Friday, 20 May 2011

When it rains, it pours

By now most of you will have heard about the freak storm we had at Djuma earlier this week. It didn't last long, less than 15 minutes, but that was enough to leave a trail of destruction that also Jurie Moolman said he'd never experienced before in his 30+ years at Djuma.

The storm broke as I was doing some broadcast equipment testing in the workshop, and there was not a dry spot anywhere as the rain was pelting in almost horizontally as Marc and I battled to find a dry spot for the camera and to get all equipment of the floor. By then the power was off, so we had to work by the light of Marc's cell phone display. Marc then ran the 10 meters to Final Control and back and in those few seconds was drenched with the ice cold rain.

Soon after, it all stopped and we went to our rooms to dry off (and Marc to warm up a bit :-) We thought that was it, but, boy, were we wrong.

A little later I started worrying about the cabling at the camera tree and decided to go see if it was still covered and dry. Driving out there I could not locate the tree, but at first blamed it on the darkness. I drove back and forth a bit until my head lights suddenly shone on some tree roots sticking up in the air... the roots of our intended camera tree. It was totally blown over and had crashed to the ground. Crushing the light that was in it under a branch. Had the camera been up already it would no doubt have vanished as well. Fortunately it was safe in Final Control due to a delay in getting the mounting ready.

At that point we thought we'd gotten away relatively fine and with no real damage other than some extra work and a delay in getting the camera up and running as the new location requires some pieces of equipment we had not planned on. (And possibly digging a 60 meter trench.)

Well, that was until we found out yesterday that the reason our internet links were down was that not that our antenna dish had moved, but that the complete top section of the mast had turned close to 30 degrees in this storm and our dishes were now pointing 'ins Blaue hinein' rather than at Mariepskop. This is a very serious issue as fixing that in will require a large crane and some careful planning to make sure it is done in a safe manner. Jurie, Graham and Will are working on getting this planned and organised and as will share progress on this as we move towards restoring our internet connection. --Peter

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

A new dawn: Pete's Pond returns

As you all know we've been working hard on relaunching both the waterhole cameras located at Pete's Pond and Gowrie dam and are nearing the end of this effort.

With an unfortunate, last-minute power supply problem delaying the launch of Djuma's Gowrie cam until next week, Mashatu's Pete's Pond cam grabbed the lead and will be the first to cross the finish line. It will come back on-line this Saturday, at 0600 CAT, in time to catch the first light of a new day at the Pond. We hope you'll all be there to share this long anticipated and wonderful moment with us.

While the sight of the Pond has not changed, and will be familiar to many of you, some other things will be different. Most noticable will be the absence of a local camera operator, or'zoomie'. All control will therefore be done over the Internet by a group of remote 'zoomies'. More details on that have been posted in a separate blog earlier today.

The second one is that the distribution technology used will be Flash-based and thus different from before. I know this concerns some of you, but I firmly believe that, given a fair chance, you will come to see it is a change for the better.

Furthermore there are some exciting new features. The broadcast from Pete's Pond will be recorded and archived 24/7 which will make it easy to go back to sightings you might have missed. Also, in addition to and, you will be able to watch it on Ustream and Justin.TV (with YouTube and some others to follow soon), as well as through the WildEarth application on the Roku set top box or on your iPad. We think this wider access will help create an even larger community of 'Pondies', all enjoying this fascinating glimpse into what's happening on Mashatu Game Reserve.

We hope to see you all at the Pond this Saturday at 0600 CAT!


Wanted: Zoomies!!!

With the imminent relaunch of the cams at Pete's Pond and Gowrie Dam, WildEarth is looking for volunteers to help us control these cameras: To show them in the best light 24/7, as well as to let others know what's going on by tweeting sightings and entering video marks for the archives. Our intent is to create one group that will work across both cams, so one day you might be controlling the Pete's Pond, another Gowrie Dam.

While we would love to give as many people as possible the opportunity to control the cams at some stage, the reality is that the bigger the group of people, the more complicated it will be to manage and coordinate, so we will start of with a relatively small group and possibly add more zoomies later once all is running smoothly.

So, what does it take to be a 'zoomie'?

  • a reliable, at least 1 Mbps, internet connection
  • a willingness to commit about 10 hours/week for the next couple of months
  • the ability to work well within a team of fellow volunteers
  • a reasonable level of PC and internet skills
  • the ability to work independently, but within a set of clear guidelines
  • a basic knowledge of the common animals that can be seen on the cams
  • a willingness to help and share knowledge with fellow zoomies
Is this you? Then send an e-mail to with the following information:
  • your name, location and time zone
  • an indication of how much time you would have available and at which days and hours this would be
  • why you would like to be a zoomie
  • a little bit about your past with WildEarth and/or Pete's Pond (for my interest mostly :-)
  • an indication of your familiarity with the species that could be seen on the cams
It would be great if we could get a truly diverse mix of people for this. People from different time zones (very important) and countries, from different viewing backgrounds (new as well as first-hour viewers), and from the silent majority as well as the 'not-so-silent minorities' ;-). Everyone is equally welcome to put their name in the hat and will be fairly considered.

Once a first selection is made I will get in touch with everyone to start the training and scheduling and get this show on the road as soon as possible.

I look forward to hearing from you!

UPDATE: The application process for zoomies is open again.