effort was underway to organize an operation on a larger scale. This operation was organized by Dr. Bolin Lin, BV5AF, and the expedition headed by William Wu, BV2VA. In addition, authorization was received to invite non-Taiwanese to remain on the island for the duration of this expedition. Senator Ken Chang, BV2RA was instrumental in this effort. A trip was eventually scheduled for late May, 1995. I was fortunate to be included as an operator for this expedition along with Jun, JH4RHF and Mike, JH1KRC. The three of us became the first foreigners to remain over-night, perhaps in the recent military history of the island.
After some schedule changes, I left for Taipei on Monday, the twenty second of June. Originally, two flights to Pratas were scheduled, and I was to take the second flight. In the end, the second flight was cancelled, and I was obliged to take an earlier flight if I was going to make it at all. Unfortunately, this information reached me only six hours before the only alternative transportation was scheduled to depart. I arrived in Taipei with no additional difficulty and quickly joined the effort.
Finishing the logistical aspects of the preparations we loaded the gear and headed for the airport, where we were scheduled to take a C-130 flight to Pratas. Approximately eighteen amateurs were included on the flight to Pratas while only eight of us would stay on the island. The remainder would return with the C-130 later in the afternoon. Martti came to Taiwan for the flight to Pratas, and made the first QSOs, but due to business obligations, was not able to remain for the duration of the expediton.
While all of the Taiwanese were on the island, the radios were set up and the most of the antennas were erected. They were involved in the initial contacts and then we bade them farewell and got down to work.
Conditions were initially quite good, but by Monday and Tuesday, conditions had deteriorated and working North and South America became difficult. With the exception of the West Coast, openings were limited. By later in the week, band conditions improved, but other problems arose. Europe suffered no such propagation difficulties, and we were able to work well into the third and fourth layers of DXers. At times, A.C. power supply problems limited our transmitter power output, and we were forced to operate on batteries, running the transceivers at about 25 to 50 watts. Although this difficulty hampered some of our efforts, the gracious assistance of the army in providing large batteries helped alleviate our problems. In addition the army allowed us to operate from a more restricted area where alternative power was available.
Living contitions on Pratas were pleasant, and other than the high temperature and humidity, we fared well. The friendships were super. Meeting new friends is always a plus on DXpeditions, and this one was no exception. Bruce and Paul, Jimmy and William, Chung and Mike, Wu and Jun, all were great. The food was basic army issue, but it was easy to adjust. Fortunately, the sleeping quarters was air conditioned, as sleeping in the high heat and humidity was difficult. During the last few days we learned that a typhoon was bearing down on the island, and it was scheduled to arrive on our departure date. If it had, our departure would have been postponed by ten days, or we would have had to return aboard a supply ship in four days time. Needless to say, we preferred to fly back to Taiwan. In the end, the typhoon's path changed and were were spared the inconvenience of a long delay.
On our return, were were met at the airport by Senator Ken Chang, BV2RA, and Tim, BV2A, among others. I was honored to be able to meet Tim after many, many QSOs over many years. Later that evening a wonderful Chinese dinner, hosted by the CTARL, was enjoyed by many of the Pratas group.
In the end, we made approximately 25,000 QSOs with 4,200 in North America/South America, 7,500 in Europe, and the remainder with Japan and the local area. A point of interest was the large number of BV amateurs heard during the expedition. While we see many BV spots on our clusters and hear quite a number of different BV amateurs on the bands, I had no idea of the hundreds of amateurs now active in Taiwan. These amateurs are extremely active and very enthusiastic in their amateur radio activities. Their improved skills in DXing are also to be applauded. In fact, I hope they are already planning a return trip to Pratas Island since I still need BV9P for DXCC!
For more information about the Chinese Taipei Amateur Radio League, or the BV9P operations, you are invited to contact CTARL President Dr. Bolon Lin, BV5AF, at [email protected]
This article is copied from N7NG
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Last updated 7 November 1998