IT WAS A LONG TIME AGO, at the beginning of 1940. I was 43 years older than when I had been born. It surely was high time for me finally to obtain some life insurance-that endowment policy I had wanted so many years, and had never managed to get."Listen, my boy," I said to a friend in the insurance business. "This gag about the dangers of Africa has lasted long enough. Yes, I have a nice collection of wounds and broken bones in my anatomy. But most of them were acquired during the first World War, and in horse-riding and high jumping before that. At any rate your own doctors cannot find a thing wrong with me. And, now, I'm through for good with Africa. So what about a nice policy?""I'm all for it," he said, "But my company's interests come first. You are simply a bad risk!"I had come back a month before from my tenth, and absolutely last, African expedition - just the one in which my friend and his wife had wanted so badly to join Mrs. Gatti and myself. But that was the way my pal felt.I talked to another friend-another of those individuals who earn a living out of making you (and by you I mean YOU-not me) sign on the celebrated dotted line.I conceded that of the previous 19 years I had spent 14 on African soil. Yes. But now I was through-finally, completely, definitely through with that kind of life. Too much work. Too much responsibility, worry, anxiety. And not much fun left, either. Too many regulations, too much red tape. The natives have become too civilized, big game too rare, too well protected. To heck with it all!"Look," I told him. "Look at what I have just written in this booklet for International Harvester. 'Good-bye forever to Africa. See? It's here in black and white."I was ready with my pen. But he didn't produce the dotted line. "I've read that before," he answered, "You wrote something very like that at the end of your previous expedition," he laughed. "But this time I mean it. It's absolutely final. Can't you get that into your head?""Sure, sure," he grinned, "I even believe you are sincere. Today. But wait a few years. You'll go back. No. No dice."WELL DID I EVER THINK of going back to Africa? Not while the war spread through Europe. Not while the war extended to the entire world. Not even when it came to a conclusion.My wife and I had moved to New England. We had settled in Derby Line, a nice, quiet little community near the International boundary with Canada. So near to it, incidentally, that half our property is in the State of Vermont, half in the Province of Quebec-even our house is part in the United States, part in Canada; my office with the desk this side of the line and the telephone on the other side, with a Canadian number.We had worked so hard, at the beginning. Fixing this and that. Repairing our home, our garden, the pond, the trouty long brook. Rearranging everything just the way we had dreamed for so many years. Who would want to leave all that behind, to go back to any old Africa? To break up our so peaceful life for the turbulent pandemonium of starting the involved, incredibly complicated business of a new huge expedition?Why, it wasn't even worth talking about it. But-one day I talked. It was purely academic conversation. Yet, it was enough!I talked with my good friend Bill Halligan, president of the Hallicrafters Company of Chicago. I presented him with a copy of SOUTH OF THE SAHARA, a book of mine which had then just appeared. I pointed out to him several chapters which described how I had happened to become acquainted with the wonderful Hallicrafters short- wave radio transmitters and receivers, and the absolutely splendid service they had rendered my previous expedition.What a pity, I said, that we hadn't got together when I was organizing that tenth-and last-African venture of mine. What a job we could have done together!The fleet of International trucks, tractors and station wagons I had then. Those marvelous Jungle Yachts I had thought up and designed, which Count de Sakhnoffsky had styled so stunningly. Instead of a small transmitter and a couple of receivers-we could have had a full array of Hallicrafters machines of every kind, to make the most modern equipment ever to set out for Africa. Instead of my having to twist knobs and solve a puzzle, in an emergency or during the rare minutes I could spare for fun-there should have been a couple of good operators competently keeping this model station regularly on the air many hours every day, methodically contacting as many as possible of the 100,000 hams of the world, making experiments and tests with them, checking the best frequencies and the performance of various sets, from sea level up to 20,000 feet, and all in the Equatorial Zone, still so unexplored from the stand- point of short-wave radio.Wouldn't that have been positively a "natural?"The trouble with me is that the more I talk, the more enthusiastic I get. And the more I am fired with enthusiasm, the more I talk. Well, this time I had talked too much. I knew it the minute I noticed the expression on Bill Halligan's face. No wonder he had been called a wizard of radio. I discovered that it doesn't take him long to imagine a plan and to get action. Now, his expression meant that he had visualized everything I had said, that he liked it, that he was ready for it.But I wasn't. I had been talking about what could have happened with my previous expedition, my last one. I didn't want to go back to Africa. I didn't feel up to it. I wanted to stay home, to enjoy the hard-earned little paradise of Glenbrook House in Derby Line; to have same quiet, some peace, some rest.I wanted to explain all this to Bill Halligan. When he said: "What shall we call it?" I should have answered-: "A day." lnstead, I said- "How about 'The Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition to the Mountains of the Moon'?" TWO YEARS and one month later, the end of November, 1947, saw the Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition assembled in New York, ready to embark for the long sea journey to Mombasa, Kenya Colony, British East Africa, and for the longer safari through Kenya, Tanganyika and Uganda that would finally take us to our ultimate goal, the 17,OOO-foot Ruwenzori Range, the "Mountains of the Moon" of the ancient geographers.During those 25 months of preparation, I hadn't known one single day of rest. Neither had Glenbrook House, in quiet Derby Line. Entire new rooms had been built or adapted to accommodate an ever- increasing staff of assistants. The six-car garage had been transformed into a carpenter shop, where hundreds of special boxes to contain our equipment had been built out of plywood, hinged, hasped, painted, stenciled with the expedition's logotype.Throughout the house, dozens of cases being filled or emptied had become as commonplace as chairs or tables, because some of us would always be darting back and forth between Vermont and Chicago, New York, Boston, Washington, Elkhart, Milwaukee, Rochester, Buffalo-or welcoming groups of people who had come from all these places, and many more, because I didn't have the material time to go and discuss business with them.The biggest trouble was that practically everything I needed to make the Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition what I wanted it to be had to be specially modified and adapted to my specifications, or to be expressly constructed from beginning to end according with my drawings. And this just during those immediately postwar months when most things were extremely scarce, if not unobtainable. I needed a reliable manufacturer who would translate into ultra-strong, well-insulated, beautiful- looking trailer coaches all the new ideas which I had incorporated in my drawings for a "Shack-on-Wheels" to beat all shacks, on wheels or not; for an ultra- modern "Rolling Lab" in which to develop, print and enlarge black-and-white film, to process from A to Z professional color, regardless of locality, availability of pure water and of the craziest jumps in temperature; for a house trailer for my wife and another for myself, to contain, in addition to sleeping quarters and complete bathrooms, one a comfortable dining room, the other a quite elaborate large office.I wanted smaller trailers to accommodate our white personnel in the utmost comfort. I wanted special tents for white men and for native boys; power units; light boats and outboard motors; still, motion picture, stereoscopic cameras; huge quantities of black-and-white film, infra-red and color raw stock; scientific instruments; medicinal products; provisions of every kind.Above all, I had to have dependable trucks. Enough of them to transport all of us, to carry all these tong of delicate equipment and, at the same time, to tow all these trailers and house trailers and trailer coaches. Trucks which could be relied upon for doing such a job over "roads" the very thought of which gave me shivers, as well as across open country when even those "roads" gave up the ghost-along broiling, sandy low plains and narrow, steep goat paths that climbed to chilly altitudes.Of course, I wanted Internationals. Not two or three, but eight of them. At a time when it seemed impossible to get even one.
Those twenty-five months!
How we did it I don't know, but one by one we ware them down. At the end of them, there was the Gatti-Hallicrafters Expedition-gathered in and around the International Harvester showroom at 570 West 42nd Street, New York, being looked over by the press and by hundreds of friends.It was an impressive sight. The Schult Trailer Company of Elkhart, Indiana, had managed to bring my drawings to reality, down to the last detail. Our two house trailers, as well as the "Rolling Lab" and the "Shack-on-Wheels" which the Hallicrafters Company had lined up with their splendid equipment, were there for everybody to admire. Each of the three Higgins camp trailers for the personnel carried on its top an Aero-Craft aluminum unsinkable boat and an Evinrude outboard motor at hand. Two more 2-wheel trailers contained 10,OOO-watt, 110-volt, fully automatic power-generating plants.Believe it or not, the eight Internationals were there too: two KB-I station wagons, four KB-3's with specially built bodies and photographic platforms, and two International KB-5's-eight trucks hooked to the eight trailers, alt loaded with equipment to the limit of their capacities and beyond.The whole caravan was painted with the same logo-colors which scores of tests had proved most effective for color and monotone photography against all expected skies and backgrounds: International red No. 30 up to window height; aluminum silver tops; light french gray in between, and for tarpaulins; royal blue for logotype, trimmings and identification numbers.The caravan was bristling with antennae. In addition to the three huge ones of the "Shack-on- Wheels," each of the eight truck-and-trailer units had its own to take care of its FM two-way radio telephone for intercommunication in station and in motion, between unit and unit, and between them and the expedition's Main Camp.The all-American personnel, in addition to my wife and myself, consisted of two amateur radio operators, one staff correspondent for the International News Service, and two photographers, one specializing in color stills, the other in color movies. In Mombasa, also, two Englishmen were to join us, one as my secretary, the other as camp manager.
Lions being the natural, most deadly enemy of the Masai's cattle, moran still kill them, but by getting after simba in large groups and destroying it with a rain of spears, thrown from the safest distance possible. The hunters devide the lion's mane among the two or three whose spears have most luck and these make for themselves headdresses that are handsome and impressive.
Almost as inquisitive and acquisitive as the Masai woman is the ostrich. Several times we saw a group of comic ostriches approach one of our trucks and try to get bites out of the body and the tires. Their greatest delicacy was the blue flashbulbs our photographers had discarded. Good for the digestion, you know!.
One of the expedition's station wagons is framed by masts and furled sails as we visit a flotilla of dhows in the small harbor of the Kavirondo Gulf of Victoria Nyanza, Africa's greatest lake and second largest of the world. These boats, used for net fishing, are simplified, smaller replicas of the Arabic shows which for many centuries have plied the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, and which were responsible for the transportation of most of the slaves from Africa's east coast.!.
The young Masai of Kenya, when he reaches manhood, goes through an elaborate initiation. Then he becomes an moran (warrior) and must serve for seven years before being permitted to marry and start the nomad's life in perennial search of fresh pastures for the clan's inmense heard of cattle. These are four full-fledged moran, their headdresses made of lion's mane or of ostrich feathers, their shields of cowhide painted with each clan's special insigne.
Tremendously impressed by the fleet of colourful trucks, the primitive sightseer concentrates on the simple magic of rear-view-mirrors, an attraction which no native visitor could resist. This one goes through the usual performance of grimacing unendingly before the looking glass.
Gathered in INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER's New York showrooms prior to departure for Africa. Cmdr. Gatti receives congratulations from James Melton (center in striped suit), star of Harvester's Sunday afternoon radio program, other IH-officials, as well as officers of other firms participating in readying the eleventh venture of the veteran African explorer. Seated inside the truck is Weldon King, Gatti's chief aid in charge of color photography.
CMDR. GATTl rejoices over successful completion of his eleventh expedition on arrival in U. S. after spending many months in British East Africa.
DISAPPEARING into the hold of the S. S. African Pilgrim at New York for shipment to Mombasa, British East Africa, is one of the eight International trucks selected by Gatti for the arduous work of transporting his expedition over the many difficult miles of roads and trails in the safari to the `Mountains of the Moon`.