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July 25, 2014

9m (30 foot) abseiling tower on the Tropic of Capricorn

Photos courtesy 1st Polokwane Scout Group

1st Polokwane are a Scout troop in Polokwane, a South African city right on the Tropic of Capricorn. This 9m abseiling tower is a Springbok Scout construction project led by Courtney, one of their senior Scouts. These photographs show the construction process during the recent South African school holidays.

Photos courtesy 1st Polokwane Scout Group

Safety standards in your Scout association may not allow this type of construction ( for example, the American BSA Guide to Safe Scouting limits pioneering project platform height to 6 feet). Note that in all the photographs above, Scouts working at height use harnesses and a fall protection plan)

1st Polokwane have been competing in Gauteng KonTiki for the last few years, and also have a few Scouters who are also radio amateurs, so they take part in JOTA/JOTI every year. Listen out for their callsign ZR6PS

July 18, 2014

Pioneering as community service: permanent bridge by 1st Blairgowrie

Today is Nelson Mandela's birthday. Over the last few years, South Africans have been encouraged to spend 67 minutes of the day serving the community- signifying the 67 years Mandela gave in service to the country. This post looks at a permanent pioneering project that serves the community.



I was running through Delta Park, a large municipal park near my office, a few weeks ago when I noticed a Scouts South Africa notice pinned to the foundations of a bridge.

1st Blairgowrie Scout Group are responsible for this project, which is being led by James, a Springbok Scout candidate. The bridge is being built to offer an additional crossing point for the stream that flows in this part of the park, making it safer for the cyclists and pedestrians using the extensive trail network: the park is very well used, especially on a Saturday morning. Work has progressed in the last few weeks, and as you can see, only the decking and access ramps remain to be completed.

A few things are noteworthy:
  • the materials for the project are being funded by donations from the local community, who are active in assisting with improvements to this park.
  • the poles being used are stripped and treated gum poles, from local eucalyptus plantations. These are the cheapest and most widely available pioneering poles in South Africa.
  • bolts have been used instead of rope to make this structure more permanent. Is it still pioneering? I think so.
  • A final piece of trivia that links this bridge to Baden-Powell's friend, Rudyard Kipling, who wrote the Jungle Book: the stream it crosses is a tributary of the 'great grey-green greasy Limpopo' from the Just So stories.

UPDATE: Further down the same river, 1st Bryanston Scouts have just opened a bridge for pedestrians and cyclists- photos courtesy Johannesburg Parks.

June 20, 2014

"Roman blind" vertical opening gateway by Robin Hills


 Robin Hills Scout Group built this sliding portcullis gateway for KonTiki 2014. Robin Hills entered two teams, who placed 2nd and 3rd overall.

 The segmented door folds up out of the way when it's fully open, and slides down to cover the entrance when closed. The mechanism is similar to a Roman blind:

Two sets of ropes are tied to the door panels on each side. The dark blue set in this drawing are tied from the top of one panel to the next, fastening them to each other. The red set are tied to the bottom panel, and pass through holes at the top of all the other panels, before passing through a pulley at the top of the gateway.
 Pulling on the red ropes causes the bottom panel to move up, until it touches the next panel, when it stacks against it and starts pulling that one up as well. This continues until the entire door is smoothly stacked together at the top of the gateway.

Robin Hills built a sliding portcullis gateway for KonTiki 2011 that I blogged about here.

June 13, 2014

Pioneering from Mosta Venture Crew, Malta

Sean from Mosta Venture Scout Unit in Malta shared these photographs of various projects, including a raft, a ferris wheel, a carousel and a suspended platform in a valley.The suspended camping platform was made using abseiling ropes and a small hiking tent.

Sean says:
Our group, the Mosta Scout group is currently the largest one and we always shown a lot of interest in pioneering. All the above structures were of the first sort here in malta. The suspended camp was built by the rover crew, and the others by my section, the venture unit. For the suspended camp we used abseiling ropes, constructed a platform and then we pitched a hike tent on it. Recently I became a council member in the national scout youth council, and one of my ideas is that All the scout groups around Malta build a luna park, all with pioneering.

Mosta Venture Unit also has a Youtube channel, including the following rotating abseiling tower:
All photographs courtesy Mosta Scout Group.

June 6, 2014

Scoutsorama Tower - Belgian climbing wall/slide/observation tower



It's come up on Ropes and Poles before that being able to speak Flemish is a good way to improve your pioneering. This project showed up in my Facebook feed courtesy of Ploeg Technieken and I thought I'd share it with the English speaking Scouting world.

Here's a video of the construction process, including a timelapse and details of the planning process, using models, and the construction process, which included using a small backhoe to dig foundation trenches.


This tower was built by the 92ste Aartselaar - Reet group in Belgium as part of their Annual Scoutsorama camp. It included a viewing deck on top, a climbing wall including cargo nets and plywood sections with moulded grips, and a 'slide' designed to be ridden in a sled.


All images courtesy 92ste Aartselaar - Reet Scouts

May 30, 2014

'Green' camp gadgets- recycled planters and plastic 'rope'

There were several interesting gateways at KonTiki 2014, and I'll post some more info about those in the coming weeks. Here are a few little gadgets from the campsite that won the camping side of the competition, 9th Benoni.


First up are these camp 'potplants' made from an old pair of shoes with succulents planted in them. They rest on an Ocean Plait mat, woven from scrap rope that has become too weak to use for pioneering.



The boundary ropes of the campsite were made from this recycled rope, woven/plaited from empty plastic shopping bags that the troop collected over the past few months. (That's not the competition gateway but a photo from a test camp held a few months ago)

May 23, 2014

Kontiki 2014 Videos

Hennie Hamman, the manager at Arrowe Park, has compiled three videos from hours of footage taken at KonTiki 2014. Here they are- firstly, site preparation and raft construction, followed by the rafts seen by helicopter and from Arrowe Park, and finally the closing ceremony. Altogether, this is three-quarters of an hour of video, and gives a good feeling of what being at KonTiki is like.

Preparation and construction:

KonTiki seen from the air and on the ground:


Closing ceremony and awards: