Sunday, February 28, 2010

Notes On The Underground - My Life As A Miner

The town of Tsumeb in northern Namibia owes it's existence to a spectacular ore body which led to the establishment of a mine in 1905.

The De Wet Shaft headgear, shown in the image above, is situated on the main road and dominates the town's landscape.

Above is the 'Bank', or shaft entrance. For twelve years this is where I descended into the depths every day.

Sadly, the ore body has been depleted and the mine has been closed since the late 1990s.

The sign board at the shaft entrance showing the different communication signals used by the 'Banksman' and the 'Ontsetter' (the person in charge of the cage which transported men and materials).

Communications were by means of an electric buzzer system, (using a special key), installed on the bank and at each level where the cage stopped.

There was even an unlisted signal to express the sentiment 'F-you'.

One of the 'Gangs' who worked in a specific working place or 'Stope'. At times I was required to supervise three or four gangs at the same time.

The guy with yellow hard hat in the pic above was named Daniel.

Daniel and I were alone in particularly dangerous working place where razor sharp rocks were hanging in the roof above us - we were installing wooden supports when some rocks came down, narrowly missing my back but felling Daniel who was behind me.

While he was lying stunned on the ground another rock fell and amputated the two middle fingers on his right hand.

At times the environmental working conditions were really horrific, the ground was dangerous, ventilation was poor and the heat energy-sapping. In this pic you can see miners hand-lashing high-grade ore into a scraper gully - sometimes this ore was solid metal and very heavy.

Whenever anyone complains to me how hard they work I always think back to these guys - I've never seen anyone work as hard as they did.

Drilling shot-holes.

The holes would be charged with explosives and detonated at the end of the shift.

I only took my camera underground once and today I could kick myself - there are very few pictures around of the workings of this historical mine.

Me with one of the crews in 1979 - it was customary to throw a Christmas party every year at my home, where the guys would arrive in their finest gear and we'd have a barbecue and a few - or more than a few - drinks.

Members of my crews were mostly Owambo-speaking and they loved to give nicknames - I had two: 'Ondudu' (Witchdoctor) and 'Gambishi' (The Cat).

Even today, so many years later, I'll be walking in some town in Namibia and hear the call "Hey Ondudu!" - and turn around to find an old familiar face smiling at me ...

Later I moved into Training and one of my duties was to escort visitors on tours. Here I am in 1995 about to take some visitors underground.

On one occasion I was preparing to take a group from one of the 'sexually-liberated' Nordic countries down into the mine.

In the group was a young lady who spoke no English and I indicated that she should wait while I found a suitable place for her to change into overalls - when I returned she had disappeared - I found her blithely changing in the miners' change house, with a group of shocked men desperately trying to conceal their nakedness ...

... I had a bit of explaining to do afterwards ...

Further reading:
Tsumeb Mine - The Most Diverse Ore Body Ever Mined


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Thea Burger - South African Artist

Shades Of Life

Thea writes on her blog Shades Of Life: "I live in Pretoria, South Africa. I am a daily painter. I work in oils & explore all other mediums from time to time."

Pay Thea a visit and check-out some of her albums ...


Friday, February 26, 2010

Mushrooms In A Dry Land

Some years, in northern Namibia, weather conditions are just right for one or two weeks and we get all sorts of mushrooms and other fungi popping up in shaded places - they don't last for long though because the heat causes them to decompose very quickly.

Here's a link to an earlier post on 'Omahova', giant mushrooms which are a great delicacy here in Nam.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Chook Book - Check-Out the Chickens

I'm not really a chicken fancier but I just couldn't resist these illustrations which I found on the excellent BibliOdyssey blog - there are more on the page if you're interested.

I have about twenty bantams free-ranging on the smallholding, mainly to keep the insect population down.

I made a bad mistake: whenever I feed them some grain I call them by whistling - now, because of this, I have to be silent while working outside ... if I absent-mindedly start whistling a tune, I'm immediately surrounded by a gang of birds clamoring for food ...


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

American Stonehenge - Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse

Photo: Dan Winters
American Stonehenge:
Monumental Instructions for the Post-Apocalypse

From the article in Wired Magazine:

The strangest monument in America looms over a barren knoll in northeastern Georgia. Five massive slabs of polished granite rise out of the earth in a star pattern.

Built in 1980, these pale gray rocks are quietly awaiting the end of the world as we know it.

Called the Georgia Guidestones, the monument is a mystery - nobody knows exactly who commissioned it or why.

What's most widely agreed upon - based on the evidence available - is that the Guidestones are meant to instruct the dazed survivors of some impending apocalypse as they attempt to reconstitute civilization.

Not everyone is comfortable with this notion. Opponents have attacked them as the Ten Commandments of the Antichrist.

The message on the Stones includes references to certain themes such as:

"maintain humanity under 500,000,000 in perpetual balance with nature",

"guide reproduction wisely", "improving fitness and diversity",

"prize truth - beauty - love - seeking harmony with the infinite",

concluding with

"Be not a cancer on the Earth - leave room for nature - leave room for nature"

Credit: Wikipedia Author
Amazing story and structure - I must confess that I am pessimistic about the future of mankind; we are overwhelming the Earth through uncontrolled breeding and overexploitation of natural resources.

As in the concluding message on the stones, I see humanity as a cancer on the face of the planet, consuming everything in it's path.

All our collective knowledge, religious beliefs and scientific advances cannot change the basic nature of man; avarice and hatred reign supreme.

A dark view I know, but can you see any way out of the mess we've created?


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Cape Town - Random Images

Cannon - Hout Bay

Cheese Shop - Imhoff Farm

Statue - Hout Bay
Some jokers climbed the rock and stuck a hat on it's head. Blown off by the wind, you can see it hanging around the neck.

Street Art

Small Zebra Garden Statue - Imhoff Farm

Surf Shop - Muizenberg

The invention of the SLR Digital camera is the best thing since ... uhm, well, whatever ... I can capture as many images as I like without worrying about the cost of developing and printing so, when I'm on the move, I tend to have my camera glued to my face, snapping as many as 1000 pics a day ... I sort through them later when I have the time ...

I realize that I must be irritating company when I'm on a roll but often, afterwards, people are glad that I took the photos ... sometimes I even surprise myself when I see a pic which I don't remember taking.

Anyway, hope you enjoy these random images from visits to Cape Town - I have some more which I'll post periodically.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Mango Groove - Southern Sky

Mango Groove - Southern Sky

I want to be with you under a Southern Sky
Feel the earth move as I see you walking by
I want to take you to the moon and back tonight
Sleep with angels in the shelter of a perfect Southern Sky
In the stillness and forgiveness of a perfect Southern Sky

This song makes my eyes all watery - I must be getting soft in my old-age ... :)

Image Credits: Unknown
Mango Groove is an 11 piece Afropop group formed in 1983 in Johannesburg, South Africa and fronted by lead singer Claire Johnston.

Here's something more upbeat from them if you feel like getting your feet moving ... Dance Sum More:


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Spectacular Crystal Cave

Image Credit: Unknown
Cueva de los Cristales

Wiki says that the Cueva de los Cristales is a cave connected to the Naica Mine 300 metres (980 ft) deep in Chihuahua, Mexico.

The main chamber contains giant selenite crystals, some of the largest natural crystals ever found.

Image Credit: Unknown
The cave's largest crystal found to date is 11 m (36 ft) in length, 4 m (13 ft) in diameter and 55 tons in weight.

The cave is relatively unexplored due to the extreme temperatures and high humidity. Without proper protection people can only endure approximately ten minutes of exposure at a time.

Image Credit: National Geographic
Having worked for twelve years as a miner in one of the world's most famous mineral localities, I find this truly spectacular ...

... I've seen vugs of bright, shiny jewels and stood in caves completely surrounded by crystals but, I've never seen anything like this.

And those extreme temperatures, I know exactly what they mean.

Here's a link to an excellent photo set which will give you a better idea of the scale.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Cape Town - My Favorite City

I always enjoy visiting Cape Town and whenever I first see Table Mountain in the distance my heart beats a little faster.

Besides the beautiful natural setting, I get a buzz from the rush of people and traffic, the buildings, giant shopping complexes and strange little street shops and stalls, everything - I just enjoy indulging in the madness.

I haven't been to many cities, but I imagine that Cape Town is probably one of the more pleasant ones to visit.

... for a few days.


Thursday, February 18, 2010

On the Road: Namibia - Cape Town

Two years ago, on a road-trip to Cape Town, South Africa we passed though Namaqualand in the Northern Cape Province.

Namaqualand is a winter rainfall region and, depending on the rainfall pattern, usually bursts into a colorful display of wildflowers, transforming the usually drab landscape and attracting a large number of visitors to the area.

We caught the beginning of the flowering season and at one spot, out-of-the-blue, came upon this bright orange field of wildflowers. It seemed strange that they were concentrated on one particular patch of previously cultivated ground. I wonder what causes this?

The next two pics were taken at Kamieskroon, a small one-horse town. It had a wall-to-wall carpet of flowers and the pics don't really capture the true beauty of the spectacle. The air was also scented with an intoxicating herbal odor from the plants.

The last pics are of two of the many varieties of flowering plants to be found here.