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 25, 2006:
Michael's headache and some crane rebuilding

Last week, we had Mickey's farewell to Frank and Mickey's farewell to the T-3 substructure - which I prefer to call tenacity of purpose. Well Michael is at it again - hammering away at T-3's sister, P-3, a large Grace pier.

Looking closer, you'll see red marks along the edge of the support. These are 10 feet apart and represent a tenacity meter. Michael (and probably Steve Testa) can measure the intensity of purpose required to bring down the solid columns on either side and the hollow interior. But there is a problem. Can you imagine Michael, even in his tilted cab, looking up 130 feet in order ot surgically place his hammer and unbuild this Grace pier? Call it a headache? I'd say that to undo the bend in Mike's neck will require at least 2.5 weeks of intensive therpy - probably with Joshua, Samatha and Stephanie - with Tina as the cheer leader.

Meanwhile on the Mt Pleasant side a story of legacies: - Here is the worksite: Cousin Arthur watching the unbuilding of Grace and the Pearman

A section of the Grace support

Pio's legacy - how much sidewalk does Joe Duffy think Pio and his team made?

Manny's legacy - look at all the missing supports


Derek and Mammoet's legacy - no main span

Meanwhile out at the Navy repair center - Chucky and our ironworkers are busy unbuilding the crane's boom

Pulling a pin is sort of like pulling a tooth -requires a bit of encouragement

Which Chris in the driver's seat - Steve DeMello has some competition for the #8 and #3 car

Sparky at his best - this time, inside the crane's boom

The section to be replaced

with a bit of encouragement, of course

Separation of the sections

the new section

Positioning the new section


Almost aligned to the encouragement position

Insert the pin

and encourage

Then encouraging the bottom pin

Meanwhile - Jerome doing a double jaw procedure

in his shop

with a bit of encouragement (a universal concept in the unbuilding trade)

And back at Michael's headache - his high reach encourager unbuilding P-3

Note the position of Michael's cab just to the right of the middle spud. Even at this angle - a bit of neck action is required. What he needs is one of those astronaut reclining seats so that he can immediately visualize that is happening at the top of the pier. Maybe even a zero G environment would help. Can you image a 12 hour shift of looking 130 ft. up without getting a stiff neck. Time to get NASA involved in our unbuilding project and send Michael to Bob McCabe's therapist

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C. Frank Starmer