Canton Island T31JS 1988

By Jim, VK9NS

The shipping company in Tarawa, Kiribati which owns the vessel chartered by H.I.DX.A. for our DXpedition to Howland Island, serves the outlying islands on a regular basis and I was aware that the next scheduled trip was to Fanning Island. I approached the shipping company and it was agreed that the ship would drop me off at Canton Island en route to Fanning. With a bit of luck, 17 days later, the ship would call into Canton and pick me up for the return trip to Tarawa. I must admit that it was with mixed feelings I watched the ship leaving Canton Island on her way to Fanning. My photo of this event features on the T31JS QSL card!

Canton Island was quite rare in a DX sense and, like many other places, had undergone huge changes. Joint administration by Britain and the U.S. (VR1 and KH1) had ended with Canton having been given back to its rightful Kiribati owners.

During the joint administration, the U.S. end of Canton had become a huge complex with communication facilities, buildings and infrastructure of power and water laid on. The Island was home to many U.S. military personell during those endless missile shots across the Pacific.

Can you visualise a huge ghost town area? The empty derelict cinema, the trucks standing where they had been left, the huge empty accommodation buildings, the empty "gutted" communications buildings, a huge satellite dish pointing aimlessly to the sky...

Consider the other end - the old VR1 area of British Phoenix. Now a small area of dilapidated wooden buildings, the old 'signals' room, the Administrator's house with that hard teak floor outlasting all else. The days when the flying boats of PANAM landed there, the slipway, the plaques commemorating this and that. This was the stuff of VR1. A couple of very old cars are still standing there, one outside the old hotel.... Again a feeling of history and now desolation.

The small group of Kiribatians who live on Canton Island are very special and they rescued me from my very dilapidated operating area (complete with rats) and insisted that I join them in their community.

H.I.DX.A. had forged another link with an Island community in the name of Amateur Radio and DXing.