Whitby Amateur Radio Club
Whitby Amateur Radio Club • P.O. Box 24 • Station Main • Whitby • Ontario • L1N 5R7 • Canada
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GOVERNOR ISLAND DXPEDITION
This report written by Alfred A. Bengel VE3TIG
The adventure began several months earlier when the group made the decision to select Governor Island, NWT, in lieu of Charlton Island as the destination for our Dxpedition. Preparation began with application for our callsign, VE8B and determining the eligibility of the Island for the IOTA program.
The ensuing time passed quickly as maps were ordered and equipment was borrowed, purchased and tested. Although unable to accompany us on this year's Dxpedition, Lyle , VA3DXE was a most able quartermaster and succeeded in obtaining many of the items needed to make the Dxpedition a success.
On the day of our departure Aldo, VA3AG and Fred, VE3TIG agreed to meet John, VE3VGI at his home in Bailieboro, from which we departed at 07:00 on Saturday, July 26th. after attaching and wiring Bob, VE3LLE's trailer containing our equipment to Fred's van.
While mobile on our way north and on our return trip we had a 6 meter mobile whip antenna mounted on one of the 15 ft. sections of aluminum tower from which we attempted to make contacts on 6 meters using the Alinco DX-70. We had purchased a Garmin 12XL GPS unit so that we would know exactly what grid square that we were in while mobile. During our 1833 Km. drive we were concerned that we arrive at our destination during daylight as we did not want to camp on the mainland, as a result we drove through the night arriving at our destination at 05:30 AM.
North of Matagami, Quebec there is road block at kilometer 0 on a 600 kilometer strech of road where you are asked to check in and notify the Ministry of Natural Resources personnel where you going and how many are in your party. You are also asked to notify them on your return trip to make sure that nothing has happened to you. They have emergency telephone cells every 50 kilometers along the 600 kilometer strech of roadway. A gas station is located at kilometer 381 where we decided to obtain gasoline and although our tank was low on fuel it cost $ 50.00 to fill the tank. It was the most expensive source of gasoline during the entire trip. We ecountered a second road block, staffed by Cree Indians, at the edge of the Cree Indian reservation, approximately 100 kilometers from the town of Chisasibi. They were looking for people smuggling alcohol into the reservation.
As our van had the 6 meter antenna mounted on the trailer and the Hustler mobile HF antenna on a magnetic mount on the van roof as well as a dual band VHF/UHF antenna mounted to the roof rack they could see that we were not your typical tourist. Indeed, the many teenagers that were wandering around town at that early hour asked us what we were doing there.
It took us a while to locate the director of tourism of the Chisasibi Mandow Agency, Sherman Herodier as we were not expected until 10:00 AM. The Night watchman drove us over to Sherman's Home as he was just getting up when we arrived. On that wet drizzly Sunday morning Sherman later introduced us to Jimmy Kanatewa, our Cree Indian guide. Each member of the Dxpedition had taken along two twenty litre jugs for water that Jimmy filled for us at a local spring and brought to the departure point where his freight canoe was located on James Bay. We were told that there would be a lake on the Island and some of our maps indicated that so we also took along a PUR Hiker water purifier. We also thought that there would be a navigation tower thirty feet in height that we could take advantage of but neither the tower nor the lake were to be seen once we arrived on the Island.
The amount of equipment we had required two trips of Jimmy's large 24 foot freight canoe. As the rain and waves on James Bay increased it was decided that the second trip with the equipment would leave from the more sheltered waters of the Grande Riviere at Fort George Island. John and Aldo made the first passage with Marlin, Jimmy's son navigating the canoe while Jimmy and Fred took the second load of equipment over to the sheltered waters of Fort George to await the return of Aldo and John. During the first trip the boat almost capsized on two occasions because of the load, the wind and the waves. During the second trip the boat was heading into the waves and received a constant pounding which placed a great deal of stress on the equipment. Water from the waves and rain made the voyage less than pleasant.
We arrived during high tide and so did not have to carry our gear very far. Fortunately the rain stopped briefly after we arrived on the Island allowing us to erect three sleeping tents. As the rain increased in intensity we could hear thunder and lightning in the distance we decided to go to bed and leave the erection of the operating tent and antennas to the following morning.
Our first night was an uneasy one as we had hoped to reconnoitre the island to ascertain whether there were any bears on the island as we had been told that there might be. as a precaution we decided to get out the bear repellent and load the rifle and shotgun. In the morning we erected the 40 meter rotatable Cushcraft D-40 dipole with which we would establish contact with Bob, VE3LLE who from his cottage in Minden maintained daily contact with our families. John's home-brew two element 20 meter antenna was erected next. We had intended to place the twenty meter antenna on a thirty foot tower that the Heritage Amateur Radio Club in Cobourg had loaned us. Unfortunately the high winds persuaded us to erect only one-half of the tower on the twenty meter antenna. In order to fasten the base plate in the rock, holes had to be drilled for the plate and then again for the three anchor points.
We had taken Lyle, VA3DXE's generator along to provide the power for the drill, the camcoder batteries and Aldo's electric razor. At one point the batteries powering the radios were so low that we had to use lyle's generator to charge them. The 6 meter antenna was the same 4 element beam that Ken, VE3FIT loaned us the previous year on the Polar Bear Express Dxpedition with which we made so many contacts from Moosonee. It's smaller wind resistance allowed us to place it 15 feet in the air without any wind effects.
Each of the three beam antennas had a rope attached to it so that we could not only rotate it but also keep it in place. Following the erection of the three beam antennas the operating tent was erected. We attempted to erect the mess tent, loaned to us by Margaret, VE3BNN, however, although we located the tent in a sheltered area, the extreme wind destroyed several of the poles of the tent as we tried to erect it and as the bugs were virtually non-existent we decided to forgo a mess tent. We erected a card table and covered it, the barbecue, and the stove every time it began to rain.
We moved all our gear into the operating tent to secure the tent in the wind and began operating in earnest. The tent poles needed to be further secured in the wind and a tarpaulin was placed on the windward side of the tent to help in sheltering, and protecting the operating tent. Unfortunately the high wind increased proceeded to tear the sewing on the tent and buckle two of the poles. A decision was made to remove the equipment and supplies and relocate in a different area and a different tent.
The new operating tent was a four person dome tent that Fred had used the previous night. We decided to pitch it in the shelter of the island's shrubs from which location it performed flawlessly during the duration of our island stay. Fred had taken along an additional two man tent and a bivisack which we were going to use to camp overnight during the trip up and back. We had also taken an older tent along to use as an outhouse in the event that the bugs would be as bad as on Akamiski Island. This tent was then used as our second operating tent. Although it was pitched in the same location as the previous operating tent, its profile was smaller and not as subject to the wind as the previous tent.
Radios used consisted of a Kenwood TS-440SAT, TS-450SAT and an Alinco DX-70 transceiver which has 10 watts on 6 meters. Although we took a laptop computer along we decided to log contacts using paper and pencil which was fortunate as the severe pounding during canoe crossing caused the hard drive to fail.
We received some form of precipitation every day. It either rained or we had a fog or mist cloud roll in and cover everything in moisture. We were constantly covering up equipment against the rain. One was always hoping that it wouldn't be raining when it was time to eat or relieve oneself. In order to determine whether we had any bear on the island John, VE3VGI and Fred, VE3TIG with rifle and camera in hand went on a tour of the southern portion of the island which was largely covered in rock. John completed the tour with video camera in hand the following day by looking at the northern portion of the island which had a lot of sandy beach especially at low tide. Wildlife was very sparse consisting of some Mallard ducks which we spooked during the rain on our arrival on the island as we landed. We did see a few finches, hawks and cranes during our stay. from the shotgun shell cases and wads that were found in the rock holes it appears to be a favorite hunting ground for waterfowl in the fall.
As we were leaving Chisasibi, Aldo was invited to hunt caribou in November by Jimmy our native guide. Both John and Fred tried fishing for the sea trout that were jumping in the early morning from the waters surrounding our campsite but were unsuccessful in catching anything. The waters surrounding the island was subject to a tide that produced miles of sand flats covered with the accasional large rock. The missing skegs and bent propellers of the native outboard motors were a mute testimony to their presence. We expected the river water to be salty, however, that was not the case.
The constant rain formed water pockets in the rock holes on the island from which we could have obtained water if we ran out but that was not the case. Because of the cool wet conditions, nobody was inclined to go swimming in the river, although some of us used the sun heated water filled rock pools to bath and wash ourselves.
John's experience on Akamiski Island the previous year gave us a concern for insects but these were not a problem during our trip as the strong wind and rain blew them away. After two days on the island John felt that we should try the 80 meter dipole out with a reflector. The dipole was fastened at one end on the 20 meter antenna's tower and at the other end to the 40 meter mast. The reflector was suspended on several poles that were anchored in the rock and bushes. We received excellent signal reports using this antenna although we made only 15 contacts on that particular band.
In spite of the fact that we only made 149 contacts, Aldo was so impressed with our 40 meter rotatable dipole that he decided to buy it once we arrived home. We had taken 4 deep cycle batteries along that were used to power three radios so we were always charging batteries. In addition to Lyle's Honda generator we used the battery charger that John and Bob had construct for the Akamiski Island trip. This consisted of a Ironhorse Lawn mower engine running a 40 ampere alternator and although extremely noisy it did the job very well.
Our food consisted of a mixture of eggs, bacon, steak, canned chicken and corned beef. We had intended to purchase ice, potatoes and bread in Chisasibi, however, the store would not be open until noon and we wanted to get to the island before the weather deteriorated further. We had several packages of pita bread and Swedish crisp bread which lasted the length of our stay. Several steaks, salami sausages and chicken breasts had to be discarded as they spoiled toward the end of our trip. We must say that "Chef Aldo" makes a "mean" steak that would be the envy of any steakhouse. John and Fred looked forward to Aldo's perked coffee every morning to help start the day. Our big meal of chilly was one of the many highlights of the trip as the hot meal warmed us up after a chilly day on the island. As we left the island we still had additional food in the form of several cans of tuna, chicken and corned beef to feed us in the event that we had to stay longer on the island.
Our day of departure from Governor Island, August 1st, began with a light drizzle of rain as we rolled up our sleeping bags and took down our antennas and tents. We had taken down the 80 meter dipole and 20 meter beam and tower the previous day so we still had to take down the 6 meter beam and the 40 meter rotatable dipole. The decision was made to leave the operating tent and 40 meter dipole as the last items to be taken down in the event that we could not be removed from the island at the appointed time which we had agreed upon which was sometime between 10:00 and noon. We received word from Bob, VE3LLE that our guide had departed Fort George docks to pick us up so we proceed to finalize our packing. Aldo and Fred were on the first trip back to the mainland while John remained on the island with the remaining equipment. Fortunately the rain stopped and we were able to use the video camera on our voyage to the mainland.
While Aldo and Fred loaded the van and trailer for the return trip home, John impressed Marlin and Jimmy by contacting hams in Southern Ontario. By the time John arrived on the mainland with the remainder of the gear the sun was shining and we were able to take our time packing the trailer and van. We decided to go into Chisasibi and pay our bills, grab a sandwich and telephone our families. As we left Chisasibi we got gasoline and air for our trailer's tires. During our return trip we decide to use the gasoline from our 5 gallon cans rather than pay the high price for gasoline at kilometer 381. We couldn't come to a decision as to whether we should stop for the night and so we drove the entire stretch back to Bailieboro without sleeping. John would like to have stopped and got a good night sleep in one of the tents but Aldo and Fred had enough of camping and were prepared to sleep in the van. We were all suffering from fatigue and as a result during the night Fred found himself waking up at the wheel over the graveled shoulder on the left side of the roadway. At that point we decided to change drivers and keep an eye on the driver.
As we neared Matagami we checked through the Ministry of Environment roadblock and entered the city where we got gasoline and something to eat at a gas bar as we were unable to find a restaurant that was open at that hour of the morning. We were very happy when we encountered our first Tim Horton's and arrived in New Liskerd to have breakfast at a McDonald's.
We arrived in Bailieboro during the afternoon of August 2nd where we unpacked our gear and headed our separate ways glad to be home and looking forward to much needed sleep. During the trip we made approximately 1,500 contacts, talking to many parts of the world.
It was an adventure that we will all remember. We want to thank our sponsor DURHAM RADIO, our wives and friends who gave of their time and equipment; without their support the trip would not have been possible.
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