By Jim VK9NS
In going to Tonga, I was interested in getting H.I.DX.A. involved in the RSGB, IOTA (Islands On the Air) programme. Father Kevin, A35KB was usually fairly active and he had been based in several different islands in the Kingdom of Tonga. Minerva Reef was of interest to me as it used to be a DXCC country in the old days and was still listed in the IOTA programme.
The Island was in dispute between Tonga and Fiji and because of this Tonga would from time to time dispatch a naval launch to the area. It was my hope to get to and from Minerva in this fashion. However, Niuaoputapu Island was also listed in IOTA but as an un-numbered island. I realised that activating this one would provide 'a new one' for many Island hunters, and so a broad arrangement between Kevin and myself took place. Kevin was in Va Va'u and the possibility of getting to Minerva and onto the other island was quite good. Kevin sorted out all of the arrangements for Niuaoputapu and we were scheduled to be accommodated at the Catholic Mission.
There we could operate with few problems. Power was available with H.I.DX.A. paying for a 200 litre drum of fuel. Food was slightly more awkward, but we had a main meal once a day. In the DX fashion, we managed the rest of the day on various snacks.
I had been issued the callsign A35MR and will leave you to guess why the suffix MR was chosen. However, after several days in Va Va'u, the trip to Minerva looked very shaky. The trip was abandoned and the alternative of Niuaoputapu became a reality.
In Tonga, as in other Pacific areas such as Temotu, the inter island flights use smallish planes, e.g. the Twin Otter. This severely limits luggage allowance so Henry 2K, Yaesu FL21002 amplifiers etc. are out. Having Kevin around was a real plus as he knew everyone and we wheedled a few extra Kgs on board. Still, the stations on Niuaoputapu were modest, running the rigs barefoot, wire antennas etc. However, we did get that new island on the air and in due course the number OC191 was issued.
Getting around the Island was great and the people were very friendly. Kevin was well known and this opened many doors. The Islanders are renowned for their weaving and I could not resist bringing a large mat back to Norfolk Island. It is still here and a reminder of a very unusual style DXpedition for H.I.DX.A. in the name of IOTA.