By John Mark Reed, HC2JR, QST, July 1950HC8GRC, The StoryTo a sixteenth century Spaniard they were merely a new archipelago of barren and volcanic islands not worth naming or claiming. To sailors whose ships were often deviated from their course by the changing Humboldt Current, missing the islandic cluster entirely, they were “the enchanted islands”. To Darwin they were the inspiration for his theory on the origin of the species. To General Vilamil, an Ecuadorian leader born in New Orleans, they were the opportunity to add territory to Ecuador and start a colonizing scheme. To numerous scientific expeditions they were a perfect setting for studying nature – nature practically untouched by civilization and aptly called by Reebe “World’s End”. To dozens of individuals of various nationalities they were a chance to start life over again. To the United States they were – during World War II – a base 600 miles off the coast of South America from which to eye the Pacific and protect the Panama Canal. And to several thousand radio amateurs the world over they were a new country for DXCC.Ever since HC8ME broke into print (Ecuador Earthquake (1949) prematurely and gave amateurs hope of working the Galapagos Islands, it was obvious that some day somebody would have to go there. Therefore, in January of this year the Guayaquil radio Club started the ball rolling on plans for such an expedition. Although we were almost ready to give up the project on several occasions because of the difficulties involved, six of us got finally off on April 17th aboard the small Ecuadorian Navy patrol boat Esmeraldas. Engine trouble held us op the river for 24 hours but the next day we were really on our way.Our expedition was made up of the following operators: Teresa (Terry) Reed, HC2TR, Jorge Philippe, HC1JP, and the author John Mark Reed, HC2JR, operating English and Spanish phone; Sofia Philippe, XYL of HC1JP and Cesar Ramirez, HC2KB, working Spanish phone; and P.K. Mybre, HC1PK (W0FQA), main CW operator.Equipment consisted of 32-V1, 32-V2 and TBS-50 transmitters, 75-A1 and NC-173 receivers, single wire fed half wave antennas for 40 and 80 meters, folded dipoles for 20 and 6 meters, and a 3-element wide space beam with rope rotator for 10 meters. Two 1500-watt motor generators were taken along for power.There had been many last-minute changes in our plans so, once at sea, we made it a point to get on the air maritime-mobile under the call HC9GRC to spread the word about our impending operation. Although rough weather, seasickness, and a failing generator cramped our style, we did make 116 QSOs on 10 and 20 meter phone. The first two Stateside stations contacted were W2YHY and W4AZD and the only Europeans were DL4GU and G2AKQ.We dropped anchor in Wreck Bay, San Cristóbal Island (Chatham), at 1645 CST April 21st. The transfer of our 48 valuable bundles from ship to shore by sloop was a delicate operation. We could ill afford to lose our remaining motor generator to the floor of the ocean at this stage of the expedition! The unloading was finished at 1800 and the matters of food and getting settled were relegated to second place while we set up antennas and prepared for the important business ahead.HC8GRC first got on the air at 2012 CST on 20 meter phone. The first 20 stations worked were in the following order: HC1AZ, HC2KB, LU6AJ, HC2OL, HK3CK, CE2DY, LU8CW, W8HGW, W3LOE, W7HIA, W9HP, W0MKF, W3LTV, W0BFY, W3NA, W3BES, CO7RQ, W6PL, W4BFU and W4IYM. CW operation on this band started at 0217 April 22nd with the following QSOs: W2CBS, W6GPR, W8DNC, W6GAL and W9QDW. Ten meter phone was fired up at 0742 April 22nd with the following first contacts: W4OGJ, W5JCW, W4ESP, W5MNH, W4REK and W5NMA.At times we worked 10 and 20 meters simultaneously. During the night when the 10 meter band faded out we sometimes got on 7 Mc CW although in this we were limited because only one CW operator good enough for the situation and he generally found it best to work on 20 meters. A special effort was made for the 80 meter CW gang on the evening op April 24th. We worked W4BRB at 2125 and QRP W2QHH at 2130. They were followed by KV4AA, W2EQS, W3JTK, W8YJE and W2ATE. Later, on the 27th, we worked W3DGM. It is interested to not that W2QHH, W2JTK and W4BRB worked us on four bands – 80,40,20 and 10.We were particularly anxious to help Honor Roll members up on rung on the DXCC ladder. When we heard that W6DI was off the air with his regular rig and calling us from a 14 Mc, 25 watt mobile unit with whip antenna, we took a good look for him and made it. However, we did not feel so happy about the fellows who informed us that they were working us for their first HC or even first South America contact!Our main disappointment was the 50 Mc department. We started out with the high hopes, working HC2OT twice on the way down the river. Thereafter we had no luck, though we called faithfully on phone and CW on 51.34 Mc at 1930 CST every day.One of our goals was to work as many stations as possible and at the same time contact as many countries as could be heard. Unfortunately, DX conditions were highly unfavorable for Asia and Africa and only partly good for Europe and Oceania. Therefore, we found it logical to concentrate on W-land in order to satisfy the largest possible number of hams. Nevertheless, we did work 69 countries and WAC in the course of 2116 QSOs. We know e worked 46 states but are not sure about South Carolina and Utah. We were disappointed about in the number of countries worked on CW and are certain that our total would have increased by 20 or 30 if the W-stations had not piled up on us regardless of whom we were trying to QSO. In this situation a rare DX station can do very little unless it refuses to work anyone. Since we were at HC8 to work as many stations as possible we could adopt that attitude.On phone we generally had two persons at each rig, one operating and one keeping log. As can be easily imagined, this left little time for sleep. After the first day of trying to live on home standards we did not bother to undress for the three hours in each 24 that we closed our eyes. In some ways we worked harder than we did during the Ambato earthquake emergency of last August. The work was more nerve-wracking last year but here was a QRT from midnight to dawn whereas in the Galapagos there was no such respite.Our original plan had been to remain on the islands for 15 days. However the suspension of the sailing schedule for April 3rd upset all our calculations and limited our time.We did not have time to search out a Galapagos turtle and only once did any of us go fishing in this fisherman’s paradise!.The return trip, which was very rough sailing from beginning to end, finished the job of wearing us out out and it was difficult to distinguish between te four OMs and the 26 liberated members of the penal colony in Galapagos who returned to Guayaquil with us. Bur our reward was to be found waiting for us on arrival in hundreds of QSL cards and dozens of fine letters from amateurs in all parts of the world, expressing appreciation of what we had done to give them a “New One”.Being DX hams ourselves, we were naturally aware of the urgency with which HC8GRC QSLs were awaited. The print order was issued immediately on our arrival and in four days every amateur who had requested the special service had a card on the way by air mail, addressed personally to himself. In four days more we were up to date and the rest of the cards had been air-mailed to QSL bureaus all over the world. We did this because we felt that those who had sent their cards to us by air mail immediately after the QSO were particularly anxious to receive one and because the results of the special QSL service enabled us to go to this extra expense in getting out the cards to the bureaus.Everyone is asking if we shall make a new trip. The XYLs say “NEVER”. The rest of us say “Perhaps”. And those who stayed in Guayaquil sat “Sure, we go the next time.” Actually, the Guayaquil Radio Club has requested a license for a new member who has just settled on the islands. He is Bud Divine, owner and master od the schooner Symbol. Although much of his operation will be maritime-mobile, his presence at HC8GRC has made him very conscious of the demand for Galapagos contacts. Bud has promised to operate from ashore as often as possible, which should take care of the Ws. But the Guayaquil Radio Club still hopes to give the other continents a break and, incidentally, complete DXCC for HC8GRC by visiting the islands at some time when DSX conditions are at their best.A man should keep his friendship in constand repair (Samuel Johnson (1755).
Prefix HC8At the time of the DXpedition, the Galapagos islands, had not an assigned Prefix.The prefix HC9 was used for the MM QSO’’s on route to Wreck Bay, San Cristóbal Island (Chatham),