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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 8: Accurate Weighing Balance

I am a team player. I'm sure that I'm a team player, but at home it's more often than not team leader. Here, I am beginning to feel a little distant from the team in which I am essentially a pawn. Let's face it, as I've said before, what is the use of a virologist here on the NZ West Coast doing the ‘Rough Science' thing. With the evening filming it's been difficult chilling out, or even writing my diary. No chance of writing home, phoning, e-mailing, or writing the book that I am so passionate about. If it weren't so beautiful here, and the local people so friendly, I would be feeling homesick. Rough Science is a great project and a dream job, but it's not always as much fun as people might think. It's genuinely hard work - a bit like a university field trip but much longer and much more intense.

Mike diggingBack down to the river. The scales are definitely an aborted challenge because the guys really do need help. Yesterday the weather changed for the worse, and today it is terrible. It's going to be a cold, wet day - very wet. At least the rain keeps the sand flies down but it doesn't help filming much. The cameras and sound gear are all suffering and have to go back to the sawmill to receive the ‘hairdryer treatment'. In the meantime, after making a second sluice and doing some prospecting I wander down to a barbeque area at a nearby gold mine and read some information boards on gold. I would make out that I knew these facts but I would be lying. Others might, so check out their diaries to see. Even though they aren't my facts they do bear repeating. For example, did you know that one ounce of gold is enough to extrude 80 metres of wire? Or that if flattened one ounce of gold could be made into a sheet that would cover two table tennis tables? Cool!

Steve (our boss) arrives at the barbeque area and meets one of the staff, who extends a hand in friendship. “Sorry I had better not” he replied, “I've been doing stuff with dead sheep”. Nice quote Steve!

Back to the riverbank. I wouldn't ever want to be a gold miner but it is genuinely quite a draw. I can see how it could become an obsession, the feeling when you see a flake of gold in the bottom of the sluice is magic.

group around Kathy's scales at the end of the challengeAfter what seems like an age we make our way back to the sawmill. There is still lots of work to do. We had squeezed an enormous amount of work into two and a half days and now have to harvest the fruits of our labour. First the punga that had been used to trap the gold has to be dried and burnt to release the gold. Then the gold flakes and dust need to be cleaned up so that we can try the scales that Kathy has made. The scales work fine - a tribute to Kathy's attention to detail, and we find that we have about half a gram. Not much to show for all the work, but it looked lovely - our own gold.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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