06 March 2010

The Generator, the Forklift, Big Mama, and the Drain.

There was this enigmatic tweet from me last week:

There's a forklift with a generator-as-big-as-a-house stuck in mud outside. I figure they should give me the generator if I can get it out.

I thought this deserved a more illustrated and detailed explanation, so I give you the saga of the generator, the forklift, the earth-moving machine and the drain.As I was walking to the chicken house (pre-fabricated all-purpose advanced green technology construction according to the corporation that installed it), I found the disaster below:

Mr 30-tonne forklift was carrying a 25-tonne generator (at least) and broke through our floor and smashed up the landscaping. Not to mention that only people who spend 6 hours in the gym daily and eat nothing but cucumbers and tomatoes could squeeze through into the chicken house. The forklift couldn't get out because two of its wheels had no purchase and were spinning uselessly in the depression they had created. The right side of the generator was balancing on a concrete block expropriated from our recently (4 months ago) demolished furnace. The left side of the generator was balancing on a wooden beam, origin unknown.

Upon further investigation, it turns out that the forklift operator went against the advice of our experts to knock down a boundary wall on the other side and come in through there and instead chose to drive over our drainage system with predictable consequences. The reason for not breaking down the boundary wall? A method to save a million (~250 USD) in rebuilding costs. Instead the decision will cost the forklift company 6 million (~1500 USD) in landscaping/drain repair costs.

So then the people tried various methods to get the forklift out... various jacks (yes, car jacks among them) to lift the forklift into a position where the wheels would find some traction. Pushing and shoving using manpower was also attempted in vain. So our friends hung around the rest of the day until some bright spark called in an even bigger vehicle than the forklift.

This is something that I describe as an earth-moving machine (aka Big Mama), but I'm sure it has some technical name as well. Anyway, the idea was to pull the forklift into a position where it could travel under its own power. Big Mama had some hairy moments getting to the forklift, it was centimetres from knocking down either our lab (my very own sequencing centre) or the adjacent clinic. The driver managed to avoid hitting anything by sheer skill... he's probably one of the few people who didn't buy their legal driving permit here.

A huge chain connected Big Mama to the forklift and the pulling was successful... thus freeing the forklift, but leaving a big generator stranded in a place not meant for big generators. As this was a Friday, the generator would stay till the following Monday, when by ingenious use of metal pipes it was rolled to the concrete pad ready for it. While I was still offering thanks to Big Mama's driver for not burying my sequencer under a pile of rubble, the generator was manoevred by some unknown means up a few stairs to its final resting position. Of course the manoeverers positioned the generator such that the fuel nozzle was about 30 centimetres from a wall. This resulted in the ingenious idea (mainly by myself - hence the glowing praise) of getting a refuelling helicopter to inject diesel into the nozzle... I believe the idea was vetoed for lack of funding but not technical feasibility. Anyways, so that was my Friday.