To The Mountains of the Moon.


It is not easy to write down exactly what happened during this Grand HAM expedition. Happily, the two hams who were involved in this piece of HAM history, could answer many, many questions.

Collecting material

Rewriting this period of HAM history, about the First Grand HAM DXpedition ever, was a very pleasant task. I had only the intention of rewriting the QST story for the Dutch DX audience. Of course I am a DXer myself, but I also love the beauty of this world, and often I want to know the scenery and background of a story. Therefore it's logical that the inside-information from Bob, W6PBV and Bill, W0LHS was not enough. Internet was a big resource, but visits to the library were necessary. While collecting information, it was clear to me, that the word commercial did have a big significance during this expedition to "The Mountains of the Moon". There was only one person in charge, and of course it was Commander Gatti. Or was it the mysterious Mrs. Ellen Gatti, the woman who was always in the background? Gatti was the boss, and all others had to do what HE wanted. It was no joint venture, and problems could not fail to occur. By signing the agreement, no one could publish anything about what really happened. Gatti had always the last word. Gatti made it look as if East Africa still was undiscovered, and that after Linvingstone and Stanley, he, Commander Attilio Gatti was the third great explorer of that untamed world. I cannot get rid of the idea that Gatti made very colorful reports of simple events.

East Africa

This all happened in a period just after World War II, and the area was under British supervision. Communication resources were very limited, and often unavailable. But in ALL places were the Gatti hallicrafters expedition made shelter, there was modern comfort nearby. Even in Fort Portal, Uganda, that lately becomes more interested by tourists, who want to explore the Ruwenzori Mountains. Today in going on safari to Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda not a happening what is hitting the front page. Annualy, 10,000 people climb the Kilimanjaro, not all succeed of course. The Kibo-hotel in Marangu still offers porters and guides to clear the job. On January 2000, about 1000 people welcomed the new century, while standing on the Uhuru Peak. Improved communications and documentaires, but especially movies, like "Out of Africa" draw attention to this part of Eastern Africa. And Arch Oboler was just one of the moviemakers who delivered his share also. With more people coming to visit, the area needed protection. Nowadays there are many National Parks to protect the environment, and you are (almost) never alone on your safari. A lot has changed in East Africa since 1948. Tanganyika and Zanzibar are now one country Tanzania. Belgian Congo changed its name more than once. Idi Amin made Uganda a country almost impossible to visit, but that is changing rapidly. Before they constructed the Owen Falls Dam in Uganda, the Rippon Falls were the source of the Blue Nile. Now the Rippon Falls have disappeared in the reservoir. Bismark Hut, a stopping place on the trek to the African summit, does not exist anymore. So, you reader of this history, if you want to step into the footprints of the expeditioners, or if you want to follow the tracks of the trucks driven by W6PBV and W0LHS, you have been warned.

Old QSL cards

Perhaps somewhere on a dusty attic, there are hidden some old forgotten shoeboxes, filled with QSL cards from forgotten hams, or forgotten DXpeditions. HS1L, worked Dick, G2FFO (thanks to G4UZN) Perhaps these QSL cards can help to refresh the memory of Bob (82 years old in 2003). Of course QSL museums, if you sent them those old QSL cards, can help also to replay history a little. PA1AT, Gerard is busy collecting those cards, he delivered a scan of the VQ4ERR QSL, used in this story. Tony, G4UZN does the same, he provided the HS1L card. The QSL museum in Austria has already a huge collection old QSL-cards, but they could only help with the QSL card of VQ3HGE. Tom, K8CX, did scan a lot of old cards, which you can look at. He made a link from his collection to this history-story. But the big question is; where ar all those other thousands of VQ- QSLs? And who can show a QSL, filled out (in that ancient time) addresses to one of the stations VQ3HGE, VQ4EHG, VQ5HEG or VQ5GHE?

GHE in 2003

If the expedition would go off in this modern time, the name of the expedition probably would be LYD, short for the "Laine-Yaesu DXpedition". The Commander of this happening would be of course the famous, well known explorer Martti J. Laine, OH2BH. The adventure would be not much different from the story of Bill and Bob, but the reports would tell much more about radio, the avarage of QSOs an hour etc. Why ? Because one of the 12 members of the LYD-crew would be Bob, KK6EK. And the book Bob Schmieder writes then, would have the title "DX from the Summit of Africa". And James, 9V1YC, another crew-member, would let us, the DXcommunity, enjoy his view of the DXpedition by taking another DVD titled "Out of Africa, part II". Steve, KU9C would be the QSL-manager, and Bernie, W3UR, and John, ON4UN, the pilots. AM would be replaced by SSB, with Franz, DJ9ZB behind the mike. And one of the CW operators, N5KO, Trey, would try to set again a new worldrecord. And of course the hired porters would carry the equipment up to the top of the Kibo, and 5H2LYD, QRV from the summit of the famous Kilimanjaro could be heard and worked worldwide. And the pile up would cover the whole band, non stop, 24 hours a day. And history would repeat itself......

Searching for the truth

A lot of detective work was needed to reproduce what really happened during this Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition. Jim Powers, sent along with the crew a correspondent of the International News Service, did write lots and lots of reports. Only a small part of them did get into the paper. Most articles were not approved by Gatti, he held back these pieces of fine journalism, to use them in one of his OWN articles or needed them to write a new book about Dark Africa. Bob has forgotten much during the last 55 years, but he is sure in one thing; Keith Sisk, mentioned in several documents (such as a Hallicrafters pamphlet), was NO member of the expedition. Bill Snyder, having a much better memory than Bob, was fired afer two months, and therefore cannot fill Bob's gaps. Gatti mentioned 10,000 QSOs, while Bob's notes show only 3822 QSOs. According to Gatti, all members of the climbing-party reached the summit. Indeed the Commander was a master of writing colored history.

The costs of the expedition

How much money was spent for this expedition, is impossible to calculate. Rumours whispering that Hallicrafters has paid $200,000 to Gatti. But Gatti, being the treasurer of the expedition, mentioned $125,000 in one of his stories. During the DXpedition, Bob had to move to a small tent, because the trailer he used to sleep in, was "sold" to an upcoming African expedition. Gatti had organised 10 expeditions before, and was very good in promoting his expeditions, and in finding sponsors. Producing movies, shooting pictures, writing stories and books, paid off very well, I assume. Lots of books have been issued in many different countries, all over the world. The book "Africa is adventure", Printed by Julian Messner, Inc. New York, has Bob, Jim, Errol and Weldon as characters. Of course A.Gatti was the author. After the expedition ended for Gatti and the rest of his crew, Prince, King and Wakeford, there were two auctions, on behalf of Attilio Gatti in Nairobi, Kenya. The auctioneer was Muter and Oswald Ltd.


Errol Prince, one of the photographers, gave Bob many 8x10 black and white photos, when Cobi and Bob visited him in Southern CA back in 1987. Shortly after that visit Errol Prince died. Besides Bill and Bob, there is one more survivor from the expedition, Weldon King of Springfield, Missouri. He was also one of the photographers. His father was with International Harvester, and that company provided the trucks. A few years ago Bill and Bob visited Weldon in Springfield. Today, his mind has gone and Weldon doesn't recognize anyone even his girl friend. Bob and I1KN became close friends, as Bob and Fortunato had many QSOs. After Bob left Africa for Arabia, Bob started to exchange letters with Cobi, that girl he met on the train to New York. The result was an "Eye-ball-QSO" in Florence Italy, in October 1949. Cobi came from Holland to Italy, and Bob travelled there from Arabia. They had already plans to get married there in Italy, so the couple had some paperwork ready. But it turned out they needed a lot more paperwork. I1KN helped them with that. And I1KN was also the best man at their wedding in Florence in october 1949. There was one other ham at their wedding, I5IT. Joyce Leo, Bobs daughter, after finishing high school, went on an European tour and visited the Grossi's. Bob however, never saw I1KN again.

W7LR in 2003

After five years in the Navy in WW-II, Bob had some other accomplishments. He was an engineer for GE to help develop the bank check sorting machine which reads check magnetic characters. At ARAMCO in Saudi Arabia he was a supervisor at their radio station HZA, and worked for the geology department in the great Arabian desert and in Persian Gulf survey work. He was an engineer at Stanford Research Institute (SRI) in communication and computer research, and got EE degrees from Cal Tech and Stanford. He taught at Montana State University for 20 years as a full professor of EE. He and his family lived in Thailand in 1963 to 1965, where he was the director for the SRI communication research laboratory. He operated HS1L there and was one of the cofounders of RAST - the Radio Amateur Society of Thailand. A highlight of that time was a journey to see the wonders of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. But that is another story. Now, in 2003, Bob and Cobi are in good health, Bob is 82 now. They do live in Montana, the state Bob could not work from VQ3HGE. Bob is still very active in ham radio and does sometimes consulting work on electrical fires and accidents. After working all countries, and even P5, his goal shifted to 160m. In april 2003, he had worked 201 countries on that band. Bob and Cobi like to see things, one of their last trips was to Alaska. Bob has been active since 1937 (swl from 1933), and so has worked a lot of those old-callsigns. As Bob says in his own words "I wasnt much of a dxer in the early days so missed many now considered very rare". Bob got this year credit for 352 worked countries total. CW count is now 334 current and 346 total; mixed count is 335 current.

W0LHS in 2003

After splitting with the Gatti-Hallicrafters expedition, Bill Snyder hooked up with Hollywood radio playwright Arch Oboler of "Lights Out" fame who was accompanying a University of California-sponsored research trip to Africa. Bill used his electronics skills to maintain the group's tape recorders and also applied his filmmaking talents in Kenya, the Belgian Congo, Rhodesia, and so on, for the next several months. After he found his way back to Fargo, North Dakota, Bill helped put the community's first television station on the air. On the side he was a stringer for Walt Disney Studios, filming features for "The Mickey Mouse Club" television show and outdoor segments for Disney nature films. Eventually Snyder realized his earlier goal of establishing his own industrial filmmaking company. W9LHS, first call of Bill Bill's first call sign was W9LHS, it was issued in 1932, the day before Christmas. Then a few years later the ninth district was made the zero district and the calls for North Dakota were changed. Today, in 2003, at age 86, Bill is NOT active anymore. As W0LHS, he worked primarily on RTTY and AMTOR. With his taste for DX, he got 251 countries confirmed on RTTY. Last year, he sold all ham gear, his beam and tower went this year. Bill wished he hadn't quit the ham hobby, but Evie, his XYL, wanted to get ready to sell the house, she didn't know she was going to become an invalid. Bill's wife, Evie, is in a nursing home. She had both her knees replaced like Bill did 8 years ago, and is having a lot of trouble. She walks daily, but they hurt, hurt, hurt all the time. Between the many visits to his wife, Bill found time to help with rewriting this HAM history. He wrote his part of the story himself, but he had a hard time to find the appropiate illustrations for his writings. Questions ! Both Bill and Bob provided me with a huge amount of information, copies of newspapers, personal letters, notes (gramms) from Gatti, original pictures, extracts from the log etc.. But also of course memories, memories and again memories. For me it was as I where a member of that Great Safari, having two exellent guides, Bob Leo W7LR, and Bill Snyder W0LHS. As mentioned before, Bob Leo, W7LR, was the trigger for the article. He provided most of the stuff. But as Bob said, memory is not anymore what it was back in those early days of DXCC. Bill however has a very good memory on personal things. He can recall conversations very easily. Bill did not collect items from the Expedition. And Bill was forced to leave the Gatti hallicrafters Expedition halfway. Therefore, to write down a complete story about what happened back in 1947 and 1948 is not easy. Sometimes the details are hidden too well. The logs of the Expedition are lost, but Bob found a summary of the Expedition QSOs in his logbook number 7, and that information is used to show how many QSOs were made from different camp-sites. Received QSL-cards are lost, or hidden somewhere in old forgotten shoe-boxes. And even the Pamphlet, Hallicrafters issued, shows information which cannot be tracked down sofar. Still many questions are unanswered such as: Why was Keith Sisk NOT with the crew in Africa? He was one of the three winning the photographers part of the Gatti contest. Did Gatti choose Bill Snyder as photographer number three? Did S.A. Pegrume, VQ4CRE, buy some of the radio-equipment, sold in a big auction, after the expedition was over? Who can show a QSL-card of VQ4EHG, VQ5GHE and VQ5HEG? Who can show a QSL-card, showing VQ4EHG, VQ5GHE or VQ5HEG being the station worked? Who made the last QSO with the Gatti Hallicrafters Expedition? Who has more information on the biker, Glenn, who visited the Kilimanjaro Camp during the climbing of the Kibo Peak?


INTERNATIONAL TRUCKS POWER GATTI-HALLICRAFTERS EXPEDITION DETAILED BOOKLET WITH MAPS, PHOTOS AND DESCRIPTIONS PHOTOS ARE IN COLOR. 28 PAGES FRONT AND BACK Is there anyone out on this blue planet who can help me to get this CD? Anyone who can fill in details to complete the story, is most welcome to respond. Please send your comments to me . Thanks in advance. Thank you Bill, W0LHS and thank you Bob, W7LR for letting me put your memories to the internet. Wino, PA0ABM