Let me start the story in 1969, when I was a final-year mining engineering student at the University of Chile. At that time, Andre Journel, a young man from the Paris School of Mines (Fontainebleau), came to Chile to teach a two or three months-long seminar on geostatistics. If I am not mistaken, that was the very start of geostatistics in Chile. This effort was continued in the early 70’s by Andre´s colleague Alain Merechal. In those days, geostatistics was highly mathematical and theoretical, as commercial software did not exist and enthusiastic users had to write their own code. It is not surprising that geostatistics in Chile had a distinct French flavor and Kriging was referred to as ‘Krigeage’. In my ignorance, I grew up thinking that Daniel Krige was a very clever Frenchman.
I had no further contact with geostatistics until 1975. At that time, I was working for Anglo American Corporation in Welkom, South Africa, in the Management Sciences Department, developing mixed integer programming models for mine planning. Of course, the gold grades assigned to the different mining areas had a large impact on the sequencing, as well as on the expected profits. My esteemed friends, the geologists, had the almost impossible task of predicting the gold and uranium grades of large blocks, based on perhaps half a dozen boreholes covering an area as large as 50 km2. On the other hand, closely spaced underground sampling showed large variability and intricate grade patterns. Grade predictions based on a very limited number of drill hole results seemed almost impossible. This is what started my interest in the subject.
At that time, publications were few - many of them in French, with at least 50 integrals per page. It was not easy! I admit I was battling to get to grips with the subject. One fine day, my boss said ‘Why don’t you go and see Danie Krige, perhaps he can give you a hand’. Immediately I replied ‘Great, I´m off to France’. ‘I’m afraid not, Danie works for Anglovaal in Johannesburg, so just get in your car’, came the reply.
I visited Danie every three or four months. He introduced me to his co-worker, Jean- Michel Rendu. They were extremely helpful and shared their knowledge, papers and lots of advice. During one visit, Danie explained that he was rather sad since Jean-Michel had accepted and offer as Professor at a prestigious University in the USA. Before returning to Welkom that evening, I walked into Danie’s office and said to him ‘What about the job, then?’ I thought to myself that I was being rather cheeky. To my great surprise Danie said ‘If you want the job, it is all yours’. I was delighted and could not wait to get home and tell my wife Patricia the great news.
I joined Anglovaal in 1976 and worked with Danie for 10 years. Danie was a patient boss and explained the famous log-normal regression model – the first steps towards kriging - on more than one occasion.
In the early 80’s, we gave four one-week courses at the University of Clausthal- Zellerfeld in Germany. On one of these occasions, our wives Ansie and Patricia accompanied us. We stayed in the silver-mining medieval town of Goslar, in Lower Saxony, close to the beautiful Harz Mountains. The hotel was close to the central square, housed in a thousand year-old building. In the evenings, after classes, we would sit in a quaint little coffee shop on the square, enjoying coffee with wonderful pastries and listening to the Town Hall ‘glockenspiel’.
For a weekend, we visited Berlin and took a bus tour to East Berlin. We crossed the wall at Check Point Charlie. A uniformed lady, who looked and acted as if she were a member of the Gestapo, boarded the bus, checked all the passports and returned them to each passenger, except Danie´s and mine. She took our passports into an office and stayed there for about 20 minutes. The other passengers were all muttering in German and looking at us. We had a quiet chat with Danie: ‘We are going to be famous; you coming from the land of apartheid and me from General Pinochet´s dictatorship. We might be here for a long, long time’. In the end the police woman came back, gave us our passports with a dour look and the tour continued normally.