Gatti had all the drivers line up the vehicles in convoy so he could have a movie shot of him blowing his first sergeant’s whistle, signaling forward with his platoon leader’s arm, and then climbing in the lead station wagon and heading out of camp # 1 at Kwale for Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanganyika.Again I was assigned to drive the last truck in the line up. Like the trip from Mombasa to Kwale, I towed the Shack on Wheels “caravan” as the British call house trailers in Africa. The dried mud of the roadway raised up in a billowy dust cloud. The wind was calm, so the dust raised by the seven units ahead of me lingered for a long time in the air. I could see where they were going by the airborne trail.The going was slow although highway traffic was nil. Most European people in East Africa in 1948 traveled the 320 (check number) miles between Mombasa and Nairobi by train; the highway trip was a two-day undertaking on narrow, dusty, and washboard dirt roadway. We hadn’t motored very far when the convoy stopped and parked off the roadway. I climbed down from the cab and walked to where Gatti was trying to determine which fork in the road to take. I would love to have a picture of our leader consulting a Shell Oil Company road-map and looking up at the sign post which held a number of arrows painted with village names and mileage numbers. In my mind I could see the caption, “Famed African Explorer lost on Kenya roads!”At first our commander had grand plans for the Magic Ear; he visualized our recording the native music of the African veld and selling it to a record company that could produce phonograph records to be sold by the thousands. We tried it out by recording natives singing, but the inherent distortion problems of the wire method were so strong that the plan was quickly dropped. After Gatti made the road selection and the rest of the convoy departed, I waited until the dust settled down before I brought up the rear. I hadn’t driven far when we passed a tiny signpost that said “Drift.” Before I could slow down, the red earth roadbed dropped precipitously away from the surrounding terrain and the IH truck and the trailing caravan went plunging downward into a dry stream bed crossing where a small concrete pad formed the bottom of the drift. The cement was located where the water would flow in the rainy season. Immediately the roadway zoomed up to bank on the other side of the stream bed.The drift was only 25 feet deep and approximately 100 feet from bank to bank, but what a surprise! On the other side of the drift the truck was going up the hill before the trailer finished going down. So when the rear of the Shack on Wheels trailer wheels hit the concete bottom, the rear of the Schult scraped the ground with a noise like hitting a steel drum with a sledge hammer.I jumped at the noise.However, I was busy deciding which to grab: the trailer brake and the gear shift on the right hand drive export model truck. Shifting with the left hand and trying to also use the trailer brake which was American for left hand drive trucks and installed on the same side as the gear shift, required fast action. I gunned the truck up the bank and stopped when I was back on level land.I looked at the rear end of the Schult: I could tell the trailer had bottomed out, but there was only minor damage to the carcass of the coach. I laughed to myself when I thought of Gatti and his admonishment, “Keeping in mind the resale value!”. I debated whether to tell him of the scrape, but vetoed the idea.I didn’t catch up to the main convoy, for I kept my speed down to avoid more contact with the earth on the numerous drifts in the roadway.To me the trip was now interesting and fun. I enjoyed the countryside with its acacia trees and wild animals grazing in the grasslands. As we went along there were thousands of them along the route. Now and then I would drive close to small villages of natives and Indian “dukas,” or shops. The local natives would stop and watch me pass through with a cloud of red dust trailing behind.Right smack dab in the middle of one of the little villages, the International truck engine coughed a couple times and died. I pulled off the roadway and tried to start the engine again. It didn’t take. I climbed out of the cab and lifted the hood. I had never looked inside one of those hoods before, and I really didn’t know where to start. The local natives gathered around and watched me struggle with the engine. I looked in the cab for the instruction book. No book!All I could think of was petrol problems. I did have tools in the cab so I began to tinker I unhooked a gasoline line and blew in the gas tank filler. Sure enough, the line was somehow plugged, so I removed the gas line filter and after an hour or so went merrily on my way.The African native audience which had built up to some size was left to disperse as I left a trail of red dust behind.I finally caught up with the rest of the convoy two hours later; they were parked, generators hooked up and running, and the crew sitting down for dinner when I pulled into camp. Gatti was in his trailer, he and the memsahib were busy with the Tangaray; but Powers welcomed me with, “We were about to send out a search party for you.”“How come you didn’t circle the wagons?” I asked. “We should protect ourselves from Indian and elephant attack.” Nobody thought it was funny. I joined them at the folding table for chow. We could see Mount Kilimanjaro for many miles on our approach to the highest peak in Africa.The roads were the best that Tanganyika had to offer, but our safari convoy raised at long cloud of red dust as it roared at 25 miles an hour across the veldt and slowly climbed the roadway up on the mountain. The road wound its way through picturesque tea and coffee plantations, past many native bomas and a mountain resort for Europeans called the Kibo Hotel, and finally, out onto a flat clearing where the view of the great mountain was spectacular.At our selected campsite, Gatti stopped his station wagon and directed traffic like an African Askari in the city. We parked all the vehicles and the trailers in two camps like we had done at Kwale and then gathered to hear our leader’s instructions.I was taken by the beauty of the campsite; I’m sure the others were also, because that was the first subject of conversation.“How do you like this camp area?” asked Gatti. “Isn’t that as grand view of the two peaks? And best of all, we’re at an altitude of 6,000 feet where the nights are cool and the days are not hot like down on the plains below.”I was impressed, it was a great place to camp. On our left front we had the highest peak, volcanic Kibo at over 19,400 feet; on the right front stood the jagged rock climber’s challenge, Mwenzi at 17,000, and to our front a saddle of land at about 15,000 feet that connected the two peaks.. As I looked at the snow cap on the Kibo peak, all I could think of was reading Ernest Hemingway’s “Snows of Kilimanjaro” short story in college. From the road into our camp one could see the plains below and imagine the drama as it played out in the hunting camp.Gatti had us park all the trucks and station wagons in a line suitable for a photo. He insisted that the expedition flags be placed in the fender sockets. Our sleeping facilities, the three Higgins campers, were also in a line, but well away from the Shack on Wheels, the rhombic antenna, and the dining tent which were centered in the clearing about the size of three football fields. The Gatti’s campsite was located about 200 yards from ours. Our first camp chore was to wire up all the trailers with power generators. When that was done the CalTech electrical engineering education in Bob came into play. He drew a wiring sketch of the camp so every one would know how what to do next time we moved.The photographers were very happy with the water supply we were able route into the photo lab part of the Shack on Wheels. The source was an irrigation ditch which came from the snow melt waters on the mountain.Weldon smiled when he pulled the thermometer out of the water flowing through the developing tank trough. “It’s exactly 68 degrees!” he exclaimed, “That’s perfect for color processing!”The rhombic antenna went up in record time. Bob and I ran a compass line for aiming the beam, then staked out the four pole locations, while Kombo and Asmani unrolled the wires and ropes that formed the antenna. In less than forty minutes we had the rhombic up and ready to take power from the transmitter. The antenna was aimed at Chicago, but it looked as if the main energy was beamed right into Kibo peak. “I hope that volcano doesn’t soak up all our power we’re blasting in that direction,” said Bob as we surveyed the finished job.While we were doing that, the cook and his toto helper erected the dining tent, started a fire in the stove hole they dug in the ground, and were busy cooking our supper. It was like the Ringling Brothers circus, in no time at all we were in business with living and working equipment in place and operating.The first short CQ on the ten-meter phone band brought all the ham activity we could handle.“Where you guys been? We’ve been looking for you,” said the first contact.“We’ve been moving for the last couple days and there ain’t no highways in this part of Africa,” I explained. “It’s slow going on the roads, but now we’re 6,000 feet up on the highest peak in Africa and ready to work the world!”And work the world we did. Heretofore we had been operating with a Kenya call sign, VQ4EHG.
Now we were in Tanganyika, so we had to operate with our
“mobile” call sign, VQ3HGE.
The expedition call signs had been requested by Gatti long before we were picked to go on the trip. In a letter, dated September 9, 1948 from the Chief Secretary to the Conference of East African Governors in Nairobi, the call signs and power limitations were spelled out to Gatti.Apparently he had asked for two types of licenses: base camp and mobile. The letter listedVQ5GHE as the base station and VQ5HEG as the mobile call while in Uganda; with VQ3HGEand VQ4EHG for Tanganyika and Kenya respectively. The frequency and power limits were as follows: 1.8 - 2.0 mc (power up to 10 watts) 7.0 - 7.3 mc (power up to 150 watts)14.0 - 14.4 mc (power up to 150 watts)28.0 - 30.0 mc (power up to 150 watts)58.5 - 60.0 mc (power up to 25 watts)The final paragraph in the Secretary’s letter contained the information I wanted to know, but I was never shown it till years later. The restrictions of use were spelled out in plain English:Within these bands the expedition may use its discretion as to the specific frequencies it uses. Frequencies outside these bands cannot be authorized. It is regretted that this will debar the use two of your proposed amateur frequencies, as well as the use of the proposed frequencies for communication between your units in East Africa and you proposed frequencies for press stories. The transmission of press overseas by the expedition’s station would be, however, an infringement of the conditions of the relevant amateur licenses which are laid down by international regulations. The procedure in East Africa for the transmission of press is by arrangement with the Posts and Telegraphs Department, who carry all traffic of this nature.For drinking water, Gatti had purchased a surplus Lister Bag as used in the United States Army.By hanging it in the shade and dropping chlorination tablets in the water, it made the contents potable. The melt water steam which flowed down below our camp site made a good place to construct a shower for bathing.During my days in the army in Australia, I daily showered in a portable shower bucket that the Aussies had invented. It held about 3 gallons of water and was held up by a rope tossed over a tree branch. By a unique arrangement, a chain controlled the water which was dispensed in a shower head. By putting the water in a 5 gallon cans and setting them in the sun, a warm water shower was possible on sunny days. By carefully dispensing the water, it was possible to take a very good shower with only three gallons of water.So, we took an empty five gallon gasoline can and an empty quart film developer can and constructed a reasonable facsimile of the Aussie shower bucket. Gatti was quite impressed with our arrangements, so I explained the history of the simple convenience. With a skilled cook, electric lights, running water and an operating shower bath, our camp living was quite comfortable and complete.One note had these two instructions: “As soon as possible, Mrs. Gatti would like to talk to her sister (Mrs. Negus—see address book) in Springfield, Missouri. Remember Mr. and Mrs. Riches will be here at 9:30 p.m. to talk to Appleby in Chicago.” Gatti was making friends with the local European citizens by offering phone patches to them.We hadn’t been in Camp 2 long when we were invaded by the Bishop and some of his priests from the nearby White Fathers Mission. After meeting Commander Gatti, the radio shack became a big attraction for the clergymen. The White Fathers were the first Catholic missionaries in East Africa and they were well established in the three countries the GH expedition visiting.The priests and brothers were all quite young, Bishop Byrne being the oldest. During a conversation with one of them I learned that the life expectancy of a young priest was not much more than 30 years of age in the early days of century. Tropical diseases ran rampant through the Europeans who colonized the area and the Catholic clergy died rather young.Gatti was very solicitous of Bishop Byrne’s welfare and he offered to supply a radio link to Chicago whenever the churchman wished. Not all the priests and brothers were from America, but those who were enjoyed talking to Chicago on the ham rig. The men at the Hallicrafters club station were happy to make phone patches to some of the White Father’s Chicago counterparts.The band conditions were excellent from the mountain location. With no atmospheric interference and no local power line noises to interfere, receiving conditions at the Kyouu location were superb. Ten meter amplitude modulated phone signals from the states were land line quality and the signal strength meter was almost always way above the S-9 mark on the dial.It was ham radio at its best!The instructions for the photographers came from Gatti daily. Now that Edwards was the secretary, Gatti was able to dictate into the Audograph machine and have the notes carefully typed on an “Underwood.” Here are extracts from those about the pending climb of Mount Kilimanjaro. The “grammar” may have the reader confused, but it is the way the commander wanted it—EXACTLY—as he would say.
Camp No.2. at KYOUU, T. T. February 26th, 1948 (underlined) Two Photographers. (underlined) The
general idea is for King to take essentially stills, both in colour and in black and white, and for Prince to
take essentially 16mm movies and some stereo pictures of the two types that is of Stereo-Realist and
Stereo-Tach. However the really important things are the movies for him. Useless to say if either King
of Prince could not be able to go up to the top, if he goes up, to try and do his best on both stills and
movies. King. (underlined) The principal job of King will be the Canadian Club story as by script which I
will give him today. One small detail of no great importance and which not take up much time is two or
three pictures in black and while of the Adventurers Club Flag, on the snow or ice or planted in the
snow attached to a climbing stick. Of course I would like to have a very thorough coverage of the
entire climb both in black and white and colour made like we did the story of the witch doctor; that is in
succession, making it a real story with plenty of close ups and plenty of medium shots full of action and
plenty of scenery in long shot. It is my hope that the general coverage of the climb will be so good that
we can complete it here in camp afterwards with pictures representing the beginning of the story and
others representing the ending o as to make it a complete story in which some magazine or other
might be interested. Last night the Science Editor of Life Magazine said over the phone that Life might
want a story if it is sort of spectacularly Grammatik from the point of colour. A warning to both
photographers. (underlined) In a thing like the climb which cannot be repeated, do not worry about
shooting too much nor about only getting perfect pictures. I would rather have a hundred pictures and
among the twelve perfect ones than to have only 3 or 4 good ones and no more. So do not worry
about shooting in a hurry and even when you are not extraordinary certain but shoot and shoot and
bring me back a really wonderful coverage in black and white and colour and still and movie. Prince.
(underlined) Your most important jobs are a). Have a swell fat sequence in Ansco. This longish
sequence should concentrate especially on the radio aspect of the climb and will be completed later
on with a small sequence about preparations and small sequence about your return from the climb.
Incidentally Snyder should take at least 100 feet tomorrow morning of our going to the Kibo Hotel of
your leaving the Kibo Hotel with guides, porters, etc. Your second job and almost even more important
than the first would be to try and make a complete film of the climb. This film could either be sold
separately or be included later in some of the films we are short of material. As for the radio aspects of
the climb please remember that the packs you are taking with you are not Hallicrafters. Therefore
while it isn’t at all of importance if you show very clearly the set in the second film, in the first film for
Hallicrafters in Ansco colour you should take Leo and the others talking into the radio, the antenna, the
speaker etc. but not to concentrate on the pack itself so as to show that it is not Hallicrafters. Your third
job is the one of Stereo pictures of the two types. While you are doing this job if you do it at all, it would
be worth doing it in such a way that by the end I can sell to the Stereo people a certain number of the
climb which would make or two disks for their usual sales to the general public. Another warning to the
photographers. (underlined) I am giving you a half day more than necessary the first day and one
entire day extra at the Kibo hut because I would like you to cover all the acts of the climb which are
which are not connected with the actual climb itself. For instance colorful, exotic vegetation. Details
about the way native porters dress and cook their food, sleep, etc. In fact anything which you think
interesting and worth while for a sub story. Remember that you cart up a tremendous amount of stuff
to the first hut and plenty more to the second and third and that you can leave anything you want in
each hut and collect it on the way down. All good luck to you and lets hope you come back with plenty
of good pictures.
Gatti stayed in his office trailer most of the day; he dictated instructions for the big climb that kept Edwards clicking away at the Underwood portable. Edwards didn’t spend much time in cleaning up Gatti’s fractured speech, he enjoyed seeing Gatti’s use of “grammatically” instead of “dramatically” in the copy.It was later in the day of the 26th that the second instructional directive for the climb arrived in our campsite. I got a kick out of it; Gatti did like to dictate details that any working photographer would know.The copy:A.G Camp No. 2 KYOUU, KILEMA. T.T. February 26th, 1948 (underlined) Two Photographers. (underlined) Re: Canadian Club Story (underlined) Wakeford, in my shirt but with no red cap but a balaclava helmet, should be the hero of the story. When it gets very cold he should have some jersey under his shirt so that he can take off his coat when the pictures are actually being taken because this shirt will be his identification throughout the story. Every single picture should be taken in Kodaachrome and Ektachrome. No use at all for black and white. Each picture however should be taken 4 or 5 times in colour at different angles with different exposures so as to be able to get for certain one perfect transparency in Ektachrome and one in Kodachrome for each picture. Here are some samples of Canadian Club ads. As you can see not all of the leading pictures are about great dangers. If we cannot get Wakeford in something looking like great danger it would be just as well if we have something extremely grammatically striking such as if hanging on to the Kibo ice-field taking movie pictures from a very precarious position. As you will see from these ads., the two leading pictures are the large top one and the small drinking scene at the end. The drinking scene I will stage after your return and you do not have to worry about this. The pictures in between are usually 3 or 4. should be 8, 10, 14 or 15 if possible so as to give the editors the largest possible selection. These other pictures in between do not have to be dramatic but simply gorgeous colour pictures. On second thoughts I do not believe I can give you a complete story. All I can say is: a) Two or three entirely different pictures aiming at the top leading one. For instance one of Wakeford in danger. One of Wakeford hanging on the side of the ice-field taking pictures, in as precariously looking position as possible. A third one Wakeford being for the story the only “survivor” of the party going up to the peak, and suffering from the altitude and being as miserable as possible. Pictures in between the leading one and final drinking scene to be anything connected with the climb keeping in mind that anything colourful including exotic vegetation through which the climb party pass, with Wakeford in view—should be posed, even if it means going out of the way for a few minutes to find such vegetation. As you can see from these various ads, all the “in between” pictures refer to scenes which sort of cover the story between the dramatic top one and the drinking one at the end. So anything you can do to have a choice of 10, 12, 14 or 15 different pictures of this kind, each done 5 or 6 times in both Ektachrome and Kodachrome would be wonderful because then we could make a first choice of the very best ones and let the editors do the final choice. Here it is to success. PS: Please note the ad. of Mr. Gringrich ex-editor of Esquire climbing the Matterhorn in Switzerland. As you will understand our pictures must be grammatic.Both Errol and Weldon were competent commercial photographers, so they laughed at some of the instructions. Errol said at the dinner table, “I’ve studied the poop sheet from the ad agency for the Canadian Club and Gatti hasn’t told me anything new. The agency says that we can’t have blood or injury showing in any scene, and that makes sense.”Weldon laughed at instructions, too. “And the drink shot at the end has to have ice cubes in the glasses, the cork must be placed top side down in a prominent place the shot.”“And absolutely no pictures of anyone drinking straight out of the jug! Everything must appear genteel,” said Errol as he downed a forkful of Tanganyikan country chicken that had been cooked in a hole dug in the ground called Mount Kilimanjaro.The sun was just setting and the last rays of red were rimming the snow field of Kibo peak, while Mawenzi, the lower summit, had lost its red glow. It was a pretty scene through the mosquito netting that made up the side walls of our dining tent.“I hope we all make it to the top,” said Bob, “that’s gonna be a tough six days. “And we’ll all gather for a great big drink picture when we get back,” said Weldon, “that is, if Gatti will part with some of the Canadian whiskey locked up in his private truck. He paid enough duty on it to finance a small expedition.”