Kevin in Liberia

Its Purpose: to raise awareness of current social, political, ethical, and spiritual issues within a relief and development context in Liberia. Its effectiveness is simple: It relies on me, the author, to provide insightful, and often debate-sparking material that will encourage you, the reader to get engaged through comment contributions, emails, and promoting others to read, re-think, and respond to the important issues discussed.

I know not which is most profitable to me, health or sickness, wealth or poverty, nor anything else in the world. That discernment is beyond the power of men or angels, and is hidden among the secrets of your Providence, which I adore, but do not seek to fathom. ~ a prayer by Blaise Pascal

Monday, January 23, 2006

The Alpha and the Omega

This day was one that dreams are made of and something Marcel and I had wanted to do for quite some time now. The goal: To climb the Omega Tower – an approximately 1,450ft radio tower originally built by the Americans during World War II and located about 40 min east of Monrovia, just past the market area known as Redlight. For the last eight months that I have been here I have heard that this structure was 1,000ft tall. Today I found out that not only was it a thousand feet tall but it is almost five times the size of the Statue of Liberty and equal height to the Sears Tower, previously the world’s tallest structure until over taken by many other status seeking architects and nations alike. Its hard to really picture how huge this thing really is until you've been right there, first on the bottom and then, on the top of it. Word on the street in Monrovia is that they used to give a prize to people who had the guts enough to climb it all the way to the top. One of my employees told me that they gave someone $500USD and a car way back when for climbing this beast.


We woke up at 5am on a Sunday morning and started the ascent at 5:50am in order to possibly see the sun rise upon the lush landscape of Liberia. There was no sunrise to be seen due to all the cloud and low cast fog encompassing the tower and its surrounding area. Climbing in the dark and the fact that this mammoth structure hasn’t been used for who knows how many years made the first few hundred feet of the climb slow and tentative. With sunlight came confidence as we proceeded platform after platform; metal grate flooring set 100ft apart along the way up the tower. When clouds momentarily cleared, the view on the way up was spectacular; buildings and cars turning into tiny ant-like figures as the minutes passed. Our initial goal was to plant a geocache at the top as well as mount/duct tape a fairly large Canadian flag from one of the support beams at the top. Upon arrival at the top we rigged up/duct taped a geocache to the top and refreshed ourselves with a litre of South African Ceres juice.
What we forgot to do, and we’re kicking ourselves for not doing it, was to duct tape the Canadian flag to the top. It almost feels like a mission unaccomplished but by the signs of fatigue that we had by the time we made it down it doesn’t look like we’ll be going up it again anytime soon. Its one of those things that you’re happy that you’ve done but you’d never do EVER again! I think my hands are permanently shaped to grab ladder rungs, a rather painful experience for sure. If one of those rungs broke off while climbing up or down we would have made quite the pancake on the ground below. What I want to know is how on earth these engineers rigged this structure up. Its just plain massive! Luckily for us we didn’t get arrested and only had a few random spectators looking at us as we made our way down. If the Alpha means “the beginning”, I’m sure glad “the Omega’ didn’t mean the end of us!

3 Comments:

  • At 8:43 AM, Blogger buglord said…

    aaah.... the Omega Tower... this brings back fond memories. I was told at the time that it was a radio beacon, but some googling turns up info that it was part of the Omega surveillance system used by the CIA. It still is the largest structure in Africa.

    There was/is a service road going the circumfrence of the guy wire foundations - a whole 5km long! There used to be regular 5K and 10K runs along that road. I wheezed along during one run, and must say, the landscape there is just wonderful.

    Not quite sure if my memory is playing tricks with me, but the earth station where my father worked for the telephone company used to be in the vicinity. They did complain about the broadband interference that the beast broadcast.

     
  • At 6:18 PM, Blogger jonathan boettcher said…

    Hey, that wouldn't happen to be the Canadian flag that I left behind would it?? Doh!! That would have been a sweet legacy for the flag that has been flown out of a sunroof through vancouver attached to a hockey stick on Canada Day....

    out...
    Jonathan

     
  • At 7:28 PM, Anonymous Stephen Glynn said…

    I climbed to the top of OMSTA Liberia's tower in February 1983 to help change the aircraft warning lights at the top--and because it was there. I was serving in the Coast Guard at the time and assisting at the then functioning radio station. It actually was built in the 1970's (not WWII), although the technology dated back to the 40's. I have a certificate somewhere that some Civil Engineers from the Coast Guard gave to me in recognition of that climb. Once was enough!
    Steve

     

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