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But is this bridge as safe as it could be?
Few landmarks are so instantly recognizable as San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, the 'impossible dream' of architects and the largest suspension bridge in the world at the time of its completion in 1937.
The sheer scale of mechanical ingenuity needed and the calculations required for a successful outcome were staggering — Science and Technology pushed to its limit. And now, 75 years on it remains as a testament to the engineering prowess, having survived heavy ocean currents, earthquakes from the San Andreas Fault, and some two billion vehicle crossings. But just how safe is the bridge? We use ProQuest Science and Technology Collections, such as ProQuest Engineering Collection, and other resources, including ProQuest Historical Newspapers to discover more…
The 75-year celebrations are sure to be a much more controlled event that the 50-year celebrations were. In 1987, more than 250,000 people piled onto the bridge to take part in and enjoy the $3 million celebrations. They walked on from both sides and met in the middle, with a further 500,000 standing behind them packing the approaches to the bridge — nobody could move. However, the sheer volume of people resulted in the biggest load the bridge has ever taken and officials started to worry, as the New York Times reported…
On shaky ground no more
It's no great secret that California sits right on an area where tectonic plates of the Earth collide and give rise to earthquakes. Any researcher with a keen interest in seismology will find more than enough to sate their appetite within ProQuest Science and Technology Collection; with the collection's simple-to-use, innovative search facility, sourcing color charts becomes no problem at all. Take a look at these images from 2011 and 1906 (all sourced from the product).
So is the bridge safe..? After the Loma Prieta quake of 1989, engineers tested a number of foundations and decided that the Golden Gate should have a retrofit that cost over $170 million (a bargain compared to the $2.1 billion it would cost to rebuild the bridge if it fell down!)
As Trojak reports, the bridge can now withstand a shock of 8.3 on the Richter Scale.
Watching over us
It's always good to know that no matter what goes on, someone out there is watching over you, and where the Golden Gate is concerned this means quite a bit more than several hundred cameras as we learn in Steve Harding's 2004 article from the journal Soldiers.
Since the attack on the World Trade Center in 2001 security has been taken very seriously at a number of iconic American landmarks.
A bridge of sighs
Unfortunately, not even close monitoring can prevent deliberate actions of self-harm.
The bridge sadly accounts for more than 10% of San Francisco's suicides. Since it opened 75 years ago, more than 1,300 have leapt to their death here. It takes four seconds for someone to hit the water if they jump of the bridge — death is almost certain.
On average, someone jumps to their death from the Golden Gate Bridge once every two weeks; the location of choice is a 32 inch-wide beam known as 'the chord', which sits mid-way across the bridges span, protected by a four foot high safety railing.
In 2004, Eric Steel made documentary about suicide on the bridge. Using hidden cameras he captured every single jumper that year; the film received very mixed reviews, which you can read for yourself within the Science and Technology collection.
But how many of these deaths were needless when (as Tad Friend points out in the Independent on Sunday) 95% of people about to jump can be talked back to safety? And of the many hundreds who have jumped, there have only been 26 people known to have survived the fall — almost all reported to have regretted the decision.
It goes without saying, that in addition to having security provisions, such as the regular police foot patrols, that various expansive barrier solutions have also been considered, but the implications these would have on bridge stability also need to be taken into consideration; there are various articles available within this ProQuest collection that explain the technicalities — why not trial some ProQuest products and see what you can find?
Wired and ready to snap!
Has this anniversary fact file fired your imagination to learn more? Are you keen to try these databases for yourself? Here's one last Bridge fact for you. The main cables that support suspension bridges are actually a combination of many thousands of thinner interwoven cables, but as years of exposure to weather takes its toll some of these individual cables are prone to snap. Use this ProQuest Collection to discover what new innovative approach is being taken to isolate these faults, contact us today for your free product trial.
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