Commander Gatti’s Jungle Yacht and African Expedition

Italian-born explorer, author, film maker, and amateur radio operator Attilio Gatti led eleven expeditions to Africa from 1922 through 1947. Traveling extensively throughout the continent during this time period, Gatti spent a total of 15 years on African soil.

Among his accomplishments is a silent movie he made in 1927, “Siliva the Zulu” considered a standalone in capturing Zulu life and culture during that time period. He traveled with an anthropologist to Zululand, South Africa because he wanted to shoot a theme of ‘love, hate, intrigue and adventure’ while preserving the tribal culture, and choosing his actors from the local Zulu tribe members.

Gatti first came to the United States in 1930,  after his 7th African Expedition had gone bust, and he was broke. In the years following that time, Gatti wrote dozens of books and hundreds of articles and eventually settled in northern Vermont.

A look at his 10th Expedition (1938-1940) includes the interesting way in which he traveled. The rigors of his earlier travels must have convinced him that there was a better way, that and the fact that  Mrs. Gatti would be joining him for this adventure into the Belgian Congo.

Gatti used elaborate trailers that were streamlined as units with International truck chassis, and were specially produced by International Harvester. These “Jungle Yachts” were joined together in camp as a deluxe 5-room apartment on wheels, and served as their headquarters.

The $15,000 comfortable steel trailers were electrified and air conditioned, housing the expedition and its ham radio station, photographic laboratory and workshop, carrying them into a wilderness that was inpenetrable 50 years before. Each trailer was 44 feet in length, weighing 9 tons.

Behind the cab of each truck was a 110 volt power plant, 1500-watts a.c. They needed plenty of “juice” for cameras, drills, the photo lab, and illumination. They would even string a single wire electric fence around the camp at night putting out 4500 volts to “discourage” the hippos, elephants, and leopards that would prowl around in the darkness.

It should be noted that while the trailers made life comfortable when parked, it was not an easy task to navigate the terrain with such large vehicles. Enjoy the photos below featuring Mr. and Mrs. Gatti, as well as the interior and exterior of the “Jungle Yachts”.

[photosmash]

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A determined contributor to the memory and preservation of a decade.

2 Comments

  1. Deni Ahmad
    October 20, 2011, 12:02 am   /  Reply

    Wow, that's amazing!

  2. November 6, 2013, 9:42 am   /  Reply

    I found this in the November 7, 1938, issue of LIFE Magazine http://bit.ly/1hiXL5Y and came upon your blog doing some more research on Commander Gatti. Scratching the surface of your blog right now and it appears you have much content I’d like to share. Thanks!

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