The 10 most important things one should learn and do whilst on Pitcairn
Heating water on Pitcairn - The Copper
Pitcairners heat their water by fire. The arrangement which holds and heats the water is called the 'Copper'.
Darrin and Brandon show us the difference between hot or not water!
In the early days a copper bowl was held above ground by rocks, cement or in Reynolds case a steel drum, under which a fire is lit to heat the water. The hot water was then bucketed to where it was needed.
Around the early eighties, spent 44 gallon drums were put to good
use. Laid on their side they were hard plumbed into home water systems.
From a header tank, piping ran into the bottom of the drum.
From the top of the drum piping ran into the house to hot water taps. The workings of the drum
are very simple, cold water sinks, hot water rises.
- very, very cheap to build and easy to install
- hot water could be piped directly into the home.
- The steel drums needed to be replaced every 1-2 years due to internal rusting and discolouration of water.
- Drums couldn't be put under extreme pressure, although a simple piece of pipe extending from the drum to above the header tank acted like a relief valve, minimising risk.
The arrangement couldn't be close to a house
Just a few years on the first home introduced the stainless steel drum, traded for on a passing ship.
There were several advantages of stainless,
- it can last for years (20+), consequently the drum could be cemented inside a firebox.
- the firebox could be located very close, if not inside an annex to the home.
- the cement firebox could hold the heat for several days.
- it was far safer than anything previously used.
Ok - now for the hard bit. Of course you need a good supply of wood to heat your copper. An average home will need approximately 1 cubic metre of wood per month. Fortunately on Pitcairn we have, in abundance, a tree we call Roseapple. This provides the island with an unlimited supply.
is the primary source of firewood
I like to cut around 4-5 months of wood each time. Anymore and it tends to soften and become too dry before using it i.e. you burn a lot more heating your water.
Any less wood and cutting fire wood becomes an onerous task. Allow
5-6 days to fell, chop, split and stack firewood for 5 months.
Fortunately this time, Darrin and Brandon were here to lend a hand.
Roseapple stumps can be up to 30-40-60cm in diameter, so you do need to
work these bigger logs.
Brandon spent many days splitting these down into managable pieces.
Now the fun bit...
Darrin prepares a handfull of kindling by further splitting wood into thin pieces.
Careful alignment and positining of wood is crucial at this point. A major collapse, could put the small flames out... and having to start again.
Once going it's simply a matter of stoking with bigger pieces. In summer one good stoke will provide you with boiling water for up to 2 days. In winter it pays to give it a second stoke, just to ensure that second days hot water.
Lastly, it's cheers all round. Darrin's successfully given Big Flower two more days of hot boiling water.