Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The arbitrary nature of amateur radio entities - or What's wrong with Rockall?

Looking over at Colin, MM0NDX's Hamspirit blog, I noticed some interesting comments from 'Island Man' regarding getting amateurs interested in his trip to Rockall.

"I think that the Ham Radio people need to consider carefully why Rockall is such a sought after location to activate, even though it is on Europe’s doorstep. If there are radio hams out there looking for a guaranteed tick they should forget about Rockall, but if they are looking for what could be their ultimate activation challenge anywhere in the world this trip is for them.

A challenge is never a guaranteed tick, this is what makes it a challenge. I would be amazed and disappointed to learn that there is no radio ham in the world who does not possess a sense of adventure and is ready to take on the ultimate of activation challenges – Rockall."

Interesting comments! Of course, the simple truth is that though Rockall would be an intriguing place to visit or indeed operate from, it's not a separate DXCC entity. What makes a DXCC entity is, of course, well-defined by ARRL's DXCC desk. To an outside to amateur radio, the rules may well appear obtuse and hard to fathom. Perhaps they are! Though you'd get a fair amount of interest in any operation from Rockall, it would not be DXCC interest.

IOTA is still more interesting! I have never quite forgiven the IOTA programme for its arbitrary nature (arbitrary to me, at least!). Back in 1989, we went to Porto Santo (CT3) which is some 40km from Madeira. I received a curt reply from the IOTA administrator at that time - that it was the same as Madeira. Really? It's 40km away! Why?

The point of course, is that IOTA is not wrong. They have to set their own rules for the programme. The same is true for DXCC or any other awards programme. It may be hard for outsiders to fathom - but as long as it's consistent to the programme, it probably doesn't matter.

Rockall would probably count for IOTA as long as the operation is 'authorised'. But though interest in IOTA is strong, it's a mere fraction of interest in DXCC.

As such, any operation from Rockall will be interesting, but from a mere awards point of view, is unlikely to set the bands on fire in the same way as an operation from, say, North Korea.

Funny old world! I wish Island Man and his team well. Rockall will prove a fascinating challenge - just getting there and getting on the air. I would be surprised if an amateur did not take up the challenge, but I'd be surprised if it was a 'regular' dxpeditioner. Rockall is a different beast.

1 comment:

Col MM0NDX said...

Hi Tim

Thanks for further broadcasting this news.

I should like to explain how all this Rockall/Radio Ham business came about recently.

Rockall is Iota EU189 - the rarest island in Europe, perhaps the world to try contact. Indeed, only 261 lucky hams ever have, which accounts to less than 3% worldwide. Off the top of my head, i can't think of any other island so inaccessible.

So, to Rockall and Ham radio. Having had a fascination with this place (i really have no idea why - perhaps when younger the shipping forecast enlightened me a little, together with the excellent, satirical Rockall Times website - now sadly ceased). Anyway, in short, last Autumn i put a "feeler" out to the ham world via my webpages asking "Ops required for EU189". The response surprised me. Ops from Spain, Italy, Australia, Belarus and Germany were interested. A team was quickly assembled, even an expert climber was secured. It all looked good for a June 2008 landing.

Having tried every skipper possible to get us there proved the biggest problem. 99% will not "touch Rockall with a bargepole". Island Man is very fortunate to secure a Cat 0 yacht to take him out there. (Cat 0 is ocean going, and not so many are available). The very few who did agree to take us wanted £20,000. Not so expensive split eight ways. However, as a team member said at the time, £20,000 could put a semi-rare DXCC entity on the air for a week or so - you can't really argue with that. We scrapped plans, but maybe not forever. Personally, let's see what 2009 brings - i'm still very tempted - unfortunetly now I can't make any of the proposed trips this year.

Having had recent dealings with the world's most travelled person (Charles Veley) I bookmarked his website for future reference. Charles very kindly supplied never before seen photos of Bouvet Island when he was there a few years ago. They were used on the 3Y0E website which i and others set up in recognition of a South African ham operator. Indeed, he's now on ZS8 (Marion Island)

Anyway, one evening browsing Charles' website, i noticed his latest news about him going to Rockall with Island Man soon. Emailed them both immediately explaining the rarity of Rockall in ham radio terms. Andy (Island Man) and I now communicate regularly about his planned trip to Rockall. This is why Rockall and Ham Radio have been advertised so much recently. The awareness had to be known to others. I'm not in a position to say whether a ham is going or not this year, but you never know!

Regarding DXCC status of Rockall. Over the last festive period i contacted Bill Moore (DXCC manager) to clarify exactly the position with Rockall and it's status. The reply was fairly blunt, but the jist of the answer - Rockall has been enquired about before, and probably will be again, it's something of a bone of contention. That was about it.

I still wondered, not being completely satisfied with the reply. I read the DXCC rulebook again. In short, although Rockall is 350km from the mainland, it is not 800km from the nearest island (that being Outer Hebrides or even Ireland!) However, due to Rockall being a GM/MM entity in the IOTA directory, should Scotland ever obtain independance and join the UN, it might then become a "new one" as the island is far enough away from the parent capital city. Yep, it gets confusing. Infact, i could be wrong?

Suffice to say, wholeheartedly agree with you Tim in wishing Andy and everyone else going to Rockall the best of luck and sea conditions. It promises to be an exciting journey to this beast!

Vy 73



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