© Made by PA0ABM (all rights reserved)
To The Mountains of the Moon
Part 02. Sailing Out
After 25 months of preparation the Afican Pilgrim
departed from New York City to British Eastern Africa.
The big safari started, at last. It took 48 days to get to
Departure from New York
Bob's Safari-trek started with a trainride on November 19, 1947 from Oakland, California to New York
City. Bob Leo will never forget this trainride, it would change his life forever. He had company from his
mom, who joined him in Ogden, Utah. They had a drawing room on the train, with the same porter all
the way from Oakland to New York. Bob met a very nice young girl from Holland, and spent many hours
talking to her. Cobi Kapteyn was her name, born in the Netherlands. Her father raised flower bulbs in his
fields near Amsterdam (actually in the flower bulb district near Sassenheim), and exported to North
America. Their family would travel to USA for the bulb business and she would attend school where she
improved her English while her father contacted flower bulb businesses. During WW II, Cobi had been
active in the Dutch Underground. Bob even played cards with Cobi on that train to New York.
Bob kept a notebook during the first days of the expedition. "My notes say nice things about her, I
played cards with Cobi one evening", is all Bob wants to tell about this dutch girl.
In Chicago, Bob met Bill Snyder again when they visited Hallicrafters. They had a nice conversation with
Bill Halligan, the big boss of Halicrafters, and Bob arranged expedition times and frequencies with the
crew of W9CGC, the clubstation at Hallicrafters. The "Shack on Wheels" was in New York, awaiting
shipment. Instead of two to four weeks getting familiair with the
equipment, there was no practice at all before the "Shack on Wheels" got
operational. The engineers at Hallicrafters explained the portable
rhombic antenna they had designed and fabricated for the expedition.
Some planning was made by Hallicrafters. The call VQ5GHE had been
assigned to the expedition's radio station. It was noticed that the letters
"GHE" were intentional and were the initials for the words -Gatti-
Hallicrafters Expedition. The "Fifth Avenue Ham Club", W9CGC, 4401
West Fifth Avenue, Chicago, Ill. was selected as the scheduled
communication point (pilot) in the United States.
From Chicago to New York there was again plenty of time talking to that dutch girl, Cobi. Bob was really
attracted to her. In New York the two hams met the other members of the boarding party, Gatti, King,
Prince and Powers. Mrs. Gatti however stayed invisible.
In New York there were things to do at International Harvester (IH), the
company who sponsored the expedition also. The trailer which had the
combination of Photo Lab and Ham Shack housed together was presented to
the press in the IH showroom. Gatti was at his best, the big leader of the
upcoming trail to the Dark African Continent. All expeditiones were dressed in
their “Colonial Clothes” and jungle helmets (dummy helmets made of
cardboard). Gatti had done an excellent job of design, and all the eight trucks
of IH and trailers (Schult Company) were painted with colors that would
The trucks and trailers where loaded on the ship on Friday November 28th,
Saturday, November 29, 1947, the ship departed, one tug fore and one after. Still NO sight of Ellen
Gatti. The African Pilgrim, with captain Alden Graham in command, passed New York harbor, the
Narrows and Ambrose light, and out to sea. It would take 21 days before they saw land again. It was a
good time on the ship, the food was oke, and they spent lots of time on deck. Attilio Gatti put Bill and
Bob to work, typing stories and all kind of correspondence on portable typewriters. They had an
agreement with the Commander, doing this kind of work also, and Gatti kept them busy. With help of
Bowditch Practical Navigator, Bob figured out some distances and bearings from East Africa to various
places. And of course they visited the sparks on the ship, Bob van
Gelden, more than once. The 20 meter band on the ship was best for
After some ten day of sailing, the crew got an invitation for a party at
Gatti's deck. Gatti announced the grand introduction ceremony to the
hidden Mrs. Gatti. It was the first time they met Mrs Ellen Gatti. She was
real !! Mrs. Gatti was gracious. She seemed to know all about all of the
expeditioners. Was she the real power behind this expedition?
On December 19, the ship made landfall at 4 am. From the ship they
could see the peaks surrounding Capetown harbor dimly through the mist. The ship docked in
Capetown at 5:30 am. The expeditioners had to be careful, because the traffic was always on the
"wrong side"of the road. The cops where riding on Harley Davidsons.
Changing money was fun, they got pounds, shillings and pence for their
dollars. A two shilling piece was a Florin, and a three pence piece was a
The ride with the cable car to Table Mountain, from 1050 feet to 3550 feet
was fantastic. Going up was like visiting outher space, near the top it was
just if the cable would go straight up. From the summit there was a
magnificent view of the surrounding area, with the ocean far below, and
Robben Island in the distance. According to Bob it could be compared to
standing on top of the Half Dome in Yosemite, except that you could see
over a much wider area. Things were partly British and partly Dutch in Capetown.
That evening the Capetown hams invited them to their annual Christmas dinner. Among the attendance
were ZS1R (Eric Rhodes, S/K), ZS1A (Jack Twine, S/K), ZS1B (Denis Richardson, S/K), ZS1BF (Willy
Wilson, S/K), ZS1DU (Bruce Morrison, S/K) and ZS1CZ (Harold Tronson, S/K),
ZS1FN (Eddy Farr) and ZS1FT (Herman Forrer), and some swls ZSL1BZ (Charlie
Gingold, S/K) and ZSL1AE (Herbie Lissower, S/K). (Thanks ZS1AU for the info). Bill
and Bob left their hosts about midnight. Next day Eric Rhodes and another man
brought cars for a tour, and they visited Hout Bay, Fish Hoek Bay, False Bay, and
the old Dutch museum Groot Constantia.
The African Pilgrim departed again on December 21, 1947, and everyone was back
in the old routine again. Capetown was a very pleasant experience, even though it
was brief and hurried.
Next day the captain gave the expeditioners a tour of the ship, chart room, bridge,
fathometer, course recorder, radar, gyroscope etc. Bob learned to use the sextant, and how to shoot the
stars on a clear night.
Next morning they docked at Port Elisabeth. There was a meeting arranged at the Snake Park, seeing
Johannes the snake guard, doing his tourist acts. So it was work for the photographers King and Prince.
Very interesting. ZS2F, Jack Jarvic, came to the ship, and then Bob and Bill went to his place. Jack had
worked a lot of Californian hams, perhaps more than Bob did, using only 20 watts. Also ZS2FH was
visited, he had a radio store in town.
Christmas was celebrated on open sea, somewhere between Port
Elisabeth and Durban. The ship arrived in Durban on December 26. That
evening, when they toured Durban, they saw bad gang fighting, and some
guys pretty well beat up. It could have been worse. The same evening, a
couple of local natives ambushed Fong, the Chief Steward, and one of his
Chinese workers, and took their clothes, money and everything else they
had along. Fong and his partner walked back to the ship completely
Bob had to do lots of shopping for the Commander, as they needed petrol
tins, trunk straps, battery cables, funnel, fuses, coping saw, screw eyes
etc. etc. Besides seeing Zulu drivers pulling a rickshaw, Bob learned from a local barber, that his hair
was parted wrong.
After the usual count down to welcome the New Year 1948, Bill Snyder pulled the whistle cord on board
of the African Pilgrim. Other vessels in the harbor joined in the cacophony of whistles that tooted in the
New Year. Also the captain was very glad, when he came out of his cabin in pajamas and shouted; “Get
the hell away from the bridge".
On sea, Bob was loaded again with work, typing and reading. Mrs. Gatti was sick, she had kidney
problems. On January 7, they reached Dar es Salaam, Tanganyika. After mist and low clouds, covering
the harbor had gone, the real Africa came up, trees, beach, lots of green colors, coconut palms and
native dhows (Arabian sailing boats). Bob got in a native boat ashore, and walked thru native streets,
between flamboyant trees with red flowers and between acacia type trees with various shades of light
green. Next day the local paper had headlined the Gatti Hallicrafters Expedition, and Bob got some
January 9, they left Tanganyika, and docked in Zanzibar after 5 hours. Zanzibar was even more Africa
with an Arabic look. With help of a native guide, Bob discovered the town. Narrow streets; stone paved
streets; large doors with spikes; steel bars on windows; many, many shops; native quarters... Bob was
very exited when he saw the book Stanley had left for recording wages paid to the natives on his
expedition, looking for Livingstone. He had 620 natives, with wages from 5 to 14 dollars a month. The
smell in Zanzibar was extreem, the pungent smells of curry and cloves.
Next day, about 6 pm, the African Pilgrim, was back again in Tanganyika, this time in Tanga. And finally
the expeditioners arrived in Mombasa, Kenya. The Kilindini harbor was too busy, the ship had to wait
until january 15, to dock, 48 days after departure from New York City. Some 7,700 miles away from
©W7LR and PA0ABM
The first QSOs
Bamboo Flats, Arusha
Uganda at last
The last QSOs