OC-198 was first activated as VK8ISL way way back in 1994. The only other activation was by my good friend (and OC-294 team mate) Johan PA3EXX who operated as VK4WWI/8 in October 2004 for 337 QSOs but had “limited hours because of crocodiles” on the beach. As the years have gone on, the rarity of OC-198 has put it at 12.7% in the IOTA Most Wanted Islands list and is the 3rd rarest IOTA in VK.
I’ve been looking to activate OC-198 since 2011 when I was living in Alice Springs in the Northern Territory. There were a range of challenges which meant I wasn’t able to visit there so instead I went to Bremer Island OC-185 in the Northern Territory in 2012 as VK8BI. We then moved to South Australia and so I thought I may have missed my chance. Its taken 5 years and finally I’ve been able to secure a reliable boat charter and most importantly a safe location in the Sir Edward Pellew Group to operate from. I had previously been able to access part of the national park but generators are banned there and it meant I would only operate with 100w. So now I have permission to operate from another location with generators, a beachside location and a solid state amplifier. Crocodiles are an ever present threat, especially when erecting/dismantling antenna. Adjusting or working on an antenna on the beach at night would be way too dangerous.
With such a remote location, costs are of course high and hopefully the passionate and dedicated IOTA chasers are able to provide support to this wild adventure considering that after 13 years of waiting, now 87.3% of chasers still need a contact with this IOTA.
The mainland area located near the Sir Edward Pellew Group of islands is in the extreme outback of Australia’s Northern Territory. So just getting to the mainland town near North Island is an expensive and time consuming adventure. This is my most expensive one man IOTA DXpedition.
The Sir Edward Pellew group are a cluster of islands comprised of five major islands and 66 minor islands, islets and rock stacks, situated in the south west region of the Gulf of Carpentaria in the Northern Territory.
The island is the traditional home of the Yanyuwa Aboriginal people. The Park plays an important role in the preservation and protection of their culture and tradition. This is evidenced not only by the stories and culture which still survive today, but also by physical evidence such as large shell middens and human burial caves.
Until early into the 20th century the Pellew Islands were visited regularly by fishermen from Macassar and Sulawesi for the purpose of harvesting trepang. Numerous Macassan sites exist on the islands; these contain remains of stone fireplaces, artefacts and Tamarind trees that seeded from food refuse. These are native to Africa and was introduced to Asia by Arab traders.
Reached in 1644 by the Dutch navigator Abel Tasman, the island was thought to be part of the mainland and was named Cape Vanderlin. The explorer Matthew Flinders in 1802 proved Vanderlin an island, and he named the group after Captain Edward Pellew (later Admiral Viscount Exmouth) of the Royal Navy.
Sandstone cliffs, sweeping sandy beaches and small coves make up the picturesque coastline of the island. Turtles come to nest on the beaches of North Island and it is a key migratory path of many birds. It is not possible to enter the water of the beaches due to saltwater crocodiles and box jellyfish.
The journey from home to North Island
The region of the Sir Edward Pellew Islands in the Northern Territory is in the remote outback of Australia which means there are no cost effective ways of flying to the region. Due to the amount of equipment and antennas I need, the most cost effective way of travelling is by driving there. Its a massive journey of 2868 km (1781 miles) from home to get to King Ash Bay, this is the equivalent to driving from ‘Paris to Moscow’, ‘California to North Dakota’ or ‘Miami to Quebec’. The only difference is that I will be driving in the very hot outback of Australia during summer and so there are very few towns and the weather for most of the journey will be 35 to 42 degrees C. I have driven from home through the Northern Territory a couple of times before and so I know the massive journey ahead of me, so don’t worry I will be safe. Due to wildlife on the roads such as kangaroos, emus, cattle and camels, I can only drive during daylight hours.
Once the 2868 km (1781 mile) journey by road and dirt road is finished I will arrive at King Ash Bay. The next step is to charter a boat and travel along the McArthur River and wave at the crocodiles along the way as we reach the Gulf of Carpentaria and open ocean. We continue through the Sir Edward Pellew Islands and land at the furthest island – North Island.
I will arrive on North Island with the fishing boat charter on the north coast of the island. The antennas will be the first thing put up during the day as it will be too dangerous to do this in the dusk of early evening with crocodiles around. Verticals will be placed on the high tide mark of the beach and coax cable will go through the bush to an old fishermans shack. This will be my home for 4 nights, conditions will be tough as the weather for this area in October is usually around 40C during the day.
My goal is to make 1000 QSOs per day and to hopefully give you a new rare IOTA.