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.

May 23, 2006:
Oscar and his team preparing for the blast tomorrow

I'm trying to catch up but Sparky can take great photos before I can download and prepare the text. We've been in Cozumel for the past week (that is my excuse for no updates) - with no email. Here are a collection of photos that show Demolition Dynamics preparing for the Pearman blast. What you will see is wrapping the explosives with kevlar and fusing. And soon, there will be some text to annotate the story

The worksite - the west section of the Pearman Bridge that projected into the ship channel (the cantilever section)

The context - the east section of the Graceless piers, C-4 I think, Michael working away at unbuilding P-10 and a bit of cousin Arthur looking on

Michael and his 1250, whacking away on the Grace pier (P-10?)

Another view of Michael - with Richie in Boston, Jackie somewhere and me in Singapore, it just is plain lonely looking at what Sparky sees but half a world away. For me meeting the unbuilders is up there high on my list of fortunate opportunities

Maybe Jackie is on this barge doing a bit of Grace fishing

The worksite - with the crane / elevator in place and our acrobats ready to do their thing

This looks like David

A couple of detonator assemblies

and the shaped charges

Oscar riding a floor girder after wrapping a charge with kevlar

A group of wrapped girders

Transport of acrobats and supplies is a continuous challenge. Here is the elevator bringing something

for the acrobats

and leaving

A detonator / fuse assembly prior to wrapping

Wrapping a charge assembly - how to keep the sheet of kevlar from flapping in the breeze while wrapping it around the girder

and Sparky, the photo artist - shooting through the crane boom

Wrapping a charge with kevlar sheets

Another wrapping exercise

The shock tubes that transfer the detonation process from button to explosives

Another view of the ignition system

Here you can see the cut through the base of the girder with two of the DD acrobats chillin' a bit.

To the right is a piece of conveyor belt - a large rubber band with a steel grid inside. These are places on the Ravenel side of the charges to contain the distribution of debris. To the left is a piece of kevlar being wrapped around the girder.

Note the ignition line above the charge with splices leading to each charge.

Oscar and David doing something

and Oscar doing another something

A charge and the initial wrap

The ignition system

Coupling the charge assemblies to the ignition system

Wrapping another charge - with the usual prelude of kevlar flapping in the breeze

The charges placed inside the girder with a sheet of kevlar doing its thing

and let the wrapping begin

Oscar on the left - doing some wrapping while someone else is practicing another acrobatic position on the right

Continued wrapping with new acrobatic positions

It just gets better. Reality TV has nothing on these guys

Cousin Arthur watching the wrapping process

more acrobatics

One completed, one to go

Enough is enough - time for a break

The elevator

another view

A good view of the charge in the middle, the kevlar wrapping and on the backside is the conveyor belt shield

Coupling charges to the ignition line

Lots of coupling to do

Coming down

Looking up through the superstructure with Cousin Arthur in the background

A good view of the elevator

and Sparky's artistic touch

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer