Hongo Ochuka barked orders at the crew. Men scrambled to get tools in place and finish last minute preparations on the tunnel, the boring machine and the equipment.
Ochuka grew up in the Kenyan port city of Kisumu on Lake Victoria. In his youth, war stories of the Mau Mau Rebellion fascinated him. He played defense on his soccer team at Kisumu Boy’s High School. As a pedantic student and a disciplined soccer player, he earned respect from administrators and his teammates. His family steered him into military service soon after graduation. His Luo tribesmen hoped to populate Kenya’s somewhat newly independent military with members of their tribe. Ochuka quickly implemented his rigid work ethic and wound up leading a large mobile armoured maintenance group in the Kenyan Army.
On Sunday August 1st, 1982, disaster stuck as members of the Kenyan Air Force took over the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and announced through the radio that they had taken over the government. Earlier that day, members of the coup had pressed a gun to the heads of a few pilots and ordered them to bomb the State House in Nairobi. The Kenyan State House acts similar to the American White House and traditionally houses the President. The pilots agreed on the ground, but in the air, they changed the plan and dropped the bombs in the forests surrounding Mount Kenya.
Ochuka received a call that morning as he prepared to attend church services in Nairobi. His colonel ordered him to round up twenty other men from the battalion stationed in the area and attack the KBC TV station. He executed the attack efficiently and ruthlessly, killing over a hundred former members of the Kenyan Air Force.
Although lauded for his efforts, the experience hardened and jaded him. He left the military a few years later to take up studies at the Mzizima University of Tanzania. Through his studies there he got involved with the Olduvai Gorge digsite. He eventually became the digsite director, managing the native staff and overseeing maintenance on the excavation equipment.
With fresh funding stemming from their big discovery, the Prices underwent a major expansion of the digsite’s workforce. They heard about Ochuka and his leadership skills through the grapevine and lured him over with a compensatory offer that he could not refuse.
Hunter and Tiyana approached Hongo as the preparations wrapped up.
Hunter greeted a little awkwardly with “Habari ya asubuhi Hongo, you are at it early today, bwana.”
Hongo replied with a sarcastic grin, “Mzuri sana, na wewe?”
“Aaaii, sielewi, sielewi, sorry Hongo, but that’s about as far as my kiswahili will take me I’m afraid.” Hunter replied with a shrug.
Hongo assured him. “No worries Mr. Price. Today nothing will go wrong. This I make sure. We are ready to place the support rings, the machine has been tested, we have had good training, and we are strong and ready.”
“Alright then Hongo, we have a lot of faith in you and your crew. While you all board I’d like to make a few spot checks on the drill here.” Tiyana remarked.
She called the shots in virtually every aspect of the enterprise regardless of nominal titles or putative delegations of responsibility.
Hunter, Hongo, and the six-member work crew sat squished together in the cramped space within the walls of the boring machine. The crew consisted of four hardworking Egyptian men who had helped the Prices find the ding as well as a couple of men that Hongo had brought with him from Tanzania. They made small talk as they waited for Tiyana to finish her safety checklist and fire up the big drill. Tiyana, who held a doctorate degree in Chemical Engineering from the National Australian University, received extensive training from the Grabenbohren agents before they lent the machine to the expedition. Tiyana was a master of her craft. She never met a technical problem that she could not solve. Hongo joined her for much of the training and although neither of them had bored a tunnel before, they both felt up to the task.
“Well, I guess we’re as ready as we’ll ever be,” Tiyana said as she climbed up into the machine with the rest of them.
Hongo got on the radio and told the operators to fire up the engine. A deafening roar rose around them as the four-thousand horsepower diesel engine thrummed. The soft rock gave way slowly yet easily under immense hydraulic power. Hunter and Tiyana watched as small bits of rock rolled past them on a conveyer belt to the back of the machine. There, the stationary crew unloaded the rock and transported it out of the underground tunnel system. Tiyana monitored a vast array of dials and meters, making adjustments here and there in order to assure that the machine stuck to its predetermined course. All the while, Hongo and his crew worked to place steel ring supports in the tunnel, ensuring that their newly-bored hole would sustain the dead load and keep from collapse.