||TJ3G : CW DX-pedition to Cameroon
by Roger G3SXW and Nigel G3TXF - article written for CDXC Digest - May 2004
Location: Résidence Jully, Kribi, Cameroon, West Africa
Lat/Long: 2'54" North, 9'54" East, Grid JJ42
Borders: Nigeria, Chad, Central African Republic, Equat Guinea, Gabon, Congo
Dates: 21 Mar 1 Apr, 2004, eleven days, QRV ten days
Operators: G3SXW (traditional HF bands), G3TXF (WARC bands)
Mode: 100% CW
Stations: Two TS570S transceivers, barefoot
Antennas: One WARC ground-plane, one Butternut HF6V-X
Logging: Two laptop computers, running CT in DXpedition mode
Most Wanted Country
We are always on the look out for DXCC countries which are climbing the "Most Wanted Country" tables but which are relatively 'easy' to do. TJ was becoming seriously rare. The 2003 survey, published in early 2004, showed:
Rank ... All Modes .. CW
World ......... 39 ...... 29
Europe ........ 69 ... >50
USA ........... 49 .......43
Asia ........... 29 ........21
On CW it is shown as more rare than Malpelo, Pratas, Conway Reef and even Macquarie. Cameroon needed activating very badly indeed, especially on CW. Apart from a Spanish group (TJ2RSF) in October 1998 no DXpedition had been mounted to Cameroon for many years.
There is usually one key reason why a country becomes rare. In the case of TJ this was licensing. It took about eighteen months to get our TJ licences. The initial contact was made by Dennis G3MXJ (F5VHY) during a business trip to Yaoundé, the capital of Cameroon. Following Dennis' visit the applications were lodged. There then followed a steady stream of FAXes and phone calls to Yaoundé to try to get the licence issued. However there was not any real progress until G3SXW and G3TXF went on a trip to France specifically to meet the person concerned with the licensing, who was himself on business in France. Once we had had the meeting and had outlined our "Projet Cameroun 2004" in detail, the issue of the TJ3G licence soon followed. Face to face contact, as well as dogged persistence were the keys to the eventual issuing of TJ3G.
Cameroon (not 'Cameroons' as many people think) was two separate countries before independence in the 60's. British Cameroon to the North and West (bordering Nigeria) and French Cameroon. The country is officially dual-language but the two areas are quite distinctly either English- or French-speaking. In addition there are, of course, a multitude of local languages. Yaoundé, somewhat inland and at about 2,000 feet altitude, is the capital while the main commercial city is Douala near the coast. There is a long Atlantic Ocean coastline (actually the Gulf of Guinea) and the sandy beaches are spectacular. The tourist industry is barely present (credit cards are not accepted anywhere) but the main resort of Kribi, in the South-West of the country, has a number of holiday hotels. Being on the equator it is hot all year-round, only cooling off around sunrise. They have four seasons - two hot and dry and two hot and rainy. Currency is the Central African France (CFA) which is tied to the Euro.
Our visit coincided with the spring equinox. Apart from a minor disturbance towards the end of the operation we were blessed with average to good conditions. As always on the equator the best of the conditions were at night because absorption attenuates the daylight paths especially in the middle of the day. From around 1100 until 1500z the bands were only open to Europe (North-South) with much weaker signals. We also found the pre-dawn period (0400 - 0600z) was rather flat. The rest of the time we could generate pile-ups according to the ebb and flow of the MUF:
80 metres : 900 QSOs - excellent openings to Japan at their sunrise for half an hour, around 2100z and strong signals from Europe 22 to 24z. North America also had excellent openings around 01 to 02z. We were very pleased with the number of contacts on this band, with just the HF6V vertical and barefoot.
40 metres : 2,000 QSOs - superb propagation from 21 to 04z, especially to Europe and North America and with loud JA signals on much shorter openings. The problem with this band is the "European Zoo" syndrome. Many times in the first few days the vandals completely wiped out the operation for long periods.
30 Metres : 4,000 QSOs - open to Europe for about fourteen hours a day, this was the night-time work-horse band. However finding a clear spot was not always easy. We were grateful to cluster-spotters who found us when we had to use unusual frequencies such as 10119 or 10122. Dramatic, but relatively short, openings to JA. Thanks to the EU's who QRXed during the periods of "JA only" operation.
20 metres : 4,162 QSOs - if anyone had worked TJ before on any band it would most likely have been on 20 or 15 metres, and therefore these would be the least needed band-slots. However, for the very many DXers who had never worked TJ on any band this would be perhaps the best chance to find suitable propagation. It provided long openings to all areas. Especially enjoyable were the U.S. pile-ups around 01 to 04z with snappy operators on a completely quiet band.
17 metres : 4,530 QSOs - the high volume daytime band for Europe and the night-time band for the USA. Dramatic short openings with enormous signals as the MUF collapsed at the end of the day. The 10m/15m and 12m/17m operators would be leap-frogging each other down through the spectrum as the MUF collapsed at around sunset.
15 metres : 3,785 QSOs - another bread-and-butter band, along with 20 metres with good openings to all areas.
12 metres : 4,270 QSOs - 12m was the optimum daytime WARC band, but as conditions varied, the WARC operator would have to switch back to 17m to keep the rate going. As an illustration of the difference that "just 4MHz" can make, over 100 JA's were worked on 12m but none were worked on 10m.
10 metres : 1,853 QSOs - shorter openings but very good for the stage of the sunspot cycle. Good to Europe in the late mornings and to USA in the late afternoons but no opening to JA at all.
The pile-ups of callers were amongst the most ferocious that we have ever experienced, especially in the first few days. Presumably this reflected the extent to which TJ was badly needed by a large number of DXers. There were occasions when we had no choice but to grab call-signs from 6, 7 or even 8 KHz above our TX frequency. Usually 3-4KHz is enough. We also had to contend with several other DXpeditions running simultaneously and try to keep pile-up separation. Heard on the bands were pile-ups for 3B9C, R1FJ, ET3TK. As always almost all callers were very skilful, only the occasional European insisting on sending redundant information like his name and QTH. Very often we found that we had copied the call-sign of the calling station the first time and started to reply but he then went on to send his call the second time without first listening. This would be the main suggestion for improving QSO rates, to everyone's increased enjoyment: send your call only once, listen briefly, then send it again if nothing heard.
We sent an information message very often to say "QSL via G3TXF" and to explain that G3SXW was operating on the five traditional bands and G3TXF on the three WARC bands. Cards were printed within two weeks of our return (tnx Gennady UX5UO for the excellent service!) and the majority of the initial wave of direct requests were replied to within three weeks of our return. Both G3SXW and G3TXF have been working on processing the cards speedily. Bureau cards are welcome and may be requested by e-mail to nigel@G3TXF.com. TJ3G QSOs can be checked on the online QSO database on www.G3TXF.com
Travel and Thank You's
We were met at Yaoundé airport by David TJ1AD, his son Einstein and other members of the IARU affiliated ARTJ society. The distance to Kribi on the coast was some 300km from Yaoundé. Thanks to David TJ1AD's organisation of the transport, we were able to get on the air as TJ3G from Kribi within 24 hours of our arrival in Cameroon. Once we were installed in our hotel in Kribi we spent the next ten days operating, eating and sleeping, interspersed with just the occasional dip in the ocean.
We are grateful to François TJ1KF for the help with the TJ3G licence as well as to David TJ1AD for logistical support and for arranging the transport to Kribi and back. We also thank the members of the Cameroon ARTJ for meeting us at Yaoundé airport.
The ten days operating and making 25,500 CW QSOs as TJ3G from Cameroon's excellent beach resort of Kribi was a great experience.