Expedition Plagued with Injuries Leaves Palmyra Closed to Visitors

QSL 1/6/1980 Photo Collection: TIGHAR Expedition to Kanton

By 1980, Palmyra was in desperate need of an cleanup.  Much of the debirs and building materials left from the activities of the Navy during World War 2 were scattered across the islands and little more than rubble.  It had housed no long time residents or scientific expeditions since the 60's, and the owners did little more with it than occasionally enterain an offer to sell off the property.  The once accessible runways were overrun with plants, rubish,and the over a million birds who regularly nested on the atoll.

None of that disuaded the regular DXpeditions of amateur radio operators, who continued to visit the island, and the occasional yachtie.  So in 1980, a group arrived from Hawaii via chartered plane, with plans to travel on to nearby Kingman afterwards.  Unfortunately, they didn't anticipate the difficulty in landing the plane.  A combination of inadequate landing space and dangerous crosswinds resulted in the aircraft crashing and being too damaged to ever fly again.

While only one member of the team was hurt in the crash, her injuries were severe enough that she was airlifted back to Hawaii for treatment.  Things seemed to go smoothly from there, with broadcasting a success over the next few days, and the trip over to Kingman uneventful, until the team returned to Palmyra.  Another team member, a neurosurgeon, fell while hiking around the island and inured his hand.  He was airlifted back as well, with the other team members traveling with him.

By all accounts, he lost his ability to operate, suing the islands owners for negligence and settling out of court.  After this series of accidents, the Fullard-Leo's were understandably reluctant to let anyone visit the island, and there would be no further DXpeditions until 1988, by which time some cleanup had been done on the islands making it easier to navigate.

Expedition Plagued with Injuries Leaves Palmyra Closed to Visitors