Upington – Hakskeen Pan in the Kalahari, the site where the Bloodhound Supersonic Car (SSC) will attempt the land speed record later this year, is flooded. And organisers couldn't be happier about it.
The Kalahari received some 51mm of rain recently and the pan is flooded to a depth of 25cm.
“Oh, it's great that it’s flooded,” said Dave Rowley, the Bloodhound’s education director in SA. “It means the work that’s been done on the pan is being repaired."
For years, hundreds of locals have been manually picking up stones on the pan. Some 350 men and women from the Mier municipality – which includes Mier, Klein Mier and Rietfontein – have picked up 16 000 tons of stone from the pan.
“When it dries out all the hard work local people of Mier municipality over the last two years, all that work will be repaired – where they've taken away the stones – and the pan will be even more flat than it was before,” Rowley said.
This is being done as the record attempt needs a smooth surface. Even a small piece of stone could prove fatal at the high speeds the Bloodhound is expected to reach.
Driver Andy Green will attempt to drive the Bloodhound at a speed of 1 000mph (1 600km/h) to better his current world land speed record of 763mph he set in 1997.
The pan floods yearly
Organisers were looking to more traditional tracks when the idea of a new record attempt was mooted almost 10 years ago. They found suitable locations at Verneuk Pan and Hakskeen Pan, both in the Northern Cape, after looking at satellite images on Google.
“We've looked at more than 20 000 different locations worldwide, and that’s why we decided on Hakskeen Pan – it is that Hakskeen Pan floods virtually every year.
“When the pan dries up, all the gaps left by the removal of the stones will be gone. Where we did the tests last year, all those will be gone,” Rowley said.
The Bloodhound SSC is being built in the United Kingdom and it is 95% complete. Once engineers give it the all-clear, it will be taken for a road test in that country. It will then be flown to Upington and taken for tests drives on the pan before final adjustments are made.
A date has yet to be set for the record attempt.
As for the 16 000 tons of stones collected from Hakskeen Pan, the Mier municipality is mulling over turning them into a monument once the record attempt is done and dusted.
This would be to honour the expanded public works programme workers who have made it all possible.