Charley Boorman Log- Day 43

July 28, 2012

Port Nolloth 2In which Charley and team celebrate Nelson Mandela’s birthday and hunt for diamonds.

It’s another dawn start as we drive over rough roads to the fenced-off diamond beach. Bobbing in the shallows just offshore are two small diamond boats and beyond them, the waves break roughly over the rise of rocks we’ll be exploring today. The wind blows gently across the sand, which ripples beautifully across the beach in the low, early light.

The wind drops a little as we climb into a small rowing boat to board our diamond boat. The sea rocks us with small waves but nothing too dangerous – they wouldn’t be out here in conditions any worse than today’s relative calm. Shrouded in a faint haze of diesel fumes, the diamond vessels are all about work. Every inch of spare space is crammed with the loud mining machinery that sucks the rocks off the seabed, separates the larger rocks and seawater and then pans the smaller rocks to sort them and hopefully find the diamonds.

We spent a good hour or two scouting around the seabed, watching the divers prep for submersion and getting the equipment in place. Later, I was lucky enough to don a dry suit, drop into the freezing water and have a go myself. Buffeted by waves that push you around under the water, with numb arms and legs, half blinded by the detritus that rises from the seabed as you move the sucker around; I earned a new respect for these guys and the conditions in which they find themselves.

I don’t want to spoil the end of the day, but I was surprised to learn that even a good haul of diamonds isn’t worth as much as you might think and to realise just how hard these people have to work for their money.

IMG_1284We arrive back on the beach at sunset but our day’s not quite over. Today is Nelson Mandela Day, which is celebrated by doing 67 minutes of activity that helps your community – in remembrance of the 67 years Mandela spent working for the freedom of his country and people. The team and I decide to clean up one of the neighbouring beaches in Port Nolloth (as it’s not often visited by the public, the diamond beach is spotless). It’s nice to give some small thing back to a country that’s treated us so well.

For more action follow us @extremefrontier