The KAT containers head north!

On Monday morning, bright and early, we “rushed” down the N2 (or rather, as slowly as the early-morning commuter traffic allowed) to make it to the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Observatory, Cape Town, around 8h00.

The sun was hiding behind a solid grey blanket of cloud, which fortunately did not release any rain. In fact, it even cleared up a little in the late morning, which was greatly appreciated. After all, we’d had an entire Sunday of solid, soaking rain, the kind that seeps into the ground and turns it into squelchy, soggy mud. These were not ideal conditions for lifting heavy containers onto trucks, but that is what had to be done today (see previous post about the preparations here).

When we arrived, we found the trucking contractor Philip already on-site; his driver Johannes was attempting to reverse his 22 metre-long truck down the narrow road from the River Club to the turn-off onto the small side-road leading to the Wild Fig restaurant. It was no mean feat, particularly because he kept having to pause for cars who insisted on dodging around him.

The 22-metre-long truck arrives

The 22-metre-long truck arrives

After driving fowards and backwards several times, he was finally in situ, just on the edge of the little side-road, facing the entrance to the SAAO. As it would be impossible for this monster to negotiate the narrow curving roads at the SAAO, Philip had subcontracted a special (smaller) crane truck that would be able to drive in, lift the containers, and carry them out to the big truck one at a time.

We briefly showed Philip and his driver Johannes the two containers that had to be moved.

Obert, Philip, Richard and Johannes in front of the containers

Obert, Philip, Richard and Johannes in front of the containers

A short while later, the crane truck finally arrived, having gotten stuck in traffic.

The crane truck arrives

The crane truck arrives

The forklift had to be lifted off first, to make room for the container.

Lowering the forklift onto the ground

Lowering the forklift onto the ground

Then came the Big Challenge:

The crane truck had to reverse down a narrow lane and around a corner – while avoiding three drains, a fence, the side of a house, and a large tree. The drains were the trickiest. We were very worried that the sheer weight of the truck would crack the drain covers. It took a few forward-and-backward manoeuvres, but they made it at last!

Crane truck reversing down the lane

Crane truck reversing down the lane

The crane truck continued reversing over the grass until it reached the site where the four containers were neatly lined up next to each other.

The truck reverses down the grassy lane

The truck reverses down the grassy lane

I found myself a good vantage point at the top of a building overlooking the site. One of the guys from the crane team clambered up onto the top of the Site Services Container (SSC) and hooked the chains to the four corners of the container.

Hooking up the chains

Hooking up the chains

He balanced ontop, making sure that the crane was lifting up the container evenly. Each container weighs about 5 tons, give or take.

Balancing on the top

Balancing on the top

The crane carefully lifted the container…

Up, up and away!

Up, up and away!

… and swung it around so that it could be lowered gently onto the back of the truck.

Lowering the container onto the truck

Lowering the container onto the truck

After the crane had been lowered and the supporting legs at the rear of the truck had been retracted, it headed forward across the grassy field. There were two cables hanging in the way, but fortunately there was enough play in them so that the chap sitting ontop of the container could lift them out of the way.

Ducking underneath the cables

Ducking underneath the cables

But the low branches of the tree proved a somewhat trickier obstacle, even more so because the drains left so little room to manoeuvre.

Obstacles

Obstacles

At last, thanks to some superior driving skills and a good eye for small but vital gaps, the truck was in the clear. And a few moments later, the first of the two containers could be lifted onto the large truck-and-trailer waiting outside the grounds of the SAAO.

Lowering the SSC onto the large trailer

Lowering the SSC onto the large trailer

Philip, Richard, Japie and Willem kept a watchful eye on things.

Philip, Richard, Japie and Willem

Philip, Richard, Japie and Willem

While we were standing there, a van with a very impatient driver, who did not want to wait for the crane truck to make way for him, swerved onto the grass and tried to squeeze past the large trailer on the other side. It may look in the photo as though there was plenty of space, but there was some sort of drain in the middle, so the only way past was to drive through the mud.

We thus watched, somewhat bemused, as he drove straight into the mud, clearly hoping that his speed would carry him through. It didn’t, so he had to reverse. Then he accelerated forward again, and got a little more stuck. He was sliding around in the mud quite a bit, and we were concerned that he might collide with the big trailer.

Sensing impending disaster, Willem and Japie, closely followed by Philip and Richard, sprinted down to the van to give him a little push. Thankfully, it worked!

The men lend a helping hand

The men lend a helping hand

The crane truck headed back into the grounds to pick up the second container, the Antenna Services Container.

The crane lifts up the ASC

The crane lifts up the ASC

And lowers it carefully onto the truck

And lowers it carefully onto the truck

Before driving carefully over the grass and down the narrow lane

Before driving carefully over the grass and down the narrow lane

Roufurd came by to have a look at what was happening.

Richard and Roufurd

Richard and Roufurd

I watched the crane truck driving down to the main gate…

Approaching the main gate

Approaching the main gate

… and out.

Crane truck leaving the SAAO with the ASC

Crane truck leaving the SAAO with the ASC

Then it was a simple matter of hooking up the chains of the crane to the container…

Hooking up the crane

Hooking up the crane

… and lifting it onto the flat bed of the large trailer. (And as you can see, the weather is clearing up nicely!)

Transferring the container over to the trailer

Transferring the container over to the trailer

Willem, Japie, Richard and Philip were deep in conversation, sharing a lighthearted moment.

A lighthearted moment

A lighthearted moment

At last, both containers had been secured on the massive trailer-truck. The driver Johannes carefully negotiated the corner and turned his vehicle into the side-road leading down to Liesbeek Parkway.

The trailer truck drives off slowly

The trailer truck drives off slowly

A few moments later, he crossed the little bridge over the Liesbeek River.

Crossing the river

Crossing the river

We waved goodbye to the two containers, as they disappeared in the traffic.

Goodbye!

Goodbye!

They have a long trip ahead of them, and are expected to arrive at the Losberg site sometime on Tuesday.

2 thoughts on “The KAT containers head north!

  1. At one point in my chequered career I worked for a furniture removal company which also did haulage and rigging, so I can well imagine the dramatic maneuvering which had to take place, and I’m SO GLAD I didn’t have anything to do with this tricky operation! I used to hate having anything to do with the heavy duty side of the business and used to make myself very scarce and hope like crazy that somebody more knowledgeable than me would have to deal with the haulage quotes! I usually succeeded …..

    • Hehehe, that was funny, I just had this vision of you reversing this massive crane truck down a leafy lane, in order to get it properly aligned with the container, before clambering elegantly onto the top of the container in order to hook it up to the heavy chains! And then leaping down again in order to power up the crane and swing it onto the truck.

      I probably would’ve done the same as you – those containers are seriously heavy, and you wouldn’t want one of them landing on your toes or catching your fingers!

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