Monday, October 31, 2011



The RSGB IOTA award is a serious one, nothing short of an adrenaline rush to ham operators around the world.  It’s the passion of the hunt for new entities and the commitment of the prefix providers to transmit their signals from the most famous and remote islands of the world; and why not…do a little research to find new and never activated ones.
This award is likely the only one in a position to compete with DXCC for authority and popularity.  It’s precisely for these reasons that the story I’m about to tell you is amazing.  We’re talking about an island which isn’t, or rather, it has an IOTA reference, but in reality doesn’t exist. We’re talking about EU-155, the reference making up of the islands of Scanno di Piallazza and Baron.


So, let’s first talk a little about the background. Wanting to participate in the IOTA Contest from EU-155 I went on-site for a look around. Having barely met the boatman who was to ferry me across to the island, I was asked exactly where I wanted to go, bacause according to him “there were years that the island - that is to say, the sandbar – no longer existed and for at least 15 of those years Baron Island was no longer.

At that moment it was like a slap in the face, but I didn’t let that stop me, having decided to take a good look around, just to make sure that the boat captain wasn’t mistaken.
That which follows lists the evidence of which I’m aware, having forwarded the same in a timely manner for the edification of the IOTA Committee of the RSGB.

Sacca di Goro

Before embarking on this journey, it is well to survey the geographical area of which we speak.  We find ourselves located in the central meridian of the Po delta (old Adriatic), in the Province of Ferrara, more precisely in “Sacca di Goro.” This is one of the the largest saltwater lagoons of the Northern Adriatic, with an average depth of 60cm and receives freshwater from Po di Goro, Po di Volano and from other smaller canals, along with saltwater from the seafront.  In this typical delta-type lagoon an abundance of shellfish thrives as a result. Although it’s an area protected by numerous measures, this remains the reason it maintains such a strong human presence. In fact, as a means of improving production, allowing for a greater flow of oxygen rich water, the area has been the subject of numerous actions deriving from the strategic sinking of several wrecked or  decommisioned boats leading up to the removal of sand by means of a dredger.

The birth of EU-155

I could be mistaken, but according to my research, it seems that talk of Scanno di Piallazza referring to IOTA goes back to the year 1994.   Perhaps taking its cue from a map similar to that which you see below.

A.D. 1988

But observing a map from 1988 you’ll note that six years before the situation was not the same.  The Scanno di Piallazza was just the most extreme part of “Scannone Goro”, a long sandbar,  taking elongated form some 10km to the west. What must have changed the profile of the Scannone Goro morphologically is rather easy to discover. In order to increase the inflow of water rich oxygen inside the lagoon, a small canal was opened into the heart of the “Scannone Goro”.

This “operation” unfortunately, ended up triggering a disruptive phenomenon of erosion towards the West causing it to lose the most on a day to day basis from Scannone Goro, until it became an entity unto itself, called the Scanno di Piallazza.

The erosive Phenomenon

The erosion, thus caused by mankind, meant that there really existed an island named Scanno di Piallazza. That this be considered manmade is less important.  The fact is that without the manmade canals (or channels), nothing could have ever formed. It’s too bad that when triggering the phenomenon, it could not have been stopped, leading to, in the shortest of time, the disappearance of the whole island.

Here’s a series of rather eloquent photographs which witness to the evolution of that part of the coast over the years.

A.D. 1994

A.D. 2000

A.D. 2006

A.D. 2006 – Detail

Quickbird satellite – Sept. 2005 vs. Dec. 2006

The evidence of human intervention is evident.  There are various documents to be found on the internet which indicate that 65,000 cubic meters of sand were deposited in an attempt to stop the erosion, right in the area of Scanno di Piallazza,  where it’s easy to be able to take pictures of the dredging operations underway.

A question arises

Looking at these pictures we are confronted with images which truly speak for themselves:  with the island having  not existed for several years now, where have the various teams transmitted from who’ve had the distinction of activating EU-155 in recent years?  Basically from two places:

From the Gorino lighthouse
From the far end of Scannone Goro.
The Gorino Lighthouse is an ideal place:

Electricity, saltwater just 10 meters away ready to accomodate radials at your discretion, clean toilets, warm beds and you can eat inside the restaurant located inside the top part of the lighthouse itself.  The only problem is that the Gorino Lighthouse isn’t located on Scanno di Piallazza, but rather on Scannone di Goro.  Unfortunately, these names don’t indicate the same sandbar. The Italisan Island Award comes under review using various references. Among other things, Scannone di Goro is connected to firm ground by a series of quite small bridges just a few meters in length.

Many expeditions have found here the ideal QTH, leaving diverse hints of their passage on the web.

While these activities may presuppose a fleeting knowledge of the area, and when all is said, a measure of good faith, the same can not be said of that which has transpired on the western extremity of Scannone di Goro.

Unfortunately, relating to these activities, nobody has been successful in coming up with any photographs, neither on-line nor from those who took them, to such a degree as to demonstrate the exact position of the island. All assure that they were on Scanno di Piallazza, even though it didn’t exist during this period of time…

The End of Baron Island

But some might argue that EU-155 consists of two islands, Scanno di Piallazza and the Island of Baron. For researchers in the area and the local fishermen’s cooperative, “Baron” is just the name of one of the many areas of cultivation and fishing.  It’s likely that at the beginning of this phenomenon of erosion, that a part of the Piallazza was separated from the main body.  Concerning this, however, i have never been able to find evidence in the photos and in the documentation which I was able to view.

La Sacca di Goro, today

Today’s image of the area is the most up to date on Google. You can see a strange little island emerge where at one time the Scanno di Piallazza was present.  It’s the island of Fratcelli, an artificially created island constructed to facilitate the mating and nesting of a species of birds whose survival was threatened by the disappearance of their very habitat due to erosion.

Island of Fraticelli on Google

What does the RSGB IOTA have to say about it?

We are sure, IOTA cannot know everything about the 1200 references in the world. But an unclear situation has a way of disincentivizing supporters of the IOTA program and in general, those who would like to activate a reference, who, however, occasionally feel torn between their desire to respect the rules and their yearning to activate a somewhat rare reference.  So we hope that the RSGB IOTA can quickly clarify the situation with regard to EU-155, for a game with transparent rules is undoubtedly nicer and more fun for everyone.  In the meantime we will not stop to look for the island that isn’t, with the hope that it may be found someday.

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