Dxpedition in ANNOBON ISL.(IOTA AF-039) AFRICA

From the Shack to Paradise, in a few Kc's

"It was during our last visit to the Republic of Equatorial Guinea during 1998, invited by our good friend 3C1GS, Ramon Gomez de Salazar, that we started to envision a possible expedition to Annobon Island. From that first moment we were aware of the difficulties a project of that scope would entail, but thanks to Ramon Gomez' perseverance, we were able to meet the various officials in charge or approving our requests. I would like to acknowledge, from this perspective, the kindness, interest and attention that the Guinean authorities showed us at all times. We had to wait ten long months until, in April 1999, Ramon Gomez told me the good news : He already had the necessary licenses and permits to operate from Annobon. The happiness I felt at that moment was indescribable. I had in my hands the 3C0R licenses. Unfortunately, only four people were given permission to travel, when from the start the expedition was planned for a larger group, with the objective of covering various bands and modes at the same time. We had, therefore, to follow the conditions offered by the Government of Guinea. All the parties understood the importance of a DX expedition to Annobon, given that this island was among the most needy on the DXCC lists for all continents. The operators named in the licenses were: 3C1GS (Ramon), EA5YN (Vicente), and I , EA5BYP (Elmo).

I remember the moment I phoned Vicente (EA5YN), my good friend and travel companion. We both agreed that we had to work very hard. An expedition to this island entailed many preparations, a lot of money, looking for sponsors, finding transport, assembling equipment and materials and choosing the most appropriate dates good broadcasts that coincided with our vacations.

At the beginning of May 1999, during the Lynx DX Group Annual Convention, in the city of Santa Pola (Alicante - Spain), we announced the great news, to the general delight of the attendees. They all wanted to read for themselves the documentation accrediting our project. The Lynx DX Group and the Clipperton DX took it upon themselves to contact clubs, associations and in general all of them - large associations, small groups of enthusiasts, and individual contributors- have made it possible for 3C0R to become a reality. Again, thank you all. Enthusiasm spread rapidly and the most prestigious international organizations offered their support. From here, I would like to offer my special thanks to the NCDXF, INDEXA, CLIPPERTON DX CLUB, CHILTERN DX CLUB, EASTERN WASHINGTON DX CLUB, GM DX GROUP, GDXF, CUSHCRAFT, BIT RADIO, LYNX DX GROUP, K1WY DX ASSOC., TELECOM-ANTENAS, CUBA DX CLUB, THE MAGAZINE "five Nine" AND ABRA-DX BRAZILIAN ASSOC.

In this way 3C0R - Annobon 99, began to take shape. We selected September 12-26, 1999 for the expedition. We wanted to operate at least ten days from the island. During our preparations, we met daily with Ramon (3C1GS) in our habitual frequency of 15 meters band. Soon he informed me that he had found a boat in Sao Tome that could take us to Annobon. I immediately telephoned John, the captain of the Nere-Balandra - a sailboat 12 meters long - to discuss our plans and get information on the rates, characteristics of the boat and other technical details. The asking price was within

our budget, even thought the ship seemed a trifle small for sailing those complicated waters. At any rate, Alleluia! , we were assured of transport. John mentioned that, if the weather was good, the trip would take 24 hours.

Going to Sao Tome did not present many problems, we would take the Alicante - Madrid - Ivory Coast- Sao Tome route. From an operational point of view, our objective was to maintain three stations active 24 hours a day. We had at our disposal three HF stations from Kenwood 570-D, two laptop computers to store and process the contacts made, (RTTY Modem) two Yaesu 2100Z linear amplifiers, antennas kindly donated by Bit-Radio and Cruscraft (two AB5M with 3 elements and 5 bands), vertical antennas donated by telecom and Bi-Tronic, and Windom antennas donated by Grauta.

Our departure date was getting closer and we didn't want to leave anything undone. Our pilot stations were going to be EA5BY (Tony), EA5FVY (Angel), OD5NJ (Gaby). On the night of September 11 we went to the Alicante airport to do most of our shipping, since we had a lot of equipment and we wanted do as much as possible ahead of time. This resulted in our first scare: each kilo of excess baggage cost us 4,200 pesetas (about $27). We were able to pay for this because, on the way back, most of the equipment would stay on the island. On the morning of the 12th, EA5FVY and EA5BRE accompanied us to the airport again to send us off and help with the heavy hand luggage we were carrying. We arrived at Sao Tome the same day at 21:00Z, where our friend John was waiting for us at the airport. We had to wait a long time to resolve all our business with customs, but we were grateful that finally all the boxes and radio equipment were with us. So far, so good.

That same night John mentioned that weather conditions were deteriorating, a strong storm was brewing and would possibly last for three days, which would make our immediate departure difficult. The next morning we received a call from Ramon and Robert telling us that for personal and physical reasons they could not join us in the expedition, but they assured us they would be in daily contact with us from Malabo to guarantee us good logistics. That filled us with sadness. Only two operators remained. The ship's departure for Annobon was scheduled for noon, and after clearing customs, we were ready to say good-by to Sao Tome. In the meantime, the storm grew stronger by the minute. At 14:00 Z I called EA5BY to let him know what was happening. After consulting with the captain, we decided to take a chance and leave in the late afternoon, at 16:00 Z. The sailboat was ready to leave. Vicente filmed our departure and I prayed that the storm would not blow us back to Sao Tome. We sailed off to sea unfurling a sail that had been cured by a thousand storms, helped by an ancient motor that broke down scarcely three miles offshore. We couldn't continue the day's run with only our sail and decided to send an emergency signal. Luckily, a Spanish boat fishing for shark promptly answered our call for help. It send a small boat to pick up the damaged equipment. Three hours later we were able to leave at last, en route to Annobon. The journey was a real trial. John kept lamenting that he had not seen a storm as strong as the one we were enduring for many years. It would be 39 hours before we touched dry land again. I would like to acknowledge the courage and skill demonstrated by the captain and his co-captain- his wife Ika-during the entire crossing. We arrived at Annobon on the morning of the 15th. Before our eyes was a marvelous paradise in the middle of the Ocean. After taking care of customs formalities we proceeded to unload our material, kindly assisted by the island's inhabitants. We were not in very good physical shape, but we managed to transport everything , walking through the streets of the capital, San Antonio de Pale, constantly observed by numerous citizens who greeted us in perfect castillian, something that gave us the strength to finally arrived at the rooms that people, dedicated principally to fishing and whatever agriculture volcanic soils can give.

At noon we started to erect the yagis antennas, to prepare the generators, the PC's and the rest of our equipment. At17:00 Z we ate for the first time since we left Sao Tome and after recuperating our strength somewhat, EA5BYP (Elmo), made the first call in the 20m SSB band. Meanwhile, Vicente (EA5YN), who was going to operate in CW, finished adjusting his equipment. The first station to respond was EA5BY, and the second one my good friend OD5NJ. From there on, the pile-up was tremendous. I have to admit that during the next four hours my skill in the pile-up was not as good as I would have liked, since neither my physical not psychological condition was the most appropriate one to embark on such an operation. At 19:00z, Vicente launched his first CW call, with NI4H responding.

We immediately realized that our PC's had been damaged during the trip, the amplifiers were not in good condition either, not to mention other problems. At midnight we decided to rest and recuperate for the next day.

The first thing we did very early on the 16th, was evaluate the damage suffered by the equipment. If it was too serious, it would prevent us from operating in some modes. The result was the following : the PC's were definitely damaged, one of the amplifiers was out of commission, but fortunately, we managed to make the other work. The generators gave us trouble several times, but we were able to repair them. In any case, when they broke down, we had to leave the shack to repair them. All this put limits on our time for rest and we could not sleep more than three and a half hours each day, but the healthy food, based on fish and fruit, helped us recuperate immediately.

Without losing our enthusiasm and even less our hopes, we started to activate the different bands. In spite of all our efforts and much to our sorrow, it was not possible to work the RTTY 6m and 160m. the pile-ups were terrible. It had been a long time since we had seen so much excitement as was provoked with 3C0R, on the other hand, the opportunity to visit the island was tempting, but by no means we wanted to abandon the pile-ups. At every moment we were aware of the importance that our operation had and wanted to repay the trust that the world of ham radio had deposited on us.

The local authorities showed daily their interests on our operation and we received a pleasant visit from Father Edelmiro, of the Claretians, offering us his help. His agreeable conversation touched on interesting aspects of the daily life of the island and its inhabitants. At noon on the 23rd we finished our expedition. There was news of a new storm. We didn't want it to surprise us during our crossing and make us lose the different connections during our flight home. The last station worked in CW was G3UDW and in SSB was RA3AJ. We achieved a total of 23,000 contacts and operated in 16bands/modes. Before we departed, we left on the island a thinking of a collaboration and solidarity project with the people of Annobon, similar to the joint project realized some time ago with the DX group in Cuba. If anybody is interesting in this project please contact us. Everybody will be welcome.

We want to thank 3C1GS(Ramon Gomez de Salazar), for his inestimable help and great effort, without which the expedition 3C0R Annobon 1999 wouldn't have happened. To Don Eleuterio Casas, Provincial Chief of the Island and to the authorities in Annobon, as well as all the Annobonese for their kindness, congeniality and the wonderful reception we received. To the Ministry of Transport and Communications and to the directorate of General Security of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea. To the different associations, clubs and individuals who have put their trust in us by helping us economically. And to the thousands of the ham radio enthusiasts from all over the world who caused the pile-ups from 3C0R to be the most listened to bands in recent memory. To all of you, THANK YOU.


(Many thanks to you Elmo and Vic for making 3C0 land active and give us the opportunity to worked one more NEW ONE. Best 73's your friend SV2CWY-CHRIS.)