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HQ Air Force Satellite Control Facility OL #9
(Official name 1 May 1966 -- for months before and after)
Mahé Island, Seychelles
The Effort to Retain the History of IOS
This Internet page gives facts about one of the remote tracking stations in this network—The Indian Ocean Station (IOS) on Mahé island, Seychelles.
Mahé is a third of the way into the Indian Ocean moving west to east. It is an island roughly 15 miles long by five miles wide. The tracking station was 3 miles from the ocean at an elevation of 1,995 feet.
The big topics of conversation in homes and downtown in Victoria were: “Which ship will come to port next?” “When will the American seaplane land and who will come in or go out?” and “What household items are in short supply in stores?” It seemed half the people you saw downtown you knew either their name or where they worked.
Station personnel maintained good spirits. There was no television, no radio (with the exception of a couple of hours of local news and someone’s old C&W 45 RPM records at sundown), no newspapers (as we in the USA are accustomed to), few magazines, and few gasoline-powered vehicles. These were also the pre-Internet days.
Most mornings the night crews handed over to the incoming day shift stapled collections of five or six eighteen-inch long sheets of news from the comm center teletype machines. Comm centers kept machines running as much as possible to show whether or not the teletype circuit was open for traffic or “out.” This sounds like new was available daily to all. But, no! You could expect to see 45 to 50 stories of 5 to 10 lines. A few were “front page news.” About ¼ of the paragraphs were repeats. There were a few five-to-eight line gaps. One-in-seven big paragraphs was the middle of some story you never heard of. Many stories covered events in Ponca City, Oklahoma, or Northlake, Ill. You did not learn anything from them.
For station personnel and guests, the mess hall patio had a large cinemascope screen that swung down from an overhead support for movies (considered current in the USA) at 8 pm and 12:15 am. If you had a shortwave radio, after dark you could pick up AFRTS, BBC, VOA (full of LBJ propaganda), and a strong signal from Radio Ceylon.
Everyone on Mahé encountered exciting events. British Shackleton bombers passed overhead unannounced to anyone. The rumor-mill was strong and powerful. Those were Vietnam War years. Russia, an enemy country which supported our enemy in that war, had ships come close enough to the island to be visible on four or five occasions. The Vladimir Vorobjov was the first one. It lingered three days with its side aimed at the USAF La Golfball radome . Then, the Government of Seychelles let it dock for a day!
The Indian Ocean Station was often the primary station that the United States military needed to track and send commands to space vehicles on their first attempt to orbit the earth after launch.
By 1996 IOS had supported more than 90 Department of Defense satellites, NASA crafts, and space vehicles for allied nations.
IOS’s first satellite operation was conducted 27 Oct 1963. By mid-1966 IOS had conducted more than 2100 contacts in the prior six months.
On 1 July 1966 there were 101 tech reps PCS at IOS. Six more were TDY. Approximatly 45 Seychellois were full-time employees.
Each time the station operations crew contacted a satellite, it received the command to transmit to earth information in accordance with program design. The 60’ dish antenna inside the “Golfball” received the radio waves, sent them to a computer, and were recorded on magnetic tape or one of several other means. Station personnel saw only that proper recording was being done. Information sent to earth was read and analyzed in the USA.
All employees knew the importance of data collected at the station. These were Vietnam War years. The following is simply two examples of war situations that occurred while IOS was in operation. This tracking station may well have assisted passing along such sensitive information. First, on 10 Sept 1964 President LBJ approved renewed naval operations. For a second example, on 22 June 1966 the White House approved the bombing of Hanoi’s petroleum facilities.
Today, and in the past, TV and the MSM stories about the Space Program featured only giant rockets being launched into space or astronauts floating around in their cabin waving to the camera. There were no reports about the technicians or equipment that sent electronic signals from the orbiting capsule to the headquarters ground control center. Forrest McCartney, Lt. Gen., USAF, Retired, has stated,”Without a ground system for support, there could have been no space program.
Station Commander: USAF -- Under direction of 6594 ATW & later SSD
Operations: Western Test Range (Philco WDL -- later named Philco-Ford)
Base Support : 1 January 1965 and after – Pan American World Airways
Communications: – Subcontracted to RCA
Operations Computer contract: – Control Data Corp.
Contractor utilizing local laborers: – W&C French
East from Mombasa, Kenya, one fourth of the way into the Indian Ocean.
British Crown Colony. (In the 1960s)
1,094 statute miles east of Mombasa, Kenya.
2,048 statute miles southwest of Bombay, India. (Name in the 1960s)
2113 statute miles north east of Lourenco Marques, Mozambique. (Name in the 1960s)
2287 statute miles northeast of Pretoria, South Africa.
Tech Site: 4 degrees – 40 minutes South Latitude / 55 degrees – 29 minutes East Longitude
The satellite tracking Tech Site property: 262 acres.
Base of TT&C 60’ dish antenna at the Tech Site: 1925’ above MSL.
For five months in 1966 my wife and I lived in a
(For its location, see the white dot
halfway across the picture and 2/3
of the way down and twenty yards
uphill from the high tide line.)
Sorry to say, the bungalow was later torn down
as part of a new hotel’s enlargement program.
----Jas. and Jeannie Harper dans le soin de la Beau Vallon
Beau Vallon Beach Hotel / A Rainy Night in December 1964
Photograph saved and maintained by Micheline Frentz
Who were talking about “ big events of the day” at the hotel that cold, rainy night
in December 1964? Back row: Jas Harper & Employee #25 & Raymonde Delorié
(Hotel owner). Middle row: Jeannie Harper and Micheline Delorié. Front row/back
to camera: Simone Delorié. There was a great deal of chit-chat in those days;
remember, there were no radio station (that month), no TV, no newspapers (as we
think of them in the USA today), no magazines (other than those six months old and
left by tourists). "Bits" of news" did come from hotel guests from around the world.
The Tech Site / Approx 1973 / Facing WSW
Photo provided by Maj. Carroll Michaud, USAF, OL9- Commander 1972-1974
The Tech Site Facing Southwest / Approx 1973
MMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMMM Picture furnished by Monte Antkies / Duplicates by others
The Mess Hall and Housing Units
Approx 1973 / Facing WSW
M Photograph provided by Maj. Carroll Michaud, USAF, OL9- Commander 1972-1974
TRANET Site, North of the Tech Site
OOOOOOOOOO Picture furnished by Monte Antkies / Duplicates by others
Front Door of the Tech Site Building [East Door]
and around to the road to TRANET
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO Picture furnished by Monte Antkies / Duplicates by others
A compliment to the CDC Engineering Office ---
Major Norman Beaulieu, IOS’s first permanent Commander, writes the CDC front office in the USA thanking them for doing all necessary
to help the station begin operations two days ahead of schedule.
Tranches of Station History
The HU-16 crew performs important medivacs in late 1965.
British author and playwright Noël Coward came to Mahé in the fall of 1965 for vacation. He becomes sick in late Nov 1965. The Governor, the Earl of Oxford and Asquith, asked the Commander to have Coward flown to Kenya for medical attention. That was done.
A senior Philco Operations tech rep, Marty Sheridan, awoke 28 Dec 65 unable to move his legs. He was taken to the Victoria hospital. Doctors diagnosed that he has Type-1 Polio – the worst type! The HU-16 crew was called for an emergency flight to pick up Marty and take him to a Nairobi, Kenya, hospital. The flight was made. Sheridan was placed in an iron-lung.
Long Stories and Repeat Information / Pictures
In the spring of 1958 author Ian Fleming first set foot on Mahé. He had come to the Seychelles for an extended holiday: seeking adventure, sunshine and inspiration for his latest James Bond book, to be called For Your Eyes Only. Later note: Among the five short stories that combine to make up the book, one was set entirely in the Seychelles. Fleming lived in the grand old hotel, Northolme. It is located on the northwest coast of Mahé. In the book the hero complained, “The rainy season here is from December to February. At times the temperature is 80 in the shade and the humidity 90.”
Other famous authors have come to Seychelles. In mid-1965 Jeannie Harper was invited aboard a British ship where she met British author and playwright, Noel Coward. He mentioned his thoughts behind a play that turned into a movie – In Which We Serve.
Noël Coward (He wanted his name spelled with the diæresis) came to Mahé, without entourage, for a month's vacation on the island. He stayed at the Hotel des Seychelles. He went at the suggestion of Ian Fleming who had recommended Seychelles as an ideal place for him to work on a play he was finishing, A Suite in Three Keys. Pan Am SSR, Phil Keeler, spent some of his off-duty hours with friends at the Hotel des Seychelles. There he met Coward. Noël was a guest of Keeler at the station Mess hall one evening in early Nov. 1965 for dinner and a movie shown at the adjoining patio after sun-down. Days later, Coward and Keeler were dinner guests at Government House with then Gov. and Lady Oxford and Asquith. In early November 1965 Coward became sick. Days later he had to be evacuated by the station HU-16 to Kenya. Recovering, he stated two facts: One, “My last day on Mahé was the end of "the most disastrous holiday I ever had.” The second, “On Mahé I felt an undercurrent of evil.” (Political arguments in town) He was knighted in 1969 in London. He died in 1973. WWII historians claim had the Germans invaded Britain, Coward was scheduled to be arrested and killed, as he was in The Black Book along with other figures such as Virginia Woolf, Paul Robeson, Bertrand Russell, C. P. Snow and H. G. Wells.
17 Nov 1965 -- On this date, Pan Am SSR, Phil Keeler, departed Mahé PCS. But first, he did a favor for the island-nation tourists. Phil had a German waterski puller (that looked like a lawnmower and was powered by a small rotary Wankel engine). He gave it to ex-Royal Marine Jerry LaGrande, owner of Hotel des Seychelles, for use by his guests.
20 July 1969 -- The USA has astronauts to land on the moon. This was the Apollo 11 program. For a few hours that evening IOS had scheduled downtime. Philco Tech Rep Dennis Antilla’s normal duties had to do with the 60-foot dish antenna. Having downtime, Antilla pointed the antenna towards the moon. He picked up over an hour of astronaut conversations with Houston control. They were all business – nothing intended for public relations. Consider this: The antenna had a 60 db gain, space loss was (-) 240 db, and astronauts’ radios had a very small gain. Using the IOS 60-footer, astronaut conversations were clearly heard.
June 1972 -74: Maj. Carroll R. Michaud becomes IOS Commander. Besides running the tracking station he was assigned the job of going through old station records to prepare the station operating in a country that would soon gain independence. Hundreds of GOS-US, GOS-UK, and GOS-IOS agreements had to be gathered. Using that material a Memorandum of Understanding had to be reached with the new government. This was done.
Several months later in 1972:
Pictures courtesy of Alex Czernysz__________________
_________________________ The HU-16 lands the 500th time to support IOS. When the crew stepped to the ground a celebration began!
_________________________Maj. Michaud (IOS CO), the flight crew, and Len Sluder (Pan Am SSR) are pictured. The HU-16 Mombasa-to
_________________________-Seychelles-to-Mombasa service was discontinued later in 1972 when the Seychelles runway became operational.
_________________________The tracking station then used BOAC for both passenger and freight traffic. Air Seychelles did not exist at that time.
Pictures courtesy of Alex Czernysz__________________
22 August 1973 -- Bing Crosby Tours the Station
Bing heads up the hill for a tour of the tracking station. [Picture 1 (L to R) -- Alex Czernysz (Philco-Ford SSR), security guard, onlooker, Bing Crosby, and Maj. Carroll Michaud (IOS Commander)]. In picture 2 they hurry for the front door. [In picture 2 – Maj. Michaud, Bing, Alex Czernysz, and Bill Pomeroy (An American citizen who had lived on the island for a number of years.)][Picture 3 - The Major opens the Control Room door for Bing.] It would be interesting to know: On 15 August 1997, a year after F.A. René and his government ushered the Indian Ocean Station off the island, were Seychellois citizens and former IOS employees Gerald Lespoir, Xavier Cadeau, Antoine Balette, and fellow-workers happy with whatever line of work they later found?
Events on the Island After the Station Closes
It would be interesting to know: On 15 August 1997, a year after F.A. René and his government ushered the Indian Ocean Station off the island, were Seychellois citizens and former IOS employees Gerald Lespoir, Xavier Cadeau, Antoine Balette, and fellow-workers happy with whatever line of work they later found?
La Golfball  Once Was the Symbol of Friendship and Assistance ....
…In 2010 a UAE palace rises to be the symbol
…In 2010 a UAE palace rises to be the symbol of Socalism/Communism!
In early 2010 the GOS ministry agreed to a UAE diplomatic mission being established in Seychelles. For this purpose, Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, the President of the UAE, has acquired certain properties at La Misère and Barbarons. A palace being built by Abu Dhabi ruler Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan is taking shape quickly at the top of La Misère. As of mid-January 2010 the palace was three stories high and rising. No one in the public can say how high or how large the structure will be. Such details were not revealed to the public by the GOS planning authorities! No application was completed and placed in the planning register when construction began. None there as of 15 Jan 2010.
A government law states that no building can rise above the skyline. In past months other planning applications were refused because of that rule. In fact, one builder was refused building permission for another spot at La Misère. The Abu Dhabi ruler’s palace, growing in size daily, stands obviously above the island’s skyline.
Concerning Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan’s palace, the GOS has announced that “the property where the Tracking Station was located is deemed to be diplomatic property and has had the consentof the government of Seychelles … (therefore citizens should realize) properties intended to be used for diplomatic and other sovereign purposes are inviolable under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations 1961.” (This rule is incorporated in Seychelles’ Privileges and Immunities Act of 1980.) These legal words mean that diplomatic missions and their agents are immune from the application of local laws and jurisdiction of local courts. (Unless the foreign government expressly waives these immunities – and they simply will not do so.) [Comment: The Sheikh gets these privileges because of his money. Money he has given to Seychelles or to VIP individuals should not allow him and his diplomats to rise above the law. It seems the GOS shows it can be bought!]
A large Chinese building is also being constructed on La Misère. Besides showing up on this mountain, in early 2010 a concerned citizen, born on Mahe, reports that Chinese have taken over former planter Paul Moulinié’s house at Mamelle to turn it in to an embassy (or housing area).
The Sheikh is building a lavish compound on the highest spot of the Indian Ocean nation's main island, on the site of a former USAF tracking station. According to Forbes magazine, Sheikh Khalifa is the world's third richest royal and has a fortune amounting to around 19 billion dollars.
La Misère residents now say that farming is no longer sustainable. They complain of noise, as close to 100 trucks toil up and down the mountain with building material. Residents point out, "La Misère was once the place with the best clean drinkable water on the island. Now we have diesel and human waste to drink."
The Seychelles government has acknowledged shortcomings in the way the construction is supervised, but blamed the contractor for the water pollution and environmental degradation. The Emirati prince brought his own construction company, workers and material in huge jumbo planes. [Information is from an article in the April 2010 France 24.
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