By Gus Browning, printed in 73 Magazines in 1966-09 reprint by PA0ABM Gus Browning story, Part 15 Big pile ups The total population we found on the Aldabras were about 20 people practically 100% men. One old man I met there had been bom on Aldabras some 80 years before and left tin* island only once, going to Mahe for only a feu days. He told me he had no desire whatsoever to leave the Aldabras and see the outside world. This old man had been employed all His life on Aldabra, was sending his salary to Mahe where it was being invested for him. They said he had become quite wealthy. Can you imagine his outlook of the world? His entire world was the Aldabras and nothing else, and HE WAS VERY HAPPY, All the employees on the island are usually on an 18 month work contract to die island leasee, and are fairly well taken care of. If they don't smoke they have no use whatsoever for any money. The leasee of the island furnishes them with food and all the fish they want is also furnished them. Many other items from the sea are also furnished them* they just don't need any money at all Most of them work hard at their 18 month contract and go back to Mahe (so I have been told) and have one or two weeks of drinking, and running around, until they are flat broke and are tin reach to come back for another 18 month contract. Either to Aldabras, Farquahar, Chagoes etc. These fellows are a happy-go-lucky lot and none of the worries of the outside world bother them at all Maybe this old fellow who was born on Aldabra has a good thing at that. There is nothing like a store on the island so you need no money. Every night about 7:30 PM everyone gathers around the front door of the manager's and listen to the radio belonging to the manager, usually listening to Mombassa, Nairobi, Tananarive, Ceylon or at times even London. He has a small Japanese transistor set with short wave. These people have a good life with no worries about anything. All you need to wear on the island is a pair of short shorts. The temperature is absolutely perfect during the days and nights, I estimate it varies from 75 at night to about 90 during the daytime. If you like sea shells they are there just waiting to be picked up. After Harvey and Jake finished eating they departed for the boat, They were going to hunt a sand bar on the other end of the island and beach the boat and repaint it from stem to stern. Since it was very high tide, and die full moon was due that night, they would not have to go too far up on the beach to be sure the boat was high and dry for they wanted plenty of time to do the boat all over. Harvey was going ashore with his tent and set up his operation from there with his wind charger, etc. They told me I would have about 14 days to operate while they were awaiting the next very high tide so they could float the boat again during the height of the tide that was about two weeks off. This suited me fineboy 14 days of hamming from Aldabra, that suited me 100%. After they had departed with plenty of help from the islanders I soon had up my antenna. During this DXpedition I only had horizontal dipoles, I knew nothing about the Hy-Gain Antenna Company and their fine all band vertical ground plane antennas, I wish I had known about them because I am sure I would have put out much better signals than I did, I asked the manager in what direction did the sun rise and set. Not having a compass with me I took his word and got the dipole up broadside to Europe and the USA. The old putt-putt was fired up and VQ9AA was on the air. The fun began immediately, I mean to tell you I did business with a bang, it was one solid pile-up for over 12 hours without a let up. When I first got going, the island manager came to visit me, wanting to show the visiting American the island, its turtles, birds, etc. I could see that this fellow had the wrong impression of why I was there. He took me to be a tourist, 1 turned off the putt-putt and told him I wanted to have a good talk with him. We sat down on the back porch where my equipment was installed on the eating table of the guest house, I explained to him what ham radio was all about, telling him about DXers, telling him that Aldabra Island was one of the rarest spots on the world and that thousands of people all over the world were standing by to QSO me while I was there, I explained to him that lots of the expense of my getting there was paid by these fellows, and since I was an honest fellow I was obligated to do NOTHING BUT OPERATE while I was on the island. I told him if things sort of quieted down that I MIGHT HAVE TIME later on to do some visiting of the various parts of the island. I told him all I wanted to do was to sit at my operating table, hour after hour, day after day, and work the boys one after another until I had worked them all. I even asked him to have my meals at certain odd hours, during times I thought the bands activity would be at their lowest After that I had no more trouble with him wan ling to show me around the island. After about 3 days operation I happened to notice EXACTLY where the sun settled into I he sea and to my surprise it was not at the spot indicated to me before. My antennas were not broadside to Europe or the USA, they were off the ends. The next day I changed this and all signals picked up about 2 S points from Europe and the USA. Another must for DXpeditioners— bring along your own compass and let it tell you where to squirt your signals. Don't take the words of anvone as to where is East and West, most of them don't know, they just think they do. Things were going fine with me, The food was very fine. Have any of you ever eaten real turtle steak or turtle liver? Or scrambled turtle eggs? The turtle steak is about twice as tender and twice as white as veal cutlets. The livers from these turtles are out of this world and could be cut with vour fork. The eggs were about 75^ yolk and were very fine when scrambled. I never did get tired of eating turtle meat, etc. Fish were prepared in many different ways. Fried, fish soup, boiled fish, baked fish, fish curried and rice bring very nice. They eat plenty of rice there, and since I was from one of the rice eating parts of the world, I was right at home with it piled up high on my plate. Certain parts of coconut trees were nice, when boiled in soups, as well as bamboo shoots, I even had some sea shell soup, the sea shells are placed in boiling water, the meaty part cooked and then it sheds away from the sea shell. Maybe some people call this snail soup. They like plenty of pepper in their food. After explaining to my cook I did not like pepper he cut down from 195 degrees of pepper to about 125 degrees, explaining that he could not cook anything with less pepper, After a while my mouth got tough enough to take it OK. I tried listening for Harvey, and finally heard him on about 14085 kHz about S 3. We were separated far enough apart so that we caused each other no QRM whatsoever since I had always used 14065 or 14035 kHz when on CW and about 14125 plus or minus when on SSB, After about 3 days of operation my power plant konked out. Have you ever tried taking off the cylinder head of an engine with only a pair of regular pliers? Well I did. After cleaning off the surplus carbon, adjusting and cleaning the spark plug and even trying to clean up the valves the engine was put back together and still it was dead as a door knob. Plenty of spark was on the plug so it had In be the fuel system. Off came the carburetor and apart it came. One valve seat was completely plugged shut, this was cleaned and while trying to force the carburetor back together something went "crack," Apart came the carburetor again and I found that I had broken one of the needle valves that was made out of Teflon, No spare parts were along with me. It was either repair this broken needle valve or no more VQ9AA operation. I had my electric soldering iron with me but no electric current to heat it with. Try heating up your electric iron with 4 candles as I did. By being very careful I welded the Teflon needle valve back together, smoothing the welded spot with the hot iron, found that the carburetor gasket had got broken and found that a call book cover made a FB gasket for the carburetor. Back together went everything, and the putt-putt cranked up immediately and I was back in business. The moral to this storv for you future DXpeditioners— bring along at least some small spare parts and a few tools to take your power supply engine apart with. This is a MUST in my book. At about sundown time on my first night on Aldabra I was on the air with a big pile-up and all of a sudden 1 heard the doggondest noise outside. Flapping wings, squawking, screeching, thuds, etc. I rushed outside to see what was causing all this commotion and there were birds by the hundreds in what seemed to be a free-for-all. After watching this battle royal for a while I soon saw the pattern of what was taking place. The booby birds that were out fishing all day, filling their craws full of little fish for their young on Aldabra were coming home at sun-down and the other birds (let's call them falcons— they have another name I forgot what it is) would hover way up high, spot a certain booby coming in about 50 feet above the water. The falcon would close his wings and down lie would come like a stone, hitting the booby bird in the middle of his back, almost knocking the booby bird breathless I guess, this sudden jolt would cause the booby to heave up its crawful of little fish, the falcon would then curve up under the booby and grab a big mouthful of fish that had been spewed from the booby. This little episode took place every evening just before darkness came and it was better than Red Skelton on TV, I never did see any booby get thin with his crawful for the young. I was told that this has been studied and about 3 to 4% of the boobies do get thru, Whoever named these birds booby birds certainly selected a very descriptive name for them. They certainly are a booby to fish every day for the falcons to get their catch without working for it. 1 soon settled down to a sort of regular operating schedule. About 5:30 AM (all these times local) I would get up, crank the power plant up, work the fellows until the band sort of leveled off at 10:00 AM then eat breakfast in the sack until about 2 or 3 PM, then it was dinner and on the air until about 2:30 AM a late snack to eat and to bed with the alarm clock set at 5:30 AM, This gave me enough sleep and still satisfied the gang with enough activity and openings for every one. After the first week the big pile had been worked down to a small one and I began to have more time to look around the island like a good tourist should. I was shown the turtle pond where they kept usually around 200 of those big turtles awaiting the boat from Mahe which came when it was available. No certain schedule at all but usually every 3 or 4 months to pick up the live turtles and takt them on deck back to Mahe where they were put into the turtle pond there and sold as they were needed. Fishing on Aldabra is done on what looked to me to be a large scale. Each boat went out every day and caught a boat full of fish. It did it the hard way, by spearing the fish. When the fish are brought ashore they are cleaned up, covered with what looked like ice cream salt and put out in the sun to dry. Later on this dried fish is sent bade to Mahe to be used there and some shipped probably to Africa. Copra (dried coconut meat) is done on a fairly large scale, too* No one seemed to be working very hard. They have a certain amount of work to do each day and most of them could do their daily task in about 6 hours. Of course a few eager beavers worked longer for extra consideration. But this was the exception rather than the rule. I finally had a QSO with Harvey who was operating from the other end of the island and was told that we were going to stay there for a total of 17 days— this was indeed FB news for me. If there is ever a repeat of Aldabra I will be prepared for some 40 and 80 meter operation and thereby hand out a new country to everyone on these bands. Maybe even 160 meters. Conditions seemed very good to me while I was there, I wonder how they would sound if I were there during the good part of the sunspot cycle? Can you picture the stations you could work from there when 10 meters thru 80 opened up. Around the clock openings would really work a fellow to death. But what a FB way to die? Hi, Hi! While on Aldabra I got a message from Peggy thru Ack that we had to build a new house. It's a long story about a land deal I will not take the time to repeat on these pages. But on account of a deal on land Peggy said a new house had to be built. I told tier to go ahead and build it and to not forget THE HAM SHACK. Let me tell you I did get a ham shack built too. A lot larger and nicer than I would have had the nerve to build myself. Peggy even got my 150 tower taken down and the 5 element beam taken apart too. Boy I really found out what a nice XYL I had and to this day she has not changed in the least-in fact she gets better all the time, still bringing my breakfast into the ham shack each morning, and even supper if I ask her to. There just aren't many like good old Peggy, this I am sure of. How many of you fellows wives would let you leave them for first 7 months, then for TWO YEARS? I think the percentage would be below 1%. Peggy says to me her first obligation in our marriage is to make me happy and she likes to also make others happy and this is her method of doing just this. Gus

Gus Browning, W4BPD

Hams - W4BPD - Gus Brwning 02
Gus, W4BPD QRV from Aldabra island with VQ9AA Seyshelles Bulbul, an agressive bird Seychellen Kestrel (falcon) Prewar shack of Gus, W4BPD