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Mike Bullivant's Diary

Day 15: Waterproof Tent

Mike and MikeDay 1 of the third programme, and it's down to Mikey L and I to be helicoptered into the wilderness to find some gold-bearing rock to bring back to the sawmill. We're going to have to camp out overnight on the second ‘day' of filming, and we're given the job of constructing our own tent and waterproofing some cotton material for a flysheet, just in case it rains, which on the west coast of New Zealand is very likely. Mike and I have a think about the kinds of things that we have at our disposal that we'll be able to use to waterproof the cotton. Lanolin, from TV 2, is an obvious choice - if it keeps the sheep waterproofed, it should be good enough for our purposes. There's also some beeswax in the suitcase of resources that we were given at the top of the programme - a bit of a give away that! Beeswax is a little like candle wax, and it should do the job perfectly. I've also noticed a bag of coal lying around the sawmill, and we can get some creosote from that easily enough - creosote's used to waterproof timber, so I don't see why it shouldn't work on cotton as well.

First job then is to light a fire, put on a kettle containing some of the ground-up coal and condense the ‘creosote' vapours that come over. We're pretty pushed for time with acquiring these waterproofing agents and applying them to the cotton fabric, as we're being taken up into the hills by helicopter at noon on Day 2. Mikey's suffering from a massive hangover from last night, and although I'm also not feeling too bright, we push on with our creosote extraction. By the end of Day 1, we've managed to coat small, test-strips of cotton with each of our three waterproofing agents, as well as a fourth: a sticky gum that Ellen's extracted for us from a flax plant. She's also used the leaves of the plant to make us some twine, and, more importantly, two superb mattresses to take into the hills with us. What a star!

The waterproofing test that we carry out at the end of the day show that beeswax and lanolin are good at repelling water, the creosote and flax gum less so. We also test each of the four ‘waterproofed' strips for flammability: The beeswax- and creosote-treated test-pieces quickly go up in flames when we put a match to them. This is scary as we're going to have to build a fire up there in the mountains, just to keep warm. We must make sure that we pitch our ‘waterproofed' tent a safe distance from any fire - one stray ember could mean we're without shelter for the night!

Tomorrow, we have to waterproof our cotton flysheet by mid-day. Will we have time?

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Photo: Mike Bullivant
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