Thursday, July 8, 2010

8 July 2010

Well, I think we've made some progress, although not quite as much as we'd prefer. First, the good news. Underneath the 4200-liter tank, Mbithi and coworkers have built a bricked-in room that has been dubbed the "power house." The cement is drying, and Saturday we will be ready to complete the wiring of the panels and transfer the battery, inverter, and charge controller from the lounge to the power house. Meanwhile, we have been using them to run the television for the second semifinal World Cup match, to charge phones and computers, and to update the XOs (the one-laptop-per-child computers). A line has been marked out for a trench to lay wire up to the staff room (a run of about 160 yards), which will allow us to supply 240-V AC to the staff room. This will allow them to charge their phones and run other equipment there. In fact, the staff seem much more excited that the solar panels will be making a reliable source of "free" power available than water from the well.

This brings me to the latest chapter in the well saga. When the pipe went crashing to the bottom of the well, it took with it a two-foot-long pipe wrench that had been used to hold the pipe while the chain hoist was repositioned. At the time the rope broke, the pipe was not firmly attached to the pipe, but when the pipe started falling, it managed somehow to upend the wrench, which we are fairly certain fell business end down. As best we can tell, it would have become wedged between the pipe and the well casing, preventing the "rocket of reclamation" from tipping the top of the pipe away from the casing so that it can be caught by the funnel and guided down the pipe of the rocket. Hence, we decided that we needed to fish for the wrench before trying the rocket.

We had our favorite blacksmith in Wote make a hook to snag the jaw of the wrench. It was surmounted by a loop to which we could attach the heavy chain. Fishing with the chain is a real pain, however, because it is really heavy and tough to raise and lower. Ozzie recommended attaching the rope to the top of the hook, so that by pulling on the rope we only needed to raise the bottom few feet of chain. Using this method, we dropped the hook several meters past the top of the pipe and set about fishing. I suppose there's no need to drag you through all the tedium, but suffice it to say that we managed to hook the casing many times and something more mobile on occasion. On one such occasion, we used the chain hoist to raise the hook, which eventually caused the chain to go very taut. In fact, we pulled so hard that the hoist was locked and unable to release. Several of us took a turn at trying to free it; fortunately, Benson managed finally to do so. But the hook was now unstuck from whatever it was hauling and we had to go back to fishing.

When nothing further was getting caught, we hauled up the rope and chain and found that the hook had been bent and needed a little TLC to be back in position to catch the wrench. I bent it slightly in a couple of places, filed the end a bit, and went fishing again. I decided to drop the hook well below the place we expected the wrench to be, and managed to hook what felt like the wrench. It rose about a meter or two, and then got stuck. After a couple of down-up cycles, it became unstuck. Unfortunately, the hook no longer felt weighed down by the wrench. Others took up fishing and hooked it again, and plenty of us had a chance to feel the weight of the wrench on the rope. It rose past one coupling, we think, but eventually fell off. Subsequent fishing expeditions found nothing, no matter how deep we lowered the hook. So, at this point we think that the wrench has been lowered far from the top of the pipe and we are going to try the rocket on Saturday morning. (Tomorrow is given over to an awards ceremony for the Clay students at Kathonzweni.)

Once again, please keep your fingers crossed! It would be very satisfying to get the pipe up, pump on the well for awhile, and find out whether the water gets any less salty.

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