If you've ever dreamed about getting away from it all,
then you could do worse than head for the island of Bouvet°ya: it's the
most isolated island on earth. It has one tiny neighbour to the southwest,
Lars°ya, but that excepted, the nearest land is over1,600 km away. Bouvet°ya
lies approximately 1,600 km south-west of Cape Agulhas on the continent of
South Africa, and 1,400 km southeast of Gough
Another island (Thompson Island to Bouvet°ya's
north east) was sighted by 19th century sealers, but is believed to have
been destroyed by a volcanic eruption in 1895 or 1896. Proof of the
islands volcanic origin is that sometime between 1955 and 1958, a
low-lying shelf of lava appeared on Bouvet°ya's west coast, providing the
only bird nesting site of any size on the island.
Bouvet°ya lies at 54║ 26' South, 3║ 24'
East and is roughly seven kilometers long by five kilometers wide. It lies
on the southern extremity of the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, and like Tristan
da Cunha has shown signs of recent volcanic activity. This can still
be seen by the fumaroles and vents common on the island.
Bouvet°ya was placed under Norwegian sovereignty by a decree of January
23, 1928. The island is uninhabited, though attempts have been made to
establish a meteorological station. As one might imagine, the
weather at this location in the 50th latitude is awful. The island is in
the path of the "Furious Fifties", with frequent storms in all
seasons. Bouvet°ya's weather is nearly always cloudy or foggy
with a mean temperature of-1║C in the autral summer: the average high is
Bouvet°ya covers about 54 square kilometers. The highest
point is Olavtoppen (780m), aned after King Olav of Norway;
it and another high peak surround the ice-filled caldera of an inactive
volcano known as the Wilhelm II Plateau.
Glaciers cover most of the island and prevent landings on the south and
east coasts, while steep cliffs as high as 490m block access to the north,
west and southwest. The presence of numerous offshore reefs make
The slopes of the central cone terminate on all sides in steep cliffs and
glaciers which descend abruptly to the sea. The two largest glaciers are
the Posadowsky Glacier on the north coast, west of Cape Valdivia,
and the Christensen Glacier, 2 km east of Cato Point, the
southwest point of the island.
The east coastis entirely covered with an ice sheet which reaches the sea
as an ice wall some 122 meters high and extends up the slopes of the
caldera to about 425 meters.
The north and west sides of the island are almostfree from ice, but are
much steeper than the south and east sides.
The island is composed mainly of black lava. Norvegia Point, on
which there is a conspicuous point, is situated 3 km south of Cape
Circumcision - named after its discovery on Circumcision Day. There's
is hardly any vegetation.
The surrounding seas stay close to freezing all year round, and often
strewn with icebergs.
The only occupants of the island are seabirds, penguins, seals and Elephant
Seals , principally on the western coastline
Bouvetěya was discovered on January 1, 1738 by Monsieur
Lozier Bouvet with French ships Aigle and Marie,
but the island's position was not accurately fixed and because
Bouvet did not circumnavigate his discovery, he remained uncertain
whether it was an island or part of a southern continent. Though he
remained in the neighborhood for ten days, he was unable to land.
1772, Captain James Cook aboard HMS Resolution found no
land in a position 300 miles south of Bouvetěya, thus proving that
Bouvet's discovery was not part of a southern continent.
Captain Furneaus, aboard HMS Adventure and again in 1775 by
Captain James Cook on HMS Resolution again unsuccessfully
searched for this island.
In 1808, Captain Lindsay of the enderby whaler Swan, in
company with the Otter, searched for this island along the
parallel of latitude 54 degrees southeast from longitude10 degrees
west and sighted it on October 6th, 1808. The position of the island
was then fixed with the island center measured at 54 degrees 22
minutes south latitude, and 4 degrees, 15 minutes east longitude.
Owing to bad weather, no landing was attempted during a week long
stay nor was any anchorage discovered, the island being surrounded
to a distance of 3 miles with field ice.
On December 10th, 1825, the
island was again sighted by Captain Norris aboard the ships Sprightly
and Lively. On December 16th, a difficult landing was made
on Bouvet. The crews of two boats sent ashore for seals were weather
bound on shore from December 18 to December 24.
By 1918 there were four different islands shown on charts in
this extreme southern part of the South Atlantic - Liverpool,
Lindsay, Thompson and Bouvet Islands respectively. A Lieutenant
Gould of the Royal Navy Hydrographic Survey considered that
they were all the same, thoughthere was a chance that a volcanic
island had appeared and subsequently disappeared. Britain eventually
waived all claims to the island in favour of the Norwegians, as they
already possessed a far more suitable whaling station on South
In December, 1927, the Norwegian vessel Norvegia, (Harald
Horntvedt), visited the island, staying for a month and landing several
times: an emergency depot of food on Cape Circumcision (54║ 35' South,
3║ 21' East) for shipwrecked sailors was established.
1929, the Norvegia again visited the island and another hut
with provisions was established on Lars0ya off the southwest
extremity of Bouvetěya but on a visit by the same vessel in 1931,
this hut and the one erected on Cape Circumcision (54 degrees, 35
minutes south, 3 degrees, 21 minutes east) had also disappeared.
In 1934 Admiral E.R.G.R.Evans, Commander in Chief of the British Naval
Base at Simonstown, made a dramatic dash to Bouvet in HMS Milford to make sure that no hostile power
was operating there: none was, the sole occupants being seals, sea
elephants, penguins and seabirds.
The island has only rarely been visited, so its history is extremely
brief. Two events, however, are rather mysterious: first, a sunken
lifeboat and assorted supplies were discovered on the island in 1964, but
their origin could not be determined.
Then, on September 22, 1979, a thermonuclear bomb test very probably
occurred in the vivinity of Bouvet°ya and Marion
Island. Though no country ever admitted to setting off a nuclear
device there, an orbiting satellite detected a very brief, intense burst
of light and magnetic, seismographic and ionospheric evidence all point to
a nuclear blast. Personnel at Australian Antarctic stations later detected
radiation and radioactive debris. It is now believed that the test was
carried out by the South Africans.
Establisment of Weather Stations
Little was heard of Bouvet during World War II, but in 1955,
interest revived in South Africa in establishing a weather station there.
The Transvaal was sent and her crew made several landings on the island to
chart it and scout for a suitable site for a weather station. No suitable
site was found, and Transvaal returned to South Africa.
The American Research Ship Westwind was asked to "have a
look" at Bouvet when she sailed south from Cape Town in 1957, and her
helicopter photographed a large plateau south of Cape Circumcision.This
had formed as a result of volcanic eruption, and was later called by the
Norwegians "Nyr°ysa" , meaning "New Rubble".
The South African Weather Department made a further expedition to
Bouvet in 1964 in the RSA , which rendezvoused off Bouvet with HMS
Protector on March 29th, 1964. The concensus of opinion was that a Weather
Station could only be established and operated by a major power, with
However, the positioning of an automatic weather station was an
attractive alternative. This was established by the Norwegians from the MV
Polarsirkel in 1977, sited on the Nyr°ysa, and transmitted for a while to
the Nimbus 6 Satellite. A temporary five-man station was established the
following year, superceded by another automatic weather station which
continues to operate.
Bouvet Island 1990
Bouvet Island is located at 54 Degrees 25 Minutes South and 3
Degrees 21 Minutes East in the Mid-South Atlantic, South-Southeast
of the Cape of Good Hope. The island is mostly covered by ice and
steep cliffs. The expedition landed on the West Coast of the island
which is the only safe place for camp at about 50 meters above sea
The operators were: LA1EE, LA2GV, JF1IST, F2CW, HB9AHL plus two
scientists, a 2 man film team, a 2 man helicopter crew and a camp
assistant. In 16 days the operators made almost 50, 000 QSOs on CW,
SSB, and RTTY on 160 through 10 meters.
Information... January, 2000
The South Sandwich Island DX Group previously released
information that it intended to activate Bouvet Island in a major
DXpedition during 1997-1998. SSIDXG has been working for some time
on landing permission for another extremely rare Antarctic island
and that landing permission was granted. However, there have been
problems because the Norwegian Government, through the Nordst
Polarinstitute, has notified us of plans for major
environmental/wildlife impact projects on Bouvet Island. Because of
their environmental concerns and planned activities, the SSIDXG
operations director, Tony DePrato, has officially postponed the
planned operation until the conflicts with the scientific studies at
Bouvet are resolved. Tony has recently advised me to list the dates
of the planned expedition as during the Antarctic summer period of
December - January 2000-2001. SSIDXG has not given up on the
expedition, and has recently filed additional papers and information
to secure authorization for the landing, however the situation is
largely not under out control.
The SSIDXG is an organization committed to organizing and
conducting world class expeditions to sub-antarctic islands that are
extremely difficult to activate. As such SSIDXG's primary role is to
activate DXCC countries which are virtually never activated due to
their inaccessibility and remoteness. However, SSIDXG also has as
its highest priority maintaining the ecological integrity of the
islands that it activates. The Antarctic islands are pristine
ecosystems which support complex interactions of geography,
wildlife, marine life, and for which, man's intrusion can be an
unwanted disruption. However, SSIDXG is dedicated to minimizing or
eliminating the impact of a manned expedition to any island it
Although SSIDXG had anticipated a landing date during the
December, 1998/January 1999 Antarctic summer-weather window, this
intention was placed on hold. The major problem with the planning
has been in getting official authorization from the Norwegian Polar
Institute for the landing. The Nordsk Polarinstitute is conducting a
major scientific investigation of the breeding of the seal and
animal colonies on the island and has placed restrictions on landing
access by any means during the breeding period, which
coincidentally, happens to be during the major time periods for most
Antarctic landings (the austral summer). The Polarinstitue is most
concerned about helicopter overflights but any disturbance of the
colony is banned for the duration of the study. SSIDXG is evaluating
a number of alternative options and has delayed the proposed landing
to conform to this government policy
It appears that any permission to land on Bouvet will have to
wait until the completion of the CEMP scientific study. This means
that the earliest possible date for the expedition would have been
the Antarctic Summer of 1999-2000 (December - January 1999-2000)
however, that date has also now been put off. At this point, the
plans of SSIDXG have been delayed until 2000-2001.
When conducted, the operation is planned as a two week stay on
the island. As in the past two DXpeditions under the SSIDXG banner
(VP8SSI in 19922, and 3Y0PI in 1994), the SSIDXG plans a very
comprehensive DXpedition with operation on all bands and all modes
including satellite. Our plans are to again have four stations
operational around the clock during time on the island. The team
will consist of at least 10 operators made up of both seasoned
DXpeditioners from the previous ZP8SSI and 3Y0PI operations, plus
other skilled operators new to our expeditions. It is anticipated
that a multinational team will be supplemented by other members of
SSIDXG and the crew roster will surely fluctuate as we approach the
DXpedition departure date.
Bouvet Island (Bouvet°ya) is a Norwegian territory located in
the sub-Antarctic area. Bouvet°ya is located at 54 degrees, 24
minutes South, and 3 degrees, 25 minutes East. Formerly known as
Bouvet Island, Bouvet°ya is the southern-most island of the
mid-Atlantic ridge and consists of a single volcanic cone with a
wide indented crater and attaining a maximum elevation of 2,560 feet
at Olaf Peak at the island's center. The area of the island is
approximately 19 1/3 square miles. Bouvet°ya was placed under
Norwegian sovereignty by a Royal Norwegian Decree on January 23,
1928. The island is uninhabited, though attempts have been made to
establish a meteorological station. As one might imagine, the
weather at this location in the 50th latitude is inhospitable at
best. Bouvet Island lies approximately 1,370 miles south-west of
Cape Agulhas on the continent of South Africa, and 1,020 miles
southeast of Gough Island. Bouvet°ya is clearly one of the most
isolated pieces of land on the earth's surface.
The goal of this expedition to Bouvet Island is common to the
goal of all SSIDXG expeditions: To work each population area of the
world as evenly as possible so that all DX chasers from all
countries will have an equivalent chance of working the expedition.
It is anticipated that all QSL confirmations and all financial
contributions to support this SSIDXG DXpedition will be handled by
Ron Lago, AC7DX.
Previous Expeditions to Bouvet ě ya
Bouvet ě ya (Bouvet Island) has been activated only three times
for significant amateur radio operations making Bouvet one of the
most consistently sought-after and rare "countries" for
DXCC credit in the award's history. The remoteness of the island and
the difficulties in activating this island will continue to keep
this island near the top of the "most wanted list" under
the current country criteria. Bouvet Island was first activated
seriously in 1977 by 3Y1VC and 3Y3CC, and then several years later
by 3Y1VC and 3Y5DQ during the austral summer 1978-1979. Previous
expeditions have been done largely as part of official scientific
and governmental activities of Norwegian Polar Exploration efforts.
The initial two expeditions by Norwegian amateurs produced a total
of approximately 2,500 QSOs. The first major expedition to Bouvet ě
ya was conducted once again by two Norwegian operators supplemented
with three visitors. The two leaders of this expedition, Einar
(LA1EE) and Kare (LA2GV) formed a support group named Club Bouvet
(along with Erling, LA6VM) to provide emotional and financial
support for a major DXpedition to Bouvet Island in 1989. These two
operators were joined on the expedition by Jin Fujiwara (JF1IST),
Jacky Calvo (F2CW) and Willy Reusch (HB9AHL).
The following is quoted from the 3Y5X QSL card:
"This challenging expedition included five radio amateurs,
two scientists, a film team of two, a helicopter crew of two, and a
camp assistant. The expedition arrived at Bouvet ° ya December 25,
1989 and started landing operations the 27th. The amateur radio
operation commenced December 28.
During the next 16 days, the radio amateurs made nearly 50,000
contacts on CW, SSB, and RTTY, 160-10m. The scientists mapped the
census of penguins and seals and studies the behavior of penguins.
The film team shot seven hours of 16mm film for cinema and TV. The
250th anniversary of the discovery of Bouvet ° ya was celebrated
and a commemorative plaque in the honor of Consul Lars Christensen
was bolted to a rock on the island's western shore (Nyr ° ysa).
This expedition was organized by three Norwegian radio amateurs
who founded Club Bouvet on May 17, 1989. The founders were LA1EE,
LA2GV, and LA6VM. The project was supported by the Norwegian
government and a number of organizations, clubs, and individuals in
30 countries. Club Bouvet wishes in particular to acknowledge the
initiative and support by Mr. Thor Christensen, Sandefjord, The
Ministry of Environment, Norsk Polarinstitutt, the Japanese ham
community, and the LA-DX-Group. We hope you enjoyed the show!"
The team landed on Bouvet ě ya from the motor vessel (MV) Aurora,
captained by M. Berentsen on December 25, 1989. The expedition crew
flew to Montevideo to meet with the Aurora for the trip to
Bouvet. The Aurora was equipped with a small helicopter
brought from Norway which was used to assist in the landing of gear
and equipment. Although there was an intention to establish two
different camps, one on the west side of the island (favoring Europe
and North America) and the other on the east side of the island (to
favor operation toward Japan, Asia, and the Pacific area) due to the
mammoth mountain peak occupying virtually all of the island, a
visual inspection of the island showed that there appeared to be no
suitable location on the east coast of Bouvet. All locations were
considered too dangerous. Consequently, the operation was done from
only one location. This decision was to have major ramifications
since Asia and the Pacific would now be most easily worked over top
of North America short-path on the Asia and Pacific long-path (of
course, the same path). The operation was based in Nyroysa, the only
location on the island considered by the expedition leaders to be
safe for a camp. Nyroysa was composed of a large rock slide on the
west coast of Bouvet. Nyroysa is a plateau which rises to an
elevation of approximately 150' above sea level. The camp, antennas,
and operating tents were positioned among the boulders and rock of
Nyroysa. The massive rock face of the volcanic island provided a
virtual shield to radio signals propagating short-path to Asia and
The first QSO was made with Erling (LA6VM), the third member of
Club Bouvet on December 28, 1989. There were four stations manned as
much as possible on the air throughout the operation. Essentially,
each operator had his own tent and station. All equipment for the
expedition was ICOM and consisted of ICOM IC-751A transceivers, ICOM
IC-2KL Linear Amplifiers, and ICOM AT-500 antenna tuners. Six meters
was also activated using an ICOM IC-575D 6 meter transceiver.
Antennas were four triband yagis IHidaka VS-33, Nagara TA-351, TH-3
Jr, and three Butternut HF6-V verticals. Low bands were activated
using the venerable Battle Creek special (on 160, 80, and 40). Five
generators were taken along (three Honda generators, and 2 Roheico
The expedition was able to maintain digital communications with
supporters via an INMARSAT satellite link, which provided the
ability to have 24 hour secure and dependable communications,
receive weather advisories, etc. The operators also used a
non-amateur commercial HF links for communication and coordination.
The expedition made over 47,000 QSOs during their stay on the
island. The break down of those contacts was: 16,800 CW QSOs, 30,000
SSB QSOs, and 291 RTTY QSOs. Geographic distribution shows the
inherent difficult of working the Pacific and Asian areas via the
long-path: North America involved 47.3 percent of the QSOs, Europe
involved 31.3%, Asia had 15.8%, while Central and South America
accounted for only 3.9% and Pacific/Oceania and Africa accounted for
only .9 and .8% respectively.
The Club Bouvet expedition departed Bouvet Island on January 13,
1990 and departure was facilitated by numerous flights of the
helicopter to ferry supplies and crew back to the MV Aurora.
All QSLing was coordinated by Erling (LA6VM). Full color QSLs were
donated by Onoue Printing Company in Nagano, Japan.
Corporate/government sponsorship involved the Norwegian Polar
Research Institute, The Nordnorsk Filmsenter, the University of
Trondheim, and The World Wide Fund for Nature. Other sponsors
included: A/S Thor Dahl, A/S Ambra, A/S Bulls Tankrederi EB Norsk
Kabel A/S, Hvalfangstens Sekretariat, Hvalfangernew
Assuranceforening, jotun A/S Levahn Industrier, Sandefjord Kommune,
TBK, Televerket, Victor Norse A/S, Bouvet-Ladubay S.A. (France),
Clipperton DX Club, CQ ham radio (Japan), Danish DX Group, EUDXF,
Ham Radio Outlet, Heard Island DX Association, Hidaka Denki Works
(Japan), ICOM America Inc., INDEXA, JA DXers, LA-DX-GROUP, Lake
Vettern DX Group, Lynx DX Group, Maspro Denki (Japan), (Nagara
Denshi (Japan), Norther California DX Foundation, OH DX Boys, 59
Magazine (Japan), and JA1BK, VE3MR, K2ON, and KA8ANQ.
This operation clearly made the most impact to date on the Bouvet
Island needs of the amateur radio community, and the operation was
pulled-off with a tremendous personal and financial cost to the Club
Bouvet organizers. Bouvet was one of the most eagerly awaited major
expeditions to come on the air up to that time. The operators and
sponsors of the Club Bouvet operation merit the admiration and
appreciation of every DXer who worked them for a new one, or a new
one on a band or mode.
However, a number of factors also made the 1989-1990 Bouvet
Island dxpedition one of the most controversial of all time, due to
the need to work Asia and Pacific areas long-path over top of the
short-path opening to North America and Europe. This factor,
combined with band-plan QSX, and atypical listening patterns led to
massive amounts of frustration and problems. However, tens of
thousand of DXers around the world also had all time new counters on
modes or bands that they did not have before, and the goals of the
dxpedition were realized.
The SSIDXG planned 1997-1998 DXpedition to Bouvet ě ya has the
goal of providing the same or more QSOs, distributed to all areas of
the world equally based on relative population, to add satellite
modes, to incorporate some of the recent technological advances in
dxpeditioning, and to produce the absolute minimal disruption to the
non-DXing amateur radio community.
(The narrative description of the 3Y0X Dxpedition was based on
the material contained in an article authored by Einer Enderud
(LA1EE) and Kaare Pedersen (LA2GV) which appeared in QST
magazine, October, 1990 issue, pages14 - 17 (pictures also involve
the cover picture), and from the QSL card provided by Club Bouvet
for QSOs made with the expedition. This narrative was written by
Gary E. Jones, Ph.D., and involved my description of the
information. Any inaccuracies are my responsibility... .