How long could a simple kitchen kettle withstand the battering of the most powerful waterfall on earth?
I ask because – a long time ago – my wife, Merran inadvertently dropped a kettle down the Victoria Falls. She wasn’t my wife at the time. In fact, we hadn’t even met. She had just arrived in the country now called Zambia and in the frontier town of Livingstone the town librarian and his wife, the Clarks, befriended her. They seem to have been a somewhat eccentric couple. They liked to arrange picnics in the Victoria Falls. Yes, in the falls. The mighty Zambesi broadens out there and becomes shallow just before the great drop. You can wade across at that point. There are several small islands there. You can sit at the edge of one of these islands with your feet dangling over the edge, and watch the river thundering down on either side of you – all of 110 meters down – into the cauldron. Not recommend it for anyone with vertigo!
The Clarks would bring across a cake, sandwiches and a kettle to boil water for tea. The kettle they unwisely entrusted to Merran. She was not used to tiptoeing along the edge of precipices. They would also bring some dry firewood. They could have found wood on the island, but it would have been wetted by the spray of the falls. There was always a cloud of tiny waterdrops like smoke hanging there – hence its name in the Lozi language – Mosy-ao-tunya – the smoke that thunders.
It must be almost 70 years since she dropped that kettle. I wonder whether small metal fragments are still being washed round and round that thunderous cauldron.