EME from Guniea

By Ned Stearns, AA7A in 2008

This marks the second year that Ned Stearns, AA7A, and Mike Fulcher, KC7V, have operated EME in West Africa following the efforts of the VooDoo Contest Group in the CQWW DX CW Contest. The VooDoo Contest Group had it beginnings in 1986 when three friends from Phoenix, K5VT, KC7V & N7BG, traveled to St. Thomas, VI with other hams to participate in the CQWW CW Contest. Their group name, VooDoo Contest Group, was coined by Rob GM3YTS in 1995 as they crossed the border between Benin and Togo in West Africa. It is thought that Rob was inspired by a group of Voodoo Priests that they encountered while on the road. The team’s nickname has become “VooDudes”.

This year, the VooDoo Contest Group started its adventure back in Bamako, Mali where they operated in the CQWW DX CW Contest and operated EME as TZ5A in November 2006. The ever-growing pile of contest and EME equipment was stored in Bamako following last year’s event and this year it was time to move the contest equipment and EME stuff a new venue. The VooDoo Contest Group selected Conakry, Guinea for their operation in 2007 as the next stop since it put the operation at a place in Africa where they could get good, low-angle propagation out over the Atlantic Ocean. They had been breathing dust for a few years and the idea of a seaside operating location was somewhat appealing. Once they arrived in Bamako on 15 November, 2007, they gathered their things from storage, added some new hardware, and put it all in a bus and took a 900 km trip across the two-lane (sometimes), pot holed roads of West Africa.

After the two- day bus ride to Conakry, they assembled the HF contest station over the next several days. As a last-minute change to the plan, they had been finally issued the more desirable callsign 3X5A for both HF and VHF operation. This year’s CQWW DX CW contest effort was a big success with nearly 15,000 QSOs and 40 million points scored. On Monday morning following the DX contest, the entire HF station was disassembled and packed up ready to go back into storage until 2008. And then, the EME station was quickly assembled for four days of operation by AA7A and KC7V. Mike and Ned completed 125 EME QSO’s combined on both JT65b and CW modes.

Below is the list of stations worked in order during the operation in 3X this year:

EME QSOs from Guinea 2008

Here are a few pictures of the setup in Conakry in 2007:

We added a 2nd M2 2M28XPOL to the EME array in 2007. AA7A designed a AZ/EL system that used some new and some existing hardware in the VooDoo Contest Group’s hardware pile. The system performed flawlessly during the four-day EME operation. Working the ropes easily oriented the array at the moon. There were some challenges when the yagis got caught in the guy ropes for the mast, but that only occurred for the short duration when the moon was near zenith. The station operator would need to climb three flights of stairs to the roof to orient the antenna every 30 minutes or so. This aerobic exercise certainly helped to make the operator tired after 12 or so trips to the roof during an operating shift.

The station was spaciously laid out on a large table in KC7V’s hotel room. The large fan was the 3rd op on the team. The hotel’s air conditioning was not operative and the 90+ degree F temp and 90+ percent humidity tended to sap one’s strength quickly. We obtained an internet connection and set up a wireless network for the operation. We used one laptop for operating WSJT and the second laptop for accessing email and chat rooms during EME operation. We used paper logging since the QSO rate was not terribly challenging.

KC7V at the 3X5A EME operating position. Normally one operator worked the station, oriented the antenna and maintained connection to the EME community on the internet while the other operator slept. The moon generally rose after sunset and then set mid-morning the next day. After operating in the CQWW DX CW contest, pulling four straight all-night operations was yet an other test. Every contact was a thrill for these two operators.

View from the street of the EME antenna. There was no obstructions in any direction from this location on the hotel roof. There was some elevated noise at moonrise while looking into the city. At moonset, the antenna was pointed out over the Atlantic Ocean with very low noise.