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Heels 1974

Damn All

Damn All

A thought struck me down the other day, as I was playing in the bath. All these designers and builders of hydroschemes and bulldozer playgrounds are probably people who didn't let themselves go in their "late-youth". And now they're selfishly taking out their frustrations on Our Fair Land. If they'd had a proper upbringing in, say, the waterways of the Tarauas - been on a trip or two like the Freshers' 1974, then they'd have learnt to be one hundred per cent happy with "hand made" dams. Having introduced myself to this idea I set to and reviewed all the — dams and dambuilders I've had the good fortune to be associated with over the last few years. And not one of those people had anything to do with the Tongariro, Clutha or Manapouri schemes. See for yourself.

Freshers Trip 1972: Roaring Stag.

A little side trickle was dammed with high quality mud, sand and sticks. It would take a long time to fill but with help from Rhino's and Nick's bladders, we usually made it. The broken dam would release a boulder-rolling flood of festerous brown water over a nearby cliff, to the accompaniment of hysterical cackles from the onlookers - almost the entire party by the end of the session. Around about this time in Ruapai stream we proved that dam building's unfortunate side issue of dirtying the water isn't too serious. Mary Atkinson and Ian Jowett will hopefully back me up when I swear that the water ran clean about a mile downstream from the site.

December '72 saw an interesting experiment as I corrupted a Chemistry Department Senior Lecturer into the art. The site was in a meltwater stream about 30 feet from the edge of the Mt Bird icecap in the Ross Dependency. The design, a classic layered structure of interposed rocks grading down to sand maintained an 18 inch head of water. However such construction should only be used in more temperate streams, since they do take a while to build.

The Spring of '73 required an ice-axe for diversions and dams on the Tasman Glacier. Tourists seem to be a lot harder to influence than lecturers. Spring snow saturated with water makes great surface mini- page 16 avalanches as two RNZAF people and I found out. But one does have to watch out for snow swamps which are waist deep in places.

The summer of '74 was a great summer for dams. Mid January, Arthur's Pass saw several ex CUTC people create first a pool and then a waterfall. It wasn't quite as big as the Hooker Falls. A rock throwing and splashing interlude followed. This often happens.

After training on the warm Coromandel sands with a shovel, I travelled back to Wellington and was invited to go on the 1974 Atiwhakatu Open - a dam building session to be held in conjunction with the Fresher's Trip, 1974. I gladly accepted. In highly picturesque settings I again met and built with such well known craftsmen as; Pedrito Radcliffe, just returned from an overseas fact-finding tour; Nickeltit Logan and Trev Read (professional boulder rollers); Markus Hinton and Dave Bamford (specialists in log jams);and many other tradesmen. That weekend I learnt a lot about the different porosities of fills, the slipperiness of algae and the untrustworthiness of most VUWTC people behind your back.

But just recently some of us discovered the dambuilders 'nirvana, Ketetahi Springs. While the windchill factor was way off scale, we blissfully bathed and scraped and diverted. Several hours later the sun went down and the moon came up. And if it hadn't been for that sadistic southerly, we'd have nothing but happy memories of that place.