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 second".
More delightfully still, Van der Spuy's pachyderm calculation is based on the fact that "during the last half of December and all of January", the gates sluiced "enough water to fill two million Olympic-sized swimming pools".
This represents a breathtaking 2,800m³ a second, and Van der Spuy helpfully suggested that to better visualise this deluge, you "should think in terms of elephants passing in front of your eyes at any given second".
So, if the average African elephant tips the scales at 4.6 tons, you're looking at the magic figure of 609.
Van der Spuy is a flood specialist who, along with colleague Brink du Plessis, keeps a close eye on dams and rivers. The report announcing the birth of the elephant-per-second standard concludes: "This past weekend the Fish River in Namibia went into flood with 1,000m³ (or 217 elephants) a second reportedly flowing into the Orange River about 100km from the Atlantic.
"At this point according to Du Plessis the Orange River is usually measuring 100m³/s or a mere 21 elephants a second." ®