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April 17, 2014

Pioneered T Rex Sculpture

Over the weekend, the East Rand Scout District in South Africa ran a public awareness day, where every group ran a public event to show that Scouting is flourishing in the community. Some groups held parades, some met in parks, some met outside shopping centres. My Rover Crew joined 1st Kempton Park Scouts outside a DIY shop in Kempton Park, and while they set up an information booth, we built this 4 metre high T-Rex.

The SketchUp model is available for you to download and view here.
Inspired by the pioneered animal sculptures of the Israeli Scout summer camps, I started with asmall sketch above and then spent some time figuring out how to make this design easy to build. Working in SketchUp, I put together a quick model with some sequence drawings that let us draw up a kit list and investigate the sequencing. Unlike the summer camp sculptures, we didn't have days to build this dinosaur, but only a few hours. The simple structure is based on a tripod, with an extension above for the head and shoulders, and an extension behind for the tail.  The head is made from bamboo, in two parts, with the jaw connected to a cotton cord that allows it to be opened and closed. The sequence drawing below was used to get the project built in the right order.

Sketches drawn in Paper on an iPad Mini with an Alupen stylus
Having sourced the materials from 1st Kempton Park, the crew set out to build the dinosaur in the car park. Very quickly, things came together, and by 11:00 the T-Rex's jaws were opening and closing above the crowd:

Ably led by our newest Rover, Thomas, we had a good morning building the dinosaur, and attracted a lot of attention towering over the rest of the displays at the Easter market. We're looking forward to building this again, and have some ideas for how we can improve it.

April 11, 2014

Chain Reaction Record Changer-overer

(This chain reaction device was published on the 26th of June 1952 in The Scout, in John Sweet's column on page 761)

Patrol Leader R. Graves, of the 15th Prestwich Woodpigeon Patrol. has designed an automatic gramophone record changer- overer (specification and blueprint herewith) and an automatic camp plate-washer-upper (not yet off the secret list).

Here is the specification: "The sand in the container A trickles down the chute B into the receptacle C, which, when there is enough sand in it, pulls down the strings over the pullets I and J and moves board F to the left. This pulls three strings simultaneously. The top strong goes over pulley W and raises the needle-arm of the gramophone X. The middle string goes over the pulley K and pulls up the rocker arm L. The is pivoted at M, and therefore N goes downwards. This pulls down the bicycle chain O, which turns the two cogwheels P and Q in such a fashion as to turn over the arms R and S, which turn over the gramophone record. The bottom string goes round the pulley U and pulls down the rod V, on which the record rests, thus allowing the arms R and S to do their stuff more easily. The jar C is then unlimbered and the sand poured back into A (you can't expect R Graves to think of everything). The needle X and the rod V move back of their own accord into the ready position, and the music goes round and round.

There are perhaps one or two obscurities in this design which will not escape the critical eyes of R. Graves' fellow boffins. For instance, he omits the formula for calculating the precise quantity of sand needed to suit the playing-time of the record. Also the operation of the actual turner-overer (parts P,Q,R and S) might have been more clearly defined. As I see it, the arms R and S move with a sudden jerk or jolt, thereby causing the record to spin upwards into the air, to be deftly fielded by the hands at the ends of the arms (hence the gloves) on its descent. Hmmm... Yes ... nothing to criticise there. Thank you, R. Graves. A noble effort, this, entitling you to three Eesikas at the next International Convention of the Screwball Gadgeteers to be held in the heart of the Jack Blunt country midway through the next century.

April 4, 2014

Kon-Tiki's debt to B-P

(Many Scout rafting competitions were inspired by Thor Heyerdahl's 1947 Pacific raft expedition. This article, published in The Scout on 17 April 1952, reveals the link between the Kon-Tiki expedition and Scouting. Although Heyerdahl's theories of South American colonisation of the Pacific are generally discounted today, the expedition itself is still an inspiring story.)

Roy Burnham interviews Thor Heyerdahl - an old Scout and proud of it

"Man Overboard!"

If you heard that ominous cry when your Patrol were on a 45 foot balsa wood raft in shark-infest waters of the Pacific somewhere between South America and the South Sea Islands, what would you do?

A gale has sprung up, lashing the sea into giant waves and sending the raft scudding along faster than any man can swim. In that fleeting second you realise that, struggling in the water, is the fellow who, a moment before, was standing near the rubber dinghy with the anemometer. Before he can swim back to the side of the raft he has fallen astern.
What would you do?
It is life or death! A grim moment requiring quick though and resourceful action - a situation which only a good scout, well trained, can meet before it is too late.That was just one of the situations which Thor Heyerdahl and his five companions faced during their historic post-war voyage across the Pacific on the raft the "Kon-Tiki". It is described in his book Kon-Tiki: Across the Pacific by Raft , one of the greatest true adventure storied, an epic of courage, comradeship -and Scouting.

If B-P had been alive to-day I think nothing would have given him greater pleasure than to meet Thor Heyerdahl, as I did the other day. This stocky, fair-haired Norwegian ethnologist knows what Scouting really means. One often hears it said that we Scouts of the younger generation miss much of the magic which our older brothers found in the early days of our great Movement. Then Patrols met under lamp posts, or in Tom's shed, or in Farmer Brown's outhouse before venturing forth into the open air. Now, we are told, there are too many clubroom Scouts; there is too much provided on tap for modern youth; the Patrol system has become a mere easy framework for a game of dog and bone.
I wonder!
That wasn't B-P's way. It isn't the good Scout's way - not a Scout like thor Heyerdahl, at least.
There were cinemas, radio and all the other attractions when he joined the Eagle Patrol of the 1st Larvick Troop, Norway, not very long before the last war. But the Eagles spent the week-ends and evenings out in the open where the forest swept down to a lake and they had built their own log cabin. There they were pioneering, camping, cooking,studying signs, getting ot know the ways of Nature which never change though the ways of cities are never constant. They were a patrol, each member with his own jobs, going out on expeditions, using their own initiative, playing the game of Scouting as B-P shows us in Scouting For Boys.
"It was this that gave me a love for the outdoors, and for exploration and pathfinding," Thor Heyerdahl told me. And so while at College and the University he spent every vacation camping and hiking. "It helped me to become practical and appreciate Nature," he said. "You have to get out and live with Nature to understand it.You have to get out into the open where you learn to use your eyes and your senses to read Nature's signs and interpret their meanings."As I listened to him talking so earnestly, I though of all the stories which B-P has told -those little signsm which the ordinary person does not see, but which have saved many a life or brought water to the parched and food to the hungry.
And that was how the voyage of the "Kon-Tiki" all began. While out on a lonely Pacific island, collecting animal specimens for Oslo University, Thor Heyerdahl saw carvings so similar to those in South America that he was convinced that somehow the two peoples must be in some way connected. Then he became conscious of the trade winds and the equatorial currents sweeping ever westwards to the islands, all the way from the American continent.He devoted his energies to a study of the history of these primitive people.
After war service, when he was convinced that the earliest Polynesians did, in fact, emigrate from South America, he put forward his theories.The professors and historians laughed at his ideas.It was all very well, they said, but the Incas could never have crossed the Pacific Ocean. They had nothing but small balsa wood rafts on which to sail the seas! It was ridiculous.So Thor Heyerdahl, trusting to the many natural signs he had seen both in the South Sea Islands and South America, determined to show that it could be done. Thor formed what amounted to a patrol of six, with himself as leader. Captain Knut Haugland, Erik Hesselberg, Torstein Raaby and Herman Watzinger were all Scouts. Only Bengt Danielsson was not, although as an explorer he had much practicala Scouting experience.
They built their raft, an exact replica of the ancient Inca craft, lashing the balsa logs together and building a plaited bamboo cabin, roofed with banana leaves, aft of a square sail slung between two masts lashed together.
Examining it before the sailed from Callao experts and sailors condemned their craft. It was so small, they said it would founder in a big sea, yet it was long enough to be lifted up by two lines of waves at the same time and would break under the strain. They should have used wire ropes, they were told, the sail was wrong, the bows wrong. In fact the experts found a reason in every knot, piece of wood and measurement to prove that they would founder.
But always Thor Heyerdahl had a tremendous faith, a faith springing from his understaning of Nature. Just as B-P showed us that we, who consider ourselves civilised and educated, can learn much from primitive people, so Thor Heyerdahl knew that primitive man understood Nature even better than we of this modern word, for he lived by Nature. The Incas built their rafts in this style becuase they knew and understood the Pacific and he was content to copy in exact detail the vessel of A.D. 500.
They set out, and the story of the voyage is there for all to read. But Thor Heyerdahl told me much that was not written in his book. "We were organised like a floating Patrol camp. A good Scout never roughs it in camp, and we were always comfortable even in the worst storm. It was natural that we should put Scouting in to daily practice throughout hte expedition, much of it as pure habit," he said. "So much depended on having the right men, each with his particular responsibilities, and able to see them through."

The Navigator was Erik Hesselberg, who first studied the stars on camping trops with Thor Heyerdahl when a boy. Bengt Danielsson was Q.M Herman Watzinger was weather man. Knut Haugland and Torstein Raaby looked after the radio and maintained contact with the United States.
As in all good camps there was a daily programme. "It varied because circumstances varied," Thor Heyerdahl explained, "but each day every man had two houra steering watch day and night, and we took our turn to cook. There was the log book to keep, fish to catch, the radio messages to get through, and various tests wer were carrying out for Services and organisations. We were very busy all the time except in the evening. Then we did the obvious thing, we had a camp fire- without the fire. Erik would get out his guitar and there would be singing and music before we went to bed."

When I have spoken to people about the "Kon-Tiki" expedition they have seemed surprised that six strangers could spend four months together on a small raft, and face danger and death -and boredom- without quarrels and temperamental outbursts. The answer is in a single prhase known throughout the Scouting world; " The law of this camp is the Scout Law"
"We had no rules or regulations except for one or two necessary safety precautions," Thor Heyerdahl told me. "The expedition began with our being strangers; we came out as firm friends. The spirit and comradeship was wonderful."
So it is easy to imagine the chill of fear which gripped all of them when Herman Watzinger fell overboard when they were more than half-way across the Pacific. Knut Haugland threw out a lifebelt but the fierce wind blew it straight back on to the raft. Thor Heyerdahl and Bengt Danielsson began to launch the rubber dinghy. They would have to discard the line to reach the swimming man, and the chances of regaining the raft were small; but even as they got the dinghy into the water, they saw Knut Haugland dive in, a lifebelt in on hand, and heave himself through the heavy seas, Herman Watzinger swam desperately to meet him, and, when they met, the four on board hauled on the life line for dear life, and brought them both to safety.

"That incident," said Thor Heyerdahl, " and the time the 'Kon-Tiki' landed on the reef in the South Sea, were the only two serious moments when lives were at stake. The landing was as tough as any man could experience, but we hung on through it all and the raft held."
Yes, the raft held. It confounded the experts whose advice, experience proved, would have sent it to the bottom long before the Pacific had been crossed.The six adventurers built it with their own hands. They had learned knots and lashings, they had plaited boughs and shelters when they were Scouts - and in the moment of crisis under the tremendous force of the mighty seas piling up on a coral reef, their knots and lashings held. Their bamboo cabin, though sadly bent, withstood the tremendous strain and saved them from death. They had succeeded.

"When the tow rope was cut outside Callao, we knew there was no turning back," Thor Heyerdahl said. "We had to go on to the bitter end. If we had not been confident it would have been hopeless. I never doubted for a moment that it would work out successfully. The moment you start to wonder then events begin to beat you. It is the human mind which is stronger than the human body. If you make up your mind to see a thing through you will do it. It is the mind which decides how you will use your muscles and strength and agility - and until a time of crisis you may never realise just how much your body can really tackle."

I said goodbye to Thor Heyerdahl and walked out into the bustle of the city. I looked up at the night sky as constant as the trade winds and equatorial currents.

I wished B-P could have been with me. I thought that if our Founder had never given us this great game of Scouting and shown us how to understand Nature; if he had not created the Patrol system and all it implies, and shown us hot to be prepared and keep alert in mind and fit in body - then there might not have been a "Kon-Tiki" expedition and the world would have been poorer.

For Thor Heyerdahl set out, not to seek notoriety with a hare-brained stunt, but to add a new chapter to the world's knowledge and the understanding of its peoples. And Scouting had much to do with his success.

March 28, 2014

Early 20th Century pioneering - Manual of Military Engineering

In Scouting For Boys, B-P refers to the Imperial War Office's 1905 Manual of Military Engineering for more information on Pioneering. 106 years later, that same manual is freely available online, and while some chapters are not really relevant to pioneering (eg. table of charges for hasty demolition of walls), there are some great resources, including some camp cooking techniques.
From knots, to lashings, anchorages, bridges and rafts, this book covers a wide range of pioneering projects, and shows how B-P's military experience influenced the sort of activities he chose for Scouting.

March 21, 2014

Western Cape Kontiki 2014

This weekend is a long weekend in South Africa, and the organizers of Western Cape Kontiki have taken advantage by extending the competition, giving the Scouts two nights on the water. I'll post photos if I come across any, but here are three resources that are likely to be posting photographs this weekend:

South African Rover Facebook page - Western Cape Rovers are putting a team onto the water for the first time this year.
Scouts South Africa Twitter account - the social media team have already posted a few pics this weekend.
First Claremont Twitter account - First Claremont is the oldest continuously operating Scout a Troop in South Africa, and have an active Twitter account.

If you've taken some photos of your group at Kontiki, feel free to share them with me.

March 14, 2014

Cloverleaf lashing video

Ploeg Technieken in Belgium originated the clover-leaf lashing. I've written before about using supporting jigs to hold the poles in place, but Ploeg Technieken have a YouTube channel that has this excellent video showing how it's done. The captions won't help if you don't speak Flemish (or Dutch, or Afrikaans) but the video is fairly self-explanatory.

March 7, 2014

Arrowe Park Bridge by First Benoni Rovers

The Rover Crew of 1st Benoni Sea Scouts, the Puddle Pirates, built this bridge/gateway for the East Rand District BP Sunday Parade at Arrowe Park. It is modelled after the chapel at Arrowe Park, which is also the emblem of the East Rand District.
The Rovers spent one day building the project, which is built over and around an existing steel bridge. The gateway is supported by a series of guylines onto the bridge deck- not quite the cable stayed bridge I was talking about two weeks ago but very similar in appearance.
Congratulatiosn to the Puddle Pirates on building this gateway, the chapel at Arrowe Park is shown in the photograph below for comparison.