By Gus Browning, printed in 73 Magazines in 1967reprint by PA0ABMGus Browning story, Part 29Bouvet Island All the while we were on Bouvet Island, the ice breaker was slowly circling the island, taking pictures and plotting a depth chart of the ocean in the immediate area around the island. They were down there with the idea of looking into the possibilities of finding a place on the island to install a weather station. I am not sure of the exact size of Bouvet island, but I would estimate it to be about 5 miles on each side, and it is more or less square in shape. The wind seemed to blow all the time from the southeast, and that's where the cold weather came from I suppose. Why anyone would want to possess such a place on this earth is beyond me, unless someday the earth shifts on its axis and Bouvet Island is shifted further north making it a habitable place to live. Radio conditions were fine almost all the time. The bands went out about 3 AM and would start to open again around 6 AM. But all signals had that far away sound most of the time, with the exception of stations in the southern part of Africa, which was only around 1,500 miles away, making them just the right distance to get their first hop reflection from the Heavyside layer. Oh yes, you should have heard those S-9+ signals from ZS2MI over on Marion Island and the same with signals from the VP8*s over on the Falklands, South Georgia, South Shetlands, and the signals from the boys down on Antarctica were "out of this world'* —solid S-9+ evervtime I heard them. It's funny how your source of QRM shifts as you travel around in the world. On Bouvet it was the ZS stations and a few VP’s and the others on Antarctica. But since there were not too many of these, it was no bother to me unless they were within a few kHz of stations I was in QSO with. Bouvet was just about the most QRM-free spot I have even been, I would say. The W/K's, most of the time, were up around S-8 when the band was open, and it stayed open to W’s almost all the time. The W's actually were the QRM makers! The most difficult places to work were Australia and New Zealand, not because of the distance, but because they were fairly well shielded from the point where I was located on Bouvet, How any VK or ZL ever got a signal through to me seems impossible, since they were on the other side of the straight up and down cliffs. Possibly it was some kind of reflection or back scatter, but I did manage to work a few of them. To the rest, I say, "I'm sorry— but I tried my best to work everyone I could hear." Each day I had a number of schedules with the boat as it circled the island doing survey work, hist how many times they made this circuit I never did find out, I think they made each trip around a little further out so they could have a good depth chart of the waters around Bouvet in case they ever wanted to return there at some future date. The longer they stayed the better it suited me. At the end of the 4th day they told us to be ready to depart the next morning around 10 o'clock. That night I stayed up and never did get in the sack. I did manage to have a few QSQ's on 80 meters after all the other bands went dead. But the vertical I used was not made for 80 meters and the SWR was something around 10:1 as near as I could measure. Which made for not too good efficiency on that band and when you consider I was only barefoot all the time, I guess I did OK. The next morning about 9 o clock we had our last QSO from Bouvet Island. My stay at Bouvet was not as long as I would have liked it to be, but at least I got there and made almost 5,000 fellows happy by giving them another "new one". It seems absolutely impossible for anyone to go there unless they come across another "ice breaker" to get them there. To charter one of these monsters is out of the question with the normal contributions you receive from the fellows back home. You could probably charter one of these boats but considering the cost of chartering a much smaller boat, I would think it would be something like $10,000 per day- The price continues while you are on the island operating. So by doing a little quick figuring, let's say it takes two days from Capetown to get there, plus five days on the island and then 2 days more back to Capetown you will have tied up the ship for seven days— $70,000. We all know that a ham DXpedition can't afford to spend this kind of money just to put one DX spot on the air. After a lot of rushing around taking down the tent, taking the vertical down and separating all the sections so it could be put back into the waterproof bag wrapping up the power plant, all the suitcases, etc. took about one hour. We just made it by the time the small boat came up for us. After slipping all over the frozen rocks and loading the lifeboat as it went up and down with the slow-moving ice floes, we jumped into the boat and after another hours trip we arrived back at the ice breaker. The derrick-like crane lifted us back on to the ship and The Bouvet Island DXpedition was over. The captain of the ice breaker decided to head south after LH4 land, possibly even going down to the South African weather station on Antarctica. While the ship banged away at the ice floes, I got busy and put up a long wire for some /MM operation. While we were on our way, I wanted to keep the boys informed of our progress. My own opinion of Bouvet Island— it's a miserable, cold, damp, Godforsaken place and not fit for humans. My last view of the island, some 10 or 15 miles away, was a big white chunk of ice sitting on top of the water. I got going on the air late that afternoon and the first 3 QSO's I had asked me, "when was I going back to Bouvet," They said they had missed me! I told them not to hold their breath until I returned. Of course, if I had the chance, I would go there again tomorrow. The further south we went, the heavier and thicker the ice pack became. It took a lot of backing up and full steam ahead to break up the ice for the ship to get through. An ice breaker works like this: the bow of the ship protruded some distance out from the ship at a very slight angle. Up under the bow the bottom of the ship had a rather sharp edge and when the ship wanted to get through the solidly frozen ice pack it would back away from the ice and then full steam ahead. The ship would slide up on the ice and the sheer weight of the boat plus the sharp edge underside woqjd sort of break and cut through the ice, When the ice broke there would be a sharp snap, then a big splash as the bottom of the boat hit the water up under the ice. Then it would back away and steam ahead into the solid ice again. This was repeated over and over, gradually bringing us closer to Antarctica. After about 3 days and nights of this maneuvering we were finally some 200 or 300 miles south of Bouvet and all the time the ice pack was getting thicker and the weather getting much colder. It was rough going and very slow forward motion too. At the rate we were going, it’s hard to say how long it would have taken us to get to the continent of Antarctica, I never did get the chance to find out because one time we banged into the ice and then the water started to freeze in back of the ship, making it difficult to back up for the next banging ahead job. The Captain decided, right then and there, that it was time to stop going south since the ice breaker might get frozen into the ice pack if the weather and water got a bit colder. After a lot of back and forth effort the ship was finally turned around and we headed straight for Capetown, South Africa, All this time I was on the air except when I was out on deck watching all the action that was taking place breaking through the ice pack. Getting back to Capetown took three days and nights. After two days we departed from the ice floes. The ice pack starts at a sharply defined line and when you leave this line you only see a few pieces of floating ice here and there and an occasional iceberg. Leaving the ice floes, we came into what I call the "whale waters," Many of them were seen, usually in herds it seemed to me. Sometimes as many as 25 or 30 would be seen with their water spouts spouting water. When we were close enough I could actually hear them "blow," I suppose that's where the expression "there she blows" comes from. Many times the ship would get right into the middle of a "herd" of these whales and most of them would dive straight down, with that big tail flipper sticking straight up. When you consider the size of these animals, it's hard to believe how well they can get around in the water. Nothing sluggish about them that I noticed; they had plenty of life. The afternoon of the 3rd day, the big mountains Just out of Capetown could be seen. Suddenly we were back in civilization again and it did seem good to be back. There on the docks were my friends Jack and Marge (ZS1OU and ZS1RM) waiting for me. They both pitched in and helped me unload everything and we went to their home some 25 miles out of the city at a beachside place called the Strand. As usual, they had their "Fridge" full of Cokes especially for me. Their fruit season had come in while I was away, so they were loaded with every kind of fruit you could imagine. Peaches, grapes, figs, plums, apples, melons and some other fruits I had never seen before. Since my stay was a short one, I didn't have time to really "do my duty" in regards to eating all that fruit. With regrets, the time came for me to depart. I had lots of places to visit and operate from before heading back to South Carolina . . . and Peggy. . , W4BPDback to part 1A man should keep his friendship in constant repair (Samuel Johnson (1755).
Gus Browning , LH4C
Bouvet IslandThe island was first spotted on 1 January 1739 by Jean-Baptiste Charles Bouvet de Lozier, after whom it was later named. He recorded inaccurate coordinates and the island was not sighted again until 1808, when the British whaler captain James Lindsay named it Lindsay Island.The first claim of landing, although disputed, was by Benjamin Morrell. In 1825, the island was claimed for the British Crown by George Norris, who named it Liverpool Island. He also reported Thompson Island as nearby, although this was later shown to be a phantom island. The first Norvegia expedition landed on the island in 1927 and claimed it for Norway. At this time the island was named Bouvet Island, or "Bouvetøya" in Norwegian.After a dispute with the United Kingdom, it was declared a Norwegian dependency in 1930. It became a nature reserve in 1971.