Friday, January 05, 2007

Not Afraid of Heights

We were having a disaster drill in the spring of 1972. Battery Pratt, a fortified communications bunker on the Atlantic coast of Panama, was on full alert. When we toggled the switch to point the directional antenna toward the north, nothing happened. Usually you could hear frequencies come and go like dialing the tuning knob of your car radio but all we got was unchanging static. A group of us led by Sgt. Tracy walked outside and hacked our way through the ever encroaching jungle toward the cliff overlooking the ocean. Near the edge of the cliff stood a directional antenna and dangling from the turning motor was the chain. "Dang, we'll have to scrap the exercise" Sgt. Tracy lamented. "We'll have to call in the tower guy from Coco Solo to fix this." I walked over and stood at the base of the antenna and looked up into the aqua sky and billowy white clouds to study the antenna. "Sargent, I can try to fix the chain," I offered. He was hesitant, but he also didn't want to call the colonel and tell him we had to scrap the drill.
So I put a crescent wrench and a few other tools in my pocket and started my slow accent up the shaft of the structure.
Once on the top, I hooked my legs through the support beams and replaced the chain and tightened the motor assembly to hold the chain tight.
I hung on up there for a long time....the breeze off the ocean felt warm on my face. I could see ships that were not visible from the ground, heading into the Bay of Colon for their journey through the canal and on towards the west. It was peaceful up there. I would have stayed longer, but Sgt. Tracy was on the edge of a coronary fearing that I would plunge to my death on the rocks below. So I reluctanty climbed down.
I was surfing the web tonight and came across this photograph of the very antenna I climbed. I'm guessing it was taken by the tower guy from the other omnidirectional antenna there at Battery Pratt.
Not being afraid of heights gave me an opportunity for a view that very few people have ever seen.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please consider sharing

Email Signup Form

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required