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.

March 18, 2006:
Ironworker acrobats and my last look at Grace

    Learning Links
  • About Ironworkers and a yo-yo The Yo-yo is a spring loaded spool of cable that is attached to a stationary point. The Ironworker attaches his safety belt to the yo-yo cable. In case of a fall, the yo-yo stops releasing cable - thus limiting the fall of an attached worker - just like a seat belt. One can slowly pull on a seat belt and continue to lengthen the belt. A quick pull, though results in no seat belt movement.
  • Aboriginal Ironworkers and safety
Gary, Sparky and I met this morning for a group photo - sort of a reminder to us of our journey through the Ravenel building and now the Grace and Pearman unbuilding. Then off we went on Pat's Capt. Gary

Scotty was recruited as a deck hand

Our early morning team: Chris, Manny, Scotty, Chucky and Nugget

Early morning view of the Ravenel and to the right - our worksite

After arriving at the barge - its time for Pat's 2nd or 3rd tea

The worksite - removing this unit as two halves (left) with Manny's 2250 (right)

Here is Motivator, Gary who is full of beans, sings his guitar and generally charges everyone with his smile and energy.

Scotty pulling all the pieces together




Chris and Nugget off to set up the yoyos

And a reminder - yesterday's catch of supports and roadway girders

First to rig the upper section - Nugget and Chucky cut holes on each side though which will pass cables attached to Manny's crane

Here is a better view of cutting the holes.

Watch Nugget cut a hole.

Gary preparing the cables

Hmmmm - a group therapy session

Limp cables before (left) and unlimp cables (right) enabling Manny to stabilize the top section (unlimp is a frank word, not for Joshua)

Chucky at work

Chris directing traffic as Manny removes the slack in the hoist cables

Cousin Arthur looking on

Chris starting the cuts that will separate the top half from the bottom half - while Chuckie watches

Sometimes, even Frank watches - here Sparky catches me moving from the primary barge to the receiving barge

Chuck starts cutting the corner girder demonstrating 6 different ironworker acrobatic positions
Position 1 (wrapped):

Position 2 (the one step position):

Position 3 (balanced):

Position 4 (the saddle position):

Nugget buring the west corner - in Position 5 (the teathered position):

Chris joining the action cuts the center element using Position 6 (the standing position):

Nugget cutting the southwest corner support

Nugget cutting the northwest corner executing Position 1: the wrapped position as seen from behind

Nugget demonstrating the standard ironworker acrobatic Position 1, from behind

Nugget cutting the north center element - starting


Chris burning his cut line - and starting on the right

about half finished

and almost complete

Now cutting the diagonal brace

Here you can see the diagonal element cut (standard acrobatic position 1)

Chris finishing the final cut.

another view

Then Manny takes over - Watch Manny Gracefully lift Grace's upper torso (3 Mb mpg). Sparky was at the other end of the barge for this view (2 Mb mpg).



and gently placing Grace on the barge for a trip Up A Lazy River

 Up a lazy river where the robin's song
 Wakes up in the mornin', as we roll along
 Blue skies up above ....everyone's in love
 Up a lazy river, how happy we will be, now
 Up a lazy river with me

 (instrumental break)

 Up a lazy river by the old mill run
 That lazy, lazy river in the noon day sun
 You can linger in the shade of that fine ole tree
 Throw, away your troubles, baby, dream with me

 Up a lazy river where the robin's song
 Wakes a brand new mornin' as we roll along
 There are blue skies up above...and as long as we're in love
 Up a lazy river, how happy we could be
 If you go up a lazy river with me
 Ah said with me now.....goin'up that... lazy river..... with me

 Louis Armstrong recorded this song December 10, 1956
 with the Sy Oliver Orchestra
 and with the All Stars December 11, 1956

Soon work starts on the bottom half: Gary cutting the base

Nugget starts cutting the base

Time for me to make my way home - so Lewis, a multiple personality ironworker from my Ravenel adventures is here

One of the wonderful aspects of working with Sparky is he seems things that I don't see - here, Lewis and myself - on our way home - late, as usual for Ellen - sigh - what a tolerant wife. Here is Sparky's view of my exit.

Meanwhile - Chris and some serious burning on Grace's base

a different cut

Nugget (far) and Chris (near) - an acrobatic duo

A close look at the base cut

Nugget in the saddle position - cutting away

and its almost complete

Chris finishing up

Nugget finishing up

All cutting complete - and now its time for Manny's song.

Lifting - Watch Manny Gracefully lift Grace's bottom (2 Mb mpg)

and placing her bottom on the barge

Another day and another graceless base

Our bridges in the background


and no story is complete without a view of Tenacity of purpose. Look what a smooth surface Michael left for Mickey. Phillip and Silas have drilled 45' holes for Wednesday's implosion of the T-3 substructure - aka Tenacity of Purpose

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer