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Meet the Rough Scientists

Carriacou Diary: Jonathan Hare



Departure

On a Caribbean Island by the deep blue sea
A boatless crew navigates human discovery
From star, straight line and leafy guess
Trying to show that nature is 'complete' in its limitlessness

Yesterday, my girlfriend (Sarah) and I went out for a lovely meal in our favourite restaurant in Brighton. The owner gives us free spirits afterwards and we make our way home happy but a little :~ I awake early with a head full of last min things to do: pack photos of family, insulation tape, batteries for camera etc.

Meet up with the crew and all their gear at Gatwick with no problems. Flight over to Barbados was good although a little long. I keep falling asleep which plays havoc with my internal clock. Mike L manages to somehow convince one of the stewards that Mike B was his dad. After some other stories he gets them both free drinks. Both Mikes in good mood. Barbados airport was very, very slow. At one point it didn't look as if we were going to be able to get all the gear on board — not on time anyway! Still we all manage to get through the port and before getting on to the next plane we meet up with Ellen from a different flight. Take the small plane to Carriacou and finally check in about 7pm.

Mike L's Doom Comment #1
"Did you know that these little planes crash all the time — they have a terrible crash record?" said on the way over to Carriacou on a little plane.

Pink rum drinks all round to one and all, happy evening in a bleary tired sort of way.

Day 1

Get up at 6 am (it was meant to be 7am but I got my clock an hour wrong!) and breakfast in the hotel. The little birds that fly and hop around the hotel scavenging food are really cute. Mike L, Paul, Kate and I walk into town to check out the shops and also to walk to Paradise Beach. On the way back Mike L goes into a bar and orders some beers. The owner says "what type of people do you think we are?" It's only 9.45 in the morning — Mike L's internal clock has still not caught up either!

Mike L's Doom Comment #2
Story about a man who mistook a bottle of methanol for a bottle of ethanol (the m on the label had got removed by the solvent). The man drank some of the bottle, walked down the street and collapsed — dead.

The town is curious. Lots of clapper-board houses, with many of the shops just being one small room with a few shelves containing cans of food, bottles of beer and other 'essentials'. The town has one main high street, and midway along this is the port where a few times a day the ferry comes in from Grenada. The ship's horn sounds at 6.30 each morning to let people know it's arrived. All sorts of interesting things in town including some unusual signs reminding you to organise your burial details etc.

We all stop off at a little wooden shack 'rum shop' bar and have some cold drinks. Calypso music on the radio — Mike L and I find the town's only cyber café: $EC10 for half an hour plus a 'cool refreshing drink' (about £2.50).

This evening have a big party at Mr Kent's, the owner of the lime factory that we are going to use for the filming (us scientists haven't seen this yet). His house is situated on a hill overlooking much of the island: spectacular views — looks such a paradise island. Talked to Mr Kent about the Island's history as he runs the Historical Society and Museum. Told me there were people on the island at least a thousand years ago. Water is the main problem in supporting large numbers on the island because the island hasn't any high mountains.

Mike L's Doom Comment #3
Story about a flight in Greece where a large passenger had not belted himself up properly during the flight. Apparently the plane hit terrible turbulence and the man's bumping around eventually killed all the other passengers.

A comment from Mike B after the party
"Mr Kent was making 'come-to-bed eyes' to all the women. Unfortunately, they were two single beds" — Mr Kent was cross-eyed!


Day 2

First thing today we have a talk by an Italian man who has set up a nature reserve on the Island. He told us all the things that were and were not allowed in a social context with the locals. I think he over-played it all; most of what he said was commonsense when seen in the context of the island being the locals' home!

High NorthMike L, Kathy, Ellen and I take the long path up to High North, the highest spot on the Island (300m/984 ft.). This was a really wonderful day with amazing views and lots of fun tramping through the undergrowth and spotting all sorts of wildlife. The path to the top is basically a cow path and so it is easy to get lost. We all have a good chat and it's a good way to get to know each other before the filming starts. Unfortunately the weather turned on the way down from High North. Thunder and rain showers.

Mike L's Doom Comment #4
Parachuting girl falls through helicopter blades. Head is cut off and flies through nearby second helicopter!

Mike L's Doom Comment #5
List of accidents in Wales and Snowdon in particular regarding Scouts, walkers and climbers who, around the same time as Mike L was in the area, died or were horribly exposed to the elements.

Popped into a bar for a cool drink and a chat with some of the Rasta locals. So many of the people from this island have been to, or have relations in, Shepherds Bush, UK! Others have relations in Bedford, Toronto and the USA. Really nice day on the 'hills' — good to get some exercise. Tomorrow is a BIG day as filming starts. The day ends with us all having some of Derek's amazing punch at the hotel.


Day 3 — First Filming Day

Up at 5.30 am and take a swim in the sea before showering and breakfast at 6.30. Leave at about 8ish. I am asked to change my T-shirt as Ellen also has a yellow top and they want some variation. So I go upstairs, grab another T-shirt but put on my Tosser T-shirt which is a picture of a stick man juggling five balls with the words TOSSER written underneath!! I hold my bag against my chest all the way in the Land Rover journey to the lime factory where we will be filming. The rest of the time I am walking around with it in full sight. Leave the T-shirt on right up until the last moment as we are about to go into the lime factory and be filmed exploring it. At last the directors and producer see my shirt.

"What the ...?! You're not going to wear that are you?!"

Make a change back to the normal T and on we go.

Today was really lots of walking shots of us going into the lime factory and us settling into the new 'lab'! I was asked to give some comments/thoughts about the factory but I think it is a little early: I've got to absorb things for a few days. Need to get making things.

Mike L's Doom Comment #6
Hemotic fever with renal failure — don't breathe in the dust on the floor of the lime factory!

Mike L's Doom Comment #7
A bug lands on Ellen. Mike says that "the bugs are OK apart from the razor sharp mouthpiece that bites into you".

Overall the lab is fab. I've already spotted a couple of lovely iron loops that would make a great pair for a sundial — we will wait and see!

Mike L's Doom Comment #8
Ellen disagrees with Mike L about eating bats. Drew says "Don't worry, Mike: at least Ozzy Osbourne would be happy!"


Day 4 — Phonograph

Jonathan working on his phonographI had an idea I knew what the challenge would be for this programme. I thought it might be a communication device to go with the map making. It wasn't: it was to build a device to record sound — a phonograph — that's a tricky one!

Jon explaining the physics to KateThe basic idea is simple. Capture the vibrations of sound in some way, store them and then replay them back when you want to hear the sound. Way back in the last century Edison used a rotating wax disc to store the vibrations that sound created at the end of a large metal cone. The cone had a needle attached to it and when this was carefully set in the wax the sound was stored as a series of hills and troughs as the wax moved. Repositioning the cone and needle onto the start of the groove and moving the wax recreates the vibrations which moved the needle and the cone setting up the same sound waves again — recording and playback are therefore possible. Making one work is however very difficult and I remember reading that it took Edison many years (thousands of hours) to perfect.

Built the basic apparatus for the phonograph. Wax loads up well on the cylinder. Screw mechanism and handle work really well with a bit of coconut oil as lubricant. Tease Kate on camera that I have already recorded a donkey!! I turn the handle of the squeaky mechanism (before I put the oil on) and it goes eeeooorrr eeeooorrr!!

Load up the wax onto the cylinder and Kate and I paint on layers of white normal candle wax and yellow beeswax. Used a chisel to cut it down to a cylinder and then a razorblade. The thing looked beautiful like onyx or marble.


Day 5 — Phonograph

The Rain in Carriacou falls mainly on the Rough Science Crew

Rained and rained and rained last night — very stormy.

Mike L's birthday today. I had thought about this before we left the UK and so I packed the best present I could think — something that Mike might like to cause a little havoc with — a water pistol! Kathy and Mike L go map making all day. Poor them — it rained and it rained.

The phonograph taking shapeKate and I cut the wax today so that the cylinder was as smooth as could be. There were a few potholes on the surface so we spent some time filling them in and re-filing/cutting. Try out a first test with a nail attached to a tin can. The tin can was to act as a sound-collecting device while the nail used to cut the groove and convert sound into vibrations on the groove. This didn't work really although we might have recorded some kind of sound from one of the loud "hellos" I shouted into the can.

Spend the rest of the day making up a sound box to go on the end of the large metal funnel. This was a little cavity that goes on the funnel and increases the amplitude of the vibrations for a given sound. Tried many different types of diaphragm, but an old tuna can with a wooden fitting to fix the funnel worked the best. You could talk into the cone and easily feel the vibrations on the bottom. Fixed a drawing pin in place as the groove maker. Tomorrow we test the new gear on the wax.

Sat out with Kathy and Angie watching the stars for half an hour before going to bed. Saw two shooting stars.


Day 6 — Phonograph

Turning a wheel,
Moves the wax,
Cuts a groove,
Which before it lacks.

Sound falls on cone,
Is transferred to needle,
Its motion on the groove,
Records sounds of people.

Back to the start,
Our groove and needle,
Replays the sound,
If ever so feeble!

Yesterday the tin can and nail recorder didn't work. Spent hours yesterday making up a sound box to go on the metal cone. Made a versatile unit to test out lots of diaphragms. Also tried plastic, sheet metal, wood etc. The next step today was to fix this larger cone in place onto the apparatus. Had to make up a wooden hinge with a screw mechanism to fine-tune the position of the needle onto the wax — and take the weight — reproducibly.

On one of the test runs, which was filmed, it really worked! It was a wonderful moment especially as I had not expected it to work on the wax alone. I thought that we might have to cover the wax in a thin layer of aluminium foil to get it to work.

The completed phonographWent on to try out thin layers of foil but my cylinder moved around too much and every so often the needle tore the foil! We need several days' work to get it to function properly and this was our last day. Angie made some major suggestions along the way, such as the need for the hinge, and that the needle had to be bent slightly so that it points away from the direction of travel of the cylinder (so that it has less tendency to dig into the wax).

I shouted "One, Two, Three BOOM" into the cone and on playback we got "Un, ou, fee, oom"! Just audible — it was really great.

As a grand finale we got Kate, Ellen and Kathy to shout "ONE, TWO, THREE, ROUGH SCIENCE" into the cone but I couldn't get anything recorded on those tries (even after my ears had stopped ringing!). I reckon that one in a hundred tries would have worked with the wax and we managed to catch one live on TV — that's jammy!