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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 32: Smelting

The furnace and bellows

The previous day I did some kick / punch bag work to shake off my cold. Somehow I managed to pull a muscle in my shoulder. Mikey is still in pain with his broken ribs, J has ‘possum flu' and is not alone. We are all feeling a bit rough.

I also feel very emotional today. I love it here on the West coast and don't want to leave. This is the beginning of our last programme here in New Zealand. I want to be with Liz again. It will be nice to see my family, but the scenery, the friends I have met and the freedom I have experienced will be badly missed.

Mike making bellowsWe are set the challenges: make something out of the gold that we have got so far. It's not so easy. Although we have gold, much of it is composed of powder, flakes and impurities. We need a furnace and bellows to smelt the gold. Smelting isn't as simple as melting. There is chemistry to removing unwanted contaminating metals from gold. Luckily my contribution to the task is to produce two sets of bellows. Not much chemistry there, but there is science. For anything to burn properly oxygen is needed. The furnace will need to be insulated so we need to force oxygen into it somehow. I'm happy to help build the furnace, especially as my Dad was a bricklayer, but Mikey gets plenty of help from the others, leaving me to sew the bellows together.

mike making bellowsI go back to the bellows. I want them to take oxygen from the atmosphere and pump it into the furnace. There is no point in blowing then sucking because I wouldn't be adding any oxygen. In addition there it the risk of burning the bellows if they suck in any hot coals or gasses. In order to achieve this I construct a reed valve See diagram in diary. The morning goes well, although is a typical day 1 – no chance of getting on with much work because of all the filming.

We get back to the hut for our evening meal. Mikey finds out that he has got a punctured lung in addition to his broken ribs and feels really rough. J feels very ill too so goes to bed. Kathy, J and Ellen turn up. We all feel tired and ill.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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