Mellish Reef DXpedition Ready to Pick Up the Post-FT5ZM Slack
When the hubbub generated by the FT5ZM Amsterdam Island DXpedition is still echoing in our ears, the Mellish ReefVK9MT DXpedition will be waiting in the wings to launch its own adventure on the Amateur Radio airwaves. VK9MT will be handing out another rare one March 29 through April 9 from the Coral Sea atoll.
“We are on schedule and will soon be on autopilot,” the team announced in late January.
The team said that one of its biggest logistical challenges will be the purchase of 1400 liters of “petrol” (gasoline) to fuel generators. The team has selected the 25 meter passenger expedition yacht Evohe from New Zealand to transport operators and gear to Mellish Reef. Given the paucity of dry ground at the operating site, DXpedition participants plan to take their meals and sleep on the vessel.
The skipper of Evohe has agreed to handle the sourcing and take delivery of the fuel. This month generators, antennas, feed lines, and accessories will be heading to Australia.
A pilot team now is in place to manage all communication between the island team and DXers. “While on the island we will not be checking personal e-mail accounts,” the team pointed out, adding, “Please direct operational suggestions to the pilot designated for your region.” An online log will be available. The DXpedition also has spelled out its QSL policy on its website.
Located some 1150 kilometers north-northeast of Brisbane, Australia, Mellish Reef takes the form of a boomerang-shaped platform some 10 kilometers long and 3 kilometers wide. According to the VK9MT website, the surrounding reefs, which enclose a narrow lagoon, are completely submerged or awash at high tide. Near the lagoon’s center is the only permanent land — Heralds-Beacon Islet — a small cay rising just a few meters above the high-water mark and composed largely of sand, shingle and coral rubble.
The schedule calls for 10 full days of operation on 160 through 10 meters, CW, SSB, and RTTY, with 10 operators. Six members of the successful ZL9HR operation from Campbell Island in December 2012 are among the team members.
“Team Mellish” has reported that Australia’s Commonwealth Marine Reserve Operations Department reviewed the group's DXpedition plan and will require that the visitors follow the department’s documented environmental protection regulations. “Effective July 1, 2014, Mellish Reef becomes part of Australia’s new Coral Sea Marine Reserve Management Program, which implements additional restrictions to further protect the area’s ecology,” an earlier team announcement noted. “[W]e appreciate the Australian government’s cooperation and spirit of partnership in making this DXpedition possible.” The Australian Communications and Media Authority issued the call sign VK9MT last fall for use on Mellish Reef.
Last activated in 2009, Mellish Reef is number 23 on ClubLog’s February 2014 DXCC Most Wanted List.
The DXpedition budget is estimated at $110,000 — a bit more modest than the $450,000 FT5ZM budget. That figure does not include operators’ individual expenses. The team has pledged “full financial transparency” for all aspects of the DXpedition. “When the books are closed, clubs and foundations that supported the project will receive a financial accounting,” Team Mellish has said.