At Final Control, the lights went out, and the backup batteries automatically kicked in with their constant “ beep beep “. Still no lights, though; the power is reserved for the essential equipment. Even in Final Control, the equipment has to be shut down and unplugged, because a lightning strike could cause tremendous damage with the metres and metres of cables, the monitors, switching gear and computers. So we power down. Or rather Jan does.
Jan is very skilled at this task. We are in the middle of the bush and it amazes me that we have any form of electricity at all, let alone produce a live programme from this remote location. Jan tries to locate the main power sockets under the control desk. I try to help him by shining my rather pathetic torch beam in the general direction of all those coiled cables which are at our feet, and tucked away under the desk. I fail. Jan knows his way around these cables like a prospector knows where to look for gold. I switch off my torch, quietly.
Pieter and Alex run back into the Final Control room bringing all the camera equipment with them. The Tank was safely under shelter, and so are all the crew. Well, so we thought.
The thunder eases off at around eight o’clock. The lights came on again and of course, the power has to be plugged in again. Again, Jan dives under the desk to plug what he’s just un-plugged, ready to transmit pictures. It’s very dark under the desk. Along with the very familiar cables is a very unfamiliar face, the face of a puff adder rearing up to have a good look at the disturbance. The disturbance, that is Jan, jumps up and away from the snake quicker than a bolt of greased lightning. The half-metre long puff adder stays put.
Well, if you’ve got a snake, who you gonna call? That’s right, Jan called Alex, who was busy making a delicious supper in the kitchen. Alex is our snake expert. He’s even been on snake-handling courses, so he is possibly over - qualified in the art of coaxing stray puff-adders out from under desks.
Alex went into snake wrangling mode in the blink of an eye. And brought his snake stick with him. No, I didn’t know what that was, either ( it’s a curved stick to gently catch snakes with ).Under the desk he went, with several people holding their breath behind him. With incredible skill and patience he gently, softly even, coaxed the snake out using the stick. Quick as a flash, he picks it up by the tail, and then moves his hand to firmly grip it by the head. It is now safe from us and we are safe from it, held in this special grip.
The snake is released onto Quarantine, none the worse for its adventure. Alex is very good at snake handling.
“ Well, we were very lucky that he was a bit cold, otherwise he would have been a bit quicker, “ was Alex’s comment on the evening’s extra mural activities.
Written by Sue Lloyd