The afternoon of March 22nd, around 3:30 PM local (1030z), the VK0EK expedition team aboard the Braveheart sighted land: Heard Island! After two straight days of foggy conditions, the foreboding cliffs of the Laurens Peninsula emerged as shadows, and the fog began to clear a little. Our approach did not go unnoticed. Many albatrosses, petrels, and prions glided around the Braveheart. As we rounded Red Island, an eroded volcanic cone at the northern tip of the Laurens Peninsula, we spotted Heard Island cormorants, which are only found here. Glimpses through the clearing fog revealed a glacier on the flanks of Mt. Dixon. Further down the coast, several large waterfalls cascaded more than a hundred meters down sheer cliffs into the sea below.
Coming further into the lee of the Laurens Peninsula, we saw glimpses of the steep, rocky, glaciated flanks of Big Ben through patchy clouds and fog. Many cormorants—perhaps 40—flew alongside the Braveheart, piloting us in to Atlas Cove. Along the Azorella Peninsula, near what remains of the camp set up by the 1947 Australian National Antarctic Research Expedition, king penguins were lined up to welcome us.
Upon setting anchor in Atlas Cove, the Braveheart crew scouted the landing on the beach. With safe beach access found, a small reconnaissance team was sent ashore to scout out the tent site and an access pathway for the ATV. Through brief gaps in the clouds and fog, the rosy light of sunset danced on snowy Mawson Peak as the team returned to the ship.
After dark the skies cleared. A nearly-full moon shone in the north, and the silvery slopes of Big Ben stood sentinel over Atlas Cove. Now all is quiet, awaiting the dawn light and the three-week flurry of activity it will bring.
~ Bill Mitchell, AE0EE
P. S –
Here are the final stats on our maritime mobile operation as ZL/ZS9HI/MM on our way to Heard Island:
We made 7745 contacts, with 5011 unique stations, representing 101 DXCC entities. The top 5 entities worked were K (1327), DL (867), UA (807), I (562) and UR (497).