Group post-pandemic travel plan: get as far away as possible
Of the many post-pandemic travel plans underway around the world, few are as extreme as ham radio operator Dom Grzyb has in mind.
The semi-retired Polish businessman is looking to spend tens of thousands of dollars this year to drive a party of eight to Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic, an uninhabited place largely covered in glacial ice. The odds are not favorable.
Strong winds and massive waves hit ships entering the area. Among the travelers who manage to see the island of Bouvet, which belongs to Norway, some never make it ashore. Shards of beach give way to sheer rock and ice formations that reach 100 feet and more.
“It’s the most isolated island in the world,” said Mr. Grzyb, 47. “It is also one of the most dangerous places in the world.”
Bouvet Island is also the second most sought after place in the world to contact among amateur radio enthusiasts. These destinations attract the more adventurous of the three million operators in the world to set up temporary transmission stations.
Amateur radios, which connect users over great distances using updated 19th-century technology, work anywhere an operator can carry generators, fuel, amplifiers, antennas, and the tools necessary for them. make it work. The So-called Hams have compiled a list of 340 places that range from the most difficult places to the easiest to contact places, starting with North Korea No.1 and US No.340.
Hams pride themselves on reaching the rarest outposts. On the other end of the transmission are those who set up the temporary stations, like Mr. Grzyb, who in 2015 transmitted from the holy grail of hams, North Korea. Their job is simple: go ahead, light up, come home alive.
“We’re crazy,” said Tommy Horozakis, who lives near Sydney, Australia. “For us, it’s the thrill, it’s the adrenaline rush, being able to work people halfway around the world and bounce your signals through the ionosphere without the internet.”
Mr Horozakis, 53, plans to lead an expedition of about 10 people in November to an uninhabited island in the shark-populated waters of the Coral Sea in southern Papua New Guinea.
“I won’t swim too far from shore,” he said.
The destination is part of the Willis Islets, a group of three small islands that includes two uninhabited sand cays, and one that is home to a weather station with an average population of four people year round. The islands rank 38th.
The trip will include a journey of approximately 35 hours to transport the team, as well as ham radio equipment, tents, food and porta-pots. It will cost around $ 5,000 per person.
Mr Horozakis, who owns businesses in telecommunications and pest extermination, said a spike in Covid-19 cases could prevent him from traveling between his state of New South Wales and Queensland, where he booked the ship. “If it doesn’t go ahead,” he said, “at least we tried.”
These excursions are called DX-peditions, DX denoting, in amateur radio jargon, transmission over long distances. Missions, like most international travel, were largely scuttled last year during the pandemic.
Once activated at the remote site, the temporary stations establish tens of thousands of contacts with remote operators, each exchange lasting a few seconds. The prize for those returning home is a postcard or electronic confirmation, as well as bragging rights among peers.
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Hams spend a lot of time and money improving the range and performance of their radio stations to establish rare and distant connections. In a digital world, where almost anything can be replayed, there is no replay. Once a DX-pedestrian ends, there may be no further activation from that location for years or decades.
Mr. Grzyb spent three days on Bouvet Island in 2001. He tried again in March 2019. The team came within 63 nautical miles when the vessel lost its communications antennas in a storm and had to re-enter. South Africa. “It’s for the crazy people,” he says.
In January 2018, a team sailed 12 days from Chile to Bouvet Island, but bad weather prevented their two rental helicopters from flying. After one of the ship’s engines broke down in a storm, the captain had had enough and returned to port.
Adrian “Nobby” Styles expects a smoother ride. The 53-year-old, who lives in south-east London and works in the food distribution industry, has set his sights on the Maldives, ranked 138th on the hams list because they are more travel-friendly . He has already canceled twice because of the pandemic.
“Hopefully this will happen at the end of September,” said Styles, who will need three flights to get to his destination in the Indian Ocean with his wife, Maxine.
“She loves being in the sun all day and I can’t do that,” he said, “but I like playing on the radio.”
Write to John McCormick at [email protected]
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