Par Siegfried Presch, DL7DF
The DXpedition to Guinea had just ended and the question was asked: Where do we go next?
The Conds was indeed on the way to the 11 Solar cycle maximum and and so we looked at the Pacific for our next destination. It did not take any great effort, there were not many areas in the Pacific, which came into question. So, in the end, we chose the Kingdom of Tonga (A3). The DXpedition started March 2012. At the beginning, there were the already known « hard core » consisting of 5 Ops, then 10 and finally 9 radio amateurs on our list. There were Frank DL7UFR, Juergen DL7UFN, Reiner DL7KL, DL4WK Wolf, Manfred DK1BT, Andy DL5CW, Les SP3DOI, Jan SP3CYY and Sigi DL7DF. On March 4, it was finally time. We started our trip from Berlin Tegel to London, Hong Kong and finally arrived after a further 25 hours of flight in Auckland, New Zealand. There, an overnight stay was planned and where we all met. There were unexpected problems with customs on our arrival in Tonga. The luggage was brought to the main customs office and there we had to fill out and post some paper. Our equipment was returned after a gfew hours. After reaching the hotel, the darkness did not last long. We wanted to start the installation of antenna systems the next day but, as the way life goes, guided agreements and implement them in reality, should make difficult on this occasion. We did not expect this and were therefore angry. Our planned places for the antennas were not agreed to by Sven, head of the house. Antennas yes, no problem, but please not visible. Pardon? After some discussion, however, two locations for the spiderbeams were found and they where accepted by Sven. There was no agreement for the verticals and so the beach remained taboo. We were able to work stations from Japan, USA and Europe under average conditions. The officer from the licensing authority had annouinced an isnpection the following day. Probably more of a formality, as it turned out later but it all seemed very official. There then followed the expedition daily routine: radio, eating, sleeping and relaxing to be fit for the next night. Several days of intense radio operation were followed by a strong solar flares that made the bands into pure noise bells, which not really recovered by the end of the expedition. On the day only a hand full stations could be heard, not Japanese or U.S., so we had time to explore the island.
Heilala Holiday Lodge is located near the Christianity Landing Place. The first Christians arrived here under the command of Captain Abel Tasman (1643). However, the first Christian missionaries, who came from Australia, cam eto know the Umo, the traditional Polynesian earth oven, from it’s inside. When they ran out of gifts, they soon fell victim to the native cannibals.
Tonga, one of the oldest kingdoms of this earth, now a constitutional monarchy, political parties do not exist, consists of three major island groups, Tongatapu in the south, Ha’apai, Vava’u in the centre and north. Further north is the small Niua’s group. Fantastic cruising grounds. Tonga extends approximately between 15 degrees and 23 degrees south and 173 degrees to 177 degrees west. Its total area covers about 362500 square kilometers, the land area in this immense area is only 178 square kilometers and is spread over 170 islands, 36 of which are inhabited permanently, the official languages are English and Tongan. The time difference is 12 hours. The climate is tropical, occur in rainy seasons and hurricanes often. There are different religions: Catholic, Mormon, Methodist but also the Baha’i – religion is practiced. We visited a coral gate that was set up by ocean breakers (The Pigeon’s Doorway). On Ha’amonga-a-Maui (Trilithon) we visited the Tongan « Stonehenge”. Here, two huge coral blocks were buried, spanning the height of 5 m with a 6 m long horizontal stone. No one knows for sure how this 35 ton building was created about 800 years ago and what purpose it once served. The stones are from the neighbouring island of Wallis and Futuna, located about 850 miles from Tonga! In the evening, in time for the opening of the bands, we were back at the station. If nothing happens, there is still PSK 31 and so this mode was also one of the most important. Europe moved ever further into our focus. When stations were heard on 40m at night to good times, all was nullified by a radar station with S9 plus. This radar station disturbed the whole band and brought the operation to a halt. In addition to the radio operation, there were other highlights. There were two highlights promised: a pig in an earth oven, the Umo, and an evening with a barbecue which filled us with anticipation. There were really two nice evenings with typical local food culture. We learned to know Kava as a local traditional drink made from the pepper tree roots. This is something for a fan of the original beverage. We were more happy on a beer Mata Maka but the social gathering of the crew will remain through the dances and music from Tonga in good memory. Despite the poor propagation conditions, filled the log and the days just flew by. The amount of stations in Europe increased to our pleasure, the « EU only » takes effect. We decided to build more antennas. A delta loop for 40m with vertical feed and a 2-element quad for 12m should help to optimise the radio operation. This made it possible to use very short band openings without leaving another band. The last few days passed by very quickly. The last QSO was operated with OH2BCK and then we went quickly to packing the equipment. We reached the airport at a comfortable 30 to 35 km/h, which is the speed limit in Tonga. More than 41,000 QSOs with a total Europe content of over 35%, we could be satisfied.