Heard Island VK0JS and VK0NL 1983

No regulations were in place for a private expedition to Heard Island when Jim first started thinking about the lack of amateur radio there and decided to do something about it. Before any concrete plans could be made, he had to get permission from the Australian authorities; something which necessitated a visit to Canberra. Here Jim met with officers from the relevant Government department and between them they made the appropriate rules and regulations to enable ‘private visits’ to Heard Island to take place - not only for H.I.DX.A., but for all other private expeditions in the future.

It was to be another three years before H.I.DX.A. had everything in place: The ship was a former whale chaser, the S/S CHEYNES II and food and stores, radio equipment and antennas etc. etc. were ready to be loaded onboard. A number of other interest groups had been signed up to take part, and expeditioners, including mountaineers from Austria and Australia, scientists from Australia and radio amateurs from Norfolk Island, U.S.A. Austria and Holland, and a professional Australian filmcrew of two, gathered in Hobart, Tasmania just after New Year 1983. To keep the cost of the charter down, all expeditioners were to cook and stand watches along with the ship's seven man crew, during the voyage which was expected to take about seven days.

Cheynes II


As it turned out, there were many problems with the apparent ship's fuel consumption and, what with having had to return to Hobart, then later having to make a detour to Albany in Western Australia and a further unscheduled stop at Kerguelen Island in the South Indian Ocean, the expedition did not reach Heard Island until 5th of February 1983.

Ruined Huts on Heard


Once on Heard Island, work went ahead and VK0JS was on the air that same evening.

VK0JS Site


The operators, Jim, VK9NS; Bob, WA8MOA; Walter, OE1LO; and SoJo, VK0SJ used the station call VK0JS while Kirsti, VK9NL used the call VK0NL as this was a new YL country. Two metal huts left over by French scientists were used as accommodation with one housing the non-radio people and the smaller one given over to sleeping quarters and operating positions for the radio amateurs.

And so the days passed. Heard Island was available on the amateur radio bands, the scientists went about their business of collecting specimens and doing tests, the mountaineers set off to climb Big Ben on a difficult and challenging route, and the journalist and cameraman were everywhere filming the animal life and everything else that moved.

Big Ben


Life was not exactly easy, but it was interesting.  The resultant film was called ‘The Ship that shouldn’t have.”

Once back onboard the Cheynes II life became even more interesting when it became clear that the ship did not have enough fuel to get back to Australia. But all was not lost. H.I.DX.A. carried some tarpaulins as spare accommodation in case all the huts on the Island had been ruined. These could now be made into improvised sails and the ship was to literally sail through the Roaring Forties back to Australia.

A dismal time followed the shutting down of the engines with expeditioners all doing their stint of watch-keeping and steering the ship by hand on the open afterdeck. No engine, no electricity except for a few hours in the early evening to keep the refrigerator and navigational instruments going. This was provided by a small generator on deck. The ship was damp and cold. Food was short and water was severely rationed. But the expeditioners all kept their spirit up and what could have become a nasty situation, passed by remarkably smoothly. The S.S Cheynes II arrived back in Albany 16th March 1983. She had then been under "sail" for a total of 16 days, under steam for three days and under tow for eight days.

The raw statistics read the 2,242 n. mile trip form Heard Island to Albany W.A.) took 27 days. The vessel was ‘sailed’ a total of 855 n. miles in 368 hours at an average speed of 2.32 knots. The vessel steamed for a total of some 811 n. miles and was then towed for the remainder of the journey. Surely the trip is an epic in its own right.

Kirsti later wrote a book about this truly remarkable expedition to one of the World's outposts:  HEARD ISLAND ODYSSEY (which is now a collectors item).