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Diamonds And Dust: 47 - The Vehicles -1

…Within a few kms the oil pressure was just about zero.
I asked H_ what he was going to do.

He thought for a while then said, “It’s easy. I have the solution,” and with that punched the oil pressure dial, breaking the glass and twisted the oil gauge pointer up to 70 lb.
“There, that should be fine now,” he said casually…

Malcolm Bertoni continues his lively account of diamond mining in Namibia.

To purchase a copy of Malcolm’s book please click on http://www.equilibriumbooks.com/diamonds.htm

As mentioned earlier, the Land Rover electrics didn’t work very well. When they did work the few instruments that were installed in the dash were very inaccurate, even on a good day. So we didn’t pay much attention to them most of the time. Now don’t get me wrong, the Land Rovers were damn good and I had a lot of respect for them, but this was in the 70s when electronics were rather archaic.

One night I was coming back from town with another guy. We were in his Land Rover and about halfway to Affenrucken he noticed his oil pressure was starting to drop. We kept an eye on the pressure gauge and it kept dropping lower and lower.

From what I can remember, the normal pressure was about 70 or 80 lb per square inch. When it reached 40 lb we stopped and looked at the oil dip stick and there seemed to be enough oil. It could be the oil pump starting to pack up. So we continued on. There was nothing much else we could do.

Within a few kms the oil pressure was just about zero.
I asked H_ what he was going to do.

He thought for a while then said, “It’s easy. I have the solution,” and with that punched the oil pressure dial, breaking the glass and twisted the oil gauge pointer up to 70 lb.
“There, that should be fine now,” he said casually.

With that we drove on and the oil pressure was, well, fine. We actually reached Affenrucken without mishap, and after we had the Landrover checked, the mechanics couldn’t find anything wrong. It proved that we couldn’t trust the instruments in the Landrovers.


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The dirt haul roads in the mine were kept in immaculate condition by the company. They had graders and water tankers watering and levelling the roads continuously and no one could complain. The roads were often in better condition than the bitumen roads in South Africa or South West, that’s how good they were. The reason of course, was that the big dump trucks and machines had to use the roads for hauling the ore, so for optimum efficiency the roads had to be in top condition.

Unless it rained of course, although thankfully this only occurred one or two days a year. Since the roads were built of a clay type material they quickly turned to a greasy sludge and were then un-drivable. Mining then usually stopped until conditions improved, but the process plants, which were under cover, carried on operating.

I remember one day coming out from town and it started raining. I was in my bakkie, which was fine except for one thing. It was only two-wheel drive and not four-wheel drive like the Land Rovers. So I was basically slipping and slithering from side to side, trying to control the vehicle and stay on the road as well as actually make progress towards Affenrucken.

It took me about three hours to do the trip, and the bakkie had about 12 inches of mud all over it. There must have been an extra tonne of mud sticking onto the thing.

The rain was fine and it was good to get a bit of moisture in the ground, but the killer blow was not too far from No 1 plant.

I came over a small hill, and there in front of me was a water truck watering the road! It seems no one had bothered to tell the Ovambo driver not to water the road as it was raining. He was just doing his job, which was to water that section of road and so he carried on watering. I am not making this up. Here was this water truck spraying water on a waterlogged road with rain still pouring down.

How long he kept this up I don’t know, but that stretch of road must have been pretty soggy.

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