Wednesday, June 14, 2006

What is IOTA?

I've mentioned the Islands on the Air (IOTA) program before but I thought it might be nice to say a little more about it since it has helped shape some of my 100 Pound DXpedition thinking. The IOTA program is sponsored by the Radio Society of Great Britain. The program’s idea is simple: there are lots of islands and island chains around the world. Wouldn’t it be fun to talk to people on all of them?!

In order for an island to qualify for this program it needs to meet certain criteria. It must be at least a certain size, all or portions of it must be above sea level at all times, and it needs to be in “open water” of an ocean or sea and not enclosed by land. This prevents river islands in the Mississippi or islands in lake Michigan from being considered, for example.

Islands in the program are numbered and categorized by the continent they are near. The continent provides the “prefix” so North American islands are prefaced with “NA-“ and European islands are prefaced with “EU-“. Each island is then assigned a three digit number. The full list of islands for North American may be found here. Links to the lists for the other continents may be found at the top of that page.

Going to an island and operating from it is called “activating the island”. At this point, I have activated three islands:

  • Hawaii (OC-019)

  • St. John USVI (NA-106)

  • Deer Isle, Maine (NA-055)

None of these islands are particularly exotic, though I had a really great time going there and playing radio. There are some islands that are exotic like the Peter I DXpedition that traveled to the Antarctic (IOTA NA-004) early in 2006. At the time of the trip, more people had flown in space than had stepped on that little piece of the Earth.

My Trips are a great deal more modest than that! Still, when I activate an island I give other ham radio operators a chance to talk with this island, add it to their list of islands they have worked (which can subsequently be applied toward awards the RSGB offers in this program), and give them a chance to get a pretty cool QSL card that I design myself for each island activation.

I would like to encourage anybody who thinks this sounds interesting to check out the RSGB IOTA web site. Being familiar with the program will also help you get the most out of this blog since many of my planned personal DXpeditions are going to be to islands associated with this program.


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