ZL1CT/4       11-14th January 2004


Stewart Island   OC-203

In January 2003, Steve Taylor G4EDG was QRV from Stewart Island as ZL4/G4EDG, making 750 QSOs mostly on 20m CW.  I was pleased to work Steve, and I said to myself "I'm going to Stewart Island as soon as I can".  Stewart Island is one of the South Island of New Zealand (OC-134) coastal islands, so has a separate IOTA reference OC-203.   See below for the full story and pictures from this DXpedition.

Many centuries ago Maori came by canoe to the island to harvest shellfish and mutton birds.  They named the island Rakiura (land of the glowing skies) - it is renowned for its lingering sunsets in summer and the aurora in winter.

The winter population of Stewart Island is about 500, mostly in or near Oban in Halfmoon Bay. In summer the population doubles, with many walkers and bird-watchers arriving to experience the unspoilt trails and views.  Pippa and I travelled as foot passengers on the 1-hour thrill-ride which is the catamaran of the Foveaux Express, and we stayed at the same radio-friendly B&B as Steve Taylor did - Jo and Andy's B&B. 

The journey to Bluff (at the extreme S. end of the South Island) was fairly uneventful - we were touring the South Island for the week before, so had seen lots of interesting things, and some beautiful scenery. The Foveaux Express has 2 almost identical catamarans, each capable of carrying 80-90 passengers maximum. Our sailing was delayed, due to a gearbox failure, which meant that the second catamaran had to be brought across to Bluff from Stewart Island - a crossing distance of 18 miles, which takes about 1 hour in good weather. All luggage for these catamarans is placed in metal bins about 1.5m x 1.5m x 1m, which are then covered by a waterproof cover, and securely lashed to the deck. We were to find out why on the journey home !  (Click on any of the photos below for a larger version, which may take some time to download)

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                 Raising the 40m vertical                                    Too much sun ? High blood pressure ? Stress ?

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       Ah ... a fankle as we say in Scotland                         Connecting the elevated radials to the 40m vertical

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      View of the back of the QTH                                    The 40m and 20m verticals installed

The 40m vertical (with 2 elevated radials) and the 20m vertical (with 3 sloping radials) were installed in the back garden, about 15m from the bedroom which was the 'shack'. The temperature reached 30 degrees Celsius during the set-up, and we were under constant attack from sand-flies. The location was not really ideal, down in a valley, with higher ground on 3 sides, but was the best we could do under the circumstances. Stewart Island is VERY busy during the peak summer months i.e. January, and accommodation has to be booked months in advance. Jo and Andy were very helpful with the antennas, and met us and delivered us back to the ferry - thanks !

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                                               A bit happier now - working pile-ups !

Stewart Island is so far South that the HF bands are closed for most of the daylight hours - or more correctly they may be open, but there are no centres of activity where they are open to. Although this was disappointing from a DXpedition point of view, it gave us a chance to do some walking and sight-seeing around Stewart Island. We also took a trip to Ulva Island on the 55' yacht 'Talisker', which had recently returned from a charter to the Auckland Islands for BBC Bristol to do some filming. The BBC had originally wanted David Attenborough to travel with them, then decided that he was too valuable an asset to risk. The team videod on the islands for 8 days, with the Talisker waiting off-shore. The bill for the yacht charter alone was N.Z.$ 50000 ( 18500) so my plan for a trip to ZL9 on the Talisker soon is not looking too good !

Activity was mostly from about 1800 local each day, with the bands opening progressively later each of the 4 evenings that I was QRV. Conditions were average to good, with some spectacular pile-ups on 40m CW especially, even using split frequency. The TS-850 was struggling a bit, and did not perform as well as my FT-1000MP. The AL-80 amp helped a lot to control the pile-up, because other stations were apparently hearing my signals quite well. The bands started to fizzle out at about 2300, so I averaged only about 4 hours of operation each day.

ZL1CT/4 was QRV from about 0400 UTC on 11th January 2004, until about 1000 UTC on 14th January 2004, making 1600 QSOs (800 on CW and 800 on SSB) on 40m and 20m, with a handful of QSOs on 30m. 

Equipment/antennas :  Kenwood TS-850sat (fitted 250Hz and 1.8kHz INRAD filters), Ameritron AL-80 amp (1 x 3-500ZG = 400W o/p), 40m vertical with 2 elevated radials, 20m vertical.  CMOS Supa-keyer 3 + Bencher paddle. Heil HC4 headset. Compaq Evo laptop running CT9.91 (under DOS!)

The journey home ?   Wow - what an exciting trip !   The catamaran set off into about a Force 8 gale, with 5 to 6m waves - we battled through this for an hour, with many of the passengers inside the cabin being seasick. Pippa and I hung on grimly at the door of the cabin, with huge waves breaking periodically over the back of the boat. Basically the idea of going slower in rough sea conditions does not seem to apply to the Foveaux Express. Half-way across Pippa said to me 'Chris - you look scared' and I was not disagreeing !!  I have never travelled so fast, in such rough seas, in such a small ship, so I would thoroughly recommend this trip to anyone who likes to get their adrenalin moving !

QSL via N3SL.    N3SL was voted as one of the top 10 QSL managers for 2003 - congratulations Kim and thanks.  Thanks to Jo & Andy, and to Pippa for her help and company on this mini DXpedition.