Jan 6, 2013
It is not our intention to present here a detailed account of this very eventful operation. However, for the record, we would like to offer a brief summary. After having taken a couple of accidents (Chochi – the boatman, and Jose/LU2WAZ), and after abandoning the primary gear intended for the operation (two rigs, many accessories, waterproof laptop, a tent, etc.), we succeeded to return to the island in the evening of Jan 4. Alex and Cezar landed first, swimming hard against the tidal current and hull, while avoiding the shallow rocks. After a quick check, we noticed that our fears materialized and everything we had left behind a day earlier was lost. We knew that this was likely to happen, but had no choice. As such, we asked Johan and Miguel (LU2WMM), who came with a second transport, to bring the spare rig and antenna. Pablo (Jose’s son) was phenomenal in identifying the most convenient swimming path and landing spot through the foamy waters, securing our position on the sharp rocks, and pulling the heavy drums from the water. Landing is possible when the tide decreases toward the minimum, and it can only be done on daylight in the evening. By the time we had everything on the island we were left with only half an hour to spare. We worked very hard to make a pathway through the “lobos marinos” (which are different than sea lions). It was Miguel’s determination and ingenuity which allowed us to get on top of the island just in time. We made a huge noise using two whistles and an improvised drum, and kept a heavy rope and a boat paddle handy. The antenna was set up using flashlights and head-lamps. We decided to operate under the open sky, and keep the little tent we had with us for rest. During our stay on the island we only had water, a few cereal bars, and a couple of apples. Within half hour we worked on 20 m stations from five continents with was indicative of the good propagation conditions. Since the spare rig didn’t work with our only electronic key left, we had to remain in SSB. However, this allowed us to maximize the number of different stations logged. At any time we used one operator, two guys as guards, while resting one person. After 17 hours of operation, the team had to go QRT. Having already had a couple of accidents, the logistical team wasn’t keen to take any chances. Everyone returned safely to the mainland. We had definitely intended a longer operation, so that we can give more chasers the possibility to put SA-096 in their logs. Unfortunately, a series of circumstances prevented us from doing so. Nevertheless, we made over 2,050 QSOs with stations in 6 continents. We take full responsibility for the decisions make, including those which led to so many valuables being lost at sea. This being said, any donations, any support from the IOTA community at large that will help us continue to defray some of our expenses, and replace our equipment will be highly and publicly appreciated on the DXpedition website. It is our belief that future attempts to operate from Escondida Is. will benefit highly from this experience.