Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Colossal, or Not?

According to this feature in the NY Times,  a “colossal bridge” will rise over the Hudson River, replacing the Tappan Zee (illustration, HDR):

The new, as-yet-unnamed bridge (actually two parallel cable-stayed spans, side by side) will be big in terms of traffic lanes, with tolls to match its ambitions, but I can't call it colossal, as in the Colossus of Rhodes. *

Perhaps to shore up the claim, the writer refers to the crane barge being summoned  from California, Left Coast Lifter, as "one of the world's largest." Another article called the barge "gargantuan." (Photo, American Bridge-Fluor Enterprises)

Impressive, yes, but with less than two thousand tons of lifting capacity, that barge isn't colossal either ... not when lined up against the much bigger ones used in the offshore oil and gas business, like the Saipem 7000. With the booms working in tandem, the S-7000 can lift 14,000 tons. 

So: what human-made object counts as a modern-day colossus? Ideas are welcome but in the meantime, how about the New Safe Containment, a giant arched shelter under construction near the wreck of Chernobyl Reactor 4. Once complete, it will cover the reactor and house a unique, remotely-operated bridge crane (Image, Wikimedia commons):

Here's an aerial image from Bing Maps. The Arch is the shiny object on the left side.



* Awe-inspiring, if exaggerated. The real Colossus of Rhodes statue was probably a hundred feet high on its pedestal, which was huge for the time, but it didn't straddle the harbor mouth, as often illustrated.

1 comment:

  1. Well, as you said that it has less than two thousand tons of lifting capacity, that barge isn't colossal either is really true there are already so many bridge cranes that are having higher capacity of lifting.