If you want the real scuttlebutt on Carnarvon, you need to be in the vicinity of the front desk of Swanepoel Wind Pump Repair Services during working hours.
The local farmers talk about the weather (or lack of it), the price of things, politics, the finer points of combining two junked wind pump heads into one working unit, those damned jackals and, if there’s a breath left, the Square Kilometre Array. SKA.
This massive, multibillion dollar international project is the biggest thing to hit the science world since the Higg’s Boson was found.
Seven enormous ‘dishes’ – the Karoo Array Telescope, or KAT7 – are already in operation, receiving information about the Universe. South Africa has funded another 64 for the second phase and called it MeerKAT. These are currently being built. All these will help inform the best way to arrange the other 2 800-odd that will be pointed at the sky here and across Southern Africa in the coming decades.
With another 250 receivers in Australia, they will be picking up ancient radio signals that will help explain the vexing issues that have been dogging astronomy for decades.
SKA has already had some positive impact on the local community in town. Apart from the excitement of such a huge project being launched in the area, the broadband access is now some of the best in South Africa.
The local high school has a state-of-the-art computer lab and SKA is funding a number of study bursaries.
It seems, however, that the local farmers’ main concern is the communications issue, because Telkom lines are down, cell phones near this sensitive site are unwelcome and satellite phones cost the earth.
Is SKA going to buy them all sat-phones and solar chargers, they want to know. They are also beginning to ask questions about SKA expansion plans.
However, not too long from now, there will be plenty of very thoughtful bespectacled folks walking the streets of Carnarvon: world-class geeks and their tech teams. Welcome them to the neighbourhood.
Eat, Play & Stay in Carnarvon
- Visit the Carnarvon Museum, part of which is a reconstructed corbelled house;
- A great view of Carnarvon can be seen from the old British blockhouse on top of a nearby koppie;
- The Appie van Heerden Nature Reserve just outside Carnarvon is worth a drive-through, especially if you want to see spectacular wind pumps at sunset;
- Stay at the Lord Carnarvon Guest House:
Tel: 053 3823 268
Mobile: 082 720 4209
- Stay at Stuurmansfontein Corbelled House
Tel: 053 3826 097
Mobile: 082 221 7500 or 072 352 8070
- Stay at Osfontein Corbelled Guest House
Tel: 0533822 ask for 3513
Mobile: 072 310 7979
- Eat at De Meerkat Restaurant
Tel: 053 382 4651
- General Carnarvon Info:
- For more info on SKA: www.ska.ac.za/
Visit the Karoo Space e-Bookshop for the in-depth stories on the Karoo.