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Santa Rosa Island, 1958
San Clemente Island


These are called QSL cards and they are used to confirm amateur radio contacts. The term “QSL” comes from the international Q code and means “I confirm receipt of your transmission”. A QSL card is a written confirmation of either a two-way radio communication between two amateur radio stations; a one-way reception of a signal from an AM radio, FM radio, television or shortwave broadcasting station; or the reception of a two-way radio communication by a third party listener. It was once a great thrill for a ham radio operator to receive a QSL card after a contact with some far off place. But they've lost their importance for most hams now.

On the Santa Rosa Island QSL card, SSB indicates that these were Single Sideband voice contacts. The time is in UTC/Greenwich Mean Time and the RST reading stands for Readability, Signal Strength, Tone. Tone is omitted for voice contacts so these only show two numbers: 57 and 59 respectively.

There is an online database to lookup current callsigns. Finding expired or former callsigns assignments can be trickier, but it is possible.

IOTA [San Clemente Island QSL card] is the Islands On The Air) Program that has caught the interest of thousands of radio amateurs worldwide. Established in 1964, it promotes radio contacts with stations located on islands around the world to enrich the experience of all active on the amateur bands and, to do this, it draws on the widespread mystique surrounding islands. It is administered by Islands On The Air (IOTA) Ltd (called IOTA Management) in partnership with the Radio Society of Great Britain (RSGB).

IOTA Management has grouped the oceans' islands into some 1200 'IOTA groups' with, for reasons of geography, varying numbers of 'counters', i.e. qualifying islands, in each group and has published the listings in the IOTA Directory and on the IOTA website. The objective, for the IOTA Island Chaser, is to make radio contact with at least one counter in as many of these groups as possible and, for the IOTA Island Activator, to provide such island contacts. The program has a strong rule structure. IOTA Management encourages friendly competition among chasers by publishing details of participants' performance in an Honor Roll and annual listings, as well as by recognizing it with certificates and prestige awards.

The IOTA group maintains this sheet which lists the percentage of active IOTA users that have a credit for each group. A group with a low percentage of credits is considered a rare group. IOTA Groups NA-144, includes San Miguel, Santa Rosa, Santa Cruz (including Gull Is.) and all the Anacapa islands.

In the past 5 years, 35.5% of active users have logged a contact with a station on the islands. In the past 10 years: 31.2% of active users have logged a contact with a station on the islands. Since the inception of the program: 24.8% of active users have logged a contact with a station on the islands.

All things considered, the Channel Islands are relatively rare, but not entirely uncommon to have radio activity on.

Islapedia thanks Levi C. Maaia, K6LCM for much of the above information.