Beginner’s Corner April 2019

Islands of the Air


This month, we take a look at Islands of the Air ( IOTA’s mission is to “increase activity on the amateur radio bands by encouraging operations from island locations, to keep a database of contacts made by IOTA participants and to recognise high performance in the making of such contacts through a programme of awards”.

The oceans’ islands have been grouped into some 1200 ‘IOTA groups” with, for reasons of geography, varying numbers of “counters”, i.e. qualifying islands, in each.  The objective for the island chaser is to make radio contact with at least one counter in as many of these groups as possible and for the DX-peditioner to provide such island contacts.


IOTA is a partner of the Radio Society of Great Britain. It promotes increased amateur traffic with stations located on islands around the world on HF and VHF traffic. Again, as in all the OTA programs, there are activators and chasers. They encourage friendly competition among chasers by publishing QSOs (contacts) on line. IOTA draws on “the widespread mystique surrounding islands.”  I have to admit the idea of going to a tropical island has its mystique.  I have seen many videos of DX-peditions where people go to remote islands to make contact with fellow hams around the world.  There have been two attempts to land a party on Bouvet Island in the South Atlantic Ocean that have failed. Yes, this isn’t quite a “tropical” island, but it certainly would be quite a trip. Several of us have had the pleasure of going to a Caribbean island. You know first-hand of the charm of a tropical (or sub-tropical) island.

Which islands count? The IOTA islands must not be in rivers, inland lakes, narrow gulfs, or largely enclosed bays, (Fortunately, we have the U.S. Islands of the Air to cover many of these islands here.)

There are 22 award categories sponsored by IOTA.  There are too many to name here, but a perusal of their web site will provide details. There is an award for contacting 100 IOTA islands. That might take a bit of work.  You technicians might want to get your general class license for this.

Requirements: You have to have a license for whatever band you operate on.  Remember, technician class licensees can operate on a portion of the ten-meter band, plus they can use CW (Morse Code) in several HF bands.  Technicians can operate a satellite station, and yes, IOTA activators do make satellite contacts.

Into contesting? IOTA sponsors a contest the last full weekend in July each year. Yes, that does conflict with Field Day, but who says you can’t do both at the same time?

What are the Islands in Georgia that Qualify? The state is grouped together as NA-058 and include Blackbeard, Commodore, Cumberland, Doboy, Drum Point, Jekyll, Lanier, Little Broughton, Little St Simons, Ossabaw, Rabbit, Raccoon Key, St Catherines, St Simons, Sapelo, Sea, Walburg, Wolf) (Note: not Isle of Hope, Skidaway, Tybee, Wilmington)

Islands of other states are also listed. See I have heard of a number of these islands, and there are some I have never heard of.  I’m going to get my atlas out and look some of these up.

It is nice that there are many islands nearby we can activate, as well as chase. Granted, Tybee Island isn’t an exotic island, but, hey, it would be fun to activate or chase.

73, KJ4CMY