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BASE Jumping: Articles: Stories: Short Antenna Story

Short Antenna Story

by John Scherr

by John Scherr

Sunday afternoon in Nairobi, Kenya; a beautiful blue, sunny day…

I load up the car with wife and child and off we go for a drive to the Ngong Hills (Karen Blixen’s old farm land). Lovely drive, cruising in the Benz… when low and behold an “A” comes into view. Ignoring wife’s protests I pull over and do my best to estimate its height; probably about 150ft, not really sure though. A couple of hours later we are almost back home so I call up Mark, my Base buddy and ask him to come see; of course he agrees. I drop the family back at home and go pick up Mark and his wife Annette. Mark and I are the jumpers and Annette, god bless her, has always provided ground support. She takes the videos, fantastic stills and makes the most exotic sandwiches. The three of us constitute the total Base community in East Africa.

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Within the hour we are driving back to the “A” replete with laser. As we drive nearer to the “A” I ask Mark how high? He replies “about 100ft to 150ft” I think it might still be still be doable even with our limited experience. Either way this little jaunt breaks up a less than exciting Sunday afternoon quite nicely.

We pull up in a side road and note the “A” is situated in several acres of grass land with a not very dense population surrounding it. Mark points out that it will still have to be done at night. With our limited experience this is going to be a challenge in itself. Anyway off we go, through the perimeter bush, across the unkempt grass land. Within minutes we are at the perimeter wall of the “A”. Jeez this thing seems bigger than we thought, or is it? Out comes the laser and… and… and… bingo, it’s over 400ft tall and 360ft to the small cage platform at the top of the ladder. We can’t believe our luck; we’ve got one right on our doorstep, excellent!

To be honest the realisation that this thing is actually doable changes our thoughts completely; scary and exciting but more scary than anything else.

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We work our way round the perimeter wall to the wooden gate noting that the longish grass is not at all trodden down or otherwise disturbed. The gate is somewhat rickety and has cobwebs between it and the frame. No one’s been here for some time. There’s no lock, just a wooden slat providing a basic latch. Inside the same feelings prevail: un-trodden grass and an apparently derelict structure. There are no antennas, reflectors, radiators or any other transmitting devices on the “A”. “I don’t think anyone’s been here for ages”

I see, open up and check out an electrical box which is fitted on the base of one of the legs. I have an HND in electrical engineering so no problems in that department. The wiring inside is hanging loose, the fuses are missing and it’s full of cobwebs and dead spiders. In fact the tower has rust all over it, the ground is littered with old electrical supports and other bits of metal; there’s no doubt about it, this “A” is definitely not in use.

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There is a small block building situated right under the tower which we will work our way round to in a minute but for now we are overwhelmed and amazed. I climb up onto one of the concrete blocks supporting one of the legs. This leg has the externally mounted, ladder directly above it. I note and discuss with Mark some huge interlincked but not electrically connected flux rings on one of the legs. I assume that these must be part of a lightning protection system however as I am not unfamiliar with lightning protection systems I wonder why there is no direct connection to earth; no problem, I’ll look it up when I get back to the office on Monday.

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Mark is standing on the ground at the base of the block and I am about 5 feet above him. We are looking straight up the ladder which has hoops going over it. It looks like an endless tunnel and really, really scary. The ladder starts about six feet above where I’m standing but I’m sure that I will be able to pull myself up if I just reach up over this shroud and ZZZAAAAAPPPPPP! Bluish flash, smell of bacon (burning flesh), fingers are burning; jeans are smoking and a sharp stinging feeling on my calf muscle.

Derelict tower? Yeah right!

I had made direct contact with the tower with my fingers just above a skirt or shroud. The high Voltage, because I was wearing thick rubber soles, travelled from my fingers to my leg; blew a hole in it, burnt a small hole through my jeans and jumped across a four inch air gap onto a piece of metal protruding from the concrete block.

Needless to say we have since read every forum and have studied everything there is to know on “AM” towers. We do have a plan for jumping it but that’s another story.

In the mean time, merry Christmas and happy New Year to all BASErs around the world.

From the Kenya Crew

Submitted by John Scherr on 2007-06-19 | Last Modified on 2007-06-28

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