Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Music of Swains Island

David Jennings
As I mentioned in my last Post, there were many things on the Swains Island, NH8S, DX'pedition that were unexpected.  However, one of the really mind-blowing, over-the-top, never to be repeated things that I experienced, was the "Music of Swains Island."  Anyone who has been to a beach anywhere is aware of the sound of the surf.  But, that's not the "music" I'm speaking about.

Dalen & David Jennings
On the right you can see a photo of David Jennings, one of the owners of Swains Island.  David was our key "go-to" guy for just about anything (he was not able to get us any ice cream sandwiches but that's understandable!)  With a couple of decades of service in the Navy, there was just about nothing he could not do.  His abilities were raised to new heights for me when after dinner one night, about the middle of the DX'pedition, he pulled out a guitar and began to play and sing for those of us who were at the common area and not on the air at that time.  He was joined by his son, Dalen, on the ukelele, and together they "knocked our socks off!"  You can see a photo of the two of them on the left.

During their impromptu concert, Dalen suggested they play "Take Me Back to the Shores of Olosenga." Below is a recording of that song.  You can listen to it by clicking on the "Play" icon which is a small triangle on the left below.  This is a recording made on Swains Island during our DX'pedition, but this particular recording was actually made a few days later when we were treated to a "full" concert.
The above song is an original composition of David Jennings and copyrighted by him.  It tells of his feelings for Swains Island which is also known as Olosenga.  I can tell you that as I was sitting there on that uninhabited island in the South Pacific listening to David and Dalen play and sing this song, my emotions ran very high.  To hear in his voice and in his words the attachment he has for this land was something truly powerful to me.  Once I was home and found this song in all the recordings Mark, NA6M, had made on Swains Island, I have not been able to get the melody out of my mind.  I find myself driving or working and humming this to myself.  And, when I think about where I was and why I was there and then to just have this awesome thing laid out before me is something I know I will never forget!

On the night before we were to leave Swains Island, all of the support crew (with the exception of the three ladies who managed our food) gathered after dinner and serenaded us with two guitars, two ukeleles, one fellow on "spoons", one on the water bottle half full of small stones and one on a piece of metal that rang in various tones when he struck it.  Obviously not a full set of professional instruments - but that simply did not matter.  For THREE hours they played and sang while the radio operators just drank it all in.  It was well past dark and the scene was only lit by a single bulb in the common area under the tarp so there was not much light to film by.  However, I was able to get a bit of a recording using the "Night Shot" feature of my camera and that video can be seen below:

As has been said by others, this DX'pedition was a "Once in a Lifetime" experience.  With my Posts to this Blog I'm trying in some small way to convey the amazing things we experienced, all the while knowing that I will never be able to put it all across.  But, if you close your eyes, mentally put yourself on this South Pacific beach, think about the people who were there, and listen to the song again, maybe you will get a little taste of what those of us who were there experienced.  It was unbelievable!

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