*EDITORIAL* About IOTA – SWL, HAM & now 11m

As well as on licensed ham bands of course, Islands On The Air (IOTA) DX is thought by Dx Adventure Radio Club (DA-RC) members to be one of the most thrilling facets of eleven metre and citizens band comms.

Whether you’re an Island Chaser, part of a DXpedition team activating an island, or holidaying with the YL on a small isle with radio gear in tow, IOTA ops presents an enormous challenge for the DXer — one that has transcended from the ranks of Short Wave Listening (SWL) and then Amateur Radio to the 11m scene more than a decade ago.

Created in 1964 by Geoff Watts, a leading English short wave listener, and taken on by the Radio Society of Great Britain in 1985, the IOTA Program is designed to encourage contacts with island stations worldwide.  It has since become one of the most exciting aspects of the ham and Freeband radio communities.

For identification purposes, the world’s islands have been grouped into some 1200 IOTA groups by the RSGB, given reference numbers and categorised under one of 7 different regional headings according to their geographic location.

These regions include:

  • Oceania (OC)
  • Europe (EU)
  • South America (SA)
  • North America (NA)
  • Antarctica (AN)
  • Asia (AS)
  • Africa (AF)

[For example, the reference number allocated to Franz Josef Land is EU-019 where the prefix EU stands for Europe and the number 19 is the island’s individual reference number].

Other non-RSGB referencing systems do exist which attribute reference numbers to individual islands found in the typical RSGB allocated islands groups.


What is an Island Chaser?

An Island Chaser is a DXer with a passion for working and confirming islands.  Island Chasers think in terms of RSGB IOTA reference numbers rather than DXCC country listings.  In addition to the DXCC listing found in most shacks of 11m DXers, the Island Chaser also possesses an IOTA directory which lists most islands in the world and their corresponding identification code.

The objective for the Island Chaser is to make radio contact with at least one island in as many IOTA groups as possible and for the Island DXpeditioner (See definition below) to provide such island contacts.  For both, it is a fun pastime adding much enjoyment to on the air activity.

Activating an Island

Activating an island can be as easy as transporting a station (rig, antenna and power source) to one of the world’s many islands and making contacts.  Of course there are many other challenges that a potential IOTA DXpeditioner must consider in addition to transporting his radio equipment…

Some of these might include:

  • Which island will I activate?
  • What is the reference number?
  • Is ham friendly accommodation available?
  • What antenna will I use and how will I mount it?
  • What will my power source be?
  • Do I require a permit to operate a station from the island?
  • How will I get there?  How will I get home?
  • What would I do in case of emergency?
  • With whom will I form my DXpedition team with?
  • Does my planned IOTA activation align with any of the world’s major Freeband IOTA contests?
  • What supplies will I take?

Contacts with maritime mobile stations anchored near islands are not valid for IOTA.

Bajo NuevoWhich Islands Count?

According to RSGB guidelines, to count for IOTA, islands need to meet a few simple rules relating to location.

They must not lie in rivers, inland lakes or seas, or largely enclosed bays.  They must be a minimum distance from the mainland.  And they must be either 1 kilometre in length or shown on a 1:1,000,000 scale map.

Where there is no officially recognised group, an IOTA group name is often given to cover a range of islands in a particular geographical sector.

Where Can I find Reference Numbers?

The many different ways that an Island Hunter might find a reference for a particular island or island group.  Two of the most common are:

  1. The RSGB IOTA Directory which is available from the RSGB website.  See: https://www.rsgbshop.org/acatalog/Online_Catalogue_IOTA_42.html
  2. The search engine on the RSGB website.  See https://www.rsgbiota.org/