Unbuilding the Grace and Pearman Bridges

For Sparky and myself, curiosity drives passion which in turn fuels our life's engine. Our passion was capturing the story of both unbuilding the Grace (1929 - 2007) and Pearman (1966 - 2007) Bridges and discovering the unbuilders. It takes a lot of passion to track a project from July 2005 until April 2007 - rain, shine, hurricanes or moving to Singapore. We discovered the joy of discovery learning. Ken Canty opened the front door for us - then Steve Testa, Ponch Billingsley and Mickey Rogers opened many side doors. Below are the highlights of what we discovered, who we met and what we learned.

And a reminder from T.S. Eliot (East Coker from the Four Quartets)

Home is where one starts from. As we grow older
The world becomes stranger, the pattern more complicated
Of dead and living. Not the intense moment
Isolated, with no before and after,
But a lifetime burning in every moment
And not the lifetime of one man only
But of old stones that cannot be deciphered.

July 26, 2006: Mickey and his ABS University

Way back in March, Mickey invited me to the opening of the ABS University - and to enroll as the first student in his School of Blastology. I was not a good student. In spite of Mickey's superior teaching skills, I managed to bury a measuring tape with stemming and to break said measuring tape by trying to extract it. On the other hand, I was quite successful at less demanding tasks - to drop dynamite into the hole and to tie together the shock tube array. Mickey was disappointed at my learning skills and went back to the drawing board, designing a new curriculum. Today marks the opening of the next term in Mickey's university. The entering class is from the Charleston Bomb Squad. Immediately, Mickey knew he had a winner - they were bright, energetic, and up to the task of learning the ins and outs and ups and downs of Detonatology I, Packing I and Blastology I - II. Here is the story.

The Charleston Bomb Squad: Meet Karl, Joe, Jack and Mike

Meet the Eddie-R, and Captain John

Meet the barge-to-blow

and Professor Rogers, Dean of ABS University, never above any task and here carrying the camera tripods. Mike Nally is smiling!

Mickey always likes to start from the inside and work out

with Laura from Cashman watching his every move

The strategy: Take a box of dynamite, place a detonator in one and repack the box. Then strategically locate it inside the barge and cover it with sandbags to contain the shock and direct it in a downward direction (i.e. through the hull).
Meet the sandbags (on the right)

Meet Prof Rogers and the shock tube coil used to link the implanted detonator to the sequencing shock tube. Jack, Mike and Karl attentively watching as Lauri encourages.

The first task is to have the bomb-squad warm up by moving the sandbags from A to B - Click to see the video

Then the first lesson. Mickey demonstrates inserting a detonator into a tube of dynamite - right to left: Joe, James, Mike, Jack and Karl.

and shows it to Sparky for approval

Then it is planted inside the barge

Next we see Jack holding a tube of dynamite and watching Mickey's teaching paradigm: See one, Do one, and Teach one

Here is Jack of the CHS squad inserting the detonator tube. Joe is keeping a safe distance, while Karl is hovering behind Mike who is hovering behind Prof. Rogers who is hovering over Jack.

and Jack using a bit of leverage for inserting

then Prof ROgers holding the shock tube while Joe is placing the dynamite with detonator into a box of dynamite - later to be taken down below (see yellow ladder).

Then again, Jack displaying his new skill with leverage required the first time! (Mickey's first law of learning: Repetition)

The Eddie R pulling up for the big push - Mike above, Lewis below (blue hard hat) and ? and ?

More prep work - now a team of Joe (left) and Karl (right) and another ladder behind.

Jack is now an expert when inserting the detonator.

Laura is offering a short critique of Mickey's teaching strategy while Mickey watches attentively.

More prep - or a soccer match in disguise. Look at Joe (middle) forming a lasso with the shock tube.

and more prep - Jack zoning out on the bags of sand while Mike holds the shock tube and Karl pretends they are not there.

Now we are underway - with the Eddie-R pushing and the CHS bomb squad executing Mickey's lessons. Lewis (blue shirt) is in deep discussion while Laura simply takes a casual stroll.

Underway and passing the port. Note the large concrete block at the left end of the barge. Later, Lewis will do a little surgery on this

a good morning to Cousin Arthur

Mickey and Mike Nally - in the thick of a discussion of teaching strategies

The Graceless and Pearmanless Ravenel Bridge

the Eddie-R pushing

Starting the next lecture and practicum. Prof Rogers remains in the background while Joe stabilizes the dynamite and Mike holds the shock tube. Jack, wisely realizes that this could spell trouble and backed up a bit.

Laura has found a comfortable pile of sand bags and says bye bye to Charleston

Now for the next clase: Lessons about linking the shock tubes

and tie-in to the sequencing strand with Mike and Karl.

The Tie-in Class with Jack keeping a safe distance while Mike and Joe have at it under the watchful eyes of Prof. Rogers. Note Karl is positioned to either help or run.

more learning. Lets see if Karl and Joe complete this examination.

Now, applied sandology: Moving sand into the barge interior. Here, James is the instructor

Moving it down the ladder

Oops - a dolphin - time for a class break

Joe and Mike placing sand around a box of dynamite

Then here comes Mike down the ladder with a box of dynamite while Jack and Joe wave their hands.

Joe holding the shock tubes while Jack and Mike build a bunker with sand bags around the box of dynamite

Joe and Jack - moving a bag of sand. This requires lots of practice - like building a log cabin - one sand bag at a time

Now a bit of Oriental culture. We just started the 7th month of the Chinese year and the gates of Hell open and permit ghosts to escape for a month. Actually, this year, there is a leap-7th-month so the ghosts have freedom for 2 months. Here you can see the outline of ghosts around the bomb squad members - Helping with sand bag placement

Jack, Mike and Joe rapidlly building the sand-bag bunker

fine tuning the placement

Joe carrying the next box of dynamite with shock tube connected

And where are we? Passing Fort Sumpter on the left

Word of Mickey's class travels fast and we have company

Here is Mickey illustrating the "Do one" part of See one, Do one, Teach one" learning paradigm - stabilizing the box for Mike.

Change of venue - now the class (Joe and Mike) are meeting inside the barge

Inserting another detonator

and lowering the next box of dynamite

Precision placement

and precision building the sand bag bunker

while passing the channel barrier and the Morris Island lighthouse in the background

As you can see, we've left Charleston behind

Now comes the delicate task of sequencing the detonation

More teaching by Prof. Rogers with Karl and Mike.


The shock tube array

and more splicing

Class on the surface

and onlookers

Here Lewis is burning through some cables in preparation for dropping the concrete block.

and Lewis doing the work

10:15:07 -An 8 minute delay which seemed like 10 min - then BOOM

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer