A“Hair-raising” Radio Tower Experience

A follow through to a previous blog (The Radio Engineer Died of June 11, 2017) – but a personal experience.

As you can see, the VHF towers were constructed of treated galvanized piping. They were triangular in vertical structure with cross bracing to bring stability. On the one side, horizontal “steps” were welded to provide the installer with climbing facility.

Without going into installation details, sufficient it is to know that the height of the tower was about 75 feet. The uppermost section was a solitary vertical pipe onto which were mounted two directional antenna beams. Since VHF communication was basically “line of sight”, one beam pointed toward the Mwanza town tower, the other toward Kola Ndoto, the hospital station. Of course there was some signal “splatter” so that other stations were able to hear and transmit also.

There were several stations that were off on a greater tangent to those directional signals. The Field Council decided that one of them, where one of the Bible Schools was located, should have its own transmitter. And, yours truly was asked to go there to install the transmitter and erect the tower.

The primary section of the tower I embedded in a concrete base; after curing, additional sections were added using a “climbing boom” and with a crew on the ground hoisting up the subsequent sections which were then bolted together. Permanent guy wires were installed at specified levels to maintain stability to the tower.

All was going well. I used my lineman’s safety belt because often both hands had to be used while placing the sections and bolting them together. But, in spite of having the safety belt, I was of the “timid sort.” I couldn’t bring myself to rely on the belt as I leaned back to do what needed to be done. I kept an arm through the triangular tower section “just in case!” And that proved my rescue! Even though the safety belt had provided some assurance up until now, my faith was really on my arm through the tower.

The last section, with the directional beams, was being installed. The crew on the ground hoisted it up to me at about the 70-foot level. I grabbed onto it but the wind swung it away. I leaned back, further than before, expecting the safety belt to hold me but I kept going. Madly, with the arm through the tower I grabbed onto one of the protruding uprights of the lower section. My safety belt clip had broken; one of the clips had come loose from the security ring and now the belt dangled uselessly from my waist.

I called to the crew down below to lower the beams. Trembling, I slowly made my way down the tower. Terra Firma never felt so good! I just sat there for probably 20 minutes or more until I stopped shaking.

But, there was work unfinished. I did my best to repair the safety belt and slowly made my way back up the tower. The beams were hoisted back up, the job finished (but with much fear and trembling!) and with great relief I tested the transmitter and found all was working well. Even the beams were pointed in the proper direction – and I did not have to go up again to make further adjustments!

Relief? YES. Thanksgiving to the Lord for His protection? YES. Another experience of His keeping power and faithfulness in all situations.

And, YES! I threw out that safety belt and got myself a newer one. That old leather one was probably from the “dark ages” anyway.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *