T32C – Christmas Island, 2011

When the container got stuck in Tarawa and we starting looking at going into the Pacfic field day-style, I am sure I was not alone in feeling that the odds were stacking up against us. If, like me, you are surprised by the total QSOs we made in this way, I think the reasons for our good fortune include more than favourable conditions, and more than clever verticals on the beach. There was something about rising to meet the challenge which I am sure, with hindsight, put us at an advantage.

A very tangible quality of the expedition was just how well everyone worked together, and how the challenges thrown in our path were managed by the team and our sponsors in a very short, critical period before we departed. This set the tone for the rest of the trip. For example, in the first few days on the island, before we were QRV, there was a mountain of raw materials and a lot of work to do from scratch. The determination of everyone involved was contagious: up before dawn, late to bed, we were all dedicated to a common goal. It’s not something you can experience very often in normal life.

As we all worked on our projects such as power, antennas, station setups, keyers, amps, Microhams (and mine in IT, with John G3WGV and Paul KG4UVU) there were trying moments. We all found plenty of new challenges to solve along the way. I was engrossed with getting to the bottom of how the hotel’s new satellite internet connection worked, and then finding a way to distribute this vital resource through our new, super-sized LAN. I also had many Microhams to connect up using a wide variety of cables. While I was working on these projects with Paul and John, it was reassuring to see cables started appearing along the ground, through windows and down to the beach. As each hour crept by and we got closer to calling our first CQ, I really sensed that we were all moving together to build an outstanding station that would give us the edge.

Our first evening on the air was a watershed. Once we were QRV, we all had the great pleasure of running some stupendous pileups. With so many fresh callsigns to work, every band was humming with activity. I had the privilege and thrill of working the UK on 160m in the first few days, and can still hear those faint signals now from CDXC members Gavin GM0GAV and Rob GM3YTS as I think back to the beautiful sunset, fading light and crackling QRN. With a big team, you can afford to invest hours in a band like 160m while someone else works the rate bands. This is another reward of working as part of a team, and I was a very happy ham.

Friday is pay day at the hotel, and late last night I heard some of the staff with a uke and a guitar singing some local songs. They are amazingly talented – perfect harmonies, and everyone seems to know the songs. At the end, instead of applause everyone claps together three times. The audio recording I made is quite basic but I hope you get the idea!

On one night last week, we saw an absolutely enormous lunar corona. In Europe, you can see this sometimes but I haven’t see a third of the sky taken up like this ever before. I guess that on the equator, this happens more often. It was truly spectacular! Of course, light pollution and air pollution are both zero. The nearest civilisation is 1500 miles to the north.

Other than the radio, I will remember the fascinating conversations and chats I had with the other guys between shifts, and firm friendships formed – and then, as we crunched through the numbers, the shared anticipation that we were going to break some records. To be part of something special was just fantastic. Our trip was not just about making a lot of QSOs but also about innovation and camaraderie. I will always hanker to relive this five star experience!

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