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C5Z Multi Multi From The Gambia

from SM0JHF on November 26, 2003
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The C5Z Eyewitness Report

This report is about the Multi-Multi entry in the recent CQ World Wide Contest (2003) SSB by a group of the Southern California Contest Club's members from The Gambia in West Africa.

Someone incorrectly described this operation as being haunted by Mr Murphy. I was there all the time, I did not see Mr Murphy there. I witnessed calamities.

Calamity Number One: choosing Ghana Airways for transportation.

This virtual airline, they have no aircraft of their own that fly so it must be virtual, changed the flight schedule a few times. On October 17, 2003 at 5 AM I took a taxi from Radio Syd near Banjul in The Gambia to the airport. The latest Estimated Time of Arrival I got from Ghana Airways office in Banjul on the previous afternoon was 5 AM. The airport was deserted, I woke the information-desk lady up and asked her about the Baltimore flight. "On my computer, it has just landed here". Some 30 minutes later she shouted to me "It just took off ! From Baltimore". Some 6 hours later I was at the airport again and could meet the first installment of the C5Z group.

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Each taxi driver at Yundum Airport has two assistants and one manager

Calamity Number Two: the beach in front of Radio Syd being extended just prior to the contest.

All ten of us went to Radio Syd, a broadcasting station one mile before Banjul on the main highway from Serekunda. This first commercial radio station in Africa was a brainchild of the late Britt Wadner from Sweden and was built at least 100 meters away from the waters of Gambia River flowing into the Atlantic Ocean. The waterfront shrank and 30 years later Radio Syd was on a peninsula, seriously threatened by the elements. On September 11, 2002 a sudden storm made the 150 ft antenna tower collapse and crumble. Radio Syd went QRT and I selfishly saw an opportunity to stage some radio activity from this place before the rest of it would be washed away. Restoring the beach has been negotiated for some years but seemed very distant. I arranged the C5Z licence in September and final decisions were taken then. The group would try the vertical approach taking advantage of being located on the shore. The Force 12 verticals proved very efficient on Jamaican beaches in previous years.

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Dick N6AA with a measuring tape, Phil N6ZZ, left - at the end of the newborn beach

Here, suddenly 6 lengths of coax, 300 ft each, were missing in order to place the verticals a quarter of a wavelength away from the water. We managed to locate a bundle of cables left by the C56R/C53M team last year ( An extra reel of coax was also secured courtesy of N6VI and K6AM who came on the next Ghana Airways flight.

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Phil N6ZZ rejoicing at coax cables borrowed from C56R/C53M team

Calamity Number Three: eating at expensive hotel restaurants.

I kept telling everybody: "Don't eat here, drink !" Two days later they all went to Atlantic Hotel and enjoyed the exquisite buffet at the hotel restaurant. During the next few days the force of C5Z team was only half right. I was afraid it could be a long lasting status.

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Antenna raising party on the beach in front of Radio Syd

Antennas were temporarily set up close to the water but while the bulldozers were spreading the sand, they had to be moved back.

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The 10 and 15 meter verticals ready to take their respective positions on the edge of the beach

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The fallen 150 ft antenna tower acted a temporary antenna support; definitely there is life after death.

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Marty N6VI (left) and Larry K5OT hauling the 20 meter vertical ashore

Friday afternoon this cat-and-mouse game ended. All antennas were set and all rigs ready to go. Then the calamity number four occurred.

Calamity Number Four: power outages and subsequent voltage surges are common in The Gambia. So we purchased 6 car batteries and connected the radios to batteries, batteries being charged by the power supplies. The operator would hardly notice when the power was down. Radio Syd is fortunate being on the same distribution line as the presidential palace. Was it another attempt for a coup on Friday afternoon ? The power went off and then back on again, instead of 240 Volts AC we got probably 500 of them. All power supplies that were switched on at that time simply blew out, including computer chargers and power amplifiers. When I saw this I thought, this is the end of the contest long before it started. But these guys are survivors.

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Terry K6JL running 75 meters from a 12V car battery and a battery charger

We took a taxi to town and purchased two heavy-duty battery chargers. And some amplifiers could be restored.

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John K6AM while trying to substitute a HV filter capacitor in SB220. The fried power supplies are lined up on the shelf

A couple of hours before the contest almost all stations were operational again. Some guys went for supper, some took a nap.

Calamity Number Five: a tropical storm on Friday evening before the contest

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Not all evenings were that calm and picturesque like this one. Friday night got stormy.

The wind blew stronger, the waves heightened, the tide rose. Thunders grew louder and the lightnings came closer. An hour before midnight all antennas were floating and had to be erected anew. All but the 160 meter vertical - it was impossible to do anything with this one in the total darkness.

At midnight, a few operators on a few bands pulled off "CQ Contest, this is C5Z, Calamities, Five, Zeroed"

The operators: I know very little about them. They would not tell much about themselves, probably saving their voices for the contest. Or, they might be "action not talk" people.

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John AB6BH at the 20 meter position

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Larry K5OT at the 10 meter station

Larry is from Wisconsin but lived in Texas for some time and kept the figure 5 in his callsign.

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Marty N6VI on 40 meters

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Phil N6ZZ on 15 meters, Jorma OH2KI relaxing in the background

Phil N6ZZ, who made most of the arrangements for this operation, is originally from Wisconsin, where he was K9ELT already at the end of the 50's. Phil's contest goal is to participate in the CQ WW contests from all 40 zones. This was his 38th zone and sometimes he was giving "5938" instead of the correct zone number for The Gambia - 35. (I am only teasing...)

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John K6AM fighting on 75 meters

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Art W6XD spent all his operating time on 40 meters

Art is not a newcomer to contesting and he's been to many places with the SCCC group.

He claims to be a descendant of the Vikings, and to prove it, he stayed one more week in The Gambia and convinced me.

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The 20 meter backbone operator - Dick N6AA

Dick has worked the CQ WW Contests from 40+ zones. Well, he achieved the 40-zone goal last year. The contesting community is probably familiar with N6AA, however Dick did not tell me anything about his background or achievements. I can clearly see a pattern: people who do a lot, don't talk about it.

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The 40 meter position and John AB6BH rest during daytime

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Monday after the contest - the C5Z team

From left: Foday, local radio&TV repairman who we hoped would become a resident ham, John K6AM, Marty N6VI, Terry K6JL, Dick N6AA, Jorma OH2KI, Art W6XD, Phil N6ZZ, John AB6BH, Larry K5OT.

The submitted score and own narration of the C5Z Team can be found at the URL below.

Some of the photographs of operators might be taken before the actual contest operation.

Henryk Kotowski SM0JHF / C56JHF

SCCC member

all photographs and text copyright


Member Comments: Add A Comment
C5Z Multi Multi From The Gambia Reply
by ly2ta on November 27, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Another great story by SM0JHF. Thanks a lot.
Congratulaions for high score.
73! de LY2TA/C56TA one of C5P in WPX SSB 2003
Great article! Reply
by oe5oho on November 28, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Thanks for sharing the background information of the really great C5Z activity! Thanks guys for the multiplier(s) and hope you will do it again soon, vy 73 de Oliver OE5OHO
C5Z Multi Multi From The Gambia Reply
by YL1ZF on December 16, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
Great job guys!
Kas YL1ZF/C53ZF C5P/C53M/C56R team
C5Z Multi Multi From The Gambia Reply
Anonymous post on December 26, 2003 Mail this to a friend!
We did it from The Gambia, hope You will do it too :-)
C5Z Multi Multi From The Gambia Reply
by g8vvk on July 25, 2011 Mail this to a friend!
C5Z Multi Multi From The Gambia Reply
by SM0JHF on December 31, 2012 Mail this to a friend!
The house of Radio Syd, actually a part of it, is again available for rent per week or longer periods. In recent years groups and individuals used this location for small and large operations. Let´s keep the tradition, started by C5Z, alive.
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