Day 6: Accurate
Weighing Balance - First Day of Filming
Last night Mikey B
and I had a sauna and chilled out in the spa bath instead of going to
the local bar. Consequently I am out of bed by 7.15 without my characteristic
‘Rough Science headache'. Jack Frost has been here big time
and the ground is white. It is still fairly dark, and with very little
light pollution from the small town of Franz Josef the stars are brilliant,
even in the dawn sky. Inland I can see the snow-covered mountains glowing
as the sun still skulks under the eastern horizon. It is a beautiful morning
and I know that the first ‘task' of the day would be a helicopter
trip to the old sawmill
a way to start filming. After a brief safety talk (which for once made
sense) I pile into a helicopter with Kate, Kathy and camera man Derek.
Kathy wants to sit by the window but as I am a whole lot bigger I would
have hid her from the camera, so I was put there. I sit in a trance as
we weave between peaks and fly low over the Glacier. In the distance I
see a thin wisp of` smoke coming from the chimney of a scruffy looking
hut. It is our destination - an old sawmill built years ago on a thin
ribbon of flat land between the mountains and the sea. We circle a couple
of times so that Kate could film a ‘piece to camera' and introduction
before we land. It is about the most enjoyable flight I've ever
experienced. Good start!
I look around the sawmill I am in heaven (almost). The main building and
outhouses are full of weird machines, clapped out cars, motorbikes and
home made ‘Mad Max' vehicles. Cool! Judging by the graffiti
the place has been home to petrol heads for generations. It is now a little
cold, but very sunny. We have a warm tearoom heated by a wood-burning
stove, plenty of tea and a comfy old sofa. I look out of the window. What
a view. We even have a clapped out old pushbike – soon fix that.
OK, so to work. Ellen and Mikey get to pan for gold - cool as
long as the weather holds. J is asked to build a metal detector from old
radios and I have to weigh any gold that the gold panners find. Surely
that's got to be dead easy.
I quickly knock up a hangman type contraption so that we can suspend a
set of scales like those on the Old Bailey. Kathy constructs wire baskets
in which saucers could be suspended. These are hung under each end of
a thick piece of gas welding wire. I soon give up on the idea because
they fall apart if they become unbalanced and there isn't really
enough work for two people.
there is a razor blade in the kit that we were given I guess that we are
supposed to use it. The razor blade will make a very accurate fulcrum
with next to no friction, so I make a set of very accurate scales which
are based on the traditional ‘kitchen scales' type design.
In order to help weigh very light weights I calibrate the arms in 5 cm
increments. This means that if a 1g reference weight is placed 5 cm from
the fulcrum it would be balanced by 0.1g of gold placed 50 cm away from
the fulcrum on the other side of the scales. In theory I thought that
we could measure weights down to about one fortieth of a gram, which should
be good enough even if Mikey and Ellen have a hard time at the river.
A problem I have to overcome is cancelling out the effect of any container
that the gold is weighed in, but it is a minor problem which I leave until
later. A more pressing problem is finding a reference weight.
We were given a 500g
bag of sugar in the kit, but this is far too big to use as a weight unless
Mikey and Ellen are very lucky. Dividing the sugar will be difficult because
we could lose some, so I fill a cardboard tube and measure how much room
500g sugar takes up. As it happens the length of tube filled is exactly
a metre. Therefore a 1 cm length of tube contains 5g sugar. This is a
bit rough and ready, and leaves room for massive errors, so I decide to
take a 5 cm length (25 grams) and place it in a smaller diameter tube
so that I can get an accurate 1g weight. I don't have time on day
one, so leave it until day two.
During Rough Science III we are to be filmed in the evening as we eat
a meal prepared by our charismatic and very skilled chef, Ricky. We are
supposed to ignore the camera and behave naturally, which to a bunch of
media tarts such as ourselves should be dead easy, but the over-acting