The 3Y0C Story

Chuck's "family" in ZS

Chuck's location on Bouvet

Stone frm Bouvet



AS IT HAPPENED  & told by 3Y0C's  PILOT de Dennis Wells  ZS1AU in  SOUTH AFRICA.



A visitor, Doctor Charles ( Chuck ) Brady,  N4BQW, arrived in Cape Town in November 2000.   Using a   2 meter hand held, he came across ZS1DTM,  ZS1GPF and  ZS1ADP.     Chuck was looking for a DXer and my name and callsign came up,  after all it has been around for over 50 years.    What happened after that is history but what a wonderful 3 months it has been.   I had the privilege of being associated with this fellow radio amateur who must be rated as one of the greatest DXer's of all time.

  Chuck contacted me and asked  if  I would  be prepared to keep in touch with him on Bouvet Island.   He had just been issued the callsign 3Y0C and was going as part of a scientific expedition.  

3Y0C will only be made known when he sets foot on BOUVET.   This was a closely guarded secret.  A list of frequencies to be used  from 160M to 6M,  including the WARC bands RTTY,  SSB and  CW,  was drawn up.  The most sophisticated amateur radio and other electronic equipment was being checked by ZS1CM, here in Cape Town prior to departure.  This operation was going to be something BIG.

  BOUVET is a volcanic island  and is the loneliest  place in the world.  It is reputed to be the most inhospitable, and most inaccessable place .  It measures  6 kms by 9 kms. This 5 man expedition, consisted of  5 scientists,  the  Norwegian leader,  3 South African scientists and the Doctor ( Chuck Brady ) who is also the amateur radio operator.  Blizzards with  high velocity winds of around 120mph  are common.  For  Chuck, a NASA astronaut,  who has walked in space, this was like going to Mars,  with snow and mountaineering thrown in.



 Chuck left on a ship called the POLARSTERN, and  he operated as N4BQW / MM.      .

 When Chuck landed on BOUVET he  strung up a 20m dipole. .We decided to launch 3Y0C to the world on the 16 December 2000 and the time 0700z .  .   I  gathered a crowd onto 14340 khz.    At the designated time I called N4BQW.     THERE WAS NO CHUCK.   The minutes went by, AND THEN,  after waiting 25 minutes,  Chuck came on as N4BQW.   We had a  COUNT DOWN and a  LIFT-OFF of 3Y0C .....from  BOUVET.    Within  half an hour the pile-up had begun..



Websites were set up  by Deon Erwin,  ZR1DQ,  and  Bruce Richards WD4NGB,  .       On  Christmas Eve,  24 December,  Chuck sent a digital photo of himself on the Island.  It was  loaded into a passing  satellite and then e-mailed to SOUTH AFRICA.     It was placed on the websites,  in colour and in remarkable detail,  within hours of it being taken.



Then came the flood of e-mails and guest book entries.  The whole world was chasing  3Y0C.    Although he had other duties to perform on the Island,    Chuck  knew that there were stations out there that needed  3Y.      SUNSAT ( South Africa's own satellite ) was thrown in to give Chuck a first from ZS to BOUVET on the" Parrot "repeater, on board SUNSAT.       This Parrot  repeater was the brain child of  Henry Chamberlain, ZS1AAZ.    It was fitting that Henry was the first to contact Chuck,  followed by  Dr Dave Reece,  ZS1DFR.

A few weeks later while routine work was being performed on SUNSAT by the Stellenbosch University,    it failed to respond and is now  out of operation.

This" PARROT "  QSO was remarkable.   It was a repeater in the simplex mode and timing of  transmitting and  receiving was controlled by bleep tones.   Chuck was using a 2m hand held as SUNSAT passed over BOUVET for approximately 12 minutes.   We have to thank Pieter ZS1PK, one of the nine engineering students who built SUNSAT.   He  programmed it to switch on  for a pass directly over BOUVET and  with the foot print covering CAPE TOWN.



After  Chuck  had put up the HEXBEAM for HF  and  6m ,   the VERTICAL for 160m to 40m,  signals improved.     I  maintained daily skeds with him on 14340 khz.    It was expected of me to set up skeds and find the best times and frequencies to work the various sectors of the world.    The VK's,  ZL's and JA'S  found that signals over the poles were not that good.    Bill Wells,  VK4UA,      David,  VK3EW,  and  Keith,  ZL2KOT,  informed  their regions  that 3Y0C would be on 14346khz from  0600z to 0800z daily.   Just when things were going fine Chuck lost his antenna during the night. Then the vertical snapped , then the dipoles  and  then the HEXBEAM mast broke.


In the new year, more BIG drama..........  the diesel engine gave trouble.  It is losing oil at such a rate that they would run out of fuel.  This gave cause for concern. There was also a smaller gasoline generator  but not sufficient fuel so we  consider making a  conversion to propane gas.  Experts in Cape Town  &  even in Port Elizabeth where Barry Jackson,  ZS2H,  an Engineer who had been on MARION ISLAND,    were working on methods for making it work with the accent on safety.   There were only a few hours of battery left and then,  NO MORE  3Y0C.       After a lengthy period of hard work they got the diesel engine fixed and there was no need for the conversion. The diesel engine carried on running until they left the island.   PHEW !!!   



The Linear Amplifier  failed to function.when it was really needed.    The experts were called  to  solve the  problem but to no avail.  Chuck reported very good reception as there was a low noise level and no interference.   Scandanavians were having a tough time getting over  Europe.  We tried  them going over the north pole and  that worked well.    Chuck reported that 70% of his contacts  were in Europe.    Japanese were the most disciplined and polite operators.    Chuck fealt they deserved a better chance.  The West coast of the USA  found it difficult working 3Y0C.  A very difficult area was also the middle East and  central Asia.  


After all those months of harsh weather the 160m dipole had 25 joints and the HEXBEAM mast was in six pieces.   Let's try the 160m,  80m  and  40m  bands again.  The word  spread to the BIG guns on the LF bands.    ZS3D,  ZS6EZ, ZS6UT and  several of the locals like ZS1PDT,  ZS1MJJ,  ZS1BW,  ZS1DUP,  ZS1B, ZU1G  and  9J2BO,   got up at 3am in the morning . TOP BAND was the difficult one and the only contact  made was on CW with ZS6EZ.    Chuck worked " the early morning gang " on 80m  but not many on 40m.   The DX qrm was tremendous.     Chuck kept going for long stretches and then on to the HF bands.  He was awake for ..... thirty six..... hours. !!!    At daybreak the VK's,  ZL's,  JA's  and   Europe ( long path  )  were at him.       We could hear Chuck giving stations many  chances and repeats,  until that contact was,  A  GOOD  ONE.



There was other work to be done on the Island and  when Chuck did not show up at a specific time,  the WORLD wondered  if he had been blown away .... AGAIN.....or maybe the batteries were flat.  Then.....we heard.....3   Y   ZERO CHARLIE.........and  we all heaved a sigh of relief.......he's still OK.        



  Chuck  now suggests that Bill Dewey,  ZS1EK,  our  6m expert,  get up onto high ground and  set up a station on 50,120 mhz   Within a day  BILL,  and Buddy McCallum,  ZS1MP,  had got organised to set up a station at CAPE POINT,  the nearest you will  get to BOUVET Island from the African continent.  The site is some 800 feet above the sea.     Ron Marlow,  ZS1RON,  had arranged for a permit to enter this restricted wild game park.   They borrowed a 3 element beam from  Dr Bud Voortman,   ZS1B.   

RON   was so keen to join his buddies and was making such a noise around the house that his XYL said ,    RON,  go  enjoy yourself.      The 3 of them ( all members of  THE FALSEBAY RADIO  ELECTRONICS and COMPUTER CLUB. )    arrived at Cape Point in a howling,  cold and gale force wind.         Chuck was experiencing  bad weather,  except that it was  ten times worse. Bill had a   6 element yagi for 6m with 150 watts .   As it was impossible to erect the triband beam.  A  20m dipole was erected and  this worked  well  with  DX.   They succeeded in working 3Y0C on 20m, 40m and 80m  but were unsuccessful on 6m .    Like MARCONI,  they deserved success.  What came out of this was a bondage of a friendship.  It was a tremendous effort on both sides.  


How keen can a DXer get ?   No keener than  Hans,  OH2EA,  from Helsinki.     Hans  was not in Helsinki,  but in Bangkok on holiday to get away from the cold weather in Finland.  A friend in Helsinki  Ossi,   OH3YI,  kept sending regular  reports about  3Y0C on  BOUVET.     By January just a handful of OH's  had made it  and  Hans was getting worried about missing 3Y again.  Getting a flow of information regards Chuck and his troubles , his heart went out to Chuck.

Hans got a message from OH3YI on 7 February. " QSO's are starting to flow into Finland.   Now is the time."  Well to any diehard DXer,  needing the last one, the decision was to get home fast.

On 15 February 2001,  Hans is at the Bangkok airport at midnight.  Hans arrived back in Helsinki at noon on 16 February and immediately called   Ossi,   OH3YI, who updated Hans.        I had  been told  via e-mail about Hans  travelling half way around the world.     I  mentioned to Chuck about this flying Finn  and  we agreed that this was something special.   Suffering from jetlag Hans had an afternoon nap and then went into his shack.  He tuned the 15M band and he found Chuck.    Hans stayed on one frequency.  Hans called twice and like music to his ears he heard..........OH2EA...59..59...FROM 3Y0 CHARLIE.           Chuck says "  Aren't you the guy that flew from Bangkok to Finland,  just for a QSO ? !!!!!!     Hans asked Chuck  if he can try CW.  Chuck says stay on your split frequency and I will call you.   It is a rock solid qso. WOW !!!!   Hans blessed all the GODS in Ham DX  heaven.....and Chuck too. !!!   GOD BLESS  and thank you Chuck. de Hans OH2EA.




Peter Jelgersma, PA8AA,  told me the story about his predicament with 3Y5X  in 1989 / 90.    

Peter was in hospital undergoing surgery to replace his heartvalve with the first human heart valve,

in Europe.   This wrecked his chance of working 3Y5X.   He said " If  I don't get 3Y this time,  I will not make it  next time. "         I made a sked with Peter   and one evening while I was on 14195 khz,  Chuck came up and  heard PA8AA.     Peter worked his final country to complete a full house.  The next morning ,  my phone rang  and it was an excited Peter.      Dennis !!    I  was so excited I almost forgot to enter the contact in the log.     Peter has phoned me several times and has  made an offer of a very substantial amount of  US$   towards the printing of the  QSL cards which must be worthy of this great, one man operation.     So,   when you receive your QSL from 3Y0C ,  remember how much joy ,  satisfaction,  dedication  &  sacrifice  went into making it possible.    Thank you Peter.

Just spare a thought for Mac,  WA4FFW,  the QSL manager who will need  plenty of  H  E  L  P with the hand written log.  (  40 thousand +  contacts )



Then there was Nob Yamashita,  JE2QYZ,  a school teacher in  JAPAN who sent a beautiful colour picture, of himself surrounded by his scholars who are  also members of an amateur radio club.    They are proudly holding several certificates which  had been awarded to them.   The children were so interested in this Island which Nob was so desperately trying to contact,  for weeks on end.    They also learnt so much and were  facinated by this lonely Island of  BOUVET.     Nob  was alerted to try the long path over South America around 0600z on 14336, he made it  and  the whole class was ecstatic.



The one who tried the hardest and appeared to be the most frustrated was Jussi, OH5CH.

His e-mails  arrived almost everyday  trying to find the best way to find Chuck and then try and make a contact,   through that terrible southern europe QRM.     I was very pleased when Jussi sent me his last e-mail and said "  I thank everybody.  I got Chuck with only a few days left."



Our webmaster,  Deon,  ZR1DQ, had been listening and kept daily reports about 3Y0C.  As his ZR callsign precludes him from speaking to Chuck on HF,    Deon decides to work Chuck on CW.   With a day or two to go before 3Y0C goes QRT,    Deon,  with the assistance of  Peter Breytenbach,  ZS1ADP,  took the key and rattled out 3Y0C de ZR1DQ.     3Y0C came back and they exchanged reports and....IT WAS A GOOD ONE . !!!!!   This was the first for a ZR to BOUVET and Deon is in the records book.



 Chuck tried to please as many as possible    Harry, KH6FKG,  and myself were in trouble because Chuck said he does not break a promise.    Both  Harry and  I and later Bill, VK4UA,   also came under fire.     The " promises "gave us grey hairs and  thanks to e-mails we  tried our best to get these squared away.  

Suggestions or "help information " was sent to the pilots to pass on to Chuck.  This eventually helped in trying to get into every area.      Some areas were just impossible because of location and also time differences.     Where would you find a man working nonstop under such freezing weather  and  having  to concentrate with exchange of callsigns and reports...........which went  on  everyday and night for 3 months ?    Who gave his best shot ?      B r r r r r r.



Joe,  N4OL,  loyal to the end,  was the mainstay of keeping things together.   This operation had to be first on our priority list  and  we had to see it through to the end.   This operation was  continually on the go and stations did not dry up .  There were more and more ...........they just kept coming.     They needed 3Y0C  for the last one, to make the Honour Roll  etc  etc  etc.         There were those who told the truth.



Chuck was due to come off the Island on 2 March 2001.     A week before the time he had everything  packed except for the rig and a few dipoles and he was still giving it stick at the closing stages.  THE LANCE was encountering bad weather and packice on the way  to pick them up.   When the ship arrived they could not get off  the Island because of the heavy sea and wind.  The university in the USA had been supplying weather predictions for some time and it looked as though  the WX was  going to get worse.   Chuck still had some battery power , but,  not much , so it was a question of conserving power.     On 5 March at daybreak I was making what I thought was the last QSO before another lift -off and then silence.........this was it.

About 6 hours later Chuck called to say they were still on BOUVET.   He wanted me to e-mail    Joe,  N4OL,and GET THE VERY VERY VERY LATEST WX FORECAST FOR NOW NOW NOW.   !!!!!!!!!     Skip was catching us down here in Cape Town  BUT thanks to Terry, ZS6TMG,    Donovan, ZS6DGG,  and  Mal,  ZS6MAL,  they were in a position to put a LL call through to  Joe, N4OL, in  NORTH CAROLINA,  who gathered the very latest expert forecasting and this was passed back to Chuck



 At daybreak  6th March,    Ken, KH6CQH  and  myself were on 14336khz. .It looked possible to lift off  and with a YES,    Chuck signed and we did not hear him again until the following day ......there he was N4BQW / MM.        Asked about the LOG,   Chuck said it was safe.    



On his way to Cape Town,  Chuck came on one morning  and we were greeted with ALOHA from Ken,  in  Hawaii.   .    The ZS's weren't finished with Chuck yet.    Can you go 6 meters ?   or ,  How about trying to get into our local  2 meter repeaters,  from the ship,  some hundreds of miles out.   For the first time in months Chuck is relaxing and enjoying the warmer weather and the calm sea.



11th March ,  Sunday morning at 0745z    N4BQW / MM gives a brief call.    His handy batteries are flat but  he tells us on our Tygerberg repeater  that the pilot is coming aboard.    It was a BIG day for CAPE TOWN  and thousands of people streamed into the city.      Chuck  must have thought they were all hams  but they were not.    Chuck's arrival  co-incided with the Cape Cycle Tour race.    Close on 40 thousand cyclists were taking part. It is the BIGGEST bicycle race in the world.     When I had told him about this race,  some months ago,  about entering ,  he was quite keen,  but we were only kidding.    Some of the locals were down at the dockside to see THE LANCE  come into Table Bay .   It was a perfect morning and the view of  TABLE MOUNTAIN from the ship must have impressed everyone on board.

In the evening of monday 12th March we  held thumbs that Chuck would appear at  the OAKDALE RADIO CLUB,  where a large crowd was expected to welcome him.


His personal "taxi driver ",  Gerald Meneses,  ZS1GRM,  and  Bernie Crockford,  ZS1BW,   went down to the ship on monday morning .   In the afternoon Chuck gave a talk at the TWO OCEANS AQUARIUM,  where Peter Sauls, ZR1FS,  and his XYL,  YVONNE,  were responsible for organising this visit.

Later in the afternoon  Chuck attended a farewell party for the various  SCIENTIFIC group's  who had come back  together on the ship.    Later,  Gerald,  ZS1GRM / mobile,  brought Chuck  to the OAKDALE  CLUB  HALL   where  a crowd  had begun gathering 2 hours earlier.   Amongst the crowd were a number of fellow amateurs who had travelled thousands of miles to be present.   They were,   ZS6TMG,     ZS6DGG,    ZS6MAL,    ZS6UC, and son, ZR6RDU,    ZU1G,   and  Hartmut,  DM5TI,  who came out to South Africa ,  from GERMANY to  shake Chuck by the hand.     Hartmut had worked  3Y0C  a few weeks ago.   Also in the crowd but not making himself conspicuous  was David Clark,  KB6TAM / MM.    David another American,    is attempting a circumnavigation of the world,  single handed,  to become the oldest man to achieve this remarkable feat.  Unfortunately his yacht sprang a leak and sank,  200 miles out from Cape Town.



Chuck appeared at the entrance to our CLUB HALL and received a tumultuous ovation.  He was welcomed by the MC for the evening,  Dr  Dave Reece,  ZS1DFR.      Several  short opening speeches of welcome and presentations were made and  then   AN APPRECIATION  AWARD  was presented to Chuck on behalf of the VK, ZL and WESTERN PACIFIC RADIO AMATEURS and LISTENERS and then  it was over to Chuck..   He expressed his appreciation and  thanks to everyone in turn and then held the entire crowd in the palm of  his hand for  over 2 hours.        It was  then questions and answers time,  which was most informative  and  interesting.    The photographers had a field "day "  and   Lyle Engelbrecht ,  ZS1UOK,  captured all on video.    A surprise parcel,  about  3 meters long was carried into the hall.    This  was something special and  the story is worth telling.............While Chuck/ MM  was on his way to Cape Town,  I spoke to him on  20 m  and Peter,  ZS1ADP,   joined us.     Chuck had difficulty reading  Peter  who was using a dipole.  .     CHUCK was telling me that he was going to donate much of his equipment to deserving amateurs in Cape Town instead of  taking it all the way back home.  .     As Peter  was the one who supplied  Chuck with the very first contact information to get the DXpedition off to a flying start,   it was a spontaneous gesture that the Hex beam  be given to Peter,  ZS1ADP.        When Peter heard that  the Hexbeam was his,   he said,  THANK YOU !!!  And  THEN, suddenly disappeared off the air.  A little while later he reappeared.

What had happened was that the gift of " THAT " Hex beam ,   " THE "  Hex beam ,   was such an  unexpected present,  that Peter was speechless at the other end  &  overcome with emotion.   Who wouldn't  be,    after all , this is the most famous beam in the world,  and it now belonged to Peter.

While on the Island some  flags were flown and   The Stars and  Stripes of America,   was  proudly flown on BOUVET for the very first time.    This very respected  flag  was presented  to me,   neatly folded, to symbolise the true bond of friendship which had developed through AMATEUR RADIO,  and also a piece of BOUVET rock   ( 5kgs)

Around midnight Chuck  was still engulfed by curious and excited fellow amateurs who had just witnessed one of the most interesting and fascinating  talks,   ever heard.    Some of it was out of this world and  some down on the " ground " of  BOUVET,    supported by scores of digital pictures on a TV screen.


On Wednesday 14th March  a few of the support group and  their XYL's gathered at a restaurant and had a very relaxed and informal get together,   with Chuck as our honoured guest.   Once again Chuck entertained us with some remarkable and most fascinating stories about his space experiences. It was the opinion of everyone present that we were indeed a priviliged  group to be in the company of a very courageous and brilliant man.  A parcel of souvenirs received from Dominik,  DL5EBE on behalf of the German radio amateurs was  presented to Chuck

He also addressed  children at a local school,   where he might have been facing the future South African Astronaut ?     Chuck was also interviewed on a local Talk Radio show.


Chuck  spent days and  nights packing equipment which had to be returned to various countries,

prior to his departure for LONDON  at  2050 z  on 16th March. 2001.      Matt Greyvensteyn ,  ZS1MJJ,  travelled  hundreds of  kilometers with his truck to get  Chuck's large consignment of packages  safely to CAPE TOWN INTERNATIONAL  AIRPORT.    We believe that   Chuck was summoned  to  OSLO.      We sincerely hope that  the ARRL and the various DXpedition Associations  and  IOTA,   will  recognise this 3Y0C,   ONE MAN   DXpedition,    as exceptional.  Chuck gave his very best to his fellow amateurs..........WORLD WIDE,   enduring the worst living conditions on this planet,   to keep 3Y0C    alive,    for the longest period of time a  human being  has lived   and survived  on  BOUVET.


There were times when it looked as though 3Y0C was going to go QRT long before his stay was over. 


Harry,  KH6FKG,  the stalwart pilot in HAWAII,  summed up the operator of  3Y0C  as THE SPIDER MAN.     We imagined Chuck climbing up and down the hillside,  in the terrible WX conditions,   repairing antennae  every day and night to keep  3Y0C  on the air.     Chuck said "  IT WAS  FUN. !!!!  "       



It was an experience,   I personally,  will never forget.     Thanks to you  Chuck and  all  you  DXers.       IT WAS THE GREATEST.       HE IS THE GREATEST.




Dennis Wells   ZS1AU

8  The Paddocks

Bowlers Avenue


SOUTH AFRICA        7550