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.

September 11, 2005: 9pm
Night work removing road panels and girders

The first surprise was that only one tower of the Ravenel Bridge was lit.

But in the meantime, the night crew was continuing to cut the roadway into 7 foot segments, remove them, cut the cross-pieces between the supporting girders and pull pairs of girders from the supporting structure. Here is the concrete saw - I suppose its a diamond tip blade.

Then the grapple moves in and lifts a panel (7 ft x 1/2 the road width)






higher until it falls over

Then the panel is pulled away from the work site

and removed by a big-time fork lift

Then more cutting

and more cutting - and at night - with the sparks flying, its better than the forth of July!

Its interesting with long exposures to see "shadow man"

and more shadow man

Then the grapple moves in again and rotates the panel up

and up

and up

and then picks the panel up as if picking up a pencil from the floor. These guys really do display incredible surgical skills!

Continuing to pick up the panel

and rotate it 180 degrees and stack them for the fork lift

Then cutting the girders continues - complete with 4th of July sparklers

I suppose its obvious that this really fascinates me!

Now to start the dental process - extracting a pair of girders. First a pair of cables is attached to the grapple

and the other end to the girders

Another view of attaching the cables to the girders.

and then the grapple stabilizes the girders while the final cutting continues (I think Rick Beauchamp is driving the 345 here and you can see his head inside the cab.

A few more adjustments

and then the big pull - just like a simple tooth extraction - except this tooth weighs several tons

Pulling up a little

Then lifting and pulling

and pulling and lifting a bit more

then pulling back a bit more

and then pulling the pair of girders out of the work site for removal sometime later (tomorrow?)

A bit more of pulling the girders

And finally, the extraction and clean-up is complete. Now There is a gap where the tooth was and its time to cut and remove the next pair of girders

I am quite impressed with the safety of these procedures. In many photos, you can see the tie-down cables and these guys are like high wire artists with torches.

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

C. Frank Starmer