Navassa Island – Pirate of the Caribbean

QSL Card design and photo by Chaz Cone, W4GKF

Navassa Island was added to the list in 1954.

Navassa Island (KP1) has a rich and fascinating history which includes Christopher Columbus, the American Civil War, an uprising of contract Guano workers from The Maryland based Navassa Phosphate Company and ensuing lawsuits, a lookout post during the WWII war years, an ongoing dispute with Haiti over its status, and modern day pirates! If there was ever an entity that could be used as part of the “Pirates of the Caribbean” story, this is it.

Physically, the cliffs surrounding the island make the island seem all that more foreboding. Its especially ironic that it is so close to Haiti, Cuba and Jamaica. Even if a helicopter were used to access the island, I’m not sure where it could safely land:

It is similar to Malpelo Island – except without the maintenance of the “lift” that Malpelo had. The “lift” at Navassa seems old and dilapidated.

Legally, it had been, and maybe still is a disputed island. Here is one legal assessment of the situation:

If control ever were to be handed over to Haiti, the island would no longer qualify as a DXCC entity because of the distance rule – Navassa is too close to Haiti to remain a separate entity. From what I have read, I seriously doubt its status will be changing any time soon, if ever.

Here is an interesting case – Duncan vs. the Navassa Phosphate Company:

I’ve been a ham since 1973 (ex-WA2QHN), but was inactive from 1977 – 2001. When I got back in the game I headed straight for DX-ing. In 2001, KP1 (Navassa) and KP5 (Desecheo) seemed like “impossible” entities – one’s that seemed like they would “never” be activated.

Within a few years I learned about the KP1-5 Project, read on their web site how difficult it would be to gain access, and just hoped for the best.

For me, since both entities seemed to have the same status, they had – and have remained interlinked in my mind.

In 2005 Dave, K3LP and Kam, K3KS activated KP5 (Desecheo) – with just a simple last minute announcement, I was in shock. It was a boat and tent operation:

I was even more shocked by how easy it was to work them – I had expected that the East Coast would hold dominion over that activation. I sat on the frequencies where they were expected, and worked them very quickly as soon as they came on the air  – before the huge pileups ensued.

Knowing that the K3LP and K3KS Desecheo activation had been such a surprise, I realized that a serious “announced” activation might actually happen, and suddenly had a lot more hope that these “impossible” entities might become possible.

This happened in 2009:

The KP1-5 Project did an outstanding job activating Desecheo as K5D, and for me set the standard for how amateur radio could work with the US F&W. In fact, it seems like their work as well as others work on places like Kingman Reef could also one day be activated. These seem at least possible now.

I haven’t heard any recent news about Navassa, but know that the KP1-5 Project is working to activate it – and if any group can, they can and will. I also imagine that the closest access point – Haiti, might not be easily used – because of the earthquake and relief effort that is still ongoing:

It’s currently hurricane season, and this isn’t helping matters for Haiti. It does underscore the fact that activations would not happen during such a season, but in the “quieter” months such as January or February.

Here is a controversial Navassa KC4DX article from 73 Magazine:

And here is the official web site for KC4DX:

Navassa used to be very common – not at all a top of the most wanted list contender. Here is a list of the (many) past activations:

1929 – K4NI, before the DXCC program!

1954 – KC4AB

1957 – W2HQL/KC4, W2IWC/KC4

1958 – KC4AF

1966 – K1IMP/KC4 – Don Miller, not accepted for DXCC

1969 – K4IA/KC4, W4VPD/KC4

1971 – W0EXD/KC4

1972 – KC4DX

1974 – KC4NI

1978 – N0TG/KP1

1982 – N2OO/KP1

1985 – 6Y5NR/KP1

1988 – N2EPF/NP1 and K2SG/NP1

1989 – W4VN/5 – did not count for DXCC

1992 – AA4NC/KP1, Kw2P/KP1

1993 – W5IJU/KP1, KH2W/KP1, NF6S/KP1

There are a couple of QST articles about Navassa – accessible online at the ARRL web site (if you are a member):

Dec 1969 – QST (Pg. 56)
Navassa Revisited

Dec 1957 – QST (Pg. 58)

I haven’t found any activations since 1993, but think there must have been one. I am very much looking forward to a KP1 activation. If it were activated in say, February 2013, here is what the propagation would look like from my QTH:


Being only 3 away from DXCC Honor Roll – you can imagine how exciting this would be for me. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and get my checkbook ready if the KP1-5 Project can activate this ultra rare one!

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