Diving in the Ball!

This is a DO YOU KNOW from FJ's from December 1972 describing the day John Woolf went for a dive in the Silver Ball.    DO YOU KNOWs were the daily staff bulletins posted on noticeboards thoughout the factory to keep people in touch with news about the factory and workers.  

Up and Down.

How would you like to go for a swim, 125ft above the factory?

You ask a silly question; you get a silly answer.  

No! No! We're quite serious.  A couple of our staff are going for a swim in the big silver ball today.  

You will remember that we described the installation of the magnetic alloy electrodes as a rust prevention system.  

This morning, John Woolf will put on a wet-suit and dive down to the bottom of the tank.  (It's 125 feet from top to bottom).

John will have Bill Johnson and Alan Beales standing by.  

The purpose of this exercise is to "make sure that the voltage is O.K. down the bottom of the tank."

It sounds fantastic, but I guess it must be true.  After all, it's not the sort of the thing you'd do for laughs.  

 "When I was a kid at East Warrnambool Primary School, I can remember the whole school came out to watch the day when John Woolf climbed up the ball to go diving inside.  John's son was in my class."  David Mitchell  (The East Warrnambool Primary School is about 100 metres from the Silver Ball).

John Woolf was an electrician at Fletcher's for almost 19 years.  John told this story: "Lou Gersch - a brilliant German electrician who worked at Fletcher's had the idea to put the electrified anodes into the ball to attract rust away from the surface of the ball. That day in 1972 when I went diving into the ball - it was to see if they were working and how efficient they were.  That was the only time I went diving in the ball!  My hobby was scuba diving and I used to help fisherman repair their boats and I liked to love to go diving in the sink holes around Mt. Gambier until my wife found out how dangerous they were and told me to stop!   Bill Johnson was a plumber at Fletcher's and he was experienced in water sports and so he was the backup should anything go wrong.  

It was pretty dark inside as the only light was from the small manhole at the top of the ball and it got a bit hairy at one stage because my tube got caught around one of the anodes nd I had to go all the way down to the bottom of the ball again to release it.  You can't panic in that kind of situation.  I would have been inside for about an hour and I tapped on the ball with a spanner - like morse code - to communicate with Alan and Bill outside.  Bill didn't actually have a tank so he would have had to just hold his breath if he needed to come in and help me!   We connected all the leads from the anodes to a metre and the connections were at the top of the ball, so we could check them in future without going into the ball.  We found that the anodes were in fact doing an excellent job.  There were two inside the internal tank - I didn't check those because it was too hard to get in there, but I had to check all the others that were hanging at different levels in the outer tank.  

I can remember all the East Warrnambool Primary school kids standing outside watching me as I climbed up the ball and there was an article in the Warrnambool Standard that I don't have anymore with a title something like 'Diver in the Sky.'   A Standard photographer was supposed to come up and take photos but he was too scared and so me and Alan Beales took all the photos for him!"  John Woolf


A DO YOU KNOW - the FJ daily staff bulletin from December 1972.  Donated by the Jones Family
John Woolf and Bill Johnson on top of the ball as John prepares for the dive inside to check the electrified anodes!  December 1972.  Photo:taken by Alan Beales and loaned thanks to John Woolf.
East Warrnambool Primary School from the Silver Ball, December 1972- the kids have gone back inside by the time the photo was taken.   Photo: John Woolf
Anode readings outer tank 1977-1988.  Thanks to John Woolf
Front page of the Warrnambool Standard December 7, 1972 with the article titled 'High Dive.' Thanks to Rebecca Riddle of the Standard for searching the archives!

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