After False Starts, Midway Island DXpedition off to Good Beginning
After the airplane scheduled to take the K4M DXpedition team from Honolulu to Midway Island developed engine trouble, there was doubt as to if the team would even make it to the island. But Murphy didn't get in the way -- mechanics found the necessary parts to get the plane in the air safely. After a four hour flight, the team arrived on Midway at 0700 UTC on Monday, October 12 to start operations; they were initially scheduled to arrive October 9. Originally scheduled to be on-the-air for 10 days, the team might not be able to extend their time on the island, due to US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) regulations.
Earlier this year, the USFWS announced that they would open Midway Atoll to Amateur Radio operations for two weeks only, from October 5-19, 2009. Tom Harrell, N4XP, of Monroe, Georgia, and Dave Johnson, WB4JTT, of Aitkin, Minnesota, have put together a team of 19 operators from all over the world to activate Midway Atoll for a 10 day period as K4M. This is the first time that the USFWS has allowed amateurs to operate from the wildlife refuge since 2002.
"Midway ranks as #24 worldwide and #13 in Europe on DX Magazine's Most Wanted List," Harrell and Johnson said. "Activity will be on 160-6 meters with 5 to 6 stations. At least one station will be active on 20 meters around the clock for those who need it for a new country. Major efforts will be made to meet the demand to the most needed geographical areas, the low bands and RTTY." The team has posted a list of planned frequencies, as well as timelines for the best propagation, on their Web site.
In January of this year, the USFWS started a program to encourage visitors to experience Midway's wildlife, history and culture, as well as non-wildlife-dependent activities -- including Amateur Radio. To ensure the safety of the wildlife on the Refuge, Midway Atoll Refuge Manager Matt Brown said that Amateur Radio operations will be permitted for two weeks only, and only within a designated area on the north side of Sand Island. Brown also said that while portable generators will not be permitted, there is 120 V power available at the operation site; any modifications to the island power grid/infrastructure must be approved in advance and be paid for entirely by the radio operators.
Brown said that the K4M team will attend a refuge orientation shortly after their arrival designed to enhance visitor safety, wildlife protection and overall enjoyment of the wildlife refuge. "Although determined to be a wildlife-compatible activity," Brown said, "this [Amateur Radio] opportunity is being conducted on a trial basis." Brown has the authority to discontinue the activity at any time, based on wildlife protection and conservation goals.
Midway is located in the North Pacific Ocean (near the northwestern end of the Hawaiian archipelago) -- approximately 1250 miles northwest of Honolulu -- about one-third of the way between Honolulu and Tokyo. At less than 150 miles east of the International Dateline, Midway Atoll is truly "midway" around the world from the Greenwich meridian. The atoll is an unincorporated territory of the United States and is the only atoll/island in the Hawaiian archipelago not part of the State of Hawaii. Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is owned and administered by the USFWS on behalf of the American people and has international significance for both its historic and natural resources.
In 1988, Midway became a National Wildlife Refuge, at the time subject to the primary jurisdiction of the Navy. In 1993, the Navy decided to close the Naval Air Facility after more than 50 years of continuous operation. On May 20, 1996, custody and accountability for Midway Atoll transferred from the Department of the Navy to the Department of the Interior. President Clinton signed Executive Order 13022 on October 31, 1996, effectively superseding earlier orders assignment responsibility for Midway to the Navy. A new code of regulations governing activities at Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge was published in the Federal Register on March 10, 1998.
When Midway became a national wildlife refuge, it joined a network of more than 500 separate units of the National Wildlife Refuge System, encompassing nearly 93 million acres, throughout all 50 states and several territories and possessions. Refuges represent the only federal lands set aside and managed principally for the conservation of fish and wildlife.