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.

June 7, 2006: Sailing with Lewis with Michael and Timmy hammering while Smokey is fishing.

Our sailing vessel

which had good company - the Queen Mary - 2

Sparky got up early and made some really good shots

and all purpose Lewis - when last seen was burning a hole in the P-12 template

and with a smile

Michael back at work, unbuilding the core of P-something

hammering away

with a pattern for efficiently unbuilding the core

Here is Michael doing a bit of maintenance.

and Smokey fishing

and he caught something

hmmm -

and Michael is back working on P-something

With Kim driving, Ken, Chris and I return to the dock. In the background, Michael and his 1250 on steroids, Smokey and the divers.

Bye Bye C-3

Bye Bye Timmy

again - bye bye

Bye Bye unbuilding worksites

and back at the port, bye bye Grace and Pearman superstructures

Post Script

After leaving Ken and Chris, I stopped by the trailer to say goodbye to Ponch. I opened the door and there were Steve Testa and Ken Canty as well as Ponch Billingsley. We had our goodbyes and shared some of the fun we have had together on the unbuilding project.

Later this evening, Steve DeMello (the super Dale Earnhardt fan), Jackie Foley (the gourmet wine expert) and Michael Hebb (master of steroid-enhanced 1250s) came over to our home on their Harleys. I don't know what it is about Harley-Davidson machines, but Wade Watson of PBC also had a Harley. Anyway, the guys came over and we talked about the project, our families and what happens next. Joshua Hebb phoned (probably Tina), as well as Bob McCabe (from Mississippi) and Jackie's sister (from Boston) phoned - spontaneously during our time together.. For me, these guys and their families, and many other of the PBC / Testa / Cashman team became part of our extended family. We will continue to talk by phone, to communicate by email and most likely, our paths will cross again. For me, these past 3 years have been the best of my life.

One last observation. Sparky and I have discovered the delight in curiosity. At MUSC, and now at Duke - Singapore, I focused on creating an enabling Internet infrastructure. The main idea was to provide a way for faculty and students to share ideas, not only among themselves but with the world. The bridge building and unbuilding projects provided prototypes that helped me understand ways to share. Clearly our focus on an enabling IT infrastructure created people interactions that would not have happened without the Internet. Our curiosity led us to photographically capture the construction of the Ravenel Bridge and the unbuilding of the Grace and Pearman Bridges. Sparky is another example of a friendship that was triggered by our Internet sharing of our photos. Sparky and Tesie and their kids have joined our family and probably our paths will cross many times in the future.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer