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 14, 2005:
Early morning girder harvesting

Work starts early each morning for our Unbuilders - this is what Mt. Pleasant looks like at 6:33 looking east. (The time is recorded by the camera as part of the EXIF data - the learning lesson for today).

Look south-west from the Grace Bridge, Chris's 7550 is in place for harvesting more concrete girders

Walking up the Pearman - another view of the early morning wakeup. The lights in the lower middle are from the jack-up barge in its sleeping position

A closer view of the jack-up barge waking up

Here is the 7550, the underside of the Ravanel and the vertical jack-up barge supports

Concrete cutting was finshed yesterday by Ted, which in Boston English is pronounced Tad. Today, John, Stanley, Scott and Chris will do their high girder act

while Chris Vocci positions himself in the warm comfort of his 7550 cab for gentle lifting, rotating and lowering each girder.

The end of the lift bar, a nice view of the east Ravenel tower Chris watching us and Stanley starting to warm up a bit.

Its 6:57 and the jack-up barge is in its elevated configuration. The transition from the resting to elevated configuration was so quiet that I failed to notice its ascent.

Here, the sun longer wave length light (red) is beginning to touch the fluffy clouds - and the lift bar on the left and jack-up barge legs on the left. In the middle is Bob McCabe, the director of this ensemble.

The Scott Stone and Chris Wakeman start to prepare the lift bar

with Bob's blur (always checking on things)

The first taste of morning color and the 7550

as Scott and Chris prepare to mount the girder and connect the lift bar

Here Bob is checking something - but look at the clouds!

Here John is making his way to the far end of the girder

and in position. Note the tie-off cable looped around the lift bar

In the background, you can see the hydraulic hammer hovering over a Pearman support (M-8), slowly chipping away at it.

Here, John and Stanley at the far end and Chris and Scott at the near end secure the lift bar to the girder

with Chris Vocci looking on (in his Tonka-toy-on-steroids).

All the while Bob is checking

With the far end attached, John and Stanley wait

while the Chris and Scott finish their attachment. Also a nice view of the Ravenel

The last step is to cut the metal that links the girder to the support - here, just after ignition.

Then cutting through the attachments

and near the end of each cut is a burst of sparks

Then Chris starts to lift the girder in the comfort of his heated cab while we are freezing. Click for a synthesized video from individual photos

Then he rotates the girder

Better seen here

Chris will place the girder on top of the left and right shoulders - with a little encouragement from the team.

In its resting position

Here is Jackie - ready to move in with his shear

and after a few bites, cuts the girder into several segments

Scott (Billingsley) is driving the forklift on steroids

and here Jackie hands a girder segment to Scott who takes it to the Coleman recycle center for later transplantation to an artifical reef

From the Grace - here is a view of the harvesting process

Initial lift


and lower onto the shoulders

Nice start for the morning - but my hands are freezing,

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer