The Story: VK9MAV Marion Reef Isl. & Whitsundays Isl. [Part 3]

by Andy VK5MAV/VK9MAV

Coral Sea Adventure

Part 3. And routine days by days …

I slept for a couple of hours and opened my eyes with difficulty. The electric boiler boiled water(again thanks to Larysa), drank coffee and only then, accidentally glancing towards the sea, I understood – I have problems. And big problems.

Perhaps not so big – but so far completely incomprehensible. When was going to bed, I instinctively checked the condition of the antennas – suddenly VDA, still not used because of the lack of propagation on 20 m band, suddenly indicated VSWR about 1:3, and it was constantly changing smoothly. But, deciding that any movements in total darkness are useless (the only source of light I had was a headlamp, discharging every 2 hours, and then there was only a glowing laptop screen), I postponed the clarification for the morning.

And in the morning after short glance towards the sea – and much became clear, and something – even more incomprehensible.

VDA wasn’t visible, but the GP was leaning. Coming closer to the water edge, I saw that the VDA, strangely changing its shape, peacefully floats slightly to the side, kept from going to seas by the cable. GP stood “on an honest word.” It’s radials were formed a cobweb with supporting ropes and partially wound around the base.

Plastic anchors lay loosely on the sand, rolling by waves – not all. One of them was on the branches of a tree J. How I worked last night – it was completely unclear.

As it turned out, the high tide almost reached the roots of the trees on the shore and my chair, stopping in centimetres from the feedpoint

The water had already started to go away, and when VDA was pulled closer to the shore, I realized that I would have to do something different. Falling, the antenna stuck into the sand and the central cross collapsed into pieces. Of course, I could try to find some branches and use the magic “blue isolation tape” J to attach the remains. But remembering how I put the VDA up yesterday, and having not a clue how I will install a now loosely wobbling design – I refrained from thinking about the restoration. Reinstalling the GP, I tried to drive anchors as deep as possible into the sand (as demonstrated the next morning, this did not help) and moved the radials so that they did not go off to the sea. As a result, I got a narrow “eight” formed by radials, 4 to each side, stretched almost parallel to the shore and the ground. The next night the water rose and stood, completely covering the radials, all the time while the propagation lasted for 40 m. Perhaps this is the cause of the mystically loud signals.

All those tasks took several hours, and since I have no 20 m band antenna temporarily I decided to continue on 40 m. Later I just took the central element of the VDA and pulled it onto the mast as Inverted V. As the following days demonstrated – on 20 m band I was heard at least 2 S points weaker, but alas.

While there was no propagation, I set up a tent. Initially, I was supposed to work from it. But the canopy was much more convenient. The tent doesn’t save from mozzies, the air inside isn’t warmer because of the large ventilation slots at the top. And most importantly – the spiders are looking for quiet places, where a lot of flying food is available. And that flying food is attracted by a larger pile of food – by me.

Below one of the visitors, seen by me, when I fell asleep – I just said “hello” to him automatically and turned off without experiencing anything. Apparently, he took it as a manifestation of cordiality and stayed for longer. The size is slightly less than the palm of my hand.

And besides, because of a constant wind of 20-30 km / hour with every minute gusts up to 50-60 km / hour the tent constantly “breathed”. The difference between the photos is 1 minute.

Unfortunately, it was not possible to install the tent properly – because of very little space; I had to tie the ropes to the canopy, bushes and the tank, leaving a 30 cm passage. Although it seems that the space is enough, in fact it is a very tiny oasis with trees, bounded by small mounds, where there is a canopy and a rainwater tank. Further around – only bushes.

On June 19, at 06.46 UT, the pile-up of the previous night continued, again at 40 m and lasted until 13.00 UT without interruptions. Japan, USA, Canada, Mexico … Of course, there were small breaks – to make coffee, to re-fill the generator, to smoke and yell insulting words to some visitors of the air zoo J. Then, after a 2-hour break, at 15 UT the propagation was opened to the Asian part of Russia, and then to the European part and Ukraine. All those calling stations were diluted by signals from Japanese stations, but at 21 UT the band closed. I could still hear individual signals, but very ghostly. I remember several operators, regularly, every hour making repeated QSOs – usually so loud that I took them from 1-2 kHz aside – but answered, otherwise no one else was heard. And also others, who had been calling loudly for hours without hearing my answer at all. After 5-10-15 responses, I usually stopped paying attention to this callsign. So if someone could not make the contact – sorry, check the receiving part of your setup.

It’s how looked like at night – and at daytime. Do not be surprised by the waistcoat – it was really cold there. By the way, on the last night on the OC-267 I tried the recipe Larysa told me about – I just got into the sleeping bag, buttoned up to my throat and worked – if I would try it before … But back to the radio.

On June 20, at 03:30 UT, the first QSO took place at 20 m band- of course, it was a station from Japan JF6XQJ. Previously, my long CQs did not bring any response back, but now the band was opened, but in very weird way – everyone was calling at the same time – Japan, USA, Europe. And almost all the time the propagation was unstable – as if someone was playing around with a switch. All stations were loud, and all disappeared suddenly, in the middle of transmission. And again. Because of this effect, many had to call me again and again – and I had to answer again and again. At 10 UT, the propagation did not just calm down, but turned off in a second, like in the Arctic.

Same behavior was exactly repeated in all following days – early in the morning (mine) – propagation on 20 m, weakly exciting Sweden, Finland, England, a bit of Spain, Romania, Portugal and suddenly transferring to Japan and the USA. After 3-4 hours, a fairly slow pileup died down for 7-9 hours. A sign that the propagation will close in few seconds was the QSO with South America. Just one – Chile, Brazil. My evening started with the same mixed propagation, but not for long, 1-2 hours. Then, when it was already completely dark and the high tide came into its own, covering the radials and the base of 40 m GP – insanity on 40 m band began.

All the rest of the time between propagations I either slept, or wandered through the sand and coral reef, as in the afternoon, at low tide, a lot of places for walks were opened. Or sitting just looking at the sky…

I collected shells washed by the tide and every day they are different,

And looked in amazement at the strange, very even holes in the sand, appearing right after the low tide. Who did make them – I wasn’t able to understand. Maybe – some fish. Perhaps – crabs or sea snakes, to wait until the next tide.

In addition – a couple of times I was engaged in the repair of the generator. I took, just in case, a small repair kit with me – a spare spark plug, a wrench, a bottle of oil and filters.

As it turned out, mozzies were strongly attracted by the light of my headlamp, especially when I refueled the generator at night and got into the tank. Well, the fuel purchased at Mackay wasn’t very good as well.

Mozzies – it was a separate problem. Till now (10 days have passed already) not all bites on arms and legs disappeared. My night shift on the air usually looked like this – with one hand I moved through pile-up on the transceiver, with other I entered the callsign into the laptop, with third I drove off mozzies, with fourth I work on the key, my head and legs also drove off mozzies and scratched one other. Legs also took an active part in scratching J.

Several times the weather was rainy, and then I had to take an action.

Life on the island went into the usual rut, the days were rather monotonous. Unexpected minor accidents only added colors. So, one day I suddenly climbed my shoulder into a spider web, unexpectedly strong, I did not even break it. In this case, the owner of a size bigger than my palm did not even pay attention – all kinds of things are running around here. The other day, making my way to the bench to continue operating at deep night, I was met by a 3-4 meter jet of liquid. It vividly reminded me of my childhood, when we made similar squirts from empty plastic bottles and ran in the summer with them along the street. It turns out that one of the plastic milk containers, completely forgotten, chose this particular moment, to a second, to finally break through and pellet me, at last.

One day, closer to the end of my stay on the island, I slept in a tent and was suddenly awakened by a rhythmic metallic knock. Something knocked on the water tank. With a smile, stretched, thinking about the birds – and sat up abruptly, having heard the interrogative “Hello?”

Dispersing the rest of my sleep, jumped out on all fours out of the tent and saw quite unexpected picture – few plastic buckets with soaked linen and a man pouring water on the woman’s soapy head. It was simple – Michael and Cathy live on a yacht, wandering around the world. Once near, they decided to use rainwater collected in a tank on the island. So they went in … When they finished, hung the wet clothes on the bushes to dry, we talked for a couple of hours about yachts, radio, travel and everything else …

“The time has come,” the Walrus said, “To talk of many things: Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax– Of cabbages–and kings– And why the sea is boiling hot– And whether pigs have wings.”

After taking away the washed stuff and filling jerry cans with clear water, they left on the inflatable boat to their yacht, continuing the way.

Behind all these worries and IOTA, in the background, I constantly had the thought – and how will I get out of here? And the prospects were not easy. I could contact via satellite phone to a diver ship somewhere nearby – maybe the current tour was ending soon and they could bring me back to the continent – no matter to Mackay or another town on the coast. Or I could contact Ron and ask, in extreme case, to send the same high-speed boat. However, both options implied very high additional costs and uncertain dates.

What to do?

To be continued.

See also Part 1 http://www.dxcoffee.com/eng/2017/the-story-vk9mav-marion-reef-isl-whitsundays-isl-part-1/

See also Part 2 http://www.dxcoffee.com/eng/2017/the-story-vk9mav-marion-reef-isl-whitsundays-isl-part-2/

 

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