By Gus Browning, printed in 73 Magazines in 1966-10 reprint by PA0ABM Gus Browning story, Part 16 VQ9A Seychelles Last month I was on Aldabra Island having a ball. After repairing the Teflon needle valve with a hot soldering iron and getting my antennas broadside to the USA and Europe, I was all set for the pile-ups. I found that there were interesting things to observe on the islands, I saw the Booby birds trying to battle their way thru with their craw full of fish every evening (read last month's issue). Or take those coconut crabs that invaded the back porch where I was operating every night. These are mean rascals about twice the size of both of your fists when placed together. They just love to sneak up on yon at night (they don't come out in the daytime), and when you are not watching all of a sudden they will take a snip at your leg; I mean right up under your pants cuffs. They are always fighting each other usually every morning there were a number of dead ones laying around that got killed during the night. I think they hate each other and think nothing at all about "battling to their death" at the first sight of another one. Sometimes when I awoke by the operating position in the morning there even were a few dead ones on top of the table. I suppose they climbed up on the table via the overhanging table cloth. I guess they would make FB house pets if you did not want any of your neighbors visiting you. One night I caught about 25 of them and placed them in a large box so that I could take a picture of them the next day, but the next morning every one of them was dead, I suppose they had a real battle royal in that box during the night. All of them were snipped up pieces of coconut crabs were all over the box; not a whole one was to be found. Another interesting type of nightly visitor was some extra large bats. I will tell you of my encounter with one of them the very first night I was there. My operating table was on the back unscreened porch, I had been noticing something flitting between me and the light bulb a number of times, and thought possibly it was a large candle fly or something like that. I had a nice pile-up going, operating SSB on 20 meters. Someone had just called me and I was about to jot down the call sign of the station calling, but all of a sudden, something lit on top of my partly bald head. This "thing" was straddling my headphone band (the mike was also mounted from this headphone band ) and its claws were dug into my very thin hair and scalp. I yelled into the mike, "Just a minute. Buddy, I got some trouble here." Then I sort of sneaked my hand up to my head to feel this thing that was on top of it, nice and soft, I quickly withdrew my hand from this little fur covered thing setting on top of my hair. I sort of froze up for a minute, and then decided this thing had to be removed from my head. I had to either do something or else sit there all night. I decided to do something and to do it instantly, I grabbed this thing from my head, and threw it on the floor, all in one single motion. Down on the floor went the headphone, mike and this thing, which turned out to be a large bat having a wing spread of about 20 inches. The poor headphone and mike really slammed to the floor; I thought for sure they were nnned. The bat was out cold. I picked up the phones/mike combination and listened in, whistled in the mike once and discovered it was all OK, I was back in business again. Then I said into the mike, "Who was that calling me?"— the wrong thing to say in a pile-up. Back came about 25 stations; whoever was calling me on that frequency was clobbered, I then put a little check mark beside the time and report I had already entered in the log. In the excitement I completely forgot the call sign of whatever was calling me. Sure enough when I got back home, I found a QSL card from this fellow all filled in with the proper time, date, report, etc. He mentioned I had returned to his call and that right after I had given him his report said, "Wait a minute, I've got troubles " Then when these troubles were over with he got smothered with QRM. I sent him a QSL card, I even wrote him a letter telling him what the trouble was that I had. I never did have one of those bats land on my head after that. I sort of learned to live with them from then on. At the time I was on Aldabra, the total population was about 20 people. There are three industries on the island— fishing, copra, and catching large sea turtles, Which is the best money producer I have no idea. Possibly it's the fishing. The fishermen are more afraid of the large groper fish than they are of sharks* It seems that these gropers sort of sneak up on the fishermen (who are in the water spearing fish), and take a chunk of meat out of him now and again. One fellow I met down there had the calf of his lower right leg completely gone from a groper bile. They told me they can usually scare a shark away by making lots of commotion in the water. The catching of the large sea turtles was interesting work to observe. Usually three fellows go out in one of the large pirogues (boats). When a turtle is seen they row the boat near the turtle, and they throw a spear into the back of the turtle j the spear only goes into the turtle's back a few inches. The turtle is hauled into the boat, turned over on its back and then a few more are caught. When they have a good haul they come ashore and the turtles are placed in the turtle pond. The spearing of the turtle does him no harm since the spot where the spear went thru its soft back soon heals over and the turtle is as good as he ever was. Life on Aldabra to me seemed very good; everyone had all the food they needed fur I believe each one there was allowed one pound of rice per day. If they did not use their ration the owner of the island bought the rice back from them at a fair price, I saw no one beating their brains out working themselves to death. They all seemed to be sort of taking it easy. I think they are all very satisfied with their job. Of course, occasionally there is a little trouble between a few fellows, which the island manager soon clears up. There is even a small |ail on the island that on occasion is occupied, but not very often, I suppose the island manager is the judge in these disputes. Life to me on Aldabra was very enjoyable; the bands were open nearly around the clock. With the sun spot count increasing each day noWs I certainly would like to return to Aldabra, With even 10 meters starting to open again I bet I would have a ball Remember when I was down there the sun spot count was near the 11 year minimum. The possibility of my returning there at this time seems to be very remote, if not impossible but if the chance ever turns up I would like to be on again from down there. Oh, yes, if yon want one of the most delicious meals in the world, try one of the Aldabra turtle steaks. They are one of the most tender steaks I have eaten. If you are interested in picking up sea shells by all means go to the Aldabras. they are there by the thousands just waiting for someone to pick them up, I sent Peggy two large boxes of them. I had already sent her other sea shells from other spots and she told me, "No more sea shells, please." One extra large clam fossil I found there was large enough for me to lay down in and be closed shut. We shipped this one back to Mahe to be put in their museum. The clam from that shell would have fed 30 or 40 people. I guess. Its age was estimated to be more than a thousand years old. With all the birds, fish, copra, sea shells, bats, and miles and miles of nice sandy sea coast, life there is not bad at all. All the workers there are men, so there is never any trouble with arguments over some woman. I stayed on Aldabra Island for 17 days. I found that 17 days is by far too long to stay at one QTH as far as DXpeditioning is concerned. Give me 7 good days and everyone will be worked who really tries after that you have to start digging for QSOs. But I was sort of stuck for those 17 days, since Jake the boat owner had the little Lua-Lua up high on the beach, painting and cleaning it up. He put it up on high dry sand when the moon was full and had to wait until there was the next extra high tide so he could float it away again. This extra long stay was not too bad, since there were many things of interest to do and to look at. Time flew by anyway. Finally Harvey gave me a call on 20 and said for me to be ready to depart the next morning at 8:30 AM. Down came the antenna off went the power plant, things were all wrapped up and made ready to load up the boat. I contacted the manager of the island and told him I would need the use of a pirogue the next morning with a few fellows to help me load up and row out to the Lua-Lua when it arrived. To bed I went for the fiist good long night's rest I had since I had arrived at Aldabra. I visited all the workers and thanked them all for their help, thanked the island manager and took one final look at the camp site, I was ready to QSY from Aldabra at 8:00 AM. The Lua-Lua arrived at about 8:15, so out we went in the loaded pirogue. The old SE monsoon by this time had really got going and we had a heck of a time loading the equipment from the pirogue to the Lua-Lua, A number of times things nearly went overboard, until we got the swing of the way the waves were behaving. We would watch for a big swell to start our way, and yell to the fellows in the Lua-Lua to get all set; then we grabbed an armful of items and waited until the swell pushed our pirogue up high, parallel with the deck of the Lua-Lua, and in a fast swing handed items to the outstretched arms of the fellows in the Lua-Lua. This required some split second timing and fast movement on the part of the fellows on both boats. The last item to leave the pirogue was me. The pirogue departed for the beach, and we set sail for Mahe,. The seas were in a very' foul mood all the way back, I finally managed to get my equipment mounted on the eating table, the old putt-putt fastened down, and I was again /MM Quite a number of waves swept completely over the ship, and the fellows at the wheel hung on for dear life so they would not be swept overboard* What a time we had trying to shoot the sun, moon, Venus, etc.. with the horizon very vague; locating the horizon was a must before any bearings could be taken. All this time I am at the radio listening to WWV or some other station with standard time signals, calling ulf the seconds. Both Harvey and Jake had their sextants in their hands. Eventually we would get a shot and Harvey and Jake would then go to their little desks and start trying to figure where we were! Every now and again they would actually agree on the same exact spot. One time one of them called out the answers to liis shot and according to my map we would have been about 300 miles west of Cairo, Egypt, out in the Sahara Desert! He later re-figured and found that he had subtracted one oi his figures instead of adding. But as a rule their figures more or less agreed. Dead reckoning helped quite a bit also. In plain English, dead reckoning means you are located at such and such a place using common sense. The second day out from Aldabra, on the way back to Mahe, I was on the air having a FB time QSOing the boys with those breakers breaking over the boat, and bango— the sky hght above my operating table was struck by an enormous wave^ it was lifted up and about a bathtub full of sea water came on top of me, the equipment, cameras and all. This brought a sudden silence to the equipment. It was sflent all the rest of the way back to Mahe, I tried drying it off the best I could with what damp clothes we had on deck, but it was a long way from being dry. It took us about 10 days to battle our way back to Mahe all this time the equipment just lay there with the salt water doing its worst to it, parts of the chassis starting to turn green when we arrived on Mahe. It did not look good to me at all; I thought for sure that I would have to get word to Ack to send me another KWM-2, but before I sent out this distress message I decided I would try overcoming this salt water trouble. Off went the cabinet, and the scrubbing job began. After two days of hard work, it looked very nice and clean. I plugged it in, expecting the smoke to rise from somewhere. There was no smoke from it, but there were no signs of any signals from it either. Nor was there any excitation on transit. The only thing that moved was the S meter, and it moved backwards. It looked like I was in for lots more cleaning before there were going to be any signals from VQ9A. This time I really dug in. First it got the water hose treatment! Try squirting water down in those pretty little if transformers, you will be surprised the places it squirts out! After a few days of this cleaning, wiping, polishing, and sponging, things looked very good. This time I placed the equipment out in the hot Mahe sunshine for two days, turning the chassis over every hour; finally on the third day I placed it in the oven at the hotels turned the heat up to 160 degrees and let it cook for 6 hours. This time I knew it was dry before I plugged it in. Still the S -meter read backwards, and a very faint hum could be heard from the phones. On PA plate current position the meter read about 15 mils. Still no excitation. This time I was ready to send Ack that distress message for sure. After some thought I decided I would try just once more before sending this message to Ack. This time out came most of the parts, the if transformers inside were all green, covered with green scum and mildew. Each one was very carefully cleaned with carbon-tet; the trimmers were taken apart and I noticed the silver plating on them was starting to peel off; the power transformer was even taken apart and found to be covered with this green scum. Sometime one of you fellows might try a real cleaning job on the little band switches in modem-day equipment. This time I spent 3 full days cleaning; then back into the oven again for more baking, and then with not much hopes it was plugged in. Again the S-meter read backwards—but the receiver was operating again. Next I tried the transmitter. By golly, it worked I I ! I was back in business again at VQ9A. I could never get the VFO to calibrate right, and when I returned the set to Collins about two years later, the S-meter was still reading backwards. They sent me a new VFO to install so the calibration difficulty was eliminated, I never did have any more trouble with the rig after that, except the usual amount of tube trouble. Gus

Gus Browning, W4BPD

Hams - W4BPD - Gus Brwning 02
Coconut-Crab This  "thing" was straddling my headphone The Aldabra large sea turtle A rubber stamp QSL, the normal QSLs went gone