Tuesday, June 15, 2010

June 15

Star date, 15 June 2010

Much has passed since we arrived in Ngomano, and we have been poor correspondents. Where to begin?

On Sunday, June 13th, we began working on the well. The first step: removing the bolts holding the handle mechanism to the top of the well. Happily, we managed to loosen them all without rounding too many corners, and managed to get the handle off, which dropped the rod supporting the pump mechanism a few inches. Now, how are we to hoist the pump and pipe?

Benson contacted some friends in a nearby village, who brought a chain hoist. Meanwhile, we prepared a tripod by binding together three 10-foot pipes using a segment of polypropylene rope that we bought at Lowe's.
To the top of the tripod we attached the hoist using a rope we had bought the previous day in Wote. It was then child's play to raise the rod until the flange supporting the pipe down to the pump lifted off its base to reveal the top of the pipe. Using a large pipe wrench to hold the pipe, we disconnected the hoist and reattached it to the pipe, allowing us to hoist the pipe until the coupling to the second pipe segment emerged from the bore hole. We then set the pipe wrench to hold the second pipe, but realized that we also needed the wrench to grasp the pipe to unscrew the first pipe from the second. So, Benson sent someone to fetch a pipe vise.

While we waited for the vise to arrive, Benson asked Rob what was the silliest thing he had done in college. Before Rob had a chance to reply, the rope holding the hoist broke and the pipe began to fall, upending the pipe wrench, which tumbled down the bore hole. The pipe continued to fall until the flange attached to the top of the pipe crashed against the well head. Luckily, nobody was hurt.

When we calmed down and had removed the stand from the pipe vise, we retied the hoist using better rope and started hoisting the pump rod until we could see that the pipe had sheared off at the top of its threads and was now down at the bottom of the well. Damn! We started hoisting the rod segment by segment until 18 3-meter segments had been removed. Not surprisingly, the bottom was no longer connected to the pump. So, we managed to remove the rod that formerly activated the pump, leaving the pump and the 1 1/2-inch pipe at the bottom of the well.

Some fishing with flashlights and a Coke bottle filled with sand allowed us to determine that the water level is about 23 meters down and the top of the pipe is another 27 meters below that. So, we're now designing fishing apparatus to hook the top of the pipe and haul everything out. Our first design we called the jaws of life, but we're currently more keen on the harpoon of death, which we will attempt to thread down the pipe to the first coupling. We plan to head to Wote tomorrow to see if we can get someone to weld up our designs.

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