(2nd from the left) Bruce Best, man behind the annual Christmas Drops to 68 Micronesian Islands visits Palau.

The man behind the annual Christmas Drops to 68 Micronesian Islands including Palau and the remote northern islands of the CNMI for the past 35 years visited Palau on June 10 to 17.

Bruce Best was accompanied by his better half Gretchen Grimm and two young and expert radio/solar technicians, Taro Rokuro Mori, known popularly as TR, and Mr. James Moore.

The team brought with them HF radios, solar panels, VHF radios, accessories and tools to repair and maintain existing hardwares and install new ones on the remote islands of Sonsorol State and Hatohobei State. Unfortunately, there were no boats available as was originally planned. The boat that was chartered to conduct a field trip canceled out due to some unforeseen engine problem.

While in Koror, Bruce and his team visited several agencies. He installed new hardware and managed to get some existing systems that were on shelves up and running. At the Palau National Hospital, Emergency Room, an antennae was installed and the broken HF radio replaced and tested so that it can now receive and broadcast to the outlying states.

At the Weather Station Office, the HF radio was tuned up and tested and now is able to broadcast weather reports as well. Disaster communication and HF radio use classes were conducted at the WSO.

Efforts will be initiated for the WSO to broadcast weather forecast for the outlying states on a regular basis. The NEMO Office was also visited in effort to integrate radio communication system with the National disaster plan management.

At the Sonsorol State Office the dipole antennae for the HF radio was water proofed and repaired. The HF radio was tuned and maintained so that radio transmission and reception of the outlying states has significantly improved.

Bruce’s team also installed high quality deep cycle batteries to run the radio equipment and a small inverter. Bruce left additional battery banks and needed solar controllers for the SW islands.

Additionally, VHF radio and antennae were installed at the office to be used for emergency and disaster communication. Hatohobei State Office radio was also tuned and repaired for better transmission and reception. The team also made visits to Kayangel State Office and Angaur State Office to get update on status of HF/VHF radios that were installed on respective islands nearly 20 years ago.

Bruce and his team also conducted 2 days of classes on photovoltaic theories and system types and one instruction day for hands-on application on dipole antennae building as well as solar panel installation. In addition, training on installation of Sonsorol Island dispensary solar powered refrigerator was conducted in preparation for actual installation on the next available field trip to Sonsorol Island. Participants of these technical sessions were from Sonsorol State, Angaur State, Hatohobei State and the Ministry of Education.

This project was funded by a small grant from UCAR/NOAA for the purpose of doing minor repairs , provide some remote island solar communication technical training and to gather data on the status of disaster response equipment and needs across the FAS for future installs, repairs and upgrades.  Long live the outer islands and the navigators. (PR)