How to activate a US Island on the Air...a few people asked

John Ford

Hi All, 
A few people asked about activating US Islands on the Air, since it's a totally different organization from the Parks on the Air that we've talked about so far. 

Well, a good place to start is the website at where you can see a number of things, including the list of US Islands. 

The biggest difference with POTA is that USI is much smaller with far fewer followers. That means that you need to do a bit more effort to find QSOs, and the minimum QSOs for a valid activation is 15 QSOs. You can spot yourself on the DX Summit/Watch list, and you can spot yourself on the USI Facebook page. That might get you a half-dozen QSOs, so you need to visit nets like YLS, OMISS, MidCars, and butt into a few QSOs at random spots so you can log at least 15. Not too difficult, but it may take a hour instead of only 20 minutes like is generally the case on POTA. 

In terms of where and can look up islands by state on the website. Pick one, go, set up, and start calling "CQ US Islands on the Air".
One of the unique things about USI, is that they consider a location to be an island even if it is connected to mainland by a single road causeway, which makes things a lot easier. If you click on the island in the website listing, it will show you a Google map of the island, so you can see if it is a "driveable" island or a "boat" island.
There are a few items of paperwork available on the website...most of them are electronic. You can advertise an upcoming activation on the website, or you can notify the program admin that you have successfully qualified or activated an island. You do NOT need to send in your logs, as you do with POTA. 

The two activities that I tried in the last two weeks were "qualifications"...which is the first ever activation of an island. On the first occasion, there was an island listing on Stockton Lake that had never been qualified, so I planned out that activity. While I was out on the lake the first time, I noticed a second island that was on the Google map, but not on the USI list. 
I did a bit of research on the web with the US Geophysical Survey, to document that the island was big enough, and make sure I had correct Lat/Long coordinates for it. The hardest park was to find out the island's name, which required phone calls to the local folks and to the Corps of Engineers to find a name required by the USI database. Both islands in Stockton Lake only had local names and sometimes different ones depending on who you asked, so I gathered a few names from several sources, and then called the Corps and used their info to break the tie on names. I submitted that info to the the USI admin person, and the new Island was listed on the website the very next day. 

Going to the island is a bit more effort than driving to a local park, of course, but not a huge ordeal if you multi-task the trip. We planned to hang out on the island for a while and read and do some fishing after the radio mission was complete. Fishing is very good at Stockton, so it was worth the trip if nothing else. It is also one of the most scenic lakes in Missouri. 

I found a boat rental at the Orleans Trail Marina, operated by the Corps, that rented a 15-hp open fishing boat for 6 hours for $40 plus gas. On both trips, with some fishing and touring, the activity took 4 hours, and the gas fill-up charge was $3. 

Otherwise, the only unique preparation was to use a water-resistant rubberized canvas bag to store my radio gear. Good insurance. 
The marina supplies "cushion" life preservers, but I opted for my full vest life jackets. They do provide a fire extinguisher, whistle, spare paddle, and anchor. 

So, there are still some un-qualified islands in Missouri, but there are still some unlisted islands in several lakes and rivers. As long as the island is at least 100ft in any one dimension, and at least 50ft from mainland on the day of qualification, it can be listed. Once you "qualify" a new island, your callsign goes into the permanent database listing as the qualifier. 

It's another fun option for having fun with radio, mixing with other touring enjoyments. 

Worth a try!


John AB0O