KnightLite's QRP Adventure to Shackleford Banks
During the last weekend of March 2004, a small group of KnightLite's descended upon Shackleford Banks, a relatively large island situated near Cape Lookout on the North Carolina Outer Banks. Shackleford is nine miles long and about one mile wide, and contains an interesting diversity of land forms, vegetation, and wildlife. The island is accessible only by boat.
ocean side of the island
maritime forest meets the dunes
sound side of the island looking toward the mainland
The four members of our team included John-WB4OFT, his 13 year old son Geoffrey, along with John-N3DRK, and Paul-AA4XX.
John-WB4OFT and Geoffrey preparing breakfast
Our transportation to the island was provided by a ferry service out of the quaint coastal town of Beaufort. Captain Bill tried to suppress a grin as he surveyed our rather eclectic collection of gear. The batteries, fiberglass masts, and radio gear really got his attention! The boat ride out to Shackleford Banks took about fifteen minutes, during which time we enjoyed our first views of the islands and channels between Beaufort harbor and our final destination.
All that gear for a QRP operation?
John-N3DRK and Paul-AA4XX on ferry
Ferry drop on Shackleford Banks
We set up our camp on the sound side of the island, about 30 yards from the water. N3DRK's large dome tent served as the radio shack. Two rigs were set up--a K2 and an Argonaut V. We used several different antennas, including halfwave verticals for 80, 40, 20, and 15M. For antenna supports we used fiberglass masts and kites. With favorable winds throughout the weekend, one large delta-box kite flew continuously for 48 hours before we cranked it in late Saturday night. This kite also supported an American flag which was flying about 200 feet above the water--What a sight that was! Our casual style of operating netted some surprising DX on both CW and SSB, including the Central African Republic (20M CW), Japan and Mauritania (15M SSB), and many Europeans on 40M CW. It was especially exciting to exchange reports with HA5MA/QRP from Budapest on 40M CW early Friday evening. The kite supported 80M halfwave LW antenna supplied most of the 40M and 15M DX contacts.
WB4OFT tuning kite antenna on 40M
N3DRK working 20M CW with his K2
American flag at 200 ft suspended by kite line
delta-box and parafoil kites serving as antenna skyhooks
Shackleford Banks is rich in history. Although the old human settlements are long gone due to the influence of several ferocious hurricanes, there are ample reminders that people once lived on the island. Our ferry captain had told us that there was an old cemetery hidden in the maritime forest. He gave us some clues as to the approximate location of the site, so I decided to spend a few hours looking for it. Walking down the soundside beach, I entered the forest about a mile east of our campsite. After walking through the woods for about an hour, the cemetery was sighted.
sound side approaching maritime forest
One doesn't have to be on the island long before it becomes obvious that there is a special presence thereon. While looking for the cemetery, I noticed that numerous pony paths crisscross the forest and dunes. While deep in the forest, I happened upon one of the many ponies that inhabit the island. These ponies are descendents of the Spanish mustangs that populated the Outer Banks due to the many shipwrecks that occurred in this region. During our stay on the island, we saw several ponies walk by our campsite. A freshwater pond supplies drinking water.
ponies in dunes near campsite
freshwater pond at sunrise
On Saturday morning our group hiked across the island to the ocean. The weather was quite nice, and we enjoyed sitting on the beach and collecting seashells. We found so many large shells that we started giving them to visitors who were also looking for souvenirs.
One sure measure of a successful outing is that the participants look forward to a return trip. We all agreed that we would enjoy revisiting this special place.