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First ever Amateur Radio operation from Bir Tawil. Landlocked Kingdom between Sudan and Egypt for 114 years.

ClubLog QSO search:            https://secure.clublog.org/logsearch/1U4UN

2014 story:

The Expedition to a No-Man’s Land.

My initial plans to visit Bir Tawil hatched back in 2011, after visiting a new-born country on the World’s Map - South Sudan, while I was studying political history of relationships between Egypt, Sudan and South Sudan. Being an enthusiastic amateur radio operator from Siberia since I was 8 years old, I was always eager to visit remote places and different territories of the world.

By now, I have visited 105 countries.

After a successful amateur radio DХ-pedition to Yemen in 2012, my friends and I talked a lot about the possibly activating a variety of unique places, including the Neutral Zone – an area between Kuwait and Saudi Arabia. It was previously a separate territory on an Amateur Radio map of the world. I can safely bet new generation of radio amateurs doesn’t even remember its existence.

After careful consideration, it seemed most logical not just to activate the “old” territory that, of course is still very unique, but to activate the only truly unique place left on Earth, which doesn’t fit any ‘country criteria’. This area doesn’t fall under to any conditions and, apparently, will have much more value in terms of the scientific experiments in establishing of radio contacts. There has never been any radio ‘activity’ from this part of the world and HF radio propagation study would be most appropriate if we can operate from there.

The area of Bir Tawil is completely delineated by the boundaries of the two neighboring states. Egypt, which recognizes its borders outlined in 1899 along the parallel, abandoned Bir Tawil, claiming instead a Hala’ib triangle - outlet to the Red Sea and a nature preserve.

At the same time, Sudan adheres to the borders set by the Brits in 1902. It also claims Hala’ib triangle and believes that the Bir Tawil belongs to the Egyptians. Also, Hala'ib Triangle exactly 10 times larger than Bir Tawil - 20,580 square kilometers vs. 2,060 square kilometers, respectively. Accordingly, the large area has become disputed. The smaller chunk of land - squeezed between the official borders – is considered a useless piece of desert.

For the past two years, I have repeatedly visited Egypt to find a safe route to Bir Tawil. We had to get acquainted with the local companies and people who can provide reliable logistic support for the future undertaking. The only thing remained was to find equally adventurous traveler. Someone who can become a friend and a witness, to share trip’s joy (and also travails), of achieving something outstanding, that could be really remembered as a brightest moment in life.

One day my friend sent me a link to this article about http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/16/american-claim-africa-science-jeremiah-heaton-egypt-sudan"> an American, who “visited” Bir Tawil and announced the creation of a “Kingdom of North Sudan” on its territory.  Google search revealed one news source stating he planted the flag on June 16th   [ http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/va-man-plants-flag-claims-african-country-calling-it-kingdom-of-north-sudan/2014/07/12/abfbcef2-09fc-11e4-8a6a-19355c7e870a_story.html ], Another source - that it was done on July, 16th  [ http://time.com/2982905/jeremiah-heaton-bir-tawil-north-sudan/ ]

All of those reports were full of contradictions.

First of all the report stated that American “reached” the Bir Tawil with the Bedouins, using camels as transport, in 14 hours. There were only two published photos made somewhere in the desert. After more research I found that camel caravans travel no faster than humans [ https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Camel_train ]. Given the starting point in El Shateen, Egypt (this later came up in my Skype conversation with Mr. Heaton), there is no way he could've reached the place on camel’s back.

Mr. Heaton deserves a credit for the beautiful story behind the trip’s cause. It’s a ‘good plot’ – a father, who gave his daughter a promise that she will be a real Princess, is keeping his word. It was very touching. Somehow, neither one of my sons have ever asked me if they can become the Royals. But that's a different story.

But let’s leave the beauty of the story aside for now. First of all, when you give a promise to your kid – you must do as you promised. Otherwise your promise is worthless. Secondly, when you're going to conquer some Land and plan to become a King - at least bring a camera and take pictures with geo tags. Latest technologies these days, including tagging the pictures with location, are coming from the United States. So bringing along a camera that can do geo-tagging is no big deal. Clearly, if an American, traveling to a remote land, cannot offer any proof he was there, he is hiding something.

As an experienced radio amateur, I have been to a number of expeditions. I knew: if you can’t provide proofs of your locations, your ‘claim to fame’ is worthless. Only a small minded person will believe it was an honest mistake and Virginian man could find a regular camera, but not use his phone to do geo-tagged photos. Or so he told me. So Jeremiah has no proofs. Neither his visa to Egypt, nor the piece of paper from the hotel in Hurghada can serve as proofs that he in fact has visited the area and reached Bir Tawil. Most Russian tourists, who have ever visited Egypt before, go home with the better set of souvenirs from the Egyptian hotels - like bathrobes, towels and slippers.

One may ask – what sort of proof confirms your visit to a designated place?  Well, one of the testaments can be photos with the http://wikimapia.org/#lang=ru&lat=21.725936&lon=33.558018&z=16&m=b&search=bartazuga  easily recognizable objects, coordinates , tracks, geo-tagged photos and videos. Actually, it is extremely difficult to find easily recognizable objects in desert, especially in places like Bir Tawil. No one has been to this place and took recognizable images that would serve as established geographical references. There are no such images that I know of (except my own). It’s best that one doesn’t go there alone, but with someone. Apart from the obvious companionship and physical support, this also gets you a second witness. It greatly reduces the possibility of fraudulent claims.

After studying satellite imagery, I found the only place in Bir Tawil, besides GPS coordinates on a tracker, which can truly confirm one’s presence there. It is Bartazuga Mountain. The border line, recognized by Sudan, runs through the top of that mountain. Also based on the mountain's shadow on those images, I discovered that Bartazuga has a unique shape. If I take pictures with the mountain on the background, anyone can easily identify which side of the mountain I'm on - Bir Tawil’s or Sudan’s. If the mountain’s peak is bent to the right - I'm in Bir Tawil, if left - I'm in Sudan.

Travel in the Nubian Desert in June, as reported by the American is certainly a cheap thrill (mid-summer is considered off-peak hotel season, due to hot weather). One is exposed to extreme heat of 45-50 degrees Celsius (122 deg F). I suspect that after a grueling trip in the desert Jeremiah Heaton couldn’t have smiled so cutely on those picture photos he posted.

That's makes me believe that even if he was traveling toward Bir Tawil, it was not a camel-back voyage, as he told reporters, but a trip made by car.

I went looking for an open roadway to Bir Tawil.

A voyage possibility through Hala'ib triangle was immediately discarded, due to a mountainous terrain and limited pathways over the mountains. One would run into an abundance of police checkpoints along the way. You are unlikely to pass through them. I finally figured out several possible paths to reach Bartazuga. But I still needed to find a companion as crazy as myself.

In September 2014, I met a fellow globe-trotter Mika Ronkainen, of Russia. We met on Pektusan Mountain in DPRK.  Later in October, when he joined me on a trip to Socotra Island, Yemen, we decided to jointly travel to Bir Tawil in the next few months. Daily discussions have begun on possible routes and travel options.

It became apparent that in addition to departing Egypt on the way to Bir Tawil, we would need to get back to Egypt, somehow. Multiple-entry visas to Egypt were essential. Regular tourist visas are available only in airports on arrival.  We needed a certain type of visa to enter the country by road. After several visits to the Egyptian Embassy in Moscow we both became lucky recipients of semi-annual multiple entry visas. They are highly unusual for tourists.

But even with the most extensive planning of our route to Bir Tawil we couldn't have predicted just how it will turn out at the end. But as they say: Russians never give up!

After arriving in Hurghada Airport, we were thoroughly checked by the Egyptian Customs. I was facing another challenge. My ham radio transceiver was detained based on "National Security" pretext. An hour later we decided - with Mika and Eugene (third member of our group) - that I will fly to Cairo for a new transceiver, which I would borrow from my old-time friend in Cairo and then ride on the Cairo-Aswan train, to meet them in one the larger nearby towns next to the Bir Tawil's border. I have say that Michael and Eugene must come from Argonauts stock. Only a true adventurer would agree to the undertaking with only one percent chance of success.

Our plan was to find transportation, ATV or a jeep and dash to the south, to the village of Wadi Alalaki. The village itself is a working town, home to marble, asbestos and other mineral mines. Outsiders are not welcome. Visiting this place could be only done as drive-by without leaving the vehicle. There are more Army and police personnel than there are residents. This is the first city on the way from Sudan.

On this side of the Egyptian border it is protected almost the same way as Italians protect the Lampedusa bay from illegal migrants. I should mention this: some human traffic trails from Eritrea passes through Bir Tawil. We needed legal permission from the Head of the Army and police in Aswan. They are the authority that controls virtually all the land from Aswan to Shalateen – the place with the camel market, which was supposedly a starting point for Mr. Heaton.

After several visits to the Head of the Army we had a clear picture that they knew about American's "claim". They assured us that the Government of Egypt never did, nor could remotely agree to allow any traveler to visit the territory which is not a part of Egypt.

So they in fact never permitted Jeremiah Heaton to visit Bir Tawil. I was told I could do the same as he did – drive off the roadway into a desert and take a picture with a flag, claiming any sort of Kingdom. Neither police in Cairo or in Aswan, nor the Egyptian Army has ever given such permission to Mr. Heaton. Period! The road to the South is closed for everyone. Foreigners have no business being there.

Just to give you an idea - all of the roadways to the South are blocked by concrete barriers. Passing is only possible through the Army posts. They scrutinize travel permissions and turn back all ‘illegal vehicles’. Having driven around the bush for two days, we made a far-reaching decision to negotiate an alternative route.

There was danger involved, so we needed a fall-back coordinator in case of emergency. That's why Eugene was staying back in Aswan, to support us at the edge of civilization. Our single means of communication during this trip were an Iridium satellite phone and Iridium GO for e-mails, but no radio. Our ‘thanks’ go to Max from Morsviazsputnik Company, for quickly putting together the satellite equipment. In an emergency scenario we had contact numbers of Russian diplomatic attachés in Egypt and Sudan. After two days of talks with the local tribal lords, we negotiated our way to Bartazuga Mountain.

I will not to reveal the route we took, to discourage other people from risking their lives trying to reach that remote place. But I can tell it involved a journey by car, bus, train with distance over 1,800 kilometers, in just one direction from the starting point - which is 10 hours away from Aswan.

Luckily we have now every means of getting there officially with the support of local Ababda tribe, which mostly resides in or around the Bir Tawil area.

During our travel we were forced to spend a night in the desert. We were so tired we had no strength left to install the tent.  We simply wrapped ourselves into its fabric and slept through the night under the open sky.

On December 17, 2014, we reached Bir Tawil.

We planted the only flag we had with us and I claimed the land as mine. I proclaimed myself a King. Michael was appointed the Governor of the Southern Territories. Several calls went to friends, who were too busy with the ruble-to-dollar exchange rate chaos at the time. They followed by a call to my family and e-mail letters to certain parties, demanding recognition of the newly created Kingdom of Bir Tawil.

For the first time ever e-mail was sent from the territory of Bir Tawil, claiming the State. Fortunately, we had enough technology to validate our presence in the new Kingdom.

https://youtu.be/SF46jx9T7hw

And what about Mr. Heaton, the American? We later found that despite absence of any proof of being in Bir Tawil, Jeremiah started a questionable crowd funding campaign in Indegogo. [https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-world-s-first-crowdfunded-nation#/story ]. We couldn’t publicly repudiate his lies in time. Wrote him a letter, which he claims he never received. I politely asked him not to solicit people for money and making false statements of actually being there.

On the other hand, we surely we do not want to destroy little girl’s dreams and we would keep intact the title of Princess for Emily Heaton!

Unlike her father, two Russians had enough courage and perseverance, as well as technological support, to fulfill her dream to become a Princess. We kept the promise given by her own father but this time for real. So the beautiful story lives on!

Dmitry The First

King of Bir Tawil

 

September 2015. Moscow, Russia

(с) by Dmitry Zhikharev. All rights reserved

 

We thank Ed Kritsky, NT2X, for his invaluable assistance while writing this article 

 

7274395 Last modified: 2016-04-28 09:18:28, 16459 bytes

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