VK0EK – March 6 – April 20, 2016


I’ve added a Weather menu item called “Weather” on this web site – so you can go directly to windyty.com and then position the globe over the path that the Braveheart is traveling. You can see that there are winds that are heading towards Heard Island and a “blue green” circular rotation that might offer a good path, and this path extends all the way toward Kerguelin, which is right along the way to Heard Island. Of course, winds change, so this is a dynamic process. It will be interesting to also watch the Tracker and see which route the skipper of the Braveheart actually chooses.


If you look at their path, which is straight south from Cape Town, you can see that it seems like they are trying to “go with the flow” of the wind, which is circling counter clockwise south and east of Cape Town. This will be fun to follow along with!


When we met with Nigel Jolly of Stoney Creek Shipping, and planned the course of travel, we learned that positioning the ship from The Falklands (after the VP8 DXpedition) to Cape Town made best sense, and then because of the prevailing winds, ending up in Perth also made best sense. Part of this is because the Braveheart will return to Palmerston, New Zealand after the VK0EK DXpedition, and a big side benefit is that this path offers the best potential to have “the wind at their backs”. Our trip just happened to fit in nicely as far as “itinerary” was concerned.


Amateur Radio, and especially “DXing” is great fun because it combines science, geography and many other aspects which make it a multi-faceted hobby. The possibilities to learn and discover are endless, which is why it can be a life long enriching and exciting hobby. I got interested in radio in 4th grade when I did a book report for Mrs. Goodens 4th grade class on Marconi. I grew up in Newton, NJ, which is in Sussex County. We also went on field trips to Edison’s lab in Menlo Park, NJ. So – here is a shout out to all of the schools who are following along with this Science and Ham Radio Expedition, and a special “hello” to Morristown High School – which is quite close to where I grew up. In fact, I took my first computer programming classes at County County of Morris – very close by. I have been in the software industry ever since and it is directly related to me being a ham radio operator at a young age.

In the above map – you can see South Africa, several “dots” that are islands along the way to Heard Island, and Australia in the far upper right of the map. Lets zoom in now:


Its a bit hard to see, but there three island “groups” along the path from Cape Town South Africa to Heard Island. I encourage you to use Google maps or other maps to follow along and learn more about the geography of the South Indian Ocean and its islands. Most are not just single islands, but Archipelagoes – or groups of islands. And these islands are special – most are actually volcanoes with their peaks sticking above the ocean making the island. Some are even active and have lava – which is the case for Heard Island. In this blog, I will offer information about each of these island groups along the way. Lets travel from left to right (West to East) and the “funny tags” (i.e. ZS8, FT/W, etc) are special radio prefixes that are used by ham radio “DXers” or “distance chasers”. This subgroup in the Ham Radio hobby are keen to make contact with as many far away places as possible – and all of the islands listed in this blog are highly sought after “prizes” for DXers. In the above map, you see ZS8 – this is Marion Island. It is a possession of South Africa and managed by SANAP:


Here is a special “QSL Card” – or radio contact confirmation card for a friend and VK0EK Team Member, Pierre Trompf – when he was stationed at Marion island for a year:


Next in the path and chain along the VK0EK route is FT/W, Crozet Island, which is a possession of France and is administered by TAAF:



Next is the largest island group – and which an archipelago, and this is Kerguelin, also a French possession and also managed by TAAF:



Heard Island is next – and as you can see is the farthest away from South Africa and Australia:


It is an Australian possession and is managed by the AAD:


As you can see – all of these web sites are downright beautiful and fascinating. If I had not become interested in ham radio at age 13 – when I received my first license, I might have never learned about these interesting places. And the biggest bonus is to not only learn about the geography, geology and bio diversity of each island – but I can use my radio station and antennas in my back yard to actually make contacts with ham radio operators and scientists who visit these islands!

I will highlight each of these islands as the team passes by – first up will be Marion Island – in tomorrows blog.

Happy Friday and 73,

Rich, KY6R

6 thoughts on “Geography and Weather on the Way to Heard Island

  1. Jan ZS6BMN says:

    Hello Rich, KY6R,

    Thank you very much for this most interesting summary! It would appear that Radio Hams everywhere have developed their interest in our fascinating hobby along the same lines. I also became interested in Amateur Radio at a young age (15), but due to local regulations could only become a Radio Ham at age 18. I started working at Derdepoort Radio and seeing that all official communications with the islands and the SANAE base then had to be handled there, interest in those far off interesting places came naturally. Being more favourably located tin South Africa those ‘rare’ islands on the way to Heard were worked many years ago!

    Just by the way: Yesterday I have celebrated 50 years as ZS6BMN! Not too active on the transmitting side, but a very keen listener!

    A small balloon launched by Andy, VK3YT, with call sign VK3ANH recently came down in the icy sea just after passing Heard Island. I could copy its 25 mW WSPR signal on 30m up to that point, but Ken, ZS6KN, could copy it to the end. I have then studied the area and it is still fresh in my memory… The balloon flew down the West Coast of Africa before a similar wind pattern carried it down South. It must have flown right over Heard Island at an altitude of 9000 metres before it started going down.

    Good luck to our friends on the ‘Braveheart’ and will follow them with the greatest of interest. (My sister, Maxie, ex-ZS6BSU, is also monitoring closely and I am trying very hard to get my sister in Australia to include this mission in her geography lessons).

    Sorry about relating the story of my life here… I do not want to clutter things with my musings, so please feel free to erase it – after reading it, of course 🙂

    Vy 73 de Jan, ZS6BMN

    1. ky6r says:

      Thanks very much Jan – your story is excellent and adds to the VK0EK Story – which we very much appreciate!



  2. Brian Roberts says:

    Rich, thanks for taking the time to put together “the rest of the story” for us. Like you, I’ve been interested in this sort of thing since my grade school days–particularly surrounding the Antarctic region and its study. For me, learning more about our planet is just as rewarding as rewarding as logging those “faraway places”. Heard Island and the other rare ones in the south Indian Ocean are going to be real challenges for my modest operation, but it’s only part of the hobby. I’m looking forward to future articles from you and others on the geography, climatology, wildlife, propagation, etc. Cheers! Brian K9VKY

    1. ky6r says:

      Thanks Brian. So much to learn and do. Good luck in the pileups!


      Rich KY6R

  3. Kay Schmieder says:

    Fascinating. I will be following this with interest.

    1. ky6r says:

      Thanks Kay. I look forward to getting the buoy information soon.

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