Bouvet Island DXpedition Wraps Up — via ARRL
The 3Y0J activation of Bouvet Island has finished. The team concluded operations at 3:00 UTC on February 14, 2023, with around 19,000 contacts logged. The team boarded the S/V Marama and began their journey to Cape Town, South Africa. They were expected to arrive by February 23.
Photos uploaded to social media by Steve Haas, N2AJ, the team’s Media Officer, show the harsh reality of the operating environment. The crew operated in tents, with radios and equipment stacked on buckets. Team Co-Leader Kenneth Opskar, LA7GIA, took to Facebook to tell a bit of their story. His post highlights the physical and technical challenges the team faced. “Pileup was difficult as our signals were weak. We had good reception and very often we called 3 to 5 times to log a QSO. Many DXers called but couldn’t hear us, “how frustrating,” he wrote. “We focused on fewer bands to maximize [all time new ones], and looking at the stats, we achieved 19,000 QSOs and 50% unique calls. And many dupes! Many are satisfied, but some are also disappointed by the performance of either the team or the DQRMers.”
In response to some posts on social media questioning the methods and tactics the team used, Opskar continued, “As for Bouvet, there is no guarantee at all, whether you use two helicopters or a zodiac! [We wanted] to make more contacts, but safety was and will always be more important than trying to push our limits in a risky environment.”
The effort was one of the most expensive DXpeditions of all time. The team raised $715,000 through donations and sponsorships, with each operator contributing a large sum to participate. The original plan was to operate for 22 days on the island. They had set a goal of 200,000 QSOs and hoped to operate up to 12 stations at once, across modes and bands.
As Opskar referenced, getting the equipment onto the island by boat proved to be a logistical challenge. “During the second day we got some supplies in a risky zodiac operation in high swell. We lost several objects in the surf and punctured the zodiac. The conditions on the beach were terrible. Due to the coming storm, we evacuated back to [the] Marama on day 4. Despite this, we decided to scale down [the] DXpedition… We could not fight against Bouvet, but [we] had to adjust to the weather and go ashore when Bouvet allowed us,” the post said.
Without the planned kit, the team was largely limited to two radios at once. The only location on the island that was safe to set up camp had a large terrain feature in the direct path toward the east coast of the United States. With antennas limited to wire dipoles, power limited to the transceivers’ rated output, and a massive rock in the short path to much of North America, operations were hindered.
Bouvet Island has long been number two on Club Log’s DXCC Most Wanted list, right behind North Korea. Previous excursions to the remote island have also faced operational challenges. Antarctic weather, dangerous ice, and rough terrain prevent it from being an easy activation.