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Mike Leahy's Diary

Day 34: Smelting

Our last filming day in New Zealand
Looking to see if the smelting had workedAt the sawmill we find out that the smelting has worked, but maybe not as perfectly as we had hoped. We now have purified gold inside a glass casing, but it is not in one nugget – bummer! We can't very well make jewellery out of little bits of pure gold. We will now need to cast it, or at least melt it into one piece.

The scientistsMike and I re-light the furnace. The bellows are still OK - sort of - but because we didn't have time to let the lining dry properly before lighting the furnace the previous day the clay has now cracked. This could affect the insulation that is needed to obtain high internal temperatures. A heavy shower arrives. It is a pain sitting outside in the rain. J suggests generating heat using a carbon arc, much like an arc welder. I hope that it works. He disappears into the sawmill with a car battery to provide electricity, some automobile jump leads to connect his device, and two carbon rods that he removed from a flat flashlight battery. Within minutes sparks are flying (literally) and the tips of the carbon rods are glowing. He melts the gold, but because of the method he is using, the surface of the gold nugget produced is ‘pock marked'. I suggest flashing a gas-welding torch across it to melt the surface but J doesn't want to ‘cheat'. He takes to polishing the gold while Mikey and I chill out. The result is a shiny gold whitebait looking pendant. Ellen and Kathy produce lovely solid gold earrings.

rough scientists at the end of filmingThe programme ends successfully. We are all getting on well. We have gold jewellery and hope that we have made a great series.

That evening we hold a ‘rap party' (a party to celebrate the end of filming). I usually find most such parties pretty tiresome. This party is different though – way different. The ‘influential people' and the ‘local helpers' are friends. We are constantly told that we are ‘almost locals', ‘honorary locals', that we will be ‘missed badly', that the town ‘won't be the same without us'. Gradually the music is turned up a little. The pub is heaving with people, all of whom we know. It was probably Kathy who started dancing, I don't know. I'm not far behind, and within minutes half the people in the pub are dancing to Irish jigs one minute, contemporary British dance music the next. Everyone is smiling. Everyone is enjoying themselves. It's among the best parties of any sort that I have ever been to. What a place! What a great bunch of people. I'll miss so many of the characters that I have met. As for the BBC posse? I'd like to think that after ‘Rough Science Three', we are in a lot better shape than after filming the second series. Respect is due to Steve Evanson for holding such an unlikely group together very much against the odds. In a way one of our regular helicopter pilots summed us up. He said, "There are film crews and then there are crews that film. You're a great crew that happens to film". Cool! Nice one Tucky.

Back Home
I like being with my friends again, but I'm not sure that I like being back in the UK it has been difficult being away from Liz for so long, but I will miss New Zealand's West coast for a long time.

the glacierI sit in ‘rural' England and listen to the constant hiss of tyres as cars drive along a distant road. Planes fly overhead, kids shout and scream in a neighbour's garden, a lawn mower drones on in another. Thanks to light pollution I can only see a fraction of the stars that would have been visible in New Zealand, even on a clear summer night in the Cotswolds. And the English countryside? Even the most beautiful and scarcely populated areas are - what can I say - sanitised. There is little or no wilderness left in the whole of the UK, let alone the south of England. Compared to the South Island we live in a synthetic world, which is so overcrowded that true freedom, the ability to do what we want as long as no harm is caused, is an illusion. Half of me wants to fit right in here again but a good part of me doesn't.

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Photo: Mike Leahy
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