Here is a brief recollection of times past and how a consultant enters a new area of practice.
In 1976, Andy Robertson decided that SRK had to get into groundwater, now called hydrogeology or geohydrology. In those days almost nobody in South Africa did groundwater as a focused discipline. Andy invited Bill Brown to come out from Vancouver to teach us. Oscar assigned Dick Connelly and me to spearhead the opening of a groundwater practice. Bill and Dawn arrived and I liked them immediately. I am not sure the same is true for Dick. Bill was big and bluff, hard drinking, and hard swearing. Dawn was tall, beautiful, gracious, and as hard-drinking as Bill.
Bill never seemed to actually “work.” He partied. I took him and Dawn out to the Magaliesburg one weekend to see the big mountains. They seemed unimpressed but were polite and asked for another drink. When I visited their home in Horseshoe Bay north of Vancouver, I knew why the Magaliesburg was not impressive. Their pyramid-shaped house perched on the side of a vast mountain soaring up into the clouds and falling forever to the crashing waves. All was glass and you were in the forests & crags and sky & sea in that house. But there was always a plentiful supply of expensive alcohol.
One day, Bill took me out to a First Nation territory to introduce me to the practice of groundwater. The tribe had asked him to locate a new well for their water supply. We drove up those grand mountain roads and to the valleys and hills of the place. We met the leaders, chatted, drove around talking of things in general, went to lunch well supported by gin and tonic, and returned to the field. For Bill still had to site the new well. We climbed from the car, gazed on the wondrous landscape, and Bill sagely pointed to a slight rise.
“Drill just over that rise.” He told them.
We got back into the car and returned to Vancouver. I asked him how he knew where to drill.
“Jack,” he said, “I studied the topography and geology maps before we came. I noticed a dike across the valley floor. I simply told them to drill upgradient of that dike. They will find plenty of groundwater there.”
Later I learnt that they had drill there and found plenty of water there.
Back in South Africa, Dick and I pounded the pavements of groundwater. Nobody really knew what we were talking about. But Dick pounded the pavements much harder than me, and he made headway. He got a project and then another and another. Today he is back in London and there he heads up the SRK groundwater practice.