IOTA EXPEDITION TO THE PHILIPPINES 2002

by Ken Frankcom G3OCA

After the last minute cancellation of our long planned expedition to Mexico I spent much time investigating other possible areas of interest. I made contact with Roy DU9/G4UNL who invited me to visit him and hopefully travel on to OC175, a much wanted group. Whilst in e-mail correspondence with the Philippines National Society one of my e-mails was seen by Brian DU1MS. This chance event led to the development of a much more ambitious undertaking, the activation of 3 IOTA groups.

Sponsorship was generously promised by CDXC, IREF and my own club NHARG, the organisers of the Elvaston Castle National Radio Rally. The expedition programme entailed operating from OC175, OC120 and OC126 all in the space of just under 3 weeks, the maximum time allowed to visit the Philippines without having to apply for a visa.

DU1MS was in charge of making all the plans for travel and accommodation. whilst I would arrive with 2 complete stations including power supplies, atu's and antennas. OC175 soon started to present problems. At first George DU9HK advised that provided we paid for some additional military support all should be well, but this advice was soon altered by new information provided by George's relatives on OC175 that the present situation of Muslim rebels plus pirates on the island made the operation much too dangerous. In view of this OC175 was cancelled, OC235 was chosen as a suitable alternative.

Flight day finally arrived and with it the first hurdle, check-in on Qatar flight QR001. The hand baggage limit was 7 kgs. and they actually weighed my 13 kgs. flight bag. Some fast talking did finally get it on the aircraft. A phone call from Manila Airport to DU1MS soon had me installed in a rather down-market hotel convenient for Brian's QTH if little else. The cockroaches did scrunch well underfoot!! DU1MS is a student and has a serious lack of finances, which meant that no firm bookings had been made, as no deposits were available. This was the start of our travel difficulties, OC120 our first target group has no scheduled service and we just could not get a flight within the available time, however hard we tried.

We finally had to accept OC90 as the only convenient substitute. We took off in a 2 seater single engine aircraft, which had flown some 43,000 + hours, and had a top speed of 90 m.p.h. The flight took almost 2 hours mostly over the sea!! Landing on the dirt air strip on Coron Island we met the reality of the outback Philippines. Brian and I were taken in the local standard transport, a covered extended sidecar driven by a motorcycle, to the local Diving Centre. This consisted of a 2-storey building built on concrete piles over the sea. The lower floor was a restaurant above which was a large terrace and accommodation. The two 10 ft. banisters were found to support the 2 element wire delta trap at a height of about 17 ft. The rail around the terrace and sundry other fixing points meant we soon had the antenna firing straight out over the sea. The railings also provided for the R5 vertical mounting point. Propagation was fair and we were soon in business with our DZ1MS special call. Propagation was only fair but one did make over 1500 QSO's. Our propagation forecast prepared by G4YVV was found to be quite accurate as usual but signals were in general weaker than we had hoped. The restaurant was excellent and we were sorry to leave such a good location.

A newer 4 seater aircraft took us back to Manila for the next leg. The flight to Mindanao was in a large jet aircraft and on arrival we were met by George DU 9HK and Rick WB9QH, who had arranged our overnight hotel for us. Bright and early next morning we headed for the local dock and boarded the boat for the 1 hour crossing to Talicud Island. We were joined by Joe DU9JC and had plenty to talk about on the lovely calm crossing. Landing on Talicud Island beach we were soon busy putting up a series of antennas in a grove of coconut palms just 10 yds. from the sea. Two stations were again set up, my TS50 and a FT100 on loan from G4CWD. For antennas we had the 2 element wire delta loop, 3 element 10m yagi, RS17/12m rotary dipole and the invention of Rick, a 5wave length terminated half Rhombic some 40 ft. high. The termination consisted of 3 x 40 watt 220v. light bulbs attached to a counterpoise, which ran under the main antennas. This really worked well on 20 M in spite of the really poor propagation we had on the island. Power was only available for 6 hours a day, food was almost non-existent and we had the biggest thunder storm it has been my misfortune to experience, made worse by the fact I was sleeping in the open!! Only 500+ QSO's were made due to the problems we encountered and although we were sorry to leave such a super location, food and civilisation beckoned us back to the main island.

The next morning we left Manila for our third Island The 4 seater light aircraft landed safely on the airfield serving Lubang Island. Here Air-Link has established a flying school and it was their resort DU1ERV had arranged as a base for our operation. We were shown to the VIP suite on the second floor of a small building overlooking the sea. An adjacent garden area provided antenna space. However a 6ft. high chain-link fence directly in front of our delta loop I am sure reduced its effectiveness. Our two stations were soon in operation on a balcony and as usual the JA stations flooded in. Night brought a multitude of "bugs" and I found it necessary to retire inside the air-conditioned room to operate and avoid being eaten alive.

Over 1700 QSO's resulted in the three days of operating, propagation being marginally improved. The air-conditioning, fridge and large comfortable bed made a welcome change. Departure time came around and the end of the active part of our expedition. Over 3500 QSO's were made in spite of the poor propagation and lack of power. What might we have achieved with a little more good fortune.

My grateful thanks to, DU1MS Brian for all the his hard work in making arrangements, DU9HK George for his help on Oct35, DU1ERV for his making the Air-Link resort available for our use, and finally to 4F2 KWT Gil who should have joined us having provided expedition T-Shirts but was unable to do so, perhaps next time. Finally thanks for the financial support from CDXC, IREF and Nunsfield House Amateur Radio Group and the following essential individuals, G4CWD Equipment and computer log, G4YVV propagation and antenna design, M3KUI QSL printing and MO ADG for her continued support.