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Chapter Five -
A Vagabond Ham
by Clinton B. DeSoto

CLYDE DE VINNA is a born wanderer with the wanderlust in his veins and a job that allows him to obey its call. He was home in Hollywood with his family over the Christmas holidays a couple of years ago, but that was the first time in six years. Before that he has been in Tahiti photographing Last of the Pagans, in China for The Good Earth, above the Arctic Circle making Eskimo, down in Africa with Trader Horn or in half a dozen other of the remote places of the earth pursuing his profession.

He is a motion-picture cameraman--one of the best.

Lately the producers have been keeping him closer to Hollywood photographing such domestic epics as 20-Mule Team, Wyoming, Bad Men of Brimstone and so on. It's just as well. Between his profession and his hobby, Clyde De Vinna has already had about enough adventure for one lifetime. His hobby is amateur radio.

Clyde is an old-timer in both radio and picture business. By 1929, when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer decided to send a troupe of seventy-five people into Central Africa to make a motion picture from the popular book, Trader Horn, his background was such that it was he who got the camera assignment. Still a young man, he was even then a veteran of such expeditions and already winner of the Motion-Picture Academy award for his beautiful and skillful photography in White Shadows of the South Seas.

The Trader Horn assignment involved a lot more than just taking pictures though. As chief cinematographer and right-hand man to W.S. Van Dyke, director of the picture, it was De Vinna's duty to help unsnarl some of the problems that arose. Not the least of these was communications.

At the outset it was decided to establish a base at Nairobi, with offices and a laboratory for processing of film.

"But how can we keep in touch while we move around the country?" Director Van Dyke wanted to know. "We'll be miles from the nearest telegraph lines--if they have telegraph lines in Africa. And what about supplies? We've got to eat!"

On top of that there was contact with the business manager, as he forged ahead making arrangements for their forthcoming moves, to be considered, checks with the laboratory O.K.'ing the film already shot, possible medical emergencies--a host of contingencies. Yes, communication constituted a vital problem.

But to Clyde De Vinna, with years of active amateur radio experience behind him, the solution was a simple one. "I'll have the answer for you tommorow afternoon," he told them.

A little study of the amateurs' Call Book and a hurried message to the A.R.R.L. brought a list of the active amateur stations in British East Africa. A phone call to Ralph Heintz, an ex-amateur in San Francisco who had turned radio manufacturer, brought him down on the next train with a compact portable short-wave station.

And the next afternoon Clyde demonstrated his answer to the problem before a large and enthusiastic audience. Those were the early days of sound pictures, it must be remembered, and the movies had recruited most of its sound engineers from the ranks of radio. Many were hams and ex-hams. As the audience increased the population of the sound department decreased proportionately. Finally the sound boss himself came out and asked Clyde please to shut it down so they could do a little recording in the sound department before the day was over.

But it was a successful demonstration nonetheless. And as a result some two hundred pounds of radio gear were purchased by MGM and shipped to Kenya Colony in British East Africa, along with the other paraphernalia of the expedition. Traveling various routes, the personnel of the expedition followed, assembling at Nairobi as the starting point.

It was at Nairobi that trouble began. The authorities, it seems, objected to the use of radio on the expedition. For a time they were adamant--no, they would not issue a license for the transmitter. But De Vinna would not give up. When the situation seemed darkest he found an ally in a local amateur. Together they enlisted the aid of the chief operator at the government wireless station in Mombassa--also an amateur! Finally they aroused the interest of the postmaster general himself in the marvelous qualities of these new short waves.

Clyde was told that the colony had recently completed installing a chain of costly long-wave stations all the way across the Sudan frontier. They had spaced these stations just seventy-five miles apart, deeming that procedure necessary for a sure-fire network.

Yet here De Vinna was claiming he could work VPQ at Mombassa, nine hundred miles away, with a fraction of the power on short waves. The postmaster general, frankly incredulous, asked for a demonstration at the local airport near Nairobi. Arrangements were made to hold it at three o'clock in the afternoon. Three o'clock came, and everyone was there, including the postmaster general and all his staff. Everyone, that is, but De Vinna.

He was late--deliberately late. Knowing that everything hinged on the effectiveness of this demonstration, he timed his arrival with care. The officials were beginning to fume and fuss when he hustled up with the little set. With smooth precision he unfolded the tripods, connected the cables, raised the telescopic mast and cranked the gasoline-driven generator.

Everything worked like a movie script. VPQ in Mombassa came back immediately with a very flattering report, and they chatted back and forth for half an hour or so. The postmaster general and his staff were highly pleased.

The next day Clyde heard the verdict. It was favorable, but there was a condition. He was to be required to maintain a daily test schedule with VPQ from every part of the colony the party visited so that the authorities could check the performance of these amazing short waves under all possible conditions!

The Trader Horn troupe had cause many times in the succeeding weeks and months to be grateful for De Vinna's persistence and ingenuity in getting his radio operations authorized. FK6CR, the call the station was assigned, proved an invaluable asset. All the contingencies involving a need for communication that they had foreseen came to pass, and more besides. It was often hard to judge which part of De Vinna's work was more important--radio or photography.

Everywhere they went, through dense jungle or rocky gorge, the portable set followed. Most of the moves were made by automobile, a specially equipped car carrying the vital parts of the camera outfits and the radio set. De Vinna's camera crew, sound men and electricians were a capable lot, and he never had to bother with the details of camera organization; they took care of that, leaving him free to start with the radio installation immediately upon reaching location. He was always given first choice of a camp site; oddly enough, the most efficient location for the wireless set usually proved to be the most pleasant spot in camp!

On the first camp setup, a sort of shakedown scouting trip in which the safari traveled only twenty miles from Nairobi, the native porters had their first contact with the wonders of wireless. That night the radio schedules were carried off without incident. At daybreak the next morning the party was due to strike camp and move on to the next location. When De Vinna returned from breakfast he found the tent literally surrounded by "boys" with picks and shovels. They had come to begin digging up the wires with which he had telegraphed to Nairobi!

De Vinna had some difficulty explaining that he talked without the aid of wires. The best explanation seemed to be that his words were carried by the wind. It was their fashion to name everyone by some particular characteristic, and throughout the rest of the trip Clyde was known by the Swahili equivalent of "the master who talks with the winds."

The radio gear fascinated the natives. After this first experience their assistance in more useful ways was never lacking, and they were always happy to help in raising tents or putting up lines for the antenna. But they would not touch a wire or any part of the set proper. It was not until the expedition neared its end that Clyde learned the safari superintendent, knowing their liking for bright or glittery things, had told them that if they touched anything connected with the radio huge tongues of flame were sure to leap out and consume them!

In Africa four o'clock tea is an institution, and the troupe quickly fell into the habit. One particular variety of the biscuits served at this time became such a favorite with the group that it was difficult to keep a sufficient supply on hand. However, the head boy of the commissary department, anxious to curry favor, would keep a few tins hidden away for some of his favorites. At least he was suspected of doing so.

One afternoon Clyde's personal boy arrived with tea minus the favorite wafers. The head boy was summoned for an explanation. He protested at great length that there were none in camp nor had there been any for a great many days.

In the course of routine traffic the previous evening Clyde had learned that a steamer with a consignment of supplies, including several cases of these particular biscuits, was en route. The ship was, in fact, due at the river landing below the camp at just about that time.

"You tell me there are no biscuits in camp?" he demanded of the commissary boy through his interpreter. "I know better. I have spoken with the wind gods on this matter, and they tell me that right now, at this very moment, many boxes are down at the river landing. You go--bring me biscuits!"

At first the voluble native was unconvinced. But his visit to the landing, a mile or so below the camp, proved that the wind gods were right! Never again was there a scarcity of the good biscuits or anything else in the store where De Vinna was concerned.

It wasn't all as lighthearted as that down there, however--not by a great deal. The seamier side frequently put in an appearance. Cloudbursts and long, jolting porter carries took their toll of the radio equipment. But always it performed on schedule. Once the power unit fell into the river Nile but it dried out with no ill effects. No matter how difficult the circumstances, the radio station never failed.

The catastrophes radio served to avert were many. There was a time when Harry Carey decided he was going to visit his wife in the hospital. Carey, who had the leading role in "Trader Horn," had brought his family along with him to Africa. In fact, Mrs Carey played a part in the picture. However, when they were filming scenes in which she did not appear she remained in Nairobi where their children were in school. On one of these occasions the troupe traveled to the Serengetti in Tanganyika country, some seven hundred miles south of Nairobi. On his customary evening schedule with Sydney Pegrume at amateur station FK5CR in Nairobi Clyde received a message that Mrs Carey was ill and had been rushed to the hospital.

Harry was frantic. He announced that he was leaving by automobile for Nairobi in the morning. This, of course, would have been a calamity to the crew as a whole, for the long, slow trip to Nairobi took at least a week. Since Harry appeared in nearly every shot, nothing could be done without him. Exhortations and pleadings were of no avail--Carey was leaving for Nairobi.

All this time Pegrume was standing by at his end of the radio circuit. Finally De Vinna explained their dilemma. "Peggy," with characteristic aplomb, cranked up his trusty Rugby, drove out to the hospital, persuaded the head of that institution to accompany him back to his station and relayed a twenty-minute interchange of questions and answers that finally persuaded Carey that there was nothing critical about the case and he could do no good by coming in.

Production was resumed as usual the next morning.

Such "third party" messages for expedition members were not uncommon. A more unique experience occurred while the troupe was encamped at Murchison Falls, in the heart of a great game preserve in the colony of Uganda. After they were settled distinguished visitors arrived--the governor of the colony and several guests, among whom were an elderly American couple from Pasadena.

When the Americans were shown the radio set they were delighted. Their son was with the Byrd expedition at the South Pole at that very time. Could they send a message to him?

"No sooner said than done," De Vinna replied, but his eagerness to please had betrayed him. It was not quite that simple. Unfortunately, the shooting schedule did not permit him to operate at times when a direct contact with Little America would have been possible. He was forced to ask for help.

It happened that he was then maintaining a nightly schedule with the A.R.R.L. headquarters station in Hartford. When the time for his schedule arrived he asked if the operator could relay the message. The laconic Kentuckian at the key in Hartford said merely, "GA [go ahead]," and the message was on its way. A New York City amateur got it a few minutes later and passed it on to the operator at Little America. The reply came back by the same route the following night.

The visitors had left camp in the meantime, as it happened, but when they arrived at Kampala the message was there awaiting them at their hotel. It had traveled by still another radio relay to VPQ and Mombassa and then by landline to Kampala--a long route, involving three continents and two hemispheres and more than thirty thousand miles, but not bad time for a message to travel from an anxious mother in the upper reaches of the Nile to an explorer son on an ice floe in Antarctica!

Clyde De Vinna has found the unusual and the unexpected at every turning in his adventuring with amateur radio. Perhaps the most extraordinary experience of all came in London while he was en route on the Trader Horn mission.

The party stopped off there for nine days on the way over, making govermental contacts relative to the trip and collecting supplies. Clyde made plans to visit some of the English amateurs with whom he had contacts over the air. Running down his list, he located the first name, that of a Captain Fraser, and left a telephone message. In the course of time word came in reply: Captain Fraser would be delighted to see him and would pick him up at his hotel that evening at eight.

At the appointed hour a very correct Negro chauffeur appeared. He asked if De Vinna would follow him out to the car. This seemed a bit unusual, but Clyde went along. A resplendent Rolls was drawn up at the curb. Its single occupant was most affable. "Come in," he invited as the chauffer opened the door. "Won't you sit beside me?" Clyde saw his hand outstretched, and they shook hands most cordially.

"I thought you might like to run over to the House with me," the Englishman remarked as they settled back and the car moved smoothly off.

This seemed to Clyde an excellent idea; he wanted nothing better than to look over one of England's better amateur stations. They rolled deftly through the narrown London streets. After a time they arrived before the extremely dignified and formal entrance to a stately old building. In the tower above a bell tolled; De Vinna realized dimly that it was Big Ben.

He followed his host silently as they went slowly up the stairs and through the massive doors. A doubt assailed him as he saw the liveried attendant who opened the door. Surely this was not the entrance to any amateur radio station. . . . A short distance down the high-ceilinged hallway the Englishman turned into a small room, unlocking the door. There was a comfortable fire burning in the grate, but otherwise the room was dark.

"We'll leave our hats and coates here in my office," he said, removing his topcoat as he spoke. "Then after a bit of a chat I'll take you through the House and into the visitors' gallery where you may watch the proceedings whilst I put in an appearance on the floor."

De Vinna, undestanding beginning to dawn but still incomplete, stayed silent. An inquiring look came on his host's face as no reply came. Then, comprehending: "Oh! Forgive me. I forgot to turn on the lights when we came in, didn't I? You see, I don't need them. . . ."

Then it was Clyde realized that his host, Captain (now Sir) Ian Fraser, C.B.E., member of Parliment and one of the most enthusiastic hams in Britain, had been totally blinded in the First World War.

They talked a few minutes more and then they went on a tour of the House of Commons. Unassisted, Captain Fraser played the role of guide without an error, pointing out various historical paintings and features of the building, calling by name certain people met in passing, going up and down stairs unaided and finally escorting Clyde to the visitors' gallery. Leaving his guest there, he himself went to his place on the floor of the House, where he took part in the ensuing debate entirely on par with the other members.

Up in the gallery De Vinna sat, pride warming his veins. The fact that Captain Fraser was a gallant and courageous gentleman and a radio amateur did not make all radio amateurs gallant and courageous gentlemen. Still, it made him feel proud to be one.

By and large, the hams Clyde De Vinna has encountered in his travels over the globe have exhibited a good many of the finer qualities. Many of his most valued friendships have resulted from acquaintances made through amateur radio. Unfailing cortesy, a willingness to help in whatever the problem might be--these he has found wherever he has gone. Perhaps he found them because he inspired them; but they were there nonetheless. The principle of reciprocity: "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" is well exemplified in Clyde De Vinna's career. He has received much and he has given much in return.

One of his staunchest friends is a man named George Bambridge in Papeete, Tahiti. For the better part of two decades this South Seas colonist was responsible for a powerful short-wave signal signing "BAM" that rolled up almost nightly from Papeete. Clyde first met Bambridge on the air in 1922. When he went to the South Seas to make White Shadows he visited the enchanted island where George made his home and met his friend then for the first time face to face.

The friendship that had begun over the air ripened into a strong bond, and when De Vinna returned to Hollywood the radio contacts were resumed. Three nights a week they would talk--conversations that touched on everything and anything from astronomy or the price of copra to family life and personal problems.

On one of these aerial visits Bambridge complained that his daughters weren't getting the proper education. The two discussed the problem pro and con, seeking an answer. Then friendship asserted itself. De Vinna offered the solution: he undertook to adopt the girls, bring them to California and sponsor their education in the schools there.

As a result not long ago two attractive and gifted young ladies demurely received their diplomas from Fairfax High in Los Angeles. Now they're at college--and all because of amateur radio and the friendships it instills in men.

Another of De Vinna's long and cherished friendships is that with Kenneth L. King of Honolulu. For years he mainteined regular schedules with King whose station was one of the best know and most consistent in the islands. His operating ability was phenomenal, his skill a byword.

Finally, after years of aerial contacts, De Vinna had an opportunity to go to Hawaii. His first object, of course, was to look up some of the amateurs there, and King was high on the list. The address was in the downtown section of Honolulu. A ring of the bell brought to the door an intelligent-looking Chinese youngster certainly not more than fifteen years old.

"The houseboy, I suppose," thought De Vinna to himself, and he asked if Mr King were somewhere about.

The Chinese boy smiled. "Yes, I think Mr King is about--somewhere. Won't you come in?"

Clyde permitted himself to be led into a comfortable living room and seated in an easy chair. For a time he sat waiting. No one came. Finally, his patience wearing thin, he looked up sharply. The houseboy was standing in the doorway, watching and grinning.

The "houseboy" proved to be Kenny King himself. The famous operator, the speed artist who had burned up the fastest operators on the coast, turned out to be a precocious lad of fifteen.

Some years later De Vinna found himself working on a tremendous exterior set depicting the farm and village of The Good Earth, the picture they were then making. They were using the services of nearly every Chinese in southern California; in fact, the demand almost exceeded the supply, and Chinese people from as far north as Sacramento had been brought in.

The huge crowd demanded an unusual technique in handling, and a rather comprehensive public-address system was set up. Through it some two hundred audio watts hurled the voice of the director to the remotest corners, enabling him to transmit his instructions to everyone simultaneously at a considerable saving of time and effort.

Even this did not satisfy De Vinna. He had added his own touch, a buzzer placed near the microphone and controlled by a telegraph key strapped to the arm of his camp chair, which enabled him to talk directly and privately to his sound men and electricians scattered all over the hundreds of acres.

Several times during the first few days he was puzzled by hearing in the distance a faint whistle that seemed to be spelling his call: "W--6--O--J." Never did it become any louder, and finally Clyde concluded he had been hearing things. But then one day a particularly ragged and grimy-looking "peasant" pushed through the fringes of the throng and ambled toward the director's stand. He stopped before De Vinna's chair and said: "What's the matter, old man? Why didn't you answer my call?"

It was Kenny King again. He told Clyde that he had been making a visit to San Francisco, and somehow or other while he was there MGM's agent had persuaded him to take a fling at the movies.

Not all of The Good Earth was filmed in southern California. A long and arduous journey to China was involved, too--a trip filled with danger and hardship. But even more remarkable than the dangers and the hardships of that trip were the daily contacts with home. Radio men out on the coast still recall in awe the precision with which the nightly schedules clicked off with never a missed dot during the six weeks or so of the trip.

Such a performance bordered on the incredible. Taking a radio station into China was no simple matter in the first place. It was not a question of persuading reluctant authorities to grant a license by some device or other; in China in those days authority was so disorganized that no radio licenses valid for the region they would travel were available.

There was even a good probability that any sort of radio gear would be confiscated at customs on arrival. In fact, a warning to this effect came from their broker shortly before landing. It happened, however, that the transmitter, a rather haywire arrangement thrown together at the last minute before leaving, was assembled in a case of the sort used for carrying sound equipment. De Vinna grabbed a piece of chalk, scrawled "Sound apparatus--spare parts" across the box and set it beside the sound paraphenalia. The customs inspector merely came and poked around for a few moments and then passed the lot without question.

Once past the customs and in the interior, the antenna problem proved the most serious. XU2V, the call De Vinna used in China, customarily employed a simple single-wire antenna that closely resembled the sort used on ordinary broadcast receivers. Installed as inconspicuously as possible, this usually served very well.

But in some locations local conditions made even this antenna too dangerous. One such location was a small native hotel in a little village in the interior. On arrival conditions looked anything but propitious for radio. Official sentiment declared amateur work taboo; only a few miles away there was a business like government short-wave station with circuits going day and night.

Other members of the party tried to dissuade De Vinna from attempting to operate. "The risk is too great," they told him. "You're a fool to take the chance."

"Hams rush in where an angel wouldn't even poke a pinfeather," he retorted, but the warning had induced caution, and for his antenna he hung a length of fine magnet wire from a corner of the hotel, some thirty-five feet above the ground. The other end dangled to a cement lamppost about twelve feet high, going from there into his window. When it was finished he wondered if the caution had not been overdone. The antenna was probably as inefficient as it was inconspicuous.

However, it was worth a trial. Arrangements had been made for a station in the Philippines to serve as an intermediate relay point, rather than chance the long jump to California. When time for the schedule approached Clyde decided to call the Philippine station first; it hardly seemed worth while even to try to reach the U.S. with that ridiculous antenna. He sat down and spent minutes calling the Philippine station. There was no answer. His spirits sinking fast, he tried repeatedly without result. Finally, more or less in desperation, he tuned over to the frequency of the U.S. station.

Then his heart flipped madly. There was W6AOR in Los Angeles calling him and telling him to break in, telling him that his signal was loud and strong and all but knocking the receiver off the table!

After that Clyde never worried too much about the antenna. He'd put up the best arrangement circumstances would permit and trust to luck. Always he got through.

Despite the precariousness of the radio activity it was impossible to maintain absolute secrecy. De Vinna adopted the policy of explaining the situation with great frankness to such folk as hotel proprietors and the like, counting on their cupidity for protection. At one village in which they stayed the hotel was managed by a very difficult and uncooperative chap who refused any concession. In fact, the whole establishment was slovenly and inefficient. It was evident that whatever else had been handed down generation by generation from antiquity the idea of "service" had not. The arrival of the motion picture troupe with all its impediments put the hotel facilities to a severe strain, particularly in the way of darkroom space and the like.

When De Vinna got around to discussing the radio installation the manager was about at the end of his resources. The fires of his wrath ignited when the word "radio" was introduced, and Clyde watched him storm off in a verbal smoke cloud of shrill Chinese.

But after the manager had gone a few steps an idea came to him and he turned back. "How this radio work?" he wanted to know. Clyde did his best to explain. "You talk with America?" His pidgin English pursued his inspiration. It developed that he had a brother in New Jersey; could he send a message?

By this time De Vinna was the affable salesman, steering his prospect's hand to the dotted line. Sure, the next schedule would take care of the message. But first they needed ...

Like the sun breaking through, the whole atmosphere of the establishment changed. Nothing was too good for the troupe after that; they had the run of the place. There was so much willingness to serve that the help got underfoot. That night the manager himself came to De Vinna and whispered his fealty. "Should the police arrive I will hold them downstairs until you have had time to hide the radio!"

The story has a happy ending. The message was sent, and the next night the Chinese hotelkeeper had a reply from his New Jersey brother--the first word he'd had in over three years.

The most dramatic episode in De Vinna's career came within a millimeter of costing his life. It occurred in Alaska where he spent eleven months during the filming of Eskimo.

The party assigned to make the picture set out in the small supply steamer Nanuk in early summer and spent a month cruising the Bering Sea in search of walrus, whale and polar bear. They shot the bulk of the picture before winter set in, established winter quarters in the schooner when it became frozen in the harbor at Teller and returned to the temperate zone in the spring.

The equipment at K7UT, the station used by De Vinna in the Arctic, was in sharp contrast to the makeshift gear of, for instance, XU2V. The Alaskan transmitter was a beautiful custom-built job incorporating the latest in tubes and circuits and capable of a high order of performance. Antenna facilities on the Nanuk and later at the shore installation were close to ideal by comparison.

Yet De Vinna does not recall that experience with the enthusiasm and pleasure of his other adventurings. There are several reasons for this feeling. For one thing, radio conditions were erratic and for the most part undependable. Then there was the long winter night spent holed up in the tiny Nanuk frozen in at Teller Bay. Before it ended that night became a nightmare which erased the few pleasant memories the trip had created--the Bering Sea cruise, for example, or the fascination in learning the native customs and habits of the Eskimo.

The nightmare was born perhaps of the dissapointing radio conditions that prevailed, especially during the winter night. Schedules with California were difficult, even with the old reliable, W6AOR, at the helm. It was often necessary to relay by way of the Hawaiian Islands and occasionally even via New Zealand.

Perhaps it was this periodic need that prompted those regular schedules with New Zealand. Perhaps it was part of the thread from which the pattern was being woven. Possibly the contacts would have occurred anyway from mututal liking and need. But whatever the motivation, in the course of time Clyde got in the habit of talking with New Zealand quite regularly.

There was a lighthouse keeper down there, a lonely fellow who spent his days on an islet off the shipping lanes, tending his beacon and operating his amateur radio station. His name was McLaughlin.

They came to know each other, these two, each in his lonely outpost. They felt a kinship. . . .

De Vinna, seeking more favorable conditions than could be found on the crowded Nanuk, moved out on shore when winter came. He found a deserted hut a short way in from the schooner. It was nothing more than an eight-by-ten shack but it offered privacy and a decent radio location. He sealed the old shack to make it as airtight as possible. He erected a high antenna. He installed the radio transmitter and receiver, confiscated a gas stove from the supplies to heat the shack and there he spent his time.

It was late November by the time all this was organized. The winter night had arrived; daylight came and left with scarcely a pause. One late afternoon, a day or two after he completed the final details of installation, Clyde returned to the shack for early-evening schedules following a visit to the schooner.

The stars were shining high and still, and the night was crackling crisp with cold. He pulled open the shack door and let himself in. Making sure the door was shut tight, he lit the lamp. The gasoline stove had been coasting along while he was gone; he reached down now and turned it up full.

Then he sat down at the operating position, breathing on the headphones to warm the earcaps before putting them on his head. The tubes in the receiver heated slowly; as they approached operating temperature the set came to life with a rush.

De Vinna glanced at his watch. Two minutes to go before the schedule with McLaughlin. . . .

On the instant the minute hand crossed the mark indicating five o'clock the crisp, characteristic tone of the Zedder's signal pulsed across some eight thousand miles of space into his headphones. "G A OM [Good afternoon, old man]," the greeting came.

In turn, De Vinna reached for his key. Steadily, precisely, the black paddles slapped from side to side as the bug poured forth dots and dashes in the one dialect spoken by men without the aid of the human larynx.

Back and forth they tossed the ball of conversation. Outside the lighthouse, far down in the Antipodes, the sea pounded and moaned at the base of the tower, alternately demanding and pleading.

But inside McLaughlin sat beside his warm fire, the intimate headphones excluding the sea's lament while his mind concentrated with undistracted clarity on the signals they brought. He reveled in their smooth rhythm.

"Shack warming up fine business now," they were saying. "Turned stove up full when I came in, and it's up to sixty-two already." De Vinna was in the habit of making a report on his progress with work on the shack. There was a flicker of amusement in McLaughlin's eye.

But what was this? Did that smooth rhythm from De Vinna's key seem to break and then to slow? No--everything was normal for the space of a few more words. Then came that break again--this time unmistakable.

Something was wrong! The dots and dashes hurried for a moment and then lagged. They got tangled up in each other. They stopped for a moment and they resumed in an unintelligible burst of speed. McLaughlin sat up sharply in his chair. His left hand peaked the receiver tuning dial with delicate precision.

"I--I--c--a--dot--dot. . . ."

The beating dots and dashes slowed then stalled and settled into one prolonged dash. Then even that ceased, and there was silence.

The New Zealander snapped switches and pounded his key in frantic alarm. He listened; no reply. He snapped another call. Still silence. . . .

"Clyde's in trouble," he muttered to himself. "Something's happened to him. I've got to get help there. . . ."

Swiftly, expertly, he tuned the band. If only there were another Alaskan station on--but no. Nothing nearer than--Wait a minute, here was a K6 station. Who was that Hawaiian Clyde relayed through? Yes, it was the same one.

"K6EWQ K6EWQ urgent K6EWQ K6EWQ urgent. . . ."

The Hawaiian station came back as though he'd been waiting an hour for just that call. Crisp and snappy--not a single lost motion. "OK GA [All right, go ahead]."

Choosing words with economy and care, but rapping them out at thirty words a minute, the New Zealander told his story. There were no questions, just a brief acknowledgement. Then the K6 could be heard calling Alaska.

The benevolent spirit of amateur radio's patron saint was on the job that day. K6EWQ got an immediate reply to his CQ Alaska. The amateur in Nome took the message. Almost before his pencil stopped moving on the paper his left hand pulled the telephone receiver from its hook. A telegram to the police at Teller, the town nearest De Vinna's shack. . . . Morse sounders took up the refrain, and their clacking dropped word into the laps of the authorities at Teller.

They are calm and imperturbable, those law-enforcement officers of the Northland, accustomed to dealing with anything, surprised at nothing. Within twenty minutes by the clock from the time McLaughlin in New Zealand realized something was wrong up in Alaska they were on their way, a doctor close behind.

Ten minutes later they were hammering on the tightly sealed door of the hut. There was no answer. Two heavily mackinawed bodies moved in synchronism. The door was battered down.

There at the operating table, slumped over, his head on the table and his fingers lying limply over his key, was Clyde De Vina.

The doctor bustled forward, his quick eyes noting details and symptoms.

"Carbon-monoxide poisioning," he barked. "Turn that stove off and get it out of here," he ordered, jerking a mittened glove at De Vinna's gasoline heater. "Stretch him out on the floor--here, like this."

It was some time later when the doctor raised himself from the floor. Sweat beads dotted his forehead even in the cold Arctic air. "He'll be all right," he said wearily. "Some of you lend a hand and get him over to the boat." He looked at the circle of watchers and shook his head. "Another twenty minutes--maybe ten--and we'd have been too late. Say-y, how'd we get here so fast?"

They told him about the telegram from the amateur in Nome, and he nodded his head. They told him about the operator in Oahu, and he grunted. But when they told him about the amateur in New Zealand who first sensed impending tragedy he only stared for a long moment without speaking.

Then his tired eyes turned to the small caravan of stretcher-bearers as it grew smaller in the distance, dimly visible in the starlight. They heard the doctor mutter to himself: "Radio, was it? Mankind is developing strange powers for itself these days, it seems to me. Well, whatever it was, it worked."

And then they heard him chuckle, grimly and without humor. "Call the doctor! The nearest telephone is ten thousand miles away."

He glanced once more toward his patient. They were carrying De Vinna aboard the ship. The doctor buttoned his heavy collar at the throat and pulled on his mittens and started along the trail back to town.