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.

December 6, 2005:
Raising the Grace span from Town Creek

Well, what started as a major disaster for me (overwriting the 2 sec video of the morning blast) - finished with a big big smile. Mickey reminded me (Advanced Blasting Services) - of the afternoon retrieval (unblasting) which I managed to forget - of course, if you drop the segment in the am - then you must undrop it in the pm. So here is the story - and the conditions could not have been better - nice evening light, Gary and Sparky and Bud, the to-be-lit Ravenel in the background and the opportunity to practice night photography.

I did manage to get some video this evening without overwriting it. Here are two segments:

Here is the setup - The Grace cantilever section to the left, a (I-did-not-know-what-to-call-it-then) twin boom floating derrick for lifting, a red crane for helping and lots of friends. I now know the name of the yellow twin boom derrick. Many thanks to Mr. Oswalt, part owner of Charleston Heavy Lift who sent me a wonderful calendar and some technical information about their twin boom crane. It has a lifting capacity of 450 tons when the boom angle is 81.15 degrees. Here, I would guess that the boom angle is about 60 degrees - which has a slightly less (435 tons) lifting capacity.

A closer view of the lift bar and attached cables - just like picking a girder - except under water

The light was fantastic - so another view of the setup

and a closer view of the lift bar and cables

Ever watch the evening sun reflecting on the Ravenel Bridge? I could not resist

A closer view - with all the cooks, chiefs, bottle washers and cheerleaders

Someone forgot to turn the Ravenel lights on

The beginning of the lift

Look closely on the left and you'll see rods poking up through the water and one of the white buoys behind them

Lifting a bit more

and a closer look - and now the Ravenel lights are on

More lifting - and there was a small problem. Something was binding one end of the Grace structure - so the barge was rotated, thus rotating the segment and unbinding it from whatever -

then more lifting

Sparky got a better contrast

and more lifting

and a closer look at the lifting

Now you can see the floor girder structure

And here, the section is completely out of the water

Enter the barge (from stage left) for receiving Grace -

Rotating the barge

and lowering Grace onto the barge

From Sparky's position, you can see the fragments that need to be cut

Cutting a few fragments to promote a soft landing

Sparky got a better shot of the cutting

then down


And from Sparky's location - a better view

and now in the sleeping position

and as seen by Sparky

A last look - time to go home - and good night and good luck

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer