expensive mistakes

May 9th, 1980 – Skyway Bridge Collapse

Richard Hornbuckle's car rests where it skidded to a stop just14 inches from the edge of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was struck by the freighter Summit Venture on May 9, 1980. The freighter rammed the southbound span of the bridge, collapsing a 1,200 foot length of the bridge and sending several cars and a Greyhound bus into the water. Thirty-five people died. Times photo by Eric Mencher.

Richard Hornbuckle’s car rests where it skidded to a stop just14 inches from the edge of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge, which was struck by the freighter Summit Venture on May 9, 1980.  Times photo by Eric Mencher.

35 years ago, on the Friday before Mother’s Day – a blue 1974 Ford Courier driven by 56 year old Wesley MacIntire slowly and cautiously makes its way across the fabled Sunshine Skyway Bridge in Tampa Bay, Florida. Mr MacIntire has made the journey countless times over the years.

Only today there will be no sunshine. It has been swept aside with black skies and torrential rain,  whipped sporadically with an intensely fierce wind.

And soon, there will be no bridge. Continue reading May 9th, 1980 – Skyway Bridge Collapse

expensive mistakes

Warsaw Radio Mast: The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall

Maszt_radiowy_w_Konstantynowie

In July 1970, construction started on a new radio mast near Warsaw, Poland to transmit Polskie Radio signals. As a half-wavelength radiator, it’s height was chosen so the mast would operate as a half-wavelength antenna at its broadcasting frequency. That height was 646.38 metres (2,120.67 ft), making the Warsaw Radio Mast the tallest man-made structure in the world. It has since been surpassed by the Burj Khalifi, in part because the Warsaw Radio Mast collapsed in 1991.

Continue reading Warsaw Radio Mast: The Bigger They Are The Harder They Fall

expensive mistakes

How To Drain A Lake

This is Lake Peigneur. It looks serene and like any of the other lakes that dot the landscape of southern Louisiana. It was, however, the scene of a spectacular engineering snafu on November 20, 1980. That’s the day that, according to the best guess, a Texaco drilling rig miscalculated where they should be drilling and pierced the roof of the Diamond Chrystal Salt Company salt mine, causing a huge vortex and draining the lake into the salt mine. The Delcambre Canal, which normally flows from Lake Peigneur to Vermillion Bay began flowing backwards, filling Lake Peigneur with salt water and temporarily creating a 150 ft. waterfall, the largest in Louisiana.

Don’t take my word for it. Hit the jump for a video from Discovery Channel’s “Engineering Disasters” about this bizarre event. And remember to check and recheck your work. A small error can have major repercussions.

Continue reading How To Drain A Lake

expensive mistakes

Gimli Glider: Darn the Metric System

In 1999, the Mars Climate Orbiter was supposed to enter orbit around the red planet. It would study the climate of Mars and act as a relay station for the Mars Polar Lander. Infamously, the Mars Climate Orbiter burned up when it incorrectly entered the atmosphere. An error, it was found later, due to the Lockheed engineers writing the software in metric units, but the JPL ground controllers using English units.

It seems that this mishap, millions of miles (or kilometers) from Earth is not the only mishap like it. Nope. The Canadians have their own Metric Mixup, but they call it the Gimli Glider.
Continue reading Gimli Glider: Darn the Metric System

expensive mistakes

The Next Generation

You see them everywhere. On the backs of minivans and SUVs. Little stick figures boasting of the lack of birth control used by two people. While on vacation in California, I joked that they were justification for the SUV in a land that can be inhospitable to such vehicles. I’ve sworn I would never get these defacers of the rear window should I ever be saddled with an ankle biter of my own. Until I saw these.
Continue reading The Next Generation

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