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First operation of OC-071 by Wally as VK6YS

OC-071 was first activated unknowingly by me, as a newly licensed amateur living on Cockatoo Island back in 1976. Cockatoos island is an Iron Ore mine, and was mined continually from 1948. The mine was closed in 1984, and reopened 7 or 8 years later and is still in production today.

Having passed my exams for my ham license in mid 1976, and because CI for Cockatoo Island was already taken,I asked for and was given YS for Yampi Sound. Hence VK6YS ever since.

Yampi Sound is the name given by Commander John Lort Stokes to the deep water sheltered sound between Cockatoo Island and the mainland, during his Australian West Coast survey trip between 1837 and 1842 on the HMS Beagle. This was the voyage after they had dropped a certain Mr Charles Darwin off back at Portsmouth and recoppered the hull for the trip to survey the Western Australian coast line from Albany through to what is now the Coburg Peninsula in the Northern territory. That should also tell you why the city of Darwin is so named as well! Many of the islands in the Buccaneer Archipeligo were named after the crew members on the HMS Beagle. As for instance Pasco Island, but of course large and significant places were named after the royal family or Admirals or Generals etc, except for Cockatoo Island, so named because of the large numbers of white cockatoos that they saw when they first got to the island. Mind you, French explorers had already named some of the other islands around the Kimberley coast before the Beagle got there.

Because it was near the top of a fantastic sunspot cycle in 1976/77, and propagation was wide open to everywhere, I was speaking to many UK hams inparticular who, when told of my location, got excited and told me I was OC-071 and a "wanted" IOTA. That was my introduction to the RSGB IOTA programme, and it has been an interest ever since.

Some old pics from Cockatoo Island Cockatoo Townsite 1975 Movies Coppermine Creek Sunset

First pic is looking over the bay to the houses and quarters accross the bay
Second is the original outdoor movie theatre on the island
Third is at Coppermine Creek over on the mainland
and the last a sunset shot, during the dry season, from the island

VK6LI operation April 2004

There have been a couple of other amateurs on Cockatoo Island over the ensuing years who have kept the contacts ticking over, but the run to Pasco Island (Pasco Island location) in April 2004 on the way back from Viney Island (OC-266, was the first real tilt as a DXpedition. Bruce, KD6WW, Ron, VK8NRI, and me, Wally VK6YS operated as VK6LI. Originally we intended operating from Long Island, as there is a very nice sandy beach on the northern end, however there is also a rather nasty reef line guarding the bay, however we arrived at low tide in the evening so decided to pull in to the small bay on the South Eastern side of Pasco Island instead. A beautiful little beach, and very sheltered so much so that during the days the temperature got over 45 degrees C which made operations a little warm...

Equipment used was Icom IC706 MkIIg with Force12 Sigma 40XK antennas. We had two 800 watt two stroke generators, but one was becoming very difficult to start after the Viney Island four days, and even after stripping and cleaning the carburettor was still a problem child.

The journey off Pasco was an extremely interesting one. When we were picked up in the morning, a very strong easterly breeze had come up, and as soon as we were out of the lee of the island we ran into very rough and confused seas. Basically, there was a 25 knot Easterly on our port quarter gusting to around 35 knots coming out of Sokes Bay, and the out going tidal stream from due south at around 2 1/2 knots meeting and throwing waves in all directions up to around 3 metres high. Not fun when you are in an eight meter aluminium boat that is effectively corkscrewing its way through the water. The other issue was of course, that once we were out and committed, there was no return as to turn around would mean a very high probability of broaching and capsizing. Within minutes we were taking water over the bow, and the equipment on the deck was getting completely covered in water. The deck was permanently flooded even with the stern deck scuppers removed. Our two generators were at the back end of the deck and at times completely under water. Needless to say, they were totally junked after this. Radio gear was in cases and covered with plastic bags, but still suffered somewhat from sea water getting through. There was not enough to do any serious damage though.

The journey back from Pasco Island should have taken around 1 1/2 hours but actually took us nearly 5 hours at a very slow speed just trying to keep our head into the weather. The next issue was that with the constant twisting and flexing of the vessel, there were areas where the welded joints were beginning to fatigue. First to go was the 75 mm tubing welds that held th aluminium canopy. Of the four posts, two broke at the top welds causing us to have to make running repairs with ropes tying the top on while being thrown all over the ocean. After about 3 hours, there was a mighty crack under the deck where I was standing, and Ron the skipper looked at me,and I looked at him then I lifted the deck carpet, and as we both suspected, the deck plating was cracking at the welds. Luckily by that time we only had about 30 minutes to run to get into the lee of Point Torment so the seas dropped immediately and we could take stock of out condition. From then on it was only another 45 minutes into Derby wharf and dry land. Ron the skipper did a great job getting us back in one piece and sort of dry, but the boat was in need of some serious repairs afterwardds.

A great run though with lots of great memories...!!!!

Some of the pics from the Pasco Island DXpedition

Pasco Pasco Pasco Pasco Pasco Pasco Pasco Pasco

First pic is all the gear on the beach late afternoon just after arriving on Pasco Island
Pic two is Bruce KD6WW operating at night
Three is me Wally VK6ys at a very temporary operation on the beach, alongside the salubrious accommodation area
Pic four is just a general shot down the beach
Five is the view from the operating tent
Pic Six is Ron VK8NRI at the mic
Seven is yours truly VK6YS in bright sunshine
and eight is the the bay in the evening just before sunset

Island Location

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