A few years ago, I ran a mountain race, and despite the exertion and fast pace of the run, I stopped briefly at the summit to enjoy the view. That's what this year has felt like to me - some really special highlights amidst a lot of hectic busyness.
I have done quite a bit of travelling this year. In February, I travelled to the USA to present a paper on the ConRoast process at the Sulfide Smelting symposium in Seattle. On the way, I spent a few days with Jim Jensen in San Francisco and the Sacramento area (as well as his daughter Nancy, and Mac McCarty). (Uncle Jim is the person who most influenced me to go into chemical engineering, and we had a great time catching up on many stories.)
In Seattle, I had a very enjoyable day with Graham Marshall (an ex-Mintek colleague now living and working in Seattle) being shown around places like Microsoft's headquarters in Redmond, and the Snoqualmie Falls, topped off with a memorable lunch at a salmon house. The conference was very enjoyable, and enabled me to meet up with a number of friends and colleagues (including Adrian Deneys and David Robertson), and also included a fascinating tour of the Boeing factory.
In March I spent a few days at the Pyrometallurgy '02 conference in Cape Town (where I presented a paper on DC arc photography and modelling), and also managed to fit in a walk along the beach, and a quick run up Table Mountain via Skeleton Gorge.
The real travelling highlight of the year was our visit to Australia. I was invited to present a course on pyrometallurgy at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia. This was a significant challenge, as I had to fit in a semester's course (preparing and presenting the lectures) into five weeks. The real benefit was that my family could accompany me for three of those weeks, and we could explore the countryside together over weekends. We had a great trip to the south-west that included David and Sarah swimming with some dolphins at Bunbury's Dolphin Discovery Centre, and a very scenic drive to the Tree Top Walk and Valley of the Giants (giant trees).
On the way, we came across a sign marked Diamond Tree Lookout, and found a very tall 200-year-old tree that was used as a lookout post (instead of the more conventional fire tower), and was climbed by a series of metal spikes embedded in the trunk in a spiral pattern. Climbing the 52 m tree in this fashion was such a memorable experience that we repeated it on our way home a couple of days later.
The town of Walpole had some great innovations, including a cleverly designed leaning post for looking up at tall trees, and wonderful working hours.
Sarah celebrated her 11th birthday at the Caversham Wildlife Park, by stroking a koala, feeding kangaroos and emus, and holding a wombat on her lap.
Among the many metallurgical plant visits that I fitted into the trip were some at Kalgoorlie, a predominantly gold-mining town at the edge of the outback, that was a fascinating place to visit. On the way there, we explored Wave Rock (a spectacular rock formation in the shape of a breaking wave) at Hyden, and on our way home we stopped off at the site of an earthquake (6.9 on the Richter scale in 1968) at Meckering.
During our last weekend in Australia, we flew to Sydney (to see the other side of this vast country) and spent a wonderful few days visiting my schoolfriend Andrew Franz and his family (and seeing the sights of the city), and the Searle family who we hadn't seen for almost twenty years. We really enjoyed our time in this very different country seeing such a variety of unusual plants, animals, and birds; the attractive beaches, and the lovely walks and cycle paths alongside the river.
In October, we spent a few days camping at Mountain Sanctuary Park in the Magaliesberg, and enjoyed some lovely walks and swims in the clear mountain streams.
Another highlight of the year was experiencing the total solar eclipse on 4 December. We spent a few days camping at Satara in the Kruger National Park (with Greg and Sandy Wurts, and Marie Benson), and had some great game viewing as well. On the morning of the eclipse, we set out in a convoy of cars at 3:30am and drove for a few hours to get to the designated public viewing site, Dzombo Plateau, along the roadside midway between the Shingwedzi and Mopani camps, in the band of totality. Totality occurred between about 8:21 and 8:22am. Cloud cover made photography difficult, but the experience of total darkness occurring so suddenly was very impressive indeed. The experience was as though a series of bright lights were being switched off in rapid succession. A lot of swallows gathered in the sky, as they would to prepare for nightfall. All in all, a truly memorable experience that made me quite keen to experience another total eclipse of the sun in the future. On our way home, we stopped off and visited Echo Caves, Bourke's Luck Potholes, the Pinnacle, and Pilgrims Rest.
On the work front, the year has been an interesting one. I had the fun of being awarded a silver medal by the SAIMM for a paper on the Chambishi cobalt recovery process in Zambia. The platinum industry has had a phenomenal couple of years, and the new Minerals Act has brought about many exciting changes in the number of new participants in this industry and the number of new deposits being mined. We have had some fascinating discussions with the likes of Tokyo Sexwale and other mining entrepreneurs, and I also attended the World Platinum Congress in Sandton in November. I spent quite a bit of the year as acting manager of the pyrometallurgy division at Mintek while Tom Curr was away, and this added quite a bit to my workload. I also did yet another stint as external examiner for Wits University, this time for the Pyrometallurgy course. In November, we had another visit from our friends at Falconbridge (Sudbury, Ontario, Canada) who were doing another pilot-plant campaign on the ConRoast process for nickel. I have spent quite a bit of time this year answering queries from patent examiners in a variety of countries, and the ConRoast process has now been patented in a number of places around the world. In December, one of my photographs of an electric arc was published and exhibited as a finalist in the Science Lens photographic competition.
Debbie continued to run another CAIR (Christian Adults In Recovery) course at the Valley Vineyard church that we attend, and also was involved in a lot of other voluntary work. Here is what she has to say about it:
"I have spent a lot of time in prison this year. Thankfully not through sentencing! My involvement began with Kairos, which is a four-day weekend spent ministering God's love to the residents (prisoners). We spend all day in the women's prison where there are talks, group sharing, and prayer times, and also a lot of informal sharing over meals and tea times. The food is a big attraction, and all the women comment on what a blessing it is to eat such good food after prison fodder for so long. However, it is not long before the love, the messages in the talks and the times of prayer begin to reach broken or hardened hearts. What an amazing miracle to watch as God works with each individual woman. I come off each weekend absolutely exhausted, but so deeply moved -so freshly reminded of God's love and grace and so touched by the stories of these women. There are eight training sessions before the weekend and then we commit to meet with the women once a month for a full year after the weekend. The second course of the year took place at the maximum-security prison."
"Getting to know these women and becoming more involved with their lives, led a few of us to begin a project which has become known as HeartWork. Through this project, we offer personal growth courses over a 12-week period in the prison. We ran our first one in 2002, and met with such enthusiasm from the prison authorities that we have several planned for the coming year. The changes in the women are noticeable, their behaviour in the cells has been significantly improved and their reports of what they learnt and gained from the course have been very encouraging. So, we begin again on the 16th January. We are currently writing the manuals for the course, making the necessary adjustments after our previous experience, from which we learnt so much. It costs money to run these courses and so we are looking at various fundraising possibilities in the new year."
David started high school at the beginning of the year, so he and Sarah moved schools to Redhill (in Morningside, between Sandton and Rivonia, about 7 km from home). David completed Grade 8 this year and will start Grade 9 in 2003. He has really enjoyed the greater challenge and freedom, as well as all of the sporting opportunities of high school, including rugby which he hadn't tried before. He has continued to do well at maths, English, and the sciences, and has particularly excelled at French and anthropology. David, at age 14, has just this month managed to catch up to me in height and will probably noticeably overtake me soon - he is quite a tall fellow.
Sarah has done outstandingly well in Grade 5 this year (including getting a maths award), and is looking forward to Grade 6 in 2003. Her favourite activity this year has been taking Kayla (border collie) to obedience training and agility classes. Kayla passed her canine good citizen test last month.
We have had a peaceful few days at home over the break between Christmas and New Year, and have enjoyed going to gym together, working in our house, and looking at our collection of slides of past trips, bringing back fond memories.
Rodney, Debbie, David, and Sarah