March 22, 2017. One year ago today the team landed on Heard Island. Here is a selection of the pictures taken on that propitious day.
The crew of the Braveheart navigates in the fog to the place where Heard Island should be
A Heard Island Cormorant is a sure sign that the island is nearby
The expedition team competes for the first glimpse of the island
The entrance to the safe harbor appears out of the fog and mist
The crew and team get tehir first view of the9000-ft. volcano Big Ben
The crew carries the first team members to land
Bill Mitchell expresses his pleasure at (finally!) stepping on Heard Island
A break in the clouds and fog yields a breathtaking view of themountain, and some penguins on the beach
Big Ben in all its magnificence. Smoke and steam are rising from its summit, Mawson Peak
A telephoto image of Mawson Peak reveals its detailed structure for the first time


March 5, 2017. Just for fun, we have generated a quiz to test (or demonstrate) your knowledge of the 2016 expedition to Heard Island. Here are the 12 questions. The answers are here.

  1. What was the callsign of the 2016 DXpedition to Heard Island?
    1. VKØHI
    2. VKØCQ
    3. VKØEK
    4. VKØIR
  2. Which vessel did the expedition use to get to Heard Island?
    1. Braveheart
    2. Marion Dufresne
    3. Agulhas
    4. Shokalski
  3. How many members of the 1997 VKØIR team were on the 2016 VKØEK team?
    1. 0
    2. 1
    3. 3
    4. 6
  4. How many days was VKØEK QRV?
    1. 14
    2. 16
    3. 18
    4. 20
  5. VKØEK logged the most QSOs on which band?
    1. 15m
    2. 20m
    3. 30m
    4. 40m
  6. What was the percent of CW QSOs for VKØEK?
    1. 14.5%
    2. 34.5%
    3. 54.5%
    4. 74.5%
    5. 95.5%
  7. Which continent logged the most QSOs with VKØEK?
    1. Asia
    2. Europe
    3. North America
    4. South America
    5. Australia
  8. Why didn’t VKØEK operate from Spit Bay as planned?
    1. The pileups would have been too high and there was no point
    2. The permit didn’t permit bringing the equipment to the site
    3. The surf was too high to safely land
    4. The team was tired and didn’t want to go to the trouble
  9. When was the VKØEK log posted online?
    1. One minute after each QSO was made
    2. Once each day, around 1800 UTC
    3. After the team returned, on April 15
    4. It hasn’t been posted online
  10. Why did the VKØEK DXpedition include scientific field work?
    1. Inclusion of the research was important to getting the permit
    2. The field work brought in about 20% additional funding and support
    3. Some members of the team joined the project because of the field work
    4. It was an opportunity to contribute to the understanding of climate change
  11. How many organizations and persons contributed to VKØEK?
    1. Less than 2000
    2. Approximately 5280
    3. Exactly 7583
    4. More than 11,000
  12. What is (are) the main expedition website(s)?
    1. and
    3. and
    4. www.vkØ


Feb. 1, 2017. We are coming up on the 1-year anniversary of the Heard Island expedition VKØEK. To celebrate the successful project, we have organized these events:


Saturday April 15, 2017
4:00-8:00 PM

Bob (KK6EK) and Kay Schmieder Home
4295 Walnut Blvd, Walnut Creek, CA 94596
(925) 934-3735

We’ll provide dinner and drinks and after-dinner entertainment. Open to anyone who made any kind of contribution (effort, money, advice, etc.) to the project, plus whatever guests you wish to bring. We’ll provide dinner at 5:00 PM, but you must RSVP to Kay:
If you don’t RSVP you’ll have to stand around while the rest of us eat our dinner!


Visalia Convention Center
303 E. Acequia, Visalia, CA 93291
Information, 559-713-4000

The DX Convention:

Saturday April 22, 2017
Open House
4:00-6:00 PM
Sierra Room A

A nice way to meet anyone who has interest in the Heard Island project for any reason. We’ll have a slide show or video running, and maybe some items for door prizes. No charge, and open to anyone.

Sunday, April 23, 2017
Presentation by Bob KK6EK: “The Future of DXing and DXpeditions”
4:00-5:00 PM
Main Ballroom

The talk will be based on the subject presented in the Jan/Feb 2017 issue of DX Magazine (Paper #6). The talk might generate some discussion; feel free to offer your opinion.


Jan. 15, 2017. During the expedition we collected seven specimens of one species of starfish. After detailed examination and some consultation, we have now identified it: Anasterias mawsoni (Koehler, 1920). This species was described from material from Macquarie Island, and is also known from Heard Island. T. D. O'Hara (Memoirs of Museums Victoria, Vol. 57, No. 2, pp. 167-223 (1998)) provides the following description of the species:

R to 62 mm, r to 15 mm. Arms 6, dorsally convex, ventrally flat, widest at base, tapering gradually to a blunt tip. Single madreporite, half to two-thirds from centre to intcrradial margin, small to large, sometimes inconspicuous, sometimes ringed by some spinelets. Anus inconspicuous, central. Ami furrows wide, 4 rows of suckcred tube feet. Dorsal skin thick and pustulate. Abactinal skeleton reticulate. Spinelets capitate, sometimes truncate, upper half spiniferous; often polygonal in cross section if in contact with adjacent spinelets; size variable, 0.4-1.1 mm dia, 1-2 times as high as wide; spinelets largest, widest on disc and proximal arm surfaces. Spinelets arranged in rows around aboard papular areas. Carinal plates form recognisable longitudinal row down arm; plates irregularly quadrilobed or rhombic, broadly imbricating. Spinelets distribution variable, from being densely clustered on plates, wilh up to 13 spinelets in 5 longitudinal rows, to scattered with as few as 2-A discrete spinelets. Dorsolateral skeleton variable, from strongly calcified with block-like imbricating plates to weakly calcified with thin bar-like or trilobed plates; forming transverse rows of up to 7 plates between carinals and superomarginals; forming 1-3 longitudinal rows, the row nearest the carinals most distinct; sometimes reticulate proximally. Dorsolateral plates with 0-3. usually 1-2, spinelets on raised section of plate: forming uni- or biserial rows transversely, with up to 12 spinelets present between carinals and superomarginals, forming irregular rows longitudinally. Papular areas with clusters of 4-8 papulae, single actinal papulae present between inferomarginal plates. Superomarginal plates from as long as to longer than wide, irregularly quadrilobed, long ventral lobe, shorter dorsal and lateral lobes, plates imbricate with surrounding plates. Superomarginal spinelets to 1 .0 mm in height, 2-2.5 times as high as wide, 2-7, usually 2-3, per plate. Inferomarginal plates forming actinolateral margin to arm, as wide as long, lobed, prominent oblique spine-ridge present centrally. Inferomarginal spines thick, capitate, slightly curved and terminally spiniferous or occasionally flattened and Oared; 2-5, usually 3~4, per plate, 2.5 mm high, 2.5-4 times as high as wide. Actinal plates barlike, wider than long, extend past half R, sometimes 2 series proximally, usually aligned with inferomarginals, with one spine, often confluent with, but smaller than inferomarginal spines. 6 adambulacral plates to every 2 inferomarginals. One adambulacral spine per plate, thinner, smaller than inferomarginal spines, 2.5 mm high, 4-5 times as high as wide, often club-shaped. On each jaw 2 oral and 2 suboral spines; oral spines often short. Straight pedicellariae present near mouth, in disc interradius, in arm furrows and amongst inferomarginals; size and distribution variable, sometime very numerous or scarce; some valves widened and truncate at tip; minority (typically 1 %) 3-valved, with additional small valve present at right angles to 2 primary valves. Crossed pedicellariae present marginally and dorsally. sometimes in high numbers. Macquaric Island population with separate sexes. Females brood juveniles under their discs by adopting an arching posture. Broods with up to 296 juveniles. Eggs mature in gonad from July to December until the eggs reach 2.0 mm diameter. Eggs are usually transferred to the brood in January-Febuary and released in May-June (Simpson, 1982). Two specimens in the present collection have brood juveniles in December and January. Colour. Live Macquarie Island specimens orange, tan, dark brown, purple or green on dorsal surface; spinelets and papulae often paler or different colour; dark stomach caeca visible beneath skin on smaller specimens. Ventral surface cream or white, spines pink or grey, tube feet tan. Habitat. Present on rock platforms under boulders, or in rock gutters, and subtidally (2-20 m) on sheltered sponges-bryozoan mats, on Codium. or under Macrocystis. McKnight (1984) reported several dredged specimens from 357 m. Distribution. Heard Island (0-30 m); Macquarie Island (0-357 m). Remarks. The six-armed Macquarie Island specimens of Anasterias are as variable as the fivearmed specimens described above under A. directa. The dorsal skeleton varies from being strongly calcified, with block-like plates and a dense covering of polygonal spinelets (pi. 2k), to a more open structure with thin bar-like plates and relatively few discrete rounded spinelets (pi. 2j). The former specimens were described by Koehlcr (1920) as P. sphoerulatus and the latter as P. mawsoni. However, there are numerous intergrades between these extremes. Koehler's other distinguishing character for A. sphoerulatus, the unusual three-valved pedicellariae, are present on most specimens. The different colour forms do not correlate with skeletal structure or spinelet density. Consequently, 1 refer A. sphoerulatus to the synonymy of A. mawsoni. This species is also common from the littoral of Heard Island. Heard Island specimens show a similar range of variation in the skeleton and spinelets. They also have some three-valved pedicellariae. A.M. Clark (1962) noted the reduced actinal series on BANZARE specimens from Heard Island. This is also a variable feature. Several specimens from Heard Island (NMV F73886) have a well developed primary actinal scries extending to the arm tip, and a second series proximally. The only other six-armed Anasterias species is A. perrieri (Smith, 1876) from Kcrguelen. This species appears to occupy a similar ecological niche at Kerguelen (McClintock, 1985) as A. mawsoni at Macquarie Island, but it differs from A. mawsoni in having thinner and less numerous spinelets. Specimens of A. perrieri that 1 have examined have no three-valved pedicellariae. A. mawsoni is not merely a six-armed form of A. directa. Besides the differing number of arms, the two species differ in the density of the abactinal spinelets, the colour, and the absence in A. directa of three-valved pedicellariae. There is also a time difference of four months between the peak release of brooded.

If you can read and understand this, you should have been on the expedition! We thank Dr. Tim O'Hara of Museums Victoria in Melbourne, Australia, for confirming the identification of this starfish.


Dec. 30, 2016. The new issue (January/February 2017) issue of DX Magazine is out. It contains six articles about the Heard Island Expedition:


This is a special (enlarged) editioni of the magazine, made possible by the cooperation and assistance of the editor Carl Smith N4AA.Carl has edited the magazine since 1997, the year of the previous Cordell Expedition to Heard Island.

If you are interested in DX Magazine, go to


Click on image to download [36MB PDF]

Nov. 9, 2016. The Final Report on the 2016 Cordell Expedition to Heard Island has been released.

Assembled by expedition organizer/leader Robert Schmieder, it contains the record of the operations and results of the expedition. It is organized in the following sections:

10. LOGS

The Report is 264 pages long, with 710 figures (mostly photographs, plus a few diagrams). Numerous team members contributed material for the report, and several outside consultants, including Grahame Budd and Eric Woehler, edited and proofed the MS. It can be downloaded directly at the following URL:

The Report is open to the public and is provided at no charge. However, it is copyrighted, so any use of any content in another publication or for any other purpose must have written permission from Cordell Expedition. Please credit any citation or othr use to Copyright (c) 2016 Cordell Expeditions.



Oct. 30, 2016. Using a series of enhancement steps, we have recently been able to optimize some of our photographs of the peak of Big Ben, called Mawson Peak. he stunning image shows a 25-m rim on the peak that is emitting steam and smoke. The edifice has grown vertically at least 45m in the past two decades, evidenced by photographs taken during the VKØIR expedition in 1997. The image above was taken from the southern edge of the Laurens Peninsula, across Atlas Cove opposite the 2016 expedition campsite.

A full-size (1930x1139) image can be downloaded by clicking on the image above.


Oct. 21 2016. Recently we have been organizing and processing some of the more than 25,000 photographs we obtained on the expedition. Among them is a set of wide-angle pan photos that provide spectacular views ot eh area around the campsite at Atlas Cove .

These photographs have resolution around 10,000x2500px. They are JPG files ranging in size from 3MB to 18MB. We post here 4 of these high-resolution pictures. You can download the full-resolution image by clicking on a thumbnail above. The library contains more of these images, which are being used for documentation of the overall conditioins of theisland at the time of the expedition.

Please credit these pictures to "Cordell Expeditions 2016 Heard Island Expedition, courtesy R. W. Schmieder".


The isthmus between Red Island and the rest of the Laurens Peninsula. (Top) Photo taken 2 April 2016 by Fred Belton. (Upper) Image taken 2 April by Fred Belton (stretched vertically 2.5X. (Middle) Detail of the narrow channel cut through the isthmus. (Lower) Satellite image taken 2006 (source Google Earth), tilted to roughly match the view of the upper image.

Oct. 16, 2016. The 2016 Cordell Expedition team has documented a major change on Heard Island: a breach of the the isthmus joining the main body of the Laurens Peninsula with Red Island. A continuous channel across the isthmus has been cut in less than 10 years. This channel was navigated by the service boat that landed Fred Belton and Gavin Marshall on this location for a 4-day stay starting March 30, demonstrating that it is not a wind-swept floodplain, but rather a permanent channel.

The two images above show the dramatic change over the past decade. The upper image, a composite of three 2016 photographs that has been stretched vertically to approximate a higher viewpoint, shows that the channel extends completely across the isthmus. The lower image is from 2006 (Google Earth); it has been tilted to approximate the viewpoint of the upper image. This image shows a 3-lobed lagoon surrounded by breakwaters no more than 3m high. It is obvious that the channel, at least partially, has been cut joining the ocean with the lagoon.

Since 1874, the prominent rock, about 40m high, has been referred to as "Red Island." It is not, however, obvious that it was ever an island; we cannot find any reference to it being cut off from the rest of the Laurens Peninsula. The 2006 images show that at that time the isthmus was at most 3 m high, hence it is possible that over the past 150 years it has at times been cut through by a channel like the one we now see. Regardless of the history, the current existence of the channel fully justifies the use of the term Red Island.


Big Ben 23 Mach 2016

Oct. 14, 2016. A recent detailed study by Expedition Leader Robert Schmieder of photographs taken at Heard Island during the 2016 expedition has revealed a surprising fact: Heard Island soon may have a different official elevation.

The highest point on Big Ben is called Mawson Peak, officially 2,745m above sea level. However, in 1997 the VKØIR team saw smoke and steam coming from a vent in this location, but the vent itself was not visible. From calibrated photographs taken by the author in 1997 and 2016, the vent originated from an apparent elevation lower than 2,720m, i.e., at least 25m lower than the listed elevation of Mawson Peak. (This elevation is the apparent elevation of the shoulder at the vent as seen from the campsite near the ANARE station). In 1997 no vent edifice was visible above the shoulder, but in 2016 the vent comprised an edifice about 25m in diameter and some 45m higher than the visible shoulder. That is, this edifice apparently has grown by this amount in 19 years.

A significant eruption was observed in January, 2016. The lava flow was on the south side of Big Ben, away from the view from the 2016 Cordell Expeditions campsite.


QST Magazine Oct. 2016

Oct. 12, 2016, 2016. We are pleased to announce that the VKØEK article, shown on the cover of the October issue of QST (see below), has received the cover plaque award. The QST announcement can be seen here:

by KK6EK and the entire VKØEK team. We are particularly proud that the entire team is honored by this award, since the entire team contributed to it. We thank Steve Ford, WB8IMY, QST Editor, for making the production of this article a pleasure.


Expedition Leader Bob KK6EK congratulates DXer Jim Price K6ZH, a member of the San Diego DX Club, on reaching ARRL DXCC #1 Honor Roll. Jim logged 4 QSOs with VKØEK.

Sept. 28, 2016. The VKØEK team is continuing its outreach efforts in presentations at DX conventions and club meetings. The first presentation was at IDXC Visalia in April 2016, while the DXpedition was still in progress. By prior arrangement, the presentation was made by co-organizer Rich KY6R. Bob KK6EK called in on a satphone and was patched to the audience at the Saturday evening banquet. We believe this was the first time a working DXpedition had made a live appearance at the IDXC.

Several of the expedition participants have given presentations to local clubs. In the past 2 weeks Bob made trips to the following conventions: W9DXCC Chicago, IL; SEDXC Roswell, GA; W4DXCC Pidgeon Forge, TN; and SDDXC San Diego, CA. At the last of these, DXer Jim Price K6ZH arrived with his plaque showing he had obtained DXCC Honor Roll #1. Jim provided these words to commemorate the event:

The Last One by Jim Price, K6ZH

I've been a ham since I was a kid (novice in 1963), but I didn't get started chasing DX much until the 1970s, and not seriously until the 2000s.  I could see that working them all was a possibility as I have a reasonably good station (2 elements on 40, a 4-element SteppIR, and 30 meter rotary dipole, all at 60 feet).  By 2013, I had worked 'em all, EXCEPT for one - Heard Island.  So I kept saying to my fellow hams, "I have to live at least long enough to work the last one!" 

At first the Heard operation was going to be in 2014, then in 2015, and finally, there they were, on their way to Heard in March 2016.  Early in the morning (CA time) on March 24th, I worked VK0EK on 30 meter CW in just a couple of calls.  Woo Hoo - there it is!  And when I saw my call come up on their web page I was like - WOW!  I then had a trip away from home for a few days.  When I returned, I managed 3 more QSOs:  40 CW on April 1, 20 CW on April 8, and 40 SSB on April 9 - the last day.  The 30 meter QSO was quick with fairly loud signals.  The others were a couple of S-units above ESP!

So, thanks Bob KK6EK and the multitude of others!!  I have the #1 Honor Roll plaque on the wall, I enjoy my morning tea in a VK0EK coffee mug, and I have the satisfaction of finishing the longest project of my life! 

Jim's story has been matched by numerous DXers who come to us at these meetings and recount their specific experiences. We are pleaseed to have been able to move these DXers up a notch, and for many of them, to the top rung on the ladder. Congratulations to all who logged VKØEK!


QST Magazine Oct. 2016
DX Magazine Sept/Oct 2015

Sept. 20, 2016. We are pleased to note that two of the major ham radio magazines are featuring theHeard Island expedition. The October issue of QST carries the cover story of VKØEK, the counterpart to the 1997 VKØIR cover story.

The January issue of DX Magazine will be devoted entirely to theHeard Island expedition. It is expected that the issue will carry six articles, each about 4 pages long. Subjects to be covered are:


The articles will have multiple authros, some participants and some non-participants.


QST will award a plaque for the best article in the October issue. If you are an ARRL member, you can vote for the article of your choice. We hope you will vote for theVKØEK article. Please go HERE to vote for the VKØEK article!


Temperature recorded by one of the five sensors (Logger_07_1043_1966) deployed during the Heard Island Expedition. The temperatore scale runs from 34 degF to 70 degF. The illumination scale runs from 0 to 2400 lum/sq-ft.
The average temperature of the days March 28-April 8, 2016, as a function of time of day, computed as the average of the probes.
A parametric plot of the temperature vs illuminance recorded by sensor Logger_07_1043_1966 on April 6, 2016. The plot shows clearly that the temperature rises after sunup almost monotonically with the illuminance (with some fluctuations), and then falls as the illuminance returns to zero at sundown. For more discussion of these data, read the comments below.

Sept. 18, 2016. During the 3-week stay on Heard Island, we deployed five temperature/illuminance sensors in five selected locations around Atlas Cove. The HOBO probes from ONSET (shown at right) were set to make recordings once per minute over the duration of the stay. Recently we have obtained readouts of the probes; each had recorded 28,953 pair of values, for a total of 144,765 measurements. Typical data from these probes is shown in the plots above.

The upper plot shows the temperature and illuminance as a function of time. These data clearly show that the temperature peaks correlate closely with the illuminance peaks. This is quite reasonable: sunlight warms the island (and the probes). Close inspection of the data shows two interesting features: (1) The temperature peaks show a (slight) lag after the peak illuminance, with a somewhat extended tailing off after the peak; (2) The illuminance peaks do not occur at precisely the same time each day. The lag is consistent with the fact that the probes have thermal mass, hence take some time to respond to the changes in illuminance during the day. The jitter in peak illuminance (typically and hour or so) could be associated with overcast. After all, most days on Heard Island are cloudy.

The middle plot above shows the average temperature during a 24-hour day (0000-2399 hrs). This curve indicates that the peak temperature occurs around 1:00 PM. There is a suggestion of breaks around 0630 hrs (6:30 AM) and 2000 hrs (8:00 PM), which we might associate with sunrise (6:28 AM) and sunset (17:52) on Heard Island.

The bottom plot above displays the relationship between the illuminance and the temperature. Overall, the temperature was rising on that day, and eventually it rose relatively high. However, the relatively brief period of sunshine warmed the probe, which then cooled off after the illuminance dwindled. We interpret this plot are follows: A warm weather front was approaching during the night, causing the temperature to rise, even in the darkness. As the sun rose, the temperature rose faster than the warm front rise, causing the temperature to rise almost linearly with the illuminance. As darkness returned, the temperature cooled, returning to the value determined by the warm front. During the night the temperature continued to rise. Similar patterns are seen for the other days, that is, a major temperature change associated with weather fronts, modulated by the diurnal heating during the day.

An interesting result that emerges from the illumination sensors is that the average peak values are around 5300 lum/ft2, which converts to about 60 W/m2. The highest values seen during our stay were around 22,000 lum/ft2 or around 250 W/m2. The total solar irradiance on a clear day at sea level is about 1000 W/m2. The latitude cosine factor is about cos(53°)=0.6, hence the irradiation at the latitude of Heard Island should be about 600 W/m2. Instead, what we see is about 40% of that value. Thus, Heard Island, at least during our stay, was seeing slightly less than half of the expected solar irradiance, which could reasonably be associated with atmospheric absorption. Of course, some days were overcast or cloudy which significantly reduced the peak illumination, typically to about 10% of the expected value.

We thank Dr. Steve Smith of OceanEarth for these probes, and for assistance in extracting the data and in clarifying the calibration of the sensors.


Sample of Heard Island glacial water
Collection of water samples
pH of the 15 water samples from Heard Island. The left group of 6 is from the Laurens Penisnula. The middle group of 4 is from the Nullarbor region of Atlas Cove. The right group of 5 is from Stephenson Lagoon, on the eastern tip of Heard Island. The average pH for all 15 values is 5.57.

Sept. 15, 2016. A preliminary examination of the water samples collected during the Heard Island expedition yielded a strong indication that the melting of the glaciers produces acidic water that flows directly into the oceans. This is consistent with evidence of the acidification of the ocean by worldwide absorption of carbon dioxide, which produces carbonic acid. Acidification in turn damages sensitive organisms such as corals, that live in a very narrow range of the chemical state of the oceanic water.

One standard measure of water chemistry is pH. It is a simple number that indicates whether the water is acidic or alkaline. A pH of 7.0 is exactly neutral; lower values means the water is acidic, higher values means it is alkaline. A change of 1 unit in pH means a 10-fold change in the concentration of ions.

The 2016 expedition team collected water samples from glacial streams, lagoons, and glacial ice. The plot above shows the average values of the pH for these samples. The samples all show pH values in the range 5-6, even though they are from three distinct regions of Heard Island. These pH values are about the same as black coffee and Pepto Bismol, but significantly higher (less acidic) than tomato juice and significantly less (more acidic) than urine and saliva. The Heard Island values are significantly lower (more acidic) than normal continental stream values.

These measurements are consistent with the fact that most of Heard Island is volcanic rocks, while very little is calcium-rich strata such as limestone. Limestone would increase pH (make it less acidic). The average values of pH for the three groups above are 5.67 (Laurens), 5.33 (Nullarbor), and 5.63 (Stephenson). While the statistics are not strong, there is a slight indication that the Nullarbor is the most acidic of the three regions. Whether this is due to geology or biology is not yet clear.

While the amount of oceanic acidification due to Heard Island alone is extremely small, these measurements are consistent with the observations that its glaciers are producing (slightly) acidic water. Across the globe, such processes are projected to have a major impact on the biosphere and resources that derive from, and depend on, the chemistry of the ocean.


CE-008 Limestone
Laurens Peninsula

CE-032 Weathered fine-grained basalt/trachyte
Stephenson Lagoon
CE-047 Oxidised basaltic breccia or aggultinate
unknown location

CE-076 Wind-faceted light green carbonate(?)
from Atlas Cove


CE-030 Sieve mesh 35
The sample includes a mixture of light and dark grains about 1-3 mm dimension, and the tuft of a plant (lower right corner).
Slope of Mt. Drygalski

CE-056 Sieve mesh 35. Grid: 1 mm
These light-colored grains have density > 1.
Laurens Peninsula

CE-059 Sieve mesh 35
Laurens Peninsula

CE-114 Sieve mesh 35
This sample includes a translucent euhedral crystal and a pillbox-shaped circular object that is probably a diatom, as well as a variety of vesicular and glassy grains typical of volcanic sediments.
Stephenson Lagoon

Sept. 7, 2016. The specimens of rocks and sediment collected during the expedition are being examined. At the University of Tasmania, PhD candidate Jodi Fox and faculty member Prof. Patrick Quilty have provided an overall description and images of the rocks, while Expedition Leader Bob Schmieder is working through the sediment samples.

In spite of Heard Island being a volcano, the specimen collection includes some limestone samples, which are sedimentary rocks, although they are only a tiny fraction of the predominantly basaltic volcanic deposits. Ms. Fox notes that in some of the rocks they "can see some microfossils which may be important for dating the island (and more regional events such as sea level changes)." She also says that Prof. Quilty is "going to examine them further under microscope and then get them thin sectioned to see what he can see micro- and nano- fossil wise."

The sediments are mostly mixed dark volcanic sand, ranging from large pebbles to microscopic grains which form deposits of "glacial flour." Originally the samples were preserved in alcohol to prevent decomposition. In the lab they are washed several times in alcohol and air-dried, after which they are put through a 7-stage sieve stack with standard meshes 5, 10, 35, 60, 120, and 230. The 7 fractions that are retained in the 6 sieves plus bottom pan are then weighed and stored in glass jars. Samples of each fraction are then put through an ultrasonic alcohol bath to remove electrostatically adhering dust, and again air-dried. Then they are examined and photographed using a macro cameras for the large grains and a dissecting microscope for the small grains. Preliminary examination of the samples shows clear differences between them, in size, color, texture, and crystallinity.


Aug. 25, 2016. Team member Bill Mitchell AEØEE has compiled the statistics of the VKØEK DXpedition, presented here in two tables. The first table shows the number of QSOs as a function of band/mode, while the second table shows the number of QAOs as a function of band/continent.

Heard Island VKØEK 2016
MHz CW RTTY SSB Totals %
1.8 3225 0 13 3238 4.3
3.5 5902 0 0 5902 7.9
7 8956 1279 1562 11797 15.7
10 9898 933 0 10831 14.4
14 5774 0 3238 9012 12.0
18 7047 0 2957 10004 13.3
21 7643 1183 4498 13324 17.8
24 5015 0 2342 7357 9.8
28 2419 1 1149 3569 4.8
Totals 55879 3396 15759 75034  

Heard Island VKØEK 2016
1.8 24 483 2376 293 56 6 0
3.5 50 922 3410 1383 104 31 2
7 132 1789 6420 3205 167 81 3
10 63 1488 4807 4165 211 94 3
14 207 2160 3268 2680 628 68 1
18 153 3508 4842 952 383 153 13
21 206 3315 7789 1344 353 316 1
24 98 2285 4308 475 112 76 3
28 48 1126 2277 82 29 6 1
CW 456 12221 30626 10901 1097 554 24
RTTY 36 663 1389 1182 71 54 1
SSB 489 4192 7482 2496 875 223 2
Totals 981 17076 39497 14579 2043 831 27
% 1.3 22.8 52.6 19.4 2.7 1.1 0.0

The following plots show the number of QSOs as a function of frequency, time of day (UTC), and date-time.

Several aspects of these data show the effects of propagation. The most obvious of course is the diurnal (daily) cycle as the path moves into and out of daylight. The distribution of QSOs vs frequency shows why the bands 15-40 m are the most useful. The peak rate was around 1000-1200 UTC, and there were two minima, around 1500 UTC and 0000 UTC. What is less obvious is the reduction in rate around April 4 and April 8-11. These periods were not deficient because of lack of effort--the team was active on all bands and modes and all day/night. Unfortunately the propagation declined during the this week, as described by the ARRL Propagation Broadcast Bulletin 15 (April 8, 2016) prepared by K7RA ( [excerpts]:

QST de W1AW 
Propagation Forecast Bulletin 15  ARLP015
From Tad Cook, K7RA
Seattle, WA  April 8, 2016

All solar and geomagnetic indicators declined again last week.
Compared to the previous seven days, from March 31 through April 6
the average daily sunspot number slipped from 28.1 to 19.4. Average
daily solar flux sank from 88.8 to 83.1, while average daily
planetary A index went from 11.9 to 9.4. Average daily mid-latitude
A index went to 7.6 from 8.6.

The big factor in bringing the week's average sunspot number down
nearly 9 points was the fact that the daily sunspot number was 11 on
March 31 through April 2. 11 is the lowest sunspot number we can
possibly observe, unless there are 0 sunspots, then the sunspot
number is 0. Each sunspot group is counted as 10 points, and these
are added to the total number of sunspots which count as one each,
so a sunspot number of 11 is what you get with just one sunspot
visible. reported early Thursday that on April 7, Earth is
expected to cross a fold in the Heliospheric Current Sheet, which
could trigger unsettled geomagnetic conditions.

The Heliospheric Current Sheet separates regions of solar wind where
the magnetic field points toward or away from the Sun. See for a continuous animation of this effect from
2001 until 2009. See for
more information.

Sure enough, early on April 8 at 0007 UTC the Australia's Space
Weather Services issued a geomagnetic warning:

"The geomagnetic conditions are currently at minor storm levels and
are expected to remain at these levels for the next 6-12 hours. This
is a combined effect of sustained strongly southwards IMF Bz (see ) starting from 07/1800 UTC but with stable,
weak solar wind speeds (380 km/s). However, the solar winds are
expected to gradually increase later today in response to a small
recurrent southern hemisphere coronal hole moving into a
geo-effective location on the solar disk. The aurora may be visible
from as low as some parts of the state of Victoria, Australia, on
the local night of 8 April.  Increased geomagnetic activity expected
due to a coronal hole high speed wind stream from 08-09 April 2016."

Sunspot numbers for March 31 through April 6 were 11, 11, 11, 38,
23, 27, and 13, with a mean of 19.1. 10.7 cm flux was 81.7, 82.1,
81.5, 82.3, 83.4, 83.4, and 87.1, with a mean of 83.1. Estimated
planetary A indices were 7, 3, 22, 15, 7, 5, and 7, with a mean of
9.4. Estimated mid-latitude A indices were 5, 2, 15, 13, 6, 5, and
7, with a mean of 7.6.

Expedition co-Organizer Rich KY6R used VOACAP to make signal-strength predictions for his QTH (Orinda, CA):

Dean N6BV produced tables of signal strength for Zones:

Click for larger image

Comparing the Heard Island Expedition data with the various model predictions and the solar observations shows clearly why it was very difficult to hear, and be heard by, VKØEK especially during the first week of April, 2016. We look forward to more detailed quantitative analysis of the VKØEK data; perhaps it will reveal additional understanding of the behavior of radio waves from the subantarctic islands.


(Above) The cargo (finally!) arrives from Fremantle, Western Australia. Top row: Pat Sylvester unloads the ATV and the first of 16 shipping cases which were first used on the 1997 Heard Island Expedition. Middle row: The cases are opened, and team members (Dave Farnsworth WJ2O, Carlos Nascimento NP4IW, and Dave Lloyd K3EL) begin the processof repacking thecontents into the orginal coartons for reshipment. Bottom row: Safely in the expedition warehouse, the cargo looks a lot like it did when it left the previous November. Team members Fred Belton KM4MXD and Ken Karr NG2H pay a visit to Mt. Diablo, the nearly 4000-ft. peak, from which one can see San Francisco and the Farallon Islands, about 80 miles distant.

Aug. 19-21, 2016. After more than 4 months, the cargo from the Heard Island Expedition arrived in Oakland, California, and was put into the warehouse.

Some key items intentionally were not included in the shipment: The Airbeam shelters were reclaimed by HDT Global in Fremantle, relieving us of shipping the back to Virginia. The bunk beds, a gift from Disc-O-Bed, were gifted to the Braveheart as a thank you to the team for their exceptional service. The rock specimens were shipped directly to Jodi Fox at the University of Tasmania. The water and soil specimens were shipped to California separately. The shipment did include the ATV, all the radios, amplifiers, antennas, and two generators, as well as the emergency and medical supplies, scientific equipment such as microscope, weather instruments, the flags, paperwork, and various personal clothing and gear.

Over the weekend, several members of the team got together to sort the items into piles for final destinations. That evening, Expedition Leader Bob Schmieder presented a program of 361 slides showing the entire project from beginning to end. It was slightly more than 1% of the total of more than 30,000 images that the expedition generated, including 25,000 of Heard Island.


(Above) Analysis of the Heard Island specimens begins with washing, sorting, and labeling. After that, a dissecting microscope is used to record images of the individual specimens. In some cases, vcisual identificaiton is possible. Top row: The working position, with volcanic gravel being examined. Middle row: (left) Individual fibrous plants, not yet identified; (right) Transparent (crystalline) very fine sand particles. Bottom row: (left) An insect collected live on Heard Island, first thought to be an ant but identified by R. W. Schmieder as the wingless fly Anatalanta aptera, a known resident of Heard Island (reference image at right).

(Right) The specimens are divided into partitions, each with a unique label as shown at right.

July 31, 2016. With the arrival of the water and soil specimens from the Heard Island expedition, we are able to being examination and characterization of the collection. The water samples have not yet been opened, pending controlled chemical analysis. The majority of the soil samples are actually volcanic sand and gravel, with minor portions of organic matter. The latter are being washed in ethyl alcohol (ETOH), air dried, and sieved for particle size separation. We are dividing the sediment into mesh 5, 10, 35, 120, 225, 370, and finer components.

The organic constitutents include various sub-rounded black grains and pebbles and subhedral crystals, typical of glacial till. The grains have density about 2.0 The majority of the black grains are likely augite, magnetite, and hornblende. The transparent crystals, which are smaller than about 1 mm, are likely weathered olivine. A common fibrous plant found in several of the specimens has twisted tufts 1-2 cm long; it is as yet unidentified.

One live insect was found and collected. Because it was walking on the ground, it was at first thought that it might be an ant, in spite of the fact that no ants are known from Heard Island. However, careful examination with the microscope showed it to be the wingless fly Anatalana aptera, a known resident of Heard Island (and Kerguelen Islands). The specimen is difficult to distinguish from another species A. crozetensis, known from Crozet Island. These species were defined in 1875 by A. E. Eaton.


Heard Island team member Bill Mitchell tends the satellite link to the internet, enabled by Inmarsat BGAN 710 terminals, seen at his left. One terminal was dedicated to the radio operations, providing real-time online updates of the radio log. The other terminals were used for administration aand personal communications. The terminal speed was sufficient to enable several first-time innovations, including Skype calls and remote radio operation.

June 3, 2016. Inmarsat Government today released the following Announcement:

Inmarsat Government Connects Antarctic Heard Island Expedition

Inmarsat’s BGAN Satellite Services Play Critical Role in Success of Expedition by Delivering Highly Reliable Communications Support in Extreme Remote Polar Region

Inmarsat Government, a leading provider of secure, global, mission-critical telecommunications to the U.S. government, today announced that it has successfully supported the 2016 Heard Island Project, a multidisciplinary expedition to a remote island in the Southern Ocean.

The purpose of this three-week expedition, undertaken by Cordell Expeditions, a nonprofit research organization based in northern California, is to provide new information about Heard Island’s harsh volcanic environment and to validate satellite communications in severe, and extremely isolated, environments in the Antarctic.

The Heard Island Project’s goal is to bring technology to challenges of worldwide need and interest. The results from this expedition will help scientists better understand the effects of climate change in polar regions and the ability of models to predict the consequences of actions or inactions in facing this challenge.

Other areas of focus included: searching for unknown species that may have been revealed by recent major glacial retreat; confirming the group’s recent discovery of subterranean rivers carrying glacial meltwater; documenting plastic debris from sources worldwide; and collecting samples of the environment that are expected to contain cryptobiota – organisms that have the ability to suspend metabolism for years or decades in the face of extreme conditions of cold, heat, desiccation or toxic chemicals.

Inmarsat Government provided satellite communication services used to enable radio propagation analysis, TV broadcasts, video secondary school classroom education, video communication and blogging. During the expedition, Inmarsat’s reliable and easy-to-use Broadband Global Area Network (BGAN) service kept worldwide followers updated promptly of expedition activities. Inmarsat Government provided terminals and managed communication services to support the base station and remote scientific teams collecting samples and important documentation of the environment including its unique flora and fauna.

Inmarsat’s BGAN service played a key role in the expedition’s radio science (medium frequency (MF) and higher frequency (HF) propagation experiments) as they contacted over 75,000 other stations during unusual solar geomagnetic conditions. It also enabled reliable communications with the science teams when they travelled to a number of areas remote from the base camp to gather samples (that will go to universities for analysis of lava content, biota, glacier stream chemical composition and more) and conduct high resolution ("Gigapan") photography of the many unusual features here. “Inmarsat Government’s support helped advance the use of satellite communications from this extreme, isolated, environment in the sub-Antarctic region. The availability and reliability of Inmarsat’s satellite communication services enabled a qualitatively better capability for the expedition to communicate its activities to the general public, ensure safety, and provide for real-time interactive scientific collaboration,” said Kenneth Karr, Heard Island Expedition. “In particular, it helped facilitate conferencing for scientific collaboration and emergency response, and the ability to upload archival images and data in the most challenging weather conditions that included high winds, driving snow, sleet and volcanic grit that blows with the wind – at times reaching 80 mph.”

The group carried out a major amateur radio operation using the call sign VKØEK. Unlike any other similar amateur radio operation, the Cordell Expeditions group developed a unique technology that enables near real-time internet display of the radio operations. The system, called DXA, uploads the radio log data through Inmarsat satellites to an internet server once per minute, providing viewers with an almost real-time graphical interface to the expedition. DXA was first deployed on an expedition to Kure Atoll in the Pacific in 2005 and then on a second expedition to Clipperton Island in 2013, On both of those expeditions, the DXA website received 40 million hits, attesting to its popularity and the value of real-time data from the expedition. The latest version (DXA3) was deployed on Heard Island; it can be seen on line now at

“Supporting this expedition further demonstrates that Inmarsat’s services are best-in-class when it comes to delivering dependable ‘on-the-move’ communications – in any location or weather condition,” said Gabe Venturi, Chief Commercial Officer, Inmarsat Government. “No matter where they are on the map, users seek highly available connectivity for reliable access to the information and services essential for mission success. It has been a privilege to support the Heard Island Expedition and do our part in further advancing scientific exploration.”

For more information about the Heard Island Expedition please contact the expedition Organizer/Leader Dr. Robert Schmieder, at

For further information

Inmarsat Government Inmarsat, Inc
Britt Lewis Alena Koci
Sr. Vice President, Sales & Marketing Vice President, Marketing

About Inmarsat Government

Inmarsat Government is a leading provider of secure, reliable and affordable mission-critical telecommunications to U.S. military, intelligence and civilian organizations. Equipped with the industry’s leading satellite and terrestrial infrastructure, it delivers custom, end-to-end networks and solutions that can sustain communications anytime, anywhere. Inmarsat Government, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Inmarsat plc, and an authorized Value Added Reseller (VAR) for Inmarsat Global Xpress, is responsible for Inmarsat’s retail U.S. government business. It is headquartered in Reston, VA, with network assets and operations around the globe.

About Inmarsat

Inmarsat plc is the leading provider of global mobile satellite communications services. Since 1979, Inmarsat has been providing reliable voice and high-speed data communications to governments, enterprises and other organizations, with a range of services that can be used on land, at sea or in the air. Inmarsat employs around 1,600 staff in more than 60 locations around the world, with a presence in the major ports and centers of commerce on every continent. Inmarsat is listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:ISAT.L). For more information, please visit The Inmarsat press release newsfeed and corporate updates are on Twitter @InmarsatGlobal.

“No matter where they are on the map, users seek highly available connectivity for reliable access to the information and services essential for mission success. It has been a privilege to support the Heard Island Expedition and do our part in further advancing scientific exploration.”


Expedition Organizer and Leader Robert Schmieder KK6EK on Heard Island. Behind him are Corinthian Bay and and the Baudinon Glacier, lying in view from the VKØEK campsite.

May 5, 2016. You probably know most of the news already: We sailed from Cape Town on schedule (March 10), and arrived at Heard Island March 22, after a rather rough, and long, ride on the Braveheart. The next day we began transporting our gear and the team to the island, and setting up our camp. In less than 15 hours, we went on the air and started logging contacts, displaying them in nearly real-time on our special graphic online log DXA.

Over the next 20 days we erected the full set of antennas, and worked into a routine of activities. Most of the team worked the pile-ups, logging around 4000 contact each day with up to six stations. Two team members were there to explore the island, document glacier retreat, collect samples of the rocks, soil, and water, and provide additional manpower for the myriad tasks such as filling generators, repairing equipment, and transporting our supplies from the beach (about 500 m away). The Braveheart crew made extraordinary effort, supplying us with food and transporting the field scientists to remote parts of the island.

Finally, on April 11, a month after we left South Africa, we struck camp and beat a retreat as winter weather began closing in on us. The entire campsite was dismantled and transported to the Braveheart in less than 9 hours, and as is our requirement, we left the campsite completely clean. Altogether we accumulated 75,000 radio contacts, about 50 rock specimens, about 20 soil samples, and about 15 glacial water samples. The team also came back with 450 GB of photographs.

Thanks to our Inmarsat BGAN terminals, we had a reasonably fast connection to the internet, and we were able to carry on extensive communications with family, the support team, and many individual DXers and scientists. Much of our effort was made possible by the extensive and innovative support teams: The Diablo Dxers organized and led by so-Organizer Rich Holoch KY6R, by souvenir manager Manny Rodriguez K4MSR, and by support teams in Cape Town (Paul ZS1S) and Perth (Keith VK6RK). In particular, the extensive outreach via social media, implemented by the Diablo DXers, clearly was a major advance, and (we hope!) represents a new standard for future DXpeditions.

Although there was the usual interference and criticism of the VKØEK operation, and we were not able to obtain the number of QSOs and hydro-bio-geological specimens we had hoped due to the extremely challenging weather and disappointedly poor radio propagation, we are quite happy with the operation, and hope you agree it was worth the effort and the support. For all of you who did support us financially and in other ways, thanks you so much. All of us, and all of you, can say:

"I helped make it happen!"

We'll soon be presenting more details of the Heard Island Expedition, and we invite your continued interest and interactions.



The campsite on Heard Island [click to enlarge]

April 1, 2016. The 2016 Cordell Expedition to Heard Island is in full operation.

The main operations site of the 2016 Cordell Expedition to Heard Island lies at the foot of the 9000-ft. peak of Big Ben. The dark area between the volcano and the campsite is a featureless plain of volcanic cinders. The array of antennas around the site provides the capability to make amateur radio contacts on all major bands and modes, using the callsign VKØEK. Just inside the window of the op tent (left) are the satellite terminals that provide full connection to the internet, enabling real-time upload of the radio log and its display on the web page DXA, as well as effectively unlimited communications via social media. In the distance another load of cargo is being transported to the site using the 4-wheel drive vehicle. Near the peak of Big Ben an elevated vent is emitting dark fumes, which follows the full-scale eruption two months earlier.

A special issue of the Newsletter provides some images and details about the operation as it was underway. This Newsletter was issued after the operation was completed (it was not possible to edit and distribute it from Heard Island). You can download the Newsletter by clicking on the image below.

Newsletter Issue 02_04 is dated April 1, 2016. [Click image above to download Newsletter PDF (2.1 MB)]


Expedition Organizer and Leader Robert Schmieder packing for the expedition. In front of him are three books by the Honorary Principal Scientist Harvard Biologist Edward O. Wilson; Bob will take two of them (The Diversity of Life and Consilience) with him.

March 1, 2016. No matter how much you prepare for an adventure like this, it's always a rush when it is about to actually happen. Now, after 3 years of planning and preparation, it is. If I may, I'll use the same words I used when we were about to land on Heard Island in 1997: "We're ready!"

If you have looked at our Project Poster, you'll see how many people have been involved in making this happen--a "small staff" of about a dozen, about a hundred implementing and tending various equipage and logistical activities, and perhaps a thousand others indirectly involved in fulfilment of individual items. Of course, the list is only a fraction of the rest of "the team": the DXers who will make a contact with the camp on Heard Island, logging a contact with VKØEK. After almost 20 years, this will be a relief for some, a thrill for others, and probably a source of debate about the project for years.

For those of us who will sail out of Cape Town on March 10, it is an E-ticket ride. Some of you know the ups and downs we have experienced over the course of creating the project, and now that seems less like trouble and more like a thrilling roller coaster ride. For those of you who have supported us with your contributions, we have a special feeling: you made this expedition financially successful so we could spend our time preparing rather than fundraising. For those of you who have sent good wishes, we carry them with us, with warm thanks. For those of you who will keep our home fires burning for two months, you will constantly be in our thoughts.

And now, a special message for the DXers: For those of you who will be working hard to make a contact with VKØEK, please keep in mind that both you and we are on the same team--we both want to get you in the log. We will be working hard for you, and we would like you to help us by maintaining a high level of those virtues that will make this operation fun and rewarding: patience, charity, and mutual support. We want you to have a great time watching and interacting with the DXpedition, and we'll celebrate the success of the operation if everyone can truthfully embrace our motto:

"I helped make it happen!"

Thanks all, and we'll look for you from Heard Island.



Newsletter Issue 02_03 goes out today. It's for helping you make contect with the Expedition and log a QSO with VKØEK

March 1, 2016. Today the first of the Heard Island Expedition Team board flights for Cape Town, South Africa, the accumulation point for the expedition to Heard Island.

The first three to depart, Bob Schmieder KK6EK, Ken Karr NG2H, and Adam Brown K2ARB, will arrive in Cape Town at 1:00 PM local time, to be met by members of the South Africa Support Team. They will be followed over the next four days by the other team members: Fred Belton KM4MXD, Arliss Thompson W7XU, Gavin Marshall VK2BAX, Hans-Peter Blattler HB9BXE, Alan Cheshire VK6CQ, Bill Mitchell AEØEE, Dave Lloyd K3EL, Jim Colletto N6TQ, Vadym Ivliev UT6UD, Dave Farnsworth WJ2O, and Carlos Nascimento NP4IW.

The Cape Town Support Team has been interfacing with the vessel (also due to arrive in Cape Town March 3), and the local agency for inspecting the vessel and cargo for biological threats. We will be shopping, cleaning the tents, and loading the Braveheart, preparing for the scheduled sailing on March 10.


The expedition is permitted to collect specimens within the red-bounded zone. This is one of three main areas in which the expedition is permitted to collect specimens. The AAD configured this zone according to the requests from Cordell Expedition, taking into account the sensitive nature of the environment, the potential dangers to explorers, and the opportunity to obtain new information about the environment. The area above is at the extreme eastern end of the island. The large (ca 1 mile) lagoon was created recently by the very rapid melting of the lagoon, seen now as jsut a narrow snow ribbon entering the lagoon. The extension to Brown Lagoon and the rectangular extension were added to enable the team to reach areas that have been recently (last 10 years) deglaciated.

NOTE: This figure is rotated approximately 90° counterclockwise--north is to the left.

March 1, 2016. Today we received the Final permit for conducting the 2016 expedition to Heard Island. The permit was forwarded by James Fleming, Policy Legal Officer, Strategies Branch, Australian Antarctic Division (AAD). The AAD is the agency that manages the Heard Island and McDonald Islands Marine Reserve.

Over a period of more than two years, Cordell Expeditions has been presenting its plan for a major scientific expedition to Heard Island, the first in almost 20 years. Because of the extreme sensitivity of the island to climate, and therefore climate change, major changes have occured on the island during this interval, providing the core motivation for the project. Furthermore, Heard Island has no identified human-introduced species, and the AAD is diligent in enforcing the legislation that mandates strict controls over who, when, and how the island may be visited. Among other restrictions, research expeditions are required to undergo a rigorous cleaning and inspection of the vessel and facilities to be taken on the island.

While this was a long, and expensive (including two trips to Tasmania) process, we are in agreement with the motivation, the procedure, and the result. The AAD required us to justify the quality and importance of the research we were proposing, and to provide extensive assurances that the field work would be safe to both the personnel and the environment. So while these requirements increased the time and the cost of the project, we are pleased that the island resources, so important as a natural laboratory in which to study climate change, is being protected and maintained.

The full text and illustrations of the permit are available here. The set of proposed research projects that was approved by the AAD is here.

NEWS ARCHIVES 3 (Nov. 2015 - Feb. 2016)

NEWS ARCHIVES 2 (May 2015 - Nov. 2015)

NEWS ARCHIVES 1 (2014 - Apr. 2015)