The History of HAM Radio on Palmyra

Since the 1940's, Palmyra has been a popular destination for any ham radio operators adventurous enough to traverse the Pacific.  For those who aren't familiar with the amateur radio community, registered operators embark on what they call DXpeditions.  These involve a small group of operators traveling to a specific place, and broadcasting their signal. They then track how many connections are made to other operators, and where those connections are located.

From as early as 1916, radio enthusiasts have carried equipment to some of the most dangerous, exotic, and hard to reach parts of the planet.  From Antarctica to Oahu, trips and connections are tracked using QSL cards, which document various key elements of a confirmed communication between the DXpeditioners and the receiver, such as date, frequency, location, and name.

The first documented trip to Palmyra was in 1944, and since then its been visited by over 25 DxPeditions and counting.  The island's history with operators is far from over, and the last 80 years of visits include some harrowing and historic events.

This exhibit hopes to share the more interesting moments from that history, and honor the many brave hams who ventured to Palmyra's shores with their radios, to reach out around the world.  We've included a full gallery of QSL cards from 1947 to 2000, and tales of how radio operators saved the lives of strangers, sometimes with very unseen consequences, and how their own lives were changed by the atoll.

I want to personally thank the many amateur radio operators who shared their stories, pictures, and other materials with me, without which this exhibit, and much of this archive, would not have been possible.


Various Sources