back to article South African dam sluices 609 elephants per second

Regular readers know that we at the El Reg Bootnotes bureau are big fans of alternative units of measurement, so we'd like to raise a pint today to South African engineer Danie van der Spuy, who recently quantified the amount of water passing through the sluice gates of the Bloemhof dam as the equivalent of "609 elephants every …


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  1. LuMan

    Never mind elephants!

    Haven't those guys got the BEST names in the world!!!

  2. Code Monkey

    Elephants per second

    That has just shot to the top of my list of favourite measurements, wiping the floor with the Wales and even beating the Bulgarian Airbag.

    1. stucs201

      Mentioning the 'wales'

      Should an animal based unit of volume measurement be 'Whales'? We can also set a standard for measuring how upsetting something about in 'Wails'.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    enquiring minds want to know, is that 609 perfectly tessellated elephants per second, or are there gaps?

  4. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. Jack 12


      5 boring metric tonnes of propellent is 1.087 elephants? Assuming of course the average elephant tips the scales at 4.6 metric tonnes, but even if that 4.6 is british tons the figure is still only ~1.07 elephants.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    609 elephants per second

    It's good, but I think 6.09 × 10-10 PPP* sounds more boffinesque.

    (*Pachyderms Per Picosecond)

    1. Roger Varley

      609 elephants per second

      No need to over-egg things, PPM (Pachyderms Per Minute) has a sufficient ring to it I think.

      1. Code Monkey
        Thumb Up


        Especially as this would rate the dam at a magnificent 3654 PPM.

    2. eldakka Silver badge

      re: 609 elephants per second

      It would be more correct as:

      6.09 Ps^-1 = 6.09 Pachyderms per second, or

      6.09x10^-10 Pps^-1 = for Pachyderms per picosecond (or should that be x10^-12?)

  6. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Too confusing!

    You can't use elephants as a unit of liquid volume - elephants are a unit of time. If you remember "Gregory's Girl" the geek photographer/voyeur kid makes it clear that one elephant corresponds to one second (he counts 'one elephant, two elephant' etc)

    So that would make the dam handle 609 elephants per elephant...or is that elephants squared?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Six hundred and nine elephants per elephant can be annotated as 609 elephant². In other words, by establishing the relationship between mass and time, you begin to demonstrate the concept of acceleration, and if you keep working on this you'll find that an infinitely small piece of elephant can quickly reach phenomenal speed, which is how light gets about so quickly.

      It may be Friday, but it's not going-home time yet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Precisely

        >It may be Friday, but it's not going-home time yet.

        Oh yes it is.

        Local time here is 13:30 and not only is 14:00 going home time it's also going on holiday time so I'll be winding down with as many bootnotes as possible before disappearing for two weeks.

      2. Nathan Billett

        are you sure?

        "which is how light gets about so quickly"... or could it be that light is merely a gazillion sub-atomic elephants bouncing all over the place at their natural velocity... and whilst sub-atomic... that'd explain why light slows down when transferring between mediums... we'll, they gotta pause to make sure they don't fall in any sink holes!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @Nathan Billett

          Yes, I'm quite sure.

    2. Mike Richards Silver badge

      Mississippi surely?

      Time is measured in Mississippis.

      Which means the Orange River was discharging 609 elephants per Mississippi.

  7. Chronos

    African or Indian?

    And how does this translate to mammoths per microfortnight?

    Okay, I'm going...

    1. Velv

      Afrincan or Indian?

      Surely Indian elephants would only be relevant as an Imperial measure, and since the article uses cubic metres and kilometers, it must refer to African elephants.

      yeah, yeah, I'm going. Mine's the big flappy grey one with the odd protrusion from the front.

      1. Code Monkey


        South African dam, African elephants.

        If Indian dams ever break the 600 (African) elephant per second barrier, then we can start to argue.

  8. AdamT

    best units ever?

    _Nothing_ will displace my choice of Best Units Ever: "Acceleration measured in furlongs per square fortnight" (first seen in an '80/90s computer mag as an example of "you stored the values in units of <x> but the user wanted to see them in units of <y>")

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dam it

    Can we make him the villain in the next James Bond movie (use his real name) and have him drown for real in a freak accident during the filming.

    In which case, please note the volume in the tank before and after the accident so that I can I can calculate the flow of this dam in idiots per second.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      @ Dam it

      I'm searching and searching for the reason you would 1) wish death upon this man 2) call him an idiot....

      I can only guess you didn't RTFA and are purely going by the headline. true commentardary!

    2. Bilgepipe


      Who sprinkled grumpy powder on YOUR porridge this morning/

  10. Anonymous Coward


    That's really Pachyderm in isn't it?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: 609

      That was terrible, you should be shot.

  11. M7S

    For users in the northern hemisphere

    We'd need to be able to convert to the local imperial measurement in sheep, so we can visualise the flocks per microWales

  12. Elmer Phud

    Holy Grail

    So, were they African or Indian elephants?

    Bush or forest?

    No problem with carrying coconuts so that bit of the argument is sorted.

  13. taxman

    609 elephants per second

    Still having difficulty in grasping this.

    Does this mean a body of water equivalent to the volume of 609 elephants?

    Or what 609 elephants would pass as a body of liquid in a second?

    It's the sluicing thing that makes me wonder.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      the amount of water passed by 609 elephants in a second?

  14. ObSolutions, Inc


    "This represents a breathtaking 2,800m³ a second"

    Personally, I think I'd have problems taking a breath if I found myself inside 2,800m³ of water.

  15. Anonymous Coward

    I didn't quite understand...

    unless you convert in Jumanji's stampedes. *

    *One Jumanji's stampede is the amount of elephants, baby zebras and other wildlife running across the screen in so many seconds it took them to cross through the mansion. Say like... 40 seconds?

    Since in a JS you have barely 3 PPS...

  16. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Delightful image

    Of elephants lounging in inner tubes going 'wheeeeeeeee!' as they sail down-river.

  17. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

    Ellyphants pee in water... or not?

    Never mind all those ellyphants going through, is the water safe to drink, or is it full of ellyphant pee?

  18. Peter Gordon
    Thumb Up


    Oooooh... I love the "microfortnight" as a time measurement. 1 microfortnight of course being 1209.6 seconds.

    1. Peter Gordon

      Oh no....

      1209.6 seconds is a millifortnight! A microfortnight is 1.2096 seconds!

  19. Anonymous Coward

    Too metric.

    Shouldn't that be 1.2096 seconds?

    I prefer the old Imperial unit, the Varge: 700 seconds (or 'long ten minutes')

    12 x 12 x 12 Varges = 1 fortnight.

    And you can still divide it by 4, 5 and 7!

  20. Jdoe1
    Paris Hilton

    Conversion needed please.

    How many First Lady asses would that be a second?

  21. D. M
    Thumb Up

    short for EPS

    Now that sounds much better.

  22. Bernd Felsche

    One thought.

    Tusk. Tusk.

    1. ReggieB

      Four elephants

      My favourite unit had been the micro-Helen (The amount of beauty required to launch one ship). If I were to assume that one ancient Greek ship has the volume of 4 elephants, that would give:

      micro-Helen = amount of beauty required to launch 4 elephants.

      1. meanioni


        Surely that should be a milli-Helen, not a micro-Helen which is a millionth of a Helen. i.e. the amount of beauty to launch a thousandth of a ship, otherwise known as the level of beauty outside a nightclub in Ibiza at 4am...... :-)

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  24. meanioni

    I can beat that

    If we assume a photon moving at the speed of light has energy (and therefore by e=mc squared) mass, a single photon with a wavelength of 400nm moving past you would have, according to my calculations 1,656 yoctoelephants per second (i.e. 1.656 x 10 to the power of -27 elephants) :-)

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