Source: International Trucks, power Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition, part 2 Told by Attillo Gatti Reprinted by Wino, PA0ABM
WE LEFT NEW YORK on the S. S. African Pilgrim on Nov. 23, 1947, and landed in Kilindini, Kenya, on Jan. 13, 1948. After a hectic week spent in getting all equipment out of customs, in picking up a score of good native boys and drivers and in purchasing truckfuls of food for them and of gas for our vehicles, we went to establish out MAIN CAMP No. 1 near Kwale, only some 30 miles from Mombasa but on a green plateau which looked from a thousand feet of blessed breezy altitude over the half plain stretching to the Swahili coast, to the far whiteness of Mombasa, and the vague blue of the Indian Ocean beyond. From there, as from all the successive Main Camps, we were to make any number of minor safari, in every useful direction, to observe and photograph natives, scenery and game; to hunt for fresh meat; to follow a tip or a hunch about a rare animal, a strange ceremony or a witch doctor's hideaway. But our first business at Kwale was to get acquainted, organized, trained to work as a team. That's how we began: nine white men (of whom seven had never been in an expedition, five had never dealt with a native boy or learned a word of Swahili) starting an entirely new household, with the help of twenty native drivers and boys just arrived from Tanga and of some twenty African laborers I had managed to enroll locally. Half a hundred slightly dazed human beings attempting to understand each other, to bring some order out of chaos, to secure shelter, water, firewood and some nourishment before the sun would go down and some unpleasant feline would begin to prowl. Twenty-five-foot trailer coaches to be put in place, complete with large awnings on both sides; their main switches connected with more or less mysterious power units; their abstruse tanks electrically filled with water; their interiors made habitable. Higgins trailers to be opened up and erected from the "cocoons" of square little metal boxes to the expanded luxury of spacious tents for two; their canopies to be attached; their mosquito nets fastened; their air mattresses inflated; their quota of sheets, pillowcases, blankets, towels, wash basins, water containers, hurricane lamps, flashlights, weapons, to be found, unpacked, distributed. Tents to be pitched by young men who had never seen anything of that kind before, who were trying to get some assistance out of poor devils of natives who knew even less and were receiving orders in a language of which they didn't understand a word. Kitchens and ovens to be prepared the African way, the former out of big stones with a square of galvanized iron over them and crackling flames beneath; the latter, deep holes to be excavated in the ground, with pieces of tin for lids and red coals at the bottom and on top of the lids. Huge cases of kitchen utensils, so carefully made up in Derby Line, now being hastily unpacked, while a frantic search went on for the right kind of stones, for some firewood dry enough to burn, and for the picks and shovels required by the rock-hard ground. The most difficult part of establishing an undertaking of this scale is the advance planning necessary so that no vital link may be found missing later to jeopardize results many thousands of miles from any replacement source. Fresh meat, vegetables, fruit just bought in Mombasa, suddenly attacked by squadrons of flies and regiments of ants, being rushed to the emergency safety of two aluminum boats, one turned on top of the other to make a temporary safe. As for our Internationals, they were doing a magnificent job. Running down to the Customs in Mombasa. Picking up incredible loads. Bringing other lots of our 700 cases back to camp. Fortunately the Customs people were being as nice and helpful and fast as I had ever hoped they would be, and plenty more. They would have had full right to make us waste weeks, just by asking us to open for inspection all those boxes, packs and bales, or at least a good portion of them. Instead, the Customs officials had taken our word and not made us open one single case. And so, incidentally, all the time we were in British East Africa, everybody was simply marvelous to us- the entire officialdom from top to bottom-as well as all private citizens. Just everybody. Now, our KB-5's and KB-3's brought us equipment as last as it could be loaded and carted over these 30 laborious miles from Mombasa. From early morning to late evening. Even into the night, as soon as we got electric lights rigged up all over those six acres of camp. Having worked the entire array of its five stations, the radio section completed more than 4,000 contacts with all states in the U. S. and with every country in the world (except Tibet, where signals went unanswered). "Hams" everywhere eagerly requested confirmation cards. Day after day. Yelling, hammering, unpacking, checking lists, handing out equipment, repacking spares and items not immediately needed. Pouring gas, sending for more drums, shelling out advances to the regular boys, daily pay to the laborers, pocho (food for a week) to all. Yelling, telephoning between Schult and. Schult, talking over the FM intercoms, broadcasting over our station (VQ4-EHG, there in Kenya) to the Hallicrafters in Chicago, to friends In New York, to new friends by the scores all over the world. Taking monochrome and color stills, stereo, motion pictures. Developing, processing, printing, washing, drying. Yet, things were getting into shape. The camp was beginning to look orderly, meals to be on time, and quite good. Our young Americans were learning some words of Swahili, the native boys some American expressions. All our equipment had been dealt with and disposed of-in the interior of trailers, camp trailers, tents, or inside those huge piles neatly covered by the tarps of the KB-5's. Electric power was turned on and off as by schedule, or almost. The station was on the air its full eight hours every day. Kodachromes were being shipped to Rochester. Processed Ektachromes, Ansco color and monochrome cut films were regularly appearing on my desk. The daily routine was established. Everybody, white and black, was getting oriented, to understand and to do his job. Reaching Kilema the expedition was rewarded by magnificent views of the Kilimanjaro's two highest peaks, the 17,000-foot Mawenzi and the 19,86o- foot Kibo, with its perennial cap of ice and snow. Here it was decided to climb the latter peak to make short-wave experiments from the loftiest point of Africa's Equatorial Zone, as well as of the entire continent. Communications were maintained with the Shack-on-Wheels, which in turn relayed the expedition's reports to amateur short- wave radio operators. KILEMA, OUR MAIN CAMP NO. 2, was about 5,000 feet high, up the slopes of Mount Kilimanjaro, the 20,000-foot "Roof of Africa." The general consensus of officials, missionaries and planters was that you could climb up there to Kilema if it hadn't rained for a while and if you had a powerful, yet not too long, car. Even a moderately loaded truck might do, if all conditions were favorable. But it was impossible for trucks piled up like ours. As for the idea of getting up the trailers-particularly those Schult jobs-it was out of the question. For some miles, driving ahead of the caravan, I couldn' t figure out what everybody had been talking about. Every now and then the narrow little road (more deep ruts and huge stones than road) would climb up as if reaching for the sky, curve like a pretzel while hugging two or three tentacles of the mountain, plunge downward into a deep gully, then start all over again. With no trees, no railguard nor anything else to protect you from precipices varying between 200 and 2,000 feet, it wasn't exactly funny, particularly as it had deluged the night before and everything was still dripping and slippery-the road most of all. Still I felt that, one unit at a time, going slow and with plenty of caution, we should be able to make it. Our main camp 1, in Kwale, although situated only some thirty miles from the city of Mombasa, was often visited by large parties of Digo hunters. Some of them had never seen anything on wheels, exept occasionally an old rattletrap of an Indian trader's truck. Others, morfe experienced and mechanic-minded, would admire ecstatically our fleet of ultra-modern Internationals and bed our native drivers to explain the endless number of fascinating mysteries that seemed, to them, to be incorporated in those splendid machines. Later and higher up, the situation got really tough. The character and temperament of the road continued the same. But every half mile or so the pretzel, faced by the narrow top of a deep crevice filled with the roar of cascading waters, would casually overcome the obstacle by a 15 or 20-foot-long, eight-foot-wide, railless contraption of planks that by same stretch of imagination might even be called a bridge. Then the pretzel, which had twisted violently to the right just to get to the bridge, would immediately, not less wholeheartedly, turn to the left. And, unconcernedly, it would start again, either plunging downward or soaring skyward. In my station wagon, each time I crawled over one of these places, 1 had to stop once or twice to get out and check how many wheels I had on the 45° zig, how many on the ensuing 45° zag, or at the very edge of the planks, or maybe suspended above that crevice which on one side was a vertical sheet of falling water and on the other expanded and expanded until, thousands of feet below, it became a majestic valley. Truck and trailerunits units are subjected to tremendous strain in the 5,000 mile itinerary When the turn came for the large vehicles to pass, my heart was stuck in my throat. After the safe passage of each unit I had to gulp the aforementioned heart down before being able to breathe freely enough to let out a sigh of relief. But at long last we reached Kilema. We were rewarded by the magnificent view of the Kilimanjaro's two highest peaks, the 17,000-foot Mawenzi and the 19,860-foot Kibo, with its perennial cap of ice and snow. The latter is the peak that I had decided we would climb to make short-wave radio experiments from the loftiest point of Africa's Equatorial Zone, in communication with the "Shack-on-Wheels" in our 5,000-foot-high camp, which was to relay broadcasts and reports to the hams of the world. This climb, and these experiments, we successfully accomplished during the following month. Upon completion of the high-altitude radio experiments, the expedition settled its third Main Camp near Arusha, just under Mt. Meru. The locality was called Bamboo Flats, a well-nigh perfect misnomer. The fact is that the ground was fat from flat, and bamboo was not to be found anywhere. The redeeming feature was that this was the big game country. MAIN CAMP NO. 3 was established near Arusha, just under Mount Meru. The locality was called Bamboo Flats, probably out of sheer cussedness. The fact is that the ground was far from flat and there was not a single bamboo in sight. However, as a compensation, every evening the entire camp was thoroughly fumigated by clouds of malodorous smoke from a nearby depression where neighbor planters dumped and burned tons of coffee husks every day. Unfortunately, this was a feature not discovered until we had pitched up the entire camp, built several huts for our boys, erected the rhombic antenna and put up a couple of tremendously high extra ones. MEMBERS of a British Parliamentary Commission and the local authorities are entertained in Main Camp No. 3, established near Arusha. The plains adjacent to this camp teemed with all kinds of wild game. When the camp was complete we had a little celebration party, to which we invited all the Arusha authorities and other people who had been very helpful to us. Even the afternoon breeze must have felt invited. Because, there and then, it turned in our direction across the dump. Everybody began to sniff and sneeze and make faces. The Arushans felt bad about having forgotten the problem when they had suggested the campsite. We had not felt disturbed because we saw no reason why the wind should suddenly turn our war and be obstinate about it. But it had, and it was. And it is the smell of the coffee dump which will return to our noses aggressively whenever we think of the evenings in this camp. The days out of it, instead, were among the most thrilling and exciting of the entire expedition. The slopes of Mt. Meru were thick with rhino; and the plains to the west were crammed with game, particularly zebra and giraffe, eland, oryx, ostrich, buffalo, Thompson's gazelle, lions and cheetah. With the result that our crop of observations on game was a rich one, and that our collection of unusual color and monochrome still and motion pictures advanced by leaps and bounds. THE SONYO, an extremely primitive tribe, live exactly as they did centuries ago In this scene two Moran (young warriors) decorate each other with chalk and ochra in preparation for a big dance of welcome to the members of the expedition. It was also a time of serious decisions. The season of heavy rains was approaching. Ahead of us was the immense Serengeti Plain, difficult in the dry season, absolutely impassable at other times. Now we were faced with the consequences of the months lost in America while the sailing of our boat had been delayed, then of the weeks lost up the slopes of Kilimanjaro while most of us had suffered bad attacks of "Kilema dysentery." Had it not been for these two factors, we would have found ourselves away ahead of the rains. As it was, we had to sacrifice a large part of our itinerary and, at the first indications of steady bad weather, to rush northward, where we could spend the worst months devoting all the energies and means not taken up by our radio work to a serious study of the still little-known Masai and Sonyo natives.
ESTABLISHING ITS MAIN CAMP No. 1 near Kwale (Kenya), the first job of the expedition was to get acquainted, organized and trained to work as a team. The Journey of 1948 in East Africa  MEMBERS of a British Parliamentary Commission and the local authorities are entertained in Main Camp No. 3, established near Arusha.