Temotu Province H40AB 1998

By Jim, VK9NS

During my days in Papua New Guinea with the Civil Aviation, I was a regular visitor to Honiara in the Solomon Islands. I first held the call VR4BJ and later, on full independence, this became H44BJ. I operated from there several times and knew the resident hams very well. DX was often discussed and the Temotu area was known to be a possible DX country.

The only problem was distance. Temotu failed this criteria by a fairly short distance.

When the new entity rules came into place, the distances were changed from miles to Kms. and this touch of mathematical magic made Temotu Province a new entity.

In many ways my experience of the area paid off and, for convenience, I could activate a new DXCC country and simultaneously activate the Reef Group (Pigeon Island) for IOTA enthusiasts.

Bernhard, DL2GAC who had visited Pigeon Island and operated from there previously, was a great help to me with all his inside local knowledge of this island which still relied on a radio sched for contact with the outside world.

Another group had also made a start and had agreement on the use of H40 as the prefix for the Temotu Province. They were scheduled to use the call H40AA and I was issued H40AB for the H.I.DX.A operation. Naturally, we were both scheduled to use our new calls at 0000 of April 1st. 1998.

I mentioned inter island planes in my comments on Tonga and the same limitations applied in the Solomon Islands. H40AA got around the problem by chartering a plane for the group. I got around the problem by buying an extra seat on the plane!! So my equipment including linear, antenna and so on was carried hassle free to Lata (Temotu).

My arival at Lata was really the start of the exciting part of the trip. I had another 75 kms. of more or less open sea travel to Pigeon Island in the Reef Group. This proved to be quite an experience, travelling in a longish fibreglass canoe with an outboard engine and about 9 inches of freeboard. By the way, the return trip was a nightmare and I was more or less convinced that we should end up in the water. The possibility of drowning was very real.

Pigeon Island is a tiny island 'owned' by an English woman who has lived there for years. The family runs a trading store, fuel store etc. I was adequately housed in a delightful little chalet complete with cooker, shower etc. I had arranged for power by buying 200 litres of fuel (similar to the Tonga siuation.)

Arriving quite ‘latish’ in the evening, I just connected everything up, except the antenna as it was just  too dark to do anything. I checked the rig very quickly and turned in. It had been a long hard day.

Up bright and early next morning, I set up my HF6V in my usual 30 minutes flat. The generator was started up and I was ready to go! On switching on there was a loud bang and smoke from my switch mode power supply. It is quite a story how all this was overcome, but it included flying a transformer supply which I had left in Brisbane, to Temotu. I have nothing but praise for the airline concerned. Sheer magic.

So H40AB was available for that opening time and propagation from Pigeon Island was just superb. My FL2100Z helped of course. After two and a half weeks my stay on this tiny island came to an end. What with the harrowing trip in that open canoe back to Lata, it all made for a memorable experience to say the least.