In our amateur radio community we generally speak about Spratly when referring to the area that comprises of a lot of shallow islands and atolls. Different names exist and moreover, each claiming country has its own name for a particular island or atoll. Swallow Reef generally used as the name on Admiralty charts is better known to us as Pulau Layang Layang (Place of Swallows in the local Malaysian language) or Danwan Jiao in Chinese and Đá Hoa Lau in Vietnamese. As with all of the Spratly Islands, the ownership of Swallow Reef is disputed, but it is controlled by Malaysia. The island serves primarily as Malaysia's claim to ownership of this section of the Spratly Islands, i.e. those which lie closer to its land area. The Malaysian Navy has a naval base on Swallow Reef since 1983 and a dive resort has operated on the island for a number of years.
It is uncertain, whether this is an oceanic island formed by coral growth capping an extinct undersea volcano or a sunken mountain. Specialists believe that thirteen coral reefs linked up to form the 7.3km long, 2.2km wide atoll. The 20m deep enclosed lagoon, with its fixed mooring buoys, is the only safe anchorage in this remote region.
Living in Malaysia is a great opportunity to explore that beautiful country with the many attractions and fantastic landscape. Apart from the highlands, rainforests and the many nice islands, there is another great opportunity if you are a radio amateur. Once I knew that I would stay for a while in Malaysia, I was committed to be active from Spratly, or for the Malaysian situation, Pulau Layang Layang.
Spratly has my special interest as I still remember very well the tragic attempt by four German operators that wanted to activate Spratly from the island Abonya Cay. I was asked to join this operation but for personal reasons I had to reject. Since that moment I followed the voyage of the Germans when enroute to their destination in the South China Sea. There were daily skeds with operators around the world but also with US stations located at the military base in the Philippines. One morning, a message was sent that they were shot from a military settlement op Abonya Cay. One person was killed immediately and some others wounded. With the catamaran set on fire, they managed to escape in a small dinghy. For the next 11 days they were drifting at the South China Sea without food and water. After a few days a second German died which left DJ6SI, DF6FK, the skipper and his wife in the small boat. Only on the 11th day they were rescued by a big transport vessel. This ordeal was not only extensively covered by the amateur radio media but also by the normal media.
Although lots of efforts by the ham community were initiated to start rescue operations, for political reasons these initiatives could not be effectuated. The Spratly area is disputed by most countries surrounding the South China Sea and all claiming parts or all of the islands and small coral islands and atolls. This area is not without reason called "dangerous area" on a number of maps. For any country going for a rescue action would immediately lead to tensions and possible more political trouble.
- Location of Layang Layang Location of Layang Layang
- South China Sea with lots of small islands South China Sea with lots of small islands
- Layang Layang Layang Layang
- Diving spots around the island Diving spots around the island
- Google view Google view
- Looking to the West Looking to the West
- The naval base on the island The naval base on the island