Sunday, July 02, 2006

Researching an Island

One of the things I'd like to stress in all these posts is that you'll have more fun if you plan well. Planning requires thinking, sure, but also a bit of research. With Google Earth and the other view from above technologies around, you've got excellent opportunities to do site surveys that would have been impossible just a few years ago. Still, one of the best ways of doing research is talking to people who have been there. I've tried to do that in all the places I've visited. Finding people who have been to some place as isolated as Cay Sal Bank is a little tougher than most research you might do. But, it can be instructive to see how I tracked down a resource for even this:
I started by typing
na-219 dxpedition "Cay Sal Bank"

into the Google search string listed four results including this one that mentioned
NA-219/Pr W5BOS/C6A    Dog Rocks, Cay Sal Bank Cays (October 2000)

I can now see somebody has tried to get there! I went to to see if W5BOS had anything on his page about this. No luck. OK, so I Google
w5bos na-219

and come up with over 100 hits, many of which sound promising. Eventually, through some more careful Googling, I end up with

BAHAMAS, C6, NA-219 Joe, W8GEX, Wayne, K8LEE, Mike, K9AJ,
and Phil, W9IXX, are going to the Double Headed Shot Cay in the
Cay Sal Bank Cays (NA-219) signing C6DX from Mar 25-29, 2004.
QSL via K9AJ.

So, I send a little note on June 7th, 2006 to that group that reads like this:


I am interested in doing a DXpedition to NA-219 and
would love to hear about your trip taken in March of 2004.
Any information you could provide on getting there
(I'm assuming a chartered boat), permissions you obtained
and from whom to land there and stay there, and any
problems you had, anticipated or otherwise, that I should
factor into my planning.

I am in the very, very early stages of planning this.
The current thinking is for a team of four or five to make
the landing and stay for 3 or (at most) 4 days on the island.
We'd operate 100 watts (or 50) with small generators
and verticals or lightweight dipoles such as Buddipoles.
Of course all this is sketchy at best.

Again, any information or direction you could
provide would be greatly appreciated. Thank you.


-- Scott (NE1RD)

Almost immediately Joe  (W8GEX) sends me mail and we connect on the telephone for about an hour. Joe first tells me about his aborted attempt to get to the area. Rough seas and possibly weather made traveling to the island impossible. Their crew had made it to Bimini but the traversal across the Gulf Stream had so battered crew and boat that the captain was reluctant to proceed further. So, their group checked in with the Bahamian authorities and then waited for a break in the sea and sky which never came. They never made it to the Cay.
I was saddened by this for several reasons: first, they had spent a lot of money to get that far only to fall short, and secondly they had brought an absolutely first class operating crew which would have done very well had they made it. Joe was gracious and generous with his time, telling me about their plans, decisions, insights, and mistakes. The hour I spent with him on the phone was absolutely invaluable!
If you can find somebody who has been on the ground at your desired destination, take the time to interview them. Your planning will be greatly enhanced by the effort.


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