The stop at Tanga was very short, because the cargo left in the holds of the Pilgrim was quite small. Nevertheless, we trouped ashore and did the usual tourist things before returning to the Pilgrim and dinner. Tanga was a quaint town located next to a beautiful harbor. The railroad from Tanga connected with the rail line that ran from Mombasa to Arusha, so a lot of cargo destined for the up- country village of Arusha was off-loaded at Tanga. The climate was now really tropical and hot, but colorful. All the African harbors were now filled with Arab dhows waiting for the north-bound monsoon winds to carry them back to their homes in the Persian Gulf. When I complained about the heat to one Tanga resident, he said, “Wait till you get up-country in Nairobi, Kenya, the weather there is delightful. It’s just down here at sea-level that it’s so damned torturous.” I hoped he was right. It was early in the day when the African Pilgrim sailed into the port for Mombasa, the last stop in our 48 day sea journey. As the ship floated slowly into Kilindini Harbour, I got a lump in my throat. We’d been on the Pilgrim for all that time and I was completely at home in our little cabin. The Hallicrafter’s booze supply was on the dregs of the last jug. I’d saved that for the arrival toast in the port city, so Powers and I downed the dregs and left the empty bottle for the steward to dispose of; no tricky message for jug number 48. Powers, Prince and I were the heavy smokers on the crew. I inhaled two or three packs a day, and I feared switching to African-made cigarettes simply because they tasted awful. To stave off the switch, Powers and I each bought a bunch of American-made Camels from the ship’s canteen; Prince worried about high customs fees as he was sending money home to his wife and family, so he didn’t go along with our purchases. The British Customs and Immigration officers came aboard before the ship tied up at the dock. After examining our passports and immunization registers, the customs man laid it to me by charging $48 duty on the Camel weeds I was bringing in to Kenya. “There’s nothing wrong with our Players cigarettes,” he said as he filled out the papers. “They’re like smoking rope,” I said, and then offered him a Camel from my pack. “Have a cigarette with real tobacco in it,” I teased. The Customs man took the weed, lit it, took a deep drag, and then, looking me dead in the eye, smiled with great satisfaction. I received 48 bucks worth of satisfaction in that smile. As soon as the custom formalities were concluded, Gatti moved us off the African Pilgrim and into the Avenue Hotel located on the main street of downtown Mombasa. It was a typical small African hotel, with meals included in the room charge. We were to make that place our home until the trucks and trailers came off the ship and we could leave on safari. As we got out of the taxicab at the hotel, Bob pointed to a signboard posted in the center of the street and said, “Hey, look at that sign: ‘Beware of pickpockets.’ It’s a great welcome to Kenya, isn’t it?” “That and the heat wave,” said Weldon, “We’ve got to learn to sweat all over again. The Philippines were mighty cool compared to this town.” We checked into our rooms and all met in the dining room for lunch. Gatti was missing; he and his wife were registered in another hotel. “I’m going to like this country,” said Powers, “all businesses knock off from noon till 2 p.m. for lunch; and, get this bit, a short siesta. That, in my book of rules, is living!” “Gatti isn’t going to let that happen to us, is he?” asked Prince. “I doubt it,” said Weldon, “he’ll want our nose in a Graphlex, not in a pillow!” After lunch, Errol, Weldon and I went back to the ship to wait for our trucks to come out of the hold. The script I had written called for off- loading scenes, as well as the actual start of the safari with the Schult caravans (meaning trailers in English jargon) being towed by the International Harvester trucks. By now the cranes were in position, the hatch covers were off and the final cargo left in the African Pilgrim was being lifted out of the holds. Mr. Halbroth, the ship’s first mate, was on the bridge supervising the unloading. “It’s going to be tomorrow before the vehicles come off,” he said. “You’ll get plenty of time to shoot your pictures.” Errol Prince and I planned our movie shoot. “I’ll shoot from up here in the bridge, you get the action from down on the dock,” I said. Errol agreed as he wiped the gathering sweat off his brow. Unloading the first truck The mate was right, the first truck was about to come out of the Pilgrim when we arrived the next morning. It was a slow process, a truck would be lifted out, then more mixed cargo, then another vehicle, and so on. Gatti put in his appearance and I took a number of movie shots of the Commander standing high on the bridge looking down as if watching our trucks coming up out of the hold and being lowered onto the dock. Gatti was quite cooperative and posed nicely for the shots of him “commanding.” When all our vehicles were on the dock, I posed Gatti by one of the trucks and had him blow the police-type whistle he carried on a chain, much like an army first sergeant. This whistle blowing scene, according to the script, was to signal the caravan to start on its trip to “darkest Africa.” Actually the trip only was up a few blocks to a parking lot where we could load our cargo for the safari. We shot both movies and stills of the convoy starting out, and then I jumped into the last truck hitched to a Schult trailer for my driving stint. “Tail End Willy” was to be my place in the convoy, because Gatti decided that I was the best equipped to fix automobiles, if something went wrong with them. Little did he know I was not too sharp in that department. Vehicular traffic moves on the “wrong side” of the road in British East Africa. I had plenty of experience driving on the left in Australia, New Guinea, and the Philippines before the latter shifted to the “right side” in 1945. In my first minute in the truck’s driving seat, I discovered a design problem: the operating handle of the trailer brake was made for an auto with the steering wheel on the left side of the vehicle, and so it was nearly impossible to shift the gear box and handle the trailer brake at the same time. It took us three days to get all our gear loaded and in place for the trip. Gatti had a lot of equipment that would be “for sale” at the end of the expedition, so he stashed it in a public warehouse in the port city. He was quite busy with inventories and paper work for all the materials. Our first motor safari on the roads of Kenya was to Kwale, a village area about 20 miles above Mombasa. A few roads near Mombasa were blacktop, but most other roadways were little more than one-lane wide, composed of a red mud that characterized the Kenya countryside, and dusty. Gatti lead the convoy out of Mombasa and up an escarpment. He stopped along the way to get out and read an aging sign post at a cross road complex. What a great picture that would make: the great explorer looking an African highway sign post. We arrived in our first camp area which was located on the edge of an escarpment overlooking a huge valley. We could see for many miles from the edge of the cliff that marked the western edge of our campsite. Gatti picked out two campsites: one for he and the “memsahib” (Ellen Gatti became known by the Hindu term of respect for the white lady of the house), and one about 200 yards away for the “Shack on Wheels” and our Higgins pop-up campers. Gatti and his Mrs. each had a deluxe Schult trailer. The ton-and-half trucks that towed their trailers were loaded with their personal belongings and a number of cases of Canadian Club whiskey for the CC magazine ads we were to photograph. The CC stock was also accompanied by gin, vermouth and plenty of Italian wine, none of which the Commander shared with the crew. Our camp consisted of three Higgins pop-up type tented trailers for sleeping, the combination “Shack” and photo lab trailer, and a dining tent which was completely sided with mosquito bar netting. Our native crew consisted of a cook, a waiter/houseboy and a group of utility drivers for the vehicles. We had a cook; Gatti and the “memsahib” had a “chef,” plus servants. Yes, they “roughed it” in a first-class manner. Our first job was to unpack some of the crates and boxes of various kinds of supplies for the junket. Everything from malaria pills to spare radio tubes to an ice making machine for the photo lab began to appear out of the containers. It was like Chirstmas, as none of us, except Gatti, had seen what was stashed in the crates. I commended Gatti for his logistical completeness; he did have things organized. In addition, we were learning to know our native employees. Just getting to remember their names and duties was our first chore. They all seemed to enjoy working, so we had them working at unpacking the crates and supplies. Our first night in the Kwale campsite was quite interesting. When we went to bed in our Higgins pop-up trailers, the quiet of the African countryside was broken by the way-off music of Africa. It was an “Ngoma,” translated “dance”, that was taking place out there somewhere. When I went to sleep, the drumming and singing was still going strong, but it was quiet when I awoke the next morning with a troop of baboons meandering through our campsite. I got to like the noises of the African countryside. The next night it was again quiet, no wind to speak of. Instead of an ngoma, we could hear a distant drum beat pounding out what seemed like code. “What’s that?” I asked of Bob Leo. “Sounds like the jungle telegraph,” he said. When the drumming stopped, we could hear another drummer pick up the beat. His drum sounded a bit higher in pitch and appeared to be farther away from us. When that drummer finished his pounding, another, still farther away repeated the hammering. “It surely is the jungle telegraph,” said Bob. I agreed. I’d read about that method of communications, but didn’t really expect to see or hear it for real in the year 1948 The second day at Kwale put the ham station on the air. Gatti had a six month contract with Hallicrafters, and he said he didn’t want to spend one more day in Africa than was necessary, so we were ordered to get it going. Bob and I hooked up the generators and began the task of erecting the rhombic antenna. Erecting the rhombic for the first time was quite a task. We first had to determine the direction of the beam which we wanted to aim at Chicago. The rhombic antenna was a compromise design and had a gain on 20 meters of about 12 decibels. We used a compass to stake out the direction and a tape line to determine where to erect the war surplus US Army collapsible antenna masts for the beam antenna. With the help of two of our native drivers, we measured out the distances given us by the engineering staff in Chicago and staked the spots for the four masts to be erected. The wires for antenna and feedline were all neatly wound for us on bobbins, so we unrolled the wire on a nice grassy spot near the trailer with the ham shack in it. The four poles that held the antenna were snapped together, raised, and guyed with the ropes that were part of the kit. The wires were then raised by the lines through the pulleys at the top of each mast. The terminating resistor was pulled up on the far end of the antenna. We could operate it with or without the terminating resistor. With it in the circuit it was a unidirectional antenna, and without it, it was a bidirectional array. The open wire feedline was easy to connect to the antenna tuner in the shack. It went to the big 600 watt HT-4 (Signal Corps BC-610) through a relay that flipped it to the SX-42 receiver in the receiving position. We had a two war surplus 10 KW PE-95 generators, each mounted in a one ton trailer which was also war surplus. The generator powered the photo lab and the ham shack, but that was all. Gatti had his own generator going in his “camp” to keep the lights on and the “ice-a boxes” full of booze for the memsahib. We also had 1500 watt Onan generators for light-duty electrical power; the PE-95s were reserved for the ham shack. Gatti had thought of everything; I’ll give him credit for that. In Mombasa we picked up steel drums full of petrol to run the various generators. “The contract calls for the ham station to be on the air six hours a day,” said Gatti at a camp meeting, “and that means a big generator has to run six hours, but not one minute longer! Petrol is expensive, so I’ll determine the times you’ll be on the air, and you’ll adhere to that schedule, exactly!.” He was emphatic! With the antenna in place and the PE-95 running, we fired up the BC-610 transmitter on 10 meters. Our license called for 150 watts of input power, but we just couldn’t seem to get it really tuned up with such a small amount of power being radiated. Neither Bob nor I had any idea of the times that conditions would be good for transmissions to the United States. Now we were ready to test things out. The rhombic antenna loaded 500 watts perfectly, so we were about to go on the air for the six months contract period. We quickly listened around the bands. Ten meters had a few European signals; twenty was better. As we swung the dial through the 20 CW portion of the band, Bob exclaimed, “Hey, there’s I1KN, he’s an old friend in Florence, Italy. Let’s give him a call.” “You take the honors,” I said as we zero-beat the transmitter frequency to the Italian’s and retuned the rig to 20 meters. In an instant, VQ4EHG was officially on the air. Bob slapped his Vibroplex “bug”, and the Morse code call went out to I1KN, Fortunato Grossi. Bob flipped the radio to receive, the Italian came back to us, and the first contact went into the first of many Gatti-Hallicrafter’s log books. The six months of QSOs for Hallicrafters’ publicity benefit was underway! Little did Bob know at that time, but Grossi was to one day be the best man at Bob’s wedding to Cobi, the Dutch girl he met on the train on the way east to New York. We occasionally checked the other bands for incoming signals. As soon as the sun went down we began to hear American stations on ten meters. They were booming in. Both Bob and I were amazed at the signal strength; the S-meter needle shot way above the nine mark on almost every signal. I tuned in one station with a loud clock ticking in the background. “Must have a Big Ben alarm clock on his bench,” said Bob. So we called CQ on ten meter AM phone; single side-band transmission had not been authorized at that point in time. Our transmitter was tuned to the frequency of 28.300 megacycles and we listened at 28.5 megacycles, the lower end of the US A-3 transmission band. As we swung the SX- 42 tuning dial back and forth around the listening frequency it produced bedlam. “If we could weigh those signals,” laughed Bob, “we’d have a couple tons!” It was almost impossible to pick out one signal, as all the US stations calling us were jammed up in the first 25 kilocycles of the band. The “Panadapter,” an oscilloscope tuning aid that visually outlined a portion of the received spectrum, showed a colossal jumble of signals right at the beginning of the band, and then practically nothing as the receiver tuning dial was moved higher. “Man alive,” said Bob, “ain’t this gonna be fun!”

CHAPTER 8, On the Air

Copyright 2003,William D. Snyder
All Rights reserved
 Kilindini harbor Unloading the first truck  We are QRV in the right  Outfit