VK9RS - ROWLEY SHOALS OC- 230

By Stephen Pall, VK2PS


The VK9RS Team.
(left to right) Mal, VK6LC; Steve, VK2PS; Jim, K9PPY; and Sam, CTIEEN

The charter boat was slowly approaching Imperieuse Reef. The 900 HP twin-screw engines of "Kingfisher III", the 17 meter long game fishing boat, throttled down from normal cruising speed of 22 knots to 10 knots. 

All of the team was on deck, looking apprehensively at a slim, white sand line, barely visible in front of us - at a distance of about 3 kilometers. The white sand line was Cunningham Island, a longitudinal sand cay (17-31-31 South, 118-56-46 East). The island appears much smaller compared to some old photos that were seen previously. There are no trees, shrubs or grass, just gleaming white coral sand. The line of sand is broken only by a man-made stainless steel lighthouse, similar to a free standing rocket, about 40 meters in height that flittered in the sun. The lighthouse is situated on the north western side of this small island, about 200 meters away from our landing point, standing in the sea on the edge of a narrow rocky lagoon.

It was early morning, local time, on the 21st of September, 1999. The charter boat has dropped anchor just outside the reef and the loading of almost 2.5 tons of equipment into two 4.5 meter aluminum dinghies has begun. It took the two dinghies seven trips across the vivid green waters of the shallow coral reef lagoon, to land the equipment on the island. Fortunately, the waters of the lagoon were very calm and crystal clear, so no mishaps occurred. It is now 2340 UTC (0740-AM) and we are on a narrow beach with mountains of bags, cables, waterproof boxes, generators, tent poles, tents packed in bags, disassembled aluminum tubes belonging to a variety of antennas, drums of fuel and barrels of drinking water. 

The aluminum dinghies have departed - the charter boat is now only a small dot on the horizon and we are alone, no other sound except our own. The weather was fine, blue skies, no clouds and surrounded by the green-azure waters of the lagoon, a merciless, blinding sun shone on us. The air was heavy with moisture. 

Four radio amateurs, facing the unknown on a tiny speck of sand, filled with the zeal of missionaries to activate amateur radio for the first time on a little island which is off limits unless one has a special landing permit.

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