History of the island

Tromelin is a French island of the Indian Ocean located at 450km east of Madagascar and 535km north of Réunion. Its summit does not exceed 7m above sea level. It is the result of the accumulation of sediments on a shallow water of volcanic origin. Since 1954, the island accommodates a weather station called “Serge Frolow”. It is particularly useful in this part of the Indian Ocean to observe the formation of the cyclones. These 1km2 has been hit by cyclones 15 times during the last 40 years.

The island was discovered by chance on August 11th, 1722 by the captain Briand de La Feuillée. Seen from a great distance, no unloading was tried because the accesses seemed dangerous. 17 years later, it appears on a sea chart as « Sands island ». At that time, the coordinates are not very precise because of the absence of reliable tools. A real improvement came with the development of the octant by John Hadley and the sea watches by John Harrisson. These inaccuracies will be the cause of the sinking of a French ship in 1761. L’Utile had left Madagascar to reach Mauritius with its meat and rice cargo. Besides this loading, the captain Jean de la Fargue, had taken on board 160 black slaves whom it intended to resell.

Unfortunately, on July 31st, 1761, around 23h00, the boat hit rocks. After a complete night of horror to fight against the beachcombers and the strong currents, part of the crew (122 out of 143) and a handful of slaves (88 out of 160) succeeds has to escape and get to the island. In the darkness, they thought of being on a shallow water because the map did not indicate an island to this place.

One month later, the crew left the island on a raft made with the remains of the boat but due to a lack of space, the slaves were abandoned on the spot. Before leaving, one made them the promise to come to seek them quickly. Unfortunately this promise was not kept and the helps will be sent only 15 years later.
On this tiny island, the survival conditions were incredibly difficult, especially because this place is regularly struck by cyclones. Over the years, they built solid shelters with rock found on the beaches and with elements of the failed boat. During 15 years, they were constrained to eat tortoises, birds and fish. Drinking water came from a well dug by the crew on the center of the island.
In November 1776, they were saved by the crew of a ship commanded by the Knight of Tromelin. Only 8 survivors, 7 women and a 8 month old baby had remained alive. The name Tromelin was given in 1818 .

Stamp TromelinThe island remained uninhabited until 1954. 1 year earlier, it was decided to install a weather station there. Engineer Serge Frolow carried out in 1953 a reconnaissance mission and envisages to install a camp and to arrange a runway of 1000m in the middle of the island by compacting corals. The island does not allow an access by boat because there is no harbour. The unloading was carried out using rowboat and was very complicated and dangerous. Several members of the team were injured. On May 8th, 1954, the first weather informations are transmitted. 2014 mark the 60th anniversary of the station. If part of the devices have been automated over the years, staff carries out daily observations.

An island, a DXCC entity

Tromelin was added to the list of the DX Century Club (DXCC) on November 15th, 1945. The first recorded activity is the one of FB8BK/T in November 1954. Since the end of April, Marc Jouanny took part in the sides of engineer Serge Frolow to the construction of the weather station. Our operation Tromelin 2014 will mark almost day for day the 60th birthday of his activity.

From this time, a few expeditions have been authorized and we measure the chance that it is given to us. The amateur radio activities were led mainly by the staff of Meteo-France (weather service) during professional missions. The last major operation, conducted under the callsign FR/F6KDF/T made 50000 contacts in August 2000 but it is Guy FR5ZU/T who was the last active person in 2001 from Tromelin.

Nonexhaustive list of the recorded activities:

  • FB8BK / T november 1954
  • FR7ZC / T 1963
  • FR7ZL / T 1967 + 1969 + 1974 + 1977 + 1979 + others
  • FR7AI / T 1970 + 1974
  • FR7AE / T 1971
  • FR7ZU / T 1971
  • FR0FLO / T et FR7BP / T 1980 (by AA6AA, N6ZV, FR0FLO, FR7BP – 11000 QSO)
  • FR7CG / T 1982
  • FR5ES / T 1987
  • FR5ZU / T 1992 + 1996 + 1999 + 2001
  • FR5ZQ / T 1993 + 1996 + 1998 + 1999
  • FR5AI / T 1991
  • FR/F6KDF/T 2000 (by F5PXT, F5PYI, F6JJX, F5NOD – 50000 QSO)