Day 27: Extracting
working with Mikey B. today, which is cool. We have to break up the rock
that we collected on Mount Rangitoto and chemically extract gold from
It takes half an hour to film me breaking a rock with a sledgehammer,
largely because I can't hit it when wearing safety glasses. I take them
off just as Martin calls for 'action' and hit the rock first time. He
doesn't notice that I'm not wearing them.
I start making stuff
- which, in all fairness, is later re-built by Derek and John. I'm a biologist
who was once a mechanic. I can mend things but making things out of wood
and rope is difficult for me. I can weld though, so persuade the powers
that be to allow me use of a MIG welder. I've soon constructed a 'hammer/pounder'
and a 'bash plate/container' in which to hit the rocks. While welding
up the 'hammer' (made out of a broken tow bar and an old bulldozer idler
wheel) I have to repeat many bits for the camera. To compound my problems
I didn't have time to clean the metal up properly. Any mechanic would
wince as they watch me weld on TV.
Finally I finish and
begin to crush rocks. The assembly works really well and the rocks in
the collection pot soon become small fragments and dust. It doesn't last
long, however. First the welds start to break, and then a fraying rope
causes a pulley to fall from the roof beams, narrowly missing Derek and
his forty thousand pound camera. Whoops!
spend the rest of the day crushing rocks with a sledgehammer and a pair
of broken Toyota Landcruiser half shafts. I suspect that most of the next
day will be the same. Crushing rocks by hand really isn't that interesting.
In five programmes I have done next to no science and absolutely no biology.
I'm more than a little perplexed. Breaking rocks is also very hard work:
prison chain gangs do this kind of stuff, as do unfortunate Indian children
as I had found out in Himachel Pradesh earlier in the year but I'm not
used to it. After a couple of hours my gloves are ripped to shreds and
my hands are blistered. I have broken up half a sack of quartz rock. Five
and a half to go.
By mid-afternoon the
other scientists are back. What I am doing is very noisy. I have to stop
regularly to allow filming to progress. I'm pleased - I need the rest
because I'm still feeling very ill. Anyway an early day will do no harm.
We are back at the
huts fairly early and go for a sauna.