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.

April 14, 2006:
Before and After:

Sparky and I have been tracking bridge building and unbuilding for the past 3 years. The top of the Ravenel towers provides an unusual view of both the building and unbuilding processes. When Sparky sent me his photos from yesterday I thought it would be interesting to use the photos taken from the top during the Ravenel building - over the past couple of years and focus not on the building but the views of the Town Creek, Drum Island and Cooper River segments of the Grace and Pearman Bridges. Here are the comparision photos.

Looking west toward Charleston

Jul 21, 2004: Early building of the primary approach and clear views of the Town Creek sections and Drum Island sections of the Pearman and Grace Bridges (from west tower)

Feb 1, 2005: From the east Ravenel tower, there is a clearer view of the Pearman and Grace cantilever sections. Note the square box surrounding the Grace support just before the cantilever section. This is the region that had to be rebuilt during the Pearman construcdtion.

Feb 11, 2005:
Today, Oliver Forget and his Freyssinet team pulled the last pair of stay cable. Being February, the air was clear and the top of the east tower provided a good view of the main span gap on the Ravenel as well as the Pearman and Grace cantilever sections as well as their feeder Drum Island sections.

March 29, 2005:
Shortly after the east and west main spans of the Ravenel were joined as seen from the east tower. Another good view of the Grace and Pearman structures crossing Town Creek and Drum Island.

April 14, 2006:
And Sparky's view of the unbuilding from the east tower. Gone are the Town Creek spans and the Drum Island structures. All that remains are paths across Drum island and the west Pearman cantilever and the Grace cantilever and approach sections. Mickey's Advanced Blasting Service has removed the D-25 to D-28 Pearman substructures and the jackup barge is resting in front of C-2 supporting drilling for implosion. The only remaining structure in Town Creek is P-3, Michale's pain-in-the-neck.

Looking east toward Mt. Pleasant

Before the opening of the Ravenel Bridge, looking toward Mt. Pleasant

March 22, 2005:
The east tower crane is still in position. The light gray section near the bottom of the photo, where the stay cable change direction, is where the east and west spans were joined.

May 22, 2005: Gone is the east tower crane

July 15, 2005:
The day before the opening as seen from the west tower. The white and yellow lane markers are in place. A clear view of the Mt. Pleasant approaches and the future home of the Mt. Pleasant observation and fishing pier.

April 14, 2006: Sparky's view.
Note the residual Pearman substructures that will become the supporting structure of the Mt. Pleasant observation and fishing pier. Julian Adams in Joanna, SC has super curious eyes and has noticed that near the expansion joints there are dark streaks in the middle of each lane on the east side of the westbound lanes and on the west side of the east bound lanes. My guess is this is oil from diesel engines that shakes loose after the small bounce associated with passing over the expansion joint. There must be a better solution to this question. Any other ideas?

And a closer look from above at the unbuilding: The east Grace cantilever

The east cantilever, P-10 and the dropped section between P-11 and P-12

and a bit of nostalgia from me: one of the last early morning photos I took of the Grace as I rode my bicycle across the Pearman to catch closeups of the Ravenel building process. (May 7, 2004)

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C. Frank Starmer