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Origin history of Fericirii Island (YO), Nova Zemlya Island (UR).

This island is considered as the youngest land of Europe. Just couples decades ago the Black Sea has lapped on this place. Then, after several attempts for deepening the one of Danube Delta branches and intensive work by dredging machines, all dredged sand has moved to the sea. At three kilometers from the mainland this sand was been accumulated in foreland. And even there are no any activities of dredging machines, the island constantly increases by several hundred meters per year. For today his total length is about 7 km. There is still no name indication for island on Ukrainian topographic maps. Romanian authorities has managed to assign it the name Insula Fericirii (Island of Happiness), but Ukrainian name “Nova Zemlya” has appeared just after TV program about this island on TV channel “Inter”.

EU-191 introduction into RSGB IOTA Directory.

All the flavor of island is that one its part (with the length of about 1,4 km.) has occurred on Romanian territory and other part (with the length of more than 5 km.) has occurred on Ukrainian territory. Thus island has received its international status of “Sovereign Island”, partially belonging to Ukraine and Romania. This fact has allowed RSGB IOTA committee to introduce it into IOTA Directory under EU-191 number as the new insular territory. Although the closest island, referring to IOTA EU-182 group, is literally near by.

EU-191

Our plans on EU-191 activation.

An idea to activate the new IOTA territory of EU-191 occurred in mid-2014, just after appearance of new island. Pino I8YGZ has called me at once and suggested to organize an expedition to this island and asked to take him in the team. In the beginning he already tried to join the team of Romanian radio amateurs, which also planned to visit their part of island. But military operations at east of Ukraine and Crimea annexation (with introduction of “Emergency state” in Ukraine) has completely broke our plans. Border guard commander has categorically prohibited any visiting of island with a simple and understandable formulation: “It’s a war, men!! What the hell expedition?!” About the same answer has also received Romanian team. This island has double appurtenance and Romanian side was unable to solve this issue unilaterally, without the consent of Ukrainian side. Thus by autumn the situation has somehow stabilized and Romanian HAM team could manage its “new one” YP0F expedition to EU-191. However, they have succeeded slightly more than one thousand QSOs. Prior to our expedition this island still gained 19% in the most demanded islands rating…

In 2015 we still could not accomplish already scheduled expedition. In addition to common problems there still was no authorization to visit the island. And this year we have decided to begin by addressing top level generals in Kyiv. As a result – having written Petition from UARL (special thanks to UARL President Anatoly Kirilenko (UT3UY)), after 1 month of active letter exchange and around 30 official letters in total we have finally succeed to receive the official permission for entrance on island. Similar situation was in 1990 during set-up of the first expedition on Snake Island – creation of about 155 official documents, supported by petitions from USSR Radio sport federation and USSR Geographical society. And entrance permission was received not only from frontier guards, but also from general, the commander of air defense district.

EM5F team and equipment set up.

EM5F team was created by only four members: Alexander UR5FAV, Andrey UR5FLF, Boris UT7UT and Nikolay UX0FF.

EM5F EU-191 UR5FAV UT7UT UX0FF UR5FLF

Andrey UR5FLF task consisted in set up of a “digital” workplace. Its Icom IC-746 PRO together with RigExpert Standart was quite suitable for this purpose. Other two workplaces were equipped with my transceivers Kenwood TS-2000 and Icom IC-746. Three used laptops “Lenovo” had no COM ports and we spent a lot of time on adaptation of TR4W program to Windows 7 and on making USB to COM ports adapters. In addition I soldered PTT + CAT control for transceivers together with CW manipulation.

As expedition was specially planned from Monday till Thursday, there was no need for any PA. We had this experience from our previous expeditions EM5F from 2005 to 2007 during RSGB IOTA Contest on EU-182.

As planned, 5 masts in total were prepared together with 5 mast saddle and more than 60 long stakes, needed for their installation on sand. 2 masts (for Yagi on 144MHz  and 2 el. QUAD on 50 Mhz) shall be rotational. For masts bracing we planned to use about 200 meters of ropes. All this goods shall be packed and carefully prepared for on-water transportation.

Hope that all these details will explain why I was so difficult to be caught by phone in last month just before the expedition.

All few weeks before the expedition were cold, windy and rainy. Although we still hoped for a good weather and flat calm just before the start of expedition, as at beginning of June in our area the air temperature traditionally stuck to +35 °C. But on the eve of departure Alexander UR5FAV informed us about storm warning for Monday! When you are in the city it is very difficult to understand how serious it is and what difference for weather can be on high sea — at only three kilometers from the land.

Start of EM5F expedition on EU-191.

As Boris UT7UT shall arrived from Kyiv to Izmail at 8 a.m. on Monday, it was been decided to pick him up on the road with economy of about 3 hours of morning time.

EM5F EU-191 UR5FAV UR5FLF UX0FF UT7UT 2

On 6th of June, early in the morning, all equipment, such intensively collected during whole month and weighing about 800 kg, was carefully loaded into minibus and our team — Alexander UR5FAV, Andrey UR5FLF and Nikolay UX0FF – started its travel. At the bend to Vilkovo from Kyiv-Odesa highway Boris UT7UT joined the team and close to 9 am our minibus has arrived in Vilkovo.

EM5F EU-191 EQUIPMENT BOAT

Then we reloaded our equipment and staff in a boat and all together have moved to island. We spent about 4 hours in total for to reach the island.

Island Nova Zemlya (Fericirii).

While approaching the island, we met the first surprise: our boat can’t come to island less closely than 80 m! And my initial plan to bring also an inflatable boat was rejected apparently because used boat was flat-bottomed boat and shall approach chock-a-block this island. Finally we manually carried all our things by walking over the sea bottom. Good thing that it was not too deep. The most uncomfortable for carriage were the heaviest “fragments” of expedition: cans with 60 liters of gasoline and 60 liters of drinking water, power generator, masts and bays of cables. During such transportation there was a real danger to drown into water our big case with two transceivers. But, everything went well and after having chose place in the highest point of island, we started to set up a tent for workplaces. Nearby we set up a separate tent with two sleeping places. With working tent there was a comic situation – we could clearly see the name of one of Ukrainian political parties which was carefully hided under painting by tent owner — Andrey UR5FLF!

EM5F EU-191 BOAT ISLAND

For our “shack” we used standard tent 2х2 meters with quite suitable general design but having only one weakness – one side is completely open (no wall). Andrey UR5FLF fulfilled an enormous work with cliché preparation and printing of names EM5F, EU-191, URFF-006 and their logos on one side of this tent. It is clearly visible on photo, used for the face of our QSL card.

EM5F EU-191 SHACK

During the set up of equipment we noticed some menacing clouds, arriving from the North and we accelerate our work. We just manage to cut off 10 meters of polyethylene film and to cover with it both tents, as the heavy rain with accruing wind squalls and thunder-storm begins. We hardly manage to put inward cables from three deployed antennas: two Verticals and one VHF antenna. Defeat threat of lightnings becomes obvious, but very soon the storm front begins to move slowly by the south, towards Romania. We could see a lot of big puddles around our tents and masts, but water goes away rather quickly. Andrey takes small shovel and starts to dig some ditches for to drain water and this accelerates the process of shake deployment.

EM5F EU-191 AFTER SHOWER 2

This island is just a sand spit and its entire surface is saturated with water and becomes visibly uncomfortable. But the inconvenience is only growing: after generator startup we discover that it slowly begins to sink into the sand under its own vibration. We quickly find a solution – we lay on sand some trees branches, drifted to island from the sea, and shift our generator over it. Another inconvenience is directly connected to the working table with equipment and individual chairs. All their legs go immediately into the sand up to the half of their length. We have found a reliable solution almost at once: on each leg we put on some big seashells (from Black Sea Rapana), we see them a lot on island sand and now we can easy sit and work. Periodically, however, these shells do not withstand our weight and crack, so it is necessary to replace them with new ones. We collected a lot of seashells and stocked them near the legs.

EM5F EU-191 GENERATOR

On The Air!

At 7 p.m. all three workplaces were ready — two for HF and one for VHF. The first QSO was carried out at 16:14 UTC (19:14 UKR). Andrey UR5FLF is confidently working with BPSK63, and me (Nicolay UX0FF) on CW. Existing “pile-up” is very encouraging! Before the start of expedition we set as a goal to make at least 8000 QSOs for three days and it seems to us quite real! But we still do not know what will happen next…

EM5F EU-191 ANTENNAS

Lack of PA actually does not affect the QSO’s rate and naturally we work with “UP”. Periodically some JA and USA stations break through European’s “wall”. We plan to start direct calls a little bit later, when will come down the first “squall” of calling stations. CW rate is constantly high; there is more than 180-200 QSOs per hour.

EM5F EU-191 OPERATED BY UR5FLF 2

Couple hours later Boris UT7UT replace me and now he continues “to rake” this Pile-Up. I move to next workplace, where I replace Alexander UR5FAV and make several QSOs on 145.500 in FM mode with our colleagues from Izmail (it’s about 110 km). Well, connection with our mini-antenna VHF is quite reliable.

EM5F EU-191 OPERATED BY UT7UT

Twilight comes quickly and we decide to install the rest of our antenna and mast only in the morning. We put a piece of PE films on sleeping tent’s bottom because it’s impossible to sleep after rainstorm without such isolation. As agreed, it will be Boris and Alexander who shall sleep the first. Boris spent all previous night on the way; he travelled about 750 km. in bus and obviously needs a rest.

EM5F EU-191 UR5FAV TENT

At this point, we discover the wind increase and can see that our tent starts to rise! We stop the work in air and try immediately to fix our big tent by sticking its perimeter with a few dozen of wire rod stakes of 8 mm diameter and about 50-60 cm in length. But the wind is growing dramatically and we have just to stand up there and manually hold down all frame tubes from inside. Sleeping tent was been struck down and for to avoid its complete loss we leave it folded with additional stakes over it. Then we are trying to cover windy side of “shack” with all available cans, but the total of 140 liters was clearly not enough. Hurricane still growing and we feel vague fears that very soon all of us together with the equipment will be taken by the sea. So, inside the “shack” we attach diagonally a strut from two pipes with diameter 47mm. and 2,6m length. Then we hammered mast saddle and strengthened it with some stakes. It was a very good idea: now it becomes easier for us to keep our “shack” in this position. The air temperature drops to + 5° C and together with wind of 30 m/sec it clearly remind the beginning of our Bessarabia winter!

Work on air and fight a wind storm.

Onward we work by the scheme: two of us are making QSOs and other two are holding the tent for not to be blown away. Normal work in such conditions is simply unrealistic: hurricane periodically slams the monitors on laptops and drop down the tables with equipment. Only together we can hold the tent on place, even after it’s strengthening by strut. We get used to blowing wind and it seems even to go down a little. At 2:30 a.m. Alexander and Boris go to sleep — they crawl into slammed tent and assess the high quality of warm sleeping bags “Made in USA”, specially received for expedition from one of my friend with the words: “You shall sleep-in naked, otherwise you will choke from the heat!”

EM5F EU-191 STORM 2

Together with Andrey we stop our work and decide to only hold the tent till the return of second part of our team. The hurricane does not fall down, but it also does not increase and we are really happy on this. We found one obvious advantage from this hurricane: there is no one mosquito around us! Earlier we were just bitten to death by crowds of gadflies and any other insects! But hurricane has carried away all of them from the island! And birds are also not visible; probably they flew away on the continental part of Dunaiskyi Biosphere Reserve (URFF-0006). Then we try to disperse a little, but we find out that the frame of our “shack” begins to rise at once. Close to 4 a.m. we decide to switch places with our “campers” because of hypothermia effect. And we want to stay warm a little bit and to test in practice the promise of friend “to choke from the heat”!

We creep into sleeping bags, nevertheless dressed. After my exclamation: “How pity that we can’t make any video of this!” Andrey has managed with his smartphone to make a short video inside of tent. Well, it is warmly but obviously it falls short of a heat. We try to sleep but it was too difficult while the hurricane throws our slammed tent.

At that time Boris UT7UT and Alexander UR5FAV are working on air by rotation. Thus one of them holds by two hands a frame of “shack”, and second was holding the tent by his one hand and by another hand was entering QSO’s data on keyboard and then presses some TR4W program functional buttons.

EM5F EU-191 OPERATED BY UT7UT 3

As very soon the fuel in our generator will be at the limit, Boris passes “5 minutes QRX” to correspondents and run to fill-in the generator with gasoline, having bent down under wind and Alexander courageously is holding our tent. Now everything is OK, they swap the position and EM5F callsign is still on air, and again we have a Pile Up! At some moment the squall presses on lateral wall of our “shack” and brings down the second table with two transceivers. Again we have to send a QRX to all correspondents and to save our equipment. And then again – CQ on air!

EM5F EU-191 PILE UP

Boris UT7UT and Alexander UR5FAV were keen on work on air and holding our “shack” and then… In early morning at 6 a.m. Alexander picks up us with the words: “Gentlemen! Our island is going under water!” We creep out of tent and can see big waves, lifted by wind at sea and rolled here and there through the island with a lot of splashes. The entire island is wet, we see a lot of pools around and water could not go into the sand or flow back to the sea. We hardly manage to take out all stakes from sleeping tent and to drag it closer to our “shack”.

EM5F EU-191 TENT NEAR WATER

МThe place for “shack” was chosen very precisely and this sector (4×4 meter) of island is still dry. And I manage to take all happening on video. We are ready to hold in hands all our most valuable things: at least our transceivers and computers. Fortunately, the winds change the direction and water does not arrive any more. We all stand in heavy thoughts: what will we do so further? Obviously, there will be no place for to sleep…

EM5F EU-191 UR5FLF AGAINST THE FLOOD

Andrey starts a smartphone with Romanian SIM card and we find out in weather forecasts the approach of one more storm by the evening. And we decide to start our generator, originally situated in 50 m from the “shack” for noise reason – there everything is still flooded by sea water. We place it chock-a-block the tent and then start it – well, now it’s very noisy. So, we choose the tightest earphones and begin to work on my Icom IC-746. We were very concerned when switching on both transceivers and their power supply units after this hard night. Our generator “sneezes”, but it works so far. And we work again only in CW and after 500 QSOs finished we decide to switch also to SSB. I start on 10 meters as the only remaining antenna is 8-band vertical, with strong oscillation from wind and widely “dancing” SWR. But, obviously, nobody waited us there: many correspondents started to give his name and QTH. Thus we succeed to raise SWR with tuner on 14,260 MHz and after the first spot a good “nibble” begins. I pass UP 5 and manage to carry out about 200 QSOs in 53 minutes. Our rate reaches 293 QSOs per hour. The end of expedition comes sharp and clear: the generator stalled without any chances to continue the work in this extreme struggle for survival.

EM5F EU-191 OPERATED BY UX0FF

We call by phone our captain and start to prepare everything for loading. Wind goes down just a little but in these conditions our captain must remove an awning from boat, so the time to reach us now is longer by one hour. At 16:30 of local time the boat has approached the place of mooring, but high water does not allow the boat to closer approach the island, so there are still 80 m of water way by foot… Wind constantly drags the boat from one side to another and complicates its loading. We suffer from sleepless night and this time we carry everything back with bigger water level. But finally all things were loaded without any loss. Later, however, we find out that while loading we somewhere dropped and obviously drowned Alexander’s mobile phone.

EM5F EU-191 UX0FF AFTER DXPEDITION

It is surprising that moving away from the island and penetrates Danube for just a half of kilometer, the wind was simply disappeared! Obviously, the location of island itself in the high sea implies such state of affairs.

Then started the return process:  reloading of all equipment back into minibus after boat arrival to Vilkovo. We succeeded to send Boris back to Kyiv at 9 p.m. from the same bend to Vilkovo at Kyiv-Odesa highway. And we all three safely reached Izmail by 11 p.m. on Tuesday, exclaiming in chorus: “How good is at home!

Working in fits and starts for 12 hours in total we have made slightly more than 2000 QSOs and Gennady UX5UO will now print our QSL card.

The whole week went on restoration of all seedy equipment. All transceivers, computers and power supply units had to be opened for to examine and to clean them attentively from the sand, particles, etc. I am glad, that nothing serious has occurred and all of them are in good condition. And really glad, that we made this task, even if we succeed to make only 25% of planned QSOs. I still sort and range on place all things after this expedition.

Epilog.

There are no any plans for to make one more expedition this year. And it will be difficult in the future: there is a serious problem with visiting this island during the incubation period of nesting birds, included in “Red List”. Such visits without any damage to birds “colonies” will be possible only on late fall! And common sense tells us that if in June there are such disasters, it is not difficult to imagine how it can be hard, say, in September — October…

EM5F EU-191 BIRDS

At the end of the article is published a small selection of photos along the history of expedition. Soon we will also mount and publish the video – with him it will be much easier to present everything as described above.

We thank you all, who called and supported our expedition! To all, who did not succeed to call us: please, wait for our new expedition on EU-191!

73! de UX0FF & EM5F Team

June 12, 2016

 

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